August 7th, 2017 marked the passing of a true legend. Best known for being the suit actor for the original 1954 Godzilla, Haruo Nakajima demonstrated his talents on the big screen in an unforgettable performance that would live on in the hearts and minds of people the world over. Nakajima would go on to bring to life even more iconic Toho movie monsters, such as the original Rodan, Varan, Gaira, Baragon, and King Kong, and even appear on the silver screen in acting roles, though his outing as Godzilla would remain one of his finest endeavors.
From August 10th to the 15th, Toho Kingdom opened its doors to fans to share their first impressions, fondest memories, and pictures of the late Nakajima, which have been collected below. While many mourn the passing of a great man, many more celebrate the life he lived, and the enduring legacy he leaves behind.
Note that some submissions may have been edited for space or modified for other reasons.
I had the pleasure to meet him several times and it was always a great honor and privilege to spend time with him and hear all the stories about his pioneering work. I am currently on the set of Godzilla 2 and on behalf of the entire team, would like to send out our condolences to his family.
– Brian Rogers, Producer: Godzilla (2014), Godzilla 2 (2019)
In my hearing the news, I started posting photos of Haruo Nakajima I had taken in 2011 and 2014 on my Facebook page and on the Toho Kingdom Twitter, and after seeing the reactions to the photos, I made the following post which I feel sums up my feelings perfectly.
“I don’t normally make posts like this but from the amount of reactions on here and on Twitter of the photos I took of Haruo Nakajima, it makes me feel proud of my work in the sense that people seem to be using them to mourn, reminisce, and even to heal. Haruo Nakajima was by far my favorite subject to photograph because he was up for anything and trusted my eye. Many of my photos would go on to represent him in the exhibits dedicated to him in Japan. I’m proud of my work because HE was proud of it. I got his seal of approval and that means the world to me.
I shot with him over the period of 4 days in April 2011 and day 4 (thank you August Ragone for allowing me to go on the journey with you, Sonoe Nakajima, Brad Thompson, David Chapple, and Jason Varney) was spent going to various places. We went out to dinner and on the way back, I remember sitting in the back of David’s SUV, with Mr. Nakajima in the seat in front of me. I remember, for some reason, just looking at the back of his head and it hit me that this little old man, was the embodiment of not only the childhood memories of watching his work, but also the creative inspirations that came from it.
I didn’t get the chance to tell him how much his work meant to myself and others but today I realized that I didn’t have to. He knew. That’s why he kept coming back time after time. To see all of you. He loved each and every one of you. He didn’t just change your lives, you also changed his.
Goodbye Haruo Nakajima. Your work will carry on for generations to come and the effects and inspirations of which will last even longer. You are now immortal.”
– Chris Mirjahangir
Words cannot begin to express the amount of respect and gratitude I have for you. In my youth, all I saw was Godzilla, this unstoppable force of nature that was larger than life. Whether he was the hero or he was the villain, his destructive power knew no equal, and his fighting abilities always left me in awe.
Now, all these years later, I can finally see both sides of the coin equally: Godzilla, the invincible destroyer and protector, and you, the man who brought him to life. Hearing the trials you went through in your early career in suitmation, then learning of your travels to visit fans from across the globe, left an indescribable impression on me. Your commitment, passion, and your love for the many fans of your craft knew no bounds.
Thank you for all you have done, for becoming larger than life yourself, and for bringing so much happiness to countless people. Your legacy will endure eternally.
God bless you, Haruo Nakajima.
– Joshua Sudomerski
It was love at first sight, me and Godzilla. It was sometime in the mid eighties, I don’t know when exactly. It was probably courtesy of TBS’ “Super Scary Saturday”, where Al “Grampa Munster” Lewis would show an old monster/horror movie on Saturday mornings; Toho films among them. I think the first movie was King Kong vs Godzilla, one I love to this day. Obsessed with dinosaurs as I was, like most boys my age, regardless of the storyline, Godzilla was always “the good guy” to me. I cheered him on no matter what. For those who didn’t grow up at the same time I did, they may find it hard to believe that liking so many things that are popular today such as superheroes, professional wrestling, and Godzilla movies were a one way ticket to being unpopular as a kid. That was assuming you even found another kid who knew who Godzilla was. Me, the greatest feeling in the world was running to the back of Blockbuster to the horror/sci-fi section to look for new Godzilla movies I hadn’t seen yet. Thirty years later, and so many iterations of Godzilla, the “O.G.” is still my favorite. I’m very picky about what I accept as “my” Godzilla. I’ve never been a fan of the “mindless force of nature”, because MY Godzilla did a victory dance on Planet X, my Godzilla had a crush on Kumi Mizuno, when he wasn’t crushing invading monsters from outer space. And it wasn’t just because of the script, but because of the magic, the spirit, and the wonder breathed into the monster by his suit actor Haruo Nakajima.
I met Mr. Nakajima a few years ago at a convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. A friend and I had made our own suits for Godzilla and the Gargantuas and were eager to show them to the master suit actor. He greeted us, and all fans, with a wide grin. It was evident he was pleased to see the appreciation that we had for Godzilla and his friends and foes. I went through the line a couple times to get him to sign a few different things. Though obviously tired, in his mid eighties at the time, his enthusiasm never wavered. One of the items I had him sign was a print of Godzilla 1954 taking on a gigantic Elvis Presley. He “oooohed” and “ahhhhed” appropriately and then said to me “Cowabunga! America!” which is about the most rock and roll thing I’ve ever witnessed. I’ll leave you with my favorite part of the Q&A I attended with the master. He was asked about a well known accident during the filming of Rodan where the wires holding Mr. Nakajima inside the giant pterodactyl aloft snapped and he plummeted down into the pool below. He said something along the lines of “I was not scared at all. After all, I was Rodan, and Rodan can fly.”
Fearless. Imaginative. Inspirational. Legendary. All the things a hero should be, Haruo Nakajima embodied…and because of him, so did Godzilla.
Long Live the King
– Steve Johnson
I wish I could so wonderfully or succinctly summarize my feelings at the news of Haruo Nakajima’s passing as others have. As a fan who never got to meet Mr. Nakajima or shake his hand, who never got to tell him just how much his work meant, I share in that sadness. By all accounts he was a good man, and a fine friend. And though I do not know any better myself, it makes me that much more sad to know that a good person has gone to ground.
My first Godzilla was Mr. Nakajima’s first as well; Godzilla, King of the Monsters! was the first kaiju movie that I ever saw, Toho or otherwise. I was pulled in immediately, as so many children were before me, and as so many more will continue to be for all time. From that first movie, to Ghidorah and Monster Zero, to his last hurrah in Gigan, Mr. Nakajima imbued Godzilla with a personality and presence that few could ever hope to match, and something that I firmly believe has been imprinted on the character forever.
My favorite quote from Godzilla 1985 comes to mind:
“For now Godzilla, that strangely innocent and tragic monster has gone to earth. Whether he returns or not, or is never again seen by human eyes, the things he has taught us remain.”
And though he may indeed be gone, the films he made for us and the joy that they bring us will remain. And in that, I take solace. Mr. Nakajima was Godzilla, and will remain a part of him forever. So though I feel sad at the passing of a truly wonderful actor and an amazing man, I’ve found one more reason to love Godzilla even more.
– Jack Jordan
While I regret never meeting Mr. Nakajima, his performance as Godzilla sparked my imagination at a young age. I imitated his movements, fathomed that I, too, was larger than life. I never realized how much confidence it gave me to stand up against my own bullies and to overcome them, because after all, Godzilla did. His legacy isn’t only in his work, but the incredible impact it has had on those who’ve watched him in wonder and awe.
I attended Mad Monster Party in New Jersey as an artist, and had a terrible time getting there, which included my car almost exploding. But Nakajima was going to be there, so I rented a car and continued my journey.
When I finally got to meet him, I presented him with an original piece of art I designed myself. It featured toys representing many of the Godzilla roles he played, including the action figure of himself and the Gargantua, because I knew he loved playing the role since everyone finally got to see his eyes.
He put his pen down before signing it and traced each face with his fingertips. He signed it happily, and the event organizer used his own phone to take a picture for me since I had left mine in the dealer’s room.
On the last day I saw him and his friends sitting in the lobby, and shortly left. I sprinted over to sit in the seat Godzilla had sat in.
I never regretted my decision to push forward to meet him even with everything trying to prevent me from going.
– Sean McGuinness
Thank you for giving life to Godzilla and giving joy to my life.
– Ian Castillo
I became a Godzilla fan when I was only 4 years old. It wasn’t until many years later (16-ish) when I first saw an image of Mr. Nakajima on the set of Godzilla vs. Hedorah, smiling at the camera with a cigarette in his hand and Godzilla suit in tow. He was such an interesting looking character that when I saw that picture, I thought: “I need to know more about this man!”
I learned so much about Mr. Nakajima from the way people described their interactions with him. He loved the fandom dearly. Haruo Nakajima was the soul of Godzilla for 18 years. He was Godzilla. The old saying rings true: Legends NEVER die. They live in the hearts and minds of the people who loved them. There is no denying that Nakajima-san was a legend, and he will be dearly missed by millions of people. May he rest in peace.
– Adam Striker
To my only hero, Haruo Nakajima (Godzilla), I am grateful to have met you three times (G-FEST 2000, Chiller Theater 2014, and Anime Boston 2015) and being able to share many memories in my life from the movies to the conventions which lead to friendships across the globe. You have always enjoyed meeting your fans and the last time we met was in my hometown in Boston where I had the privilege to be your “Minya” at the Hynes Convention Center. Without you, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I have always looked up to you. You kept me living, fighting, and striving to be the best that I can, going up against all odds and never giving up. Thank you for being my God, my hero, and a good friend. May you rest in peace knowing your legacy will continue to live on. GODZILLA FOREVER!
Andrew Wong, G-Forever
The Godzilla franchise has been one of the biggest influences on my life since before I could walk, and it may not have been that way without Haruo Nakajima bringing all those monsters to life all those years ago.
Freshly into adulthood (I’m 21 as of May), I’m interested in creating things through art and writing, and the magic this man brought to the screen was one of things that planted those seeds.
Rest in Peace, Nakajima-san, and thank you for everything.
As a fan of Godzilla and all Kaiju that Haruo had brought to life, my heart sank when I learned of his passing. As a child, I never knew that he was even in a rubber suit that was the first Godzilla or any of the Godzilla faces that came after. I actually thought that it was a real monster back then. Many suit actors for monsters would be inspired by how Haruo brought the monsters that Toho creates to life. To a legend that was and will always be Haruo Nakajima, I wish him good luck on the after life. And I wish his family and friends good fortune for the future endeavors.
– Chanz Foster
To be honest I never really knew about him until his death was announced all over the web. Soon as I found out that not only did he play my favorite and the most famous of all Kaiju, Godzilla, up until 1972, he also played other famous monsters which were Rodan, Varan, Gaira, and my second favorite Kaiju, Baragon. I really enjoyed all his performances for a good majority of the Showa era. The movements he made with these monsters sometimes felt so life like. Like they were actual animals moving around. And there were many times where he really knew how to show off Godzilla either being a rampaging monster or hero just through simple movements. Most people would say they could do what he did in a heartbeat with barely any effort. I could only laugh, if they said that, because what Haruo Nakajima did wasn’t just campy monster movie acting. It was art. Art that only us Kaiju fans can truly appreciate. The greatest regret I have was not ever getting the chance to meet this actual legend, but I’m even more ashamed that I never really learned his name or what he’s done till now. I can’t any other way to honor and give thanks to him than to give pictures of my two favorite Kaiju that he’s performed as.
Rest In Peace Haruo Nakajima
– Ben Mayer
Haruo Nakajima was someone I never met. I admired his work, and was impressed by it, but he personally never captivated me the way he did to other fans.
And weird as it may sound, THAT is one of highest compliments I could possible give him. Allow me to explain.
Godzilla is one of the most important things in my life, and I take it very seriously. The music, the themes, and above all Godzilla himself. Godzilla’s design, mannerisms, power, and different interpretations culminate to make him the best thing ever. To me, Godzilla is far more than a movie, a character, a franchise, or even a concept. And he is certainly more than a “man in a suit.” Godzilla is too real for me to concerned with the special effects that bring him to life.
Which is a testament to how amazing a suit actor Nakajima was. Not only was he able to move around in some super uncomfortable suits, he actually ACTED in them, because he’s a suit ACTOR. It takes genuine talent to bring anything to life, and if you actually look at different examples of suit acting you’d see how amazing Nakajima’s performance is opposed to whoever was in the suits in Unknown Island. Nakajima pioneered suit acting as an art, and it’s extremely sad he died in a world where his art was replaced by CGI, and most of the world doesn’t even think it’s art.
So to Nakajima, I am sorry. You deserved better than this. I hope you rest in peace.
– Marc Finnish
R.I.P Haruo Nakajima, 88
The Man That Made The Legend
As long as Godzilla’s name exists so will Haruo Nakajima’s name. Thank you for the memories and the inspiration. We all will miss you but as long as there is a copy of Gojira in existence, we will see you every time we watch it. He will live on as the heart of our greatest and beloved monster.
– Christian Lawson
R.I.P Haruo Nakajima.
What you did for Godzilla, and the daikaiju genre as a whole will forever be remembered and treasured by us all. your body may be gone, but your spirit will forever live on in all of those who have been touched and influenced by your work. In the words of Shinota: Godzilla’s inside each one of us.
I wish I had gotten to know the man through conventions, as someone who always seemed to be stuck here in Minnesota and unable to travel. I wish I had gotten his autograph and talk and laugh about our stories and his time as various kaiju. I wish I had gotten to take a selfie with him. I wish I gotten to talk with him about his time with the other G-4 gang as I call them and how they acted and their ideas.
It seems anything could change in an instant, and if by chance I meet him in the afterlife I hope I can correct this wish and make it a reality
God Bless you Haruo Nakajima
Joel “Dai-Man” Endrizzi
I never forget him. He will be our heart for bringing classic monsters to life. Thank You.
– Jayson Rogoz
It really hurts to hear that Haruo Nakajima has sadly passed away. I’m glad that I able to meet Nakajima-san at Comic-con two years ago, it was honor being able to meet him & its a moment that I’ll never forget. Thoughts & Prayers go to his Family & Friends. RIP Gojira-san.
– Andrew Cross
Haruo Nakajima! What a name and what a man!
My name is Henning and I am a fan of Godzilla and Japanese science fiction since childhood. I am German, therefore please excuse my sloppy English!
I was introduced to Godzilla in the age of six by watching the German-dubbed version of KING KONG VS. GODZILLA (1962) in 1992, little while I was watching the anime THE FANTASTIC ADVENTURES OF UNICO, based on the manga by Osamu Tezuka, my personal premiere to the world of anime and manga. Still Godzilla and the kaiju conquered my heart and soul at this point completely and a love was born that lasts until today. It was around the premiere of the ill-ridden first Hollywood attempt of GODZILLA; G.I.N.O.; when I learned first of the name + the man Haruo Nakajima and his life. I was virtually speechless what he did, what difficulties and accidents he endured, but foremost that he bore everything with iron will without lamenting! I found an icon, a human, which I could look up!
Since my personal life was and is not always easy Godzilla was and is the help to flee from reality for a brief amount of time, and to return to reality with new found strength. Nakajima was providing this strength through his acting to me! To bear the unbearable found it’s pure human incarnation in Nakajima and his fellow colleagues in suit acting, but it was Nakajima who founded this tradition and spirituality, which keeps me alive in figurative sense spoken.
To wake up very early, to work and to return to home; without the willpower of Nakajima and Godzilla; absolute impossible for me! With Nakajima’s passing I felt very sad, but I also feel very proud. The hours of watching Toho kaiju movies and TV series like ULTRAMAN, where he also participated as a kaiju and as an instructor for Ultraman’s actor; Satoshi Bin Furuya, had been great – yes! And watching again and again will create the same situation all over again! This will also make me happy and strong enough for the future to come.
Nakajima made who I am and although he was truly one-of-a-kind, his legacy will live on. With the help of us fans and the movies and TV series he worked on. He lived so long to experience 62 years of Godzilla, among the over-amazing rebirth in Hideaki Anno’s and Shinji Higuchi’s SHIN GODZILLA (2016). This is quite an achievement! Who can say this also? Not to forget the also now-good second attempt and now success of an Hollywood movie-adaptation by Gareth Edwards’ GODZILLA (2014).
I am confident that his daughter Sonoe, will also have the same strength as her father for the coming years. She will overcome the current sadness and will honor the name of her father with pride. My thoughts are with her. He is now with his wife in a place, where is no worry and sadness, only happiness, peace and prosperity.
The only possible “regret” is that I never met him in person, only in video footage and on pictures, but this was, is and will be enough! Thank you for everything what you did Nakajima!
In deepest respect I am bowing to you; domo arigato gozaimasu, Nakajima-sensei!
In eternal loving memory your fan,
Haruo Nakajima to me is one of the greatest actor in film history, although his face was mostly unseen everyone knows him for bringing to life a vast majority of Kaiju’s including the legendary kaiju ‘Gojira’ known world wide as Godzilla. I got hooked onto Godzilla after I watched my first movie ‘Ebirah, Horror of the Deep’ and I am also a fan favourite of one of the other founding Fathers of Godzilla. And that is the work of Eiji Tsuburaya’s Ultraman franchise. The two of them will be greatly mist but their legacy will live on in the work that they made and in future works made in their wake, like Legendary Pictures Godzilla 2 and TOHO CO. Godzilla Planet Monsters. R.I.P. Nakajima.
– Wayne Walker
Thank you for all the great memories you have given me through Godzilla. Since childhood, you changed my life for the better through your work. You will always be loved and remembered in our home for generations to come.
Love and respect,
I got the news while watching “Ghidorah The Three-Headed Monster,” and it rocked me to my core. He was a great man, very professional, very brave, and a big part of my life. I’ve loved Godzilla most of my life, and it’s a shame to see that the man who first brought him, along with so many other beloved kaiju, to life is gone. He was a big inspiration for me, and so were his films. God bless him, and his loved ones. I wish I could thank him for all the entertainment and happiness he brought to my life.
– Bobby Dunakin
I love godzilla
– George Schroeded
August 7th marked the first day that I had cried since I was 12, (19 now). I first started watching Godzilla films when I was in kindergarten. I appreciated the charm and the lighter tone of the Showa era films as opposed to the films following it. Haruo Nakajima has always been my favorite Godzilla suit actor due to the amount of range and character that he was able to give Godzilla in his movements. One film he could stockily be seen destroying a city and the next he could be jumping up and down in victory. Haruo Nakajima has been a huge figure in my childhood and helped shape me into the person who I am today. He will continue to live on through his films and the countless people they have thrilled, entertained, and inspired. Rest in peace and God bless, the OG King of the Monsters himself, Haruo Nakajima.
– Joseppi Harding
When it is was Monday morning, I heard that Haruo Nakajima had passed away at the age of 88, he was known as playing the original Gojira (Godzilla) and that he was a part of my childhood. Not only did he play Godzilla, but he also played other kaijus and he was one of the first people to start using “Suitmation” which is a filmmaking techinque developed by Eiji Tsuburaya.
It’s sad that I won’t be able to see him and that he was such a big part of my childhood, as well as getting me into Godzilla, I send my condolence to the Nakajima family and that I hope they feel better. Sayonara Nakajima-San, may your spirit rest in peace for your legacy will never die and that you have become an inspiration towards me, you will never be forgotten as well as your performances.
R.I.P. Haruo Nakajima (1929-2017), we’ll miss you.
– Noah Bearden
Ever since I saw the very first film, I fell in love with the monster that would inspire me to pursue filmmaking, storytelling, and soul. Thank you, Nakajima-san, for giving me the fire to pursue my dreams, as well as the spark to ignite my passions. RIP
– Tre McNeill
I just wanted to say a quick & heartfelt Thank You to Haruo Nakakjima for bringing my hero Godzilla to life.
My thoughts & prayers go out to his family & friends.
May he Rest In Peace…
A Lifelong Godzilla fan because of Mr Nakajima
Haruo brought many distinct memories.
Ever since he put on the G54 suit, giant monster movies have never been the same, for he portrayed the fear we should all understand of nuclear weapons.
And yet he become a superhero dinosaur to many and made many children smile.
My niece isn’t even five and I had already planned to show her “vs. Hedorah”, when she’s older, before Nakajima was lost. I still will and hope she likes seeing the dinosaur save the day from “Mr. Yuck”.
While Nakajima didn’t return for the Kiryu subseries, I still imagine it was him reprising his famous role as G54, through Kiryu.
May he rest in peace and his work be remembered.
– Charles Ziese
Thanks Nakajima for giving life to the great Godzilla and do my childhood awesome. Rest in peace.
I am 23 years old and Godzilla has been an inspiration to me as long as I can remember. My dad got me an photograph autographed by Haruo Nakajima when I was a kid and I still have it. Haruo Nakajima was a great man who inspired millions of kids around the world and he will be greatly missed. Rest in Peace.
– Luke Williams
I was very sad to learn of the passing of Naruto Nakajima. After all, he was the first main suit actor in all of Toho sci-fi, playing Godzilla, Rodan, Gaila the Green Gargantua, etc. His unique grasp of what it took to act inside those monster suits made him, in the words of a favorite pro wrestler of mine, “the best there is, the best there was, and the best there ever will be.”
Rest in peace, Nakajima-dai-sensei, and thank you for all the memories.
I first saw Godzilla when I was small, always into dinosaurs, a VHS I owned about trex, suddenly spirals into a mini Goji clipshow, of godzilla and rodan fighting ghidorah…then godzilla fighting rodan in ghidorah. I was always watching that part…now I’ve seen all the films, multiple times over and not much can beat Nakajimas energy in the latter films, especially in DAM and vs hedorah, and now I feel the need to watch his other suited appearances in other movies and shows, like space amoeba, varan, ultra Q and so on…attached to this is a picture of every monster toy and memorabilia that Nakajima has played, I never met him but am lucky to own thus autographed picture….to the very first king of the monsters, the hero of earth, Godzilla, and all other rolls, Sayonara, Mr Nakajima
– Samuel Carpenter
My interaction with Haruo Nakajima during his lifetime has been minimal. Back in 2015, I drove up to Boston to meet him and his co-star, Akira Takarada at that year’s Anime Boston convention. Thanks to Tim Bean, I had the opportunity to meet two of my biggest childhood heroes. Meeting the two was an experience I’ll never forget. Although, I deeply regret never being able to tell Haruo how much his work meant to me all my life. I have illustrated his first role as Godzilla in his honor, and will continue to honor his legacy for years to come.
– Christopher Chickenman Conde
I never had the honor of meeting Nakajima-san in person. However, his work had a glorious affect on me as a child. One that continues to resonate with me to this very day.
May God bless your soul, Nakajima-san, wherever you may be.
Robert J Laurich
My daughter and I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Nakajima back in August of 2015. While my daughter, Ava, was getting this photo taken and his autograph, I was talking with his interpreter. I mentioned to her that Ava was trying to learn Japanese. She asked if she could say anything to him in Japanese. Well, she thought about it for a few seconds and said in Japanese…”It is an honor to meet you”. At that moment he stopped signing the picture, put the marker down and with a huge smile, he started clapping. Tsutomu Kitagawa and Bin Furuya also started to clap which caused the other fans in line to start clapping. So anytime I talk about this picture, I begin by saying, “Did I ever tell you about the time my daughter made Godzilla smile and clap”.
Thanks for allowing me to tell you this story. I have been a fan since I was little and got my first Godzilla movie in 8mm form back in the early 70’s. I introduced my daughter to this legend when she was still a baby and she’s been a fan ever since. It was one of the coolest things that ever happened to me…meeting my childhood hero. He will be missed.
As I sit at my desk trying to figure out what to write and say something that hasn’t been said about Nakajima-san, I realize everything that has already been said is correct about the man. He’s a legend and has truly become immortal now. While I personally never got a chance to meet him and tell him how much he meant to me, I think deep down inside he already knew how much he meant to not just me but to the Godzilla fandom both current and future. One of my most treasured Godzilla collectibles is an autograph that my good friend Chris Mirjahangir got for me when he had the opportunity to meet him, this is something that I’ll always treasure. So l guess I’ll just end this here and I want to tell you Nakajima-san that like many fans of doctor who have their favorite Doctor incarnation, you where my Godzilla. Thank you for all you’ve done for the fandom and for being my hero.
Thomas R VanSlambrouck
Haruo Nakajima may be gone, but the characters he brought to life have stood the test of time and will continue to carry on his legacy, I cannot thank Mr. Nakajima enough for being such a big part of something that has not only been my childhood, but my life as a whole, as I’m sure many others can agree. Here’s to you good sir, may the characters you played continue to be a part of many more childhoods.
I have been a fan of Godzilla and all his monstrous friends and foes for as long as I can remember, and have so many happy memories of watching the Big G menace cities or save the day with my family on television and home video, none of which would have been possible if not for the efforts of the man inside the suit for much of the Showa Era, Haruo Nakajima. As a child I was ignorant of his name, Godzilla was simply Godzilla to me, much like most children who do not dwell on the identities of the voice actors behind their favorite cartoon characters, or the individuals who don the capes and tights of their favorite superheroes until later in life. As an adult however, I would come to know his name, and be grateful for all the hard work he put into portraying a radioactive reptile for the entertainment of fans like me of all ages across the globe. Playing the role of a giant monster is no easy feat. It requires both skill and endurance to pull off successfully, especially back in the early days of Tokusatsu entertainment when safety features inside the hot, heavy suits were few to say the least, and yet Mr. Nakajima managed to excel and triumph despite all obstacles, much like his first and most iconic kaiju role, Godzilla himself. One of the greatest experiences of my life was when I met Mr. Nakajima in person during Anime Boston 2015, the theme was kaiju and mecha that year and I had been beyond delighted to learn that both he and Akira Takarada would be attending the con as celebrity guests of honor! This was a once in a lifetime experience for me, and I was equally nervous and excited at the same time, finally getting to meet my childhood hero, shake his hand, and tell him how much his performances meant to me well into adulthood. He was so friendly and patient with me and all the American fans who met him during the convention even though he could not speak English and needed a translator by his side to interpret what he said. We hung on his every word later during a panel prior to a screening of Gojira. It was fascinating to learn from the man himself that he studied animals at the zoo to give him an idea of how a massive creature like Godzilla would move and behave. It was an experience I shall never forget. He did all this for us, his fans, despite being 86 years old at the time and far away from home, and yet he still traveled all that way just to tell us stories about his time as the original King of the Monsters, and I will always remember and respect him for it.
Sayonara Nakajima-san, thank you for sparking my imagination, and for giving life to my favorite monster.
Daniel B. Roach
Haruo Nakajima brought some of our favorite monsters to live in both movies and television shows. He helped bring the likes of Godzilla, Jiras, Varan, Gaira, Rodan, Gomess, Baragon, and Neronga to name a few into the spotlight and giving us memorable kaiju. While his time in this world has passed, his legacy and portrayal of Godzilla and many other kaiju will never leave be forgotten.
The original Godzilla is gone. He set the gold standard for Kaiju actors that can never be topped. His attitude towards the job made a non-glamorous job seem wonderful. While I never had the chance to meet him; his devotion to the fans and the monster himself is something I always appreciated and admired. You will be greatly missed, Mr. Nakajima. RIP and Godspeed.
Thanks for the memories.
I met Nakajima-san at least four times since he first began appearing at US conventions. He was always kind, gracious and excited to meet his fans around the world. The first time I met him was at his first US appearance at G-Fest 1996. I remember that at this time several of us got together to offer up a drunken rendition of “Save The Earth” in the hotel bar, which impressed Mr. Nakajima to no end.
I was in a hotel room with Nakajima and Ken Satsuma in NYC when the news came that Princess Diana had died. We all found out at the same time.
One time at a convention party, some really incredibly nasty liquor was being passed around. I had already had a sip of the stuff and knew it was vile. Mr. Nakajima tried giving me some more (because he didn’t want his). I waved it away and said “Das ist nicht gut”. When he heard me speaking German he went into an exited diatribe about how the father of one well-known tokusatsu actor had been a fervent nazi during the second world war. This included vehement foot stomping which made Satsuma, who was sitting next to him, fear for the safety of his own feet.
Photos include Nakajima, Satsuma and Yoshio Tsuchiya. Some of them were taken at the dinosaur exhibit at the NYC museum of science and history.
– Michael Keller
The original and best Godzilla, who helped give the character an imposing presence and a personality.
Throughout our world’s history, there have been many legends that have made their mark within society. Some have left their emblems of awe and adoration within the ever expanding field of knowledge, while others have decided to express their gifts within products of cinema. These iconic individuals have, in their own unique ways, touched the hearts of millions across the world. Thus, this very email has a designated intent to recognize one such individual who has touched my heart for many years. This incredible individual, in terms of identity, was none other than Haruo Nakajima. To this day, he has continued to amaze me with the many contributions that he imprinted into Japanese cimena. It was because of his capabilities that the process of suitmation became a favorable method of creating films all over the world, especially within the science fiction genre. Whether it was Neronga from the original Tsuburaya Productions television show called Ultraman or the green Gargantua known as Gaira from Toho Studios’ War of the Gargantuas, Nakajima gave life to each creature once the suit was put on and the cameras began filming. However, the one creature that Nakajima portrayed via suitmation has become a beloved cinema icon to millions of fans worldwide, including myself. A powerful metaphor for the horrors of nuclear energy, this creature set the stage for a whole new genre of films known as kaiju filmography. Taking the entire world by storm in 1954, Haruo Nakajima brought life into the many suits over the years of perhaps the most famous giant monster of film history. This monster was none other than Godzilla. Having been a huge Godzilla and kaiju fan for many years, I have always appreciated and honored those that took to the challenge of portraying the King of the Monsters. Haruo Nakajima was one such man. Whenever I shall watch a Godzilla film from the original Showa series in the future, I will always remember who it was that Godzilla appear to be so lifelike and real. My condolences go out to the family of Mr. Nakajima, for I shall always remember who truly was the king of daikaiju suitmation. God bless Mr. Nakajima, and may he rest in eternal peace.
– Zach Naugle
Haruo Nakajima is an unsung icon who helped revolutionize the film industry. People like Honda and Tsuburaya are worthy of praise for giving this series and genre of film life, but having outlasted both men in the franchise (for the most part), it was Nakajima who gave perhaps the biggest helping hand in giving this series the longevity it had and the recognition it rightfully deserves. So many lessons were learned from his experiences and passed down to later suit actors, and so many new ideas were brought to fruition by his performances from people outside of Toho and the Toku Genre. Meet this man in person in 2008 was an absolute honor and even though I didn’t meet him outside of a costume, in many ways, it felt suitable that I was in one when I did meet him as it felt like it was paying respect to a man who made a living out of doing so, a man who brought joy, sadness, fear, and above all else, true cinematic entertainment, to everyone for all of the world to see. Haruo Nakajima will truly be missed by all and without a doubt, he truly is KING of the Monsters.
When you have a hero in life, you think that they will always be there, but to you that special hero is invincible. Even when they grow older with time, you never stop to think about if they will still be there the next day. Because you don’t want to acknowledge that their days are numbered, that there is a mortality behind that invincibility.
Godzilla is always this giant monster that is unstoppable, never-ending, and tough. Even when he has been defeated or gone away, he will always come back, bigger and more powerful than before. I always saw Haruo Nakajima that way, he was tough, bigger than life, and always came back into the world with a bigger heart and brighter smile. Nakajima and his Godzilla were both my childhood, his performance gave the icon a certain life and charisma that made me a eternal fan to the franchise. First captivating me at the age of four in the movies “Godzilla, King of the Monsters” and “King Kong vs. Godzilla”. Two grand VHS tapes gifted to me by my grandfather, my family’s first and original Godzilla fan before me.
Back then it wasn’t popular to have a hero who wore a giant rubber monster suit and toppled beautiful modeled cities of Japan. Nah back then, your hero had to either wear a flowing cape, crawl like a spider, or wear a human-sized costume for a human-scale person. You weren’t allowed to like heroes who weren’t ordinary, commonly popular, or domestically created. But that just made Nakajima and his films all that more amazing and special to me, because he was something that I felt connected to that no one else around me understood. Godzilla isn’t natural, he doesn’t fit within today’s world, he’s otherworldly and something of an outcast to the realm of nature and its laws. So through Nakajima’s performance, hard-work, and investment into the franchise and its monsters, I found something that I could relate to through the icons that he brought to life.
Seeing Nakajima tower over Japan as Godzilla, Rodan, and other colossal beasts, seeing how he brought them to life and took on the world within their films. He was a man who inspired me to become the individual that I am today. To be someone who doesn’t back down, to be someone who isn’t afraid to reach the skies that he loomed over. To be someone who will always get back up after falling down.
I owe a lot to this man, for the strength he has given me, and the memories of amazement, laughter, and joy. It sucks waking each day knowing that he is no longer with us. It sucks knowing that your hero is gone. The pain of his passing will never leave me, but neither will the days that his films had brighten throughout my entire life.
His presence will be greatly missed, but the memories he has made within the hearts of many. The days he had brighten across various generations, in both the past and over. Haruo Nakajima is a great man who will live on forever, both in the hearts that he has touched, and the immortality of his eternal films. Rest in peace old King, long live forever loved and unforgotten. Haruo Nakajima, a great performer and beloved actor. He will always be my hero, and will always be our destroyer of worlds.
– R.D.Davis (Gormaru/Gormaru Omega), Gormaru Island
Haruo Nakajima, the man who brought Godzilla to life. Thanks to his time and effort he put into the movie productions, Nakajima brought the Godzilla franchise to millions around the world. Without Haruo Nakajima Godzilla wouldn’t be the pop culture icon he is now.
R.I.P. Haruo Nakajima, you will be missed by many.
– Ethan Stine
I would like to say ‘thank you’ to Mr. Nakajima for his work as Godzilla and other kaiju, which brought joy to my life as a fan of Toho sci-fi from the time I was little kid. R.I.P. and Sayonara.
– Matt Bowyer
My name is Jake and I’ve been a Godzilla fan for almost my whole life. I love everything from the movies, to the monsters and Godzilla himself. But the character might not feel alive had it not been for one man and that it the man behind the monster, Haruo Nakajima. I first became aware of Mr. Nakajima thanks to an old Chestwood Monster book I borrowed (and never returned 🙂 from my local library. I remember seeing his picture for the first time in a Fangoria magazine talking about the 1998 film. I was too young to appreciate the talent, but I grew to really love it as I got older. One of the things I loved about Godzilla as a character was his ability to convey emotion through body language and Mr. Nakajima pulled it off greatly. Many of favorite actions of Godzilla came from Mr. Nakajima in the original films. Such as the iconic victory dance from “Monster Zero.” Another great moment that most fans forget is Godzilla scratching his nose after fighting the giant Condor in “Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster,” it’s such a small but an amazing display of Godzilla’s attitude. I also loved Godzilla taunting Ebirah with his own claw after getting it torn off. All of those actions were amazingly brought to life thanks to Haruo Nakajima!! He help make Godzilla more than just a monster, he made Godzilla an amazing character. With his passing, it marks an end of a time when movies were made with more love and was like magic. Thank you Mr. Nakajima, you are the heart of Godzilla!!!
– Jacob F.
From the start, Godzilla wasn’t just any old monster. As a young viewer, I rooted for him, cheered for him – even in the films where he was the antagonist, which made for some awkward viewing experiences of the original film, Mothra vs. Godzilla, et al. This is because he had a personality – a soul. And it is Nakajima Haruo’s bravura performance that started this trend.
To all the monsters he played, Nakajima brought a special spark. Even when they are villains, we feel sympathy for Godzilla and Rodan when they meet their fates in their debut films. We feel Godzilla’s frustration and confusion when he slams into Osaka Castle; his determination, bafflement, and cunning when he faces off against Hedorah; his sternness as he coaches Minilla against his bullies; his playfulness and triumph as he scores blows against Kong, Rodan, Ebirah, and especially King Ghidorah. What other creative team than Nakajima and Tsuburaya would have created something so gloriously silly as the Godzilla victory dance, the moment we have to thank for all the wonderfully goofy moments to come? You wouldn’t catch King Kong or Giger’s Alien dead performing that!
Nakajima was never just the guy in the suit. He was a performer and actor…and his performances were a delight, plain and simple, worthy of consideration with any human cast.
Rest in peace, Mr. Nakajima. Perpetual thanks for all the joy you brought us, and for giving me my favorite heroes: Godzilla, Rodan, Baragon, and more.
– Christopher Brown
I didn’t make this, the original image is by DecayingArt, but it emphasizes my undying love for Haruo Nakajima and Godzilla as a whole.
Meeting Haruo Nakajima in my home state of Indiana was a memory I’ll cherish forever. Getting to meet the man who brought my childhood hero Godzilla to life was a dream come true. Not only did he bring Godzilla to life but also many of my other favorite monsters including, Rodan, King Kong, Mothra, Baragon, Green Gargantua and so many others. Nakajima was truly the best to ever do it and he will be extremely missed. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. RIP Haruo Nakajima and thank you again for everything.
For a long time, I’ve always appreciated Toho’s science fiction and fantasy films, whether they were good or bad. Even if the films didn’t stand up to scrutiny, I could always count on the monster appearances to deliver. The suits were never convincing by themselves, but the performances that were brought out through them have entertained me all my life and made me forget the effects method used. Most notably in the Showa series, they were used to portray both forces of destruction and warfare, or characters that showed what we could do at our best. And Haruo Nakajima was one of the men behind that. He set the standard for Japanese monster performances, making some unforgettable characters, despite the heavy suits and setbacks involved. Everybody can remember Godzilla suddenly rising from the dirt, Gaira terrorizing an airport, or Rodan landing onto the train station. I’m grateful that moments like this are ingrained in the minds of millions, and I will never forget the man who was inside the suits. While I never knew who was in the suits growing up, the moment I knew the name attached to the man who brought some of them to life, I knew who to thank. Thank you, Haruo Nakajima, for all of your hard work in making some of my favorite films come to life.
The main credits for Toho’s iconic special effects films naturally highlight both the talented production team that worked to bring so many of these films together so quickly, as well as the leading actors seen throughout. The true leading man of Toho’s monster films, however, has always been Haruo Nakajima. Hired and credited as a stuntman, Nakajima humbly endured dangerous work – from suits made of not rubber, but concrete, to suffering stomach injuries from fake bombs on set, to nearly drowning on multiple occasions and rarely being able to breathe well in the heavy suits. Nakajima’s efforts went well beyond performing stuntwork, however – he studied real animals at the zoo and helped choreograph fight scenes with other stuntmen.
One of the reasons Toho’s kaiju films have endured so long has been because every monster retains a distinct character. While it would be easy to manipulate every puppet and suit along the same basic idea, Toho’s monsters retain personality, much of it imbued by men such as Nakajima, as well as those who worked alongside him and those who have followed in his enormous footsteps ever since. Nakajima overcame the pressure and stress of the hot and heavy suits to nonetheless convey meaning and lend expression to dozens of creatures, and his work brought to life dozens of monsters, from Baragon to Varan. Rather than a two-dimensional mass of monsters, Nakajima could make viewers just as easily fear the bloodthirsty Gaira as to cheer on and empathize with the lovable Kong, or feel both emotions and more in a dozen films as the King of the Monsters, Godzilla, his most famous creation.
More than the fine and dedicated stuntman, special effects pioneer, or the incredibly humble man he nonetheless was, Haruo Nakajima was an actor, a skilled performer working on a bigger stage, able to impress, terrify, delight, and make us feel, working through the skin of the suits, and a lot of blood, sweat, tears, to develop surprisingly memorable characters who will continue to capture the attention of audiences for generations to come. As long as there are people around the world who enjoy kaiju films, Nakajima-san’s memory will still be with us.
– John R. Voyles