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Saturnzilla Invades Japan, one Arcade at a Time

April 15, 2010

By a twist of luck, Dan (LiarXAgerate) and I were barely able to make it to the Giant Mr. Saturn event in Kawasaki, Tokyo. Dan was scheduled to arrive in Japan at 1 PM that day, but entrance tickets were being handed out first-come first-serve at nine in the morning at the arcade where the event was scheduled. Tickets weren’t required to receive free stickers and view the figurines, but no way was I going to let a four-foot Mr. Saturn get away from me!

(The full story, and more pictures of a large event devoted entirely to the viewing of an enormous Mr. Saturn, after the jump.)

I ended up waking up at five that morning so I could take the first train to Tokyo and make my way to the enormous line—probably 200 people—lined up along the upper deck of the two-story outdoor mall. A Banpresto employee (or an arcade employee wearing a Banpresto jacket) stood at the end of the line, holding up a sign showing people where the end of the Mr. Saturn line was, clicking away at a handheld counter to keep track of how many people they could supply a ticket. In our situation I was gambling—they were offering certain windows of Saturn-viewing time, each determined by your place in line. They were handed out in order, with increments of thirty minute windows from 10 AM to 5 PM.

I had to get that last window of 4:30-5:00 PM, so we could make an effort to rush back to Kawasaki from Narita Airport in time, so I talked to the man holding the sign and explained my situation. I was hoping I could get them on my side and not pull some of the random Japanese bureaucratic strictness that they thrash out at the most random times, so I told him how my boyfriend was still in a jet-plane somewhere over the Pacific ocean, and how I was hoping I could pick up both my ticket and his for the latest time possible, so we could run straight to Mr. Saturn from Narita, about two hours away.

He sort of yelped in an unexpected degree of amazement at our dedication, and all the Japanese people surrounding me in line who were eavesdropping something fierce began whispering their own amazed “sugoi’s” to each other. I’d kept my eye out before as I passed everyone in line to walk to the end of it, but I hadn’t spotted any other foreigners. After answering a few sputtering questions from the young man about where I was from and all that (a daily routine at this point), he told me to hang on a minute and walked away from the line a little to make a call on his walkie-talkie.

(For good measure, I imagined Captain Strong making a call to the Roadblock Police telling them keep an eye out for the boy in the red cap and open the path to Twoson.)

He returned a minute later and told me to mention that I’m the American from earlier once I reached the front of the line. Score! Crisis averted—now to make it back to the arcade in time without any flight or train delays.

When I reached the front of the line (it seemed to consist of a completely 50/50 female-male ratio of vaguely college-aged-looking people), there were two more young men in Banpresto jackets handing out a sheet of Mr. Saturn stickers, with an entrance ticket with the 30-minute time window written on each. I told him I was the American from earlier, as instructed, and he understood immediately. Being blazingly white: Sometimes it sucks, and sometimes it is very convenient. He dug through the paper bag of documents behind him and pulled out two tickets for the 4:30-5:00 window, along with two sheets of Mr. Saturn stickers. I thanked him and marched off in triumph to take a picture of the rest of the line to show what the first part of the event looked like. But by the time I had turned around, the line was nearly gone. It had only taken them a few minutes to run out of tickets.

The line wound way past this display at the front of the arcade.

Another large chunk of day passed, and one safe arrival to Japan later, Dan and I rushed back to the arcade. When we arrived, the arcade itself was a little crowded, but no more than I would expect on an average weekend in a major city. I guess we may have missed the brunt of it earlier that morning, when people were anxious to see it as soon as possible.

There was a large-screen television at the entrance showing a video—the same one featured on YouTube—of Itoi meeting the giant Mr. Saturn.

Two more young men stood in front of it, ready to hand out more Mr. Saturn stickers. I showed one of them our tickets and he led us inside, through all the winding rows of crane games and to the end of the line for pictures. The format was simple: bring your own camera, stand in line, be shooed into the area with Mr. Saturn, have the employees take about three pictures for you with your camera, and say your goodbyes with the enormous electronic walking Mr. Saturn on your way out.

There must have been a remote control, because when Dan and I were standing beside it, one of the employees told it to say hi to us and it started moving around. It was really eerie. But the eeriest part of this entire experience for me was the fact that the event was this big deal with first-come first-serve tickets earlier that morning and a strict limit on the amount of visitors that could have the photo op and view Mr. Saturn with their own eyes—and yet he was behind a temporary wall in the middle of the arcade. This was no separate room or special location. They just threw up some office-cubicle-looking walls around it and hid him like that. It was bizarre, just hiding him away like that under everyone’s noses, but I’m glad we made it in.

Behind this wall, Mr. Saturn. Earlier in the day the line stretched out past the arcade's entrance.

He was really soft and fuzzy, and they let us touch him and lean on him and all that but i couldn’t put any weight on him because he was so soft that he just started sinking—he felt inflated. So we settled with an awkwardly posed group shot while not knowing what to do with ourselves. I wanted to do something cool with the opportunity, but when you are suddenly face to face with an enormous Mr. Saturn staring back at you, what can you do? I mean, all I wanted to do was take him home, so I was left just standing next to him wistfully.

After the pictures, we went to check out the figurines. These were not hidden behind any wall; they were just out in the open with ropes lined up so as to form an orderly line. There was no one there, though, so we just kind of walked right up to the display case.

It was all white and lit up, and a marvelous sight. A marvelous sight because it was filled with a plethora of clay figurines like the ones featured in the players guide. There were not many enemies—it was mostly the heroes of MOTHER and MOTHER 2—but I remember the Starman was there with way bigger feet than I ever remember him having.

Most figurines were the standard height of maybe 3 inches or so, but on the column of shelves next to the first case, there were identical duplicates that were maybe 6 inches high–pretty big. I wanted so badly to be looking at the real things, but on the little paper signs folded up next to each figurine, there was a small note that they were just copies. Oh well; it was still fabulous seeing them in person, splashed with bright white light to expose all the majesty.

They were extremely strict about photographs of the figurines for whatever reason, so I tried snapping one from far away to try and set the scene. Unfortunately it was too crowded and didn’t work out well, so you’ll have to take what you get and use your imagination brush.

Look just to the left of Ultraman's navel.

Enhance! Enhance!

I actually had no idea, but there were Mr. Saturn crane games at the event too. I was a little heartbroken afterwards, but at least I saved myself like a hundred dollars—every Mr. Saturn crane game I have ever done was nearly impossible, and I’ve always spent ungodly amounts of money just trying to catch one (usually for about three times the price it would have cost me to buy on Yahoo! Auction.)

There were also posters advertising information about the event. This summer, starting in June, maybe, the giant Mr. Saturn is going to go on a nationwide tour to arcades all over the country to visit each one for a week at a time. So hopefully it will come to Tochigi and I can meet him again! Those of you living in Japan, keep your eyes peeled for when it’s coming around to your area! This Kawasaki Event was just sort of a kick-off; whether the figurines will follow him around too, I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they just end up duplicating today’s event. I really hope so.

After the event, Dan and I headed over to the LOFT stationary store next door and bought Itoi’s Hobo Nichi Planners to put a nice, MOTHER-related cap on the end of our adventure. The te-cho planners are absolutely awesome, and I really recommend them to anyone who can stomach navigating through Itoi’s 1101 store. I’m planning on writing up a walkthrough eventually, so that people can buy Itoi planners of their own.

From → Events, Japan

  1. Chris permalink

    😀 This is quite an awesome writeup. I’m glad you got one-on-one time with this larger than life sized mascot. If I had a few grand to spare, I’d try to fly out to Japan and make one of these events. Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. neonix permalink

    Wow, thanks for that awesome write-up! You’re very lucky. Did you happen to snag any of the posters/flyers from the event? I’d love to see any pics of things like that.

  3. chris catfood permalink

    this was great! thanks so much for the write-up!

  4. kyoo permalink

    just pretend I wrote what neonix did, you said you just wanted to take him home. now when people get thoughts like this. they have what I call micro thoughts. as they happen in micro seconds. did you have a micro thought on breaking the law, or pondering if you could get away with it if you did break said law.. did it involve holding the saturn up for ransom?… or was it more like a… aw darnit. I sure wish I could bring him home. I only ask, because i know I’d probably think about it for more than a microsecond. and maybe even take about 2 to 3 steps into the action, before realizing there was no way to get away with it. then again. my thoughts probably would have gone as far as splattering peoples heads open to take him home with me. and I didn’t even touch him.

    then again… I’m a little not stable 😀

    thanks for the write up. it was a fantastic read, I’m so jealous. JEALOUS I TELL YOU!

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