Video courtesy of Chris Urie
Standing tall with its glowing eyes fixed on the horizon, an enormous mecha overlooks Tokyo Bay. Being the country that introduced the world to giant mecha, robots and space battles, it seems fitting that a statue of one of Japan’s legendary cultural creations was erected in the Odaiba neighborhood of its capital city.
Mobile Suit Gundam, an animated series about warring factions utilizing enormous robots piloted by humans, debuted on Japanese TV in 1979. While it wasn’t the first giant mecha anime, Mobile Suit Gundam reinvigorated the genre by highlighting the consequences of war with well-rounded and memorable characters.
The Gundam series rose to popularity after Bandai released a variety of toys and models of the mecha featured in the show. From there, new anime, manga (comics) and movies catapulted Gundam to the forefront of Japan’s cultural exports to become a worldwide icon.
Standing tall in Tokyo — Photo courtesy of Chris Urie
At 19.7 meters tall (64.6 feet) and weighing in at about 49 tons, the 1:1 scale replica of the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam towers over the puny humans that gather around its feet. Located beside the east entrance to DiverCity Plaza in Odaiba, the giant statue is a huge highlight when visiting this island neighborhood of Tokyo.
Not only is the statue enormous, but it has a few tricks hidden under those armored plates. The Unicorn Gundam features two modes: Unicorn Mode and Destroy Mode. At 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm and 5 pm, the enormous mecha undergoes a transformation.
The horn at the top splits in two, moving to the sides of the forehead, the face swaps out for a more menacing visage and armor slides away revealing light-up panels bathing the whole thing in an imposing red glow. Transformed and illuminated, the statue looks formidable and capable of repelling any danger that might befall its beloved city.
Finished in September 2017, the Unicorn Gundam statue is part of the Tokyo Gundam Project 2017 which is meant to revitalize and usher in the future of a number of neighborhoods around Tokyo. But it isn’t the first stalwart protector of Tokyo Bay.
Originally built in 2012, the RX-78-2 Gundam was slightly shorter but featured the original memorable machine from the Gundam franchise. Clad in red, white, blue and gold, it was the first permanent robot resident outside of DiverCity Plaza.
Let’s say you’ve watched hundreds of episodes from the 40+ series of Gundam, you’ve purchased dozens of models and action figures, and you’ve memorized the tech specs of every Gundam model. Seeing the real thing is just the next logical step, right?
Or maybe you’re just intrigued by the whole mecha deal, but you have no idea what any of it is or means. That’s cool, too.
Either way, there are numerous options for how to get to Odaiba from the more central parts of Tokyo.
From Shinagawa and Tamachi stations, you can hop on the Odaiba Rainbow Bus or the Km Flower Bus. Coming in at about 210 yen, bus is the cheapest and easiest way to get to Odaiba without swapping rail lines or spending a bundle on a taxi. Plus, you get to ride over the Rainbow Bridge!
If you’re looking for magnificent views of the harbor and a ride on a unique piece of public transit, hop the Yurikamome Monorail Line from Shimbashi and hop off at the Daiba Station. From there, it’s only a short walk to DiverCity Plaza to gaze upon the Gundam.
When to go
Some of the best times to visit the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam Statue are when it transforms into Destroy Mode at 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm,and 5 pm. If you happen to opt for a later visit, you can also catch clips from the anime projected onto the outside of DiverCity every half hour from 7:30 pm to 9 pm.
Plus, visiting a bit later allows the illuminated panels hidden in the statue to really shine.
Best photo ops
For photo ops, you’ve got a few options. You can get up close and personal, bend over and take a selfie from a low angle to accentuate the enormity of the statue. Or back up a bit to fit in the entirety of the statue.
The final option is a bit more professional. There’s actually a photo platform set up with a professional photographer. For absolutely free, they’ll snap a picture of you from the perfect vantage point with their pro level camera gear and any camera you provide. On your way off of the platform, you have the option to buy a large print so you can place it next to the Gundam model on your nightstand.
Then, you really should explore the Odaiba neighborhood of Tokyo is unique and filled with dozens of attractions ranging from an enormous ferris wheel and go-karts to some of the most spectacular ice cream you’ll ever taste. But, the true highlight of the area stands guard as Tokyo’s iconic protector.