Japanese Culture and Traditions: A Hero or Villain? The Truth of Godzilla

Godzilla statue lit up at the top of a building in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Godzilla even becomes an academic research subject in Japan

In my childhood, Godzilla was definitely my hero. I memorized even the height and weight of many monsters in Godzilla movies, let alone their names. I’m sure I would have annoyed many adults around me by proudly showing off the knowledge, and also my parents would have wanted me to apply the same level of passion to study.

Godzilla is a super movie content known to everyone in Japan and to many people even outside Japan. It can be said to be the most popular Japanese movie series especially outside Japan. Many people, not only film critics but also marketing professionals and even university professors have published study on it.

In the movies, Godzilla always destroys cities, and people run around. If you just heard this, Godzilla must sound like a villan, but most of the people like Godzilla and even worship it like a god. It’s difficult even for me to explain why that is and to define what Godzilla is. The explanation about Godzilla that sounds most feasible to me is “Godzilla is the metaphor of nature.” Indeed, it has destroyed many cities many times so far, but has shown no animosity or hatred to humans, though making no apologies as well.

Godzilla makes us remember a feeling of awe for nature

To be honest, though I feel sometimes a little frustrated as an ex-military person, Japanese Self-Defense Force always plays the role of expendables in Godzilla movies. Even in the latest Japanese version (2016), the same as always, Godzilla routed out all the attacks with modern technology, looking as if nothing had happened. I believe this kind of scenes well represent the Japanese view of nature.

Do you remember the time when Japan was hit by the huge tsunami on 11 March 2011? The calm and composed behaviors of the victims were admired around the world. Of course, they deserve such admiration, but I believe the Japanese view of nature would also have a huge effect on their behaviors. We Japanese people believe deep down in our hearts that it’s meaningless to face off against nature, and resign ourselves to it as our fate.

The shot of a big tree taken from a low angle. The tree is partially covered with snow. The clear blue sky can be seen over the tree.

Let’s be tolerant to the nature of wood because we can’t control it

As I’ve been writing time and again, one of the major factors that make wooden furniture different from other industrial products is the inequality of the main raw material. Wood is uneven and unstable by nature, and so, no two pieces of wooden furniture are the same. I didn’t mean people should accept everything, but I’m hoping that people will become a little more tolerant to the nature of wood, like patterns, color variation, end cracks, etc. No matter how hard we try, humans can’t control nature anyway.

A corporate logo, the letters of C and H are combined to look like a tree in a circle

Shungo Ijima

He is travelling around the world. His passion is to explain Japan to the world, from the unique viewpoint accumulated through his career: overseas posting, MBA holder, former official of the Ministry of Finance.