Saturday, February 20, 2016

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, YASUHIKO SAIJO! The Ultra Q Star Celebrates His 77th with a Bang!

Nami Tamura, Hiroko Sakurai, Machiko Naka, and Yasuhiko Saijo (all Ultra-series veterans) pose with Saijo-san's birthday cake. Photo by Brett Homenick.

February 20 marks Ultra Q star Yasuhiko Saijo's 77th birthday, and on the very same day, a special event was held on the 58th floor of Sunshine 60 in Ikebukuro to celebrate the occasion. While there are several birthday events throughout the year to honor various Toho/Tsuburaya personalities, they are seldom held on the honoree's actual birthday (as this one was).

Yasuhiko Saijo and SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano sing a karaoke rendition of "We Are Space Pilots" from Gorath. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The event was star-studded, and it was great to see some guests appear who don't often do shows in Japan.

Heisei series suit actor Hurricane Ryu addresses the crowd. Photo by Brett Homenick.

One surprise was seeing suit actor Hurricane Ryu, whom I'd only met once before (at Koichi Kawakita's memorial event at Toho Studios). Hurricane Ryu played King Ghidorah in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), Battra in Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), Baby Godzilla in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), and Godzilla Junior in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995). He also portrayed Guilala in Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit (2008). For much of the event, he actually served as emcee.

Minoru Kawasaki celebrates the birthday of a tokusatsu legend. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Director Minoru Kawasaki was also on hand, and he talked about his fondness for Saijo-san and his role on Ultra Q. Kawasaki-san, of course, is well known for being a huge fan of tokusatsu and for using many actors from the genre in his own films.

Yasuhiko Saijo sports dresses up in character for the occasion! Photo by Brett Homenick.

During the event, there were many chances for mingling among the attendees. Kyoko Ifukube, daughter of Akira Ifukube, was there, and I sat at her table. She was there with several of her friends, and we had a great chat together.

The band gets back together: Yuriko Edogawa (Hiroko Sakurai) and Ippei Togawa (Yasuhiko Saijo) gear up to hunt for monsters! Photo by Brett Homenick.

After all the comments were made, and after everyone had eaten lunch, it was time for pictures and autographs.

In between Machiko Naka (left) and Nami Tamura (right), two Toho actresses who appeared in the Ultra-series.

I had a blast seeing Machiko Naka (Godzilla's Revenge, the Young Guy series) and Nami Tamura (Terror in the Streets, Kill!) again. Naka-san is always very energetic, and Tamura-san is also very friendly. While most fans at the event were largely familiar with them for their guest appearances on Ultra Seven, I'm fascinated by their movie roles at Toho. 

With suit actor Hurricane Ryu.

It was a great surprise to get to see Hurricane Ryu again, but this time I was finally able to get a photo op with him. I found him to be a very friendly fellow, but alas we didn't have much time to chat!

With Yasuhiko Saijo.

What else can I say? Saijo-san is great, and he's one of the friendliest celebrity guests I've ever met. I love his enthusiasm!

With Kyoko Ifukube and a friend.

Naturally, it was also a joy to sit and chat with Kyoko Ifukube, the daughter of the legendary composer.

With Hiroko Sakurai.

Despite being in demand for many picture and autograph requests, Sakurai-san made time to pose for one with me. Thank you very much!

Yasuhiko Saijo, Makoto Inoue, and Teruyoshi Nakano hang out at the after-party. Photo by Brett Homenick.

After the event itself wrapped, I was invited to the after-party at a nearby izakaya. Saijo-san and Nakano-san joined us, as did composer Makoto Inoue. We stayed there a couple of hours (!) before calling it a day.

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