They dominate Japanese entertainment so much that they have become synonymous with the country. But why does Japan love giant robots so much?
The first time you lay eyes on it, you won’t quite believe what you’re seeing. It’s almost too big to be real.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
At Tokyo’s Diver City Mall stands one of the most spectacular attractions in the developed world: a 20-metre-high, life-size Gundam. In Japan, the robot is an iconic emblem of a franchise that is a household name. Since their introduction in 1980, more than 450 million Gundam model kits have been sold. Around the world, it is an otaku totem so beloved that it made a rapturously received appearance in the movie adaptation of nerd love letter Ready Player One). The Unicorn Gundam in Diver City, complete with transforming body parts and twice-a-day light show, sums up Japan’s love affair with giant robots, also known as mecha.
Mecha have been a staple of popular Japanese entertainment for decades, but their history can be traced back through the centuries. Japan’s love affair with robots of a much smaller variety began in the 1600s with karakuri – small, mechanised puppets used for entertainment. Technology was crucial to both their appeal and their appearance, a fact that has dominated Japanese robots ever since. The first example of a robot in popular Japanese fiction appeared in the 1930s but the concept solidified in the 1950s with two creations – Mighty Atom (better known to Westerners as Astro Boy) and Tetsujin-28-Go. The former was a spin on the Pinocchio fable, but the latter was instrumental in establishing a grand mecha tradition – a giant robot of fearsome capability, controlled by a human. The manga debuted in 1956 but in 1963, it got a TV adaptation which was one of the very first giant robot anime in Japan.
The concept of a human-controlled mecha was further solidified in the 1970s with the arrival of Mazinger-Z, the brainchild of legendary mangaka Go Nagai. The titular robot was far bigger than any of its predecessors and, crucially, was controlled by a human pilot seated within its interior. The robot-as-glorified-armour concept harks back to aspects of Japan’s bushido philosophy, and Mazinger-Z itself is a uniquely Japanese creation, as it is made from a fictional super-metal that can only be sourced from Mt. Fuji. Japan’s cultural identity was thus incorporated into the robot, which in turn is used to fight evil and injustice. Also, it had the ability to detach or transform parts of itself, something which made for healthy toy sales but would add another element to mecha lore, and the concept of a transforming robot would be taken to even greater heights across a number of seminal works from the ’70s onwards.
In the late 1970s, a franchise arrived that would have as seismic an impact on Japanese pop culture as Godzilla: Mobile Suit Gundam. The epic space opera took place in a future world where an Earth-based federation is at war with a separatist faction. The federation’s principle weapon is the Rx-78 Gundam (the exact same model that would later appear in Ready Player One), which at the start of the saga is piloted by a teenage boy. One of the most influential titles in anime and manga history, the Gundam universe showed that it was possible to incorporate mecha into a world every bit as expansive, gargantuan and reflective as Star Wars and Star Trek. The franchise would expand into multiple iterations and timelines, all supported by a swathe of merchandise. Gundam model kits are so popular that they now have a subculture of their very own.
A few titles have followed in Gundam’s wake that would make big dents in their own right; in the 1980s we got Super Dimensional Fortress Macross (later adapted to become Robotech in the West) and the crime procedural Patlabor. In the late 1990s, the anime landscape was altered forever by Neon Genesis Evangelion, a title that subverted and deconstructed the mecha ethos into something darker and more Freudian. It’s been a while since Japanese creators have produced anything as original or dynamic as Gundam or Mazinger-Z, relying instead on sequels or new variants on existing sagas, but Japan’s love for giant robots remains firmly intact. In the present day, there is a company in Japan that actually builds its very own mechs.
Whereas Godzilla, with its analogous representation of nuclear cataclysm, represents the darker recesses of the Japanese id, mechas stand for all that is great about Japanese technological ambition. These are spectacular machines that are used, in the main, as a tool to help humanity. They represent Japan’s greatest strengths as a nation: teamwork, the ability to blend progressive technology with traditional values, forward-thinking, fortitude and using science as a means to increase the sum of happiness. Western creators have tipped their hat to mecha in recent years, most notably with the Pacific Rim franchise, and American studios are actively involved in live-action adaptations of Robotech and Gundam for release in the near-future.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.