From its creation to its usage, this giant robot is undeniably awesome, but there’s just one problem.

Robots have come a long way recently, getting involved in everything from dinner theater to evaluating foot odor to sports entertainment, but the dream of a giant bipedal humanoid robot that people can ride in has still somehow eluded us.

However, due to our past coverage of Sakakibara Machinery in Gunma Prefecture, our roving reporter Mr. Sato was granted a special look at what he was told would be a special new robot. Some of you may remember Landwalker, Sakakibara’s bipedal metal gear that they started in the early 2000s and makes frequent appearances in the festival circuit.

▼ Landwalker circa 2014

However, this time they told Mr. Sato that they had something they wanted to show him that would blow Landwalker out of the water. It piqued Mr. Sato’s curiosity enough that he jumped in the car and made the 2.5-hour drive out to the rural prefecture of Gunma to see it.

Mr. Sato emerged from the car in the slight haziness of prolonged highway driving and walked around the Sakakibara lot looking for this new machine. Finding nothing, he decided to peek into an open warehouse. Inside all he could see were some materials and tools, when suddenly he heard a voice say, “Sorry.”

Startled, Mr. Sato turned around and saw Sakakibara Machinery’s Masaaki Nagumo. “I’ve been waiting for you,” he said, “I’m very sorry to call you out so far, but I’m glad you made it.” He then gestured for our reporter to look behind him.

It took a minute for Mr. Sato’s weary eyes to adjust until…

“Eh?!”

“Ehhhhhh?!”

“EEEEEEEEHHHHHHHHHHH?!”

Behold, LW-MONONOFU Type 2 Land, but you can call it Mononofu. At a height of 8.5 meters (28 feet) and weight of over 7 tons, it was as close to an actual Gundam-style mobile suit as he had ever come.

It was huge next to the already large Landwalker and simply dwarfed Mr. Sato who I suspect is lying about his weight.

“Is it real?” asked Mr. Sato, to which Nagumo pulled out a remote control. “I can open it with this,” he explained.

Upon pressing the button, a hatch in the back opened up and a pair of what looked like swings descended. Nagumo climbed on them and rode them up to the hatch.

Mr. Sato exlaimed, “That is SO FREAKING COOL!!!” The drowsiness of his drive was now completely washed away by a childlike enthusiasm in the presence of Mononofu.

Inside the cockpit the control layout was surprisingly simple. Nagumo explained that all of the robot’s actions we automated and executed by a single button press.

Movement of the robot’s legs were controlled by the left pedal and movement of the upper body was handled by the right pedal.

There were four monitors displaying each side of Mononofu.

Although there was a transparent windshield, visibility was highly limited and there was no way the driver could even see where they were stepping, so the video display is a must.

Now it was time for a demonstration. Mr. Sato exited the cockpit and set up his camera.

7.3トンもあるのに動きがスムーズでビビる

A post shared by Hidenori Satou (@hidenori_satou) on

It’s movement was eerily smooth, as if it had wheels on the bottom. However, its knees appeared to be moving as if it were walking. Nagumo later explained that Mononofu does have wheels but isn’t driven by them. Rather it uses its pelvis and knees to move forward and backward along the wheels.

▼ Bringing new meaning to getting one’s butt in gear.

In other words, it’s a giant roller-skating robot. In the demonstration it couldn’t go far because it was plugged into the wall for power. Mononofu has an onboard battery, but it doesn’t last long, and you try pushing a seven-ton robot back to the nearest wall-socket.

This might be a little disappointing to those expecting the greatest weapon known to mankind, but everything about Mononofu, from its simple controls, to its smooth ride, to its AC 200V power supply is all done by design.

And most impressive of all: it was done almost single-handedly by Nagumo for the past six years!

You might have wondered why a robotics company was based way out in the sticks of Gunma. Well that’s because Sakakibara is actually a farm machinery company creating equipment such as feeding machines and automatic soil aeration.

However, the agriculture business as we know it has been on the decline for quite some time, so Sakakibara decided to diversify into amusement machines, utilizing their know-how of safety and ease of use that goes into their farming equipment.

Mononofu was to be the epitome of this effort: a truly giant robot that even a child could use, and thus arguably the greatest toy known to mankind.

So in that way Mononofu is a rousing success story of adapting to changing business climates and plain old ingenuity. However, if you remember, this article was titled the “tragedy” of Mononofu….

It seems Nagumo may have gotten a little too carried away with his work, or perhaps he never even thought he could accomplish this to begin with, because somehow Mononofu became larger than the door to the warehouse. This means that it can’t go outside without them either dismantling it or the building itself… of course smashing out in dramatic fashion shouldn’t be completely off the table either.

Even beyond that, transportation of the giant robot to birthday parties and county fairs still remains a logistical challenge, but if someone can send a 30 meter (98 foot) Christmas tree across the country only for it to be chopped up into little trinkets, there’s hope for Mononofu yet.

Source: Sakakibara Machinery
Photos: SoraNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]