Gundam statue draws attention to environment

by Minoru Matsutani

An 18-meter statue of Gundam, the venerated fighting robot in the popular “Mobile Suit Gundam” animation series, has been visited by 803,000 in the first 13 days it has stood in Shiokaze Park in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward, the event’s organizer said Friday.

The 35-ton fiberglass and steel monolith is the centerpiece of the Green Tokyo Gundam Project intended to raise environmental awareness.

“In addition to Gundam’s popularity, there is no other real-size standing Gundam statue anywhere else,” said Juri Shibazaki, a spokeswoman for the committee promoting the project.

The committee had originally estimated 1.5 million people would turn out for the event, which also boasts souvenir and food stalls and runs from July 11 to Aug. 31.

Although the committee does not keep track of the age and gender of visitors, the event seems to draw fathers who, having been Gundam fans in their youth, bring their families, and couples in their 20s and 30s, she said.

Sponsored by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the committee organizing Tokyo’s proposal to host the 2016 Olympics, the Parks & Open Space Association of Japan, Namco Bandai Holdings Inc. and other companies and organizations, the event commemorates the 30th anniversary of the start of the TV series “Mobile Suit Gundam.”

“Gundam as the symbol of Tokyo’s revival as a green city will send a strong message of ‘Green Tokyo’ and world peace to children who play a main role in Tokyo’s future and the next generation,” the event organizer said on its Web site.

Gundam was chosen for the project in part because of parallels between environmental problems facing the world and the plot of the TV series, according to the Web site.

In the series, which takes place in the future, wars break out amid tension between people on Earth and those who migrate to space due to overpopulation and environmental degradation and damage from industrialization.

A portion of the event’s proceeds will be donated to the Green Tokyo Fundraising Campaign. The organization hopes to collect ¥800 million by 2010 for such activities as planting trees along streets and growing grass in school sports fields.

From Aug. 1, the left shoulder of the robot will be adorned with a logo promoting Tokyo’s bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. The successful candidate city will be announced in October.

After the event, the statue will be disassembled, but whether it will be used again elsewhere remains to be seen, Shibazaki said. The venue is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.