TOKYO--Japanese film composer Akira Ifukube, best remembered for
his work on the Godzilla series, died Feb. 8 of multiple organ
failure at a hospital here. He was 91. One of the original members
of the Godzilla creative team at Toho Studios, he composed the
memorable march that became the monster's theme music. In total, he
composed the scores for 11 Godzilla movies.
Born in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Ifukube was self-taught in music and
studied forestry and music at the University of Hokkaido. He became
friends with fellow composer Fumio Hayasaka, who composed for Akira
Kurosawa's early films. He wrote his first classical piece in 1933,
and his first orchestral piece in 1935. The latter won a competiton
held by Alexander Tcherepnine, and Ifukube studied under the Russian
composer. He also composed military themes for Japan during World
His first film score was 1947's "Snow Trail." He was the composer on
many Toho sci-fi and monster films, including "Rodan," "The
Mysterians," "Varan the Unbelievable," "Battle in Outer Space," "Atragon,"
"Frankenstein Conquers the World," "War of the Gargantuas," "King
Kong Escapes," "Latitude Zero" and "Yog -- Monster from Space."
Outside the giant monster genre, he also scored "Children of the
Atom Bomb," "A Quiet Duel" (his one film for Kurosawa), "Hiroshima,"
"Saga of Anatahan," "The Burmese Harp," "Buddha," "The Little Prince
and the Eight-Headed Dragon" (his sole anime film) and numerous "Zatochi"
Perhaps his biggest contribution, however, was his creation of
Godzilla's trademark roar. He achieved this by rubbing a contrabass
with a resin-coated leather glove and reverberating the sound in a
recording studio. This roar was heard in episode 212- Godzilla vs.
Megalon and episode 213- Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster, as well as
episode 502- Hercules (for the dinosaur guarding the Golden Fleece).
He was president of the Tokyo College of Music from 1976 to 1987,
and was named a Person of Cultural Merit, one of Japan's highest
civilian honors, in 2003.