Destroy All Planets 2010

Destroy All Planets 2010
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Sunday, July 24, 2016

BATTLE OF OKINAWA! Kihachi Okamoto's Classic Is Screened in Yokohama!

Teruyoshi Nakano, Takashi Naganuma, and Kensho Yamashita pose with a Battle of Okinawa poster. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today I attended a screening of Kihachi Okamoto's Battle of Okinawa (1971). It was my first time to see the film in 35mm, and it's never looked better. The movie remains a powerful anti-war statement more than 40 years after its original release. I was privileged to sit next to Nakano-san during the screening.

After the screening, SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano and assistant director Kensho Yamashita held a Q&A session in which they talked about their experiences. Given Nakano-san's expertise in explosions, he naturally described how many of those shots were accomplished.

Assistant director Kensho Yamashita focused more on the dramatic side of things. He even brought a scrapbook with him, which contained many behind-the-scenes photos from the set. There were many rare shots of Okamoto-san directing the action. Yamashita-san was also an assistant director on Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975) and Blue Christmas (1978) and went on to direct Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994).

Following the talk, it was dinnertime! Many of us gathered around separate tables and broke bread with the guests of honor. In particular, I talked with Naganuma-san about the model work on Godzilla (1984), a personal favorite of mine.

I always enjoy seeing Naganuma-san, as he is among the friendliest Toho alumni you could meet. It's always fun asking about many of the classics from the '70s, as he still has vivid memories of them.

Kensho Yamashita is also a lot of fun, and he seems to enjoy these events as much as anyone else.

And that's a wrap! There's always something happening in my neck of the woods, so stay tuned for the latest (and coolest) happenings in the world of Toho movies!

GORO IBUKI IS BACK! Eating Dinner with a Toho Leading Man!

Actor Katsuhiko Sasaki in Omotesando. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday night, my friend Yasushi and I were privileged to be invited to dinner by actor Katsuhiko Sasaki, the star of Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) and Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975). Sasaki-san is a busy actor, and we don't get to see him as much as we'd like. But when we do, it's always a blast.

Sasaki-san took us to a yakitori restaurant that he enjoys, and we all enjoyed a delicious meal. We spent a couple of hours there, and we covered many topics. Sasaki-san was very impressed with the job Yasushi and I did of taking care of him during his visit to Chicago a couple of years ago, so we've stayed in touch ever since. Here's hoping we can get together again soon!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

FIFTY YEARS OF ULTRAMAN CONTINUED! The Next Day of This Star-Studded Event!

Tsuburaya Productions director Toshihiro Iijima during a Q&A session. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today I attended another Ultraman event in Yokohama. The guest of honor again was director Toshihiro Iijima, who directed many episodes of Ultra Q (1966), Ultraman (1966-67), and Ultra Seven (1967-68). Episode 2 of Ultraman, which was directed by Iijima-san, was screened for attendees.

Actor Kai Shishido always keeps a friend in his shirt pocket. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Also on hand was actor Kai Shishido. If his surname sounds familiar, yes, he is the son of acclaimed Nikkatsu star Joe Shishido (Branded to Kill). Shishido-san portrayed Captain Shigeru Hijikata on Ultraman Max (2005-06), and a two-parter featuring Baltan Seijin from the series was screened in conjunction with his appearance.

While Ultraman was indeed the focal point of the day, I have to admit that a special surprise diverted my attention elsewhere.

Shintoho actress Kyoko Yashiro smiles for the camera. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I found out yesterday during the previous day's event that Iijima-san is married to Shintoho actress Kyoko Yashiro, who accompanied him on both days. Yashiro-san worked with acclaimed horror director Nobuo Nakagawa on The Lady Vampire (1959). She also appeared in Vampire Bride (1960) and The Ghost of the Girl Diver (1960). Suffice it to say, I was blown away -- in a good way!

Yashiro-san was very sweet and spoke to me about her career at Shintoho. I seemed much more interested in her career than anyone else was at the gathering, but I'm used to that by now!

All in all, it was a great day spent in great company. Many thanks to Iijima-san and Yashiro-san for their kindness and generosity.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

FIFTY YEARS OF ULTRAMAN! Celebrating the Hero from M78 with Some of his Longtime Friends!

Former child actor Akihide Tsuzawa poses for a picture. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Following work, I was able to join a celebration of Ultraman's 50th anniversary in Yokohama with some luminaries from the series' history. 

Akihide Tsuzawa was one of the special guests, and he was of particular interest to me. He played the young boy Hoshino, who was a regular on the original Ultraman (1966-67) TV series. Although I've met many of the alumni from the original series, this was my first time to meet Tsuzawa-san. I found him to be gregarious and a great storyteller. He even has a credit in another major SFX production. He played a young islander in the original Mothra (1961)!

Ultra-series director Toshihiro Ijima. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Another true legend of the Ultra-series was in attendance, and that was director Toshihiro Iijima. Iijima-san helmed numerous episodes of Ultra Q (1966), Ultraman, Ultra Seven (1967-68), and other Tsuburaya Productions series. He also directed the feature film Daigoro vs. Goliath (1972).

Iijima-san is truly one of the pioneers who shaped the Ultra-series into what it has become. He had a guiding hand in the pivotal first three Ultra-series (and beyond). It's always exciting to meet an individual of Iijima-san's caliber.

Takeshi Yagi, a director of some of the more recent Ultraman adventures, was also there, sharing his memories about making the latter-day episodes of the franchise.

It was a great evening, but the fun resumes tomorrow. I can't wait!

GODZILLA IN SHINJUKU! Godzilla Resurgence Is Set to Surge!

The other night I went to Shinjuku and snapped some photos. The movie poster hanging just below Godzilla's claw is particularly apropos. The other photos here are rather self-explanatory.

This last photo is from Shibuya, as you get off the JR Yamanote Line and head for the Hachiko Exit.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Yumi Ito, 1941-2016

Actress/singer Yumi Ito, one half of the popular singing duo The Peanuts, passed away on May 18 at the age of 75, although the news has only now been reported. Emi Ito passed away almost exactly four years ago in 2012.

Happiness weeps again. May both sisters rest in peace.

UPDATE: A great photo too cool not to share. Source:

AKIRA IFUKUBE IN CONCERT! An Incredible Performance Thrills the Audience in Kawasaki!

A celebratory bouquet of flowers stands at the entrance of Muza Kawasaki Symphony Hall in honor of the Akira Ifukube concert. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On July 10, I was privileged to be invited to attend an Akira Ifukube concert held at Muza Kawasaki Symphony Hall. Thanks to Erik Homenick, the webmaster of, I was able to reserve a ticket for the performance. And what a performance it was!

Yours truly with Kiwami Ifukube, the late composer's son.

Before the concert started, and during the intermission, I was fortunate to meet all three of Akira Ifukube's children. (I'd met Kyoko Ifukube at several other events over the years, but this was my first time to meet Kiwami and Reiko). All three of the Ifukube children were extremely polite. Kiwami happily snapped pictures throughout the day.

Kyoko Ifukube poses with her daughter, Itsumo. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

As for the concert itself, it was extraordinary. Admittedly, I don't know a fraction of the information that Erik knows about Ifukube and his music, so I'd leave any critique to him. But he was impressed with the concert, touting it as even better than the previous one two years ago. That's certainly good enough for me.

Posing with Reiko Ifukube.

After the concert, I was invited to attend a dinner with Kiwami Ifukube, Erik, and a few other VIPs. The dinner lasted a few hours, and a great time was had by all. Kiwami certainly seemed to be enjoying himself immensely.

Kiwami Ifukube during the VIP dinner. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Following that dinner, Erik and I joined concert pianist Reiko Yamada (who wowed the audience with her performance) and Heisei Godzilla series conductor Satoshi Imai for drinks at a nearby cafe. 

 Satoshi Imai (second from the left), Erik (third from the left), Reiko Yamada (third from the right), and yours truly pose for a group photo.

After that, Erik, Reiko, and I wandered around Kawasaki. We even stopped by Kaiju Sakaba, but unfortunately it was already in the process of closing. Maybe next time!

Erik poses with Kiwami and Toru Ifukube. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I must give a big thanks to Erik, without whom I could not have attended the concert or joined the VIP dinner. Many thanks also to all three of Ifukube's children (Kiwami, Kyoko, and Reiko) who were all generous with their time. Congratulations to Reiko Yamada for another outstanding performance!