Monday, November 18, 2013

SAVE THE DRAMA FOR MIE HAMA! Meeting a True Toho Legend!

One of the highlights of my time in Japan was getting the privilege of meeting retired actress Mie Hama.

During my first foray into Hakone, I was lucky enough to meet Mie Hama (King Kong vs. Godzilla, King Kong Escapes, numerous Crazy Cats comedies) at a public event. Readers of this blog know Hama-san's various Toho credits, but internationally she is best known as Kissy Suzuki in the James Bond actioner You Only Live Twice (1967), in which she stars opposite Sean Connery. Though it was limited to 30 people, I made arrangements early enough before the event sold out.

Although autographs weren't part of the event, photo opportunities were, which of course was very cool. The talk show itself was rather brief, but the experience of meeting Hama-san made it well worth it. She was very warm and kind, and I hope for the chance to meet her again.

YOU CAN'T HANDLE 'THE TRUTH'! Getting a Rare Glimpse at a Rarely Seen Treasure!

Director Shinpei Hayashiya and yours truly with Hayashiya-san's one-of-a-kind Gamera 4: The Truth box art. 

During my most recent trip to Tokyo, I was very fortunate to be invited to a private screening of one of the most sought-after kaiju fan films of all time, Gamera 4: The Truth. Director Shinpei Hayashiya invited my friend Yasushi and me into his home for the screening.

Hayashiya-san and his producer-wife Atsuko were incredibly gracious hosts. I can't thank them enough for their hospitality.

Regarding the film itself, it's a very good mix of CGI and practical effects. I was under the impression that the film would be almost all computer graphics, so it was a pleasant surprise to see detailed miniatures and puppet effects. Even though the drama scenes have a shot-on-video quality, the movie was well paced that after a while I didn't even notice it anymore. Overall, it was a remarkable effort, especially considering it was a fan film!

After making this (as well as Godzilla vs. Deathgilas, another fan film), Hayashiya-san went on to direct Reigo the Deep-Sea Monster vs. the Battleship Yamato and Raiga the Monster from the Deep Sea. I, for one, eagerly await Hayashiya-san's next effort!

SHINJUKU'S SUMITOMO BUILDING: An Unsung Godzilla Location!

Holy skyscraper, Batman! Shinjuku is home to many tall buildings, most notably the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (a.k.a. the Tax Towers) and the Sumitomo Building. 

Godzilla movies are recognized and appreciated for many reasons among their fans. Those who live in or travel to Japan get to experience some of the shooting locations up close and personal.

The Sumitomo Building was featured very prominently in Godzilla 1985 (1984). Godzilla collapses against the side of the skyscraper after his initial battle with the Super X, but after the Super X is destroyed by the Big G, he topples the building onto the wreckage.

It's amazing to me that such an iconic location in the Godzilla series routinely gets ignored in favor of other, less relevant places. Perhaps that reveals a lack of research on the part of certain writers. Whatever the case, when in Tokyo, this is one location that should not be missed.

The great thing about the Sumitomo Building is that it seemed to hold up just fine after I bumped into it. They must have made lots of improvements since Godzilla was on the scene!

Here's my attempt at photographing myself in front of the Sumitomo Building, but I was way too close. Next time I have the chance, I'm standing much farther away to get the whole building in the shot!

Virtually next door, of course, is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, featured very prominently during the climactic battle of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991).

Shinjuku has a lot to offer its visitors, whether they're Godzilla fans or not. But if you're into the Toho Titan and wish to see the real-life locations used in the films, these two skyscrapers should not be missed!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

AKIRA IFUKUBE CENTENNIAL CONCERT: February 1 Marks the Date for This Historic Event!

Maestro Akira Ifukube's centenary arrives in May 2014, but on February 1, 2014, a special 100th-anniversary concert, featuring the famed composer's kaiju eiga music, will be held in the Sumida Triphony Hall in Tokyo. Lucky Godzilla fans in the Tokyo vicinity during this time next year will get to hear a live orchestral rendition of some of Ifukube-sensei's most popular music.

The above flyer contains all the relevant information for interested parties. I hope to see you there!

Monday, November 11, 2013


Cliff Harrington (left) spots Godzilla in his best-known role to Western kaiju eiga fans, that of Al in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962).

Former actor and voice actor in Japanese films, Cliff Harrington, died in Kyushu, Japan, on August 9, 2013. He was 81.

Born in Seattle, WA, on June 18, 1932, military life eventually brought Cliff to Japan where he became involved in the entertainment industry. He appeared as Al in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), and by happenstance ended up dubbing the voice of the helicopter pilot he sat next to (in the Japanese version). Cliff dubbed a lot more films via William Ross and Frontier Enterprises, and even worked as cinematographer on Robert Dunham's independent film Time Travelers (1966).

I interviewed Cliff in 2006 and remained in touch with him over the years. He moved to Kyushu in 2011 to be closer to his wife Tomoko's aging parents. While Cliff had been healthy during the time I knew him, he suddenly became ill several months ago and never recovered. I last spoke to Cliff (from the hospital) in April or May, but he didn't sound well at all. Only tonight did I learn of the sad news.

Farewell, Cliff.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

BIN FURUYA TAKES GIFU! The Legendary Ultraman Suit Actor Conquers New Territory!

October 20 saw the Kakamigahara Central Library in Gifu Prefecture host a special talk show and signing event with none other than Bin Furuya, the original Ultraman suit actor. Furuya-san touched on a myriad of topics during his talk show, everything from his memories of Eiji Tsuburaya to attending G-FEST in Chicago. Below are photos from the event. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

OKU-TAMA LAKE AND THE OGOUCHI DAM: A Location Embedded with Kaiju History!

Most kaiju fans have never heard of Oku-Tama Lake or the Ogouchi Dam. However, this location is well checking out for monster fans of any stripe.

Remember the scene in Mothra (1961) in which the titular kaiju breaks through the dam? How about the scene in Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) in which Megalon does the same? Well, they're the same location, and it actually exists in Japan!

Of course, after breaking the dam apart in the movie, Megalon smashes a bridge. And there it is!

This is the Ogouchi Dam in Lake Oku-Tama, which is about a two-hour train ride from Shinjuku Station. It takes a long time to get there, but on top of being an iconic location in kaiju movies, it's a beautiful area. The pictures truly speak for themselves.

For more information, follow this link. If seeking out movie locations is your thing, I would recommend adding this one to the list. It may take a while to get there, but it's a site few kaiju fans have visited. Let's try to change that!

Careful! Be sure not to drop your camera while taking shots! I have a feeling you'd never see it again.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NAKANO-SAN! Toho's Legendary SFX Director Celebrates His Birthday with Yuriko Hishimi!

Yuriko Hishimi (better known as Anne Yuri from Ultra Seven (1967-68) shakes the hand of her friend Teruyoshi Nakano after handing him a birthday present.

On October 14, I was privileged to attend a special birthday party for Teruyoshi Nakano, the famed Toho SFX director whose worked dominated the '70s. The celebration was held at Yuriko Hishimi's restaurant, Asian Taipei, in Chofu, Tokyo.

The event was sponsored by the Grissom Gang, a group of hardcore film fans who host events for movies from all over the world. However, on October 14, the night belonged to Nakano-san!

When he was served with his cake, I had the distinct honor of leading the group in singing "Happy Birthday" in English. Suffice it to say, it was truly a highlight of the evening!

What came across to me was how friendly Hishimi-san and Nakano-san were. Hishimi-san organized a wonderful dinner at her restaurant and made sure everyone in attendance was taken care of. Bravo for a job well done!

All in all, it was a fun event. I certainly hope there will be another celebration organized for next year. If there is, I plan to be there!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

RETURN TO TOHO STUDIOS: Visiting the Famed Studio with Friends and Pros!

Akira Takarada and Bin Furuya lead the way for our small tour of Japan's greatest film studio.

October 6 saw Akira Takarada and Bin Furuya lead a tour for several G-fans (Butch Portillo, his fiancee Kari, totorom, and our friend Yasushi) at Toho Studios. Of course, the studio has changed a great deal over the years, and not much of the "old days" remains in place. However, given its history, Toho is one of the most exciting places for any Godzilla fan worth his salt to visit. We walked around most of the studio and got to go inside Studio 8 and photograph the interior. Overall, it was a wonderful afternoon, but I think we'd all agree that our hosts made the visit truly special.

Below are some of the highlights:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

TOKYO TIMES: The Events of September 2013

Signing autographs is always a fun activity before eating Chinese food!

I just returned from a great trip to Tokyo from 9/27 to 9/29. I had a lot of fun and got to spend time with many friends. Below are just some of the highlights from the visit!

Posing with Akira Takarada's award for his production of The Fantasticks last year at his office.

Outside a nearby Chinese restaurant.

Ultraman guests Bin Furuya, Susumu Kurobe, and Hiroko Sakurai take the stage at Tokyo's Super Festival.

Toho greats Akira Kubo and Hiroshi Koizumi answer questions at Super Festival.

Meeting Kubo-san again.

Meeting Koizumi-san again.

With two legends.

Hanging out is what it's all about! With friends Butch Portillo and Yasushi Okuyama at a familiar location. More stuff is coming soon, so watch this space!