The great 747 lifted in to the air from Chicago O'Hare, pulled an S-turn over downtown as if in salute to the hometown before pointing its nose to the northwest on a direct track to Tokyo, Japan. There was no more excited passenger on that airplane than myself, guaranteed. The First Class cabin was virtually empty save for myself, my traveling companion and maybe two others but the reason for my barely contained delight was the fact that this was my first trip ever to Japan. Land of the Rising Sun, nothing - in 12 short hours I was about to set foot in the Land of the Monsters!
When I was coming up Godzilla was a camp superhero, a man in a lizard suit doing a Samurai Samba through a miniaturized recreation of Tokyo in a studio back lot. My ability to suspend all belief, however, was such that I could never figure out how they managed to rebuild Tokyo so darned fast only to have the great lizard wipe the floor all over again with Monster X, Rodan, King Ghidorah, Mothra and the rest of the gang.
How did Gamera the prehistoric turtle never get dizzy from flying in circles with the four leg openings serving as both propulsion units and exhaust ports? Didn't matter. Nothing thrilled me to the Nth degree like seeing Godzilla light up the landscape and night sky with a brilliant electric blue blast of nuclear halitosis.
I loved Godzilla. I was scared to death of Gargantua, a far more sinister creature from the deep, just as big, just as compelling but intent on human consumption instead of a playful, fire-breathing jig through the Ginza. Consumed in a fight with his more agreeable brother in the caldera of a (conveniently) new volcano, it would be years after this film before I could even look at a map of Japan and not instantly shiver and avert my eyes.
The coastline of Japan crept over the horizon announcing the end of our journey and the real beginning of my anticipation. A green patchwork of farms and golf courses spread beneath us as we crossed the beach on final approach in to Narita. The countryside looked exactly as I had remembered it from the films, a sense of compactness from the small, tightly packed houses and winding roads that enhanced both the scale of this first trip and the unimaginable size of the big guy himself.
As a full grown man I knew that monsters never existed, at least none like the contract players from Toho Studios. I was here to take care of the company's business and be sharp about it. The main gear bumped, the nose gear thudded and the reverse thrust of the engines roared our welcome to Japan. It was a beautiful Spring afternoon outside and I couldn't wait to make that all important first impression upon my Japanese hosts.
Just one last check out the window before deplaning to make sure there weren't any visible T-Rex tracks on the ground, though.