As with many long-lived fictional characters, Godzilla’s popularity has waxed and waned over the decades. He’s changed with the times, changed back, and became goofier or more hardcore as the zeitgeist dictated. But the Terror of Tokyo has always had legions of fans. And if you’re one of those fans, you can turn one of your days in Tokyo into a tour of the Godzilla sites!
The Shinagawa Station Tile
Our first subject is located on the #1 platform of the Yamanote Line at Shinagawa Station. Near the mid-point of the platform (underneath a pair of security monitors) is a floor tile, depicting a suspiciously dinosaur-like creature in a circle. The kanji on the tile tells us that this exact point is the 0 kilometer mark–that is, the spot from which all other distances on the line are measured.
But why a dinosaur? Well, that depends on who you ask. One popular story holds it that JR East (the rail company on the line) asked permission to use Godzilla’s likeness on an anniversary tile of some sort, due to his association with the area (see the Yatsuyama Bridge, below). This plan hit a snag when it ran up against an expensive licensing fee from Toho. So instead, the station decided to use a “dinosaur” as a symbol. Sort of like painting a triceratops costume green and calling him Blarney, the Lucky Irish Dinosaur.
There’s nothing official here, and no advertisement of the tile’s presence beyond a few blog posts here and there. But since you’re going to be at Shinagawa Station at some point during your trip, you should have a look!
First Godzilla Attack – the Yatsuyama Bridge
In the 1954 classic, this intersection is the spot where Godzilla first stepped in Tokyo to give the Shinagawa ward a serious monster beating. Well, it’s not exactly this spot–years after the film was made, railroad tracks were laid down, and a bridge was built over them. But it’s as close as you’re going to get without playing dodge-train.
Nice, but how do I know what you say is true? Well, do you remember that map board you passed outside of Kitashinagawa Station? Go take a look again. And there you’ll see it–a spot marked on the board with a cutesy giant lizard-monster. This is the closest approximation of where our hero first placed his three-toed foot on the city he loves to hate.
But why are there no other markings at the intersection? The locals did want to mark it, but Toho’s licensing fees were far outside what the community could afford. So besides the map, there’s nothing to mark this piece of cinematic history.
You might also have another question. Godzilla was fifty meters tall in the original film. Where’s the water he came from? There is no water near the intersection that is deep enough to hide a towering radioactive lizard.
The reason for this is simple modernization–the landing spot was much closer to water in 1954, but a reclamation project in the 60s and 70s diverted the water into a river in order to make land available for Tokyo’s expansion. Godzilla may be able to take on Ghidrah, but there’s no way he can defeat real estate development.
The Yatsuyama Bridge Information
Nearest Station: 3-minutes walk from Kita-Shinagawa Station (South exit) (click on the Google Map below for walking directions).
Hibiya Chanter Square
Our third spot will be at the Hibiya Chanter Square. The Godzilla statue and faux-marble plinth it stands on is around two and a half meters tall. The ground nearby is covered in plaques, Hollywood-Walk-of-Fame style, with the metal-casted handprints of various Japanese celebrities. It’s a nice photo op in a small park.
Hibiya Chanter Square Information
Nearest Station: 4-minutes walk from Hibiya Station (Southwest exit) (click on the Google Map below for walking directions).
It ‘s a long walk to reach this location. Movie studios need a lot of room for sound stages, and land is at a premium in Tokyo. Also, it does no one any good to have tourists tramping through when you’re ready for your close-up, right?
Walk under the sign towards the lot entrance. Do note that you cannot get onto the lot itself–there is a security guard posted. Moreover, you don’t want to be rude by interrupting someone’s next blockbuster, do you? The best you can do is to see the mural outside, the gate, and perhaps snap a shot or two of the person-sized Godzilla statue out front. Security can be lax or strict, depending on who-knows-what. The best bet is to be polite, be quick about getting your pictures, and be gone.
Toho Studios Information
Nearest Station: 10-minutes walk from Seijogakuen-Mae Station (click on the Google Map below for walking directions).
Hotel Gracery Shinjuku
Hotel Gracery Shinjuku has become a landmark due to the Godzilla’s head statue mounted on top of the hotel. The Godzilla Head roars and breathes non-radioactive steam nine times a day. The event starts at noon, and then repeats every hour until 8 p.m. The best video/camera footage for this event is on the street leading up to the hotel. the roar is much more colorful at night, so please plan accordingly.
The hotel lobby has a number of Godzilla movie posters, a small souvenir store, and a cafe. You give your Godzilla pass to the host, who then seats you (if you’re staying at the hotel, all you need is the room key, but you do have to show them something). And yes, they know you are coming–prices are kind of high, because the Gracery is a fancy sort of hotel. If you want to order a Godzilla cake set with coffee, which will cost you 1700 yen.
After that, it was time for the main event! Outside, you can get up close and personal with Shinjuku’s most famous resident. The statue itself is towering, and at the base you can see a few bas-reliefs and plaques of great moments in Godzilla history. The best angle for pictures is at the front corner.
Hotel Gracery Shinjuku Information
Nearest Station: 10-minutes walk from Shinjuku Station (East station) (click on the Google Map below for walking directions).
Tamagawa Sengen Shrine
Leaving Tokyo, our next stop is the Tamagawa Sengen Shrine. If you have seen the movie Shin Godzilla, you might remember the “Taba Strategy.” In the movie, the commander of the Japan Self-Defense Forces sets a defensive perimeter at the Tama River to prevent Godzilla from entering Tokyo. The Shrine was designated as the command center.
Yes, Godzilla stands exactly next to the bridge in the movie. But air forces and tanks cannot stop Godzilla!
Even if you are not a fan, you can still stand at the shrine and see the beautiful landscape of Tama River on the Marukobashi (Maruko Bridge), which is one of the most popular bridges in Japan. Many Japanese dramas have been filmed here.
Tamagawa Sengen Shrine Information
Nearest Station: 2-minutes walk from Tamagawa Station (South exit) (click on the Google Map below for walking directions).
You only need to spend fifteen minutes on the Tōkyū Tamagawa Line train from Tamagawa to Kamata station. Go to the east gate and walk toward south. We will be nostalgic a little bit because we are going to the Nishi-Rokugo Park, which is a children playground.
Watch out, a sculpture of Godzilla made of rubber tires stands in the center of the park. Children (or children at heart) can climb on its back and step on its tail. If you want to defeat Godzilla, you should come here and join the other kids to finish that mission.
Nishi-Rokugō Park Information
Nearest Station: 15-minutes from Kamata Station (click on the Google Map below for walking directions).
You can do Godzilla pilgrimage, go sightseeing, and learn about Japanese history through visiting these places. This is a “one stone three birds” trip.