Godzilla Minus One Military Vehicles

The Magnificent Shinden

A film rich in WWII History


There is so much to love about Godzilla -1.0. And there is so much to discuss and to investigate. Minus One, like its predecessor Shin Godzilla and every Godzilla movie, the military is a big part of the unfolding drama. But things are a bit different now. In director Tamashi Yamazaki’s reimagined origin of Godzilla, there will be no U.S. military intervention and the Japanese Defense Force doesn’t exist. Yet the film that takes place immediately after the war is rich in military history and vehicles. Decommissioned fighters, seafaring vessels, battleships, carriers, destroyers and tanks along with commercial seafaring vessels are centerstage in the battle against Godzilla. They are very much part of the story and the storytelling as are the human characters in Minus One. Acquaintance with these military vehicles in the film and their history will deepen moviegoer’s appreciation of Yamazaki’s story and his Godzilla. But above of them all, Koichi Shikishima and his Shinden take the spotlight.

Koichi Shikishima and his fighter aircraft in Godzilla Minus One (2023)

Minus One is very much the story of kamikaze pilot Koichi Shikishima. The film opens with Shikishima in his undamaged Zero Fighter approaching Odo Island having turned away from delivering his life and payload in the war because of his mother’s wish that he return alive. And in the final scenes of Minus One Shikishima aboard the Shinden fighter takes his final flight crashing into Godzilla to avenge the deaths of Noriko and the Odo Island mechanics. Little may moviegoers know that the Shinden with its strange design is not a fictional creation of Yamazaki but rather an actual World War II fighter, which is on exhibit in Japan and the U.S.

A full-scale replica of the Shinden (震電 実物大模型)

A full-scale replica of the Shinden built for the filming of Godzilla Minus One on display at the Tachiarai Peace Memorial Museum (Photo Credit: Yagyu8, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons). The Shinden (life-size model) that has been on permanent display since July 2022 was actually created and used for filming the currently blockbuster movie Godzilla-1.0. Also on exhibit are movie posters, panels of filming scenes, costumes from the movie (for a limited time only), and art and props owned by Taizo Nakamura (a collaborator on the movie).

The Shinden (Kyushu J7W Shinden, 震電), the “Magnificent Lightning,” was a prototype fighter of the Imperial Japanese Army. It was created from the imagination of Lieutenant Commander Masayoshi Tsuruno in 1943, who imagined the fighter retrofitted with a turbojet engine. With the successful test flight of three gliders created by the Fist Naval Air Technical Arsenal, the Japanese navy called upon the Kyushu Aircraft Company to design a canard1 interceptor around Tsuruno’s concept. Two prototypes were completed in June 1944 with the first Shinden completed in April of 1945. On August 3, 1945, Tsuruno conducted a test flight from Mushiroda Airfield. Two more successful flights, totaling 45 minutes, were made on the same days as the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Although orders were made for the production of 30 per month, only two aircraft were completed.2 One prototype was scrapped. The other was claimed by the U.S. navy, dismantled and shipped to the U.S. in late 1945. There is a reassembled Shinden on display in the U.S. at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. A a replica of the Shinden, built by Toho Studios for the production of Godzilla Minus One, can be found at the Chikuzenmachi Tachiarai Peace Memorial Museum (筑前町立 大刀洗平和記念館) located in the city of Chikuzen, Fukuoka.3

Kyushu J7W1 Shinden Interceptor. Crew: 1 | Length: 31 ft 8 in | Height: 12ft 10in | Wing area: 221 sq ft | Max speed: 470 mph at 28,500 ft | Range: 529 mi | Armament: Guns: 4x 30mm Type 5 cannon with 60 rpg | Bombs: 4x 66 lb or 130 lb bombs

The Shinden was designed to be a short-range, highly maneuverable, land-based interceptor for use against U.S. B-29s during air raids on Japan. Its designation is J7W. “J” refers to land-based fighters and “W” to the company Watanabe Tekkojo that oversaw the initial design. The Shinden’s strange but beautiful design is disorienting with the wings, canard, engine and six-bladed propeller located at the rear of the fuselage. Its unique configuration caused cooling problems for the engine when still on the ground. The Shinden was to be armed with four forward-firing 30 mm type 5 cannons in its nose.4

Shinden structural drawing

1. Training 7.9mm machine gun (or photo gun)
2. Life raft
3. 17 trials 30mm type 1
4. Bulletproof steel plate (16mm)
5. 70mm bulletproof glass
6. 17 test bomb sighting machine
7. Oxygen cylinder
8. Capsize protection strut
9. Fire bulkhead
10. Lubricating oil tank
11. Booster
12. Fuel injection device
13. Furkan joint
14. Mitsubishi Ha43-42 engine
15. Air intake for lubricating oil cooling
16. Rocket type exhaust pipe
17. Extension shaft support cylinder
18. Mass balance
19. Sumitomo VDM6 Sho propeller
20. Taillight
21. Wingside light (red)
22. Side wing mass balance
23. Tail wheel to prevent propeller from touching the ground
24. Main wheel
25. Pressure accumulator
26. Main wing/fuselage connection fittings
27. Supercharger air intake
28. Cowl flap
29. Fuselage fuel tank
30. Forward wing flap control stick
31. Storage battery
32. Front wheel
33. Shell case storage box
34. Forewing elevator control stick
35. Forewing
36. Antenna support for Type 3 No. 1 radio

Source: www.geocities.jp/jp_j7w1_shinden

The Shinden has become a focus of discussion on social media. The fighter is now a highly desirable model kit for collectors. It follows in the long tradition of popular military aircraft in Godzilla movies like the Super X of the Heisei series.


1 A canard is a small winglike projection attached to an aircraft forward of the main wing to provide extra stability or control, sometimes replacing the tail. Source: Google

2 Kyushu J7W1/2 “Shinden”

3 Wikipedia: Kyushu J7W

4 Ibid

Photo Credits

Yagyu8, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Shinden at the Chikuzenmachi Tachiarai Peace Memorial Museum (Photo credit: ぴのうえ @harayan1220)

Godzilla Minus One exhibit at the Chikuzenmachi Tachiarai Peace Memorial Museum (Source: tachiarai-heiwa.jp)


Tachiarai Peace Memorial Museum