Japan, Godzilla and the Atomic Bomb by John Rocco Roberto

Japan, Godzilla and the Atomic Bomb

A Study into the Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Japanese Pop Culture

by John Rocco Roberto

Before I delve into this essay I want to provide a bit of context. I am starting to finally realise the importance of when and where essays were written, we are told to challenge everything we read for the symposium, but it’s silly to challenge a piece of writing you haven’t done any research into.

John Rocco Roberto

While John was not well known with some of the newer members of the fandom, his influence was far reaching. He was the true mover and shaker of the old days when fans didn’t have the internet to connect with one another. His articles, as well as the articles of his contemporaries in the old issues of G-Fan and later in Kaiju-Fan set the standard for serious analysis of the films (“Godzilla in America” anyone?)

– ‘Special Tribute’ By John “Dutch” DeSentis

He [was] one of the founding fathers of modern Godzilla fandom, helping establish G-FAN and G-CON.

– ‘Remembering John Rocco Roberto’ by BRETT

It’s safe to say from these account that John Rocco was a key player in the fandom world of Godzilla and was active in his passion. Therefore I can accept that this isn’t a half researched essay. Founding conventions and fan bases for one film takes a lot of work and dedication, and the success for G-Con reflects on his knowledge of not only the film but it’s surrounding debates.

Let’s get started on the essay…

The section I am particularly interested in is titled ‘From Desperation to Insperation’

However, one could argue that the true date of Godzilla’s birth was not November 3rd, 1954, but August 6th, 1945, the day the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

I had my suspicions before that Godzilla was a representation of the Atomic bombing, purely because of it’s release which was just after the bombings. However John Rocco Roberto explains this with more substance.

“On the plane ride back to Tokyo, I was desperate,” Tanaka recalled.“  I was sweating the whole time.”  The year was 1954, and the film he intended to make was to have beenIn the Shadow of Glory, co-produced in cooperation with the Indonesian government.  The plans for the film, however, fell through when Tanaka could not get work permits for the film’s stars.  Having a budget for a war film, but having no film to shoot, Tanaka agonized at the prospect of losing face in the eyes of his company.  But it was during that plane ride that, as Guy Tucker argues, “desperation became his friend … and would lend him an idea that would develop into something far larger and more enduring than the project he left behind.”

At the end of the Second World War Japan was devastated; physically, politically and financially.  The people of the nation were starving and homeless, and their spirits had been broken.  There was an atmosphere of hopelessness, known only too well to Haruo Nakajima, who served in the Imperial Army during the war, and who would go on to play Godzilla in eleven films.  “There was a feeling of great despair [all around].  It was very difficult for people to find work at this time,” Nakajima recalled. The intensity of the Japanese reaction to their defeat, and the devastation brought on by it, is evident in their present anti-nuclear policies. Their inner feelings towards this defeat, however, have never been fully examined.  But one place to start that examination could be through analyzing two important Japanese films in the context of their times.

Quotes by the man inside the Godzilla costume and Tomoyuki Tanaka himself define the idea of the bombs not only having an effect on Japan physically and financially but also culturally, inspiring the iconic character that is Godzilla.

Under SCAP guidelines Japanese directors were to stress how all Japanese “were endeavoring to construct a peaceful nation [and] how soldiers and repatriates were being rehabilitated into civilian life.”  The result was a series of poor films half-hearted in their execution.

We can clearly see that there was a massive reaction to the bombing in the film industry. John Rocco Roberto goes on to explain this in the section section…“Gorja”

In Gojira, the monster Godzilla is the United States’ atomic bomb, devastating Tokyo and reducing it to a radioactive cinder all in one night.  Originally conceived by Tsuburaya as a giant mutated octopus, producers Tanaka and Mori felt that a giant dinosaur-type creature (mutated through the effects of atomic testing), would have more appeal and be more threatening to land-based civilizations… In Honda’s conception, the monster Godzilla would not merely be awakened by the bomb; instead “He would be twisted and mutated by it, into a rampaging uncontainable force; the A-bomb made flesh.”

“Japan and the bomb in the 21st century”

Dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War has remained a heated and controversial debate in the United States to the present day.  Whether the Japanese were about to surrender; whether the Soviet Union was about to enter the war; all remain good, but academic points in the 21st century.  The bombs were dropped, and Japanese culture changed forever.  On the surface, there is very little sign of pre-war Japan.  American influence has completely embedded itself into every part of Japanese society.  In fact when one travels to Japan, one is immediately taken with the lack of any sign that Japan suffered from nuclear attack. In fact there are very little signs that Japan ever lost the war.  The average Japanese citizen drinks Coca-Cola, eats breakfast at Dunkin Donuts, eats lunch at MacDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken, enjoys American sports such as Baseball and Bowling, and flocks to their local theaters to watch big-budgeted Hollywood films.  There is no sufficient way to describe the experience of traveling in Japan unless you have actually experienced it.  The best description would be to imagine Times Square in New York City multiplied by 100.

“Japanese Pop Culture and the Bomb”

Beginning with the lifting of SCAP restrictions in the 1950s, several films began to address the issue of the atomic bombings

Read the full essay here

Whilst this essay has been interesting and informative, and have allowed to me form a strong group of quotes, it reminds me again of the importance of titles, The sub header suggests this essay explores how the bomb effected Japanese popular culture, when instead it only explores Godzilla. It is still, however an insight into post Bomb Japan, and worth referring to in the future.

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