In late February we had a chance to visit the Bandai Museum in Matsudo, Japan. This multi-floor museum is a shrine to all things Bandai. Chances are most of the toys in your collection were made by Bandai. If so, coming to the Bandai Museum is like your journey to Mecca.
To get to the Bandai Museum, take the Joban line to Matsudo Station. Once you are in the station, you will see signs for the Bandai Museum. Follow them out into the plaza, and you will see the Bandai Museum on the right.
Once in the building, you have to take an elevator up to the Museum. You will come to an area that looks like a courtyard in the middle of some apartment buildings. Jumbo Machinders are hidden on small windowsills, while a large blue mechanical alien thing moves back and forth across the ceiling. Go up the stairs and you are on the main floor of the museum. This floor has the gift shops that sell all kinds of Bandai product, save Gundam. The Gundam toys are all sold in the G-Shop.
There are actually 2 museums in the Bandai Museum, and they require separate admission. I believe each is around 500 yen. In typical Japanese fashion, there are vending machines to buy the tickets. The Gundam museum has a deluxe ticket, but we will talk about that later. First - the Character Museum, named "Character World".
The first section you enter is the Ultraman section. They have a re-creation of the filming of the first episode of Ultraman, and a wall case featuring the heads of different Ultramen over the years. There are also many cases of toys - all relating to Ultraman. Jumbos, Chogokin, and vinyl are all represented.
Next up is the Kamen Rider section. They have a chained in area with mannequins dressed in the original costumes, along with their motorcycles. There are more cases in here, with toys from the original series to the current, including the transforming disc animals.
Sentai has the biggest area in the Character World. Cases upon cases of Sentai toys, all organized by series. While they don't have every Sentai toy ever made, they are close to it. Among the cases are some rare items, such as the actual models used in the show, and unproduced toys like the Jumbo Machinder Goggle Robo prototype. The main robot of each show is spotlighted above a video screen playing a clip from that robot's show. The clip is the transformation sequence of that robot - they are all playing at the same time. The cacophony is so beautiful'¦
Once out of the Sentai area you enter the area with the classic super robots. In this area, each set of toys is grouped by character. Mazinger Z, Combatler V, Gaiking, Raideen and more are all represented here. Later day chogokin, including the Soul of Chogokin line, are also represented.
Pass the initial cases on the left is the case most likely to give Jumbo collectors a heart attack. The Jumbo Machine display features the most sought after toy - the Jumbo Machinder Garada K7. Originally Garada was thought to be a myth, until a specimen was shot for a magazine called Gangu Jinsei. For the longest time, this was thought to be the only specimen, until one showed up at the Bandai Museum, hanging from the rafters by wire. Supposedly this specimen was found in a closet or backroom at Bandai. It now is properly displayed among the other Jumbo Villains.
It is an odd experience, being so close to a thing of legend. All the Jumbos in that case are really nice; all the other villains are exquisite pieces in their own right. But the Garada overpowers them all. Up close you can see how real it is. Every paint chip, every scratch. The hand-painted details on the head tell of a time long gone. This is ground zero.
Looking back now, I hardly remember the other toys in that case. I remember the broken Doublas, but honestly, when I look at the pictures I took, I feel as though I am seeing them for the first time.
You might need a few minutes to collect your thoughts, but as you leave the Jumbo and Chogokin area, you find yourself in the realm of Godzilla.
There really weren't that many Godzilla toys present. The exhibit focused on the Big G himself. A wall display features a poster for every Godzilla movie. There is what looks to be an actual suit used during one of the films, and a prop foot used to smash a miniature village. There is one small case of toys, and another of model kits.
At the end of Character World, look for a small case that features non-character toys, such as trucks and board games. It serves as a reminder that Bandai has had a whole history of making toys that are not character related.
You now find yourself back in the lobby, so it is time to check out the Gundam Museum.
At the entrance to the Gundam Museum you are greeted by a person in a Gundam officer's costume. There are different levels of admission here. 600 yen gets you in, but there is a combo ticket that includes a booklet, and a ticket for all three of the attractions. You can also buy admission in front of those attractions, so we decided to wait. Admission also gets you a small souvenir film strip.
The first room features a scale model of the colony, and lots and lots of text on the walls, in both Japanese and English. If you care about the history of Gundam, you may spend some time in here, but it is likely information you already know.
The next room features a life-size Zaku head. Every minute or so the head lights up and the eye moves back and forth. In the same room, there is a conveyor belt set up like an assembly line, with Jumbo Grade Zakus going by; all green except for one pink one'¦
The next corridor is full of video screens talking about different Gundams, but no toys. This is very much about the Gundam Universe as if you are IN the universe. There's no behind the scenes stuff here.
The last room in the exhibit is the biggest. It features the life-size RX-78 Gundam, as well as a few attractions. Each attraction costs 500 yen. You can choose from:
- Zaku Shooting Range - fire a pellet gun at a paper target
- Gundam Cockpit - Sit inside a Gundam cockpit and get a picture taken
- Gundam Lift - Try on some Gundam universe clothes, stand on a platform, and get lifted 5 feet in the air to get a better look at the Gundam.
They all seemed like rip-offs, so we didn't do any of them. You could easily walk up the stairs next to the Life-sized Gundam to get a better look.
At the end of the exhibit you are dropped off in the G-Shop - the Bandai Museum Gundam Store. This has to be the single largest concentration of Gundam merchandise I have ever seen in one place. Gundam freaks will have a field day in here. This is also where they sell the Museum Exclusive Gundam merchandise.
From here, you can take an elevator back down to the lobby.
That's the whole museum. If you are ever in Tokyo, and you are a toy fan, I highly recommend it. One thing that I thought was really cool about the museum was the sheer amount of children there with their parents. It was really heartwarming to see parents explaining to their kids about what the shows were, and what toys they used to have. (at least, that's what I assume they were saying'¦). They also had arts and craft areas for the little kids and a meet and greet area where kids could meet Kamen Riders.
Disclaimer - I'm not an expert on all of these areas, especially the Gundam stuff. If I've made an error, let me know.