Saturday, April 28, 2012

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AKIRA TAKARADA! The Toho star turns 78 on April 29

Celebrating a birthday in style: totorom and Akira Takarada are joined by yours truly at a Tokyo Italian restaurant on March 29, in celebration of my 31st birthday.

Here in Japan, the date is April 29th, and this day marks the 78th birthday of Akira Takarada. Mr. Takarada portrayed Hideto Ogata in the original Godzilla movie from 1954 and starred in five other G-films, among other Toho kaiju classics. Mr. Takarada makes his second appearance at Chicago's G-FEST this summer, July 13-15. 

"Hey, that's me!" Mr. Takarada spots himself in a book about Eiji Tsuburaya.

I spoke with Mr. Takarada on the phone earlier today, and he plans to celebrate his birthday with a small party. Not a bad way to celebrate the big day at all!

Here's to you, Mr. Takarada!

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Academy Award-winning actor George Chakiris and yours truly, hanging out in Beverly Hills, CA, in March 2011.

Filmmaker Tyler Meyer recently contacted me through this blog to bring my attention to his documentary on Oscar winner George Chakiris. At this time, Tyler is soliciting support through Kickstarter to help fund the project. From the film's Kickstarter page:
Chakiris is the first hour-long documentary about George Chakiris, a talented and versatile performer who is best known for his Academy Award-winning performance as Bernardo in West Side Story. Starting as a dancer in some of the most iconic movie musicals of Hollywood’s golden age (he serenaded Marilyn Monroe during “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), he then moved on to a long and successful career as a film, television & stage actor, recording artist, and jewelry designer. Using interviews with George and those who have known and worked with him over the years, along with archive photos and clips of his performances, our film will chronicle George’s inspiring success story and to pay tribute to his incredible body of work.  
I'm happy to support anything that promotes the career of George Chakiris. If you'd like to take part, please visit the Kickstarter site!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

GAMERA RAVAGES CHOFU! Could other Japanese cities follow Chofu's lead in using kaiju to promote tourism?

"Hai, chiizu!" sez Gamera to the Western paparazzi.

One of Japan's most beloved giant monsters has fans in Chofu, Tokyo, seeing double.

Chofu's tourist information center (Choufu-shi Kanko Annaish) has turned to Gamera for help in promoting interest in the city. Kaiju fans in the area have the opportunity to the two versions of the one and only Gamera!

Your humble blogmeister with one of the Gamera suits on display.

Although Gamera has stomped his way into the storefront window, the heart and soul of the center (which also goes by the name of Nukumori Station) is the works of Shigeru Mizuki, creator of the popular manga Gegege no Kitaro.

Shigeru Mizuki's ghoulish characters greet Chofu tourists.

That's great and all, but we want to see more monsters!

Gamera ... ugh, I mean "Toto," as he's seen from the streets of Chofu.

Goofing off with Gamera should be one of the highlights of any kaiju fan's visit to Japan!

While not kaiju-related, another great piece of movie memorabilia is on hand at the tourism center.

The Burmese harp from ... The Burmese Harp (1956) is also on display in Chofu for a limited time.

That's right; the burmese harp from Nikkatsu's classic film of the same name is also on display. According to the center's staff, the harp won't be there for much longer, so for those fortunate souls nearby, stop in and see it while you still can!

Lights, action, Gamera!

But wait! There's even more! Daiei's other popular SFX franchise is represented in Chofu...

Majin strikes back!

Replica statues of the, well, other Majin statues outside of Kadokawa Studios were displayed along with Blu-ray copies of their films. Based on what I was told by the staff, these statues are likely already gone!

An essential travel guide for movie fans in Japan -- available only at the Chofu tourism center!

The center is a five-minute walk from the north exit of the Keio Line at Chofu Station. It's open from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and hosts a Chofu City guidebook corner, Shigeru Mizuki display corner, Kitaro merchandise shop, and other goodies.

The staff told us that the Gamera suits were most likely not a permanent display, but they're not sure how long they'll be available. Hopefully the Friend of All Children will stick around long enough to meet and mingle with his Western kaiju fans.

Chofu City is really onto something here. Reward good behavior and spend some of your travel dollars where they appreciate kaiju eiga!

Special thanks to Ayako Mio and Yasushi Shiroi.