How many Japanese monsters do you know?

It's Godzilla!

Photo by Fabian Reus licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

You probably know Godzilla — the "king of monsters." But did you know that he is one of many fictional Japanese monsters? This special monster group is called kaiju.

Kaiju (say “kie-zhoo”) means "strange beast" in Japanese. And it is a hugely popular movie genre in Japan. Kaiju films are famous for their unique special effects. These effects are created by actors in creature suits. They get to stomp around fake cities made of miniature models.

In kaiju movies, the giant monster isn’t always the bad guy. Sometimes the monster is the hero! Let’s take a look at four of the most well-known giant monsters from Japan.

1. Godzilla


Chris McGrath/Getty Staff

Godzilla is a giant dinosaur-looking creature with atomic breath. He was first introduced in 1954 and has been a hit with moviegoers ever since! In his first and most famous film, Godzilla destroys the city of Tokyo. But in many kaiju movies, he's the good guy! He protects humanity from even bigger and meaner monsters!

2. Mothra

A screenshot of Mothra

Photo via Wikimedia licensed Public Domain

Mothra is probably the second most famous kaiju. She is a giant moth goddess and guardian of her island, Japan and Earth! Unlike most other kaiju monsters, Mothra is always a hero. She protects the planet from monsters like King Ghidorah. Her supersonic flight, reflective scales, laser beams and poisonous stingers help!

In some movies, Mothra and Godzilla fight each other. In others, they team up to defeat monsters who want to destroy humans.

3. Rodan

Close shot of Rodan

Screenshot via Myth Stories/YouTube

Rodan is a colossal, prehistoric flying reptile. He first appeared on film as a villain. But he’s a hero who helps to defend the Earth from its enemies. Rodan flies faster than the speed of sound! And can destroy whole cities with his powerful wings.

Good thing he’s on our side!

4. King Ghidorah

King Ghidorah

Photo via Wikizilla

King Ghidorah is a giant three-headed dragon that flies at super speed. He’s evil and is determined to destroy life in the universe. Godzilla, Mothra and Rodan have to team up to stop him! But it's not easy. King Ghidorah spits powerful gravity beams out of his three mouths.

Our heroes certainly have their work cut out for them.