When I was visiting the Eiji Tsuburaya Museum in Sukagawa, the very helpful and friendly staff mentioned that there is ALSO a Tokusatsu Archive Center in Sukagawa. I had not heard of the existence of such a place before coming to Sukagawa, and I quickly discovered why—the Center was only opened relatively recently, I believe in 2020, so not many fans—let alone foreign fans—have had a chance to visit the place.
Now I have to be a bit careful with my health, and I didn’t want to rush around too much and cram the Tokusatsu Archive Center into my schedule when I visited the Eiji Tsuburaya Museum. If I attempted to squeeze in the Archive Center on the same day, I thought it might be a bit too much. I had a flight planned for late afternoon on Monday, but I thought I would be able to make a quick visit to the Tokusatsu Archive Center before heading back to Tokyo for my flight.
I figured it wouldn’t be a problem.
For those planning to visit the Archive Center, bear in mind—it’s out of the way from the rest of the city. When I went, the buses did not go out to the Center very often. Neither did they come back with any kind of frequency—maybe once an hour. This travel-handicap is important to keep in mind when planning a trip; go with flexible timing, or take a taxi.
Anyway, I went first thing Monday morning, and arrived several minutes before the Tokusatsu Archive Center opened. The outside of the building is striking—it looks like a warehouse with an Ultraman kaiju silhouette (almost “life-sized”) in shadow on the outside. The kaiju is actually an original mascot character created for the Archive Center. His name is Sky King (a deliberate take on the convention of ultra kaiju sporting names such as “Red King”), and he likes cucumbers because Sukagawa is famous for the vegetable (I don’t think it’s due to any relation to kappa).
Inside, the staff spoke no English, but they were friendly, and gave me flyers/guides to the attractions inside. The guide was all in Japanese, and was illustrated by Shinji Higuchi—yes, the legendary special effects director. He was heavily involved in the founding of the Tokusatsu Archive Center, and there is even a life-size standee of the man in the building.
The idea of the Center is to preserve and put on display models, paintings, costumes, and props that remain from any and every tokusatsu property that will allow them to preserve the pieces, as well as to provide a library of resources and information about the creation of tokusatsu. The focus is especially on traditional tokusatsu effects—the physical stuff. That said, the Center hosted an unveiling of a Shin Ultraman statue in 2020, so the place is totally not against modern filmmaking techniques.
On the first floor the Center holds a number of artifacts out in the hallway, such as a massive globe and an Ultraman statue, plus model airplanes, and a video about the founding of the museum. They also have a small library of reading materials covering all things tokusatsu, though mainly in Japanese—the only English book I saw was August Ragone’s Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters book in both hardback and softcover editions! (I also saw a copy of his book in the M-78 Ultraman store on the main street in Sukagawa.)
The big highlight for most visitors is in a side room, where we get to peek into a storage area packed with props, models, costumes, and more from many different tokusatsu properties. Now Toho fans may not find much here, with one big exception—the model used for some of Jet Jaguar’s flying scenes is prominently displayed! I have seen this model before at one of the Tokusatsu no DNA exhibits in Tokyo, but it was still gratifying to meet him again. Of course there are scads of other tokusatsu-related artifacts, from Mirror Man’s mask to cars and planes from many TV series to huge warships to the marionette used in “Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo”—complete with still-glowing eyes. A warship model is highlighted especially in the storage area, and there is a video documenting how the ship was preserved and reinforced—when they fixed it up, they deliberately went about revealing the layers of its construction so that visitors could see just what kind of work goes into the creation of these pieces of art.
On the second floor, after passing by a collection of old movie cameras, visitors can also interact with a model display with another painted background similar to the one at the Eiji Tsuburaya Museum—which makes sense, as it was painted by the same man. The models this time include a rural area with vehicles, as well as a big city building. For the rural area scene, the model comes with a frame through which visitors can take pictures meant to simulate what it’s like to create movies using traditional tokusatsu techniques. Of course the idea is that, if you come with family or friends, you can take pictures together, but since I came by myself, I ended up positioning my camera on the frame, setting a timer, then hotfooting it around the model so I could get a few pictures of myself as a “rampaging monster.”
The Tokusatsu Archive Center also hosts several showings of “Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo” each day, complete with making-of documentary. Altogether the video is not very long—even with the making-of segment I believe it was less than a half-hour in length. Still, having just seen the model for the Giant God Warrior downstairs, it was all the more moving to see the creature being put together, and the final striking imagery of the monster’s attack on Tokyo. The documentary footage is also monstrously entertaining—Shinji Higuchi and his team seem to be having a grand time blowing things up, and it is astonishing to see how the shots come together. Now “Giant God Warrior Appears in Tokyo” is based on Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa franchise, and it takes direct inspiration from the giant god warriors from that film, so it is interesting to see Higuchi trying to find ways to recreate the powers of the robotic warrior in his movie—specifically the melting buildings. Curiously the CGI elements of the film are almost completely ignored, unfortunately.
The Center has a limited selection of goods for purchase—I believe they had several clear files and a sketchbook featuring Sky King, and I chose a copy of the latter. I also filled out a visitor’s card and drew a picture of Osorosu on it (a Godzilla-related monster from “Godzilla’s Big Rampage”), as I figured someone out there might enjoy seeing such an obscure kaiju appearing.
Then I had to wait a long time for the bus. I bought some cucumbers from the local fresh produce stand and ate them as I waited.
I missed my flight back to Fukuoka and ended up taking a shinkansen and spending wayyyy too much money.
It was worth it.