When you have a hero, you always believe that they're unstoppable or invincible, that they will always be there from the second you close your eyes. To the moment you wake up in the next morning. Like a daikaiju, they've been so strong and so tough for so long, that you believe that they'll be around forever. You become oblivious to things such as waning strength, aging, and their mortality.
So eventually, you stop thinking about it, the next time when you'll ever see your hero again. Because deep down you never want to think of that painful day. The day when you have to say goodbye forever.
Haruo Nakajima was the first and original Godzilla within the Toho franchise, the first King to stomp Japan and smash his way into the hearts of millions, forever making himself everlasting across generations over throughout the world. He was my hero, my childhood, and he is also one of my biggest inspirations in becoming the man that I am today. Many people have heroes, heroes who human-scaled, wear capes, and come from comics. But Nakajima wasn't like your ordinary hero, he wasn't small, nor did he wear a cape or come from comics. He was larger than life, huge, and towered over Japan in a rubber suit that could not be don on easily by any ordinary mortal.
Haruo Nakajima was an actor and icon that you say with confidence to anyone "Godzilla isn't fiction, he is real, he isn't the suit but the man inside the suit.". The Showa Era Godzilla was my entire childhood, the first films of Nakajima that I had own were "Godzilla, King of the Monsters", and "King Kong vs. Godzilla", both being on VHS. Those two films hold a special place in my heart for being my entry into the franchise and its cinematic wonders. I remember feeling captivated, awestruck, and amazed by Godzilla and the destruction that he left in his wake. How he was unstoppable, invincible, and could take on both man and monster alike, it was all just so incredible and mindblowing!! Plus I was into dinosaurs at the time(still am to this day!) and I couldn't help but fall in love with Godzilla more as I grew up.
But my very first film was G:KOTM, which I saw with my grandfather, it was during my cousin's birthday party but it was my first time meeting my huge extensive family. I was four at the time, and I didn't know anyone there, and I felt like I couldn't connect with anyone. I was a dinosaur lover, but a sports family usually doesn't do giant creature talks. Everyone except my Grandpa, who was a lover of giant creatures and dinosaurs just like me. And he was a Godzilla fan himself! Perhaps the first in my entire family.
During the party he pulled me aside and whispered me to come upstairs after getting my piece of cake. So I did, and then he sat me down on the floor and played the VCR with the tape already in it. From that point on I was gone! I remember during the movie that I grabbed the VHS cover of KOTM, and just feeling transformed into a G-fan.
The cover was inaccurate, it was a Godzilla VHS cover by "GoodTimes" and it had the 1973 Godzilla on the cover standing in tokyo-bay within a blue-ish purple background coloration. While the movie font popped out in bright green. Again inaccurate given that Godzilla in the movie was different than the one on the cover, but my 4-year old mind saw both incarnations as one character. One Godzilla. And that mindset carried on with each new film that I saw.
Birthdays later I eventually attained "Godzilla vs. Monster Zero", "Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster", "Godzilla vs. Megalon", and "Son of Godzilla". All of them I loved all because it introduced me to Toho's memorable and creative kaiju, and I wanted to dive deeper into its world and stories. And "Sea Monster" was a film that muscled into my top five when I was a kid, and it's still there today!
I also went to blockbuster several times when growing up, and I remember renting "Godzilla vs. The Thing", "Ghidorah The Three Headed Monster", "Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla", and "Godzilla 1985". Those films were thrilling and exciting! But I also vaguely remember accidentally picking up "Godzilla 1985" and then getting scared to Hell by how terrifying the Heisei Godzilla was xD That was my introduction to the Heisei Series, but that's for another story for another time lol. Though that film didn't freak me out more than "War of the Gargantuans" did! That was fucking terrifying! xD
Eventually my love and interest for Godzilla and the franchise grew bigger every year, and then I stumbled upon the Sci-fi Channel, ultimately discovering "Destroy All Monsters", "Godzilla vs. Hedorah", and "Godzilla vs. Gigan". Same year I was tossed unexpectedly into several Godzilla marathons on TNT "MonsterVision" and TBS Superstation. And of course, ultimately exposed to Trendmasters Godzilla toy commercials. So much exposure, so many marathons, all was just bliss and delightful kaiju madness!
I still remember wanting an Godzilla films that I could find, and when traveling with grandpa to buy my cousin a gift for her 12th birthday, (which was a PS2 game of some title that I can't remember now.) he took me to the Science-Fiction section of "MEDIA PLAY", and showed me ROWS UPON ROWS of Godzilla VHS tapes! An entire section that had nothing but Showa-films and Heisei films. To an 11-year old G-fan that was like receiving a gift from God! My grandpa told me that Godzilla was still going on in Japan, still more stories and monsters to venture and view. And I remember him telling me to do what he couldn't, which was to collect them all and to collect any new films that releases overseas. Because sadly he wasn't going to be around much longer, and I was too young to be told that at the time.
Haruo Nakajima's performance as Godzilla made me believe in the character, and that love for the icon made me find a deeper connection within my family. When my grandpa passed, I looked for inspiration in my mother but also in Nakajima. My mother inspired me to embrace compassion and understanding. But Godzilla? Nakajima inspired me to be a headstrong individual when growing up. To be strong, to never give up, and to always push forward even when you've been pushed back. To be larger than life even though you can't touch the skies. Godzilla and Nakajima also helped inspired me to find my creative side, and ended up becoming one of my biggest inspirations in wanting to draw dinosaurs and monsters. As well as learn science and paleontology.
Ultimately I consider Nakajima to be my hero, he was like family to me, and his films always brighten my day even at their darkest. Days which were few but still needed light in them, and Haruo Nakajima was always there for me when those days came.
So with all of this, you can imagine how tough it is to wake up into today's world, and knowing that your hero is no longer in it. Gone is the age of the Showa Era.
It breaks my heart and leaves me with a pain that is the same as losing a family member who has been with you for years. Family who has grown with you, inspired you, and made you strong. I don't think that I will ever get over this pain. But I believe that I can learn to live with it. I am happy that he got to live as long as he did, and got to see Godzilla and the franchise in good hands with both TOHO and Warner Bros/Legendary.
Even better I am happy that he got to know many times over that he will be forever loved until the ends of time, and that he will always be original our hero and destroyer of worlds.
The seas are still and the cities have quieted, Haruo Nakajima is gone but he is still with us. Living within our hearts and our memories. And should we miss him, just like Godzilla and other daikaiju who refuse to stay down, he will always come back to life through the immortality of his everlasting films. You will be forever loved Haruo Nakajima, and I will miss you even though I can see you everyday, I will never forget you and the gifts that you've given me. Rest in peace well old friend, I know we'll meet again some sunny day.
Thank you for everything that you've done for me.