Most people go to amusement parks to escape from reality; they want to distract themselves from the doldrums of their lives. Last year I returned to Nijigen no Mori to attempt to face reality, and my own mortality.

I didn’t want to tell anyone that I was going. I had a trip to Osaka planned to see some old friends from my old job in Chiba, and we were going to meet on Friday, September 11, and Saturday, September 12, to eat and chew (anything but) the fat and play some games, create an oasis of desperate joy in the midst of an often-bleak year. This meeting was not long planned, and only became possible because I canceled a planned trip back home to the USA to meet my family. I hadn’t been able to see my family since the COVID nightmare had begun—neither had I seen them since I nearly died when I suffered a heart attack on September 12, 2020 and subsequently spent three weeks in a Japanese hospital, weak and fragile and uncertain about my future. This trip to Osaka on the anniversary of the heart attack was a welcome (if still disappointing) exchange in lieu of a reunion with the most precious people in my world. I canceled my trip to the USA because of a host of fears concerning international travel restrictions, COVID spikes, the requirement for two weeks’ quarantine upon returning to Japan, and my own scarily delicate body.

I was really looking forward to seeing my friends. But I didn’t tell them I was staying for another evening, after we parted ways Sunday night. I had tacked on that one additional day just so I could make a pilgrimage back to Nijigen no Mori, back to see the life-size Godzilla statue finally completed, back to stare death in the face and, in that confrontation with my own mortality, see if I could maintain a smile.

Heading to Nijigen no Mori

Just as last time, though, getting to Nijigen no Mori proved more difficult than I had anticipated. Perhaps it is because of COVID, but the buses to the amusement park were few, and just as baffling, the ones that DO go there DON’T necessarily drop a fellow off on the doorstep. Basically, for those making future plans, this time I stayed in Osaka (I was meeting friends on the 12th), and it took two hours to get to Nijigen no Mori from around the center of the city—plus the trains were off schedule due to an accident, and I had to walk some twenty minutes mostly uphill from the last bus stop to actually get to the park. Given the state of my heart and the heat at the time, it was rough going.

My advice: get a hotel near the park. Seriously, not just on Awaji Island, but if you can, get that hotel right next to the park. It saves on the headaches, and also, Nijigen no Mori has a lot of other attractions you can check out while you are there after you have finished with Godzilla—attractions I still haven’t properly investigated despite two trips now to visit the awesome Godzilla stuff.

Back to my story, though. This time I came into the park from a different entrance, and so got to take a brief gander at their Dragon Quest castle on my way over to Godzilla—I didn’t have time to check out what was inside the palace walls, but it looks cool from the outside. Not many attendees were present, and I could stroll around the park without much worry about crowds.

Now in my mind, I was thinking to deliberately sit down near the big sunken Godzilla statue and just… contemplate my life for a time. While of course I was hoping to take part in some of the attractions, given that I assumed I would be unable to take part in the main event, arriving at the park was not entirely a happy experience.

The first time I went to Nijigen no Mori, Akira Ifukube music was playing as I approached the Godzilla Museum, and it provided a real atmosphere of otaku adoration. This time there were more signs advertising and supplementing the giant monster goodness to be had, but the lack of movie music magic was missed. Still, the full-size Godzilla statue minus the scaffolding made for a triumphant sight, and I couldn’t help but smile even while, in my heart, I felt a bit of loss that I wouldn’t be able to take the ultimate experience and zip through his mouth and to the other side.

Nijigen no Mori: Godzilla Interception Operation Awaji, Part 2

When I reached the counter where I could purchase tickets, I saw there were a lot of different options. I could purchase a ticket just to experience the Godzilla Museum, or to just do the shooting Godzilla cells game, or just to do the zipline, or a combination of all the above, or the whole kit-and-kaiju-kaboodle and tack on some kind of app-game which would require me to jaunt around the park and look for monster images to scan with my phone. All of these attractions included a viewing of an original kaiju film that would set up the experience.

While I was contemplating my options, a spirited member of the staff (a young lady with sparkling eyes) bounced over to see if she could help. In Japanese we discussed our options, and I asked her about the safety of dangling through the sky whilst exploring Godzilla’s innards with heart disease. She was uncertain what to advise, and I said I would send my doctor a text and eat lunch first, since I had not filled my stomach with monster num-nums yet. I had not intended to ask my doctor for any such advice, figuring that the answer was already determined, but our chipper conversation gave me a kindling of hope.

Godzilla Food Items

Since my first visit, I have become rather a bit more concerned about the sorts of toothsome goodies I am willing to submit to the approval of my stomach and other internal viscera. I was hoping to avoid meat curries infused with fats and salt, or processed meaty dogs, or even the quite delicious sugary beverages in stylish (yet very meltable) containers. Much to my excitement, I saw that the cafeteria sported a Biollante-themed soba and salad dish. Whatever nutritious value I attained by choosing this wonderful dish, however, was probably offset somewhat by consuming a Godzilla Baumkuchen Plate and Godzilla Awaji Fruit Punch drink, but we will get to THOSE treats in a moment.

So the Biollante dish was called “Biollante Flower Monster Tsukemen Form.” The description of the dish was as follows, from the menu: “A rose fiercely towering over Ashinoko, a beautiful and ferocious foe standing in Godzilla’s way! Made with famous rich-flavored wakame seaweed soba from Awaji Island, as well as a bell rose and other ingredients, using vegetables as a main feature, we have expressed the flower-monster shaped Biollante in our tsukemen dish. The noodle dip is meant to create an image of the glowing portion of Biollante’s belly—please keep that in mind as you partake in the dish!”

The dish cost 1540 yen for the basic dealio, and I could get a larger portion for 1980 yen. Curiously, when I received my Biollante tsukemen, the noodle dip had become the head of the beast, while the tomatoes and bell rose had somehow seemed to migrate down to become Biollante’s stomach. No matter, it didn’t affect the taste of the meal itself, and the floating partially cooked egg in the noodle broth made it look like Biollante had a big, bulbous nose. I approve.

Biollante Flower Monster Tsukemen Form

Biollante Flower Monster Tsukemen Form

As far as taste goes, the Biollante tsukemen was not outstanding. The bell rose is a bit bitter, and the noodles, raw tomatoes, and such themselves aren’t exactly bursting with spice when dipped in the egg and soy sauce. Nevertheless, the fact that I could eat something at Nijigen no Mori which wasn’t overflowing with fat, sugar, and salt was a revelation and made me absolutely elated.

The Godzilla Baumkuchen Plate consisted of half a Baumkuchen set to look like Godzilla’s back rising from the waves, drizzled with sweet syrup, and the waves created by frosting. The red ooze that emerges from Godzilla’s body in Shin Godzilla as well as in the short film which I would be watching shortly is also present in the creation of this plate with the strawberries and syrup. This dish also cost 1540 yen.

The description of the dish from the promotional materials seems a bit inaccurate, but here goes: “This is Godzilla, his actions stopped by the Godzilla Intercept Operation. Half of Godzilla’s massive body can be seen partially buried under the earth. An image of Godzilla’s enormous tail was created. This is a dessert plate that incorporates a deep black Baumkuchen darkened via bamboo charcoal!”

I can see the tail, but this dessert was definitely NOT made to look like Godzilla is halfway buried underground. Some sprigs of mint might indicate trees, but the cream and frosting absolutely were made to look like waves in the sea, and not chunks of dirt.

Godzilla Baumkuchen Plate

Godzilla Baumkuchen Plate

At any rate, while the Baumkuchen itself was a bit dry, combined with the scrumptious sugary waves and fruit on the side, the dessert was heavenly. Not enough to inspire me to buy a separate Godzilla Baumkuchen for myself at the gift store, but still… I loved it!

Finally, the Godzilla Awaji Punch! Another sprig of mint, cubed fruits, in a mild drink to be mixed with lemon sweetener, presented with a steel NIGOD spoon. I consoled myself that my 858 yen drink (good grief, I spent like forty dollars on my lunch…) had lots of fruit in it, and it was indeed quite tasty. The idea is that when you pour in the lemon flavoring, it’s supposed to change the color of the drink, which I didn’t really notice. I wish I had been paying more attention—that color change, according to the description, is supposed to represent the “rage of the rampaging god and the flash of resurrection” or something like that. I mean, the sour sweet flavor was good, but it definitely didn’t bring me back to life.

Godzilla Awaji Punch

But! Whilst I was in the midst of stuffing my face with monster-themed calories, I got a message on my phone. It was from my doctor. My eyes widened with surprise as I read over what he had to say.

My doctor said:

“Is a zip line like a riding coaster suspended line? No problem. Take care of yourself about COVID-19!”

How can I even express the emotions I felt then? It wasn’t an overwhelming elation, but more like a sense of happy disbelief that blended into a bubbling sheen of relief.

I could ride the zipline. It was okay. My doctor said it would be okay.

You have to understand, the previous year I had been riding a rollercoaster of a very different sort—an emotional coaster from hell, where my every jolt and twist felt like I could die, and maybe I would never see my family, my friends, anyone I loved again. It felt like so many of the things I loved the most in life such as foods and some forms of entertainment, to simple feelings of security, to just being able to run for the bus—all these aspects felt like they were being ripped away from me.

One of the parts of my life that I have enjoyed immensely in Japan has been the chance to visit various amusement parks, whether USJ and their Godzilla attractions (and of course their many other rides), to Space World back when it was still operating (I had a nice date there years ago with a beautiful young lady), to Fuji-Q and some of the world’s fastest rollercoasters… many of my great memories in Japan have been at these singular worlds of enchantment. I have still visited the occasional amusement park after my attack, such as Joypolis, or Haus Ten Bos (a Netherlands-themed amusement park near Nagasaki)… but I have felt constrained, tied down, limited to hesitantly nibble on green roughage and tiptoe around all the rides that might even bump me at more than two miles an hour.

I never thought I would get to ride a roller coaster again, let alone the Godzilla Interception Operation Awaji zipline through Godzilla’s mouth.

It was like I was marching up to death, nodding in his face, and joyfully, gleefully receiving the chance to fly, fly through the air, life firmly held for even just a shivering moment of eidetic emotion.

I feel like in some ways I am overselling what I actually felt in that moment, and yet… I felt free. I finished eating my array of Japanese science-fiction-inspired goodness with a lightened sense of freedom, then waltzed back around to the ticket desk and plopped down my 7000 yen (geesh!) for the Godzilla theater, zipline, Godzilla cell shooting, and museum experience. I was ready. It was happening.

The Godzilla Short Film

Before embarking on the zipline experience, first, with each ticket, customers get the chance to watch a short film which sets the scene. This short film was made especially for Nijigen no Mori and the Godzilla Interception Operation Awaji attractions, and it includes original special-effects sequences featuring Godzilla and the military, actors, etc. The short film is seven-and-a-half minutes long and was directed by Kazuhiro Nakagawa, who also directed the excellent “Godzilla vs. Evangelion” film attraction for Universal Studios Japan, and who served as an assistant director on Shin Godzilla (2016). I saw him in person at the Awaji Kaiju Film Festival earlier in 2021 where his short film “Day of the Kaiju” was shown, and where he spoke. The Nijigen no Mori film is quite short, and in an interview, Nakagawa said they kept it at this length because the viewers would be standing the whole time, and any length longer than ten minutes would be too much for comfort.

The theater indeed does not provide seats, though there are sort of cushioned bars that I could lean against—when I went through the first time, I was the only person in the theater. The room, which felt a bit like a refurbished small warehouse, had awesome Godzilla-related paraphernalia on the walls. These decorations were designed to look like scientific documents and studies on Godzilla.

The film showing was introduced by a staff member dressed in military fatigues. The particular staff lady who gave the speech for me did not really get into her part, and honestly I didn’t catch quite what she said. Still, the actual film included subtitles in three languages, so understanding it was not a problem. English subtitles ran along the bottom, with Korean and Chinese on the sides.

The short film tells the story of how Godzilla appeared in ancient times in Awaji, and that his appearance was recorded in the Kojiki (an early collection of Japanese myths, history, and poetry). When Godzilla appeared again in the Meiji period (1868-1912), one photograph was taken proving the monster’s existence—and we are shown that photograph, depicting the familiar Shin Godzilla towering above a hill, much like the iconic first clear appearance of Godzilla in the 1954 film. This Meiji attack spurred the Japanese government to prepare for any future encounters with the legendary beast. Before long, strange events begin occurring near Awaji Island, such as dead whales washing ashore, ships sinking, strange rumblings and roars. Godzilla himself appears swimming underwater, and then emerges from the waves, red ooze mixing with the sea. Jets are dispersed, shooting off arcing flares that guide Godzilla inland (ala Godzilla Raids Again, though not out to sea this time!). Godzilla then stomps across Nijigen no Mori until underground explosions bury him halfway underneath dirt and rock (perhaps referencing a similar scene in King Kong vs. Godzilla). The Big G, clearly upset by this turn of events, blasts the surrounding countryside with his zappy breath. Trees and rocks explode, and his attack nearly takes out the jets flying above. A special chemical agent is dropped in two bombs, which both manage to fall directly into the monster’s gaping mouth and paralyze him in place. The government continues to monitor Godzilla in his frozen state, and you are part of this monitoring force. Somehow ziplining is a part of the Godzilla monitoring going on, and you also get to shoot Godzilla cells which are becoming too active and need to be calmed down.

Special mention needs to be made of the performance by Hirona Yamazaki as Yuri Saegusa in the short film. Yamazaki, who will be most familiar to fans in the West for her role in Monster Hunter (2020), has also appeared in many Japanese films and dramas. I personally have also seen her perform in Orange (2015), Let’s Go, Jets! (2017), and 50 First Kisses (2018)—the Japanese remake of the Adam Sandler comedy. Her character here is a researcher who plays a sort of guide role for the audience; she is not the narrator per se, but still comments on and welcomes guests to the ride. According to an interview included in the Godzilla Interception Operation Awaji Operation Manual which I picked up at the gift shop, the director had an image of Saegusa as an intelligent, cool, and strong-willed individual… and Yamazaki claims she is none of these things, so she hopes that her performance can make the audience feel her character possesses these qualities. The interviewer asked her about the connection to Miki Saegusa from the Heisei/VS Godzilla series, and Yamazaki tells a story about how, at the 2020 Godzilla Fes, when her character’s name was announced, there was a huge reaction amongst the fans… but she doesn’t go so far as to say that her character is meant to actually be related to the psychic, unfortunately. (My head canon is that she is Miki’s cousin. Miki had a little brother in Hisashi Yasui’s Godzilla vs. Mothra manga adaptation, so why not?) She also includes several other aspects of the filming experience in the interview, such as how she could sense the director and staff’s love of Godzilla films, and how the original plan had been to film at Awaji Island, but that due to the pandemic she had to film elsewhere. The interview winds up with her comments on trying out the zipline and other attractions.

One last thing I wanted to say about Yamazaki’s performance was that, at the end of the video, the camera holds on her, and she gives this sort of knowing smile. When I saw this, because of the length of the shot, I wondered if this was like a wink-wink, nudge-nudge sort of thing. I thought maybe the idea is to say to the audience, “have fun!” Or maybe she was thinking, “This is all kind of silly.” To my surprise, this scene was actually mentioned in the interview. Yamazaki says that the smile was director Nakagawa’s idea, and that he wanted to show Yuri Saegusa as a cool career woman who accidentally shows her emotion/smile in that scene. I suppose this gives some insight into how Nakagawa imagines professional women in Japan more than anything, but at least for me, it didn’t work in the video.

Zipline

After the cinema viewing wrapped up, I was given a card to show I had finished that leg of the experience—I also got a card after the zipline, and the shooting, and I believe after the museum.

Nijigen no Mori Cards

When I walked over to the zipline attraction and got in line, I was asked to fill out a questionnaire that included a question about heart health. I asked the staff about it, and admitted that I had heart disease, but that my doctor said it was okay for me to participate, and the staff said that if I felt confident, then that was fine—and so we marched forward!

I had to put my stuff (my bag, hat, headphones, wallet, phone, etc.) in a locker, and then choose if I wanted to take the zipline through Godzilla’s mouth, or alongside so I could see the monster from the outside. I chose to zipline through Shin’s mouth, and, after getting all the straps and headgear in place, I tromped up the stairs to get ready.

As I approached the zipline takeoff spot, I had a bit of a flashback to when I went skydiving in 2014. Prepping myself for the zipline was nowhere near as scary as flying thousands of feet in the air and dropping out of an airplane, but I still had a slight sense of hesitation. There were various rules I was to follow on the zipline—things like promising not to jerk around mid-ride or jump off the launch area myself at the beginning (the staff push you off after you’re secure, which is also similar to my skydiving experience). In the end, to get ready, I had to climb a few steps up onto a short stepping stool and allow the staff guy to clip my harness to the wire and set me on my way.

Apparently, I don’t have much fear of heights! When he pushed me off the launching platform, it was truly smooth sailing. It just felt comfortable, with a bit of wind, not too fast, almost like I was on a gentle cruise into the monster’s digestive tract. As I sailed into Shin’s throat, I could see flashing lights around me, and dramatic sound effects echoing from speakers imbedded in the huge structure, lending the attraction a sense of drama and power.

The scariest part of the zipline was the end, as there is a bit of a shock when my forward momentum had to be stymied by the ride’s mechanisms. My body pitched forward as I slowed down, and I swung back and forth, and I was a little worried because of my heart, but pretty soon the staff member on the other side had me in hand, and helped me down, and I felt perfectly fine! As you might imagine, I was elated and so relieved that I had no adverse reactions from the experience. So far, with my heart disease, sometimes I find myself feeling cruddy and not knowing why, which happened when I went to the Yasuyuki Inoue exhibition in Sasebo, seemingly just from walking around. This time I felt great!

Eventually I would go back and take the zipline a second time so I could see the other route. When I did, the staff told me that, should I wait until after five pm, I could take the zipline as many times as I wanted for the price of one go. Unfortunately, I already had a plan to meet my friend in the evening for dinner, so I wasn’t able to take advantage of infinite trips through Godzilla’s stomach. Still, I paid the exorbitant price to take the trip again—I think it costs nearly 30 dollars for one go, which is pretty insane. Anyway, the price includes another viewing of the movie, too, and they asked me if I wanted to view it again, or skip it. Of course I said I wanted to watch the movie again—it was great fun the second time around as well.

The second experience on the zipline was largely similar to the first, but zipping outside along Godzilla’s side is not as exciting as zooming into his gawping jaw. You don’t get the flashing lights and sound effects, and it’s not nearly as dramatic. Nevertheless, I was so thankful for my second go, and when you travel along the outside, I found it amusing to imagine that Godzilla was watching me go, perhaps angry and frustrated that he couldn’t gobble me up.

There is a space for taking pictures with Godzilla as the background after the zip. I misunderstood the photo spot at first, seeing a sign and thinking that the photo spot was where the sign was located. I took pictures there, standing on the ground, and then realized that the spot was actually a raised platform—the sign was on the wall of the platform, indicating the platform was the photo space—not the area of dirt in front of the sign. The elevated position affords the avid photographer a clearer vantage of Godzilla, and since there weren’t many customers about, I took off my mask for some of the shots. Still, I think taking pictures at the bottom gives another wonderful perspective.

Nijigen no Mori: Godzilla Interception Operation Awaji, Part 2

Note that, in order to take the pictures, you need to retrieve your camera from the lockers first. On my second trip, I had the staff take pictures of me in the zipline gear as well, which is totally worth it.

Shooting Godzilla Cells

I received a sticker/card for completing the zipline the first time, and then it was on to the shooting game. The staff member who introduced the game explained that I had to use this big zappy gun (looks sci-fi-ish, kind of like the blasty rifles from Aliens). You tuck the false firearm against your shoulder and look through the sight, which includes a laser dot to help you aim. You line up the laser dot with the center of the cells, which are arrayed across a small stretch of land next to Godzilla. When you shoot each cell (they look like chunky blobs of flesh), you get a nice sound effect indicating you got the kill (?), and each shot racks up points. The maximum points seemed to be 9999, and there were ratings to indicate what class of cell-killer you managed in the course of your play-time, which of course is limited to just a few minutes.

My understanding was that you are trying to shoot the cells to prevent them from becoming overly active, and so at first I thought that the cells lit up first and THEN you had to shoot them as quickly as possible—a sort of kaiju whack-a-mole bit. Then I realized I was wrong—the cells only light up when you center the laser pointer on the midpoint of their fleshy bodies. Then I thought the idea was that you had to shoot ALL of the cells across the hillside. I centered my laser on cell after cell, they lit up, I shot them. But trying to shoot all of the cells slowed me down, and some that were farther away refused to light up due to the angle or distance. I ended up wasting time before realizing that I could cycle around to the same cells over and over again to pile on the points more quickly. By the time I made that realization, it was too late, and I bottomed out with a score in the 3000s.

Looking back, the game seems TOO simple; if I can just go back and forth between two or three cells and shoot them to infinity and beyond, the game becomes really boring. There is little skill or strategy involved. Part of the issue might be that I was playing by myself… Probably it is more fun to play with friends and try to get the highest score, and blocking your friend’s shots by shooting the cells they are aiming for before they can pull the trigger might add a mischievous layer of amusement to the proceedings. But for me playing alone, the game (as far as I could understand its mechanics) was remarkably lame.

The Godzilla Museum

I experienced the Godzilla Museum in 2020 as well, and at the time, I thought it was a temporary fixture to fill space until the real attraction—the zipline—was installed. Apparently, I misunderstood (this really became a running gag that day, as you will soon see). The museum remains on the grounds, and only the final third or so of the building switches out exhibit space for special occasions. In the interim between my first and second visits, there had been a Godzilla: Singular Point exhibit, and the day I went there was a Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) one. To be honest, though I loved Godzilla vs. Kong, if I had my druthers I would rather have checked out an SP exhibit… but I will take what I can get.

Before entering the museum, a young lady in military fatigues (another staff member) asked if I wanted to try my luck at several very childish games in order to win Godzilla prizes. It cost money to try, but I wanted the full experience, so I got the full shebang. The first game was to shoot a dwonky-cheap toy bow and arrow, each arrow tipped with a suction cup, and nail three Rodans from Single Point. (Too bad they weren’t whistling PET bottles…) I believe I had nine shots to do it in. Plus she gave me some practice shots. I think I ended up getting two hits, so I didn’t win—note that it was a lot easier for me to make the shots when crouching, so if you have the chance, there’s my tip.

Godzilla: Singular Point Game

The second game was not a game—she just gave me a do-it-yourself Godzilla: Singular Point handheld.

The last bit was to choose a rope from a selection of maybe twenty or thirty and pull on it. If you choose the right rope, you can win an expensive toy model of the Godzilla life-size statue at Awaji. I ended up pulling the wrong rope and just getting a pretty sweet looking clear-file.

The first time I did the Godzilla Museum, they had an audio guide I could use—which I took advantage of. This time, for some reason, none was offered, which was fine. As mentioned above, the only new stuff was a section towards the back with Godzilla vs. Kong displays.

The first part of the GvK section was a Legendary Godzilla statue, human-sized, with an image of an attacking King Kong in the background. I posed with the Godzilla, and a friendly staff member took pictures. There were also various toys and images of the Monsterverse creatures with background information about each of them. Rodan, for example, is said to have magma running through his veins and possessing of incredible destructive powers in his claws akin to a jet’s weaponry. The Warbat meanwhile has a bite strength of 5,900 pounds per inch, and injects 9,800 gallons of venom with one bite, has 14 foot poison fangs, and a venomous strike that moves at 121 miles per second on average. Many of the monsters include such information (even the Rock Critter!), and such details add a lot of great fun for lore-hounds.

The Godzilla Museum

Curiously, Kong got relatively little attention in the exhibit, despite being the unqualified protagonist monster of the film. Not only does Godzilla get the statue with Kong taking the backseat as an image only, Kong further gets shafted with little information on the exhibits, and another 2D image/cutout set up against a smaller model was set up around the corner towards the exit. There was even a poster boasting “King vs. Kong”—the “king” of course being Godzilla, even though “king” is part of Kong’s name.

King vs. Kong

I got a strong sense that the creators of the exhibit had an unfair bias against the mighty ape, which is really a shame—I LOVED Kong in the movie. However, the advertisements for the movie in Japan also showed a similar bias—most memorably asking “Who is stronger,” before answering “Godzilla” in the same ad. It reminded me of how, when Godzilla movies were being made simultaneously in Japan and the USA with the Monsterverse and Shin and the anime trilogy, there seemed to be an idiotic rivalry going on, with each new iteration of the monster bigger than the last—culminating in the absurdly huge Godzilla Earth. I wonder if this antipathy against Kong is a further symptom of the same dumbtastic rivalry.

I bought a ton of stuff from the gift shop, including a Rodan hat with wings and an awesome shirt featuring an ancient-Japan appearance of Godzilla and some new Godzilla snacks… and even a Godzilla bath bomb.

When I left the museum, one of the staff members asked me if I wanted to take part in another task to attempt to win a t-shirt. In order to participate, I had to upload pics on social media from my visit… which I already had! The staff just asked me to add tags for Nijigen no Mori and Godzilla, which I readily did. I was having too much fun not to give their final task a try.

The final game for the free t-shirt was similar to the Rodan shooting task I had attempted earlier—just this time I had balls covered with suckers that I had to throw to stick on a board with targets and a range of possible scores I could achieve by managing a solid stick. The staff member said I would get three tries, and I assumed she meant I only had three throws. She actually meant three attempts with the three balls, so nine throws altogether, in order to achieve I think 450 points altogether. Anyway, I screwed up because after missing and thinking I had already lost, I threw wildly and totally biffed my chances. I was in high spirits, though, and didn’t really mind losing. The staff member gave me postcards to share with readers from Toho Kingdom, so if you want one, message me on the Facebook page, and I can send you one of them as long as I still have some (assuming I can dig them up at this point).

Revisiting Nijigen no Mori and the Godzilla Interception Operation Awaji attractions was a dream come true after a truly nightmarish year. I spent way too much money, but had a fantastic time—I even realized that, had the full-size statue been complete last year, I would not have been able to ride because I was TOO FAT at the time (since the heart attack, I have lost around 80 pounds, or over a third of my weight—though I since regained a bit). Life is difficult now, and I face an uncertain and possibly quite scary future, but I want to spend however many days and years I have left (and I hope to have many) with hope and excitement, doing meaningful things, surpassing goals, and generally living life as full as I can. Readers, anybody out there, please, cherish your days—every day is precious. Your health is worth protecting. Spend time with family. Connect and reconnect with loved ones. Make your dreams happen and don’t just sit on them until it’s too late.

That’s what I did when I visited Nijigen no Mori for the second time, and I am so thankful I got the chance to face my monsters and manage to overcome my fears in spectacular fashion. I deeply hope you can overcome whatever monsters may be lurking in your lives, too, and that your finest dreams may come to fruition. Let’s make the future a brighter place. Thank you for reading.