Koichi Shikishima's Top Gun Jacket

Koichi the Top Gun

2.27.2024 (REV 2.29)

Growing up tv stars, movie stars and pop artists made leather jackets cool, highly fashionable and desirable. There was James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), John Travolta in Grease (1978), Henry Winkler’s as the Fonzie on Happy Days (1974), Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Michael Jackson in his Thriller (1982), Tom Cruise as the Maverick in Top Gun (1986), Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator (1984), Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus in The Matrix (1999) and Brad Pitt in Fight Club (1999), to name a few. They were the definition of cool, calm and collective. They took wearing leather jackets to the next level. After Godzilla Minus One, add Ryunosuke Kamiki’s Koichi Shikishima to the list.

James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause
John Travolta in Grease
Fonzie on Happy Days
Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones
Michael Jackson in Thriller
Tom Cruise in Top Gun
Morpheus in The Matrix
Brad Pitt in Fight Club

A brief history of the leather jacket in Hollywood

Godzilla Minus One is “a period piece” set in early postwar Japan. A big part of the success of any historical drama is the accurate and convincing recreation of the past in the dress and appearance of the characters. Minus One tells the story of the transformation of Koichi Shikishima from zero to hero. His story is told so well by his changing attire. Koichi’s wardrobe was the perfect visual cue to his state of mind at any given moment during the film. The story arc moves from his flight from death to his fight for life against Godzilla willing to sacrifice his life in the right fight to save his family, friends and country.

Koichi's dress
Koichi's dress
Traumatized Shikishima
Koichi's dress
Shikishima and Noriko
Shikishima and Akiko

Koichi’s wardrobe changes communicate his state of mind

Japan’s rise from the ashes was exemplified in the improving material quality of life for Shikishima, Noriko and Akiko. With a good income from his new job as minesweeper aboard the Shinsei Maru, Shikishima brought a used motorcycle on which he drove Noriko around town. He “decided to spruce up his barracks a little.1 With the help of Noriko, his outlook on life was reflected in his changing wardrobe. But his past and memories of those killed by the monster of Odo Island would not let him rest and embrace life fully. With the process of peeling off his war-torn life underway, the most important change was about to occurred foreshadowing ominous things to come.

Shikishima and Noriko watch Godzilla

Koichi and Noriko mesmerized by Godzilla

Koichi’s transformation was catalyzed by the sudden tragic death of Noriko who sacrificed herself to save him from Godzilla’s atomic blast. He escaped death again. Infuriated yet focused Shikishima was resolved to stop Godzilla and save Japan. He was not going to miss another chance to take Godzilla out after freezing and failing to fire on the monster on Odo Island with the guns of fighter’s guns at the insistence of Tachibana. Little did he know that the leather jacket, once the property of a U.S. serviceman, would become his flight jacket for his final kamikaze mission to end his personal war and to avenge the lives of Noriko and of the military mechanics who haunted his dreams. Director Yamazaki’s choice of attire for Koichi was genius and another great example of the attention to detail like that of his Halcyon Goggles. His jacket is the iconic G-1 leather jacket. It was not only appropriate for the historical content and symbolism but also for the value it accrued from movie history. The G-1 jacket is the standard of cool for the Hollywood fighter pilot and for the motorcycle rider and enthusiast. It’s iconic and deeply nostalgic. Koichi’s transformation to hero was complete when he donned his G-1 leather jacket, the same jacket worn and made popular by Tom Cruise in Top Gun, and boarded his Shinden Fighter. Like the “Maverick” Pete Mitchell, Shikishima with his G-1 leather jacket emerged as a top gun.

Shikishima in the Shinden Fighter

Shikishima in the Shinden fighter

In 1947, the United States Navy produced the first G-1 military flight jacket, named the 55-J-14 jacket. It was commonly known as the fur-lined-collar World War II-era leather flight jacket. The G-1 was used in the U.S. navy, marine corps and coast guard. In the U.S. Army Air Corps and Air Forces it was called the A-2 jacket. It was similar to the original M422 jacket used since the 30s.2 The availability of a G-1 jacket may have been the result of the U.S. humanitarian and economic aid to Japan from 1946-50 to help with the shortage of food and goods. The G-1 has become synonymous with Naval Aviators.4

Koichi Shikishima's leather jacket on display at the Kashima Naval Air Corps (Photo credit: @yosizo)
Koichi Shikishima's leather jacket on display at the Kashima Naval Air Corps (Photo credit: @yosizo)

Koichi Shikishima’s leather jacket on display at the Kashima Naval Air Corps (Photo credit: @yosizo)

When Shikishima donned his G-1 jacket and boarded the Shinden fighter, his on-screen transformation to top gun and hero was complete. No attire was more fitting for Koichi’s final flight to defeat Godzilla. Koichi’s G-1 jacket and costume and more have been on display in a tie-up exhibition in Okaya City, Japan, where scenes of the retro government building in Godzilla Minus One were filmed.9 From on-screen to on display to on sale. From on-screen to on display to on sale, now available for fans.

My Koichi Shikishima G-1 Jacket

My Shikishima G-1 Jacket

In researching Koichi’s jacket I stumbled across an article and an ad from TheMovieFashion.com selling his jacket. And of course, I had to get one. This beautiful dark brown J4 Jacket is made of real leather with a faux shearling collar, two front and inward pockets, a viscose lining and zipper closure. Shikishima’s jacket is another cool piece of Godzilla Minus One in my collection. Godzilla is very much a monster made by war as Minus One has reminded us. Koichi’s jacket will always remind me of the suffering of World War II but also of the hope and brighter days on the other side of war.