Tuesday, December 25, 2012

JANUARY 1: A Big Day for Two Toho Icons!

Your humble blogmeister poses with actress Kumi Mizuno at Shimo-Kitazawa Station in Tokyo, May 2012.

January 1 is almost upon us, and aside from ushering in the year 2013, it marks the birthdays of two of Toho's most popular alumni: Kumi Mizuno and Haruo Nakajima.

Yours truly with Godzilla suit actor Haruo Nakajima, October 2012.

Nakajima-san turns 84 on January 1. As all of us ought to know by now, Nakajima-san played Godzilla from 1954 to 1972 and also portrayed a number of other kaiju, including: Gaira, King Kong (in King Kong Escapes), Gezora, and Baragon, among countless others.

Also on New Year's Day, Kumi Mizuno turns 76. Mizuno-san remains Toho's most popular actress, having starred in such films as: Gorath, Matango, Monster Zero, War of the Gargantuas, and Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster.

Please join me in wishing these two icons of the silver screen a happy and healthy birthday on January 1!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

THE FANTASTICKS IS FANTASTIC! Akira Takarada Returns to Nakatsugawa in Style!

Your humble blogmeister poses with the poster art for The Fantasticks in Nakatsugawa.

Tonight (December 11) marked the end of this particular run of The Fantasticks in Japan. After traveling all over Japan (including Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kyushu), the stage musical ended its run in my town of Nakatsugawa. Suffice it to say, I made sure to be there!

A photo from the 1971 production of The Fantasticks. Even 41 years later, Takarada-san was excellent as El Gallo!

For sale at the event were a couple of CDs, including a 1964 recording of Annie Get Your Gun (which, naturally, starred Mr. Takarada) and a slick program booklet, which featured some great photos from the '71 run of The Fantasticks. Looking through them, I was surprised to see Hideyo (King Kong Escapes, Godzilla's Revenge) Amamoto among the '71 cast! I snapped these up in a hurry.

Swag from the performance!

The play was an absolute delight. However, I must say that the absolute highlight was when Takarada-san called my name from the stage. After the performance wrapped, Takarada-san thanked the cast and crew and then introduced some folks from the audience, in whose company I was surprised to find myself! Once I stood up and waved to him, Takarada-san mentioned the school I work for (!) and, well, basically left me in amazement. As the theater was emptying, Mr. Takarada's assistant brought our group (including Michael Field) backstage for this meeting. Good times!

Yours truly, Michael Field, Mike's friend Tom, and Takarada-san pose backstage for the obligatory photos!

Takarada-san signed all of our program books, discussed his next production, and just proved once again how much he cares about his fans. Takarada-san never ceases to amaze me!

Although The Fantasticks was the first stage play I've seen in Japan, I certainly hope it isn't the last. And if it stars Akira Takarada, I'll do whatever necessary to attend. Arigato gozaimasu, Takarada-sama!

Monday, December 10, 2012

VIVA CHIBA! Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba Wows Them in Tokyo!

The great Sonny Chiba ponders a question posed to him at a talk show event held on December 9 in Tokyo.

The Honey Trap gym isn't likely to sound familiar to you, but the name Sonny Chiba certainly will. Chiba-san, Japan's most popular action star of all time, answered questions, signed autographs, and posed for pictures at the aforementioned Honey Trap gym in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

For two hours, Chiba-san discussed such varied topics as his popularity in America and ways to stay in shape. He even showed the crowd of fewer than 30 people (we were a lucky group, folks!) several action stunts with the help of a fellow Japan Action Club member. There's nothing quite like seeing Sonny Chiba kick butt mere feet in front of you!

At the end of the presentation, attendees were encouraged to choose whichever foam picture of Chiba-san we wanted and pull it off the wall (!) for the star himself to sign. I chose the foam Invasion of the Neptune Men poster. Tokusatsu will always be my preference!

Chiba-san was incredibly generous and patient with his fans. Though he didn't speak much English, we were able to communicate fairly well. He is the very embodiment of genki. Having seen him crack skulls (and worse!) in movies, I couldn't help but be pleasantly surprised at how warm a personality he has.

As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. In the shot above, my foam poster is getting signed. I can't be quite sure, but this is probably when he was asking me the spelling of my name. He personalized each autograph, including mine.

What can I say? Here I am, shaking hands with movie history. What a moment!

And there you have it! I have to give Chiba-san's management a lot of credit for being extremely helpful. Daimon-san couldn't have been nicer, and Yokoya-san, with her impressive English proficiency, helped me find the gym in the first place! Arigato gozaimasu!

CHRISTMAS, TOKYO-STYLE! Fun Holiday Activities in the Land of the Rising Sun!

Merry Christmas from Kadokawa Daiei Studios in Tokyo!

Christmas is quickly approaching, and while Japan doesn't celebrate the holiday the same way the U.S. does, its presence is felt wherever you go. Kadokawa Daiei Studios has even gotten in on the fun, as its two Majin statues are (temporarily, of course) made up to look like Santa Claus and Rudolph (that red nose is a dead giveaway)!

If you've been naughty, beware! You don't want this guy (um, the taller one!) sliding down your chimney this holiday season!

On December 8, a group of us wanted to see the Majin statues' new clothes up close and personal. And, after taking in the sights at Kadokawa Daiei Studios, we headed to Chofu's tourist information center (more info on that can be found here) to show the members of our party (including SFX director Yoshikazu Ishii, G-TOUR 2011 guide Hidesada Shimazaki, and globe-trotting Godzilla fan Michael Field) the cool movie memorabilia to be seen there.

Michael Field clowns around with a Gamera attraction display.

While Shop Majin at Kadokawa Daiei Studios was closed when we visited, the tourist center offered many of the same items (shirts, Majin cookies, etc.) for sale, which gave Michael an opportunity to pick up some cool souvenirs.

SFX director Yoshikazu Ishii is haunted by the specter of Sadako in Chofu, Tokyo!

The evening also saw us visit a couple of Tower Records in Tokyo for (what else?) more shopping. We ended up eating some tasty ramen for dinner, which we then followed up with Subway sandwiches a bit later. Mm, yummy!

Yours truly with Yoshikazu Ishii in Shibuya.

To close the night, our slightly smaller party (Hide-san and Ishii-san called it a night a bit earlier) stopped at Kaiju-ya in Shibuya. Suit actor Toshio Miyake was in the house, and he was a perfect host for us American tokusatsu fans. All in all, a great evening was had by all!

Toshio Miyake holds court in Kaiju-ya, by far the coolest bar in Shibuya!

The next evening, Daiei's 1956 sci-fi classic Warning from Space screened at Yurakucho's Kadokawa Cinema. This screening was part of the current 70th anniversary tribute to Daiei Studios taking place this month. Even though the print was faded and scratchy, it was a rare treat to see this film on the big screen. And some friends showed up!

Gamera crashes the party...

... and he brought Majin with him!

But wait! That's not all ... not by a long shot. More to come soon!