While the 1:1-scale Gundam statue in Tokyo is, with good reason, a mecca for mecha lovers, it’s not the only extra-large recreation of combat hardware from anime’s most prolific robot franchise. Clear on the other side of Japan’s island of Honshu, Okayama Prefecture has its own statue, modeled after the MSZ-006 Zeta Gundam.
On one hand, Okayama’s mobile suit isn’t life-size, but it still stands an impressive seven meters (23 feet) tall. Even better, this weekend fans will get to climb into its cockpit.
Dotting the highways of rural Japan you’ll find something called michi no eki. Literally translating as “street stations,” these low-lying buildings serve as a place for travelers to stop and stretch their legs, generally consisting of a snack bar, produce market, and souvenir shop, usually specializing in locally produced items.
Most of the handicrafts are traditional, items like woodcarvings, textiles, and ceramics. One craftsman from Okayama’s Tsuyama City, though, took a more modern route when he created a replica of the Zeta Gundam. Yes, it is a little scaled-down from its in-anime specs of 19.85 meters, but it’s still far bigger than any plastic model kit the average (or even above-average) anime fan has put together.
Surprisingly, Shoichi Nakamoto, the statue’s creator, isn’t a particularly die-hard fan of Gundam or even anime in general. He just likes building things, although he was deeply impressed by the illustrations in the novelization of Zeta Gundam. Nakamoto single-handedly designed and put together the statue, and was even so thorough as to include a cockpit and engineer the replica so that the arms could be moved if a power source were attached.
Unlike more compact anime models, this giant robot is too big to guard a shelf in Nakamoto’s home. So instead it stands tall and proud at the Kume no Sato michi no eki, welcoming visitors to Tsuyama.
Speaking of which, Kume no Sato is about to celebrate its 15th anniversary, and as part of the festivities, visitors will have a chance to sit in the Zeta Gundam’s cockpit.
The “Sit in the Mobile Suit Experience” event will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, April 26. This should be a rare chance for anime fans to snap a very special picture, even if, sadly, the fact that the Zeta Gundam’s legs are not functional means you can’t commandeer it, cut a path to Tokyo, and have it fight its big brother in the capital.
▼ You’re safe for now, 1:1-scale Gundam. For now…