In 1954, Ishiro Honda dressed a man in a rubber suit and told him to smash his way through a miniature Tokyo.
And a legend was born.
It’s been nearly 60 years since Godzilla first appeared on screen, but in that time the monster has become an icon of science fiction and pop culture, appearing in over two dozen films in Japan (plus an American remake better left unmentioned) and spawning an entire genre of giant monster movies. Today, people who’ve never seen a monster movie know who Godzilla is, and the giant lizard once famously placed #3 on an early 1990s American survey of the most famous Japanese (then again, Bruce Lee was #2).
For those devotees of the kaiju (giant monster) genre who want to go that extra step by making a pilgrimage to the settings and birthplaces of their favorite films, a guidebook is available that may make the trip easier. I just came across “The Monster Movie Fan’s Guide to Japan,” a 48-page guide by Armand Vaquer. Combining travel and immigration tips with a list of attractions in cities from Sapporo down to Kyushu, it looks like it could be a useful tool for a road trip. The guide is available from ComiXpress for US$15.00.
I haven’t read Mr. Vaquer’s guide, but I will add a few post-3/11 notes for folks planning to come here from overseas. Keep in mind that the people of Sendai and Fukushima (locales listed in the contents) have recently been through a real-life disaster movie of their own, and may not be all that thrilled to have tourists come and gawk. On the other hand, lending a hand will be gratefully accepted, but relief agencies are seriously overworked so please make advance arrangements (either from overseas or in Tokyo) with one of them if you wish to volunteer. People just showing up in wrecked areas saying they’re here to help (especially if they don’t speak Japanese), will likely be asked to leave.
The guide may have been written too early for this, but the shinkansen (bullet trains) were very recently extended to Aomori in north Honshu and Kagoshima in Kyushu.