Thursday, December 31, 2015
In Japan, it's already 2016, but I wanted to say a few words about the year that just ended. In short, 2015 was by far my best year in Japan. It easily toppled 2012 (my previous favorite) to claim the top spot.
There was so much to do, and keeping busy was never an issue. I made many new friendships and strengthened the ones I already had. There were many other positive developments (most of which are beyond the scope of this blog), but suffice it to say that when I think of 2015, the good far outweighs the bad.
Thanks for the memories, 2015!
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
Today (December 30), I paid a visit to actor Ulf Otsuki at his home in Edogawa. I had a great time seeing him again. First, we watched the old MGM musical Till the Clouds Roll By (1946). (Ulf is a big fan of old Hollywood movies, and we've started watching one every time I come to visit.)
Following the movie, we made our way to our usual Indian restaurant for some curry. We spent a long time there, chatting about a variety of topics.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening, and it's always a blast to see Ulf. Celebrations for the upcoming new year continue tomorrow, and I'm quite excited for what's in store.
Happy New Year, from me and Ulf!
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Signage for Star Wars: The Force Awakens at a movie theater in Tokyo. Photo by Brett Homenick.
First, a confession. I'm not the biggest Star Wars fan in the world. In fact, I haven't seen a new Star Wars film since my brother took me to see The Phantom Menace in the summer of 1999. Unsurprisingly, I haven't been in any particular hurry to catch up on the franchise since then, but truth be told, I pretty much left Star Wars behind in my early teens.
Hey, look! It's Paddington, and he probably wants some marmalade! Photo by Brett Homenick.
Given all the hype (most of which seems to come from meme-sharing fans on Facebook), I finally broke down and went to see it at the 109 Cinemas in Futako-Tamagawa (hence the name of this blog post, in case you were wondering).
Even though the film has been out for a while in Japan, my screening (which was on a Tuesday afternoon) was nearly sold out, and I had to settle for a seat in the very first row. Hm...
Interestingly, the teaser trailer for Shin Godzilla (a.k.a. Godzilla Resurgence) played before the film. If J.J. Abrams catches a screening of Star Wars in Japan, he'll probably be wondering why it took his flick Cloverfield so long to get released in Japan and why it's being called Godzilla. Suffice it to say, the teaser was as unimpressive to me on the big screen as it was on YouTube.
(Minor spoilers ahead)
As for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the movie had me up until those gloopy, tentacled monsters showed up on the Millennium Falcon (at least that's where I think it was -- the characters moved around so much it was hard to keep track of where they were). Not only were they boring and nondescript, but they belonged in another movie. After that, well, I just had a "been there, done that" feeling until the last shot of the film, which was just as unsatisfying as anything else on the screen.
I'd give the movie about two out of four stars, but again, I'm not the target audience for this sort of thing. I've certainly seen movies a lot worse, but it could have been so much better.
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Akira Kubo and Yoshio Tsuchiya pal around with an old friend.
Yoshio Tsuchiya and Yukiko Kobayashi talk shop with each other.
Three Toho legends pose for the camera.
Akira Kubo lights a cigarette for an old friend.
Yoshio Tsuchiya watches himself at work over 50 years ago in The Human Vapor (1960).
Akira Kubo holds up a Japanese program booklet for A Star Is Born (1954).
Return of Ultraman suit actor Eiichi Kikuchi honors Akira Kubo at the event.
Yours truly, posing with Akira Kubo, Yoshio Tsuchiya, and Yukiko Kobayashi.
With Akira Kubo.
With Yukiko Kobayashi.
Yukiko Kobayashi assists Yoshio Tsuchiya with his signings.
With Yoshio Tsuchiya.
Thursday, December 24, saw an all-star reunion of three major Toho stars at a restaurant called Nano in Shinjuku. The three actors were Yoshio Tsuchiya (Seven Samurai, The Human Vapor), Akira Kubo (Gorath, Monster Zero), and Yukiko Kobayashi (Detroy All Monsters, The Vampire Doll).
In particular, it was a rare opportunity to meet Yoshio Tsuchiya, who doesn't often appear at events in Tokyo. I was very excited to meet him, as he acting credits are among the most impressive of any Toho actor. He's one of the principal cast members of Seven Samurai (1954)!
During the Q&A, I was privileged to ask the only question from the audience, and I asked it of all three quests. I asked them what their favorite childhood memories are. Kubo-san replied that joining Toho as a 15-year-old actor was his favorite.
Kobayashi-san then told the audience that when she was born, her father (an actor in his own right) wanted a boy, and so she grew up dressing like a boy, and even enjoyed playing with guns rather than dolls.
Tsuchiya-san talked about being afraid of King Kong (1933) as a boy. He also went on to talk about how many actors left Tokyo and went to Yamanashi Prefecture to escape the war. Since Tsuchiya-san lived there, he got to know many actors during that time. One of the actors he got to know turned out to be Kobayashi-san's father!
After the interview session wrapped, the three guests joined the audience in singing "Silent Night" in both Japanese and English. During the English portion, I was invited to join the guests onstage (so to speak) and to sing along with them. It was quite a surprise for me!
Following that, it was time for autographs. Since Tsuchiya-san is a rare presence at events, he signed more autographs than the other guests by far. Despite it all, he remained in good spirits.
This was my fourth time meeting Akira Kubo, and I was gratified to know that he recognized me. He mentioned that we first met in Kyoto at a screening of Monster Zero, which took place four years ago in 2011. Kubo-san was very kind and was a joy to speak with.
Kobayashi-san was also great to see again. The Vampire Doll is a great Japanese horror film, and she is excellent as the film's vampire.
It was my first time to meet Yoshio Tsuchiya, and what can I say? He's a legend, and it was very exciting to speak with him.
I had an excellent time at the event, and I must commend the organizers on a job well done. What better way to close out 2015 than with three Toho legends?
Sunday, December 20, 2015
Tonight I paid a visit to Kadokawa Daiei Studios in Chofu, Tokyo, to photograph the Daimajin statues decked out in their yuletide glory. Here are the photos for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
Wednesday, December 16, 2015
I just returned home from an evening at Cygnus, a live house in Ginza that specializes in jazz. I was invited to come by Grace Mika, an actress-singer whom I've recently come to know.
As expected, Christmas music was well represented, but there were many other types of songs in the lineup. Some patrons got so worked up by the energy of the music that they started dancing in the aisles, and no, this wasn't a dance club!
I had a nice chat with Grace following the performance, and I even got to say hello to some of my other friends in attendance. Given the lateness of the hour, and the fact that I've got work tomorrow, I couldn't stay long, but it was a great evening.
Not only that, but I had the chance to see Ginza's holiday decor. Pretty snazzy, eh?
That's all for now. More will be coming soon!
On Tuesday, December 15, I made my way to the HUB in Asakusa to see actor-singer Shinichi Yanagisawa perform jazz songs live. I do this every time he has a show in Asakusa, but I was especially interested to go this time, since I was looking forward to hearing some Christmas songs!
Suffice it to say, the show was great. Of course, Yanagisawa-san was extremely friendly, as he always is. I was very happy to give him and my friend Kyoichi their Christmas cards. Nothing beats getting into the holiday spirit!
Shinichi Yanagisawa is an actor best known in the West for portraying Miyamoto in The X from Outer Space (1967), and his "plastic water" line in the film remains one of my favorites in the entire genre. Still, Yanagisawa-san has numerous credits at Shochiku and Nikkatsu, dating back to the 1950s. His is a career definitely worth checking out!
Sunday, December 13, 2015
B-movie producer Anthony Cardoza, best known for his work on Ed Wood's Night of the Ghouls (1959) and Coleman Francis' The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961), died of a stroke about a week ago at age 85.
According to actor Conrad Brooks, Cardoza fell at his home a couple of weeks ago and eventually died of a stroke following surgery.
Among other titles, Cardoza produced The Skydivers (1963), Night Train to Mundo Fine (1966), Bigfoot (1970), and Misfit Patrol (1998). He also appeared as an actor in several of the films he produced.
Cardoza remained active into his 80s and ran a production/distribution company called Ace Pix International.
I just returned from a special event in Yokohama, highlighting some of the most impressive SFX movies from the 1970s. SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano and model-maker Takashi Naganuma were in attendance, and much of the discussion focused on the making of The Last Days of Planet Earth (a.k.a. Prophecies of Nostradamus, 1974).
The Last Days of Planet Earth is a film that continues to be shrouded in controversy, especially in Japan, where it has yet to see an official home video release. However, that doesn't stop Toho fans from wanting to know more about its production.
After the discussion, the attendees all had a nabe dinner together. It was another enjoyable meal, but the company with whom we ate made it truly special.
Naturally, it was a lot of fun to see Nakano-san and Naganuma-san again. They are always affable and love talking shop with fans.
December will prove to be another busy month with many cool things happening. More cool things will be happening this week, so stay tuned to this blog for more!
See you later!