3 October 2012
In his essay “The Menace from the South Seas” (reprinted in Japanese Cinema: Texts and Contexts, ed. Phillips & Stringer), Inuhiko Yomota suggests that the route Godzilla takes during his second visit to Tokyo (from about 50 min into the film) is not haphazard, but rather quite meticulously planned, at least from the part of the filmmakers.
To help the discussion, I have made my best attempt at drawing a tour map using Google Maps. You can find it here. It is by no means perfect, especially as Godzilla wasn’t exactly constrained to routes open to regular pedestrians.
Following the letters that Google has assigned to the various stops on the map, here is Godzilla’s travel brochure:
A: Shinagawa – This location is based solely on Yomota, who writes that Godzilla lands from Shinagawa. I assume that he has been able to identify the place based on the buildings. It being a rather large area, I am uncertain of the exact spot. Godzilla has in any case chosen a fairly good district to start his walking tour in: as Wikitravel tells us, Shinagawa (today) is not only “a center of ‘European’ style businesses and tourism”, but also the resting place of the 47 ronin.
B: Shibaura – This is mentioned in the film by the newsreader. Again, the exact location is not given, but Shibaura is not a large area.
C: Shinbashi – This is given by Yomota, and it makes sense as Godzilla continues towards north. Again, exact location unknown.
D: Ginza – This is mentioned in the film. Godzilla is perhaps not there to do any shopping, although Ginza was already in the 1950s not only the heart of Tokyo, but also “the principal and most fashionable shopping center” in the city, as quoted here. The building at the centre of the linked picture may, by the way, look familiar. While I’m not sure if Godzilla paid a visit to Hattori, the BFI DVD commentary identifies the building of Nichigeki Theatre, which momentarily gives us Godzilla’s exact location at D.
E: Hibiya – So far, Godzilla has been pretty much following the shoreline, but now he takes a sudden turn towards the west, as he is next spotted in Hibiya. This is mentioned in the film.
F: The National Diet Building – This building was identified for me by Yomota and it is also discussed in BFI’s commentary. Having wreaked havoc on Japan’s main commercial district in Ginza, Godzilla’s interest in the city has taken a more political turn, as he tears down the home of Japan’s two legislative houses. Ouch.
G: Television Broadcasting Tower – The exact location of this is, rather unfortunately, a mere guess from my part. Godzilla’s target after destroying Japan’s political body is its broadcasting system, as he proceeds to destroy the broadcasting tower from which the journalists are tracking his every move. I have not been able to identify the tower in question, and it may be fictional (Tokyo Tower was only built in 1957, and is located further south). However, some clues about for its location can be seen in the film, as the tower is not too far from the destroyed Diet Building (F) and considering that we see the flames of the burning buildings behind Godzilla (which must therefore be the direction he is coming from), he must be heading either west or north-west.
H : Kachidoki Bridge – After he has torn down the broadcast tower, the helpful journalistic narrative ends and we can no longer track Godzilla’s every movement. The next time he appears, he is already at the Kachidoki Bridge as the BFI DVD commentary helpfully notes, and which is here mapped to H. (Note: I have worked with some slightly confusing information here, as Yomoto writes that Godzilla at this point has “passed Ueno and Asakusa”, which to my understanding lie quite a bit further north. At least my copy of the film doesn’t seem to show him in these places, so it may well be that by “passing by” Yomoto indeed means “passing by”, not “entering into”. Additionally, when you look at the burning buildings in the shots of Godzilla working on the Kachidoki Bridge and compare them with the map, it seems clear that Godzilla’s previous path of destruction is to the northwest, and not directly to the north or northeast where I understand Ueno and Asakusa to be.)
I: The Sumida River and Tokyo Bay – Godzilla has now decided to finish his day’s itinerary and drops into the mouth of the Sumida River and heads back to the Tokyo Bay. Which is a good decision, as the military jets (with the world’s worst aim) have just arrived.
Now, why the trouble of typing this all up and playing around with Google Maps? Well, on the one hand, I simply found it interesting to trace Godzilla’s path through Tokyo, as the fairly long sequence is otherwise quite boring for a non-Japanese observer like myself who has no particular interest in seeing things getting smashed. On the other hand, when looking at the places he visits, it immediately became clear that Godzilla is doing a fairly good job at visiting (and destroying) many of the major landmarks, and I wanted to share this observation.
On the third hand (oh the marvels of nuclear radiation!), Yomota points out that there is something that the film seems to be hinting at, even if it is left unsaid. This is the question how Godzilla actually gets from point G to point H. Remember, at point G, he destroys the broadcast tower. The next time we get his location is with the eye witnesses and the army at Kachidoki Bridge, point H.
Now, as I said, Godzilla probably didn’t have to follow the pedestrian route given by Google Maps. And if you draw a line from G to H while keeping in mind that the shots at Kachidoki Bridge seem to show Shintomicho burning, it seems that Godzilla may well have crossed Chiyoda. And in Chiyoda we have the Imperial Palace. This is where things get potentially interesting.
When reading about this, my initial reaction was that the filmmakers wanted Godzilla to hit (literally) all the major landmarks of the area, but due to cultural and political reasons, could not actually show the destruction of the Imperial Palace, which is therefore only hinted at. And I might still leave it at that.
However, Yomota goes further and asks why Godzilla specifically makes its way to the Imperial Palace and then seems ready to return to the sea. This is connected to the question that I had when watching the film, which was “Why Tokyo in the first place? How do you justify that as a screenwriter?”
In his discussion, Yomota notes the belief that the souls of Japanese World War II soldiers who died in South Pacific were left there, unable to return to the motherland. This, of course, is also where the nuclear bomb test is carried out which awakens Godzilla. Yomota then refers to a Norio Asaka, who has argued that Godzilla in fact represents these dead soldiers and their return to Japan. This is also briefly discussed in a paper by Hiromi Nakano, which can be found here and is worth taking a look at, even if much of the discussion concentrates on the 2001 Godzilla film Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack. It references some other rather interesting ideas floating around Godzilla, including a late 19th century theory that dinosaurs were born of Japanese gods, and that some still remain in the ocean floor.
What Yomota doesn’t really go into is why these soldiers would wish to come to Tokyo and the Imperial Palace. Are they returning to the heart of the nation to find some kind of solace or freedom? Are they there to revenge their deaths by attacking the Emperor who sanctioned the futile war? Or is their attack on Tokyo more of a reminder that their deaths should not be in vain, a commentary on the growing post-war Americanisation of Japan? Are they perhaps there because they are shocked by Japan’s own new civilian nuclear program?
I don’t know, but I thought this worth sharing. Any thoughts?
5 October 2012
I haven’t watched it yet, but all I can say is that this is quite a brilliant piece of detective work! You make me want to do a walking tour of Tokyo now following in Godzillas footsteps….
9 October 2012
And, i am glad to belong to a forum of such oddly obsessed people! Godzilla walking tour! Great!
10 October 2012
I am in Japan as I write…here on a three week language immersion study program outside of Nagoya. Loving every single second…I brought Record of a Living Being with me to watch, but haven’t yet. Pretty intense here (the classwork)…and still, even after all this time, I feel like I have only made a dent in my learning. I’ve been studying in earnest for two years and now this program and still…so frustrating!
However, I have the TV on in the background (a game show) and I can understand most of it, and I just finished a two hour exam plus orals, and I pretty much nailed it. at least the writing, reading and understanding..(my speaking skills are my weakest…) In reality, I still speak like a 3rd grader. And as shy about speaking to adults as a 9 year old, may I add…
Anyway, it’s been a long few months since I’ve participated. I really hope to watch last month’s film and Vili, this post made me really want to watch Godzilla too, having spent a week in Tokyo ahead of my course. And next month’s film, High and Low, vies for my favorite Kurosawa/Mifune adventure…
I hope to post here soon, but just know I have been reading and enjoying the posts, even if I haven’t been watching the films…
11 October 2012
I’m very jealous Amnesty, sounds a terrific course, I’m sure immersing yourself in the language is the best way to get fluent. Have a great time in Japan and hope you get back to posting here regularly on your return. You’ve a few films to catch up with!
Thanks Ugetsu, I’ll try my best! Ganbaro!
13 October 2012
Have fun, Amnesty! It sounds like you are making progress with the language!
By the way, next month’s film is actually Throne of Blood. For High and Low we still need to wait another year (November 2013). 😉
14 October 2012
あ！ごめんなさい！Throne of Blood までみたことがありません。たのしいでしょ! じゃあ、また。。。
(Oh, sorry. I haven’t seen Throne of Blood yet. That will be fun! Until then…)
17 October 2012
Crush it, Amnesty! Very proud of your accomplishments!!!
18 October 2012
But thanks anyway. Having fun here. The only thing is that the more you learn, the more you realize that you will NEVER learn it all. That carrot just moves along in front of you, no matter how much you’re practicing and getting it and achieving. I can now basically speak like a 4th grader, which sounded like a great leap about 6 months ago, but now is not enough! I want to move my skills along to, say, 9th grade. That seems like an impossible dream. But every speck of dust builds a mountain, as they say here…
i guess one could also call it a stomping tour. 🙂
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