Sunday, September 21, 2014

MASAMITSU TAYAMA ROCKS! The Actor-Turned-Musician Definitely Came Back to Town!

The live house known as Back in Town hosted a concert by Masamitsu Tayama and his band on Saturday, September 20, in Tokyo. If you're not a regular reader of this blog, you might be wondering who Masamitsu Tayama is.

Tayama-san played Shinji Chujo in Mothra (1961). As you can see, a lot has changed since that classic monster movie played on screens worldwide more than 50 years ago!

Tayama-san and his band played many great Japanese songs for about two hours. The crowd was enthusiastic, often clapping along with the music. He may not be as well known as AKB48, but between the 49 of them, Tayama-san is the only musician!

After the concert finished, Tayama-san greeted his fans, happily posing for photographs and signing autographs. Tayama-san signed two Mothra bromide cards for me, and we posed for a few pictures.

I enjoy Tayama-san's energetic music, and I can't wait for the next opportunity to see him live in concert!

LUNCH WITH TORU IBUKI! A Wonderful Meeting with a Toho Icon!

Also earlier in the week was my lunch with former Toho actor Toru Ibuki. We had an enjoyable lunch near his office, during which he signed my Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (1964) DVD sleeve. It was already signed by the film's star, Yosuke Natsuki, so I was pleased to add Ibuki-san's!

Following our meal, we returned to his office, and he showed me many pictures and news clippings from his collection. It was exciting to see everything. As always, Ibuki-san was a generous and gracious host, and I hope to have a chance to see him again very soon!

A RETURN TO LA SHION! Setagaya's Ultra-Bar Sets the Bar!

Earlier this week, I paid another visit to La Shion, an eating and drinking establishment owned and operated by actor Shunichi Okita, who portrayed Ichiro Yamanaka in Ultraman Ace (1972-73) for Tsuburaya Productions.

During my visit, Okita-san signed my Ultraman Ace DVD, which was previously signed by actress Keiko Nishi. I was very pleased to add another member of the Terrible Monster Attacking Crew (TAC) to my DVD sleeve!

The restaurant is a great place for tokusatsu fans to visit. Not only does it have plenty of cool Ultra-memorabilia for watchers of Tsuburaya Productions, but you can also meet one of the stars of a Showa-era Ultraman program! How cool is that?

To read a bit more about La Shion and Okita-san, please follow this link. Okita-san is always a warm and friendly host, and I hope I have a chance to return in the near future!

DORO OFF EXHIBITION IV! Tokyo's Growing Model Show Offers Plenty to Sci-Fi Fans!

Dorobou Hige, organizer of Doro Off Exhibition IV, stands proudly with a poster advertising his event. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today I had the privilege of attending Doro Off Exhibition IV, an event organized by Dorobou Hige. With this event, Hige-san brings together some of Tokyo's top model-makers for an exhibition of sci-fi monsters and machines from all over the world, including Godzilla, Star Wars, Gundam, and Space Battleship Yamato.

While Wonder Festival is a much bigger event, Doro Off is growing every year, and I'm told that this year's gathering drew more than 500 attendees! Hige-san certainly has the passion to keep his event growing, and perhaps it could be Japan's answer to G-FEST in a few years. Let's wait and see.

I visited the expo with former actor (and current producer) Sojiro Uchino. I snapped some photos of the kaiju-related models that caught my attention. The photos are below.

To follow Hige-san on Twitter, just click here. I fully recommend Doro Off to any fan who is interested in model-making.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A DAY WITH ULTRA-HEROINES! Keiko Nishi and Maria Theresa Gow Made My Day!

With actress/singer Maria Theresa Gow and her band mates after her birthday concert in Shibuya.

Today turned out to be a rather Ultra-day in some unexpected ways. For a couple of weeks, I had planned to attend the birthday concert of Maria Theresa Gow at the jazz club JZ Brat in the Hotel Cerulean Tower Tokyu in Shibuya. Although I've corresponded with Gow-san several times, I'd never met her in person before tonight.

American fans may recognize Maria Theresa Gow as Georgie Leland from Ultraman Gaia (1998-99). She also was an extra in Godzilla against Mechagodzilla (2002). I was looking forward to attending the concert and having the opportunity to meet her in person, and I came away from the experience quite happy!

The concert itself was very enjoyable, with many familiar American songs ("Proud Mary," "Material Girl," "Let It Go," among others) being among the set. Since it's also Gow-san's birthday, she was presented with a cake onstage (along with flowers), which drew rounds of applause and cheers from the audience. Gow-san was extremely friendly, and I could easily see why she was so beloved by everyone in attendance.

But that's not all! Earlier in the day I went to Keiko Nishi's cafe in Ginza and got the chance to catch up with her again. Readers of this blog know that Nishi-san was one of the stars of Ultraman Ace (1972-73), one of my favorite Ultra-series.

A big thanks to Gow-san and Nishi-san for their kindness and hospitality!

LINDA MILLER SPEAKS ... AGAIN! The King Kong Escapes Starlet Makes the Local News!

Actress Linda Miller pals around with her co-stars on the set of King Kong Escapes (1967). Photo courtesy of Linda Miller.

The recent interview with King Kong Escapes star Linda Miller in G-FAN #106 has drawn a lot of attention from Godzilla fandom, but it has also drawn the attention of local media! Laura McFarland has a lengthy article in Powhatan Today that not only details Linda Miller's time in Japan but also chronicles how the G-FAN interview was able to take place. Both Linda and I are quoted in the article, and (if I may say so myself), the story is a great companion piece to our interview.

You can read the story here. Many thanks to Laura McFarland for an excellent job and (of course) to Linda Miller for sharing her story with us!

UPDATE: The article was just picked up by the Richmond Times-Dispatch!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

MISSION: ATTACK CHOFU! A Godzilla vs. Gigan Reunion Takes Place in Tokyo!

The restauarant Asian Taipei, located in Chofu, Tokyo, hosted an impressive Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972) reunion that attracted several notable tokusatsu figures as attendees. The guests at the reunion were Yuriko Hishimi (who plays the karate-kicking Tomoko Tomoe), Hiroshi Ishikawa (who stars as cartoonist Gengo Kotaka), legendary suit actor Haruo Nakajima (who plays Godzilla), and SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano.

The event brought a few notable names who would otherwise be featured guests at such a signing, but they simply came as fans themselves. Millennium series director Masaaki Tezuka (Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, Godzilla against Mechagodzilla, and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.) was among the attendees.

Also on hand were expert model maker Hiroshi Sagae (the Heisei Gamera series) and former child actor Sojiro Uchino (Ultra Q, Ultraman, Kaiju Booska, and Gamera vs. Viras).

Haruo Nakajima was revered by the audience and spoke about his many kaiju memories. Speaking of Nakajima-san, many prizes were given away to attendees. The last such prize was a signed paperback copy of Nakajima-san's autobiography. As it turned out, I was the lucky winner! Interestingly, I had held off on buying a copy of Nakajima-san's book, feeling I'd eventually be able to get a signed copy in such a situation. Luckily, my waiting paid off in the end.

It was quite a treat to see actors Hishimi-san and Ishikawa-san reunited and interacting with each other. They seemed to get along very well, and I have to wonder if this pairing will be featured at future events in Tokyo. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Teruyoshi Nakano lent his SFX expertise to the proceedings, and he discussed the more technical side of the film. He and Nakajima-san had great chemistry together and spoke about the old days very fondly.

I just had to get a photo of this: Gengo helping Godzilla speak to the crowd!

As you can see, it was a night of fun and friends. Not only did I leave with a signed copy of Nakajima-san's autobiography, but I also got a Blu-ray of Godzilla vs. Gigan signed by all four guests, as well as a shikishi board signed by all four. Not a bad haul!

On to the next events!

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Actor Yosuke Natsuki peruses G-FAN #107, which features his lengthy interview with yours truly. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On the afternoon of September 5, I was privileged to have lunch with Yosuke Natsuki at an Italian restaurant in Tokyo. Having received a few copies of the latest G-FAN, the lunch was an opportunity to present Natsuki-san with a couple of the magazines. But that's not all!

Among the other goodies I brought, I gave Natsuki-san a poster for the Shacho series comedy Salaryman Chushingura (1960), in which he co-stars with Toho heavyweights like Akira Takarada, Keiju Kobayashi, Hisaya Morishige, and others. In return, Natsuki-san gave me a few DVD copies of some of his rarer films.

Asako Kato (who very ably translated the interview) and I enjoyed our meal, and afterward we visited Natsuki-san's office to continue the conversation.

As Natsuki-san spoke on the phone with a fellow Toho alumnus, I snapped some photos. Some of them turned out quite well! I'm finally getting the hang of this new camera.

It was a great afternoon, spent in the company of a wonderful gentleman. I always enjoy our meetings, and I hope many more will be coming in the near future.