Hibiya’s Hidden Stars

Tokyo’s Hibiya district sits at the intersection of the Kasumigaseki government area, the Ginza shopping area and the business districts of Shimbashi and Marunouchi.  It stands to reason, then, that it would be popular as a cultural and entertainment center.

Flanked by Hibiya Park and sitting atop the Hibiya subway station, the area is home to a couple of major international hotels:  The Imperial and The Peninsula.  More importantly, from the perspective of culture and entertainment, it is also host to the Tokyo theatre of the famous Takarazuka all-female revue as well as the Imperial Theatre and the Nissay Theatre, where Broadway-style shows and other stage plays, and sometimes even operas, are performed.

The area is also popular with movie-goers.  The Toho Co., a major Japanese movie production and distribution outfit coincidentally founded by the same man who created the Takarazuka revue, operates three multi-screen theaters in the area.

Hibiya has recently enjoyed a bit of revitalization with the opening six months ago of Hibiya Midtown, a retail/entertainment/office complex.  The complex is flanked by a delightful plaza and a pretty, tree-lined lane.  One feature of the plaza is Lawson Ticket Hibiya Ticket Box, a ticket purchase center to help theatre and movie-goers to easily secure tickets, even at the last minute, a bit like Broadway theatre-goers can do.

The plaza is known as “Godzilla Square”, and one has only to look up to see why.  Standing next to the Hibiya Ticket Box and three meters above the plaza is a statue of Godzilla, one of the most successful movie characters produced by Toho.  Godzilla (the name is a portmanteau of the Japanese words for gorilla and whale), supposedly produced by undersea nuclear testing in the 1950s, was introduced to the world in a 1954 movie.  This statue is not of that mythical monster but rather portrays the 2016 T Rex-ish version, with scrawny “arms” and a fantastic tail.  How this creature, borne of mutation, has “evolved” over six decades!

Call me old-fashioned, but I just can’t take to this new statue, which sits near where a statue of the original Godzilla stood before the area was renewed.  Fortunately, that statue still exists.  One just has to hunt a bit more to see it.

The original Godzilla statue is now on the fourth floor of Hibiya Midtown, in the lobby of Toho Cinema’s newest 13-screen movie theater.  The relaxing lobby also boasts wrap-around windows facing Hibiya Park and the Imperial Palace, offering beautiful, green views.

Godzilla sits in this lobby on his original plinth, with its original plaque containing a quote from that first 1954 movie:  “I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Godzilla”.  Prophetic words, indeed!  There have been at least 34 movies featuring Godzilla, as well as comic books, novels, TV programs and, of course, video games.  This makes the movie quote on the new statue in the plaza something of a prophecy fulfilled:  “Humans must co-exist with Godzilla.”

Lest you think this statue is the only hidden star in Hibiya, let me show you where to find more.

Hibiya Midtown, with four underground levels of shops and restaurants, connects to the Hibiya subway station via a cathedral-like underground plaza and also allows underground access to Hibiya Chanter, another of the commercial buildings facing Godzilla Square.  This underground corridor is called “The Star Gallery”.  Its walls are covered with displays of handprints of around 75 TV and movie stars, most, understandably, best known to Japanese viewers, but a few “international” stars as well, including Jackie Chan, Tom Cruise, and Jodie Foster.

As the plates containing the handprint and signature of each star is affixed to the wall, it is easy for visitors to place their own hands over top for comparison.  Tom Cruise has really small hands!  So does Miyamoto Nobuko; although in her case, it’s more understandable. Mifune Toshiro’s handprint, my personal favorite simply because I’m a huge fan, was roughly the size of my own.

Cartoon character, Doraemon has imprinted both hands and forehead–just for something different.  Nishida Toshiyuki, perhaps best known for the Tsuribaka Nisshi (Diary of a Fishing Fool) movies, drew a little caricature of himself, too.

Although these Hibiya stars are hidden away, it can be fun to chase them down, especially on a rainy afternoon!

© 2018 Jigsaw-japan.com and Vicki L. Beyer
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