The “King Of All Monsters” is given honorary residency in Tokyo’s Shinjuku ward in exchange for bringing in the tourists.
image via (cc) flickr user worldislandinfo.com/futuristmovies.com
There are certain things a city looks for when choosing a mascot. Things like:
—Are they recognizable?
—Do they have cross-demographic appeal?
—Will they effectively represent their intended community?
And perhaps most importantly:
—Have they ever left the city in question a smoking pile of rubble during a nuclear-powered rampage?
While the new face of Tokyo passes the first three criteria with flying colors, the last point is trickier; he’s destroyed the city not once, but multiple times.
Godzilla, the skyscraper-smashing, atomic-breath-having king of monsters, has officially been named “tourism ambassador” for Shinjuku, one of the “special wards” that make up the larger Tokyo metropolis.
At an event outside Toho studios—the production company responsible for bringing the “King Of All Monsters” to life in 1954—a giant, smoking statue of the infamous kaiju’s head was unveiled, while an actor in a Godzilla bodysuit stalked nearby. Businessman and head of the local tourism board Hiroshi Ohnishi presided over the ceremony, attended by Shinjuku Mayor Kenichi Yoshizumi, who described Godzilla as “a character that is the pride of Japan,” reports The Huffington Post. Also on hand was Toho executive Minami Ichikawan who watched as his company’s most famous creation was given honorary ward residency and named to his new ambassadorial post.
Known as a major commercial center for the city, Shinjuku has been destroyed by Godzilla three times during his run as Toho studios’ main monster, according to io9’s Rob Bricken. The sometimes-villainous/sometimes-heroic monster was originally conceived as a nuclear metaphor for Japanese national trauma following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As described by Turner Classic Movies, then-Toho studio president Iwao Mori, “...wanted the dinosaur's skin to show explicit scars from H-bomb exposure—so the suit designers crafted it with a distinctive skin, modeled after the keloid scars of Hiroshima's survivors.”
image via (cc) flickr user sebastiandooris
Godzilla’s resurgence in popularity comes as Japan once again grapples with the implications of atomic power, this time as a result of the catastrophic disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant during the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Perhaps sensing the mood is right for the return of the fission-fueled monster, Toho studios plans to release a new Godzilla film—their first in over a decade—next year, ahead of a sequel to director Gareth Edwards’ 2014 Americanized reboot.
Given Godzilla’s newfound plenipotentiary responsibilities, though, the question remains: Will the next round of monster movies see the giant lizard rampage through the streets of Tokyo once again, or will he spare his newly adopted home for the sake of international tourism?