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Monday, August 6, 2018

Exploring Japan Vol. 9 - Godzilla!!!!!

Those of you who know me or have read the blog for a while know I’m a monster fan at heart.  You’ve probably been asking yourself why it’s taking me so long to address Godzilla in all of these posts about visiting Japan.  Well the fact is, he’s more difficult to find than you’d think.  Sure, you’ll see him in the occasional gachapon machine and you can find toys in most decent toy stores, but there’s no Godzilla museum or even a decent exhibit in a Toho theater. Instead, you have to travel around and check out multiple sites that have a few things here and there.

First up, you can visit the Toho theater in Shibuya.  On the third floor, you’ll find the original Gojira statue that used to sit outside in a courtyard area.  As you can see, it’s kind of small given the subject matter, but it’s a cool statue nonetheless.

It was moved here after it was replaced by this statue in that same courtyard.  This version is the same one seen in the excellent Shin-Gojira that was a huge hit in Japan in 2016.  It’s bigger than the original but still, it’s not Godzilla-sized and it's just a statue in a courtyard.

What you really want to see is something big, crazy and loud, right?
There’s only one of those and it’s in Shinjuku.  That’s right, the same Shinjuku that I described last week as a little on the shady side.  The Hotel Gracery partnered with Toho in constructing a giant Gojira head and claws on its roof.  

Even from a distance, it looks like he’s about to come right over the building.  It’s located (conveniently) on Godzilla street.  

Take the elevator up to the lobby and you’ll be confronted with this awesome display featuring every single Toho Gojira movie poster in chronological order, from the original all the way through Shin-Gojira.  

Then, you can walk out onto the roof and see the big guy up close and personal.  

The base features famous scenes and an area where you can activate a low roar and sound effects.  The real treat is to be there when the giant head comes to life. Steam and lights begin pouring from its mouth and it lets out with a very loud roar!

Once you’ve finished looking around, if you still want a little more Gojira related fun, head to the hotel’s cafĂ© and you can order a themed dessert.  I can’t vouch for them because we weren't hungry, but the main one is meant to resemble elevated train tracks and I’m sure playing with your food in this situation would not be frowned upon.

These are the major Gojira attractions in Tokyo proper, however there are others outside the area that we didn’t get to.  

For instance, there’s the giant slide at this playground called Kurihama Flower Park in Kanagawa.  

There’s also a giant footprint and plaque in Kanonzaki commemorating where the beast first made landfall in the original film.  

For years there was a slide and statue here also but it deteriorated and was torn down in the 1970’s. 

Finally, for those who are diehards who really want to spend a day getting closer to their favorite film, you can visit any number of major sites that were replicated in miniature and destroyed by the man in the rubber suit.  Here’s a quick list of some you can easily see by foot, train or river cruise.

Tokyo Tower – featured in multiple movies this was destroyed in many kaiju films from Gojira to Gamera.  At the time of Godzilla’s heydey it was one of the tallest structures in the city measuring 333 feet high.  It’s now been overshadowed by Toyko’s Sky Tree Tower which has been voted by Japanese fans as the structure they’d most like to see destroyed in the next film.

National Diet Building – This is the home of the Japanese parliament and accounts say that people cheered in 1954 when Gojira destroyed part of it.  This was because there was still a lot of resistance to the proposed Treaty of Mutual Cooperation between Japan and the U.S.  In 2003, the big guy came back to finish the job with help from Mechagodzilla in Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.

Ginza District – This is a very upscale area and in 1954 certain places within it were iconic.  That’s why Godzilla made it a point to smash the Matsuzakaya department store and the giant clock that tops Wako, another building that every Japanese native would recognize.  The Ginza district has been featured in many of the sequels as well.

Odaiba – This is an artificial island in Tokyo Bay that houses hotels, a mall (that felt a little too American to us), a giant ferris wheel and can now be accessed by monorail.  It was destroyed in Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000). Notice the ferris wheel on the far right in the picture above.

Kachidoki Bridge – This drawbridge was completely obliterated in the 1954 original film.  You can see it by taking a river cruise down from Asakusa to Hamarikyu Garden.  That same cruise will take you all the way to Odaiba if you want, but the Garden is a great place to wander and you shouldn’t miss it.

And that’s your Godzilla tour of Tokyo!  Next week, I’ll take you to a place even more horrible than anything ever imagined in any Godzilla film ever made:  Sanrio Puroland a.k.a. Hello Kitty Land.

See you next week!

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