Last week, I wrote about symbolism in Japanese art and how Gojira reflected Japan’s fear of nuclear power, something they also contributed to the creation of. The destruction and devastation of Nagasaki and Hiroshima haunts this nation yet they continued nuclear testing to the detriment of fishing boats such as Lucky Dragon 5. Brophy mentioned the Japanese propensity for technological fortification, which fuelled a new direction for my research.
It’s common knowledge Japan is the cornucopia of technological advancement. Richard J Samuels posits their emphasis on technology as “a fundamental element in national security, that it must be indigenized, diffused, and nurtured in order to make a nation rich and strong.” This is something seen very much as a part of Japan’s culture: the emphasis on technological development, education on its purposes and uses, and thorough understanding within its people. It’s probably a direct response to the outcomes of World War II and the subsequent US occupation. I think it’s inspiring to see a nation so unified in its search of security and confidence. As a citizen of an island nation, I can relate to the special vulnerabilities inherent but I can’t help but wonder why Australia does not have a similar push towards technology as compensation. I believe Japan’s situation is strongly indicative of their political representation.
As Japan has risen to a point of singular technological advancement, this confidence allows them to “pursue a ‘proactive contribution to peace and stability’ throughout the Indo-Pacific region” according to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as conveyed by John Lee. Due to the symbolism in Gojira and the subsequent franchise, Japan was able to perceive and reflect the results of technological pursuits and form a strong relationship to technology while remaining mindful of its past and potential for great terror. I think this is characterised by the cultural values that influence what films can be made and shown.
Godzilla’s success in the West is for different reasons than in the East. The East valued the symbolism for what it was; the West embraced the concept of the monster for its superficial values. In my own viewing of Gojira, I could not shake these values. I was looking for a level of realism afforded in present day films by computer-generated images. It wasn’t until Brophy reminded me the intention was never to portray a real monster that I was able to look at something deeper within the text. The typical Japanese symbolism and what it stands for in their culture and society. I’m glad to finally appreciate this film when it has such a strong global following and grateful to know more about Japan as a nation. If only Australia was able to unite in such a way.
Brophy, P 2000 ‘Monster Island: Godzilla and Japanese sci-fi/horror/fantasy’ in Postcolonial Studies, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 39-42.
Lee, J 2015, ‘Tokyo Ascending: Abe’s New Defense Strategy’ in World Affairs, vol. 178, no. 2, pp. 66-73.
Samuels, RJ 1996, Rich Nation, Strong Army: National Security and the Technological Transformation of Japan, Cornell University Press, Cornell