Friday, April 29, 2016
On the agenda today was a trip to Koto, Tokyo, where I ate at the restaurant Billy the Kid for the first time. The food I ate was delicious, but there was another reason I visited the restaurant.
The restaurant owner is Tetsuo Kurata, an actor best known for starring in Kamen Rider Black (1987-88) and Kamen Rider Black RX (1988-89). Kamen Rider Black RX got the Power Rangers treatment by Saban in the mid-1990s and was broadcast in the States as Masked Rider (1995-96).
I watched several episodes of both series several years ago and enjoyed it quite a bit. Kurata-san was very approachable and friendly, and I look forward to meeting him again.
Today I enjoyed a long-overdue chat with Shelley Sweeney, an actress who has appeared in several Godzilla film. Her most notable role was Catherine Berger in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), but she has appeared in several Heisei- and Millennium-era Godzilla movies.
We met near Ebisu Station and had chatted over coffee. We spent several hours catching up on things. Many laughs were shared, and we both had a great time.
I hope we have a chance to get together again soon!
Today was a busy day, and I went to many places in Tokyo. Along the way, I snapped from interesting photos. Here they are!
Godzilla says, "Itadakimasu!"
A view from Ebisu Station.
The preferred hair salon for hipster Godzilla fans.
A lovely view from just outside Kiba Station during the day...
... and night!
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Tonight I made my first foray to Misoichi, a nice ramen shop owned and operated by actor Ryosuke Kaizu, best known for portraying Red Mask on Hikari Sentai Maskman (1987-88). Kaizu-san also made guest appearances on Choushinsei Flashman (1986-87), Chikyu Sentai Fiveman (1990-91), Gosei Sentai Dairanger (1993-94), Choriki Sentai Ohranger (1995-96), and was a regular performer on Ultraman Gaia (1998-99) as Chief Higuchi.
The ramen I ate was quite spicy and rather delicious, and Kaizu-san was great to speak with. His English is limited, but we had a nice chat. I hope to see him again soon!
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Tonight, I had the privilege of attending a dinner event in Meguro, Tokyo, with Toei star Sonny Chiba. I'd met Chiba-san twice before, but this was perhaps my favorite meeting. The event took place at an Italian restaurant, and the meal was several courses. During the conversation, Chiba-san used his knife to demonstrate a few chambara techniques. It was by far the coolest use of tableware I've ever seen!
Although there were a handful of others in attendance, Chiba-san was by far the best skilled at English. He was very friendly with everyone who asked for a photo or an autograph.
Sonny Chiba was one of Toei's biggest action stars of the last several decades, and The Street Fighter series is a testament to his popularity around the world. He appeared in numerous science fiction and tokusatsu films at Toei Studios, even though his action films from the '70s eclipse those movies in notoriety.
I brought along my DVD covers of Invasion of the Neptune Men (1961) and Terror Beneath the Sea (1966), both Toei sci-fi actioners starring Chiba-san. I've actually had these discs for a quite a while but hadn't had the opportunity to get them signed. It was Chiba-san's idea to personalize them for me, and how could I have possibly said no?
It was a fantastic evening, and many thanks to all who made it possible!
Sunday, April 24, 2016
Godzilla stomps into action!
Reenacting a pivotal scene from the classic Destroy All Monsters (1968).
Marusan had some great Ultra-characters in display.
Sojiro Uchino is a familiar face for many Super Festival attendees.
Return of Ultraman suit actor Eiichi Kikuchi strikes a familiar pose.
Director Minoru Kawasaki poses with his fans at the event.
Ultra-family! Bin Furuya's son and wife assisted him throughout the event.
Furuya-san greets his fans at Super Festival.
Two heroes pose for the paparazzi.
Learning the Specium Ray pose from the master himself.
Yours truly with the hero from M78, Ultraman!
Team Bin calls it a day at Super Festival.
After saving the world, Kikuchi-san and Furuya-san share a laugh.
On the way to the coffee shop!
Sunday, April 24, saw another great Super Festival take place at the Science Museum in Chiyoda, Tokyo. In fact, I'm sure it was the coolest monster event happening anywhere in the world. I just don't see how any other show could have competed!
There were, as usual, many interesting model displays on hand, but unlike Wonder Festival, the event isn't overwhelmed by them. There is plenty of variety for attendees, and (best of all) you won't get lost in an endless sea of model kits and cosplayers.
Even though I only spent a few hours at the event, I ran into so many familiar faces in quick succession that I was able to squeeze a whole weekend's worth of activity into that short amount of time. For example, within five minutes of entering the building, I bumped into former child actor Sojiro Uchino.
I've known Soji-san for about two years, and it's always fun to see him. He's a regular fixture at Super Festival, and Soji-san gave me the latest information on Gotochi Kaiju. Big things are in store, so stay tuned for what Soji-san unleashes!
After catching up with Soji-san, I looked around the event floor and snapped photos of some of the more interesting displays. There were lots of cool things to see, and some items tempted my wallet. Being on a strict budget this time, I had to resist the siren song, but there were some close calls!
I have to admit, the above photo amused me. It's sort of a cross between Matango and the Moon in the famous short film A Trip to the Moon (1902). Now why anyone would want to pair those two things up is anyone's guess!
Among the other attendees was suit actor Eiichi Kikuchi, best known for playing Ultraman Jack in Return of Ultraman (1971-72). Kikuchi-san also played Ultra Seven in episodes 14 and 15 of Ultra Seven (1967-68). Several fans recognized him, so obligatory photos and autographs soon followed.
In case you thought Godzilla Resurgence was the only kaiju movie coming out in July, think again! Minoru Kawasaki is back with Daikaiju Mono, and the director was promoting the film at Super Festival.
After that, I made by way toward Bin Furuya's table. His wife and son were among the staff assisting him, and I enjoyed having the chance to talk with them. Soon, Furuya-san came out and was his usual awesome self.
Furuya-san invited me to join his group for coffee afterward, so I hung around until the end of the event. While waiting, I chatted with several of my friends whom I've come to know at events like these. I can't think of many cooler fans than they are!
When everything wrapped, we made our way to a coffee shop and hung out for a while. Actually, I wasn't able to stay that long, given my next appointment, but I enjoyed the opportunity to spend some extra time with Furuya-san, who always goes above and beyond. He's a superhero, after all!
And that's a wrap! Stay tuned for more photos from this incredible event!
Tonight I had an enjoyable meal with director Eizo Yamagiwa. Yamagiwa-san served as an assistant director with Teruo Ishii and went on to direct numerous episodes of Return of Ultraman (1971-72), Ultraman Ace (1972-73), Ultraman Taro (1973-74), and Ultraman Leo (1974-75) at Tsuburaya Productions. He also helmed episodes of Silver Kamen (1971-72) and the Submersion of Japan TV series (1974-75).
Shortly after we met in Shibuya, we exchanged gifts. I gave him a box of traditional Japanese snacks, and Yamagiwa-san gave me a book about the making of Return of Ultraman in which he is interviewed. Suffice it to say, I was amazed!
We spoke for a couple of hours about a variety of subjects, everything from the Ultra-series to Humphrey Bogart. I always enjoy these one-on-one meetings with luminaries from the world of Japanese entertainment. Many thanks to Yamagiwa-san for his generosity!
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
Tonight I spent an enjoyable evening at the HUB in Asakusa, listening to Shinichi Yanagisawa and the All-Stars perform jazz music. It's always something I look forward to seeing every time they put on a show.
Shinichi Yanagisawa starred as Miyamoto in The X from Outer Space (1967), but his lengthy and varied career covers a lot of ground in the world of entertainment. In 2014, I conducted an interview with Yanagisawa-san, who gave me insightful answers about his acting career. I'm extremely proud to have published it on Vantage Point Interviews.
Suffice it to say, I love seeing Yanagisawa-san every chance I get. He is a true gentleman in every sense of the word. I can't wait for the next show!
I love seeing weird, offbeat things. I've known about the giant chef head in Kappabashi (Kitchen Town) in Asakusa, Tokyo, for quite some time, but I'd never had the time to check it out. Since I went to Asakusa earlier this evening, I finally decided to see and photograph the giant chef head.
In many ways, it's like the giant Godzilla head that sits atop the Hotel Gracery Shinjuku. (The chef head was here first, of course.) It has nothing at all to do with monsters or even movies, but if you enjoy seeing giant things in Japan, it's certainly worth a look-see.
Kitchen Town is just a few blocks down from Exit 3 of Tawaramachi Station. While nighttime isn't the ideal time to visit it, Asakusa goes out of its way to make it worth your while. How cool are those street lights?
One of these days I'll come back during the daytime. I still enjoyed seeing it at nighttime. Definitely fun to check out!