Master Yuji Sakai at work

Meet Yuji Sakai

Master Monster Modeler


Meet Yuji Sakai, Japan’s leading and world-renowned Godzilla and monster sculptor. Master Yuji Sakai (酒井ゆうじ Sakai Yūji) has left his fingers and impressions on Godzilla on and off the screen and toy shelf. His work has been incarnated on screen, in museums and in our collections. He sculpts Godzilla like no other capturing the king of the monsters in his most memorable movie scenes, poses and moments. The beauty and accuracy of his work is an industry standard. His work is sought after and highly coveted. Garage kit builders line up for his next release. For those of us who collect vinyl Godzilla figures, particularly from X-Plus, we eagerly await figures bearing his name and touch. His work is legendary. Perhaps no other artist and modeler has had such a sustained influence on Godzilla and the fandom like Sakai.

Master Yuji Sakai at work

His first encounter with Godzilla happened in 1964 before the release of Ghidorah The Three-Headed Monster. He saw Godzilla in a children’s picture book at a friend’s house. From then on, he wanted to make that scene my own,” so he was absorbed in drawing it in his sketchbook. He said, “I want a Godzilla that looks like a movie, not a toy.”1 Over time he grew frustrated wanting to see a realistic Godzilla. After the sunset of the Showa era in 1975 and graduating from high school in 1977, Sakai studied graphic design and 3D design at the art school of the Department of Visual Design, Tokyo Zokei University in 1977.2 While attending “Godzilla All Night” 「ゴジラオールナイト」 (ゴジラ誕生25周年 ゴジラ映画大全集 ?) in Shinjuku, his passion rekindled. He started buying Godzilla mook books. After graduation, he learned about garage kits while working at an advertising agency in Koriyama in 1981. He began buying and building a lot of kits. But he noticed the difference between the kits and Godzilla’s appearance in the movies. So he started making prototypes.

Yuji Sakai 50cm KinGoji (Vol. 3) divided after honorable mention at the Kaiyodo Art Place Award
Yuji Sakai 50cm KinGoji (Vol. 3) divided after honorable mention at the Kaiyodo Art Place Award (Photo Source: Godzilla Dream 酒井ゆうじ怪獣造形作品集)

In 1989, he made his professional debut with he entered his KinGoji into the first Kaiyodo Art Plastic Awards (海洋堂の「第1回アートプラ大賞」), in which he won the Grand Price. The following year he entered his BioGoji and won again. The he won the Triple Crown of the Art Plastic Award, the Popular Work Award, and the Hobby Japan Award at with his 1-meter BioGoji exhibited at the 2nd Kaiyodo Art Plastic Awards.3

Sample garage kit releases by Kaiyodo and M-1

Soon after he became a prototype master for Kaiyodo monster kits. Then in 1993 at the age of 35, he left the agency where he worked for 13 years, and established the Yuji Sakai Zoukei Kobo (酒井ゆうじ造形工房) modeling studio and became independent. His work was released under his brand “Godzilla Dream.” And he also continued making many monster prototypes for other manufacturers.4

Select volumes from Yuji Sakai Godzilla Dream (Photo Source: Godzilla Dream 酒井ゆうじ怪獣造形作品集)

Sakai focused primarily on Godzilla. He wanted to remake Godzilla’s famous scenes. Reflecting on his childhood, he wrote, “Godzilla is a time machine that takes them back to that nostalgic era.”5 The body of his work spans decades from the Showa to the Reiwa Godzilla era. He has produced over 170 garage kits.6 His favorite Godzilla is MosuGoji appearing in Mothra vs Godzilla (1964) and Ghidorah The Three-Headed Monster (1964).

Select iconic Sakai Yuji Zoukei Kobo boxes

His dream volumes have been chronicled in two books: GODZILLA DREAM: Yuji Sakai Modeling Collection『GODZILLA DREAM 酒井ゆうじ怪獣造形作品集』released 8/31/2005) and Yuji Sakai Modeling Collection: GODZILLA DREAM evolution『酒井ゆうじ怪獣造形作品集 GODZILLA DREAM evolution』released 3/28/2013), published by Hobby Japan. He has sculpted figures for Bandai (eg, Bandai Yuji Sakai’s Concept Works figures (2008-2009), X-Plus (eg, Sakai Yuji Modeling Collection, X-Plus Model Kits), S.H. MonsterArts, Banpresto (eg, Ichiban Kuji Godzilla Monster Planet anime), and more. There is no other artist and modeler who continues to create Godzilla so much.

GODZILLA DREAM: Yuji Sakai Modeling Collection『GODZILLA DREAM 酒井ゆうじ怪獣造形作品集』
GODZILLA DREAM evolution『酒井ゆうじ怪獣造形作品集 GODZILLA DREAM evolution』

GODZILLA DREAM (2005) and GODZILLA DREAM evolution (2013)

But Sakai’s work goes beyond making garage kits and the collector shelf to sculpting movie models for the big screen. In 1994, Heisei Godzilla director Koichi Kawakita asked him to create a maquette for examining the Yamata no Orochi (Orochi, the Eight-Headed Dragon) for the Toho movie Yamato Takeru and participated as a staff member as Design Works. In 1995, Sakai became an on-site member of the modeling staff for Godzilla vs Destoroyah, modeling both Godzilla and Junior. Several years later, he worked on the modeling design for Godzilla 2000 Millennium. In 1999, he produced a model as a three-dimensional modeling design in the Toho movie “Godzilla 2000 Millennium.” Toho President Shogo Toyama said, “when I talk with Mr. Sakai, I feel like his head is full of Godzilla… Mr. Sakai pursues Godzilla’s best moments. Sakai Godzilla, who was born in another dimension, certainly seems to have the same god as the movie.”7

Yuji Sakai with BattoGoji suit in 1994 during filming of Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla
Yuji Sakai giving air to suit actor Kenpachiro Satsuma during filming of Godzilla vs Destoroyah

Yuji Sakai with BattoGoji suit in 1994 during filming of Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla and Yuji Sakai giving air to suit actor Kenpachiro Satsuma during filming of Godzilla vs Destoroyah (Photo Source: Godzilla Dream 酒井ゆうじ怪獣造形作品集)

Other highlights of his body of work include, his lecture at the Godzilla Festival held in Hollywood in 2000. In 2005, he produced his 100th work, 1m KinGoji, and published his first collection of works, “Godzilla Dream.” In 2017, he sculpted a human-sized Tamashii Nations Godzilla 1991 Hokkaido version that sold for about $40K. In 2019, he sculpted a suit-accurate replica of Shodai Godzilla that would be used in the BOSS commercial celebrating the life of suit actor Haruo Nakajima. Today, his replica is on display in the Eiji Tsuburaya Museum in Fukushima. At the opening of the Tsuburaya Eiji Museum at the Sukagawa City Citizens Exchange Center, he supervised the modeling of the first generation Godzilla suit that appears in the movie “Dream Challenge: Godzilla Appears in Sukagawa,” as well as an exhibition centered on the monsters in the museum. In 2020, Sakai was the prototype creator and modeling supervisor for Daegostini radio-controlled Godzilla 1954 released in the “Weekly Godzilla Making”『週刊 ゴジラをつくる』.

BOSS|Godzilla 60 seconds Suntory commercial

In 2020 for Godzilla Fes on Godzilla Day (11/3), Master Sakai held a live digest as he sculpted his Godzilla (1991) “The Fierce Battle of Abashiri!” for future release in the X-Plus Sakai Yuji modeling collection. Fans got a glimpse of his ark and master craftsmanship. The live session was later released on DVD along with the X-Plus RIC version release. Over the years, Master Sakai has been interviewed numerous times. His latest work and new releases are announced at Wonder Festival in Tokyo. Sakai’s work is ubiquitous and represents the quintessential incarnations of suit-accurate Godzilla in resin and vinyl. His latest work and releases are regularly featured on Godzilla Store TV. His work continues to shine. Just a day ago, S.H. MonsterArts announced their new Godzilla Minus One figure based on his sculpt. He commented, “When I first saw the design of Godzilla in Godzilla-1.0, I was moved as a Godzilla fan by the coolness that made me feel nostalgic while being innovative. S.H.MonsterArts Godzilla (2023) was able to reproduce all the poses in the play, but it was difficult to divide and color without breaking the standard silhouette. I would be happy if you could enjoy S.H.MonsterArts Godzilla (2023) together with the long-awaited Japanese Godzilla movie.”

Most of the Godzilla figures in my collection were sculpted by Sakai. My first Yuji Sakai kit was the M-1 Godzilla 1965 dancing (1991) purchased in Nagoya in 2014. Two weeks later, I took my first Godzilla toy photo featuring Sakai’s Bandai Yuji Sakai Produced Godzilla Complete Works Summary Invasion of Astro-Monster Shee Godzilla 1965 [バンダイ 酒井ゆうじプロデュース ゴジラ全集総集編怪獣大戦争シェーゴジラ 1965] which I purchased from a small shop in Osu Kannon Shopping District. A month later, my dear friends presented me with Sakai’s Banpresto Shodai Godzilla Big Size Figure (バンプレスト 初代ゴジラビッグサイズソフビフィギュア), released in 2002. Since then, Sakai’s Godzillas in all sizes and assortments have taken over my shelves. As an amateur Godzilla toy photography I cut my teeth on those Sakai mini diorama figures. Only later to graduate and move up to the X-Plus 25cm and 30cm figures, from which his features stood out and above. Before returning home in October after, a second trip to Japan, I scooped the Bandai Yuji Sakai Concept Work Appearance Godzilla 1954 (バンダイ酒井ゆうじコンセプトワークスGODZILLA「現」ゴジラ1954 単品).

Samples of MyKaiju Godzilla Yuji Sakai toy photography | See more on Flickr

Little did I know the trajectory of my toy photography and experiences as a Godzilla collector would have the highest honor of creating box art for Master Sakai and the X-Plus in 2020. In collaboration with my friend and colleague Jeremy Soles of Summit Kaiju International, I’ve create box art for the Yuji Sakai Modeling Collection Godzilla 1995 Soft Vinyl Kit Clear Yellow Version, the X-Plus Yuji Sakai Best Collection Godzilla (2004) Poster Version in 2022, the X-Plus Toho 30cm Series Yuji Sakai Godzilla (1991) Soft Vinyl Kit in 2021, and the X-Plus Toho 30cm Series Yuji Sakai Modeling Collection Godzilla (2002) in 2022. Words could never express my deep gratitude and appreciation for this privilege and honor. I get so excited when I received my next assignment from X-Plus. I want to please Master Sakai and deliver the best representation of his work and Godzilla as possible.

MyKaiju X-Plus Yuji Sakai box art

MyKaiju X-Plus Yuji Sakai box art since 2020 | Learn more

In learning more about Master Sakai, I discovered things we have in common. Like Sakai, I worked at an advertising firm as a graphic designer. I always wanted suit-accurate Godzilla toys and figures to recreate those icon cinematic scenes. Someday in the near future, I hope to meet and thank Yuji Sakai in person. His work has not only influenced Godzilla but it has influenced me. Check out Master Sakai’s blog Godzilla Dream and follow his studio (有限会社酒井ゆうじ造型工房 公式 @sakaiyuji_kobo) on Twitter.


1 Godzilla Dream, p 2
2 Godzilla Dream, inside back cover
3 Gigazine 2017年11月22日 21時30分 インタビュー ゴジラ造形の第一人者・酒井ゆうじ氏にアニメ映画「GODZILLA 怪獣惑星」のゴジラについてインタビュー
4 Godzilla Dream, inside back cover
5 Ibid, p 2
6 Wikizilla: Yuji Sakai
7 Dream, inside cover