Rayna Denison tries Japan’s Gundam Cafés
Gundam doesn’t just stop with the television series. Part of its popularity is based in the model kits and collectable figures that accompany new iterations of the show. But in Japan, the uses of Gundam go far beyond such small items. Bandai, for example, has long featured a “life size” Gundam head at their Toy Museum in Omocha no machi (Town of Toys) in Mibu.
It has also been possible for a while to “drink” Gundam. The northern town of Sendai has a “Gundam Shot Bar Zion”, and there also appears to be a “G-Dining Bar Zeon” even further north in Aomori. But for the official way to eat and drink in the style of Gundam, you need to go to the Gundam Cafés. The first was opened in downtown Akihabara in 2010, right next door to the AKB48 pop group’s café. These two establishments seem to be competing for who can achieve the longest queues. But, for hungry fans of Gundam, all is not lost, because the giant Gundam anniversary statue has now moved to Tokyo’s Odaiba district, and sits outside a second Gundam Café that opened this summer as part of the new Diver City shopping centre.When I visited the Akiba Gundam Café, it offered a split menu: family-friendly for the day, when the queues were smaller, and additional alcoholic beverages for the evenings. The interior is super-modern, but it does feel a little like a fast food joint (you queue at a counter during the day, and are served by cosplaying staff. Everything has a Gundam twist, from the Jaburo coffee menu, named for the headquarters of Gundam’s Earth Federation forces, to the “Beam” churros. The drinks are made using coloured ingredients that match those of Gundam machines, for instance the red, rum-based “Sazabi” and the yellow, gin-based “Hyaku Shiki”. The main meals seem to be mostly Italian-inspired, and also come in the shapes and colours of your favourite characters. So, for Gundam-themed eating and drinking, you really can’t go wrong.
A main meal costs around £8.00 and a cocktail about £7.00. To get there, take the JR line to Akihabara and then leaving the station by the Denkigai exit. For the Daiba city branch, I recommend taking the Yurikamamoe Line over the Rainbow Bridge (a feature in many Japanese films and TV shows) to Daiba statyion. You can then walk past the Fuji Television building, which has a fun shop that is worth a look if you watch live-action Japanese films or TV to Diver City. Make sure you walk past initial entrances, the giant Gundam is outside the front of the building. There is, of course, a gift shop for both cafes. One of the specialities is sweet bean-filled Gundam-shaped snacks, but there is now a full range of Gundam café goods, including reusable eco-coffee cups, as well as the usual toys, T-Shirts and bags.