Bandai Co. is looking to tap Japan’s expanding tourism market by opening a Tokyo shop dedicated to selling, building and painting plastic models of robots from its popular Gundam franchise.

Gundam Base Tokyo — set to open Saturday in the Odaiba district — will let visitors learn about or experience the joy of model building, Bandai said.

The models, commonly called Gunpla, have been a hit since the first one came out in 1980. More than 473 million units had been sold worldwide as of March, Bandai says.

“Odaiba is in the international spotlight since the Olympics is coming up, so it’s a great location to open a store,” Koji Fujiwara, general manager of Bandai’s hobby products department, said in a group interview Thursday during a sneak preview of the site. Tokyo’s waterfront district has long been a popular spot for international travelers.

“We hope to show the world how interesting Gundam models are,” Fujiwara said, adding the varied line-up makes the products stand out.

When it opens, the store will have the largest Gunpla lineup in Japan with more than 2,000 types — including 19 exclusive items.

To accommodate non-Japanese customers, Fujiwara said the shop will have multilingual staff who can speak English, Chinese and Korean, among other languages.

Customers will even be able to build their models immediately after purchase because the store has a dedicated model-building space equipped with tools from nippers to air brushes. Fujiwara said professional builders will be on hand to give tips to those in need.

“Even if you have no idea what to get or how to build it, the experts can teach you everything you need to know,” he said.

There is also a section dubbed the Factory Zone where visitors can learn about how Gunpla are manufactured in Shizuoka Prefecture. Events and contests will take place in the Event Zone.

The first Gundam Base opened in South Korea in 2003, followed by a Taiwanese branch two years later. There are now 13 shops total in Asia including the new shop in Japan.

The Odaiba branch will be the first location based in Japan, but Fujiwara said the company will consider expanding if it proves successful, and that new overseas branches are being considered.

“The first shop in Japan will be a starting point,” Fujiwara said.

For more information, visit www.gundam-base.net.

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