Sunday, January 25, 2015
Today (January 25) I had the distinct privilege to pay a visit to my old friend Ulf Otsuki (Godzilla vs. Megalon). It's been a long time since I'd last seen him, so I was eager to catch up with him. Thankfully, it was just like old times!
Ulf was in great spirits, and he recently filmed a guest spot on Kamen Rider Drive that will air on February 8! For those of you in Japan, be sure to tune in!
Ulf was being interviewed by a writer for a Japanese magazine, and (naturally) Ulf's career in SFX movies and TV shows was the main focus. While the interview was going on, I snapped many photos of Ulf as he was deep in thought. I'm very pleased with the way they came out.
All in all, it was a very pleasant day, and I hope to see Ulf again before too long.
On January 22, I met director Yoshimitsu Banno for dinner at a Japanese restaurant. It had also been a while since our last meeting, which was understandable, given that 2014 was a big year for Banno-san. To be honest, the Godzilla talk was kept to a minimum, as we conversed about other subjects, such as Banno-san's upcoming projects as well as Toho in the 1960s.
It was another wonderful evening, and I was able to assist Bannos-san on certain projects he is working on. I always enjoy visiting Banno-san, and it is truly rewarding to be able to offer him help on his projects.
The exterior of the restaurant Kurosawa in Nagatacho, Tokyo. Yes, Kurosawa is an official restaurant for the Japanese auteur. Photo by Brett Homenick.
On Saturday, January 24, I paid a visit to the restaurant Kurosawa in Nagatacho, Tokyo. According to the restaurant's publicity material, there are four restaurants in the Tokyo area, and each of them offers its patrons something different.
Bear in mind that while there is Kurosawa memorabilia inside the restaurant, this isn't a theme restaurant like those in the West. It's more about recreating an accurate old-style ambiance than in promoting the career of the famed director.
I'd highly recommend Kurosawa to any fan of Japanese movies or anyone who is interested in Japanese culture or food. While the food can be a little expensive, you are not likely to find a more authentic traditional Japanese restaurant. After all, it's Kurosawa!
Thursday, January 15, 2015
On Monday, January 12, I had the distinct privilege of meeting Tatsuyoshi Ehara again in Tokyo. While Ehara-san makes his residence in Nagano Prefecture, he travels to Tokyo every once in a while, and during his last trip I was able to visit him and enjoy lunch with him.
Ehara-san would be best known in the West for his appearances in Akira Kurosawa's Sanjuro (1962) and Red Beard (1965), but his acting career goes back to the 1940s as a child star for Shochiku Studios.
Our interview from last June approaches completion, so watch this space for any further developments.
Saturday, January 3, 2015
January has finally arrived, and with it has come a new year. Things have already gotten busy. On January 2, I went to Kanagawa to see composer Riichiro Manabe and give him my holiday greetings personally. I brought him two boxes of manju, which he always enjoys. It's always a treat to see Manabe-san.
On the way back, I snapped a few photos of Odawara Castle from Odawara Station. With the birds flying nearby and sunset taking place, I thought the photos turned out rather well.
On January 3, my friend Yasushi and I paid a visit to Ultraman Ace actress Keiko Nishi at her cafe. Yasushi and I spent an enjoyable morning chatting with her and catching up on several topics. It was wonderful to she how well she was doing at the start of the new year.
We finished the morning taking some obligatory photos at the Godzilla statue at Hibiya Chanter Square. See how I dressed up for the occasion?
January is already off to a great start. Other events are in the works, so stay tuned!
Saturday, December 27, 2014
Rhodes Reason has passed away at the age of 84. I'm having a difficult time trying to find the proper words to convey my thoughts. There's a lot to say, so I hope the following blog post will do at least some justice to Rhodes Reason and the impact he had on my life.
I first contacted Rhodes through his wife Jeri in early 2006. At the time, I had just started conducting interviews with people connected with Toho kaiju films, and given that Rhodes was the star of one of my favorites, King Kong Escapes (1967), I was eager to speak with him.
Rhodes has always shunned publicity and never liked interviews. Fortunately, however, Jeri passed my request on to Rhodes. Shortly thereafter, I found out that Rhodes wanted to talk with me. Suffice it to say, I was nervous. I'd never spoken with an actor (let alone star) from Toho's Showa era, so it would be a first for me. I remember sitting in my recliner waiting for his call, feeling about as excited as I was anxious.
When Rhodes got on the phone, we spoke for a long time and had a great chat. At this point, the details were hazy, but I remember being struck by Rhodes' deadpan sense of humor. He loved to tell jokes and make people laugh, completely at odds with his serious and authoritative screen persona.
During this time, we had a series of telephone conversations, and it became clear that Rhodes and (especially) Jeri were interested in attending G-FEST. J.D. Lees was delighted to have Rhodes headline the convention, so we agreed to wait until 2007 to bring Rhodes as the convention's guest of honor.
Not only did Rhodes grant very few interviews, he rarely attended conventions. Aside from G-FEST, he only ever guested at a show geared toward Westerns, which was held in North Carolina in 2000. Rhodes never charged for his autograph, and happily answered through-the-mail autograph requests for his fans, but he almost never attended public events. G-FEST would be a major exception for him.
I met Rhodes and Jeri in person for the first time at G-FEST. Although J.D. intended to pick the couple up from the airport (while I assisted Shelley Sweeney, who would be arriving at about the time), J.D. came back to the Crowne Plaza without the Reasons. He couldn't find them at the terminal. Sometime thereafter, the Reasons arrived at the Crowne Plaza on their own. I instantly recognized them when they entered, and I went up and introduced myself. I'd get to know them very well throughout the weekend.
I finally got to interview Rhodes about King Kong Escapes during our panel discussion. Damon Foster edited together a tongue-in-cheek introductory video that Rhodes seemed to enjoy quite a bit. During the interview, Rhodes used his acerbic wit to entertain the audience about his memories of KKE. I was happy to play along when I could. When it was over, Jeri told me that Rhodes and I made a great team.
Earlier, on Friday night, King Kong Escapes screened at the Pickwick. When Rhodes made his way down the aisle to take his seat, the audience spontaneously broke into applause. I was later told that this unscripted sign of admiration really touched him.
A major highlight for me happened during the awards luncheon. When J.D. introduced Rhodes to the audience, he stood up and acknowledged his fans. Everyone in the hall stood as well. I was standing next to Rhodes, applauding like everyone else, when Rhodes suddenly brought me closer to him and planted one on my cheek. I don't think I've ever been told "thank you" in a better way.
On Sunday evening, I spent several hours in the Reasons' suite, listening to Rhodes' stories about his time in Hollywood. I truly enjoyed ever moment of it, and I'll treasure those memories forever.
After G-FEST, I kept in touch with Rhodes and Jeri by phone and e-mail. In 2008, the Reasons left Portland and moved to Palm Springs. As coincidence would have it, I ended up in the same area about a year later, and I was able to see the Reasons a few times. I loved asking Rhodes' opinions of whatever new movies were out at the time. If a movie had a political edge to it, chances are he liked it.
I tried to see the Reasons when I visited California in July 2012, but Rhodes' health wouldn't allow it. I was disappointed to have missed the chance, but I had no idea it would be my final opportunity. I last spoke to Rhodes on the phone a few months ago. He seemed to be doing fairly well, even though his health was not so great. He was interested in hearing about my meeting with Mie Hama and asked me to e-mail the photo I took with her, which I did. That would be my last direct communication with Rhodes Reason.
I miss you already, Rhodes. You were always great to me, and I hope I was able to show how much you meant to me. I'll always remember you. With all my love.
Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Yup, that's your humble blogmeister in a big frog mask at the Shop Majin booth near Chofu Station.
Today was a busy with many events happening all over Tokyo. After visiting Kadokawa Daiei Studios, I visited the Shop Majin booth near Chofu Station.
The shop's booth was not just selling its usual Gamera/Daimajin merchandise, but was also highlighting some spooky yokai creatures as part of an exhibit that's currently being held in Chofu. I was able to get in on the fun by wearing an enormous frog mask they had on display!
Just some of the merchandis available at the Shop Majin booth.
Even though I could barely see (or even hear) anything while I had the mask on, it was a fun experience, and the photos turned out quite well.
Some of the masks were intriguing designs I'd never seen before (see below). My interest in yokai more or less ends with the trilogy of films Daiei produced in the late 1960s, but it was cool to be exposed to another side of Japanese monsters.
While I was walking around Ningyocho, I stumbled upon a restaurant called Mifune. At first glance, I thought it was an interesting coincidence, but no, it really is a Toshiro Mifune-themed restaurant!
I didn't go in to sample the food, so I'll do that another time. It's a good thing I remember how to get there!
After making that discovery, I went to a live house called Akasaka Graffiti for a Christmas concert of sorts. The program was made up of various singers who took turns signing (mostly) Christmas songs, karaoke-style. While I enjoyed the bevy of singers who sang familiar Christmas tunes, I came specifically to see Maria Theresa Gow.
Tokusatsu fans may know Ms. Gow from her turn as GUARD member Georgie Leland in Ultraman Gaia (1998-99). She's always very friendly, and it was a blast to see her again. Naturally, she did an excellent job onstage!
Every December, Kadokawa Daiei Studios in Chofu, Tokyo, gets into a festive mood and decorates its Daimajin statues in Santa and Rudolph regalia. Today I stopped by the studio and snapped some photos, which are presented here. Enjoy!