Saturday, May 30, 2015

WATARU MIMURA'S NEW ANIME! Kyusaku Shimoda Attends Film's Premiere!

Screenwriter Wataru Mimura stands next to the poster of his latest project in Chofu, Tokyo. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On May 29, I attended the premiere of a new animated movie called Sampo Shojo (2015), which was produced by Godzilla series screenwriter Wataru Mimura. The premiere took place at the Chofu City Cultural Hall Tazukuri. The film's stylish animation was great, but the lack of subtitles made the story difficult to follow. Still, there were some familiar voices to be heard, such as that of Ultraman suit actor Bin Furuya.

Yours truly with actor Kyusaku Shimoda, who lends his voice to the new film. 

One of the highlights for me was meeting actor Kyusaku Shimoda, who played Yasunori Kato (the main villain) in Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis (1988). That said, Shimoda's character in the film is even more notable for being one of the major inspirations for the character of M. Bison in the video game Street Fighter II! Shimoda-san was another voice actor in the movie.

I plan to write more about the event in a future blog post, so watch this space for further details.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

GODZILLA BEATS THEM ALL! Dining with Godzilla Series Actor Hiroyuki Kawase!

Yours truly with former child actor Hiroyuki Kawase, the star of two Godzilla movies from the 1970s. 

The first human character I ever saw in any Godzilla movie was played by Hiroyuki Kawase. As Rokuro in Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), he gave young viewers like myself at the time a character with whom to identify. I would later see Kawase-san in Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971), Akira Kurosawa's Dodeskaden (1970), and Kihachi Okamoto's Battle of Okinawa (1971).
The director and his star! Hiroyuki Kawase (left) and Yoshimitsu Banno (right) talked Smog Monster among many other topics. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight I was lucky enough to have dinner with Kawase-san. Joining us for the dinner was Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster director Yoshimitsu Banno. Banno-san had already met Kawase-san a couple of months ago, but it was rather impressive to see the director and his star talking shop 44 years after the film was released!

Hiroyuki Kawase as he appears today. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I finally remembered to ask Banno-san about the older people who watch the concert at the foot of Mt. Fuji just before the final battle between Hedorah and Godzilla. He explained that they were peasant farmers and that they were shown to emphasize the generational gap. The concert in the film was based on a real one (or a series of concerts) that took place at the foot of Mt. Fuji around that time.

Kawase-san was extremly friendly and approachable. Naturally, he doesn't think of himself as a movie star, having left the business altogether in the mid-'70s to focus on his schoolwork. But, given his connection with such icons as Godzilla and Akira Kurosawa, it's hard to see him as anything else.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

MEETING KEIKO MARI! Hanging Out with the Star of Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster!

Keiko Mari in Matsuya Ginza for a flower arrangement event. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today I had the privilege of meeting Keiko Mari for the first time. Mari-san stars in Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (a.k.a. Godzilla vs. Hedorah, 1971) as Miki Fujiyama. She appeared at Matsuya Ginza as part of a flower arrangement event.

Mari-san spent quite a while talking about various subjects, although (given the language barrier, of course) the topics were quite limited. In particular, she talked about the photos I took at Akira Takarada's birthday event. She mentioned some of the stars I met and seemed especially interested in my photo with Yumi Shirakawa. At one point, she described the picture in detail to her friend. I was quite surprised, to say the least!

Overall, I found Mari-san to be very friendly, and she happily signed the items I brought.

I also got to see Mari-san's flower arrangement that she made for the event. As you can see, it's quite beautiful!

I'm very hopeful to see Mari-san again soon!

GINZA GODZILLA LOCATIONS! New Photos of Two Locations Demolished by The Big G!

The Hattori Clock Tower stands atop the Wako Department Store, a notable location featured in the original Godzilla (1954). Photo by Brett Homenick.

During my trip to Ginza, I snapped new photos of familiar locations I've photographed countless times. The first location was the Hattori Clock Tower on the Wako Department Store, which was destroyed by Godzilla in Godzilla (1954). It was also briefly seen in another favorite film of mine, Kihachi Okamoto's Blue Christmas (a.k.a. Blood Type: Blue, 1978).

The Hattori Clock Tower survived Godzilla's 1954 onslaught. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Following that, I moved on to the Yurakucho Mullion Building, which was featured in Godzilla (1984). Godzilla also destroys this building, and his reflection can be seen on the building as he carries the shinkansen train car in his hand.

The Yurakucho Mullion Building . Photo by Brett Homenick.

The sun was just beginning to set as I was photographing the Yurakucho Mullion Building, and the pictures turned out rather well, if I may say so myself. They are below.

Te Yurakucho Mullion Building in all its glory. Photo by Brett Homenick.

A welcome sight decorates the Yurakucho Mullion Building. Photo by Brett Homenick.

You can just about see Godzilla in the building's reflection. Photo by Brett Homenick.

TOHO HISTORY IN HIBIYA CHANTER! Chiyoda Pays Tribute to Toho's Best!

The Godzilla statue in Hibiya Chanter. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Today I went to Ginza, and among the things I did, I paid another visit to Hibiya Chanter, which is overflowing with Toho history. Most of us know about the Godzilla statue which was erected in 1995, but what is not as well known are the various hand prints of celebrities that decorate the square, almost like the Hollywood Walk of Fame. While there are many familiar Toho stars who are recognized among the hand prints, I will highlight the stars that have been regularly spotlighted on this blog.

Izumi Yukimura's hand print in Hibiya Chanter.

Yosuke Natsuki's hand print in Hibiya Chanter. 

Akira Takarada's hand print in Hibiya Chanter. 

Yuriko Hoshi's hand print in Hibiya Chanter. 

Godzilla stands tall above Hibiya Chanter.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

ANOTHER GODZILLA VS. MEGALON FILMING LOCATION! Highlighting Yanagi Koen in Machida, Tokyo!

Yanagi Koen in Machida, Tokyo. Photo by Brett Homenick.

In late March, I paid a visit to Yanagi Koen, a small park in Machida, Tokyo, that was seen in Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973). During the sequence in which Rokuro (Hiroyuki Kawase) rides his Baby Rider (just before he is kidnapped by the Seatopian agents), signage for Yanagi Koen can be seen in the background.

A lot can change in 42 years, but if Kawase-san was actually riding on the sidewalk next to Yanagi Koen, it is practically unrecognizable these days.  As you can see from the photos, it looks like a completely different area from what we see in the film.

Naturally, it is rather difficult to find comparison photos of Yanagi Koen from the time Godzilla vs. Megalon was shot, but it is possible that the park underwent some major changes over the years. Otherwise, perhaps the sign was pointing visitors in the direction of the park. Whatever the case, at least we can say with some certainty that Yanagi Koen does play a part in the film.

Yanagi Koen is about a five-minute walk from Suzukakedai Station on the Den-en-Toshi Line. While I would not consider it a major filming location, it is nonetheless an interesting part of Godzilla history, especially for those wanting to check out more than just the routine kaiju locations like Tokyo Tower.

It's also just a nice park to visit, even if it is off the beaten path. But, for those Japan travelers who have seen and done it all, it is well worth a look.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

ULTRA SEVEN RETURNS! Koji Moritsugu Hosts Fans in Fujisawa!

Ultra-stars Koji Moritsugu (left) and Shota Minami (right) pose for photos after a recent talk show event at Joli Chapeau. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

May 23 saw a joint talk show and autograph event at Koji Moritsugu's cafe Joli Chapeau in Fujisawa, Kanagawa. Moritsugu-san played Dan Moroboshi in Tsuburaya Productions' Ultra Seven (1967-68), which is perhaps the most popular Ultra-series of them all.

Moritsugu-san usually has an Ultra-related guest to join him for his fan events, and this time he was joined by actor Shota Minami. Minami-san played Rei in the TV series Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle: Never Ending Odyssey (2008–2009), as well as Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends - The Movie (2009). Minami-san seemed to attract several younger women to the event who were rather eager to meet him.

After signing autographs for the attendees, Moritsugu-san and Minami-san settled in for their talk show. Led by Moritsugu-san, the pair swapped stories about working in the Ultra-series, as well as attending the various fan events related to the franchise. At one point, on the subject of Hong Kong, Moritsugu-san started using a few random English phrases, which drew laughter from the audience. Naturally, I laughed, too!

After the two fielded questions from the audience, the two guests posed for photos. As usual, Moritsugu-san was extremely friendly and outgoing, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Minami-san was, too. He certainly seemed very appreciative of his fans.

Another successful event wrapped, and I had another wonderful time. I must thank Moritsugu-san for his hospitality and Minami-san for being a wonderful guest. I am looking forward to the next time I can attend Moritsugu-san's fan meetings. They're Ultra-good!

SMOG MONSTER'S DIRECTOR! Mr. Banno Talks Toho Over Coffee!

Director Yoshimitsu Banno poses for a photo in Kawasaki, Kanagawa. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Friday, May 22, I had coffee with Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster director Yoshimitsu Banno. We caught up on what's new, and then the discussion turned to Banno-san's Toho days. It was another enlightening conversation.

We should be meeting again later this week, and a surprise should be in store. Watch this space.

Sunday, May 17, 2015


Godzilla returns to Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Last summer, the release of Legendary Pictures' Godzilla (2014) was celebrated by a massive bust of Godzilla on display in Roppongi's Tokyo Midtown. This year, the Big G makes a temporary return to Tokyo Midtown, but only for a limited time. But those in the Tokyo area can stop by and see the four-meter King of the Monsters until May 24. Today I stopped by Tokyo Midtown and snapped some photos, which are below. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Screenwriter Niisan Takahashi left an indelible mark on the history of Japanese monster movies. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I'm very saddened to report the passing of Showa Gamera series scribe Niisan Takahashi on May 5, 2015. He was 89. Takahashi-san was a screenwriter at Daiei Studios during its heyday, and he wrote all the screenplays for the early Gamera films, starting with Gammera the Invincible (1965) and culminating with Gamera Super Monster (1980).

Takahashi-san speaks about his life and career during a rare interview. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I had the distinct privilege of meeting Takahashi-san on two occasions (in the fall of 2012 and spring of 2013). Both times, my friend Yasushi and I went to a Coco's restaurant near his home in Chigasaki, Kanagawa. During our first meeting, I learned something quite fascinating about Takahashi-san, which I posted about elsewhere on this blog and will quote here:
The most fascinating thing I learned is that Mr. Takahashi has a middle Christian name. No, he wasn't born with it, but he took it on after a tragic event happened in his life. On December 31, 1982, his wife passed away after a lengthy illness. She was a Christian, so Takahashi-san researched notable Christians who also passed away on New Year's Eve. One he discovered was Pope Sylvester I, who died on December 31, 335. Takahashi-san decided to make Sylvester his adopted middle name in honor of his wife.
Posing for photos with Takahashi-san after completing an interview in the spring of 2013.

Takahashi-san was extremely friendly, giving me many gifts he had acquired over the years related to the Gamera series. These items included books and DVDs, and he was quite happy to sign anything we asked. During our last meeting, he wanted to sing the theme song he wrote for a movie called I Am Five Years Old (1970), which was also directed by Gamera series director Noriaki Yuasa. He was always proud of this song and wanted to share it with me.

My friend Yasushi and I conducted a lengthy interview with Takahashi-san, and I hope it will eventually get completed.

Rest in peace, Takahashi-san. I will always remember your kindness.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

MORE PHOTOS FROM THE AKIRA TAKARADA BIRTHDAY BASH! An Extra Look at This Extraordinary Celebration!

Akira Takarada and Yosuke Natsuki share a laugh while Akira Wakamatsu looks on in the background. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Having taken many pictures at the birthday celebration for Toho star Akira Takarada last Sunday, there was not nearly enough room to include even most of the highlights from my last report. So I will present an additional look at the celebration in this blog post with even more photos. After all, they're worth a thousand words!

The delightful Yumi Shirakawa and Akira Takarada share the stage. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Yuriko Hoshi honors Akira Takarada. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Shogo Tomiyama poses with actress Machiko Naka. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Akira Takarada addresses the audience. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Yuriko Hoshi, Yosuke Natsuki, and Yumi Shirakawa pose for the paparazzi. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Machiko Naka and Yuriko Hoshi, both veterans of the Young Guy series, pose for a picture. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

This dynamic group shot only shows a few of the folks in attendance. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Yosuke Natsuki offers some words of praise for Akira Takarada at the after-party. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Akira Takarada addresses the gathering. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Yosuke Natsuki has a chat with Bin Furuya at the after-party. Photo by Brett Homenick.