A Huge Step Forward in Robotics for the Earth Federation of Yokohama: The RX-78F00

If you’re a fan of Mobile Suit Gundam, you’ve probably heard of the life-sized models of RX-78-2 and RX-0 Unicorn that were built and displayed in Odaiba, Japan. I was lucky enough to see both while studying abroad in Japan in 2013 and recently while living here. Though various parts of their armor can transform and become illuminated at night, they unfortunately are not advanced enough to fully move like the Gundam in the anime series can. However, thanks to cutting-edge advancements in robotics from the Earth Federation of Yokohama, a full-scale moving Gundam now stands at the Gundam Factory available for all to see as of December 19th, 2020!

Like in the original series, this Gundam (named RX-78F00) is almost the exact image of the RX-78-2 and is 59 feet tall. It even was designed with a realistic cockpit although it currently cannot be operated. However, there is hope that it will be fully implemented some day! For the time being there is a 5G pilot experience sponsored by Softbank available within the museum area called the Academy which simulates the controls from a first-person viewpoint. The Gundam performs slightly different movements every 30 ~ 60 mins depending on what time of day you arrive then returns to standby within the dock. I arrived with my friend around 13:30 on a Sunday afternoon which was perfect because we were able to watch two different movement productions. While waiting you can easily kill time at the cafe or in the Academy reading about the technology behind this amazing mobile suit.

In the video that I captured below, you can see the Gundam emerge from the dock and fully operate its arms and legs which is unbelievable for a robot of its size. As it becomes activated, its eyes flash and audio plays along with it to heighten the tension of the moment. It truly does feel like a battle is about to begin on the pier at first, but the Gundam’s movements are completely friendly and non-hostile. Think of this as a test run:

Weekday Hours: 11:30 ~ 19:30
Weekend Hours: 10:30 ~ 19:30
Admission Fee: 1650 yen for basic entry // 3300 yen for the Gundam Dock Tower*

*Tickets need to be purchased in advance from the official website, but can be purchased on the same day. I recommend buying the normal entrance ticket unless you really want to see the Gundam up close from the viewing deck. I was satisfied with what I saw with the basic admission fee.

Currently with every ticket purchase you are given a 1/200 RX-78F00 Gunpla upon entrance. How cool is that!?

Once you show your ticket at the door and proceed to enter, the Gundam is impossible to miss. The area around it is quite spacious so I never once felt like it was crowded though there were a number of people here. We were fortunate enough to come on a sunny day so the sky and the clouds were clearly visible. The sun was shining on the ocean too. This was almost better than anime! Almost. I deeply appreciated the thumbs up I got at the end of this performance:

How does it move?

In the Academy you can read various infographics on how the Gundam was built and also leave your own message on paper notes outside. Though it doesn’t use Minovsky Particles or Luna Titanium Alloy, this mobile suit is biologically structured similarly to human anatomy and utilizes the latest technology in robotics to move. I will summarize my most interesting discoveries in the passage below:

Gundam Prototypes?

Within the Academy you will also see two Gundam prototypes; or robots that helped inspire the blueprints and framework for the moving RX-78F00. The first is WABOT-1 developed by Waseda University in Japan in the 1970s, which is credited as the first robot that could naturally walk like a human. The biggest challenge of getting a robot to walk is balance, as weight must be controlled on each leg with perfect timing or else the robot will fall over. Humans naturally pick up this ability while learning to walk as babies, but programming this habit into a robot is a different story. Due to the massive size of the RX-78F00, a device called a “reducer” also known as a gearbox was used it control its movements during bipedal walking. Even though the Gundam cannot currently walk on its own using the latest technology, the fact that it can move and form various positions is a huge step forward for science.

The 2nd prototype (or inspiration) is the HRP-2 which was designed by AIST and Kawada Industries to assist humans with various work-related tasks. This robot weighs 58kg and is 154cm tall making it the same size as a human. The HRP-2 was created in 2003 and can walk on uneven terrain while maintaining its balance. It can even get back into an upright position when falling down making it an extremely advanced robot. While it is still limited in what it can do, the HRP-2 displays signs of self-awareness which is vital in the future of developing AI for robots.

So what is in store for the future of robotics?

Though it is still unclear, there are many people backing the Gundam Global Challenge and anyone is free to contribute their ideas! It’s amazing to see how much this project has advanced since the first RX-78 Gundam was built in 2009. Nearly 10 years later we have a fully moving scale Gundam in Yokohama, and perhaps we will have a hovering one by the end of this decade. The writers of Gundam ZZ’s opening song “Anime Ja Nai” knew it all along, but here is proof that Gundam is not just anime—it’s the real driving force behind the Earth Federation of Yokohama.

Souvenirs & Final Thoughts

Because no trip around the space colony is complete without souvenirs, you can find all of these Gundam goodies and more available for sale at the factory’s gift shop! Since I’ve been to the Gundam Cafe in Akihabara already, some of the merchandise was already familiar to me, but my personal favorites here were the Haro popcorn balls and “milky marrons” because they had the best aesthetic design. I also loved seeing the standalone Gundam-themed Coca Cola vending machine outside too. Like a custom paint job on a Gunpla, you gotta admire that customization. My friend and I decided to order hot Gundam lattes and split the Haro-shaped red bean bun because why not? That’s exactly what Gundam pilots would do if they visited the Gundam Factory in Yokohama between battles, and we were here for the full experience!

Overall I had much more fun here than I originally imagined learning about robotics and seeing the Gundam move perfectly in synch with the audio. I would love to come back here at night and see it illuminated too! I hope that when I next visit the RX-78F00 will have even more moves for me to see, but until then I will fondly remember this experience.

Take Your Heart: Visiting the Persona 5 Cafes in Japan

One of the best perks of living in Japan and being a gamer is having the ability to attend the amazing pop-up cafes that are available here for a limited time only.  During my stay here, I have been fortunate enough to been able to dine at both the Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal Cafes held at two different locations.  Making a reservation for these cafes can sometimes be a bit difficult as they are quite popular, but I will be sharing my experience in this post to hopefully help and inspire other people to come and visit!

The Original Persona 5 Cafe at Pasela Resorts (Shibuya)

If you’ve played the game, you’ve probably seen a building called “Pasela Resorts” located on the map.  That is because ATLUS had a collaboration with the popular karaoke chain Pasela Resorts in Shibuya from 10/14/2016 – 11/23/2016 with the series.  The original Persona 5 Cafe was located on the 2nd floor of this location and required winning an in-person lottery to attend (meaning it was so popular at the time that you could not make a reservation online).

This was quite a heart-racing lottery, but I was determined to win!  I remember arriving at 10am, lining up with around 100 or so other people on a 6 floor spiral staircase in front of the cafe, and drawing a ticket from a box.  Fortunately, I drew a winning ticket!  However, many people were unable to win.  I went on a Saturday morning due to my hectic work schedule at the time, but perhaps if you went on a weekday you would have a better chance.

Even though I went alone, I had a ton of fun!  I ordered the Ann and Joker drinks as well as the Leblanc curry and dessert pizza.  Being in a room surrounded by other Persona fans filled my heart with joy.  This was one of the first themed cafes I had been to, so it really left a good impression on me.

Persona 5 Royal Cafe at SEGA Collab Cafe (Akihabara)

3 years later I made it to the Persona 5 Royal Cafe in Akihabara–but this time with friends!  Since this was a collaboration held at the SEGA Cafe, the reservation process was much easier.  Online reservation in advance was possible, but you could also look at the cafe’s available seats and walk in on the day you wanted to go if there was space.  That is what we did as a group of six, and we all managed to sit together!  Between all of us, we were able to order almost every item on the menu and swap coasters.  This time they had coasters of both the new P5 art and chibi versions of the characters given randomly with every purchase of a drink or food item.  This cafe lasted from 11/2/2018 – 12/1/2018.  Though I have not played the game yet, I am super excited to now!

If you have missed the dates for these cafes, fear not!  Whenever a new game, movie, or even musical are announced, usually these cafes pop up and you can always search for the special merchandise online.  I hope to attend many more Persona Cafes and events in the future, as it is one of my favorite series that has taught me much about how social relationships can affect you and the world around you!

Laugh of the Day

On our way up to the SEGA Cafe, we noticed a very special claw machine game filled with dozens of Anns… and one sole Ryuji!  What a lucky fellow–if only it were Morgana instead!

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Ryuji Sakamoto is in heaven.