By Nathan Marchand
If a kaiju appeared in a city, I bet it’d make you more likely to visit it. Any self-respecting kaiju fan probably would.
Well, that’s what the cities of Kita-Kyushu and Shimonoseki in the Yamaguchi Prefecture have been doing for several months. To promote tourism to their cities, they released an online video featuring a kaiju emerging from the Kanmon Straits, which separates the islands of Honshu and Kyushu. Here’s the video:
The bizarre creature is composed of local specialties found in nearby waters, like pufferfish and octopuses, and is supposed to be a reincarnation of the Heikegami, a Japanese crab, which is said to be possessed by the fallen warriors of the Heike clan defeated at the Battle of Dan-no-ura in 1185. (This sounds easily similar to Godzilla’s origin in GMK, doesn’t it?) In other words, it’s packed full of local flavor. (Personally, in distant shots, I think the creature almost looks to have an unmasked Predator face).
The video was originally done in English so as to draw international attention, but it was also subtitled into several other languages.
The creature is humorously defeated by the water current because the Kanmon Straits have one of the fastest tides in the world, with speeds up to 10 knots (about 12 mph). Not only that, but the special effects team that worked on Toho’s latest Godzilla film, Shin Godzilla, created the effects in this promotional short.
While this technically isn’t Godzilla, it’s certainly a byproduct of the longstanding kaiju tradition started by the original 1954 film Gojira. So, these cities are vicariously tapping into Godzilla to promote tourism. It’s also an expression of Japan’s “gross national cool” (or “Cool Japan”). This was a term coined by Douglas McGray in Foreign Policy magazine in 2002. As Japan’s pop culture—J-pop, manga, anime, etc.—has infiltrated other nations and exploded in popularity, it has created an appealing image for its native country while also being quite profitable. The Japanese government has sought to use this “soft power” (indirect influence through cultural or ideological means) for economic growth. To bring it back to the kaiju video, the fact that this short was intended to be seen internationally shows how prominent and widespread the kaiju culture is and how closely it’s tied to “Cool Japan.” In other words, it’s an international cultural touchstone. Godzilla and kaiju still remain relevant.
You can learn more about the short film here.