If you're a robot fan who happens to live in Japan there is no better way to spend a gray, rainy Sunday afternoon, then to hop on the train to Akihabara and hang out with other folks with the same interests and passion. It's great to be able to find out the latest news and rumors, pick up some spare parts and accessories, log some practice time, or just chat with each other.
Up until recently the number of 'gathering' spots was fairly limited. The Tsukumo Robot Kingdom is probably the most well known location, and we've certainly run into a lot of friends there from time to time. Still, it is a retail store focused on selling robot kits and components to an ever growing crowd of customers. The staff is certainly very open and helpful, but it really isn't a place where you want to practice with your robot.
Then, just a couple of weeks ago, Kondo, the developer of the KHR-1 and KHR-2HV robots and a charter member of the ROBO-ONE organization, opened a new facility in Akihabara called "ROBO SPOT", about five minutes walk from Tsukumo, that seems destined to become an active center for the robot community here in Japan.
We had been invited to the opening ceremony for Kondo's new store, but because of schedule conflicts couldn't fit it into our schedule. So, last weekend, finding ourselves in Tokyo, we decided to walk over and check out the new facility. What we found was both surprising and encouraging.
Although the location is a bit fair from the center of the Akihabara district, the shop itself is surprisingly large and spacious. From the press photos of the opening ceremony we were expecting a tiny, hole-in-the-wall layout. Instead, we were delighted to discover very welcoming space, with lots of room to move around.
The left side of the shop includes a large robot soccer field - about four meters for the long dimension, a full size regulation ROBO-ONE competition ring, and a well stocked parts department. The right side is setup as a classroom with generous workspace allocated for around a dozen students at a time (Kondo has high expectations).
Although we only stopped by for a few minutes late Sunday afternoon, we did run into several well known ROBO-ONE robots and their creators including Metallic Fighter, Project Magi, and Kumataro.
It was also fun to chat with Hamaguchi-san who was just featured with his new MANOI AT01 on the NHK "What's On Japan" television program.
And, in the spirit of ROBO-ONE fun, Metallic Fighter tried wearing one of MANOI's body shells. It turned out to fit so well that Morinaga-san didn't want to give it back.
ROBO SPOT is definitely a welcome addition to the robot venues around Akihabara. We plan on stopping by regularly whenever we visit Tokyo.
KONDO ROBO SPOT in Akihabara (Japanese)