It has been a very rough morning, as we can confirm our beloved hero and iconic friend, Haruo Nakajima-san, has passed away August 7th, 2017 at age 88. He is survived by his daughter and thousands of loving friends and fans worldwide. We have lost the “Soul of Godzilla”, but his memory and incredible contributions to cinema survive with us all.
A friend to both us and the Nakajimas, Michi Nishimura, confirmed his passing this morning. Nakajima’s daughter, Sonoe, let friends and family know around 8:00pm at night (JST – Japan Standard Time) that her father had passed.
Nakajima-san was born January 1st, 1929 in Yamagata, Japan and would grow up to witness, first hand, the destruction that World War II brought upon his beloved country and the world at large. As a working actor, his unique talents not only started, but defined an entire genre of film – and gave birth to the Tokusatsu artform alongside fellow pioneers such as Ishiro Honda and Eiji Tsuburaya, both of which considered him “irreplaceable”. His timeless portrayal of Godzilla in the 1954 classic, Gojira, serves as the pinnacle of many performances that will forevermore provoke wonder, instill respect, and inspire joy within cinema fans around the world.
As a Tokusatsu suit actor, stuntman, and performer, Haruo Nakajima of course gave us Godzilla, but also brought life to other monstrous classics such as Gaira in War of the Gargantuas (1966), and King Kong in King Kong Escapes (1967) , as well as numerous other roles in classics ranging from Rodan (1956) to Toho’s masterpiece The Seven Samurai (also in 1954).
- 1952 – Sword For Hire
- 1952 – The Woman Who Touched the Legs
- 1953 – Eagle of the Pacific
- 1954 – Farewell Rabaul
- 1954 – Seven Samurai
- 1954 – Godzilla (Godzilla, Newspaper Writer)
- 1954 – Tomei Ningen (Invisible Man)
- 1955 – Meoto zenzai
- 1955 – Godzilla Raids Again (Godzilla)
- 1956 – Madame Whitesnake
- 1956 – Rodan (Rodan, Meganulon, JSDF Officer)
- 1957 – The Mysterians (Mogera, JDSF Officer)
- 1958 – Varan the Unbelievable (Varan)
- 1958 – The H-Man (The H-Man, Fishing Boat Crew)
- 1958 – The Hidden Fortress
- 1959 – Boss of the Underworld
- 1959 – Submarine I-57 Will Not Surrender
- 1959 – Desperado Outpost
- 1959 – The Last Gunfight
- 1960 – Secret of the Telegian
- 1960 – Storm Over the Pacific
- 1960 – Westward Desperado
- 1960 – The Human Vapor
- 1961 – Yojimbo
- 1961 – Daredevil in the Castle
- 1961 – Mothra (Mothra)
- 1961 – The Last War
- 1961 – The Story of Osaka Castle
- 1962 – King Kong vs. Godzilla (Godzilla)
- 1962 – Chushingura: Hana no Maki, Yuki no Maki
- 1963 – Wings Over the Pacific
- 1963 – Sengoku Yaro
- 1963 – Matango (Matango)
- 1963 – Atragon
- 1964 – Mothra vs. Godzilla (Godzilla)
- 1964 – Dogora, the Space Monster
- 1964 – Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (Godzilla)
- 1965 – Retreat from Kiska
- 1965 – Frankenstein vs. Baragon (Baragon)
- 1965 – Invasion of the Astro-Monster (Godzilla)
- 1966 – The War of the Gargantuas (Gaira)
- 1966 – What’s Up, Tiger Lily (footage from Kokusai himitsu keisatsu: Kagi no kagi 1965)
- 1966 – Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (Godzilla)
- 1967 – Son of Godzilla (Godzilla; water scenes only)
- 1967 – King Kong Escapes (King Kong)
- 1968 – Destroy All Monsters (Godzilla, Military Adviser)
- 1969 – Latitude Zero (Gryphon, Manbat, Giant Rat, Lion)
- 1969 – All Monsters Attack (Godzilla)
- 1970 – Space Amoeba (Gezora, Ganime)
- 1971 – Godzilla vs. Hedorah (Godzilla)
- 1972 – Godzilla vs. Gigan (Godzilla, Comic Book Publisher, Defense Forces Officer)
- 1973 – Japan Sinks (Prime Minister’s Chauffeur)
- 1966 – Ultra Q (Gomess, Pagos)
- 1966, 1967 – Ultraman (Neronga, Gabora, Jirass, Kiyla)
- 1967, 1968 – Ultra Seven (U-Tom)
His work began with Toho studios as a stuntman, one who brought unmatched vigor and gusto to his outstanding performances. Nakajima-san himself recounted that it was his work in The Seven Samurai that won him the role of Godzilla, one he would embody from the 1954 original all the way to Godzilla vs. Gigan in 1973.
It is impossible to reiterate here how much his work through these cinema classics has meant to us all, and how terribly he will be missed.
Nakajima-san loved – absolutely adored – traveling to the United States to spend time with his fans and “fandom family”. Many of us were extremely fortunate to spend wonderful days and evenings with Nakajima-san, sharing his deep fondness for Godzilla and Tokusatsu at conventions, while dining, admiring toys, and many other priceless occasions.
This was never a chore for Nakajima as he was always the first to share, while in Japan or here in the states, that he truly cherished the love our Kaiju Fandom has for his work, his heart, and his legacy.
To celebrate his life and his recent memory with friends, we have included a full gallery of personal photography with friend and legend Haruo Nakajima-san, all from the incredibly gifted hands of our dear companion David Eric Dopko – who’s work has captured the sheer joy of Nakajima’s time spent with us like no one else.
Rest In peace, Nakajima-san. We will miss you terribly.
Jon D. B. & the Kaiju Fandom