Pushing Pedals in an Exploration to Find Tokyo’s Myriad Monsters

Befitting the world’s largest city’s proclivity for being destroyed – and saved – over and again on almost countless occasions over the past several decades, Godzilla is an almost ubiquitous presence in Tokyo.

Godzilla can be found roaming in several parts of Tokyo, from the leafy suburbs of Denenchofu right in the central hub areas of Shinjuku, where he peers over the Kabukicho entertainment district, to the posh shopping area of Hibiya.

Inspired by Tokyo Time Out’s feature from last summer on the 10 monsters you’ll meet in Tokyo, Kangaeroo finally got on the bike and headed out to check out the creepy colossuses dotting Tokyo’s streets and parks.

Godzilla is probably the quintessential Japanese monster, so gets first write-up. Godzilla statues can be found in many areas associated with Toho, the film studio that first gave birth to the creature.

Toho Studios has a huge mural and a statue dedicated to its most famous monster. Godzilla also looms over cinemas in central Tokyo.

Godzilla in Hibiya
Hibiya’s Godzilla viewed from a safe spot
Godzilla looms over Kabukicho

Godzilla has a long-term rival in King Kong, dating back to the early 1960s in Japan, and also prominent in Hollywood. Although not specified as such, considering the enormity of the beast, it’s little surprise that the gigantic ape also occupies a prime position in Tokyo’s annals of monsters.

King Kong-like giant apes can be found along Setagaya-dori, an arterial road leading into central Tokyo from the western suburbs.

Setagaya-dori’s gorilllas

The first Kong adorns a glasses store. There are actually two gorillas, one with a headband, holding a lovebug and sucking on a cigar, and the other an apparent offspring bearing a flag urging road users to drive safely, somewhat ironic considering how much of a distraction it is on the busy road.

The next great ape is a few kilometers further down the same road in Sangenjaya, a mini-hub from the suburbs on the road into the Tokyo sub-center of Shibuya and meeting point for Route 246, a prime road in Tokyo that also heads out of the capital toward Odawara, Hakone and Mount Fuji.

Sangenjaya’s great gorilla sits atop a convenience store in a bustling shopping street leading off the main route. It holds a a woman in its hands and a smaller gorilla also adorns the entry to the building.

Sangenjaya gorilla

The reason for the existence of these gorillas has apparently been lost in the annals of time. They appear to be a relic of Japan’s booming postwar decades when there was money to throw around on advertising that would stand out from the crowd. There are “gorilla buildings” across Japan, and not just these examples from Tokyo.

Speaking of throwing money around, few do so better than Roppongi Hills, a center of wealth in Tokyo, and home to some monsters (including Goldman-Sachs, possibly one of the most hideous monsters of all). Maman is a spider-like sculpture on permanent display, while coincidentally there is currently also an array of pocket monsters on show.

Other monsters on the trip were in somewhat nondescript parks.

Tire Park in Ota-ku in the southern part of Tokyo has a collection of huge monsters made from tires. The monsters include dinosaurs and a robot.

Finally, not far from the ancient temple of Jindaiji, there’s a small park in Chofu dedicated to the animation of Shigeru Mizuki’s famous Gegege no Kitaro, a delightful story of spirit monsters. The film version was produced in Chofu and allegedly set in the area, and the city responded by creating the park, which is hugely popular among the young, and the young at heart.

All in all, the Tokyo Monster Ride was a fabulous trip, and could be even more enjoyable if taken along back roads on bike paths instead of the sometimes hairy routes that Kangaeroo rode.

Would love to go around in milder weather. Moreover, there are still plenty of other monsters to find, in addition to live-sized robots and all sorts of kitsch culture in Tokyo. Warmer months could be fun.

Beautifully Breaks the Tama River Morning

Mornings can be hard to get up for, particularly in the cold and dark of winter.

Yet, some things make it worth waking early for.

Waking, then moving, can be a great way to start the day.

It can get the body working and warmed up before the mind takes over, or even put the mind in a decent space.

In Kangaeroo’s case, it’s handy. The mind is rarely friendly.

Winter 2021-2 has not been particularly constructive.

Moved to a home last year, renovations kept it dark….for three months.

Work is not going well. Laid off three times in 2021. Not feasible to retire.

Bike breakdowns, and no replacement parts owing to supply problems.

Camera stops working and repairs cost as much as a new one.

Working extra jobs to try to recover lost income.

Can’t ride, can’t shoot, can’t avoid work. Darkness.

But the glorious mornings are worth waking for.

The gorgeous light as it breaks through the dark. The solitude. The serenity.

Make it all worthwhile.

Dekochari, Proud Member of Japan’s Itasha ‘Cringeworthy Cars’ Family

Long past their heyday, even in English-language coverage, dekochari, decorated bicycles, continue to survive in miniscule numbers even in today’s Japan.

Dekochari derived from the dekotora, decorated trucks, that became hugely popular throughout the archipelago in the 1970s on the back of the Torakku Yaro series of films, and which seem to be a symbol of Japan for some right through to this day.

Dekochari are ordinary bicycles adorned with flashing lights, blaringly loud horns, flags, chrome panels, mirrors and assorted other ornaments.

Most of the dekochari are handmade by kids too young to get a license, and many are crafted by those aspiring to one day drive a dekotora.

(Kangaeroo remembers plenty of dekotora on the roads in the late ’80s and early ’90s, but they are a rarity nowadays, at least in western and central Tokyo.)

Many of the dekochari aficionados are connected online at least, and pre-pandemic would sometimes take part in dekotora display shows.

There appears to be a market for dekochari merchandise anyway, with most online retailers catering to the hobby.

Dekochari are part of a much broader category of vehicle known as itasha: literally, cringeworthy cars. These are vehicles, mostly passenger cars, adorned with pictures of mostly favorite anime characters.

Itasha are hardly common, but are on the roads often enough to not be particularly noteworthy.

The ita of itasha is the adjectival form of itai, or painful, and refers to how the vehicles are painful to look at, painful on the wallet and painfully embarrassing.

Check out a gallery of dekochari accessible through links on this page.

Japan Has an Awesome Subculture of Gundam-Style Bikes

So It Goes…

Today marks farewell to Premiership Palace.

Kangaeroo is no longer a Kanagawa kenmin (resident of Kanagawa Prefecture) from Kurokawa.

Well, at least not after today.

If nothing else, at least the pandemic allowed Kangaeroo to explore the neighborhood, getting to know what a delightful place it was.

Time in Kanagawa has been very kind to Kangaeroo.

In addition to allowing for a ramping up of cycling efforts, it has also been the place where he could watch his beloved Richmond Tigers become the most dominant team in Australian football.

When Kangaeroo arrived in Kanagawa, the Tigers were something of a laughing stock.

Out of the blue, they won that year’s premiership, were hot favorites but missed out the following year and then won the two subsequent flags.

Things haven’t been too great this year, but the season is far from over yet despite more pandemic pressure.

Eat ’em alive!

Farewell Kurokawa, Kanagawa, I loved you dearly and thank you wholeheartedly. A new chapter awaits, starting today.

What a Gift!

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, May is, in Kangaeroo’s opinion, the nicest time of the year in Japan.

Having said that, 2021 has been a little out of the ordinary.

Where we are normally blessed with dry, warm, sunny weather at this time of year, but much of the month has been bleak and sodden.

Combined with preparation for a move of home, conditions have conspired to curtail Kangaeroo’s much-loved cycling at a time when it was expected to peak.

This effect was demoralizing, leading to excess eating, dearth of exercise and a downward spiral of mental and physical deterioration. It doesn’t take much!

But it doesn’t take much to bounce back, either, and Mother Nature blessed us with a week’s worth of weather typical of May, inspiring bucketloads of delight.

And little more delight came from the spectacular show that the natural world turned on early this morning. It was a delightful gift and appreciated with heartfelt gratitude.

May It Be That Way

May is Kangaeroo.com’s favorite time of the year.

Normally, dry, warm and sunny, flowers bloom and the month is a visual and sensual delight.

This year has been unseasonably sodden, but that’s good practice for the upcoming rainy season that will begin in early June.

Normally, May is a great time for relaxing and cycling, but this year has also been a bit different.

Kangaeroo is on the move and has spent most of the month getting ready for the shift.

In that regard, the lousy weather has been a bit of a godsend, limiting the temptation to get on a bike and get away from it all.

It might be a while before the next entry, too, but some of the visual highlights of the month so far, most of them from cycling, can be found here.

Early on in the month, concentration was on riding through the mountains, enjoying the warmer weather. Now, moving into the middle of the month, focus has shifted on work and moving to the new pouch.

Glad to be Alive

Kangaeroo is easy to be critical and cynical, less so to be thankful.

Today, he is taking a moment to be thankful for life.

Kangaeroo loves life, even though he has largely made a mess of his own until recent years.

Life interrupted this week, preventing any significant entry here, but not stopping time on the bike.