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RIP Haruo Nakajima

Haruo Nakajima, who spent two decades playing Japan’s most famous Tokyo-stomping kaiju, has died at the age of 88.

Over to our resident kaiju expert, Reaper G, for the details. Reap?

MSTies will remember him as the titular star of the film featured in episode 213- GODZILLA VS. THE SEA MONSTER.

Born January 1, 1929, in Yamagata, Japan, Nakajima was a young actor and stuntman at Toho Studios, appearing in such films as Akira Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai” and Ishiro Honda’s “Eagle over the Pacific”, when he was given the job that would define him — donning the 220-lb. suit to play a 50-meter, fire-breathing radioactive dinosaur in the film “Gojira”, later distributed worldwide as “Godzilla, King of the Monsters.”

“Katsumi Tezuka and I both tried on the Godzilla costume during the first day of shooting,” said Nakajima in an interview with David Milner of “Kaiju Conversations. “The costume was very stiff and heavy. I could walk about thirty feet in it, but Mr. Tezuka could only walk about ten feet in it. There were three cables coming out of the back of the costume. Two were for the operation of the eyes, and one was for the operation of the mouth. Eizo Kaimai was responsible for the movement of the eyes and the mouth. The ASA speed of the film that was used at the time was very slow, so the set had to be very brightly lit. Another actor complained that the lights made it too hot inside the costume, but I never complained.”

Despite the weight, heat, explosions and a near-drowning experience in a water scene, Nakajima was Toho’s monster man for 18 years. He continued to play the iconic kaiju in “Godzilla Raids Again”, “King Kong vs. Godzilla,” “Mothra vs. Godzilla,” “Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster,” “Godzilla vs. Monster Zero,” “Sea Monster,” “Son of Godzilla,” “Destroy All Monsters,” “Godzilla vs. Hedorah” and “Godzilla vs. Gigan”. In the latter two films, he battled monsters played by Kenpachiro Satsuma, who would go on to play Godzilla from 1985 to 1995.

He also played the monsters in “Rodan,” “The Mysterians” (as the robot Mogera), “Varan the Unbelievable,” “Mothra” (working the larva’s head), “Matango” (as a mushroom man), “Frankenstein Conquers the World” (as Baragon), “War of the Gargantuas” (as Gaira the Green Gargantua, a role he particularly liked due to the suit’s light weight and being able to see out the monster’s eye holes), “King Kong Escapes,” “Latitude Zero” (as the winged lion and a giant rat), and “Yog, Monster from Space” (as Gezora). He also served monster duties on the TV series “Ultra Q”, “Ultraman” and “Ultra Seven.” He also choreographed the monster battles in these films.

Occasionally, he got a bit part in human form. You can see Nakajima in human form as a doomed sailor in “The H-Man” and a general in “Destroy All Monsters”.

In his later years, Nakajima was a frequent guest at sci-fi conventions worldwide, particularly ones with Godzilla themes.

“Inside the Godzilla suit, it was very dark, lonely and isolated,” said special effects director Teruyoshi Nakano. “Usually the person who wears the suit becomes nervous and anxious. During summertime it’s very hot, it can become hell in there. But Mr. Nakajima always persevered. He acted in the suit underwater, he was buried underground, he withstood pyrotechnic explosions … and through it all he was always Godzilla.”

Thanks to Timmy and Paul for the heads ups.

15 Replies to “RIP Haruo Nakajima”

  1. Dan Baldwin says:

    Time for a Kaiju Marathon :(

       8 likes

  2. jay says:

    The secret to success, they say, is to find something that needs to be done and do it very well. Well done, Nakajimasan. RIP

       15 likes

  3. Ro-man, aka one of several possible Steves says:

    Wow… just think about all the joy, wonder–and yes, a little bit of terror–brought to kids of so many generations by Mr. Nakajima’s work; what a great and honorable legacy to leave behind. I’ll never forget the delight of those hours spent in front of the screen, big and small, as Godzilla blazed his way across my imagination.
    My prayers go out for him and those close to him.
    Godspeed, Mr. Nakajiima.

       7 likes

  4. Yeti of Great Danger says:

    Although almost always hidden from view, the number of people he thrilled can’t be counted. If that isn’t success, I don’t know what is. RODAN!

       8 likes

  5. skrag2112 says:

    Now I wish we could a complete set of MST’d Godzilla episodes. RIP.

       6 likes

  6. goalieboy82 says:

    which suit will he be buried in?

       1 likes

  7. goalieboy82 says:

    believe it or not, he was in this:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-wUdetAAlY

       4 likes

  8. Jay Grymyr says:

    Thanks, Sampo, for allowing me the honors of the obituary.

    We never saw his face, but chances are, we all saw him at some point in our lives (aside from ep. 213). I had the pleasure of meeting him in 2008, a nice old man who appreciated his legions of American fans.

    Sayonara, Nakajima-sama, no arigato.

       9 likes

  9. Scott Strong says:

    Another iconic, though rarely seen, legend leaves us. Good night and farewell…..

       3 likes

  10. DarkGrandmaofDeath says:

    The idea of performing in a suit that was “dark, isolated and lonely” as well as stiflingly hot is hard for me to imagine. Add to that a near-drowning experience and the idea becomes horrifying – I’m not particularly claustrophobic but there’s no way I could ever have done such a job. Haruo Nakajima has all my respect, and I’m glad to be able to put a face and personality to Godzilla and some of my other favorite monsters.

       8 likes

  11. Was Nakajima NOT in the suit for 212 – GODZILLA VS. MEGALON? No one’s mentioning this one.

       1 likes

  12. I can remember as a kid being terrified by Godzilla in “King Kong versus Godzilla”. When I grew up it was still my favorite.

       1 likes

  13. Danzilla "Cornjob" McLargeHuge, Student of Kaijuology says:

    Christopher Eckart:
    Was Nakajima NOT in the suit for 212 – GODZILLA VS. MEGALON?No one’s mentioning this one.

    Nope, Megalon was produced in 1973, the year after Nakajima’s retirement from suit acting. Teru Kawai played Godzilla in Godzilla vs Megalon, and the role would be passed to a few other actors in the following years for Godzilla’s appearances in the TV series “Zone Fighter” and his final two films of the 1970’s.

    I’ll be back later to post my own thoughts on this tragedy. Unfortunately, right now, I am at a loss for what to say. I’m honestly in shock, and heartbroken beyond words. This man and his work means so much to me, it’s hard to believe he’s gone.

       9 likes

  14. Danzilla “Cornjob” McLargeHuge, Student of Kaijuology: Nope, Megalon was produced in 1973, the year after Nakajima’s retirement from suit acting.Teru Kawai played Godzilla in Godzilla vs Megalon, and the role would be passed to a few other actors in the following years for Godzilla’s appearances in the TV series “Zone Fighter” and his final two films of the 1970’s.

    I’ll be back later to post my own thoughts on this tragedy.Unfortunately, right now, I am at a loss for what to say.I’m honestly in shock, and heartbroken beyond words.This man and his work means so much to me, it’s hard to believe he’s gone.

    Thank you. I look forward to your tribute.

       2 likes

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