The sounds of massive machinery and beeping alarms filled the air around Gengo as he stood before a large sign proudly displaying the text WORLD CHILDREN’S LAND: CONSTRUCTION SITE.
He was now more confused than ever.
He’d had barely enough time to finish his lunch in Shinjuku before Tomoko’s nagging had practically forced him out of the diner. “There’s no time to waste,” she had said. “Time is money, and you’ve spent enough of it here drinking tea!” Gengo had relented, too weary and frustrated to put up much of a fight. With only a few hours to lick his wounds after his disastrous meeting with the latest publisher, the young artist’s focus was shot, his mind as exhausted as it was ready to simply give up.
However, the drive to the construction site had given him time to calm down and do his best to refocus. She is right, after all, he had thought to himself. I can’t stop now. Time is money, and I’m quickly running out of both. I have to keep trying. Who knows, maybe this Children’s Land thing will pay off in a big way…
But now, surrounded by dirt, rocks, and an unending parade of bulldozers, tractors and earth-movers, Gengo once again felt his hope dwindle to nonexistence.
There’s nothing here! What in the hell was she thinking sending me to this place? Maybe she really did want me to end up shoveling dirt after all…
Gengo broke his gaze away from the CONSTRUCTION SITE sign for the first time in what felt like a solid hour, blinking his eyes several times as he once again attempted to regain his composure. As he blinked, he turned his head first left, and then right, taking in the few details that thus far constituted World Children’s Land.
To say that there was nothing on the site wasn’t entirely correct. Aside from the various machines digging holes and leveling land, several structures had already been erected, including an array of strange, multicolored mushrooms, the purpose of which eluded Gengo as he continued to survey the location. There was also a Ferris wheel, a bridge, what looked to be the beginnings of a carousel, and a few unmarked structures with unusual architecture. Likely office buildings, Gengo thought.
And then, of course, there was the Godzilla Tower, the structure that appeared to Gengo to have received the most work. He had seen images of the massive building in various newspapers several times, but seeing it in person was an entirely different experience. The tower loomed large over the entire construction site, its shadow falling upon Gengo as the sun continued to trek toward the tops of the nearby hills. With the exception of a few cartoonish attributes, the building’s overall resemblance to the real monster had astounded Gengo upon his first sighting of its massive form. It even appeared to stand the same height as the flesh-and-blood Monster King, meaning the tower surely clocked in at around fifty meters tall. A massive elevator shaft ran from the ground between the monster’s concrete feet up to its neck, likely depositing visitors on various floors within the monster’s body. What these floors held – or would hold upon the park’s opening – was a mystery to Gengo, but as he continued to stare into the giant white eyes of the tower’s reptilian face, he began to feel his curiosity overwhelm his defeatism.
This may end up being a pointless visit, he thought. But I suppose seeing this thing was worth it. Its damn impressive, that’s for sure.
Gengo felt a smile creep over his face. As odd as it was to find himself under the imposing form of a brick-and-mortar Godzilla, he had to admit that it was exciting. The possibilities of what such a structure might contain made his mind race. Perhaps there was enough time for a quick peek inside to see…
“Hey, you lookin’ for someone, young man?”
Gengo spun around to see a middle-aged man in a yellow hard hat approaching him. The kind smile that stretched across his face assured Gengo that he wasn’t about to be reprimanded or thrown off the site for trespassing.
“Uh, yes! I am. Could you tell me who’s in charge here? I’m here about a job for-“
“Kubota!” The man had cut him off mid-sentence, his right hand gesturing toward one of the strange looking structures Gengo had spotted a few moments before. “You want to see Kubota. His office is in that building over there. They’ll direct you once you’re inside.” The worker followed this statement with a slight chuckle before backing away and offering a subtle wave goodbye. Before Gengo could respond with further questions, the man had retreated out of earshot, disappearing back into the throng of vehicles as they continued transforming the land.
Gengo turned back to the tower, his eyes following the elevator shaft up to Godzilla’s chest.
Well, he thought to himself, I guess I won’t have time to see the inside of the tower, after all.
He turned and began walking toward the oddly-shaped building.
“So… quite impressive, isn’t it?”
Gengo had no response.
He was now standing in a massive office, undoubtedly the largest room within the strange building he had been directed to by the kindly construction worker. Once inside, he had been led down a series of winding hallways and automatic doors. At the end of the final hallway, a smartly dressed man in glasses had stood waiting, a smile etched beneath his thin mustache.
It was this man – Kubota, the Head Secretary of World Children’s Land – who now addressed him.
Gengo, however, was still at a loss for words. The room he had been led into by Kubota had taken his breath away. The space was the definition of asymmetry, with diagonally placed wall panels broken up by odd metallic columns and several bubble-like domes protruding from the walls. Even Kubota’s desk – plainly adorned with little more than a telephone, a lamp, and a panel of colored buttons – was placed at an odd angle, and faced away from the amazing view the office afforded of the Children’s Land construction site through a massive, inwardly angled wall of windows.
However, the literal centerpiece of the room was a large tabletop model – a “conceptual miniature”, as Kubota had called it – of the planned park, which measured nearly two meters across. The model – and a corresponding map of the site that hung on one of the nearby walls – displayed the full breadth and scope of what the team behind World Children’s Land were planning. Branching walking paths connected an elaborately designed entrance archway to every corner of the park, where models of various rides, an artificial lake with a boat for visitors to travel on, and an almost dizzying number of smaller structures could be seen. And looming above it all, the Godzilla Tower stood at once menacing and inspiring.
It was almost too much for Gengo to take in.
He had fully expected to deliver his pitch surrounded by dirt and bulldozers, and to maybe be shown a few sketches of what was being planned for the site. As for the park itself, he hadn’t been sure – nor had he particularly cared – just what it would ultimately be like upon its eventual completion, but he certainly could never have anticipated this. The ambition of what was being planned, the scale of the entire project, the progress that had already been made on what he had assumed to be a mostly barren construction site… it had all stunned him into silence, and had left him both amazed and unexpectedly excited.
To think, he thought, that I might just end up working at a place like this…
Gengo’s mind continued to race as he remained speechless. There was a lot to take in, but the tabletop miniature in particular had captured his attention. He had barely taken his eyes off the intricate model – particularly the small replica of the Godzilla Tower – since entering the room, a fact that had not gone unnoticed by Secretary Kubota.
The suited man made his way from the opposite wall toward the table, and came to rest beside Gengo, a proud smile on his face.
“Godzilla Tower…” he intoned as Gengo continued to admire the model. “A good idea. A very good idea…”
Oddly, he had spoken the words “very” and “good” in English, catching Gengo off guard. But before he could expend any brain power wondering why, Kubota continued.
“Inside the tower,” he intoned, “will be a museum devoted to all the monsters of the world.” He lifted his hand to the tiny Godzilla on the table, pointing to the elevator shaft Gengo had seen on the full-sized tower a few minutes earlier. “This elevator will take people up the full height of his body and into his head, well over 50 meters above the park.”
Kubota moved behind Gengo and came to rest in front of another portion of the model. Again, he extended his hand to the various miniatures as he continued to speak.
“We’ll have aerial displays spread across the park showing mankind’s achievements both on earth and in space. The children will have rides, dining rooms, and lots of space to explore and to have fun. This will be a place where we can teach children all about how to have peace.”
Kubota paused for a moment, turning to Gengo, who finally broke his gaze away from the model.
“Peace…” He almost whispered the word. “Do you understand?”
Kubota’s sudden intensity seemed to freeze the air in the room, again catching Gengo off guard.
“Yes, but… don’t kids already have peace?” he asked.
Kubota had, once again, spoken the word in English. And he had spoken it bluntly. As he continued, he moved back behind Gengo to his original position.
“The peace they have now is an illusion. What I’m talking about is real peace. A perfect peace.”
He paused again.
“That’s the only thing that will save this world.”
With that, Kubota walked away, leaving Gengo feeling oddly intimidated.
This guy sure does take this “peace” thing seriously, the young man thought to himself. I’m not sure what his deal is, but I need to choose my words carefully, or I’ll end up blowing my shot at impressing him…
Gengo’s eyes returned to the elaborate miniature of Children’s Land, and then back to the Godzilla Tower. “Monsters and peace…” he said aloud. “Don’t you think that’s a strange combination?”
The words had left his mouth before he realized what he had said. So much for choosing my words carefully…
“No,” Kubota immediately replied, again in English. “In the mind of a child, monsters and peace go hand-in-hand.” His voice was calm, almost understanding, as if he’d been asked this same question on more than one occasion and fully understood why such a notion as monsters representing peace might sound strange.
Gengo couldn’t help but breathe a slight sigh of relief. Now confident that he hadn’t insulted his perspective employer, he decided that it was time to veer the discussion to a new subject…
“So,” he began, walking up to Kubota, who now stood behind his oddly aligned desk. “What about my job here? What would you want me to do?”
Kubota’s smile grew slightly larger as he once again met Gengo’s gaze. “What I want is to make this place even better than it already is.” Without blinking, he gently lowered his body into his chair, and leaned forward across his desk. “I want some ideas. So tell me… what do you think could help us?”
Gengo ignored Kubota’s saying the word “ideas” in English, pushing aside his mounting curiosity to instead focus on the question he had just been asked. It was, much to Gengo’s relief, the exact question he had hoped would come up during his visit to the site. World Children’s Land was, it seemed, an amusement park that celebrated monsters, and Gengo’s portfolio was literally stuffed with what he hoped were exactly the kinds of creatures the company was looking for. If there was one place in Japan that might be interested in purchasing exciting new monster characters, he was currently standing in it. This was his chance, his best shot at not only making some real money, but at finally giving his creations a home.
Gengo steadied himself. It was now or never.
“Well, you’ll definitely need more monsters for the children to play with and enjoy,” he began. “Monsters like… Shukra, and Mamagon!”
A look of genuine confusion came over Kubota’s face, his eyes loosing focus as he fiddled with his cigarette lighter.
Gengo leaned in closer, lifting his hands in the air like claws to illustrate his point. “Yeah, the monster of homework, and the monster of strict mothers!”
After a moment of silence, Kubota flipped open his lighter and began to quietly chuckle, lifting a cigarette to his mouth as his body lightly shook from laughter.
Damn, Gengo thought. Here we go again.
Without realizing, Gengo had begun to chuckle, too. He stood up straight, unsure of what to do next. “Not very peaceful, I suppose,” he said quietly.
At this, Kubota’s head quickly turned toward Gengo, the hand holding his still smoking cigarette lifting to point at the young artist. “No,” he said. “They’re great ideas! Start working on the designs right away!”
Gengo was sure his heart was mere moments away from bursting out of his chest. Had he just heard what he thought he’d just heard? Had Kubota truly been that taken with his ideas? He’d seemed genuinely excited to add Gengo’s monsters to his park, as if he’d been waiting for Gengo’s exact pitch to come into his office. It was all Gengo could do to suppress a joyous laugh.
Wow, he thought to himself. It seems I just got hired!
He could hardly believe it. The gamble had worked. His pitch had, for once, not fallen on deaf ears. At last, his monsters would leave his imagination and truly come to life.
Maybe, he thought, they’ll even join the ranks of the greatest, most beloved monsters of all time! Shukra and Mamagon, alongside the likes of Godzilla and his son, Rodan, Mothra, Anguirus, Gorosaurus, Kumonga, Kamacuras…
This gave Gengo an idea.
“What about Monster Island? Most of the monsters on Earth are living there right now. Have you thought of using any of them here?”
It was a logical question. While the Godzilla Tower was an obvious inclusion, Gengo had yet to see any of the other famous monsters of the world represented in Children’s Land. The tabletop miniature featured no obvious references to creatures like Rodan or Mothra, or any of the other giant creatures that had, in recent years, been corralled on the pacific paradise referred to as “Monster Island” by both the press and various world governments. While the island was a relatively new development in the ever evolving history of Japan’s conflict with giant beasts, the monsters who lived there were all well known to not just the Japanese, but to all of mankind. Even the newest of these monsters, such as the giant insects of Sollgel Island and the second Anguirus that had appeared only a few years earlier, were practically celebrities, especially to the children who cared little for their destructive tendencies.
Surely, Gengo thought, there should be a place for these titans in a park so reverent to the monsters of the world.
In response to Gengo’s question, however, Kubota’s smile disappeared.
“Of course, I thought about it,” he said, his eyes loosing focus and drifting to the wall behind Gengo. “But the monsters there are hardly peaceful, especially Godzilla. However, owing to their popularity, we do plan to install models of them in the park…” Kubota paused again. “After that, Monster Island will be destroyed.”
Gengo could do little to hide the shock in his voice. It was a sudden, even preposterous declaration. Was the man who sat before him – his new boss – serious about this? Was such a thing even possible? Did an amusement park company possess the power, or means, to even attempt such a feat?
As if in answer to all of these unspoken questions, Kubota turned his chair toward Gengo, once again locking his unblinking eyes with those of the stunned artist. “Yes… we have to finally get rid of all those monsters. Their reign of destruction over the earth must come to an end. The children may continue to love their images, but beyond that, they are enemies of peace.”
For the second time in under ten minutes, Gengo found himself stunned into silence. In that moment, he had no doubt that Secretary Kubota meant what he said.
The next hour or so passed rather uneventfully. Pleasantries were exchanged, plans and deadlines were discussed, and by the time Gengo had departed the office of Secretary Kubota and begun his journey home, his mood was one of both excitement and unsettling apprehension.
His new employer, it seemed, was a web of contradictions: a monster-themed amusement park apparently bent on destroying the very monsters it appeared to celebrate. A company seemingly ready to kill an entire island of behemoths, yet devoted to the concept of “perfect peace”. A Head Secretary who viewed the monsters of the world as enemies, yet seemed sincerely invested in adding Gengo’s own creations to his planned park.
The longer Gengo thought about it, the less sense it all made.
But despite his confusion, one thing was crystal clear in Gengo’s mind: his trip to World Children’s Land might have been a bizarre one, but it was also a true victory. The circumstances were undoubtedly odd, but he couldn’t deny the fact that, at last, he had succeeded. He had a job, a boss eager to see his work, and, perhaps most importantly, one less reason for Tomoko to nag at him.
For that, despite a subtle but persistent sense of unease creeping into his mind, Gengo couldn’t help but be thankful.