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Double Godzilla invasion hits Tokyo's Hibiya to celebrate iconic monster's 64th birthday

Fans gather around Hibiya Step Square in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward to join in the opening of Godzilla Fest 2018, on Nov. 3, 2018. (Mainichi/Alina Kordesch)

TOKYO -- Not just one Godzilla, but two versions of the popular movie character made appearances at the Godzilla Fest 2018 in the capital's Chiyoda Ward on Nov. 3, ahead of the 65th anniversary of the iconic monster's screen debut on this day next year.

Fans gathered at the Tokyo Midtown Hibiya shopping and cinema complex to get limited edition goods, collect stickers, and try out special monster-themed "G-Food." They also joined in a talk event with special guests involved in the making of Godzilla movies, and even gave the replica of the 1954 original Godzilla a high-five or handshake.

Fans take photos of the "Chibi Godzilla" mascot, which made its debut in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on the same day as Godzilla's official birthday, on Nov. 3, 2018. (Mainichi/Alina Kordesch)

The film superstar was accompanied by "Chibi Godzilla," the newest addition to the franchise, who made its debut on the same day as Godzilla's official birthday. The original film where the monster was first sighted in Tokyo was released in Japan nationwide on Nov. 3, 1954.

Godzilla's childhood character came straight out of the picture book "Ganbare Chibi Gojira" (You can do it, Little Godzilla), by illustrator Chiharu Sakazaki and published by Kodansha Ltd. The penguin character for East Japan Railway Co.'s SUICA electronic money card also was born from Sakazaki's pen. The cute children's book shows fire-sneezing prone little Godzilla finding a way to make everyone happy.

While the 1954 Godzilla character entered and exited the venue for handshakes and high-fives, to its theme music and an echoing roar, Chibi Godzilla waddled around the venue. The little monster was followed closely by adoring children, many reaching out to pet the soft suit of the cute character, along with a swarm of excited fans.

Participants who were not satisfied with just touching the suits experienced being a Godzilla themselves, shooting photos while standing back against a large model of the Godzilla's tail.

Children were also active in a rock-paper-scissors event, in which winners were awarded with special prizes. A young boy won a plastic model kit signed by Editor and Godzilla specialist Osamu Kishikawa. Another young boy won a Japanese wrapping cloth and an art book autographed by character designer Katsuya Terada.

"I felt very nervous," admitted a woman who won a pair ticket for Universal Studios Japan (USJ) theme park. She was from the city of Kawasaki, one of the locations where 2016 Shin Godzilla was filmed. "I won (with a rock) where I should have thrown out a paper to imitate the open hands of Godzilla. I really wanted to participate in the Godzilla event at USJ and will certainly go now."

Many children as well as adults wore freely distributed paper hats with a lovable image of Chibi Godzilla. At the venue's Godzilla Square, festival staff members also handed out brochures that served as an entry ticket. This could be exchanged for a prize, once participants collected a certain number of stickers that came with purchases of merchandise.

Fans rushed to get their hands on numbered tickets, required for purchasing Godzilla-related goods, such as T-shirts, plastic folders, characters, etc. at Hibiya's Godzilla Store nearby. Customers waiting in line looked eagerly at the products on display, including those only sold at the festival. Meanwhile, parents watched over their children playing quoits and fishing for water balloons in the same building. Games at this family corner could be played free of charge. In the game of quoits, children threw rubber rings at model figures of monsters from past Godzilla movies.

Sakazaki, the Chibi Godzilla creator, appeared in a talk show and book signing event at the nearby HMV&BOOKS Hibiya Cottage to celebrate the publication of the picture book. The animated version of Ganbare Chibi Godzilla was repeatedly screened at the main stage in the Hibiya Step Square next to Tokyo Midtown Hibiya, along with movie trailers of already released and upcoming Godzilla films.

The Square was crowded with fans trying out G-Food representing mainstay characters in Godzilla films, which also joined in Sakazaki's book as charming little monsters. The various G-Foods included a sandwich featuring three fried shrimp and deep-fried bread made in the likeness of the three-headed golden space dragon King Ghidorah; crepes with Godzilla, gigantic moth Mothra and 1989 genetically-engineered rose monster Biollante themes; a green "G-Drink" and even fried gyoza dumplings covered with black sesame sauce invoking the king of monsters.

From left, two Toho Co. employees acting as MCs, and Takayuki Takeya, Katsuya Terada, and Osamu Kishikawa participate in the talk event "Izakaya Godzilla," at Hibiya Step Square in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on Nov. 3, 2018. (Mainichi/Rei Oikawa)

In the evening, the main stage transformed into the "Izakaya Godzilla" talk event, featuring character designers Takayuki Takeya and Terada. Kishikawa made an unscheduled appearance on stage, while sculptor Fuyuki Shinada stayed and watched the show along with the audience.

According to the two Toho Co. employee MCs, referred to as the first and second "Doctor Godzilla," the event was the second of its kind. The show proceeded in a relaxed manner while guest speakers told inside stories as they drank and enjoyed G-foods offered at the kitchen cars.

When asked if the statue of the Shin Godzilla displayed near the stage was "using real gold," Takeya explained that a "craftsman from Kyoto applied gold leaves" on the statue that Takeya made. The screen on stage displayed numerous designs of monsters drawn by Terada and other designers.

Takeshi Nakazawa, serving the role of a "moving meeting place," holds his publication at Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, on Nov. 3, 2018. (Mainichi/Rei Oikawa)

After watching the event, novelist and Godzilla enthusiast Takeshi Nakazawa agreed with a guest speaker's comment that "there are more people who react to Kamen Rider," tokusatsu (special effect) superhero television programs, than to Godzilla. In general, a Kamen Rider series is easier to access as the viewer can watch it on TV daily while Godzilla comes in movies once every several years. "I wish for people to also enjoy Godzilla films like they are going to (watch tokusatsu)."

There will be another talk event on Nov. 7 in Tachikawa's Cinema City by the director and modeling director of the animation film "Godzilla: The Planet Eater," scheduled for release in Japan on Nov. 9.

Meanwhile, Chibi Godzilla's activities around Tokyo and Japan are just getting started, according to an individual related to the promotions. He may arrive in "Godzilla town," Tokyo's Shinjuku district famous for being destroyed in the monster's rampages, to bring in 2019 -- and 65 years of the franchise.

(By Rei Oikawa and Alina Kordesch, The Mainichi staff writers)

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