Spotlight On: National Diet Building

Above, the National Diet Building in Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Spotlight On: National Diet Building

by Armand Vaquer

(Originally published in G-FAN #88, Summer 2009)

The National Diet Building is Japan's capitol building. It first appeared in Godzilla (1954) and in several other Godzilla films, most recently in 2003's Godzilla x Mothra x Mechagodzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. The Diet (Japan's Parliament) consists of the House of Councillors and the House of Representatives. Next to Tokyo Tower, the National Diet Building suffered the most damage in Godzilla movies by a Tokyo building.

In 1910, the Finance Ministry started a commission in an attempt to take control over the new Diet Building design from the Home Ministry. Prime Minister Katsura Tarô chaired the commission, which recommended that the new building emulate an Italian Renaissance architectural style. This recommendation was criticized by many who thought that choice to be too arbitrary.

The ministry sponsored a public design competition in 1918, and 118 designs were submitted for the new building. The first prize winner was Watanabe Fukuzo.

The Diet Building was eventually constructed with a floor plan based on Watanabe's entry. The roof and tower of the building were inspired by another entrant, third prize winner Takeuchi Shinshichi, and are believed to have been chosen because they reflected a more modern hybrid architecture than the purely European and East Asian designs proposed by other architects. The 1936 landmark building southwest of the Imperial Palace is known for its pyramid-shaped cap, and inside are cushy chairs and fantastical mosaics.

Above, iconic scene of Godzilla trampling a wing of the Diet Building in 1954. Copyright 1954 Toho Co., Ltd.

In Godzilla, the Diet Building had one of its wings trampled by Godzilla and in Godzilla x Mothra x Mechagodzilla: Tokyo S.O.S., the entire tower section gets demolished during the battle between Mechagodzilla and Godzilla. When Godzilla was first released in 1954, Japanese audiences applauded the scene of Godzilla's rampage through the building.

King Kong, with Mie Hama in hand, stood atop the building's tower in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) and Mothra used it to build her cocoon in Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992). Distance shots of the building could also be seen in Monster Zero (1965) and in Godzilla x Mechagodzilla (2002).

*****

Note: Tour information for the National Diet Building is included in The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

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