Destroy All Planets 2010

Destroy All Planets 2010
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Sunday, June 26, 2016

SHOWA HERO EVENT REUNITES TV STARS! The Action Was Fierce in Nakano!

Actors Tatsuya Nanjo, Emi Hayakawa, and Makoto Shimotsuka pose for pictures. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today I attended an event at the Nakano Sun Plaza that saw three heroes from Japanese TV under the same roof. The three stars were Tatsuya Nanjo, Emi Hayakawa, and Makoto Shimotsuka.

Emi Hayakawa played Bellestar in the Toei series The Kagestar (1976). She also made appearances in Kamen Rider (1971-73), Kamen Rider V3 (1973-74), Ultraman Leo (1974-75), Fight! Dragon (1974), among many others. She is also notable for her role in the Toei actioner Sister Street Fighter (1974). Hayakawa-san is the wife of tokusatsu star Naoya Makoto (Fireman, Himitsu Sentai Goranger).

Makoto Shimotsuka has appeared in numerous films, among them are Toho's Zero Pilot (1976), Human Revolution II (1976), and Toei's The Terrifying Revelations of Nostradamus (a.k.a. Nostradamus, 1994). However, his biggest credit for tokusatsu fans is Super Robot Mach Baron (1974-75), in which he played Yo Arashida, the pilot of the titular robot.

Tatsuya Nanjo acted in many Toei films during the 1970s, including Sister Street Fighter, but the reason he was being feted at this event was because of his starring roles as Hayate in Henshin Ninja Arashi (1972-73) and Go Takigawa in Tetsujin Tiger Seven (1973-74).

Sharing a smile with Makoto Shimotsuka.

The guests began by hosting a joint Q&A about their careers. Many funny anecdotes were told that had the audience rolling. After the interview session was completed, attendees could get autographs signed and take pictures with the guests.

Meeting Emi Hayakawa. 

Surprisingly, when I met Nanjo-san, he spoke English quite well. He asked me where I was from, and when I said California, he talked about sightseeing in the Mountain West. While he's never been to California, he's visited several neighboring states. I enjoyed my interactions with all three guests, but being able to speak directly and in detail with Nanjo-san was certainly the highlight for me.

Posing with Tatsuya Nanjo.

Many thanks once again go out to Ms. Kojima for hosting the event. Everyone who attended was more than satisfied. The fan gathering also gave me the opportunity to catch up with several of my friends who also attended. All of us enjoyed our time and eagerly look forward to the next event.

MEETING SHOJI MORI! A Veteran of Japanese Film and Television!

On Saturday, June 25, I spent an evening attending a lecture given by actor Shoji Mori. He has been active in film and television for decades, and he has appeared in the Zatoichi series, the Woman Gambler series (starring Gamera vs. Barugon's Kyoko Enami), and many episodes of the Mito Komon TV series.

Mori-san was a lively gentleman, and it was great to meet him. Afterward, I went to an izakaya with some new friends I made after the talk. A great time was had by all!

OUT AND ABOUT IN SHIBUYA! An Afternoon of Various Sights!

Can you tell Godzilla Resurgence is about to come out? Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today was a busy day, and a good chunk of it was spent in Shibuya. As soon as I got off the JR Yamanote Line, I was inundated with posters promoting a Godzilla Resurgence/Shibuya Parco cross promotion that runs until July 14. I'll have to check that out! 

I also got to see the massive renovation currently taking place, as Shibuya is undergoing a complete overhaul. Cerulean Tower looms in the background.

With election season gearing up, Hachiko is getting in on the action. I wonder which party he supports.

Guess who came back? I was surprised to see the same cat back at the Hachiko statue for more attention. There were even more people hovering around the cat than last time, making pictures of our feline friend even more difficult.

I spent the remainder of the day with Hal Foster, an actor and journalist who has recently returned to Japan. We had many great conversations!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

SHINICHI YANAGISAWA HAS COME BACK TO ASAKUSA! An Evening of Jazz with Guilala's Co-Star!

Shinichi Yanagisawa is all smiles as he drums during a live performance. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Tonight, I made my way to the HUB in Asakusa after work for another live performance by Shinichi Yanagisawa and his jazz band. Yanagisawa-san was one of the co-stars of The X from Outer Space (1967), portraying the film's comic relief character, Miyamoto.

Shinichi Yanagisawa shares a laugh with an audience member. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

I interviewed Yanagisawa-san about his acting career for Vantage Point Interviews, and that conversation can be read here. Yanagisawa-san shared many rare photos from his personal collection with me, which were an excellent addition to the interview.

Posing with Shinichi Yanagisawa and saxophonist Kyoichi Watanabe.

It was a fantastic evening of music with one of my favorite actors from the Showa era. I look forward to the next performance!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

SHIN GODZILLA ATTACKS MUSASHI-KOSUGI! A New Promotional Statue Takes Over the Grand Tree Shopping Mall!

Musashi-Kosugi serves as a filming location in the upcoming Godzilla Resurgence (a.k.a. Shin Godzilla, 2016), and today the Grand Tree Musashi-Kosugi shopping mall unveiled a new promotional statue that gives shoppers an early, up-close look at the revamped King of the Monsters. Enjoy!

TOKUSATSU RETURNS TO YOKOHAMA! An Evening with Japanese SFX Crew Members!

Takashi Naganuma and Taku Miyamoto share a laugh in Yokohama. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight I enjoyed a pleasant evening with former Toho model maker Takashi Naganuma and director Taku Miyamoto. I must admit that I'm largely unfamiliar with Miyamoto-san's work, but one credit of his in particular makes him relevant to tokusatsu: He directed episode 10 of Ultraman Neos (2000-01).  

Takashi Naganuma talks tokusatsu. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

I always enjoy visiting with Naganuma-san. He speaks a just a little English and is always fun to chat with. It was my first time to meet Miyamoto-san, and he was just as friendly as most other celebrity guests I meet at this shindigs.

Posing with Ultraman Neos director Taku Miyamoto.

The conversation lasted well into the evening, and I just returned home a few minutes ago. While these events are always fun, I could use a bit more rest! 

Hanging with Takashi Naganuma.

Thanks to everyone for a wonderful evening!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Yumi Shirakawa: One Glorious Day

Toho star Yumi Shirakawa in May 2015. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Writing this blog entry will be difficult for a few reasons. First, there's a lot to say. Second, I don't want to say too much. Third, the news of Shirakawa-san's passing is still a bit too fresh in my mind. Still, some of my blog readers requested more details about my meeting Shirakawa-san, and I thought it was a splendid idea. Here goes.

Yumi Shirakawa breaks into laughter when presented with a piece of memorabilia for her to sign, as Yosuke Natsuki looks on. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

I met Yumi Shirakawa for the first and only time on Sunday, May 3, 2015. The event was Akira Takarada's 81st birthday celebration, which took place in a restaurant high up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (a.k.a. the Tax Towers). The event was a star-studded one, and it featured several celebrity guests who rarely (if ever) make personal appearances. The luminaries included: Yumi Shirakawa, Yuriko Hoshi, Yosuke Natsuki, Machiko Naka, Akira Wakamatsu, and several others. The guest who jumped immediately out to me was Yumi Shirakawa. There's a reason for that.

Yosuke Natsuki and Yumi Shirakawa, two Toho stars who remained close friends for decades. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Yumi Shirakawa is my favorite actress. She an aura and a presence onscreen unlike any other actress I've seen. Watch her in The H-Man (1958) and The Secret of the Telegian (1960), and you're likely to see what I mean. She was beautiful, feminine, vulnerable, and ethereal. There was something about her that appealed to me more than any other Toho actress. She seemed a bit mysterious to me, and I liked that.

In fact, when I was planning a move to Japan, Yumi Shirakawa was at the top of the list of actors and actresses I wanted to meet. No joke. She was always in the number-one spot. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but it was a challenge I couldn't refuse. It was worth doing.

A fun group shot featuring Yumi Shirakawa and many of her co-stars. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

I didn't get my opportunity until four years into my stay. Yosuke Natsuki gave me a big assist, and I will always be grateful for his help. Not only did Natsuki-san personally introduce me to her, but he invited me to sit at the table reserved for the special guests with him and Shirakawa-san. I was the only fan at the event invited to do so. So I essentially got to spend the entire afternoon with Shirakawa-san, and even though she didn't speak English, I most certainly enjoyed our time together.

Actresses Yuriko Hoshi and Yumi Shirakawa listen to a speech. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

What impressed me most was how unlike her screen persona she was. She was open-minded, down-to-earth, and friendly -- not at all like the reserved and shy presence I saw in the movies. She also seemed to have an impish sense of humor. She was very close with Natsuki-san, and I snapped many photos of the two of them together on her camera. Of course, I was more than happy to make myself available to her for anything she needed.

Bin Furuya and Yumi Shirakawa pose for pictures. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

When the party moved to a nearby restaurant, Shirakawa-san was the only female guest to join us. When attendees and guests were taking seats, I intentionally tried to sit at a different table from Shirakawa-san and Natsuki-san (in order to give other fans a chance), but Natsuki-san wouldn't hear of it, and he insisted I sit with them. At the restaurant, Shirakawa-san posed for many photos (including a few with Bin Furuya) and signed many shikishi boards and DVDs. She seemed amused by seeing so many fans of her movies. When I asked a few of my friends who their favorite guest of the day was, they unanimously said Yumi Shirakawa. I agreed.

Yours truly with Yumi Shirakawa.

Look at this picture, and you'll see why. A picture truly does speak a thousand words -- and more. I couldn't tell you how excited I was to meet her, but she looks much more excited than I do! Unfortunately for them, a lot of tokusatsu fans in the Western world never seemed very interested in Shirakawa-san, probably because she never starred in a Godzilla movie. Those people truly missed out on an exceptional person, someone I am honored to have met.

And now she's gone. I took the news of her passing pretty hard. She gave me a lot to look forward to, as I was confident our paths would cross again. The world seems like a darker place without her. Seems like? Okay, I'll say it. It is a darker place without her.

Rest in peace, Shirakawa-san. Your life brought joy to so many others. I'll always remember.