Godzilla, together with his friends and enemies, continues to entertain in theaters and on television screens around the world.
The latest film, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, will debut in the U.S. in 2019. But, back in Japan, a committee of artisans, producers, and archivists have brought their collection of film props, models, art, and displays to the DNA Exhibition at the Japan Kogakuin University College in Kamata, Tokyo.
At the exhibition, 64 years of Godzilla special effects illustrate the rich sense of Japan’s tokusatsu (special effects) filmmaking history in eight different zones, which include 200 artifacts in tribute to an industry that has slowly given way to CGI laden effects driven entertainment.
After previous engagements, the Tokyo edition is located near where scenes were filmed in the blockbuster Shin Godzilla (2016).
Tickets for the exhibit, which runs through Jan. 27, range from 500 to 1,600 Yen and can be purchased at Lawson, Ticket Pia, Seven Ticket, or at the venue.
The exhibition showcases the work of special effects master Eiji Tsuburaya, along with director Ishiro Honda and producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, who transcended the boundaries between reality and fantasy. Shinichi Wakasa, suit sculptor for every Toho-produced Godzilla film from 1993 to 2004, features many of his works so patrons can see his monstrous craft in detail.
“This exhibition is the fourth time the curators have presented such an event, and the contents and the number of pieces will change depending on the location and size of the venue,” Wakasa said.
You’ll see mechanized vehicles, like the rare Maser Tank from Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) and the Oxygen Destroyer developed by Dr. Serizawa in Godzilla (1954). Time almost stands still for a moment when you gaze at items from some of the greatest monster movies of all time. The large flying monster Varan (1958) appears after a 60-year slumber made by veteran monster modeler Keizo Murase.
The original Mechagodzilla 2 suit used in the shooting of Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) is a popular photo spot for visitors, and it is no small miracle that the robot kaiju costume has been preserved in such a beautiful state. Keiichi Sakurai, special effects cinematographer on Shin Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), and Zone Fighter (1973), was surprised at the number of miniatures on display at the exhibition.
“Now, when you look at the miniatures that are barely left, you can imagine shooting special effects during that time,” said Sakurai, the last working cinematographer from Toho’s golden days. “What you are seeing and studying in front of you reconfirms the splendor of special effects.”
There is also a mechanical Godzilla head used in Godzilla (1984) and Godzilla's bones resting on the ocean floor, the twin faeries from Mothra (1961) and much more. At the epidermis station you can actually check the texture of Godzilla’s skin made in the same way as the monster suits are fabricated for the films. An exquisite highlight is the large cityscape display of Millenium Godzilla battling Mothra, while nearby a mini theater features a 28-minute film with some of the featured artisans.
Kyle Yount, host of Kaijucast podcast, traveled from Portland, Oregon to attend the pre-opening red carpet ceremony commenting.
“The DNA tokusatsu exhibit is something I will never forget, and I was completely blown away with the incredible amount and choices of props on display,” Yount said.
Many others have also had the same experience being just inches away from legacy items that date back to the first film in the series.
Limited edition toys, shirts, bags and more will be for sale as well.
Hardcore fans and those not acquainted with Japanese monster movies will both enjoy the cinematic charm of the Ota, Kamata area are encouraged to explore the special effects of the new era and see first-hand the visual documents which built the rich tapestry of Japanese special effects filmmaking at the DNA Exhibition through Jan. 27
Edward L. Holland is a photojournalist working in Japan. He has written for Stars and Stripes, Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and assisted American and Japanese directors, actors, and artists at various conventions in the US and Japan.
Godzilla on display
When: Through Jan. 27
Hours: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. (Closed Jan. 12)
Where: Japan Kogakuin College of Technology "Gallery Hon"
5-Chome 23-22, Nishikamata Ota Ward, Tokyo (JR Kamata Station)
Cost: 500 – 1,600 Yen (preschool kids free)
*Tickets can be purchased at Lawson, Ticket Pia, Seven Ticket, or at the venue.