Monday, July 4, 2011

The Iconic Monster

How likely is it that anyone around the world over the age of thirteen or fourteen doesn’t know the name Godzilla? In Japan, the birthplace of this big scaly monster even six year-olds know the name as well as much of his history, but it is possible they would not understand the Americanized ‘Godzilla.’ The original name is Gojira, a name concocted from a combination of ‘go’ in gorilla and ‘jira’ from the Japanese word kujira, which means ‘whale.’ Gojira or Godzilla was “born” in 1954, the brainchild of film director and co-writer Honda Ishirô who gave us the very first Godzilla movie, a creature tied forever to Japanese culture and the city of Tokyo.

Both the creature and the story grew out of the writer-director’s shock at the devastation wrought by the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. For Honda, Gojira was a metaphor for that devastation, a mutant growing out of atomic radiation, which explains his size and his ability to breathe out atomic rays of fire. He is resistant to damage and along with a tough hide has a rapid healing factor. Strong, dexterous and with mystical martial art abilities, he is a creature in transition between aquatic and terrestrial vertebrates. Gojira can survive indefinitely in the ocean depths and fights as well in water as on land. As well as being a metaphor for nuclear devastation, he has become as well a metaphor for the United States, an allegory of nuclear weapons.

As a long-running series of what the Japanese call daikaiju eiga (monster movies) Gojira has thus far enjoyed a run of twenty-eight versions made between the original in 1954 and the latest in 2004. Though he is a ‘smaller’ presence in the US, Godzilla was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2004.


  1. Interesting.....never knew that the creator of Godzilla was Japanese.

  2. How many times did we watch the destruction of Tokyo at the drive-in theatre with a noxious coil of Pic smoking on the transmission hump? And now, again, it is as if Godzilla has risen from the ocean depths to again devastate the Japanese coast.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America