The original Godzilla actor Haruo Nakajima known as “Mr. Godzilla” died of pneumonia at 88 on August 7 (JST).
Although I am not so familiar with Godzilla movies as I am with the original Ultra Series (my parents never took me to movies when I was a kid), the news has made me feel so sad as Nakajima greatly contributed to the tokusatsu TV shows as well by playing many Ultra Kaijus impressively: Gomess, Pagos, Nelonga, Jirass, Keylla and U-tom (there is an explanation that he also played Kemur II).
Given the Ultra Series would not have happened if it had not been for Godzilla, his contribution to the rise of the TV series is immeasurable in this light too. I think we should be fully aware that today’s Japanese tokusatsu products could not have existed without the efforts the people involved made including Nakajima while the same is true of Bin Furuya who played the original Ultraman.
The reason I had wished Nakajima good health and longevity was not only because of his great achievements as the original Godzilla actor but he was from a generation who were deprived of happy days of their youth by the war while he himself was drafted.
His biography tells me that, even after he acted Godzilla, it was not that it brought him happiness he should have been worthy of as many actors including Nakajima were laid off amidst the downsizing of Toho company.
So, seeing him warmly welcome abroad surrounded by a large number of fans with popularity possibly surpassing the equivalent in Japan, it had made me feel very much happy.
While a man who runs a blog related to martial arts that I often read also referred to Nakajima (as the blog writer also describes himself as a tokusatsu fan), he writes he once saw a well-built old man at a tokusatsu event who made him think of that old man as a master of a martial art due to the old man’s presence, behavior and vibe.
He says the old man responded with a friendly smile to a young man who asked to shake hands. And that made him notice that the old man was Nakajima. Such a story makes me aware that Nakajma might have been another of the last Japanese with the samurai spirit.
It is truly a shame to lose the cast and staff who actually experienced the dawning of Japanese tokusatsu.
May he rest in peace.