Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Japan Tourism: Tapping Into The Monster Fan Market

by Armand Vaquer

Above, the Wako Department store in Ginza was seen by westerners for the first time in "Godzilla, King of the Monsters!" in 1956.

The March 11 earthquake, tsunami and fears over radiation leakage from the Fukushima nuclear power plant hit the Japan tourism industry hard.

Only a small portion of Japan was affected by the disaster, but cancellations in unaffected areas of Japan are up. Japan's tourism industry leaders are working hard to to reassure people that Japan is safe to visit. Their efforts seem to be paying off as tourist numbers have been inching upward.

Although these efforts are helping to entice travelers to Japan, travel industry leaders have to also "think outside the box" and come up with new, innovative tour ideas get more inbound travelers from other countries.

Many people's first exposure to Japan (in the post-World War II years) have been through Japanese science-fiction movies. This started in 1956 when the westernized version of Godzilla, King of the Monsters! was released in America and in other western countries. This was followed by more movies including Rodan (1956), Mothra (1961) and others.

Above, the Saikai Bridge that crosses the Hario Straits in Kyushu was featured in "Rodan" a year after completion.

In a way, these movies served as travel advertisements for Japan. People became curious about seeing modern Tokyo, Mt. Fuji and other landmarks in Japan that were shown in the movies. Quite often, people began to look into other aspects of Japanese culture because of these films.

One way to "think outside the box" in enticing people to come to Japan is to market tours to these locations and landmarks that people saw in their youth (and later, since Toho Studios produced Godzilla movies until 2004).

When I wrote The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan, I wanted it to accomplish two things: 1.) Provide a guide to fans of Japanese giant monster movies (daikaiju eiga) so they can travel to Japan and see these locations and, 2.) Make the guide a useful tool for Japan travel agents and tour companies for use in planning tours to these locations and landmarks. Many in the Japan tourism industry have no idea what locations and landmarks in Japan were shown in these movies around the world.

Above, the Yokohama waterfront was a monster battlefield in two movies in the past 20 years.

I have spoken to Japanese travel industry professionals over the years and quite often they are surprised at the reach and popularity of Godzilla (and other monsters) in other countries.

Another fact, most of the locations and landmarks shown in the movies are outside of the earthquake-affected area. Generally, they are mostly from Tokyo to the south, with some in Hokkaido and Kyushu.

The Japanese tourism industry would be doing itself a big favor in marketing tours with the focus on Japanese monster movies to potential tourists to Japan. Monster fans would be a great tourist market to tap into.

The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan would be a big help in tapping into that market!

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Burbank, CA – March 29, 2010 – Legendary Pictures announced today that they will develop and produce a new film based on Toho Company’s famed GODZILLA character. Through the terms of the agreement, Legendary Pictures has acquired the rights to produce a movie inspired by Toho’s Godzilla, a franchise the Japanese company created and has nurtured for over fifty years.

Toho’s GODZILLA franchise boasts one of the most widely recognized film creatures worldwide, resulting in a series of books, television programs, video games and more than 25 films worldwide. Legendary intends to approach the film and its characters in the most authentic manner possible. The company will, in the near future, announce a filmmaker to helm the film for an intended 2012 release. The film will fall under the company’s co-production and co-financing deal with Warner Bros. Toho will distribute the film in Japan."

"Godzilla" is coming back -- this time, with Legendary Pictures taking the lead, co-producing and co-financing with Warner Bros. for release in 2012.

Legendary announced Monday it had obtained rights to the iconic monster character from Japan's Toho Co., which has overseen more than 25 "Godzilla" films. Toho will release the pic in Japan.

Legendary said it's planning to announce a director shortly.

In addition to Legendary, producers on the new film will be Dan Lin, Roy Lee and Brian Rogers. Yoshimitsu Banno, Kenji Okuhira and Doug Davison will exec produce.

"Godzilla is one of the world's most powerful pop culture icons, and we at Legendary are thrilled to be able to create a modern epic based on this long-loved Toho franchise," said Thomas Tull, Chairman and CEO of Legendary. "Our plans are to produce the Godzilla that we, as fans, would want to see. We intend to do justice to those essential elements that have allowed this character to remain as pop-culturally relevant for as long as it has."

Legendary noted the film will fall under its co-production and co-financing deal with Warner Bros. Legendary's productions with Warners have included "The Dark Knight," "300" and "The Hangover."

Speculation about a new "Godzilla" has been active since last summer. The Bloody Disgusting web site reported in August that the project was in development.