Toward the end of March, I received an invitation in the mail to attend a memorial celebration of Yosuke Natsuki. Naturally, I immediately decided to attend, and so I made the necessary arrangements.
The celebration was held today (April 12) at the Capitol Hotel Tokyu in Nagatacho, Tokyo. Many of Natsuki-san's colleagues from his acting days were in attendance, and there were a few I got to meet for the first time.
Many of Natsuki-san's personal items were on display in the entrance, but once you got to the main ballroom, it was filled with about 320 people who knew Natsuki-san onscreen and off-.
Many familiar faces were on hand, and it was certainly great to see them again. Below, I will talk about some of my personal experiences and encounters at this memorial event.
Yasuhiko Saijo. Photo by Brett Homenick.
The first person I ran into was actor Yasuhiko Saijo, a supporting actor at Toho and one of the stars of Ultra Q (1966). While on my way to the main ballroom, I had a (very brief) encounter with Toho actress Yoko Tsukasa. After entering the main ballroom, I encountered director Tom Kotani and had a brief chat with him.
Machiko Naka. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Toho actress Machiko Naka was also in attendance, as were a number of folks I hadn't met before. Director Minoru Kawasaki came up to me to say hello, and I later bumped into producer Shogo Tomiyama.
Akira Takarada and Yoko Tsukasa. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Many of the event's VIPs spoke in honor of Natsuki-san. While Akira Takarada and Yoko Tsukasa's comments struck a lighter tone, Tom Kotani's comments underscored the sadness of Natsuki-san's passing.
With Akira Wakamatsu.
Early on in the event, I approached Toho actor Akira Wakamatsu, whom I met for the first and only time three years ago. I was surprised to find that he immediately recognized me. He came all the way from Fukushima to attend.
With Daijiro Harada.
I had an amusing chat with Natsuki-san's G-Men '75 (1975-82) co-star Daijiro Harada. He's better known in the West as Mechagodzilla's pilot in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993). We had a fun chat about the English he spoke in the film. We snapped the above photo right before Harada-san had to leave to be interviewed by the Japanese media.
With Yumi Mizusawa.
One actress I met for the first time was Yumi Mizusawa, one of the regulars on Natsuki-san's popular TV series What Is Youth? (1965-66). She was selected as a member of Toho New Talent's 5th class in 1965 (along with Son of Godzilla's Bibari Maeda) and went on to become a prolific television actress and singer. While her credits are mostly non-genre, she appeared in episode 92 of Kamen Rider (1971-73) and episode 16 of Iron King (1972-73). Her most notable film appearance is in Kihachi Okamoto's Epoch of Murder Madness (1967).
During the event, a slide show was projected onto a big screen that featured many photos from Natsuki-san's life and career. One interesting photo was of Gene Hackman's visit to the set of a period piece with Natsuki-san and Toshiro Mifune. Another notable shot was a candid of Natsuki-san (in full Professor Hayashida garb) and Yasuko Sawaguchi that was taken (presumably with Natsuki-san's personal camera) on the set of Godzilla (1984). One of the final photos in the presentation was one that I took. You can see it above. Suffice it to say, it was quite an honor that one of my photos was used in the tribute to Natsuki-san's life.
Overall, it was an excellent event, and the organizers did a top-notch job. While the reason we gathered in this hotel ballroom was especially sad, the warmth and kindness of those in attendance truly made this a celebration of a great man.