Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Geek Pride Day - Geeking out in Daegu, Figure Shops Korea_Daegu Travel

Geeking out in Daegu.
Although the undisputed capital of all things geek in Korea is, as you would expect, Seoul, that doesn’t mean you’re forced to travel all the way over there to get your fix if you happen to be visiting other parts of the country such as our wonderful city of Daegu. You'll have to look a little harder than in Seoul, but it's perfectly possible to get everything you need right here.
You just need to know where to look.
And that’s where we come in.
I’ll tell you all about all the anime, sci-fi and figure related places in Daegu that I know of, so grab a pen and take some notes!

First on our list is also the easiest to find: 피규어 스토리 (Figure Story) in Banwoldang station.
It’s not a huge store, but it makes up for its lack of space by stacking everything from the floor straight up to the ceiling.






Address : 127-1 Bongsan-dong, Jung-gu, Daegu, South Korea

The entire place is covered in Figma, Nendoroids, SEGA Prize Figures, Figurines and Gashapon from a wide variety of popular and less popular anime. If you're looking for some figures you can’t find online anymore, it’s definitely worth a look.

Then we have one of the biggest, if not the biggest, hobby store in Daegu: Gundam Base. Located right around the corner of Kyobo book store downtown, it’s easy to miss if you’re not looking up while looking for your robots.


[Did you catch it? It’s right there next to the giant Burger King sign.]


Address : 66-1 Dongseongno 2(i)-ga, Jung-gu, Daegu, South Korea


Unfortunately, because Gundam Base is a franchise store, we were not allowed to take pictures, but instead I'll gladly tell you what the general deal is. And the general deal is..basically..Gundam Paradise.
The store is huge, sporting rows upon rows of Gundam kits in all sizes and at all price points. There’s starter kits for people who are new to the hobby, or professional ones that will please even the most veteran builders, so whatever you’re looking for you’re bound to find it here. They also have a small selection of non-Gundam figures such as Kamen Rider FiguArts and a few Figma, but overall this place is for real gunpla fanatics. The prices are on point, being an official Gundam store, and as I said the selection (when it comes to Gundam) is without equal. As an added bonus, the store also features a building area where you can watch the various Gundam anime while you build the kit you just bought in a Gundam themed room.
Plus, if I understood correctly, if you buy certain models and show them to the staff after you’ve bought and built them, you’ll get some sort of collectible card to add to your collection.

Interestingly enough there is more good news for people who are into plamo: 하비랜드, also found downtown but expertly hidden near exit 3 of the Jungang-ro subway station, is another store with a large selection of plastic models.


[It’s almost as if they're actively trying to hide this place. The entrance is the door under that red banner there.]


Address : 63-3 Pojeong-dong, Jung-gu, Daegu, South Korea

Unlike Gundam Base, it doesn’t specialize in giant robots only, so you can pick up models from Western Sci-Fi movies to historically accurate tanks and helicopters and awesome looking Sci-Fi anime starships. Its non-plamo inventory is also nothing to scoff at, being the only store that I’ve found carrying even Revoltechs of Western characters.





This place is a real hobby store, and aside from all the models and action figures, they also sell the tools you’ll need to build them. Paint, Gundam Markers, pencils, brushes, x-acto knives, sprue cutters, tweezers and more can all be found here so you can get everything you need to start building all in one place. To be honest, I’ve already visited there several times since we did our ‘research’ for this article because the place is just so inviting, the owner is so nice and I just can’t imagine them getting all that much business being as hidden as this.

As the cherry on top, prices here are actually even lower than Gmarket, which blew my mind since it’s probably the first time I’ve seen things cheaper in a store than online. 

Anyway, moving on from the world of giant robots and into the world of a completely different geeky hobby, there’s one more store that I’d like to tell you guys about. Unfortunately in this case the owner also did not allow us to take pictures, so I'll do my best to describe the place to you.


[See that bright blue sign up there in the distance? That's your best bet at navigating to this store.]



Address : 17-1 Dongmun-dong, Jung-gu, Daegu, South Korea

Tucked away behind the Daegu City Center not too far from Jungangno station is a store called 미카엘 (Mikael), part of a franchise called Vanguard that sells card games. It started as a Yu Gi Oh store, but has branched out to include Magic cards, and being the only store in the entirety of Daegu (and surroundings) to offer these things they naturally became the hub of card player activity. They hold weekly tournament events where you can play against other (Korean and foreign) players and even win some cards, and although the selection isn’t as wide as what you might be used to, the newer cards are always easily available and any exotic needs you have can be met by simply asking the owner to order the decks that you need.


But what do you do when your wallet is as flat as mine and you can’t afford to splurge on your hobbies for a while?
How about marvelling at someone else’s collection instead of increasing the size of your own?
Figure cafés are a pretty unheard of concept back at home, but extremely popular in Japan and also not unseen in Korea. I’ve only managed to find two such places here in Daegu, but I wouldn’t rule out the chances of there being more.
Either way, the first café we visited is 틈사이로 나는 커피향기 (literally ‘Coffee fragrance coming through the cracks’), a quaint little café far away from the busy downtown area near Jincheon subway station.




Address : 205-1 Jincheon-dong, Dalseo-gu, Daegu, South Korea



From outside, it looks just like any other one of the millions of cute cafés that litter Korean streets, but once you step inside you’ll see what makes this place different.




Aside from the warm and comfortable atmosphere, you’ll probably notice the large amount of figurines displayed tastefully on all sides of the small café. When we sat down with the owner and asked him how he came to the decision of opening a Figure café, he said it hadn’t always been like this. At first he ran just a regular coffee place, but as his collection of figurines grew and grew at his home he decided to move some of his collection to his café. It started with one display case, but of course, as collectors know, that one case turned into two, and those two turned into three and so on and so forth until he was the owner of an actual Figure café. He doesn’t have any illusions when it comes to his collection though; he told us the addition of all these figures is more for his own pleasure than anything else. It’s not like it has affected business in any way.



There are cases however where figures can make the difference, and this is true for the project of love by another Daegu collector, called CW (or Cinema World). Cho Woong, the owner of CW, says in this interview that he started collecting after falling in love with Star Wars when he was a child and just hasn’t really stopped since then. And instead of keeping his giant collection locked up in his home, he has decided to share it with the world in what is apparently the only Figure Restaurant/Museum in all of Korea.
I was lucky enough to have dinner there on my birthday and experienced first hand the reason why this place is worth travelling to even though it’s pretty far away from everywhere else.
Firstly, considering how fancy this place is, it's very affordable. And for being affordable, the food tastes really good. Obviously you are in Korea though, so you can get delicious food practically anywhere, but tell me where else can you eat that delicious food while a 1:1 replica of Tobey McGuire’s Spider-Man looks over your shoulder, or a cross section of the Millennium Falcon and LEGO recreation of the Emperor’s landing on the second Death Star glimmer next to your plate, or 1:1 busts of Boba Fett, Captain America and Elsa look over you?




That alone would be enough to warrant a trip to this amazing restaurant, but what’s on the third floor is even more interesting: the bulk of Cho Woong’s figure and prop collection.
Featuring figures from franchises like Star Wars (including 1:1 replicas of C-3PO and R2D2, Yoda, Watto and a whole slew of 1:1 lightsabers and busts); Marvel (including not one but two 1:1 Wolverine and Hulk busts, several limited edition full body figures and a replica Wolverine jacket); Robocop; The Nightmare before Christmas; etc, a beautiful Alien/Predator collection case and a group of life sized Terminators with glowing eyes making up the centerpiece of the room this place is a must see for any Sci-Fi or figure enthusiast who doesn’t mind knowing he’ll never be able to afford any of this himself.










Address : 437-1 Daepyeong-dong, Gyeongsan, Gyeongsangbuk-do, South Korea




So all in all there's plenty to see and do for people who enjoy figures, models and science fiction right here in Daegu. Just drop by and have a look - you might find yourself enjoying building little plastic robots a lot more than you'd expect.