entered Toho in April of 1953. I was a new comer to the 6th batch
of new actors then, along with Yu Fujiki, Momoko Kochi and Masumi
Okada, all of whom are no longer with us, and Kenji Sahara, who to this
day continues to take on cool roles as an actor.
into the 1-year training period, I got a part in my first film, gKakute
jiyuu no kane wa naruh, through an interview. This was a biopic
film about Yukichi Fukuzawa, and I played the part of Sotaro Masuda,
who was a junior warrior of Nakatsuhan in Oita prefecture. Right
after this film, I then appeared in gMizugi no hanayomeh (1954 dir.
Toshio Sugie), and in the spring of 1954 was when I had my fateful
encounter with the film gGodzillah, in which I received the starring
There was a subheading to this movie:
gfeature-length fantastic science filmh. This meant what we now
refer to as gscience fictionh. Written in bold black letters on a
red cover was the title gGodzillah. This marks my first encounter
with Director Ishiro Honda, a kind-hearted, quiet film director and
teacher, with whom I had working relations with for the next several
On the very first day of shooting, I entered the studio
and greeted aloud; gHello, I am Akira Takarada, here to play the
lead role. Nice to work with you allh. To what I thought
was a polite greeting, one of the staff yelled gYoufre not the star,
the star is Godzilla!!h. My knees were just about to give out as
I was saved by the laughter of the surrounding staff. Before we
went into the actual shooting, I would meet with director Honda
numerous times. I was fortunate to work with co-stars like Momoko
Kochi, who entered Toho at the same time I did, and Akihiko Hirata, a
prodigy of the film research center who was two years my senior.
With these two by my side, mentally I felt fairly comfortable.
on Day 1, right before we went to test shoot the first cut, the
director approached me saying gTakarada-kun, donft be too nervous and
just move freely. If there is anything you donft understand, just
ask meh. I cannot forget these words to this day. This film
was one which Toho took a risk in making. They even gambled by
using a young new actor like myself, who had just turned 20 years
old. Because I knew this, the pressure I felt was that much
greater. I was fortunate enough to continue appearing in films
since then, but I had never received such kind and affectionate words
from a director. This human kindness he possessed actually tells
all about director Honda.
Now, we were all aware of details
pertaining to Godzilla, but what was most crucial is the line of
eyesight of us actors, whether it was towards Godzillafs actions or his
enormous size, especially because of all of the special effects
involved. Our line of sight needed to match. So naturally,
we would ask questions. Director Honda would think with us and
say gI think this should be (XYZ)h. Even towards our acting, he
would sincerely comment by saying things like gyes, I think that was
However, there were instances where the director himself
even could not answer certain questions. At times like these, the
entire group would gather and refer to the storyboard sent by the
special effects director Tsuburaya, and continue shooting.
under the blazing sun, on board of a patrol ship in Ise-Shima, I was
dressed in a diving suit with heavy diving gear, growing weak from heat
exhaustion. Even then, Mr. Honda noticed me and said gAre you
okay? Hang in there, wefre almost doneh.
At the lodge near
the location site, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, director Honda, the famous
actor Takashi Shimura, Kochi-kun (Momoko), Hirata-kun (Akihiko) and I
would dine together wearing our yukatas (informal summer kimono).
In this harmonious and happy atmosphere, our conversations naturally
gravitated towards the current events and backgrounds, especially about
the damage caused by atom and hydrogen bomb testing and the tragic
reality of the Daigo Fukuryu Maru incident. The conversations
further went into how Japan being the first country to have an atomic
bomb dropped on its lands, we should especially vocalize a warning to
the world through film, try to precede the fast-progressing field of
science. Certainly, all science of human civilization started
with dreams, the hopes and romance of human kind, but I am not
impressed with scientific weapons designed to injure and kill.
However, all other sciences are continuing to progress in pursuit of
making human dreams into reality. The fact that a fictional weapon
designed to melt and sink Godzilla into the depth of the sea such as
the gOxygen Destroyerh was created is not altogether that ridiculous.
some trial and error, the long filming finally finished. Everyone
involved in making the film, the staff and cast were all able to see
the finished film in a small screening room within the Toho
studio. This screening was called gshogoh, which means the first
issue. We were all just dumbfounded by the brilliant unity of the
drama and SFX segments as well as the intensity of Godzilla.
is soon turned into bones by a scientific weapon and sinks to the
bottom of the ocean. Akira Ifukubefs solemn music makes this
scene very emotional and even divine. I could not hold back the
tears flowing out of me. The screening finished and the lights
turned on, but I was not able to stand up for a while. Mr. Honda
came up to me and kindly said, gTakarada-kun, I saw you were
crying. You really did a great jobh.
The film premiered at
all Toho movie theaters on November 3, 1954 with much anticipation and
anxiety. The theaters were so packed, the audience spilled out to
the hallways. They kept the theater doors open and people were
tip-toeing to get a glimpse of the screen. The result was a total
attendance of 9,610,000 people, an unprecedented huge hit.
means that approximately 10% of the entire population of Japan back
then saw the film. Kochi, Hirata and myself spent morning and
night appearing at premieres around the nation. Toho won itfs
The following year in 1955, Toho produced the 2nd
film of the series titled gGodzilla Raids Againh by director Motoyoshi
Oda, with box office numbers reaching 8,340,000. I filmed gHalf
Humanh with director Honda in August of this same year.
I was able to work with director Honda on gA Rainbow Plays in My Hearth
Part 1 and Part 2. For Mr. Honda, this was a straightforward
drama film, which he wanted to make for a long time, and here he
demonstrated his skills to the fullest.
In 1962, director Honda
worked on the 3rd Godzilla film titled gKing Kong vs Godzillah, with
which he established a strong foundation for himself. The box
office numbers were up at 12,560,000, which is the first and probably
the last record of its kind. Two years later in 1964, I worked
with director Honda again on gMothra vs Godzillah, which was my 2nd
Godzilla film, 10 years after my first Godzilla film appearance.
The attendance of this film totaled 7,220,000. Then came
gInvasion of Astro-Monsterh (1965), which became my last (Godzilla)
project with director Honda. After this, I appeared in the 1992
remake of the ever-nostalgic work, gGodzilla vs Mothrah, and in the
very last Godzilla film gGodzilla – FINAL WARSh with Kenji Sahara and
Kumi Mizuno. Over the course of half a century, 28 films were
made for the world to see, 8 out of the first 15 of which were directed
by Mr. Honda.
It required 20 years of time. The 8 Godzilla
films made by director Honda pulled in a box office total of
39,000,000, which calculates to an average of 5,000,000 per film.
I think you can well understand the magnitude of these numbers.
Now, it is not an exaggeration to say that gGodzillah was the gdoki no sakura (honorable cherry blossom)h (reference
to an old military song, comparing a character to ethe cherry blossoms
of the same yearf which bloom and fall magnificently, implying the
state of being content to fall and die for their country with honor and
beauty, just like the flower). Consistently bringing in
record-breaking numbers, his popularity reached to the other side of
the earth, unrivaled. Director Honda saw Godzilla at times as an
enemy to human kind, a destroyer. At other times, Godzilla was
portrayed as one of the victims of a reckless arms race of
mankind. In the very last episode, the director makes Godzilla
show his back to the audience as he disappears into the ocean.
Ahead of him is either a road to a quiet place under the sea where he
used to sleep in peace, or a road leading him to his now-deceased
creators who made him into the greatest hero of the 20th century:
producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, writer Shinichi Sekizawa, SFX director Eiji
Tsuburaya, composer Akira Ifukube, and the person who understood him
the most, director Ishiro Honda, where he engrosses himself in
nostalgia. I sincerely pray for our predecessorse souls.