Whether pop-culture tourist or anime fan, take a time out for a futuristic meal.
Remember being that pimply kid who had to be seated in front of the television when your favourite ’80s shows came on? Back in the day, we enjoyed everything from colourful ponies and Pogo Balls to crimping our hair and watching epic sci-fi battles. If the latter was your thing, you may have been a fan of Mobile Suit Gundam— a series of television shows and graphic novels that pitted man and machine against man and machine, with a variety of storylines that would put most of today’s adolescent TV shows to shame. Mobile Suit Gundam began as an anime and has since spawned into a multi-billion-dollar empire—an empire that includes films and video games, toys and books, and, now, its very own theme-inspired café/restaurant. And even if your fondness for duelling mecha declined after your automatic floor vacuum mistook Fido’s tail for a dust bunny, or your GPS’s creepy voice sent you off in the wrong direction … don’t let that deter you. A stop at the Gundam Café in Tokyo’s Akihabara district is more than a run-in with anime-inspired machinery. It’s an opportunity to experience a cultural phenomenon that took the world by storm.
The café itself looks pretty unassuming from the outside. However, the large V-Antenna (the V- shaped antenna on the Gundam’s helmet) placed above the entryway is a beacon calling out to Gundam fans from all over the land. It isn’t unusual to see a lineup stretching down the sidewalk as eager diners wait for a seat inside. So you may not want to go there on a completely empty stomach! But long lineups are usually a sign that there is something inside that is not to be missed … and this is the case with Gundam Café.
Once inside, you will be immersed in the world of Gundam, with décor throughout the restaurant being drawn from the Gundam series. You will likely also meet some otaku—the Japanese word used to describe obsessive fans of anime and manga. While inside, take some time to sipon a latte with cute Gundam-inspired foam art, or choose a hearty dish from the menu (pasta, curry and other typical fare). If you are looking for something a little different, order up one of the Gundam-inspired dishes—and enjoy a yummy meal made up of familiar shapes on your plate. For those looking for a more, let’s say, mature experience, this popular spot also offers up a bar with a number of Gundam-inspired drinks. Wherever you choose to locate yourself, keep an eye out for the restaurant’s collection of Gundam memorabilia, and then take some time to peruse the merchandise for sale. You may walk in as a curious tourist and leave as an otaku!
In terms of cost, like most theme-inspired restaurants, expect to pay a bit more. Like I’ve said before, you are there as much for the experience as you are for the food. But, while you’re in the area, why not take advantage of being in Tokyo’s Akihabara district? Akihabara is the hub for everything anime, manga and technological. Spend some time wandering the streets after your meal … or grab a Gundam coffee to go!
So, relive your childhood. Even if you didn’t watch Mobile Suit Gundam throughout your teen years, watching the excitement of those around you who did will make it well worth the stop!
The 411 on Gundam
For the wannabe otaku, here are some need-to-know details:
- A mobile suit is a high-tech human-driven fighting machine
- Mobile Suit Gundam first aired as a television program in 1979
- Gundam’s original creator is Yoshiyuki Tomino
- Word on the street is that “Mobile Suit” is short for “Mobile Space Utility Instruments Tactical”
- Many have praised Mobile Suit Gundam for taking on philosophical and political questions
- The story is set in a fictional universe in the year 2079 (Universal Century 0079, according to the Gundam calendar)
- The hero of the original series is a young mechanic turned Gundam pilot named Amuro Ray
Gundam Café Akihabara
From the JR Akihabara Station, take the Denki gai exit. The restaurant is a one-minute walk away.
1-1 Kanda, Hanaoka-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Daily: 10 am–10:30 pm
(Last order: Food 9:30 pm, Drinks 10 pm) Takeout: 11:30 am–7:30 pm