Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Japan's biggest female motion picture star of all time, Setsuko Hara, died of pneumonia in Kanagawa Prefecture on September 5. She was 95.
The late actress often collaborated with celebrated filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu and starred in such pictures as Late Spring (1949), Tokyo Story (1953), Late Autumn (1960), among other works. Hara can also be seen in the Toho classics The Three Treasures (1959) and Chushingura (1962).
She announced her retirement from acting around the time Yasujiro Ozu passed away in 1963, after which she lived a reclusive life in Kamakura, Kanagawa. Not much was known about her life in the 50-plus years since her retirement, and the fact that the media in Japan are only learning about her death now says it all.
Rest in peace, Setsuko Hara.
Sunday, November 22, 2015
A few weeks ago, I received an invitation by e-mail from screenwriter Wataru Mimura (Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, Godzilla 2000) to attend the latest P-LABO FILMFES on November 22. Suffice it to say, I was pleasantly surprised. The last I had talked to Mimura-san about it, it seemed he had decided to put the film festival on indefinite hiatus.
This year, however, it came roaring back to life! Guest speakers included Shogo Tomiyama (producer for the Heisei and Millennium series of Godzilla films) and screenwriter Hiroshi Kashiwabara (Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus).
Many short-subject films were screened at the festival, and they varied widely in style and genre. One was a zombie comedy, and another was a rather tragic tale of a young scientist who builds a perfect female robot. All were V-cinema (i.e., shot on video), and the zombie comedy reminded me of the type of movies Conrad Brooks made a few years ago. (And I mean that in a good way!)
It was great to see Kashiwabara-san again, as I hadn't seen him in over two years. We had a nice chat, but given that things were moving quickly, it had to be kept brief. Here's hoping I'll see Kashiwabara-san again in less than two years.
I must thank Mimura-san again for inviting me to the festival. Many of the films were enjoyable, and it is always a blast to catch up with familiar faces. Here's hoping there will be a P-LABO FILMFES 2016!
Saturday, November 21, saw a jazz concert take place at Hotel Molino near Shin-Yurigaoka Station. Mirai Miracle performed a number of jazz songs for a lively audience. In fact, toward the end of the show, most of the audience was dancing and singing right along with the music. It was truly a sight to behold!
Although I've attended many jazz shows in Japan, the aspect that stuck out the most for me was the presence of several notable Japanese genre celebrities. Bin Furuya, Yuriko Hishimi, Hiroyuki Takano, and Mari Shimizu were all in attendance. I've talked about these folks so many times on this blog that introducing them all again seems beyond redundant. Still, if you'd like info on their careers, you'd do well to check this blog's archives.
During the show, I was seated at Bin Furuya's table, and joining us were many familiar faces in Japanese fandom. We shared many laughs and great conversations.
As I mentioned earlier, the concert got especially fun when most of the people in the crowd began dancing and even singing with the music. That certainly never happened at any of the other jazz shows I've attended!
I was especially pleased to get to know actress Grace Mika. Even though I saw her perform on the stage last year alongside Bin Furuya, this was my first time to talk with her. She was born in Hawaii and speaks English very well (despite being raised in Japan).
When all was said and done, many of us went to a nearby karaoke place and sang a variety of songs. We were briefly joined by Yuriko Hishimi, but Hiroyuki Takano stayed until the end and probably had more energy than the rest of us combined!
Hiroyuki Takano belts out the theme to Barom-1 during a karaoke after-party. Photo by Brett Homenick.
As for me, I sang "We Didn't Start the Fire" by Billy Joel. Takano-san later told me that his favorite Billy Joel song is "New York State of Mind."
It was a great evening in so many ways, and I'm very glad to have attended. I'm also glad to have caught the train home in time! We were out so late it seemed entirely possible I could have missed it!
It's not even December yet, but train stations all over Tokyo are already getting into the holiday spirit. Last night, I spotted the scenes just above and below in and around Shin-Yurigaoka Station.
The photos below were taken just outside of Mizonokuchi Station. As you can see, the Japanese love Christmas!
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Today I visited Odaiba for the first time in a while. The main reason was to celebrate a friend's birthday. Afterward, we took a tour of the Fuji TV Building. Although I've seen it from the outside many times, this would be my first time to go inside and look around.
Before entering, I snapped some photos of the replica Statue of Liberty and the Rainbow Bridge. These sights are always worth checking out!
While approaching the Fuji TV Building, I took this photo. It looked a bit like a futuristic city to me (especially a 1960s interpretation of the future), which I found captivating.
The view from the Fuji TV Building's observation deck was breathtaking. It's certainly no Tokyo Skytree, but the view of the Rainbow Bridge is stunning.
Tokyo Tower looms over the Rainbow Bridge. Only in Odaiba can you see such sights!
Ultra-kaiju were well represented at the Fuji TV Building!
This photo was snapped on the set of a TV program that airs on Fuji TV. I should've auditioned!
Wait, did I get the part anyway? No, that's just me behind a cardboard cutout, but it sure looks convincing, doesn't it?
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Teruyoshi Nakano and Kenpachiro Satsuma react to a comment from the audience.
Kenpachiro Satsuma listens to Teruyoshi Nakano's detailed explanations.
Teruyoshi Nakano is all smiles as he recalls his career in special effects.
The gang's all here! Eiichi Asada, Teruyoshi Nakano, and Kenpachiro Satsuma have a blast as they remember the past.
Yours truly with Eiichi Asada.
Good times with Godzilla suit actor Ken Satsuma!
Spending an evening with Takashi Naganuma always brings a smile to my face.
Saturday, November 14, saw a fun and lively event in Yokohama that hosted several notable names from the world of Japanese special effects. Teruyoshi Nakano (Godzilla series SFX director from 1971-1984), Kenpachiro Satsuma (Godzilla suit actor from 1984-1995), and Eiichi Asada (Godzilla series SFX director from 2003-2004) were on hand to talk shop about tokusatsu.
The three SFX giants talked a great deal about the making of Pulgasari (1985), one of the more fascinating monster epics ever made. One interesting bit of information was told to me by Toho model-maker Takashi Naganuma. He told me that the name of Pulgasari refers to a starfish and that, like a starfish, Pulgasari cannot be killed.
Following the talk, it was dinnertime! All four of the guests sat with the fans and mingled with the crowd. Everyone was welcome to get pictures and their items signed. It was also a chance for fellow fans to catch up with one another. Many great discussions were had this evening.
I had a particularly fascinating with Eiichi Asada, who told me about his work on Godzilla vs. Megalon. He operated the clapperboard and told me about the proper techniques for using it. After clapping the board, the user should whisk it out of frame as quickly as possible and bring it against his chest in order to reduce noise.
He also told me about the chalk dust that would often invade a scene once a clapperboard had been used. In order to keep chalk dust from rising (and interfering with the scene), Asada-san told me that he would apply moisture to the chalk to ensure it wouldn't come off the board.
Given that all four of the guests had worked on Godzilla vs. Megalon, I brought a mini poster for them to sign. It turned out extremely well, and I'm very proud to add it to my collection.
It was another excellent event, the only kind one can experience in Japan. The month is stacked with many great events, so keep watching this space!