Japan 22 - Oh no, there goes Tokyo, go-go, Godzilla


Three days back to reality and we are still really grogged out. It is not uncommon for us force ourselves to stay up until ten, then go to bed and wake up at 1 am wanting to eat a roast beef dinner. Or transforming from energetic to exhausted over the course of about twenty minutes to an hour. The house could start on fire and Daniela and I would just watch and maybe listlessly say:

“Oh the house is on fire. Will you get that?”

Most of our luggage is unpacked and washed – but our dining room table is covered with a mass of items and artifacts that prove the existence of our trip. We ate two pizzas, bacon and eggs, lots of bread, pancakes, Kispy Kreme donuts, potato chips, chocolate bars, lots of pasta, cheese, and really bad takeout burritos. We washed all of this garbage down with big Diet Cokes, strong french press coffees and green teas.

We watched television for hours and complained about how bad it was. Dozed in and out of sleep, nodding and bobbing our heads like drug-addled heroine addicts. Sprawled on our sectional sofa knotted in wool blankets while piled onto each other fighting over who got to have the dog longer or the most pillows.

Bruno, our four-year-old Chihuahua, upon our return has pretty much been euphoric, or at least this is how I interpret his behaviour since our return. Upon our arrival at Daniela’s Mom’s place Bruno went into a dance of excited bliss that continued for many hours in between bouts of coma-deep sleep. At one point during our arrival for about five minutes straight he licked my face, jumped on my head rolled over on his back kicked his feet in the air, nipped my earlobes and nose, stuck his tongue up my nostrils, sniffed my neck and jumped onto my head in at attempt to collide into me as hard as he could over and over again. It was like he wanted to literally merge together with me into one being, and running and colliding into my face and head was how to do it.

Now, I say goodbye to Daniela at the door as she leaves to do her first 12 hour shift back at work from 11 am until 11pm. It takes great effort for her to get things rolling as she is still really sleeping erratically. Last night she went to sleep at ten, woke up at 1 am and hasn’t been able to fall back asleep. She says melatonin doesn’t work for her. I can’t take it as it messes with other heart medications I have to take. We look at each other as she leaves and I state the obvious that the trip is over. I tell her to keep me posted on her day and that I will miss her. I always miss her after we spend long intervals of time together. Working from home can make it worse.

I come back upstairs to my office after she leaves and continue to write this. Bruno sleeps beside me and a space heater warms my back. It’s cold and damp here and the sun seems far away. My ear is still ringing from the past infection so I most likely will have to visit my GP in the next day or two to get it checked out.

I downloaded the complete Godzilla DVD box set and put on Godzilla Tokyo SOS in the background on my second monitor. It is more ridiculous that I remember, but then I see Godzilla topple the Tokyo tower and I’m hooked. Godzilla has fascinated me since childhood and now even more so. The fascination connects to my obsession with pop culture, and also the darker side of Godzilla’s core manifestation, the events at Hiroshima and Japan’s warranted fear of the atomic age. Here is a chunk on Godzilla poached from Wikipedia:

Godzilla (ゴジラ) (/ɡɒdˈzɪlə/; [ɡoꜜdʑiɽa]  is a giant monster or daikaiju originating from a series of tokusatsu films of the same name from Japan. He first appeared in Ishirō Honda’s 1954 film Godzilla. Since then, Godzilla has gone on to become a worldwide pop culture icon starring in 28 films produced by Toho Co., Ltd. The character has appeared in numerous other medium incarnations including video games, novels, comic books, and television series. The character is commonly alluded to by the title King of the Monsters, an epithet first used in the Americanized version of Ishiro Honda’s original 1954 film.

With the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Lucky Dragon 5 incident still fresh in the Japanese consciousness (a Japanese fishing boat far out in the Pacific Ocean became an antinuclear symbol after it was heavily irradiated by fallout from a huge U.S. atom-bomb test), Godzilla was conceived as a metaphor for nuclear weapons. As the film series expanded, some stories took on less serious undertones portraying Godzilla as a hero while other plots still portrayed Godzilla as a destructive monster; sometimes the lesser of two threats who plays the defender by default but is still a danger to humanity.

Godzilla is one of the most recognizable symbols of Japanese popular culture worldwide and remains an important facet of Japanese films, embodying the kaiju subset of the tokusatsu genre. Godzilla’s vaguely humanoid appearance and strained, lumbering movements endeared it to Japanese audiences, who could relate to Godzilla as a sympathetic character despite its wrathful nature. Audiences respond positively to the character because it acts out of rage and self-preservation and shows where science and technology can go wrong. Godzilla has been considered a filmographic metaphor for the United States, as well as an allegory of nuclear weapons in general. The earlier Godzilla films, especially the original, portrayed Godzilla as a frightening, nuclear monster. Godzilla represented the fears that many Japanese held about the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the possibility of recurrence.

As ridiculous as this sounds I think Godzilla was my first introduction to Japan. I can remember watching the films and wondering why all of the soldiers looked “Chinese” (hey, I was a young naive country boy watching a snowy antennae-driven signal transmitted all the way from Buffalo to rural Ontario on a Saturday afternoon). I have known about Godzilla for as long as I can remember pretty much anything.

The cultural icon is very much commercialized in Tokyo now, and authentic merchandise was selling for ludicrous prices. I  stumbled upon a Godzilla Artwork retrospective called Godzilla Generation. I wanted to buy everything and bring big boxes of the useless shit home. I guess I was kind of metaphorically wanting to reattain my childhood dreams by buying a bunch of useless over-priced landfill.  Unfortunately the store had a seven mile lineup at the cashier so we left empty handed. It felt the same as getting half way through watching a Godzilla movie when I was a kid and having a snow storm roll in and wash out the signal. I remember tying to desperately and hopelessly dial in the TV antennae. Things never worked out for me.

I managed to scoop the poster so I can look at it a few times and toss it in the garbage instead of hundreds of dollars of worthless room-filling plastic. So I will watch a few more films and feel nostalgic for a while.

Slowly I am getting pulled back into my life before Japan. Slowly we will forget some things and remember others. Things will go back the way they were to some degree.

BUT there are changes that have occurred. Changes that are permanent, and for the better:

The world is a little bit smaller for us.
Daniela and I are closer than ever.
Japan has shown us how to do things differently and in better ways.
We will never give up that sense of adventure and discovery.
We won’t eat airplane food.
Wearing weird socks is relaxing.
We will put the Guidebook down.
If we don’t like how it looks we won’t eat it.
An internet connection is imperative at all times.
If we don’t like how it smells we won’t eat it.
Trains are good.
Travelling far away is hard, but it’s worth it.
Why is it called the World Series if the world is not involved?
(An observation about the USA by an Icelandic tourist outside a Japanese baseball stadium)
Japanese kids treated us tourists like celebrities.
My feet will be several weeks recovering.
Our toilets are no where near as fun as theirs.