On March 17th, 2022, news from Japan reported the passing of famed Toho movie actor Akira Takarada. Perhaps most well known for his role as Hideto Ogata from Godzilla (1954), Takarada has participated in nearly every era of the Godzilla series in some fashion. Following his performance in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), Takarada became more heavily involved with attending conventions, where he would share his passion and boundless enthusiasm with countless Godzilla fans.
From March 25th to April 8th, Toho Kingdom opened its doors for fans to share their fondest memories and pictures of the late actor, which can be found below. Note that some submissions may have been edited for formatting.
I first met Akira Takarada in 2012 at G-Fest. I vividly remember sitting in the audience listening to his stories being translated, especially when he brought up his “horny friend” Nick Adams. It was so funny watching Robert Scott Field try to figure out how to translate Takarada’s story in a family-friendly manner.
That’s how I remember Takarada in person. Friendly, funny, welcoming to his fans, but also ready with an outrageous story or two. When I started reading his autobiography, I found the book in some ways matched the image I had gotten ten years ago at G-Fest—he has a truly crazy story about signing underwear in the book. However, he also had gut-twisting tales of growing up in Manchukuo during and directly after the war, particularly concerning the Russian occupation after WWII ended. When I think of Takarada now, I can’t think only of his roles in movies anymore—I end up thinking of those stories in his book, of helping to stop a soldier from assaulting a woman, of getting shot by a Russian soldier, of losing track of his brother for years, of the horror of being repatriated and seeing families torn apart as mothers were forced to leave their babies and children behind in the grueling trip home, of his tale of the generosity of a random woman giving him food upon returning to Japan and later reuniting with the lady on a variety show many years later. His book helped me to see Takarada was a man with an astonishing history with much pain and strike and even true heroism, and it’s amazing to see that he had come through that and still was the kind, giving, wonderful actor that his fans all over the world came to love so many years later.
But turning to his movie roles, how can I choose a favorite? Most iconic must be Ogata in Godzilla (1954), and his dramatic struggle in the fight against Godzilla and also for the heart of a beautiful woman in the form of Momoko Kochi—a leading lady he would court again in 1958’s Half Human. That he would have a chance to return to the world of Godzilla in some of the monster’s best or most celebrated films like Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964) and Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965) and the truly fun Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966) cemented him as one of if not the greatest Showa-era actor of Toho tokusatsu films—a label he only secured even further with turns in the cornball fun of King Kong Escapes (1967), the snazzy and insane Latitude Zero (1969), the highly-successful Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), and even the kinetic-blast Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)—the first Godzilla film I ever watched in Japan.
I almost had a chance to interview Takarada before he tragically passed away. A number of years ago, the interview was even scheduled, but I came down with cold-like symptoms and I canceled at the last minute out of concern that I might expose the legend to my germs. While I don’t regret protecting the great man’s health, I do wish I could have met him one more time.
Akira Takarada will long be remembered as not only an indelible legend on screen, but for holding an equally massive role in the hearts of his fans due to his endless generosity and kindness that he held out for everyone he met. “Takara” means treasure in Japanese, and Takarada was certainly that to those who knew him and to us his fans. Rest in peace, you fine gentleman. You are already missed.
– Nicholas Driscoll
The last time I met Akira Takarada was at a gathering in Chicago in the summer of 2019, wherein we—with the assistance of a translator—had a brief conversation about his experience working with the great director Mikio Naruse. Although best known for his appearances in kaiju eiga, it was with Naruse whom (I feel) Takarada delivered some of his best work: as a sleazy wannabe writer in Lonely Lane (1962), a scheming playboy in A Woman’s Place (1962), a progressive teacher in Whistling in Kotan (1958), etc. In that meeting, Takarada—then 85—was spry, jovial, and as best I could tell in supremely good health. I cannot imagine a better final memory I’d want of someone whose work I’ve admired for so long.
By an eerie coincidence, the most recent Godzilla movie I’d watched at the time of Takarada’s passing was Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966), an island adventure flick which bears a few noteworthy resemblances to the actor’s previous collaboration with director Jun Fukuda: the wonderfully entertaining spy spoof Ironfinger (1965). Featuring terrorists staked out on an island, a villain played by Akihiko Hirata, lots of action and comedy, this is a movie fans of the aforementioned kaiju film owe it to themselves to see via The Criterion Channel, where it can be streamed along with its 1968 sequel Booted Babe, Busted Boss. (The latter film’s available on said platform under the title Golden Eyes.) All three pictures discussed above showcase Takarada’s charm and genuine gift for comedy—and contrast drastically with the purely dramatic roles he’d also enacted in such pictures as Godzilla (1954), The Last War (1961), and Yasujiro Ozu’s The End of Summer (1961), in which he had a brief but very memorable role. Or Kihachi Okamoto’s The Big Boss (1959), in which the actor also gets the chance to show off his formidable singing talents.
One could write for pages about the breadth of Akira Takarada’s career and still not quite do him justice, but I’ll close off with the final remark. His last movie, If There Are No Cherry Blossoms In The World, premiered in Japan on April 1 this year. I hope to see it someday, but watching him on screen this next time will surely be an eerie experience: recognizing this as a final performance and realizing he’s no longer with us. A marvelous, incredibly diverse actor whose presence will be missed.
– Patrick Galvan
Akira Takarada will live in the hearts of many for years to come, and his influence has spread far and wide in this fandom. For the future, let’s take the example he’s set and keep moving forward.
– Andrew Sudomerski
I met Akira Takarada in October of 2013 at MonsterPalooza (where he was a guest that year) in Los Angeles which was a pretty awesome experience. I’ll never forget his kindness and grace in the time I spent with him. Even though I met him that one time, I’ll always remember just how much of a champion he was for Godzilla and how much he loved Godzilla fans. R.I.P.
– Chris Mirjahangir
For whatever reason, as much as I absolutely loved his chemistry with Nick Adams in Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965) and his confident, steadfast demeaner from Godzilla (1954), the first image I picture in my head when I think of Akira Takarada is when he played the suave, charismatic character of Naotaro Daigo from Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). Likewise, I’m reminded of his intended appearance in Godzilla (2014), and can’t help but wonder what sort of character he was going to portray in his brief scene.
Throughout the years, I’ve heard countless stories shared by fans about their experiences with Mr. Takarada, and how he was always brimming with positivity and infectious passion. I’ll regret never taking the time to attend a convention, if only to just shake his hand and thank him for his incredible performances throughout the series, but I won’t regret the time witnessing from afar his adventures as he greeted and loved fans the world over.
Rest in peace, Mr. Takarada, and thank you for all you have done. Your legacy doesn’t end here.
– Joshua Sudomerski
It’s always sad to hear the passing of a beloved actor, especially one as charismatic as Akira Takarada. With him also passes the last of the principal actors from the original Godzilla (1954), feeling like closure on an era.
There are many memorable performances by the actor. From his moving portrayal as Takano in The Last War (1961) to the over protective brother Fuji in Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965). One of my favorites, though, was his stint as Yoshimura in Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (1966). The performance very much embodied the charismatic nature of Takarada, who took a role and elevated it for the audience. Even with minimal character development, Takarada’s winning smile and mannerisms led to a truly enjoyable figure in the film who really ended up enhancing a good portion of the 1966 production. In a way it really cemented his maturing as an actor, and feels night and day from his more earnest portrayal of Ogata from Godzilla (1954). Here he was embracing his raw likeability, something he carried with him through most of his career. The kind of actor that one just enjoyed seeing on the screen.
While a death is always a sad event, at least we have a fantastic body of work from which to appreciate Takarada’s last legacy.
– Anthony Romero
Akira Takarada was an iconic legend both on the big screen and off. A true gentleman and class act that was beloved by the entire Godzilla community. Getting to meet him at G-Fest was an amazing experience that I will treasure forever. Thank you Mr. Takarada for everything you did for the Godzilla fandom.
– Barron Christopher
I had the pleasure of attending one of Takarada-san’s panels at G-Fest here in Chicago. He was so gracious and charming throughout, and I appreciated when his good humor gave way to his discussion of his beliefs about nuclear weapons as well. He always spoke of Godzilla with a level of respect that is so rare to hear from an actor towards a fictional character. I’ve also passed more than one year within some feet of his booth, where there was always a long line of eager fans. What stood out to me most though was his presence – he was an honored and beloved guest, but you could tell that he was as comfortable with fans as if visiting with old friends. This earnest quality, which he shared with some of his most iconic roles, is how I will always remember Takarada-san.
– John Voyles
It was a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Takarada. Thank you for your participation and your kind words about my documentary THE DAWN OF KAIJU EIGA. You were and are an inspiration and a legend. To me, the meaning of gentleman. Jonathan Bellés.
Great actor, Great man. His name and face are synonymous with Godzilla. He and the big G made my childhood very happy. Rest in peace, Friend.
– Gary Vamos
I met Mr. Takarada around 2014 at the Spooky Empire convention, along with his monstrous co-star Haruo Nakajima. Takarada was the kindest, most polite man you could have imagined, and it was such an honor to meet him after seeing him across all sorts of Toho flicks. Truly a class act! He will be missed by Kaiju fans everywhere, and stands as one of the true originals.
– Myles Sherman
I’ve never met Akira Takarada in person. Like all famous Japanese people I respect and am very fond of them since my first contact with them in the form of a movie. He will be greatly missed, but not forgotten!
Besides being an actor, he was clearly interested in interacting with people. Not only Japanese, but also western people. Strong advocating the messages of Godzilla, i.e. anti-nuclear ones and still being humble to everyone, I can only say: thank you very much, Mr. Takarada! Your heritage will continue to prosper through your movies and actions you did!
I wish your family all the best!
– Henning Strauss
I am devastated to learn that Akira Takarada, one of the most prominent lead actors in the Godzilla series, has passed away at the age of 87. It’s depressing to know considering he was one of the few actors I recognize seeing in the Godzilla films during my childhood. I actually had the honor of seeing him when he made his last guest appearance at G-Fest XXVI, perhaps the only time I ever had the chance to meet with him.
I had met with him while I was in my Daisuke Serizawa cosplay and I remembered how he knew who I was supposed to be (I remember how he said, “Serizawa” when I first came up). Afterwards, I gave him a poster for him to sign, which was a copy of the original 1954 Godzilla poster, and then later took a photo with him and my Dad. He was a very kind and generous man, probably one of the nicest people I had the chance to meet, and it was a privilege to meet him for what he has done to not the Godzilla series, but for the Kaiju genre as a whole.
RIP Mr. Takarada-san, thank you for all of the generosity and kindness you have given us throughout the years. The memory of you will always be in our hearts.
Akira Takarada was a great man, an amazing actor, full of energy, loved his fans, and had a strong opposition against war. He was my friend and in some ways felt like a grandfather to me. I still remember that I fought hard to convince Anime Boston to bring Takarada and Nakajima as guests to the 2015 convention. We shared drinks, laughter, and lots of joy together at the after party at Itadaki Boston. In 2017, he would help organize a private tour of Toho Studios which I can never forget. Then in 2018, before the NorthEast Comic Con started, I took him, his family, and his friends to Legal Seafoods upon their request, and showed them around Boston at the Wayside Inn Historic District and Harvard Square. We had a dim sum lunch at Joyful Garden and Takarada was super excited to be able to speak Mandarin Chinese to order all the different dishes. Then I had everyone over for Thanksgiving dinner. We even lost power briefly and experienced the true American candle light tradition! 2019 was the last time I met Takarada on my trip to Japan. He had me over at his home and took me out to lunch for some Italian pasta. These memories will be cherished forever! May he rest in peace and be forever remembered as a great man and dear friend to all Godzilla fans around the world!
– Andrew Wong (GForever – Luminous News)
My deepest condolences to Takarada-san and his loved ones.
I asked Takarada-san if he’d tell my father Happy Birthday over the phone. My father, who introduced to me to Godzilla, was not local and not able to attend the event. Takarada-san went the extra mile and sang Happy Birthday to him instead. It was a great honor and I will always remember that kind gesture.
Rest in peace, Takarada-san.
– Steven Mee
My personal story with Akira Takarada was during G-Fest 2019. I met him during an autograph signing and he was one of the sweetest, kindest, and good natured men I met. He signed my calendar and praised my Japanese when I said thank you to him in Japanese. The man was a legend and left behind an outstanding legacy. RIP Akira Takarada.
– Austin Ames
Takarada Akira was an unusual performer. His early roles saw him cast as a serious leading man, a path his looks and demeanor would certainly have suggested for him as an actor. In Honda’s original Gojira, he proves eminently capable at anchoring the drama, but in other such straight-man roles, he seems almost uncomfortable with the demands.
No, the expected path of one of the many handsome young leading men wasn’t Takarada’s calling. Instead, the actor found his voice in colorful, offbeat roles and as an indispensable ensemble player. Again and again, he would shine playing parts that would confound expectations. These range from the comical tourist protagonist who turns out to be a spy and sharpshooter in Fukuda Jun’s Ironfinger films, to the head of the UN in Godzilla Final Wars, who…also turns out to be a spy and sharpshooter (but not at the same time). He would also thrive in an ensemble with actors he could bounce off of; the visible sense of camaraderie and charisma with his co-stars in works such as Mothra vs. Godzilla, Invasion of Astro-Monster, and Latitude Zero would contribute to those films’ human plotlines becoming unusually treasured in a genre not usually celebrated for its storytelling.
My favorite role of Takarada’s may just be as Yoshimura in Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (which coincidentally was the first role I saw of his around age 5, on the old Goodtimes VHS tape). Here we find all his strengths as a performer on display. His character, a bank robber in hiding, seems easy enough to figure out: a tough guy with a slight soft spot, the kind of character seen in many a crime film. But almost immediately, the film puts him on the back foot by yanking him out of his element. He unwillingly winds up a tagalong on a South Seas adventure, a spy thriller, and a kaiju film with three naive goofballs he couldn’t be more different in temperament from. Throughout the film, Takarada makes the brilliant choice to play the role straight-faced no matter which situation he winds up in. This approach sells the humor of his character far better than mugging for laughs would have. Little moments such as Yoshimura crawling face first into the Red Bamboo leader’s boots sing because of it. At the same time, Takarada adds enough of a twinkle in his eye that the character remains likeable and fun to watch in spite of his apparent rough edges. (That fabulous yellow jacket/striped shirt combo certainly helps out as well.)
Takarada Akira was a rare treat in cinema: a serious actor who most came alive when he could goof around and even make a fool of himself, who understood that the silly and ridiculous deserved to be taken just as seriously as the respectable. If you’re reading this, chances are that Takarada was a crucial ensemble player in your childhood viewing – and was so for viewers of every generation for seven decades. Not only was he a living ambassador from a vital age of filmmaking, by all accounts he was exceedingly gracious in the role and was beloved at fan conventions.
Farewell, Mr. Takarada, and thank you. I hope you, Mr. Nick Adams, and your other departed peers are partying it up together somewhere, in the dreamscape of monsters and fantasy and fun that will continue to inspire future generations.
– Christopher Brown
P.S. Legendary, if you’re reading this, please release Takarada’s deleted scene from the 2014 Godzilla. I’m sure a crowdfunding campaign could be arranged if the footage needs additional editing.
If I had to pick one memory associated with Akira Takarada, it would be this:
I think it was Thursday morning, one day before G-Fest XXIII (2016) would officially start. I had just come down to the ground floor of the Crowne Plaza hotel for breakfast, and who should come walking towards me? None other than Takarada himself. In the heat of the moment I couldn’t think of anything to do other than just simply bow to show him my respect. He acknowledged me, nodded back at me and said in English: “Good morning.”
This may have been a very short moment where we crossed paths, but it will always be special to me in its own way, simply because it was the first time I encountered Mr. Takarada. Afterwards I of course got him to sign a few things during the event and witnessed his panels, but those can’t quite beat a more personal moment like this.
Thank you, Takarada-san. You will never be forgotten.
– Matti Keskiivari
With him gone we’ve truly reached the end of an era…arigato, Ogata…
– Mike MacAllister
I had the fortune of meeting Akira Takarada 3 times in my life, and he was one of the nicest people I ever met. He really truly cared about his fans, and wanted the best for everyone around him. I’ll never forget the time he came to G-Fest in 2019, and during the opening ceremony he tearfully apoplogized to his fans for having to cancel his appearance the year before, due to unforseen circumstances. To me, this moment said a lot about just how much his fans meant to him, and how much he loved them.
He also gave me my favorite G-Fest memory that year. I had just won G-Pardy (A Godzilla themed Jeopardy tournament) for the second year in a row, and after the event, I was heading back to my hotel room to store the trophy until I got back from another event I was attending. As I stepped out into the hall, Takarada and his kids were outside and noticed this trophy I was holding and asked me about it. I told them I had just won the Godzilla Jeopardy tournament, but they didn’t really understand, so I tried to figure out a way that I could explain it to them in a way that they would, so I just said “Godzilla Trivia”. As soon as I said this, all their faces lit up with excitement. They thought it was so cool that I knew all this stuff about Godzilla, and I told them that these movies were a huge inspiration to me. I went on to tell them that the development of these movies had always been fascinating to me, and that they had gotten me interested in both art and film. After which, Takarada wanted to get a picture with me, so we got a few pictures together and were on our way.
I’ll miss him, and being able to visit with him at G-Fest, but I consider myself very fortunate to have met him as many times as I did and to be able to tell him and his family how much these movies mean to me, and how much of an influence they had on me. I’ll always cherish that moment I had with him, and the autographs I acquired from him all these times.
– Alex Tuinstra