Reprising and adapting the narratives and symbolism of the 1962 Japanese sci-fi film King Kong vs. Godzilla (directed by Ishiro Honda), Yuki Kihara builds an incisive, timeless visual parable about imperialism, colonialism and the reality of nuclear waste in the Pacific in five kimonos which present key elements of that film.
Mr. Tako, head of Pacific Pharmaceuticals, seeking to boost publicity for his company, is told about a giant monster discovered on Faro Island, a fictitious Pacific Island. Meanwhile, Seahawk, an American nuclear submarine, gets caught in an iceberg which then collapses, releasing Godzilla who had been trapped within it since 1955. While on Faro Island, a giant octopus crawls ashore and attacks the native village in search of Farolacton juice, derived from a red berry native to the island. The mysterious Faro monster, now revealed to be King Kong, suddenly arrives and defeats the octopus. King Kong drinks vases of the juice while Japanese actors dressed in a guise as islanders perform a ‘Polynesian-styled’ God worship ceremony which lulls him to sleep. (Symbolically, Godzilla represents the technological superiority and alliance of Japan and USA, Kong the far-less developed Pacific).
Kong is then kidnapped by Mr. Tako’s men who begin to transport him back to Japan, but they are intercepted by a Japan Self-Defence Forces (JSDF) ship and it is ordered that Kong must be kept out of Japan. At the same time, Godzilla arrives in Japan, terrorising the countryside. Kong, now awake breaks free, reaches the mainland and confronts Godzilla by throwing rocks at him which Godzilla easily repels by using his atomic heat ray. The JSDF try to lure Godzilla into a large pit laden with explosives and poison gas which fails. Then a barrier of power lines is strung up around the city filled with one million volts of electricity which proves effective. Kong however approaches Tokyo, tearing through the powerlines, feeding off the electricity, which seems to make him stronger. Kong enters Tokyo, captures the sister of one of his kidnappers and scales the National Diet Building where the two houses of the Japanese legislative assembly sit. The JSDF respond by launching capsules of Farolacton juice which puts Kong to sleep and he is transported to the summit of Mt. Fuji where it is hoped Godzilla and Kong will kill each other. A battle rages as they fight their way down the mountain and into Atami where they destroy Atami Castle while trading blows, before falling off a cliff together into the sea below. Only Kong resurfaces and he swims back to Faro Island.
In 2015, Yuki Kihara visited Fukushima prefecture, where the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, damaged March 11, 2011 from a 9.1 magnitude earthquake and tsunami, is located. Run in conjunction with General Electric and Tokyo Electric Power Company, Fukushima was one of the fifteen largest nuclear power stations in the world, the devastation and destructive damage being so considerable that the releases of radioactivity continue to this day. In April 2021, the Japanese Government approved the discharge of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean over the course of 30 years with the first discharge occurring August 24, the second commencing on October 5 and taking place over the following seventeen days.
Also in the Fukushima Prefecture is the Spa Resort Hawaiians (SRH) which functions as a theme park. It opened January 15, 1966, replacing the Joban coal field which during WW2 had become Japan’s largest mine, due in no small part to the use of the forced labour of Allied Prisoners of War. By the 1960s, nearing the end of its useful life, the owners switched direction using the area’s hot springs as the foundation idea, overlaying a Hawaiian theme and the aesthetic of Polynesian tourism as embodied by its well-known Hula Girls dance troupe. SRH was the venue for the PALM8 Summit (Eighth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting) in May 2018, chaired by Samoan Prime Minister Tuilae’pa Sailele Malieolegaoi and hosted by Japan Prime Minister Shinto Abe with a Hula Girl appointed as a PR Goodwill Ambassador for PALM8. The PALM Summit is viewed as a key component in Japan’s Pacific hegemony, and as such clearly a continuation of the Godzilla versus Kong dichotomy.
Underpinning the Kong vs Godzilla narratives and symbolism explicitly referenced by Kihara are more substantial dialogues about how everything is interconnected, that the Pacific Ocean unites rather than separates, that the action and decisions of one ultimately affects all. It is after all, a direct consequence of the US-Japan technological and imperial alliance that the reality of nuclear waste discharging into the Pacific Ocean for at least the next thirty years must impact all who live there - not just the people on the dispersed islands of the Pacific but the ecology, marine life and fisheries.