Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Shinagawa Station's Familar Face

Does that creature look like anyone you know? Photo by Brett Homenick.

While out and about today, I ended up in Shinagawa Station. Shinagawa Station is fairly well known among Godzilla fans for its association with Godzilla (1954). In fact, this interesting tile on Platform 1 of the JR Yamanote Line seems to commemorate that fact, though the creature depicted looks different enough from the Big G to avoid scrutiny from Toho's lawyers. Anyway, regardless of its real identity, it is certainly of interest for Godzilla fans to see it for themselves when in Shinagawa Station. 

Kato-san Is the Shogun!

Shigeo Kato. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I visited Kamakura to have another meeting with former Toho actor Shigeo Kato. Kato-san brought along one of his most prized possessions from his acting career. It was a prop from the TV miniseries Shogun (1980), in which he appeared. Kato-san's character gets decapitated in the miniseries, which necessitated the SFX department to create a replica head. After filming wrapped, he was allowed to keep it. After nearly 40 years, it's still in very good condition.

During our meeting, we talked about his acting career, which was as fascinating as it always is. But the highlight had to be the prop from Shogun. What a cool thing to see!

Shinichi Yanagisawa in Concert

Shinichi Yanagisawa. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tuesday night saw another performance by Shinichi Yanagisawa and His All-Stars in the HUB Asakusa, and immediately after work, I went to attend the performance.

Yanagisawa-san portrayed Miyamoto, the comic relief character in The X from Outer Space (1967), which despite its outlandish monster effects has always been a favorite of mine.

As always, Yanagisawa-san was a joy to see in person. I have a great time every time I see him, and I can't wait for his spring performance!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

An Evening with a Nikkatsu Actress

Mayumi Shimizu. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I attended a film screening of the Nikkatsu thriller Kill the Outsider (a.k.a. Annihilate Whomever's in the Way, 1960), which starred Keiichiro Akagi, who is often called the James Dean of Japan. Akagi was at the height of his popularity when he died in a car accident at the age of 21 in 1961. Akagi still has a dedicated fan following in Japan to this day. 

I'd never seen this film before, but it looked quite impressive in glorious 35mm. Mike Daneen (who appears in various tokusatsu movies) has a small role as a gangster who puts dynamite in a basketball (or was it a volleyball?), which sets up the climax of the movie.

In attendance for the screening was actress Mayumi Shimizu. She joined Nikkatsu in 1957 and went on to star in numerous films for the studio, often being paired with actor Koji Wada.  She married fellow Nikkatsu actor Yuji Odaka (who appears in Gappa the Triphibian Monster) and is the aunt of Godzilla series actress Megumi Odaka.

Suffice it to say, I enjoyed meeting Shimizu-san. I'm particularly interested in meeting actors and actresses from the Showa era, regardless of which studios they worked for. I'm always interested in discovering new avenues.

Thank you very much, Shimizu-san!

THE STUNTMAN! Meeting Hironobu Hagimae!

Hironobu Hagimae. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday evening, I had the unexpected privilege of meeting stuntman Hironobu Hagimae. Hagimae-san isn't a name that's very well known in America (or even Japan), but his credits are quite cool. As a stuntman who specializes in car and motorcycle stunts, he has been seen in movies and TV programs all over the world -- not just Japan, but also America and even Australia.

Hagimae-san was the motorcycle stuntman for the original Kamen Rider (1971-73) and continued in that capacity throughout the '70s. His favorite Rider is Kamen Rider V3, and he is quite proud of the work he did on that show, too. 

In the late '70s, Hagimae-san moved to America and did stunt work on the long-running TV series CHiPs. Due to his similar build to actor Erik Estrada, Hagimae-san was his motorcycle stuntman on the show. (So, yes, Kamen Rider and Frank Poncherello are related.) Hagimae-san also did stunts on the George Miller actioners Mad Max (1979) and The Road Warrior (1981).

I greatly enjoyed meeting Hagimae-san, whose career ought to be better known on both sides of the Pacific. I hope to see him again very soon.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Gappa Star Tamio Kawachi Passes Away at 79

Tamio Kawachi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The Japanese media is reporting that actor Tamio Kawachi, the star of Gappa the Triphibian Monster (1967) and a regular on Ultraman Tiga (1996-97), passed away on February 10 of a cerebral infarction. He was 79.

Almost exactly a year ago, I had the priviege of meeting Kawachi-san following a screening of one of his Nikkatsu movies. I was surprised to find that he could speak English. I found him to be quite friendly and had hoped our paths would eventually cross again. 

Rest in peace, Kawachi-san.

Attending a Live Dramatic Reading

Hiroyasu Yamaura. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Earlier today, I attended a special performance of a dramatic reading, which was written by veteran scribe Hiroyasu Yamaura. It was great to see Yamaura-san again, as I hadn't seen him since sometime last year.

There were a number of friendly people in attendance, and I had a great time talking with them. The event didn't last very long, but it was certainly time well spent.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

TWO PADDINGTONS?! What Does It Mean?

At the Toho Cinemas in Roppongi Hills on Sunday, I noticed that the theater had not one but two Paddington statues on display. I don't think there's enough marmalade in Japan to satisfy the two of them.

Tokyo Tower Redux

On Sunday, I paid a visit to Roppongi, and with my trusty camera in hand, I shot some photos of Tokyo Tower. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Nikkatsu Star Masako Izumi Is Back!

Masako Izumi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight, I had a very pleasant evening in the company of former Nikkatsu actress Masako Izumi. It seems to be a yearly shindig that a lot of fellow fans also look forward to. 

Izumi-san (born in 1947) began her acting career in 1958 and quickly became a star when she signed with Nikkatsu Studios in the early 1960s. At Nikkatsu, she starred in such films as Toshio Masuda's tragic World War II drama Monument to the Girls' Corps (1968) and Seijun Suzuki's Tattooed Life (1965). 

A very interesting story that Izumi-san shared is that she was offered a part in the movie Sanjuro (1962) personally by Akira Kurosawa. However, she had just signed with Nikkatsu Studios at the time, so she couldn't join Kurosawa's production. The part she was offered ended up going to Toho actress Reiko Dan.

Another fun story is that Izumi-san watched some of the monster scenes in Gappa the Triphibian Monster (1967) being filmed at Nikkatsu. It was her first time to see the production side of tokusatsu in person, so it left quite an impression on her.

She's also a big fan of Peter, Paul and Mary, but hey, who isn't?

Suffice it to say, it was great to see Izumi-san again after another year. I hope to see her again before next February!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Actress Sachiko Kozuki Passes Away at Age 87

Sachiko Kozuki in 2017. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

The Japanese media is reporting that actress and Takarazuka Revue icon Sachiko Kozuki passed away on January 24 of heart failure. She was 87.

Kozuki-san was a regular on the Toho tokusatsu TV program Zone Fighter (1973) as Mrs. Sakimori, the mother of the show's three main heroes. Her other SFX credits include appearances on Mirrorman (1971-72), Ultraman Taro (1973-74), Ultraman Leo (1974-75), and Kamen Rider W (2009-10).

Sachiko Kozuki shares memories with screenwriter Fumio Ishimori. Photo by Brett Homenick.

In April 2017, I attended a special event in which Kozuki-san reminisced about Zone Fighter with one of the series' writers, Fumio Ishimori (pictured above). 

Rest in peace, Kozuki-san.

Another Day at Ulf's

Ulf Otsuki. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I visited actor Ulf Otsuki at his home and enjoyed another afternoon and evening in his company. Since he's a big fan of Westerns, he wanted to show me the John Ford classic Stagecoach (1939), which I'd actually never seen before. Westerns typically aren't my bag, but I felt Stagecoach lived up to its reputation.

After the movie, it was dinnertime! We went to our regular haunt, which we've been visiting for the last three years. (Has it been that long?) All in all, it was a great day!

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Kazuki Kitamura: Kirin Wars!

"Actually, I kind of like this beer!" Photo by Brett Homenick.

If you ever wondered if actor Kazuki Kitamura ever did anything else than chew out tuna-eating monsters for failing him in his quest to conquer the world, here's the answer you're looking for. Kitamura is currently starring in an ad campaign for Kirin Nodogoshi Strong.

The Godzilla: Final Wars star also appears in a TV commercial for the beer, which you can view here.

Seen Around the Neighborhood

While out and about today in the neighborhood, I stumbled upon this. I don't think I've ever seen this before, but I might be dropping a few coins here in the near future!

Will the Real 'Greatest Showman' Please Stand Up?

This was the scene today at the Hotel Gracery Shinjuku. Hugh Jackman might think he's the "Greatest Showman," but I think the real deal is standing right above him.

An Evening with Teruyoshi Nakano

 Teruyoshi Nakano. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight was spent in the company of former Godzilla series SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano, whose career at Toho spanned several decades.

I don't think there are many movie biz folks in Japan I've been around more than Nakano-san, but it never gets dull. He's always got a story to tell!

GAPPA: Still Angry After All These Years!

Masanori Machida. Photo by Brett Homenick.

This afternoon, I attended another live reading by actor Masanori Machida, best known as the young boy from Nikkatsu's sole monster movie, Gappa the Triphibian Monster (1967).  

I had just seen Machida-san last month, but the timing worked out extremely well, so I decided to stop by again. It's always great to visit Machida-san. Not only is he such a friendly guy, but Gappa remains a favorite of mine.

Attending Another Lecture by Shoji Mori

Shoji Mori. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday night, right after work, I attended another lecture hosted by actor Shoji Mori. I've attended several of these during the last couple of years, and it's always quite interesting.

While I may not know a lot about the subject matter, I'm fascinated by Mori-san's acting career, which includes the Zatoichi series, as well as Daiei's Woman Gambler films. As always, it was another fun evening!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

AN EVENING WITH A CINEMATIC LEGEND! Meeting Cinematographer Daisaku Kimura!

Daisaku Kimura. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Earlier this evening, I attended a special dinner event with cinematographer Daisaku Kimura. A good case could be made that he is the greatest cinematographer in Japanese film history. A quick look at some of his credits ought to be an indicator: Submersion of Japan (1973), Blue Christmas (1978), Virus (a.k.a. Resurrection Day, 1980), and Station (1981), among many others. 

In 1958, Kimura-san joined Toho Studios and worked as an assistant cameraman under Akira Kurosawa, during which his most prominent credit was Yojimbo (1961). In 1973, he became a cinemtographer in his own right. 

Blue Christmas and Station are two of the best-looking movies I've ever seen, and Kimura-san filmed both. Suffice it to say, it was a true honor to meet him. At the end of the event, I was saying my goodbyes when Kimura-san asked where I lived. When I mentioned my neighborhood, he told me it wasn't too far from his home, and so he invited me to ride in the car with him. (It sure beat taking the train back, that's for sure!) It was certainly a unique experience, and thankfully the driver didn't seem to mind the short detour to my neighborhood.

What a cool evening!

THE STREET FIGHTER RETURNS! Japan's Greatest Action Star Is Back!

Sonny Chiba. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On Saturday, January 20, I was fortunate to attend a special event also attended by the legendary action star Sonny Chiba. While Chiba-san is best known internationally for his roles in '70s actioners like The Street Fighter (1974), I'm more interested in his tokusatsu roles, such as Invasion of the Neptune Men (1961), Terror Beneath the Sea (1966), and Message from Space (1978). 

Naturally, Chiba-san found himself the center of attention, even though the event was not even about him. (It was both a birthday event for one of his business associates, as well as a shinnenkai).

It was a fun event with many luminaries in attendance from the sporting world (so naturally I wasn't familiar with any of them). But it seemed everyone was most interested in meeting Sonny Chiba, and I can't say I blame them.