Thursday, December 16, 2010

Model Kit History and Gundam

Japan Part 2

In my follow up to checking out and seeing the awesome model kits, I decided to travel to the birthplace of model kits for Japan. This place is none other than the city of Shizuoka in the Shizuoka Prefecture just south of Tokyo. Taking a 2 hour bus ride, this place is near to Mount Fuji and is famous for growing tea leaves and strawberries.

It is also has a long history in the craft industry which gave rise to the emergence of Plastic Model kits. Shizuoka is also a resident place for major plastic model kit companies such as Tamiya, Aoshima, Hasegawa and Fujimi.

So as mentioned before I left, I went to Shizuoka to see the Shizuoka Hobby Fair.
However upon arrival to the fair, i think i might have mislead many on what I have describe in my post about what the Fair is about.

Initially i thought it was about the major companies (Tamiya, Aoshima, Hasegawa, etc) coming together in one big convention to showcase their products and their new releases, but I was mistaken. Apparently, this fair that I went to is focused more on showing about the history of plastic model kits and showcases a few of what is popular among the various major model kit brands, It also had a part of the Fair celebrating Gundam's 30th Anniversary.

The one i was expecting in actual fact was the Shizuoka Hobby SHOW (not fair) which showcases new release and sells all their new stuff and great stuff for each of the model kit brands. This is usually held in the Twin Messe Shizuoka every May for 3-4 days, which means it was impossible for me to see as I missed it totally.

So what you saw on my previous post, in terms of the Youtube Vid is separate from the fair itself. I am sorry for misinterpreting the mess up.

However, there is no love loss as this fair that is held almost half a year provides a lot of insight to the hobby I am doing and it was worth the trip to see all the awesome stuff.

Wooden Model Kit of various Japanese WW2 battleships.

In the beginning, Hobbyists' scale models derive from those used by firms which made the full-sized actual products. From architecture to engineering, these craftsmen from these areas use scale models of the actual product to provide an outlook and idea of the design and structure. Originally, "scale" was a physical measuring instrument which was first used by shipyards to derive anything bigger than a house to express something proportionally.

It was from this origins that model industry emerged with hobbyist delving more into model kits of certain scale. The Japanese model industry traces its legacy back into the late 1920s where it used wood to make model toys. Using sashimono woodworking joinery techniques, the industry made these toys purely for educational purposes. This can be seen from the picture above and below.

Simple Wooden Models of the 1930s for kids to fix up

Following World War 2, many scaled military models were used for recognition and military purpose but some pre-war consumer models were also sold. Nonetheless, plastic soon entered as the main material for model kits from the 1940s-1960s. As such, during this period, with the importation of US built scale models, many Japanese companies either turned to plastic models to compete or went under.

Robot Model kit with missiles flying out of it's head.... Crazy.

On top of cashing in on the making of plastic military model kits of various war eras (Particularly World War 2), Japanese model kit companies also decided to cash in on BANKABLE Japanese characters to diversify their production. From Astro Boy to the Bat Mobile, such model kit companies wanted to ensure that they capture a big consumer market for their manufacturing purposes.

Alien Model Kit?..Hmm interesting. Car Model Kits are also really popular during those times and it stretches all the way to current day Car Enthusiast.

While the model kit market has become pretty niche and hobbyist are not your everyday person that you would meet on the streets, the museum chronicled how the hobby and model kits as a whole have developed across the years. From 1960-1970s, it was pretty much the "Military" era of model kits where Military model kits such as those my dad has been collecting were pretty much the coolest toy in town. These kits ranged from WW2 to Vietnam Era Warmachines.

From the 1980s onward, we see the emergence of Gundam Model kits. Later on, Tamiya cars soon entered and dominated the model kit scene in the 1990s.

As the new millennium begin, it can be easily observed that the model kit industry started shrinking as model kits were not much of a commodity toy and it was hard to fight against technologically advance toys and games that have taken control and become an integral part of a kid's life.

But that has not prevent the Model Kit industry from changing itself to cater to its niche market and the Hobbyist generation of people.

An Awesome diorama display of some WW2 Model kit stuff

There is a great feeling inside of me to explore the small museum and realize that there is still a market for model kits which gives impetuous to these model kit manufacturers to develop more kits for me to build, enjoy, admire and play with. The future is still an unknown but I am excited to see what the Model Kit industry and the manufacturers in it have in store for me, especially in terms of Modern Military stuff!

This hobby has almost become a certain form of art in itself. But since it has also been coined or associated to the nerdy part of society, it isn't something that can be always appreciated by all. I am pretty sure it isn't a popular trendy thing to do too. But good model making and good painting would always be a great sight for all people to enjoy and that is what Hobbyist do!

While the model kit museum would be one of the main attraction of the fair, the biggest attraction would be the scale 1/1 Gundam. With Gundam being in existence for 30 years, it celebrates its anniversary by reassembling the famous original RX-78 (2) Gundam
that was seen in Daiba in Tokyo in Shizuoka. Noone knows whether this will be the last time you can see the actual size scale 1/1 Gundam and therefore it was a must for me to go check it out.

And I was truly not disappointed by the massive size of the Gundam with all its detail and splendor.

Located near the NTT Docomo Building, this awesome size Gundam is something you would see any other country build of one of their favorite mascot. (I like to see America build Megazord.) Then again, in terms of Mecha and Robots, nothing can be as Iconic, Relevant and in continuation as Gundam.

And with such a big following, this 30th anniversary was a great way to get Gundam fans to gaze at the real deal of awesomeness

Furthermore, it is able to move its head and has certain real effects of a Gundam. Obviously, it can't move on its own like the Gundam in the show but for me, it was good enough.

Shoe size sir? hmm not sure if we got that size around.

Even though I was sort of a Gundam Modeller back in the days when I barely was 8 or 9 years old, it brings back memories and it also had impose a great feeling of Awe to see such an awesome build.

If you do not really care for Military Models or even the Model Kit Museum but you are a fan of Gundam. Going to Shizuoka to see this awesome Gundam model is definitely worth the journey.

All in all, the two days in Japan that I dedicate to seeking and sightseeing my hobby stuff were worthwhile and something that will remain in my memories for years to come!

I do hope that you guys enjoyed my review of Japan in terms of the hobby aspect of it. And for those who take a similar interest as I do , I recommend you to visit the places I have recommended to get a feel of how awesome is the hobby world in Japan.

Check out this Biggest Toyconstruct Facebook album here



  1. Holy smokes! that robot is HUGE!
    and I like the model kit history review. Real nostalgic Jiaqi!

    Exceptional German Diorama there too!! credit goes to photo-taking too!

  2. Is that you next to the Gundam feet..
    HAHAHA that is just funny! U look like a tiny kid!

    Good to know you had a swell time there!

    The diorama shots that you taken are really great. And so is the album on facebook!

  3. Man I envy you!! yer get to see Gundam!! The pictures in the album are tearing up my heart!1

    I want to go there. But no moolah!

  4. Wow you even went to Shizuoka!
    Nice man!!! that's what I call a Model Kit Otaku!!

    I saw the Gundam before and it was really Magnificence

  5. Thank you all guys but yeah, I did thoroughly enjoyed myself and there is no need to envy!!

    Spend my savings on this trip and it was worthwhile nonetheless!

  6. I like how you say "This hobby has almost become a certain form of art in itself. But since it has also been coined or associated to the nerdy part of society, it isn't something that can be always appreciated by all. I am pretty sure it isn't a popular trendy thing to do too. But good model making and good painting would always be a great sight for all people to enjoy and that is what Hobbyist do!"

    SO truee Jiaqi.. So very true.

  7. Eloquently said.

    And in any case, many of these people who build model kits and all, have artistic talent in other areas of art too. I am sure there has gotta be some form of artistic knowledge in doing model kits well.

    Not saying I am one of them though. Hahaha

  8. Ahh the classic RX-78.
    Nothing beats the original gundam in my opinion.

  9. Agreed Ben3.
    The "original prankster" is always the best.
    Rarely does the second person become as prominent as the first and original gundam.

    However, it is essential to know that the Model you see in this pic is the RX-78(2). Technically it is the second version of the original RX-78. However, it serves to be the icon of what the Gundam Franchise represents.

    But well obviously, it can still generally be seen as the original version Gundam.