Every summer, as part of our effort to see as many brightly colored explosions as possible, my wife and I head to Kurihama in Kanagawa Prefecture to watch the neighborhood’s annual fireworks festival. In the past I always had to work on the day of the event, so we’d arrive just as they started launching the rockets, but this year I had the day off, so my wife suggested heading down early to do a little sightseeing. “We can go to Kurihama Flower World!” she offered, referring to the area’s expansive garden.
Sure, I thought, that might be kind of nice and romantic. I was a little surprised by her enthusiasm, though, since early July isn’t exactly the best time for flower viewing in Japan. It’s right in the gap between when hydrangeas and sunflowers are at their most beautiful, so what exactly did she want to check out there?
“We can see Godzilla,” she explained, which just might be the most convincing argument for going someplace ever.
Kurihama is part of the city of Yokosuka, which makes it about a 40-minute train ride from Yokohama Station. It’s a moderately developed neighborhood, with a port, ferry terminal, and handful of factories, but nonetheless there’s only one exit from Keikyu Kurihama Station.
Unfortunately, there’ s no bus to Kurihama Flower World, so unless you feel like shelling out for a taxi, you’re looking at a 15-minute walk to the front gate. After walking through the station’s turnstile, hang a left to exit the station building, then turn right once you’re outside at the bus and taxi rotary.
After a few minutes, you’ll come to a sign directing you to turn left for Kurihama Flower World.
▼ The official English name is a slight upgrade from the Japanese one, Kurihama Hana no Kuni, which translates as “Kurihama Flower Country.”
Oddly enough, even though you’re still 840 meters, or a little over a half-mile, away from the park entrance, this is the last sightseeing directory of this style you’ll pass by. Instead, as you walk in the direction the arrows point, keep an eye out for the vertical sign on the right side of the street that says Kurihama Hana no Kuni in Japanese.
Turn right in front of the sign, and you’ll be on the final approach to the main entrance.
After all this walking, there’s a pleasant surprise: entrance to Kurihama Flower World is completely free!
The park is incredibly spacious, and contains an outdoor foot bath, herb garden, restaurant, and lookout platform. Our destination, though, was the section of the park called Adventure Land.
▼ The reason we came
Because of the park’s size, there’s a tram called the Flower Train that shuttles adult guests around the grounds for 210 yen (US $2.05), or kids for 100 yen.
We’d just missed it when we arrived, which meant more walking, as Godzilla stands about 800 meters from the gate. On the plus side, this gave us more time to admire the gorgeous view. Flower World’s biggest botanical attraction is its sprawling poppy and cosmos field, and while neither flower was blooming during our visit, the late afternoon sunlight shining down into the valley, and the walls of greenery surrounding it, made us forget for a moment that we were just about an hour south of Tokyo.
But just what is Godzilla doing in this otherwise tranquil-looking park? The answer lies in the very first film in the series. When the creature emerged from the sea, his first step on solid ground was at Tatarahama, a beach that’s also in Yokosuka. In commemoration of this momentous moment in cinema/giant monster history, in 1958 a Godzilla slide for kids to play on was installed at Tatarahama.
Eventually, though, the years, elements, and countless tiny bottoms took their toll. By 1973, the slide was no longer fit for use, and had to be torn down. Just like in the movies, though, the giant lizard refused to be totally defeated, and more than 25 years later, Godzilla would rise again.
▼ Just 200 meters left to go!
Members of the community began gathering funds for a new Godzilla slide. Over 100,000 individuals got involved, as did 203 companies, including both local businesses and Toho, the studio behind the film franchise.
▼ Is that…?!
▼ It is!
Finally, in 1999, the King of the Monsters returned.
Compared to the Tatarahama version, Kurihama’s Godzilla is much closer to his on-screen appearance, with a fierce look to his eyes and rows of vicious fangs. With a height of 8.75 meters (28 feet, 8 inches), he’s not quite as big as the movie version, but with a weight of five tons, he could still cause quite a lot of damage if he decided to go on a rampage.
▼ Godzilla’s gargantuan toenail
▼ “Don’t climb on me, OK? It’s dangerous!” – A message from the big guy himself
▼ Godzilla, looking cooler than he did in his 1998 American film, and slimmer than in his 2014 one.
▼ At the base of the pedestal is a list of contributors who donated to the cause of bringing Godzilla back.
Intimidating as he may look, though, Godzilla’s slide isn’t exactly a test of courage, since it’s only about as high as his waist. The entrance is up a short flight of stairs that extends from between his legs, and a sign posted says that the slide is only for kids 12 and younger.
As a matter of fact, there’re much longer slides just a few steps beyond the statue.
Still, if you’re a full-grown fan who just absolutely has to slide down Godzilla’s tail, there is one loophole you can exploit. Kids under five are asked to have an adult accompany them, so you may want to consider adopting/kidnapping a small child before coming to the park.
▼ Or, you know, bring your own children or younger siblings.
But even though we didn’t get to experience the Godzilla slide ourselves, seeing Japan’s favorite giant monster up-close and personal was a real treat. Eventually it was time to go watch the fireworks though, and while saying good-bye was hard, as a resident of Kanagawa, I definitely sleep better knowing that the prefecture has its own resident kaiju defending it.
▼ Because you never know when Ghidorah might decide to start throwing his weight around.
Kurihama Flower World / 久里浜花の国
Address: Kanagawa-ken, Yokosuka-shi, Shinmeicho 1
Tatarahama Godzilla slide image: Kanazawa 19
All other images: RocketNews24