Growing up in Texas without much influence of his Japanese heritage, Dr. William Tsutsui, newly appointed Hendrix College president, had to be creative to find connection to his ancestral roots.
Tsutsui is a Japanese American and has lived his life like any other American would — a childhood filled with play dates, going to school, and not knowing what the future holds. Yet, Tsutsui always wanted to take hold of his Japanese heritage in some way.
One fateful day, the first produced Godzilla movie, featuring a man in a rubber suit, found its way to Tsutsui. He instantly fell in love with the movie.
“I remember looking at it thinking to myself, ‘this is awesome,’” said Tsutsui.
The first film was the “purest,” said Tsutsui. “You can watch it in many moods. Something about the movie that makes it an all body experience.”
What it comes down to is that “Godzilla is Japan,” said Tsutsui.
After the first exposure to the Godzilla of his Japanese heritage, Tsutsui became a fanatic of the entire franchise, leading him to be come not only a fan, but also a Godzilla scholar. His book, “Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters,” chronicles the power and symbolism of the giant beast while also presenting the scholarly material in an easily accessible format.
Godzilla found his way back into Tsutsui’s life when he began teaching.
“I came back to Godzilla after I started teaching and used the films in my classes. Students really responded to them,” said Tsutsui. “Watching the movies, it is very easy to get wrapped up in the spectacle and, frankly, the humor of seeing a guy in a rubber suit destroying toy cities. I make use of whatever teaching methods are effective, and students can learn a surprising amount about Japan from watching giant lizards wrestling in Tokyo.”
Tsutsui explained that the Godzilla movies look into the reality of Japan and it’s historical relevance to the area.
“The 28 Godzilla films also offer remarkable insights into Japan’s history after World War II, exploring important themes from nuclear fear in the 1950s to government corruption in the 1960s to the nation’s economic ascent in the 1980s,” said Tsutsui.
Tsutsui’s dedication to the green monster is extremely noticeable in his new Hendrix College office. It is a shrine to Godzilla with book cases filled with action figures and Godzilla toys inspired from the many movies.
“I’m a quirky guy,” said Tsutsui.