Friday, September 29, 2023

Seeing 'Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster' in 35mm!

Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (1964) at Ikebukuro Humax Cinemas. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On Friday, September 29, I attended a special screening of Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (1964) in 35mm at Ikebukuro Humax Cinemas. It was, as you'd expect, part of the promotional push for the upcoming Godzilla Minus One, which comes out in just over a month from now on November 3. 

In fact, Minus One director Takashi Yamazaki was on hand for the festivities. Director Yamazaki was joined by kaiju suitmaker Keizo Murase, who was assisted by Daisuke Sato. Murase-san shared his memories of working with Eiji Tsuburaya, as well as working on the suit for King Ghidorah.

Photographs of the guests weren't allowed, so you'll just have to take my word for it that they were there. After their Q&A, Ghidrah was screened to a packed house. To be honest, I was surprised at how many people showed up for the screening.

The print was in overall pretty good shape, although a few flaws were evident. The biggest one I noticed was a jump at the end of the opening credits. Otherwise, however, I was more than satisfied with it. And how cool was it to watch the movie on such an enormous screen.

One fun detail I noticed is that Shigeo Kato can be spotted as an extra in the Ueno Park scene when Akiko Wakabayashi is getting heckled for claiming to be a Venusian. Kato-san, of course, has a couple of lines a bit later in the film when he plays a tourist on Mount Aso just before Rodan appears. (In the English version, he's the one who quips, "Well, that's goodbye hat!"

One other slightly interesting note is that the "monster talk" scene elicited a few guffaws from the audience, who were otherwise silent during the screening. Obviously, that part of the movie is quite silly, so a reaction like that is to be expected, but I thought I'd point it out here. (Interestingly, when I saw Ghidrah screened at a theater in the L.A. in the summer of 1998, I don't recall any laughter during that scene. That L.A. audience was actually rather well behaved, which was a pleasant surprise to me at the time.)

Overall, a fun evening at the movies. Well, I've seen many Godzilla movies in theaters during my years in Japan, it's not all that common to see them projected on a screen of this size, so I welcome any opportunity I can get. Let's do it again!

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Can You...Find...the This Picture?

A banner for Killers of the Flower Moon at Toho Cinemas Roppongi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Earlier tonight (Thursday, September 28), I went to Toho Cinemas Roppongi and saw some interesting signage. Not only was there a banner for Martin Scorsese's upcoming Killers of the Flower Moon, but there was a fun promotional photo spot for Godzilla Minus One. Here are the photos I took. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

An Evening of Singing and Merriment!

Yoshiro Uchida. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Last night (Tuesday, September 19), I attended another chanson performance by Yoshiro Uchida. It was another enjoyable night of music.

One notable thing was that, after Uchida-san finished his performance, he noticed that I had finished my ginger ale, so he offered to get me another drink. I told him I was fine and not to worry about it, but he got me another drink, anyway. Uchida-san is definitely a cool guy!

Before we took our obligatory photos, Uchida-san updated me about some of his recent goings-on. It was another great evening, and I look forward to the next one!

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

A DAY WITH MECHAGODZILLA! A Fun Afternoon with a Great Toho Suit Actor!

Wataru Fukuda. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today (Wednesday September 13), I was privileged to spend an afternoon with suit actor Wataru Fukuda. Fukuda-san is a very friendly guy, and I found our chat quite fascinating and enlightening.

Wataru Fukuda. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Fukuda-san played Godzillasaurus in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), Mechagodzilla in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), Utsuno Ikusagami in Orochi the Eight-Headed Dragon (1994), and Mogera in Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994). Of course, he was involved in many other projects as an action actor and stuntman.

This was only my second time to meet Fukuda-san, but I certainly hope there will be other such chances in the future. 

Many thanks to Fukuda-san for his generosity today!

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Actor Hiroshi Chiba Turns 67 in Style in Roppongi!

Hiroshi Chiba. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today (Sunday, September 10) I had the privilege of attending actor Hiroshi Chiba's 67th birthday event at the piano bar MyScotch in Roppongi. Of course, the actor won't actually turn 67 until his birthday, which will take place on September 19.

Hiroshi Chiba on the guitar! Photo by Brett Homenick.

This was my first time meeting Chiba-san, so I was quite excited. When I showed up, I was surprised to see actress Mariko Matsuoka there. It turns out that she's been friends with Chiba-san for a long time. When I walked in, Matsuoka-san waved to me and beckoned me over to her table, at which she offered me a seat.

Hiroshi Chiba blows out his birthday cake. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I also greeted Chiba-san, who was just getting ready to start, when I came in. Matsuoka-san asked him if we knew each other, to which Chiba-san replied that we had only communicated via social media when I made my reservation.

Actors Hiroshi Chiba and Mariko Matsuoka. Photo by Brett Homenick.

But just who is Hiroshi Chiba? Well, Chiba-san (under the stage name Masahiro Oyake) played Pigmon as a suit actor in episode 37 of Ultraman (1966-67). He also appears in human form in episode 36 of the same series. In the movies, he played the main character Tetsugoro (who was performed by Hideki Takahashi) as a boy in the Nikkatsu actioner Family Crest: Man against Death (1969). Another role of his is in Tsugunobu Kotani's film F2 Grand Prix (1984), starring Ken Tanaka and Katsuhiko Sasaki.

Mariko Matsuoka. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Chiba-san also played Yasohachi Yamagishi in a series of Nikkatsu films based on the risque Go Nagai manga called Harenchi Gakuen ("Shameless School"), namely: Harenchi Gakuen: Shintai Kensa no Maki (1970), Harenchi Gakuen: Tackle Kiss no Maki (1970), and Shin Harenchi Gakuen (1971). 

His best-known role (in Japan, at least) would have to be his appearances as a regular on the massively popular TV series G-Men '75 (1975-82), playing Detective Akio Taguchi from 1979 through 1981.

Mariko Matsuoka plays android girl Carolyn in episode 24 of Ultraman Leo (1974-75), Ritsuko Okamura in Kamen Rider Amazon (1974-75), Misaki Minekawa in episode 29 of Akumaizer 3 (1975-76), episode 32 of UFO Great War Fight! Red Tiger (1978), and Jun in episode 37 of Kyoryu Sentai Koseidon (1978-79). She also appears in the Fumio Ishimori-penned Shochiku film Frozen River (1976) as Harumi Hayata.

Hiroshi Chiba on the piano. Photo by Brett Homenick.

As you could imagine, it was a lot of fun being seated next to Matsuoka-san for the event. We chatted in between the songs that Chiba-san performed. We live very close to each other, so hopefully we'll get together soon. We discussed grabbing dinner in the near future, so let's hope it happens soon.

After the show wrapped, Matsuoka-san brought me over to Chiba-san for a formal introduction. We had a brief chat -- as you could imagine, Chiba-san was swamped by admirers -- and I didn't want to take up too much of his time. But it was great to get a proper introduction by a close friend of his.

After that, Matsuoka-san escorted me to the elevator to see me off. We again talked about getting together soon. What a fun and lively time! Many thanks to Chiba-san and especially Matsuoka-san for making it one for the history books!

BACK IN TOWN! A Fun Evening of Music with a Familiar Face!

Masamitsu Tayama. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Friday, September 8, I returned to Back in Town to catch another live performance by Masamitsu Tayama. I always try to attend these performances, as there are usually only one or two per year in Tokyo.

Masamitsu Tayama. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Unlike, well, most of the concerts I can remember (at least when I have to work), I was actually able to attend the whole show from start to finish. Thankfully, my work schedule wasn't so bad this time, and I was able to leave work and arrive with about a half an hour before the performance started at 7:00 p.m.

Over the years, I've gotten rather familiar with Tayama-san's repertoire, and I have come to enjoy most of his songs. He really puts his all into his singing, and he leaves it all onstage when he performs.

In a light-hearted moment toward the end of the show, while performing his signature song "Spring Is in the Air," Tayama-san seemed to lose his place. This amused both the audience and Tayama-san, who even considered performing the song again to make it up to the audience. 

Tayama-san ultimately chose to close with a different song. I asked Tayama-san if that had ever happened to him before, to which he confirmed that it hadn't. I told him that it just made it a special occurrence.

As everything was wrapping up, I helped Tayama-san pack up his guitar, and we took our obligatory photos. Even though it's been something I've done countless times, it never gets dull and always feels special.

After that, our group, including Tayama-san and his wife Yoko, walked back to Akebonobashi Station before we parted ways. We went in opposite directions, so we said our goodbyes before going to our respective train platforms.

And that's a wrap! Suffice it to say, it was another fun evening with a wonderful performer. I hope we can do it again soon!

Sunday, September 3, 2023

The Twins of Tokusatsu Tear It Up!

Takashi Naganuma. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Earlier tonight (Sunday, September 3), I attended another special event featuring the twins of tokusatsu: Eiichi Asada and Takashi Naganuma. 

During most of the event, I sat next to Naganuma-san, as he was sharing his usual wordplay. One example was using the English word "cola" twice to substitute for the Japanese title of The Last Dinosaur (1977). (If you know, you know.)

Later on, Naganuma-san wondered when we first met, so I showed him the photo from October 2015, which is when we first met. Oh, if only I could look so young again! 

Eiichi Asada. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The other guest of the evening was Eiichi Asada. Asada-san commented on how sweaty I was when I arrived later in the afternoon. I guess he was surprised at how hot it still was outside, despite being past 5:00 already. 

Later on, Asada-san asked how old I was, which I asked him to guess. He originally guessed my age as four years younger than I actually am, which was nice to hear. But then he guessed it four years older than my actual age, to which I jokingly pretended to get angry.

Afterward, I mentioned a relative of mine who lives in Florida, and Asada-san replied with some comments about the political goings-on in that state, which left me in stitches. I had no idea Asada-san was that familiar with American politics!

So it was yet another fun evening. I always enjoy spending time in their company, and I can't wait to do it again!