Sunday, November 30, 2014

THAT'S A WRAP! La Shion Hosts an End of the Year Party!

The street view of La Shion, located in Futako-Tamagawa. Photo by Brett Homenick.

November 29 saw an end-of-the-year party take place at La Shion in Futako-Tamagawa. Readers of this blog will no doubt recall that this bar and restaurant is owned and operated by actor Shunichi Okita and his wife. Okita-san played Ichiro Yamanaka in Ultraman Ace (1972-73), and he also appeared in numerous films for studios like Toho and Nikkatsu throughout the 1960s and '70s.

In fact, during the party, Okita-san played an old TV show in which he appeared as a gun-toting criminal, holding terrified restaurant patrons hostage. Everyone in attendance got a kick out of seeing Okita-san work his magic 40 years ago!

Overall, it was a lively party with many new and old friends. A couple of English speakers were among the party-goers, and we all hung out together well past midnight. (Thankfully, I was able to catch the last train home!) I'd really like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Okita (pictured above) for their generosity and hospitality!

BAROM-1 TAKES THE STAGE! Hiroyuki Takano Returns with a Performance in Shinjuku!

Henshin! Actor Hiroyuki Takano and I strike a familiar pose onstage shortly after his most recent live performance in Tokyo.

Thanks to my friend Yasushi, I had the privilege of meeting actor Hiroyuki Takano earlier today. Takano-san was starring in a play at Theater Brats in Shinjuku, and following the performance, Yasushi introduced us. Even though our meeting was brief, I could tell that Takano-san was the type of actor who enjoyed meeting his fans.

Hiroyuki Takano co-starred in the Toei superhero series Barom-1 (1972) as Kentaro Shiratori. Takano-san has also appeared in episodes of Ultra Seven (1967-68), Fight! Mighty Jack (1968), Operation: Mystery (1968-69), Spectreman (1971-72), Return of Ultraman (1971-72), Kamen Rider (1971-73), Silver Mask (1971-72), and Submersion of Japan (1974-75).

Also of note was that the performance was also viewed by actress Yuriko Hishimi, one of the stars of Ultra Seven and Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972). Hishimi-san and I had a pleasant chat as well.

I look forward to meeting Takano-san again in the future!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

MECHAGODZILLA'S SCREENWRITER! Hiroyasu Yamaura Headlines an Event in Kawasaki!

Kampai! Screenwriter Hiroyasu Yamaura and I toast each other during our first meeting.

I've just come back from a very cool event in Kawasaki, Kanagawa, with screenwriter Hiroyasu Yamaura. Yamaura-san was the principal screenwriter for Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974). According to Yamaura-san, he was personally asked by director Jun Fukuda to write the script for Mechagodzilla. He completed the script by himself, but afterward director Fukuda rewrote it, which is why both men are credited as writers.

Yamaura-san's other credits include episodes of Ultra Q (1966), Space Giants (1966-67), Ultra Seven (1967-68), Mirrorman (1971-72), Galaxy Express 999 (1978-81), and Ultraman 80 (1980-81), among many other titles.

Yamaura-san was a very personable and friendly individual. During dinner, when he mentioned that his favorite movie is Singin' in the Rain (1952), I began singing the title song, which Yamaura-san joined me in singing. After I told him I grew up in San Diego, he told me that he's visited the city in the past and enjoyed it immensely. We also sang the traditional Japanese song "Furusato," which can be heard in War of the Gargantuas (1966).

All in all, it was a wonderful event, and it was quite an honor to meet the screenwriter for one of my favorite Godzilla movies. I look forward to meetin Yamaura-san again in the future!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

RIP, Takashi Nakao

Toho set photographer Takashi Nakao at a Grissom Gang dinner in May 2013. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Word is circulating that Toho Studios SFX set photographer Takashi Nakao has passed away. I met Nakao-san at a dinner party in May 2013 and had a pleasant chat with him. (He spoke some English.) I was also hoping to reconnect with him at some point, but sadly it was not to be. His SFX photography dates back to King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) and runs through GMK (2001).

In the photo above, I am holding a reproduction of a picture Nakao-san took of Baragon on the set of Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965). Over the years, Nakao-san became a close friend of Godzilla suit actor Kenpachiro Satsuma.

My condolences to his friends and family. Rest well, Nakao-san.

CHRISTMAS IN JAPAN! It's Not Even December, But Japan Is Ready!

Colonel Sanders gets into the holiday spirit at KFC. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Thanksgiving hasn't even happened in America yet, but that hasn't stopped a lot of folks in Japan from getting their places of business decked out in Christmas gear. KFCs across Tokyo have dressed their Colonel Sanders statues as Santa Claus, and lots of other Yuletide sights can already be seen across the country. The photos below were taken by me near Daikanyama Station, during both day and night. Needless to say, I was quite impressed. Check them out!

THE LATEST FROM TOKYO! A Quick Update from the Land of the Rising Sun!

A couple of brief updates: Earlier today I had an English lesson with actor-singer Kazuki Kato. Kato-san is best known in the U.S. for his starring turn in Minoru Kawasaki's kaiju eiga send-up Monster X Strikes Back: Attack the G8 Summit (2008), as well as for his portrayal of Kamen Rider in the film Kamen Rider: The Next (2007), and the TV series Kamen Rider Kabuto (2006-07). More lessons are scheduled for the coming weeks.

On Monday, I attended a seminar hosted by TV personality Hiromi Ikeuchi. Nanako Kaneko (pictured on the right) was also in attendance, and we had a pleasant chat. Thankfully, she speaks English quite well!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

KENPACHIRO SATSUMA RULES! The Famed Godzilla Suit Actor Talks Shop in Shibuya!

Yours truly with celebrated Godzilla suit actor Kenpachiro Satsuma, in front of Toho Cinemas in Shibuya.

Today I had the distinct privlege of spending several hours with Kenpachiro Satsuma, the Godzilla suit actor of the series' Heisei era (1984-1995). Satsuma-san also portrayed Hedorah in Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971) and Gigan in Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972) and Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973).

My friend Yasushi and I drank coffee with Satsuma-san in a cafe near Toho Cinemas in Shibuya. The discussion covered a lot of ground, including the making of Godzilla vs. Megalon and the North Korean monster romp Pulgasari (1985). Other topics were also broached. Contrary to what's been widely reported, Satsuma-san did not walk out on the screening of Godzilla (1998) at John Rocco Roberto's G-CON '98 in Chicago. Even though he did not enjoy the film, he stayed until the end.

After a few hours, it was time to go home, but not before the obligatory photos were taken! This evening was by far the most time I've spent in Satsuma-san's company. I've met him a few times at other gatherings, but this meeting was by far the most enjoyable. I look forward to visiting Satsuma-san again in the near future!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

DINNER WITH A DESIGNER! Akihiko Iguchi and I Break Bread in Kawasaki!

Kaiju designer Akihiko Iguchi poses with an autograph for a lucky fan (other than myself, of course). Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Tonight I had a pleasant dinner with kaiju/mecha designer Akihiko Iguchi in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture. I hadn't seen Iguchi-san in a few months, so this meeting was long overdue.

Although Iguchi-san speaks a little English, and my Japanese is terrible, we were able to communicate and share a lot of laughs. He showed me many illustrations he has made over the years, as well as photos from some of the trips he has made around the world. I was quite impressed by everything I was shown.

When it was all finished, I paid for dinner. It's always a treat to see Iguchi-san, and I hope the near future will hold many more visits. It's hard to believe our last meeting was way back in February before I'd even moved to Tokyo!

That's all, folks! See you next time!

TOHO AND ULTRAMAN TOWN IN THE FALL! Autumn Comes to Two Tokyo Favorites!

A few days ago, I stopped by Ultraman Town near Soshigaya-Okura Station in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward and took a leisurely stroll to Toho Studios. Two years ago, I made a similar trek during autumn and enjoyed the fall atmosphere. I decided to do it again this year and (once again) brought along my camera to capture some of the sights. They are shared below. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A Salute to Michael Lennick

Michael Lennick on the set of Kinji Fukasaku's Virus (1980). Photo courtesy of Michael Lennick.

I'm very sorry to report the passing of Michael Lennick. Michael was a special effects technician/supervisor and documentary filmmaker, who worked on films like Videodrome (1982), The Dead Zone (1983), and Dick (1999).

I interviewed Michael several years ago for G-FAN about his involvement with Virus (a.k.a. Fukkatsu no hi, 1980), a Japanese end-of-the-world sci-fi film directed by Kinji Fukasaku. He had many great memories about making the film, and he sent me a few behind-the-scenes photos, including this one of him on the Palmer Station set.

According to Michael's friend Robert J. Sawyer, Michael died yesterday after being diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor just a month ago. He was 61. Rest in peace, Michael.