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.

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Cycling The Wolverine Tokyo Trail…In One Day!

The idea of this cycling venture then was to ride the route (supposedly) taken in ‘The Wolverine‘ (2013) which tends to zig-zag its way across the capital without too much respect for distance and time. For Tokyo residents the geography in this sixth film of the X-Men franchise is quite bewildering at times as the film edit makes it seem like such a vast city is easily walkable when in reality the distance between places is quite far. In its defence, geography has rarely ever been a strong point in movies. What do those who criticise it really expect? A painstakingly long scene shot in real time?!! Of course Wolverine/Logan could have used public transport to get around but that doesn’t seem to exist in the X-Men universe! To follow in the footsteps of the Wolverine meant taking in seven places with one of them repeated and yes I really did go there twice.

Themed cycling tours of Tokyo have taken a bit of a backseat in recent times on this site so it was nice to get back in the saddle for a few hours on a nice warm Spring day. The first Tokyo location appears 19 minutes in and thankfully it’s only a five minute ride away from the my place! It’s the classic shot of Yasukuni dori in Shinjuku which has featured in so many movies and TV programmes over the years and I guess it’s become the classic shot (alongside Shibuya crossing) of the neon lights of Tokyo really hitting the foreigner visiting these shores. I get to travel under the same bridge half a dozen times a week so I probably take it for granted. The photo’s below show the screenshots, the ones taken on the day of this tour and a bonus couple taken only the night before to show how it looks at night.

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After that I cycled on to Zojoji temple (below) in the Shiba neighbourhood of Minato-ku which is about 8km away and a route I’ve taken a few times now not that stops me from ever doing it smoothly! The funeral procession takes place at this temple on 35 minutes; locations which Tokyo Fox premiered back in April 2013 following the release of the trailer. However, not all the funeral scenes took place at Zojoji as pretty soon the action moves to the Chinese Garden of Friendship in Sydney which previously featured in ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert‘ (1994). The real action scenes were filmed at this Australian location as the two places are blended together. There are no ponds or water features at Zojoji so it’s the Sydney gardens which you see prominently around the 37 minute mark. Posing as the Wolverine with three chopsticks poking out from between my fingers was pretty embarrassing and they’re not even that visible in the pictures!

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Tokyo Tower does loom large over Zojoji temple and is in the background of a selection of the screenshots and my pictures. In ‘The Wolverine‘ though this tower seems to be prominent quite a lot whereas in reality it can hardly be seen at the best of times in Tokyo due to the many skyscrapers in the city.

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During the funeral at Zojoji, Yakuza gangsters attempt to kidnap Mariko but Logan helps her to escape which is done in reality is done in a very roundabout way taking in Darling Harbour (Sydney!) and Zojoji itself with a chase going on through the two-storied sanmon (below) which was originally built in 1605 and is a rare example of early Edo-period architecture in Tokyo.

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Within seconds the action is in Takadanobaba (below) which is about 10km away! We only get to see the briefest of rooftop chases and arrow shots outside this station which  also appeared in the Jackie Chan movie ‘The Shinjuku Incident‘ (2009). Takadanobaba is on the Yamanote, Tozai and Seibu Shinjuku lines. Sadly I was unable to get on the rooftop of an eikiawa to get an identical match to that seen on 44 minutes.

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The action quickly moves on to Akihabara on 45 minutes where they take a brief respite in Big Apple Slot & Pachinko parlour (1-16-1 Soto-kanda) opposite Sega Gigo

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Photography is forbidden in panchinko parlours but mobile phone camera’s always allow for a sneaky one! After exiting this place Logan and Mariko walk across the bridge over the Kanda River in the direction of Mansei Akihabara Youshoku (2-21-4F Kanda-Sudacho). If they had any sense they would’ve stopped for one of their famous deliciouskatsu-sando as I did on a previous themed cycling trip.

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JR Ueno Station is the next location and this is easy and quick to get to as it’s just down the road from Akihabara. It appears after 46 minutes and is where Mariko and Logan take the Shinkansen (Bullet train) to “Nagasaki” even though these super-fast trains only go north from Ueno. If they had wanted to go south then they may as well have just gone a bit further south to Tokyo station which probably wouldn’t have been too much of a problem for them and no doubt they’d have ran or walked it!

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The station has many exits but its outside the Central exit on Jewellery Bridge where Mariko thanks Logan for saving her, says she’s fine (twice) meaning that she doesn’t need his help and then advises him to see a doctor before walking off to catch her train.

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I then had to cycle back the way I’d just came and so passed through Akihabara again (as well as the subsequent stop in Ginza) as I returned to Zojoji temple for a second time. In the film it’s a brief return to the temple on 47 minutes as one of the baddies gives an impromptu interview to the waiting media and paparazzi. Yukio is still there and looks on at the interview before Mariko’s father asks her where her gaijin friend is. Quite a bit of set dressing was added by the production team when they were filming at this temple which explains why some of the match-ups may not be so easy to notice as being the same!

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I was pretty much sick of the sight of this temple by the time I returned and I didn’t hang about for too long. Having been here only a week prior for the cherry blossoms I knew the angles I needed and was happy that the place was quite empty.

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On 52 minutes Logan and Mariko disembark from the Shinkansen and are in Fukuyama for a few seconds before it switches back to Ginza where the Nakagin Capsule Tower (8-10-6 Ginza) appears as a love hotel which they check into. In reality this place is not a place for couples to get it on but is home to many unmarried salarymen wanting to stay in a small place. The interior of these tiny apartments could be seen in episode four of the BBC documentary ‘Journeys Into The Ring Of Fire‘ (2006). The building is a fine example of Tokyo modern architecture and was one of my favourite examples of architecture in this article from July 2012. I can only assume that digital wizardry was used for this scene as the road they are seen walking down is not the one that’s actually next to the building. IMDb says that this street was Brisbane Street, Surry Hills in Sydney!

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So that was it for my day of following in the footsteps of the Wolverine. I managed to avoid getting hit or wounded but the 53.59km ride did no favours for my left knee which I smashed a few days earlier. For the record I paused the Runkeeper app at each of the seven locations (yes, I really did go to Zojoji twice!) so my time of 3 hours 38 minutes, give or take a short stop here and there, is pure riding time.

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