Top 10……Filming Location Trips For 2014

Another year has passed and despite my reservations about the future of such ‘top 10……filming locations’ this time last year, I have managed to do enough locations to warrant another list. It’s quite 007-centric and has in the main included just topping up pre-existing entries. Here then, in no particular order, is the Top 10……filming location trips for 2014…

1) Entrapment, 1999 (Click here)

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2) The Hangover Part II, 2011 (Click here)

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3) The Man With The Golden Gun, 1974 (Click here)

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4) Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997 (Click here)

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5) The Wolverine, 2013 (Click here)

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6) Godzilla, 1954 (Click here)

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7) Notting Hill, 1999 (Click here)

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8) The World Is Not Enough, 1999 (Click here)

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9) Skyfall, 2012 (Click here)

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10) Quantum Of Solace, 2008 (Click here)

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For the best filming locations for other years please click on the links below:

2009     2010     2011     2012     2013

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Cycling The Godzilla Tokyo Trail…In One Day!

Following on from my Wolverine cycling trip, and with not too many other themed cycling ideas coming forth, I began to think about other filming location based rides. There was a clear winner which stamped all over the rest like no other and with the 2014 incarnation (directed by Gareth Edwards) finally getting released over here, it seemed like the timing was ideal for a Godzilla tour of Tokyo.

On the day of it’s long awaited release in Japan (July 25th); two months after the rest of the world got to see it, I decided to cycle round a mix of Gojira-themed statues, shops and filming locations amid scorching temperatures that reached 34 degrees celsius! Having left the Tokyo Fox Global Operations Centre in Shinjuku-ku at 6:45 am the first destination was the National Diet Building (1-7-1 Nagata-cho) but it took me longer than expected to get there as I missed the turn-off and ended up in Akihabara! It wouldn’t be the last time I got lost and this was mainly due to a mix of having poor sense of direction and not wanting to use my phone as the Runkeeper App drains the battery enough on its own without me checking other things on it! Even though it was only 7:30 am the heat was pretty intense and I was dripping with sweat as I lined up the camera for the first shot of the day at the home of the national parliament of Japan.

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The next few locations were ticked off pretty quickly but not quite as fast as Godzilla ripped through them all in the 1954 original! The tiny Godzilla statue (1-2-2 Yurakucho) has been no stranger to my cycling tours over the years and it didn’t take too long to find it next to First Kitchen and in front of the Toho Hibiya Building, a 77-metre highrise built in 1987 that has served as the headquarters of Toho Co., Ltd since 2005.

Round the corner from there is New Marion Building (2-5-1 Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku).  This building houses some movie theatres inside and it gets smashed up on 61 minutes.

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Wako Department store (4-5-11 Ginza) is not too much further on down the road and its clock was ripped off by Godzilla on 59 minutes during his nighttime rampage.

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On 59 minutes Matsuzukaya Department Store (6-10-1 Ginza) is torched and it appears that the monster lizard might have done likewise yet again as in its place is just a load of rubble which was a big shame and confused me for a while as I wasn’t certain that it was the correct address. The store first opened in 1924 but it seems that it closed a year ago to undergo a four-year modernisation. Below are the pictures showing it then and now.

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Next up was Kachidoki Bridge (63 mins) which stretches across Sumidagawa River and is destroyed by the beast during his 15 minutes of terror before returning to the ocean.

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Tokyo Tower (4-2-8 Shiba Koen, Minato-ku) has felt the brunt of many kaiju battles over the years. As for Gojira film appearances, it was the ‘Godzilla: Final Wars‘ (2004) movie where it somehow managed to survive a big explosion quite well while the rest of Tokyo was nothing but a sea of crumbling, burning ruins. For once I got lucky with my instincts in getting from A to B on this one.

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I made a brieft stop at Hard Rock Cafe in Roppongi en-route to my next location, though not to eat! Whilst researching this project I surfed the net to see where there were King Kong statues in Tokyo and it came up with a few but I didn’t have too much luck as I couldn’t find the one I’ve seen in Ginza before and the one outside this American-style hamburger joint was no more! Still time for the colossal gorilla-like star of ‘King Kong vs. Godzilla‘ (1962) to make an appearance on this cycling adventure though!

Absolutely no-one was at Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi when I got there which was nice and quite different to the previous week when I visited it on my return from Gojira-koen in Yokosuka though that was probably due to it being early (09:15) in the morning! There will be an evening light show every 30 minutes from 6 pm onwards until August 21st  featuring smoke and roaring noises coming from the 6.6 metre high model figure.

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Having come out of the water at Tokyo Bay Godzilla promptly destroyed Shinagawa Station on 43 mins. Quite incredible to think it was still only 10am when I arrived at this station following a three mile ride from the previous locale where sweat running into my eyes became something of a problem. I even had to stop a couple of times as the stinging sensation meant it was too dangerous to continue cycling.

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Monster Japan USA Toy shop in Ebisu is not exactly stocked with too many Godzilla products but there were a few amid the many, many Star Wars, Spiderman, Batman and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles goods. There were also a few posters for the new film on the stairs leading up to the shop and the fact that it’s called ‘Monster’ warrants its deserved place on this route! Eagle-eyed readers may notice that its closed in my picture (opening hours are 12:30 till 20:30) but I regularly visit the shop when I work in Ebisu which is when I took the picture of the product below.

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On to Shibuya after that to take the road leading to Sangenjaya where I made a brief stop in the Taishido 5-chome area to photography the giant King Kong which hangs above the Family Mart convenience store. King Kong featured in the aforementioned 1962 movie which saw the two legendary monster’s of Godzilla and King Kong face-off against each other in full-on colour action.

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After that it was the longest ride as I made my way down Setagaya-dori going past many stations I’ve never heard of on the Tokyu Setagaya and Keio lines! Once I’d found one station on the latter it was quite straight-forward (literally!) just following the tracks until I ended up at Seijogakuenmae. Since I first visited Toho Studios  back in November 2010 the Toho Studios (1-4-1 Seijo, Setagaya-ku) have added a huge Godzilla portrait on to the side of one of its buildings which was a most welcome bonus sight for me. There’s a six foot tall Godzilla statue just in front of the reception window at the studios.

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I guess I should mention that miniature sets were used to replicate Tokyo city whilst a man wore a rubber suit and stomped all over the three metre high set-pieces. That was of course all done in these studios which are Japan’s largest and most famous film studios famed for making TV programmes and films such as the ‘Seven Samurai‘ (1954); one of the greatest and most influential Japanese films ever!

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Seijo to Koenji pretty much rounded things off and was by far the worst part of the journey as I got lost once and was naturally very tired and just wanted it to all be over and done with! Shops don’t like to open too early in Tokyo (but they sure stay open till late!) so when I eventually got to my final destination I was a little disappointed to find that Gojira-ya (Koenji Minami 3-67-1) still wasn’t open at 1:15 pm! Luckily, I had been in Koenji the weekend before and had searched out the place. It’s on the opposite side of the tracks to the Star Wars shop meaning it’s on the south side where it can be found beneath the tracks.

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I still had to cycle another 3.5 miles from Koenji to get back home and recover. I was way too exhausted to actually go and see the new Godzilla film yesterday evening but I will go and see it very soon and a review will be slotted in here once I’ve done that!

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Distance: 82.8 km   Time: 6.43 hrs   Calories Burned: 2753

You can read my review of ‘Godzilla‘ (1954) here.

You can see my other themed cycling adventures by clicking here.

Review: Films Set In Japan – Godzilla (1954)

With the latest incarnation of Godzilla getting nearer it seems a fitting time to go back 60 years and take a closer look at the original Japanese movie which launched the iconic monster onto our screens. Released nine years after the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki the opportunity was seized to use this radioactive lizard from beneath Tokyo Bay to serve as a symbol for the horrors of nuclear holocaust.

Godzilla has come and gone in many guises but nothing can get close to beating this original black and white Toho Studios version which, as an English speaker, needs to be watched with subtitles for maximum impact of the Japanese perspective. There’s no messing about from the offset and it’s straight into the action with fear and panic hitting Japan as an “underwater volcanic eruption” happens in the sea causing some fishing boats to capsize near Odo Island.

A research team led by Dr Yamane head to this pacific island off the Izu Peninsula; a fictitious isle with the scenes actually filmed around Toba city at the entrance to Ise-Shima National Park on the Shima peninsula. On discovering huge radiation emitting reptilian footprints in the sand, rumours abound that it must be Godzilla to which a woman replies saying its just a legend. Little did she know how true her words would become as Godzilla morphed into a worldwide cultural icon.

The gigantic amphibious bipedal dinosaur lives in caverns under the sea and comes ashore to prey on humans when it can’t find fish in the sea and many young virgin girls were sacrificed to appease his hunger and keep him from coming ashore. However, hydrogen bomb tests disturbed its peace and so it looked for a safer place which happened to be Shinagawa and Ginza!!

Affected by the radiation, it managed to gain an unbelievable destructive power and strength as well as white-hot atomic breath; an archetype which followed in the form of many on-screen monsters both good and bad with perhaps the worst featuring in  Monster‘ (2008). Two Zillo Beast episodes in ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars‘ (S02E18/19) played homage to what the Japanese call ‘Gojira‘.

Dr Yamane senses that atomic testing is behind Godzilla’s emergence and he (and he only!) thinks that it should be isolated and studied. The eye-patch wearing Dr Serizawa and his oxygen destroyer are key to sending Godzilla back to the depths of the ocean. He  is arranged to be married to Emiko, but she is in love with some naval officer and it’s this love triangle which is pivotal in the monster plot.

I think I’ve been quite critical in the past about this film but on watching it again for this feature I have actually grown much fonder of it. It’s duration is an ideal length (90 minutes) and it’s quite a dramatic film with all the monster movie elements we now take for granted; a fire-breathing creature, stormy oceans, tanks and officers, mad scientists, frantic decision making, government officials, flames, fleeing citizens running for their lives and buildings being toppled. Of course, it was just three metre high miniature set pieces that were used to replicate the capital city whilst a man wearing a heavy rubber suit stomped all over them. Having most of Godzilla’s scenes at night probably helped make it a bit more convincing. I think, given the age of the film and its budget, the effects are pretty good and the sequence where Godzilla goes on the rampage in Tokyo is still superb both technically and artistically,with a genuine sense of dread. The residents run for their life, as they do throughout, which has parallels to the real life horror and devastation in Japan by way of atomic bombings, tsunami and earthquakes.

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‘Godzilla’ rightfully deserves to be called a classic despite the ending which is perhaps one of the most blatant examples of not-quite finishing a movie and leaving it open to a sequel as Dr Yamane stands aboard a ship and says “I don’t think that was the only Godzilla. If they keep experimenting with deadly weapons….another Godzilla may appear…somewhere in the world!” The perfect way to set up the potential of another movie and what do you know but only half a year later there was another one by the name of ‘Godzilla Raids Again‘ (1955) and the series limped on for an incredible 26 more Toho-made films as well as four American productions including the forthcoming one directed by British filmmaker Gareth Edwards.

If you thought we were running out of films ‘set’ in Japan to review then using the original Godzilla film (a Japanese production of course but included in this series due to its huge impact on the Western world) opens up the possibility of extending it for another few years with reviews of the never-ending dross churned out in this franchise.

Beyond The Movies Rating 7/10

Tokyo Filming Locations: Pt V – Godzilla

Godzilla is a legendary Japanese monster and as much as I like the icon I have to say that the actual films are not up to scratch…….but still the franchise limps on! Odo Island, where the radioactive creature first appears is completely fictitious but all the Tokyo places are real, well kind of! They were actually filmed at Toho Studios with miniature sets being used to replicate the capital whilst a man wore a rubber suit and stomped all over the three metre high set-pieces. Godzilla comes out of the water at Tokyo Bay and promptly destroys Shinagawa station (below left) on 43 mins before torching Matsuzakaya Department store at 6-10-1 Ginza (below right) after 59 mins.

 

After 59 mins he rips the clock from the Wako Department store (below left) at 4-5-11 Ginza and the National Diet Building (below right and lower left) at 1-7-1 Nagata-cho doesn’t fare much better three minutes later! Both featured in my original Tokyo Godzilla locations post a couple of years ago and in between those two places he crosses Sukiya Bridge (60 mins) before the New Marion Building (lower right) at 2-5-1 Yurakucho in Chiyoda-ku is smashed up on 61 mins.

       

The monster lizard finally destroys Kachidoki Bridge (63 mins) which stretches across Sumidagawa River and he then returns to the ocean and his 15 minutes of terror are over.

     

There is a tiny statue of Godzilla (above) at 1-2-2 Yurakucho in Ginza which I must have visited many times as it often becomes part of my cycling tours of Tokyo. I say tiny statue but its not as if it was ever gonna be a full-size one!! However, much further afield in Seijogakuenmae there is a much bigger statue on display outside Toho Studios at Seijo 1, 157-8561.