Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Before I begin, I should point out (as the title suggests) that Tokyo was hit by its worst snowstorm in about 16 years just before I made my way to the city. (I was there between February 9 and 11.) Despite that, most of my plans went on without a hitch, and I had a successful stay.
As pictured above, my friend Yasushi and I ate lunch with designer Akihiko Iguchi at an Indian restaurant.
Even though we first communicated circa 2006, I didn't meet Daniel Kahl until February 10. Although he is a well known TV personality in Japan, we Godzilla fans know him as the one and only Major Spielberg from Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)!
Now here was a major highlight. I got to spend a couple of hours chatting with Toho supporting actor Toru Ibuki on February 9 as well. Ibuki-san played the long-lost brother, Yata, in Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1966) and the bearded alien, Tsuda, in Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975), among various other roles during the 1960s and '70s. Ibuki-san was incredibly warm and polite, as so many of the actors I've met have been.
Eating dinner with producer-writer-director Yoshimitsu Banno is almost a required event for me these days, but it's always enjoyable. Banno-san started at Toho during 1955, so the information at his fingertips is nothing short of amazing!
Saturday, January 11, 2014
I recently returned from my latest trip to Tokyo, so I'll take some time to discuss the highlights. As usual, it was a fun few days, and I got to meet some new faces whom I hope I will see again very soon. On with the show.
Visiting Eiji Tsuburaya's grave site was a brand-new experience for me, and it was quite moving. Tsuburaya-san's influence on the genre we love still has not been properly documented in the West.
Not so far from Kadokawa-Daiei Studios is Nikkatsu Studios, which in 2012 celebrated its centennial. Near the front gates this Gappa sign is clearly visible.
Here I got to meet Toho and Tsuburaya Productions designer Akihiko Iguchi for the second time. I first met Iguchi-san at a Mechagodzilla event held in Ginza in November 2011. But this was a one-on-one meeting, with his daughter there to assist communication.
After having a cup of hot chocolate (perfect for a cold winter's day in Tokyo), I posed for this picture with Ultraman Ace cast member Keiko Nishi at her cafe in Ginza.
The Godzilla statue in Hibiya during sunset. Nuff sed.
My trip ended with a meeting with Toho star Yosuke Natsuki. We spoke for about four hours (!) with our mutual friend Asako, who very kindly translated the conversation. Natsuki-san is an excellent storyteller, and his company is something I always enjoy and look forward to.
Monday, November 18, 2013
During my first foray into Hakone, I was lucky enough to meet Mie Hama (King Kong vs. Godzilla, King Kong Escapes, numerous Crazy Cats comedies) at a public event. Readers of this blog know Hama-san's various Toho credits, but internationally she is best known as Kissy Suzuki in the James Bond actioner You Only Live Twice (1967), in which she stars opposite Sean Connery. Though it was limited to 30 people, I made arrangements early enough before the event sold out.
Although autographs weren't part of the event, photo opportunities were, which of course was very cool. The talk show itself was rather brief, but the experience of meeting Hama-san made it well worth it. She was very warm and kind, and I hope for the chance to meet her again.
During my most recent trip to Tokyo, I was very fortunate to be invited to a private screening of one of the most sought-after kaiju fan films of all time, Gamera 4: The Truth. Director Shinpei Hayashiya invited my friend Yasushi and me into his home for the screening.
Hayashiya-san and his producer-wife Atsuko were incredibly gracious hosts. I can't thank them enough for their hospitality.
Regarding the film itself, it's a very good mix of CGI and practical effects. I was under the impression that the film would be almost all computer graphics, so it was a pleasant surprise to see detailed miniatures and puppet effects. Even though the drama scenes have a shot-on-video quality, the movie was well paced that after a while I didn't even notice it anymore. Overall, it was a remarkable effort, especially considering it was a fan film!
After making this (as well as Godzilla vs. Deathgilas, another fan film), Hayashiya-san went on to direct Reigo the Deep-Sea Monster vs. the Battleship Yamato and Raiga the Monster from the Deep Sea. I, for one, eagerly await Hayashiya-san's next effort!
Godzilla movies are recognized and appreciated for many reasons among their fans. Those who live in or travel to Japan get to experience some of the shooting locations up close and personal.
The Sumitomo Building was featured very prominently in Godzilla 1985 (1984). Godzilla collapses against the side of the skyscraper after his initial battle with the Super X, but after the Super X is destroyed by the Big G, he topples the building onto the wreckage.
It's amazing to me that such an iconic location in the Godzilla series routinely gets ignored in favor of other, less relevant places. Perhaps that reveals a lack of research on the part of certain writers. Whatever the case, when in Tokyo, this is one location that should not be missed.
The great thing about the Sumitomo Building is that it seemed to hold up just fine after I bumped into it. They must have made lots of improvements since Godzilla was on the scene!
Here's my attempt at photographing myself in front of the Sumitomo Building, but I was way too close. Next time I have the chance, I'm standing much farther away to get the whole building in the shot!
Virtually next door, of course, is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, featured very prominently during the climactic battle of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991).
Shinjuku has a lot to offer its visitors, whether they're Godzilla fans or not. But if you're into the Toho Titan and wish to see the real-life locations used in the films, these two skyscrapers should not be missed!
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Maestro Akira Ifukube's centenary arrives in May 2014, but on February 1, 2014, a special 100th-anniversary concert, featuring the famed composer's kaiju eiga music, will be held in the Sumida Triphony Hall in Tokyo. Lucky Godzilla fans in the Tokyo vicinity during this time next year will get to hear a live orchestral rendition of some of Ifukube-sensei's most popular music.
The above flyer contains all the relevant information for interested parties. I hope to see you there!
Monday, November 11, 2013
Former actor and voice actor in Japanese films, Cliff Harrington, died in Kyushu, Japan, on August 9, 2013. He was 81.
Born in Seattle, WA, on June 18, 1932, military life eventually brought Cliff to Japan where he became involved in the entertainment industry. He appeared as Al in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), and by happenstance ended up dubbing the voice of the helicopter pilot he sat next to (in the Japanese version). Cliff dubbed a lot more films via William Ross and Frontier Enterprises, and even worked as cinematographer on Robert Dunham's independent film Time Travelers (1966).
I interviewed Cliff in 2006 and remained in touch with him over the years. He moved to Kyushu in 2011 to be closer to his wife Tomoko's aging parents. While Cliff had been healthy during the time I knew him, he suddenly became ill several months ago and never recovered. I last spoke to Cliff (from the hospital) in April or May, but he didn't sound well at all. Only tonight did I learn of the sad news.