Helen Hardacre :: One of the most interesting parts of Japanese society and culture today is the whole area of popular culture. That really means youth culture. Thus, young people are at the center of some of the most lively developments in Japan today. Japanese popular culture has a very interesting history, and if we had time, we could trace it all the way back to the Edo period, that is, to 1600 or so, at the very least.
Lets focus on Japanese popular culture since the end of World War II, that is from 1945 or so, on. Many people, even today, are quite familiar with Godzilla, who was maybe the earliest post-war great success of Japanese popular culture. We know from the American remake of this movie, that there are many ways to think about Godzilla and what he did, but the context of the creation of Godzilla in Japan was perhaps different than what we might most often think.
Godzilla grew out of a feeling in Japan after 1945 of pacifism and opposition to war. Godzilla was a creature who, in the movie, is said to have come about through a mutation and through the results of atomic experiments which brought him out of the sea where he was living a peaceful existence. And, in other words, the effects of atomic war turned him from a peaceful creature into a being that rampaged through Tokyo and eventually had to be destroyed. Thus there was a very serious social and political concern in the creation of Godzilla.
Of course, Japan is the only country to have experienced atomic bombing, and the atomic bombing experiments which prompted later Japanese popular cultural developments, such as Godzilla, were largely American.