May 11, 2004

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Contact: William Tsutsui, KU Center for East Asian Studies, (785) 864-3849.

Follow the monster footprints! KU plans Godzilla conference, film festival

LAWRENCE -- To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Godzilla film, the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Kansas will host "In Godzilla's Footsteps: Japanese Pop Culture Icons on the Global Stage" Oct. 28 through 30.

KU's Center for East Asian Studies has received funding from the Japan Foundation and the Toshiba International Foundation to support the international conference.

In addition to academic sessions featuring leading scholars in Japanese popular culture, film, literature, history and anthropology, "In Godzilla's Footsteps" will feature a festival of seldom-seen Godzilla films, exhibitions in KU museums and libraries, theatrical performances, and a series of preconference public lectures by KU faculty and international experts.

"This will be the world's major scholarly event commemorating the 1954 release of the first Godzilla film," said William "Bill" Tsutsui [pronounced soot-SUE-ee], KU associate professor of history. Tsutsui and Michiko Ito [pronounced EE-toh], KU librarian for Japanese studies, are organizing the event.

Ito said the three-day event will challenge longstanding scholarly and popular assumptions, examining the 27 Godzilla films from a range of disciplinary perspectives and revealing their significance as pioneering examples of the postwar globalization of East Asian popular culture.

Tsutsui and Ito note that they hope the conference not only will explore the worldwide appeal of Godzilla films but also will provide new insights on the postwar Japanese "culture industry." More recent pop culture exports from Japan -- from Speed Racer and the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers to Hello Kitty and anime -- ultimately have the Godzilla films as forebearers. One goal of the conference will be to examine the international reception and adaptation of Japanese popular culture and the complex function of pop culture icons in a global society.

A special conference panel will investigate ways of teaching Godzilla and Japanese popular culture in both university and precollegiate classrooms.

More information, including a tentative schedule and list of participants, is available online at www.g2004.ku.edu. Additional materials, including registration details, will be posted to the Web site over the coming months.

"In Godzilla's Footsteps" grew in part from the "Godzilla Takes Kansas!" film festival in July 2000, which Ito and Tsutsui also organized. Both are Godzilla film fans from different perspectives. Tsutsui watched the film as a youngster in his native United States. Ito, born in Japan, had no interest in the film until she was a young adult. "I thought of it as a kids' movie until I read reviews relating it to themes of anti-nuclear hysteria and anti-war emotion in Japan."

Since the 2000 film festival, Tsutsui has written a new book, "Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters," scheduled for release in October by Palgrave Macmillan publishers.

Sponsors for "In Godzilla's Footsteps" include the Center for East Asian Studies at KU, the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Kansas/Asia scholars program at KU, the Kansas Consortium for Teaching about Asia, the Hall Center for the Humanities at KU and the KU Center for Research.

The Toshiba International Foundation, based in Tokyo, was established in April 1989 to help promote international exchange and understanding of Japan while contributing to local and global community development. The Japan Foundation, founded in 1972, is a semigovernmental organization whose objective is to promote international cultural exchange and mutual understanding between Japan and other countries. KU is a past recipient of Japan Foundation library support and staff expansion grants.

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