Shoppers at Okabayashi Shoten are greeted by Gundam and Char’s Zaku made by hand from cardboard boxes by the owner. (Hiromi Seki)

INO, Kochi Prefecture--Customers stopping by the Okabayashi Shoten produce market here might wonder if the store owner is an “otaku” geek.

An array of Gundam and other popular anime characters are on display in and outside the shop, along with the various fruits and vegetables.

Masamichi Okabayashi, 63, the store owner, whose hobby is building plastic models, made the figures by hand out of cardboard.

The large statues are a part of a series of projects offered across the country to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the “Mobile Suit Gundam” animated TV series.

The vegetable and fruit stand has introduced large 1/12 scale models of the Gundam F91 and Char’s Zaku robots in its storefront.

Okabayashi took over his parents’ produce and fruit shop after working for a pharmaceutical company.

The owner has had an interest in plastic models since childhood. He started making cardboard sculptures about three years ago after wanting to do something with old boxes piled up in his store.

His first work was a robot soldier from Studio Ghibli Inc.’s “Castle in the Sky” anime movie, using at least 100 sheets of cardboard just to make its head.

Okabayashi went on to make other sculptures. The grocer thought he might as well put his works on display, and placed 12 sculptures inside the shop, including Totoro and Mei from another Studio Ghibli movie, “My Neighbor Totoro,” Son Goku from the “Dragon Ball” manga series and Space Battleship Yamato, which is 3.3 meters long.

It takes about two to four months for him to finish one cardboard artwork. He calculates the sizes of his sculptures based on photos of movies and anime shows, and assembles plastic models of the characters he intends to build if they are available. He designs his sculptures based on these details.

Okabayashi uses cardboard boxes for vegetables and fruits from his shop. He procures paints and adhesives, as well as timbers for frames if necessary, from 100-yen stores and home improvement centers. It costs about 2,000 yen ($18.72) to 3,000 yen to finish one work, he said.

Okabayashi spends two to three hours at night working on his projects. It took about three months for him to finish Gundam after he started working in February, while he began work on Zaku in May and completed the statue about four months later.

As for subjects for his work, Okabayashi chooses what he is interested in at the time. He said he received many requests for the Gundam series from his customers because the anime show is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

“I bought a plastic model kit of Mechagodzilla and asked customers for requests, but I’m still thinking. Please look forward to seeing it on display,” Okabayashi said of his next project.

Okabayashi Shoten is open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is closed on Sundays. The cardboard sculptures are exhibited throughout the year.