Thursday, June 30, 2016

PAYING A VISIT TO MACHIDA-SAN! Seeing the Gappa Star Perform Live!

Masanori Machida addresses the audience after a successful performance. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today I went to Nakano Ward to take in a live dramatic reading by actor Masanori Machida and other actors. It took place at a small bookstore, and despite the small location, it was packed with people. I was rather surprised by the large turnout!

The main draw for me was seeing Masanori Machida again. On top of being an all-around gentleman, he played the island boy Saki in Gappa the Triphibian Monster (a.k.a. Monster from a Prehistoric Planet, 1967). Gappa was the sole kaiju effort by Nikkastu Studios, and given how enjoyable the film is, it's a shame that the studio didn't try to make more.

When I was buying my ticket, Machida-san came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder and greeted me. It was a complete surprise to me, but what a nice gesture it was. It was great to see him again.

AN AFTERNOON WITH AN ULTRA-VETERAN! Sharing Lunch with Sojiro Uchino!

Former child actor Sojiro Uchino poses with a signed DVD sleeve, featuring his episode of Kaiju Booska. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today I had a pleasant lunch and chat with Sojiro Uchino, a former child actor who has appeared in several Tsuburaya Productions TV series. Uchino-san can be seen in episode 18 of Ultra Q (1966), episode 15 of Ultraman (1966-67), episode 19 of Kaiju Booska (1966-67), and in the film Gamera vs. Viras (a.k.a. Destroy All Planets, 1968). 

We met in Jimbocho, and the conversation covered a lot of ground, including the Gotouchi Kaiju project that Uchino-san is working on with master modeler Hiroshi Sagae. Some big plans are under way, so stay tuned for more details!

As always, it was a blast to catch up with Uchino-san. I look forward to our next lunch together!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


Viewing Kamakura Seaside Park Yuigahama Area, from which Shin Godzilla emerges in Godzilla Resurgence. Photo by Brett Homenick.

As I do every so often, I paid a visit to former Toho actor Shigeo Kato. Kato-san has appeared in numerous kaiju films, running the gamut from the original Godzilla (1954) through Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000). Along the way, he appeared in several films by directors Akira Kurosawa, Kihachi Okamoto, and many others.

Kato-san is based in Kamakura, Kanagawa, and it is one of the most scenic areas in all of Kanto. It is also a filming location for the upcoming Godzilla Resurgence (a.k.a. Shin Godzilla), so I pitched him the idea of visiting Kamakura Seaside Park Yuigahama Area (what a mouthful!), and he readily agreed.

Shigeo Kato was menaced by Godzilla in 1954, and he is ready to meet the King of the Monsters once again! Photo by Brett Homenick.

Kato-san and I took the bus and then walked to the area on the beach where the King of the Monsters makes his first appearance in Godzilla Resurgence. It was especially cool to see the place with an actor who fled from Godzilla way back in 1954.  

Kato-san pointed out to me that the large King Kong statue that used to exist in Kamakura during the 1930s (posted about elsewhere on this blog) was situated very close to this area. So, in a coincidence of monstrous proportions), this particular space in Japan has special history with both King Kong and Godzilla, separated by more than 80 years!

Before we visited the beach, Kato-san and I shared coffee and cake at a cafe he frequents. We talked about various locations he visited as an actor and some of the directors he worked with.

Thanks again, Kato-san, for an incredible afternoon!

GODZILLA RESURGENCE PROMOTION! Ikebukuro Braces for the Return of the King of the Monsters!

Shin Godzilla is set to square off against Namco Namja Town in Ikebukuro! Photo by Brett Homenick. 

For quite a while, I've been hearing rumblings by some fans that Godzilla Resurgence (a.k.a. Shin Godzilla) is nowhere on the Japanese radar screen, that the movie is getting virtually no promotion. Some of these complaints are even coming from foreigners based in Japan. Sorry, but that's not true at all. Next month, Namco Namja Town will feel the wrath of the King of the Monsters!

 Godzilla gives his stamp of approval to this 60th anniversary postcard and sticker set. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The big event comes to Namco Namja Town in Ikebukuro's Sunshine City on July 15 and runs all the way through September 25. That will give Godzilla fans plenty of time to check it out. The event is already being heavily promoted, and it is sure to be a big success.

Suffice it to say, Godzilla Resurgence definitely has a presence in Japan. In fact, I don't remember this many promotional tie-ins from two years ago when the Legendary Pictures version of Godzilla was released to Japanese theaters. It's a cool time to be a Godzilla fan.

ULTRAMAN IN IKEBUKURO! The Hero from M78 Celebrates his 50th Anniversary!

An Ultraman statue keeps a watchful eye outside the Tokyu Hands in Ikebukuro. Photo by Brett Homenick.

It's 2016, and Ultraman is currently enjoying his 50th anniversary. This is especially true in Ikebukuro where not only will the annual Ultraman Festival be held in July, but the Ultra Goods Fair is running between June 20 and July 15 on the first floor of the Tokyu Hands right outside of Sunshine City. 

The Ultra Goods Fair overall takes up a rather small section of Tokyu Hands, but if you're a collector who can't spend your own money fast enough, there are a lot of tempting treats.

I had no idea the Ultra Goods Fair was happening, but I'm glad I caught it in time. I didn't buy anything, but I usually go out of my way not to spend money.

As you can see, the goodies were quite good. After leaving the Ultra Goods Festival, I made my way over to the giant Ultraman statue and snapped some photos.

This year, Ultraman Festival runs from July 22 until August 28. I may attend this year, and if I do, you know where to find photos of the event.

And there you have it.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

SHOWA HERO EVENT REUNITES TV STARS! The Action Was Fierce in Nakano!

Actors Tatsuya Nanjo, Emi Hayakawa, and Makoto Shimotsuka pose for pictures. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today I attended an event at the Nakano Sun Plaza that saw three heroes from Japanese TV under the same roof. The three stars were Tatsuya Nanjo, Emi Hayakawa, and Makoto Shimotsuka.

Emi Hayakawa played Bellestar in the Toei series The Kagestar (1976). She also made appearances in Kamen Rider (1971-73), Kamen Rider V3 (1973-74), Ultraman Leo (1974-75), Fight! Dragon (1974), among many others. She is also notable for her role in the Toei actioner Sister Street Fighter (1974). Hayakawa-san is the wife of tokusatsu star Naoya Makoto (Fireman, Himitsu Sentai Goranger).

Makoto Shimotsuka has appeared in numerous films, among them are Toho's Zero Pilot (1976), Human Revolution II (1976), and Toei's The Terrifying Revelations of Nostradamus (a.k.a. Nostradamus, 1994). However, his biggest credit for tokusatsu fans is Super Robot Mach Baron (1974-75), in which he played Yo Arashida, the pilot of the titular robot.

Tatsuya Nanjo acted in many Toei films during the 1970s, including Sister Street Fighter, but the reason he was being feted at this event was because of his starring roles as Hayate in Henshin Ninja Arashi (1972-73) and Go Takigawa in Tetsujin Tiger Seven (1973-74).

Sharing a smile with Makoto Shimotsuka.

The guests began by hosting a joint Q&A about their careers. Many funny anecdotes were told that had the audience rolling. After the interview session was completed, attendees could get autographs signed and take pictures with the guests.

Meeting Emi Hayakawa. 

Surprisingly, when I met Nanjo-san, he spoke English quite well. He asked me where I was from, and when I said California, he talked about sightseeing in the Mountain West. While he's never been to California, he's visited several neighboring states. I enjoyed my interactions with all three guests, but being able to speak directly and in detail with Nanjo-san was certainly the highlight for me.

Posing with Tatsuya Nanjo.

Many thanks once again go out to Ms. Kojima for hosting the event. Everyone who attended was more than satisfied. The fan gathering also gave me the opportunity to catch up with several of my friends who also attended. All of us enjoyed our time and eagerly look forward to the next event.

MEETING SHOJI MORI! A Veteran of Japanese Film and Television!

On Saturday, June 25, I spent an evening attending a lecture given by actor Shoji Mori. He has been active in film and television for decades, and he has appeared in the Zatoichi series, the Woman Gambler series (starring Gamera vs. Barugon's Kyoko Enami), and many episodes of the Mito Komon TV series.

Mori-san was a lively gentleman, and it was great to meet him. Afterward, I went to an izakaya with some new friends I made after the talk. A great time was had by all!

OUT AND ABOUT IN SHIBUYA! An Afternoon of Various Sights!

Can you tell Godzilla Resurgence is about to come out? Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today was a busy day, and a good chunk of it was spent in Shibuya. As soon as I got off the JR Yamanote Line, I was inundated with posters promoting a Godzilla Resurgence/Shibuya Parco cross promotion that runs until July 14. I'll have to check that out! 

I also got to see the massive renovation currently taking place, as Shibuya is undergoing a complete overhaul. Cerulean Tower looms in the background.

With election season gearing up, Hachiko is getting in on the action. I wonder which party he supports.

Guess who came back? I was surprised to see the same cat back at the Hachiko statue for more attention. There were even more people hovering around the cat than last time, making pictures of our feline friend even more difficult.

I spent the remainder of the day with Hal Foster, an actor and journalist who has recently returned to Japan. We had many great conversations!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

SHINICHI YANAGISAWA HAS COME BACK TO ASAKUSA! An Evening of Jazz with Guilala's Co-Star!

Shinichi Yanagisawa is all smiles as he drums during a live performance. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Tonight, I made my way to the HUB in Asakusa after work for another live performance by Shinichi Yanagisawa and his jazz band. Yanagisawa-san was one of the co-stars of The X from Outer Space (1967), portraying the film's comic relief character, Miyamoto.

Shinichi Yanagisawa shares a laugh with an audience member. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

I interviewed Yanagisawa-san about his acting career for Vantage Point Interviews, and that conversation can be read here. Yanagisawa-san shared many rare photos from his personal collection with me, which were an excellent addition to the interview.

Posing with Shinichi Yanagisawa and saxophonist Kyoichi Watanabe.

It was a fantastic evening of music with one of my favorite actors from the Showa era. I look forward to the next performance!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

SHIN GODZILLA ATTACKS MUSASHI-KOSUGI! A New Promotional Statue Takes Over the Grand Tree Shopping Mall!

Musashi-Kosugi serves as a filming location in the upcoming Godzilla Resurgence (a.k.a. Shin Godzilla, 2016), and today the Grand Tree Musashi-Kosugi shopping mall unveiled a new promotional statue that gives shoppers an early, up-close look at the revamped King of the Monsters. Enjoy!

TOKUSATSU RETURNS TO YOKOHAMA! An Evening with Japanese SFX Crew Members!

Takashi Naganuma and Taku Miyamoto share a laugh in Yokohama. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight I enjoyed a pleasant evening with former Toho model maker Takashi Naganuma and director Taku Miyamoto. I must admit that I'm largely unfamiliar with Miyamoto-san's work, but one credit of his in particular makes him relevant to tokusatsu: He directed episode 10 of Ultraman Neos (2000-01).  

Takashi Naganuma talks tokusatsu. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

I always enjoy visiting with Naganuma-san. He speaks a just a little English and is always fun to chat with. It was my first time to meet Miyamoto-san, and he was just as friendly as most other celebrity guests I meet at this shindigs.

Posing with Ultraman Neos director Taku Miyamoto.

The conversation lasted well into the evening, and I just returned home a few minutes ago. While these events are always fun, I could use a bit more rest! 

Hanging with Takashi Naganuma.

Thanks to everyone for a wonderful evening!