Sunday, June 28, 2015

CHICAGO COMES TO TOKYO! Director Masaaki Tezuka Hosts a Talk Show Event in Kawasaki!

 Meillennium series director Masaaki Tezuka remembers the late Hiroshi Koizumi during a Q&A event. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Yesterday, an event was held in Kawasaki, Kanagawa, in which director Masaaki Tezuka offered his memories of the great Toho actor Hiroshi Koizumi, who recently passed away. Tezuka-san worked with Koizumi-san on Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003) and had much to say about the beloved actor. Tezuka-san also spoke at length about his career and signed autographs for those in attendance.

Tezuka-san shares a laugh with the audience as the photographer gets a little too artistic. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Despite the lack of self-promoting picture book authors, the event was another success. Tokyo is the undisputed king of the mountain when it comes to movie-related events, and no other place in the world can begin to compare. (Not that that should stop others from trying!)

Tezuka-san signs my DVD sleeve of Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000), which was previously signed by screenwriter Wataru Mimura. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Quite a number of other events are planned for the month of July, so keep it here for photos and reports.

YUZO KAYAMA DRINKS COKE! 100 Years of the Iconic Coca-Cola Bottle Celebrated in Japan!

A vending machine in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo, depicts movie star Yuzo Kayama as a Coca-Cola pitchman. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Coca-Cola is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its iconic Coke bottles in a big way, and the party has reached the shores of Japan. Vending machines, train stations, and other locations all have pictures of various celebrities drinking Coke, and the celeb who would appeal most to fans of Showa-era Toho films is Yuzo Kayama.

The son of Ken Uehara (Mothra, Atragon), Kayama-san himself never appeared in a monster movie, but he did dabble in tokusatsu with appearances in Espy (1974) and war films like Attack Squadron! (1963). Otherwise, he is best known to Westerners for his co-starring role in Akira Kurosawa's Red Beard (1965) and for playing the title character in Toho's Young Guy series.

It's certainly nice to see a classic Toho star adorning vending machines throughout Tokyo!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

SHINICHI YANAGISAWA RETURNS TO THE STAGE! Tokyo's Coolest Jazz Singer Gives It His All!

Actor/jazz singer Shinichi Yanagisawa sings familiar jazz songs to an appreciative Tokyo audience. Photo by Brett Homenick.

As I usually do every other month, I paid another visit to the HUB in Asakusa on June 16 to see actor/singer Shinichi Yanagisawa in concert. He and his jazz band (the All-Stars) always perform at the HUB on a Tuesday every other month.

Although Yanagisawa-san acted in films from every major studio in Japan, he is most associated with Shochiku Studios, for which he played Miyamoto in The X from Outer Space (1967).

Yours truly between Shinichi Yanagisawa (right) and saxophonist Kyoichi Watanabe.

Between sets, saxophonist Kyoichi Watanabe approached me in the audience, and we spoke about a variety of topics. During this time, Yanagisawa-san would greet various members of the audience. This night, I was able to speak with Yanagisawa-san a couple of times. It was great to see him in such great spirits, as always!

I'm looking forward to the next live performance at the HUB. Even though it's quite far from where I live in Tokyo, it is always well worth seeing.

Thank you again, All-Stars!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

FUJIKO HEMMING IN CONCERT! The Celebrated Pianist Performs Live in Tokyo!

With retired Daiei Studios actress Kikuko Nishikawa (left) and concert pianist Fujiko Hemming (center). 

Last night (Wednesday, June 10) I attended a piano concert performed by Fujiko Hemming. Well, actually, I was only able to watch the last two minutes of the performance on a TV screen! Having had worked until 8:00 p.m., it was impossible for me to arrive at the venue (the Sumida Triphony Hall) on time.

Despite that, it was a very enjoyable evening, as I got to see many friends and even reconnected with some old ones I hadn't seen for a few years. After the concert was finished, we all had dinner at an Indian restaurant. A great time was had by all!

Posed between actress Kikuko Nishikawa and actor Ulf Otsuki at the Indian restaurant.

The dinner was so much fun that we all stayed rather late, and I got home past midnight! Given the fun we all had, it was well worth it. Ulf-san always knows how to throw a great shindig!

DAVE FILONI MEETS THE CAST AND CREW OF MECHAGODZILLA! MG's Biggest Fan Enjoys the Japanese Vacation of a Lifetime!

Executive producer/supervising director Dave Filoni meets two Godzilla series legends: screenwriter Hiroyasu Yamaura (left) and designer Akihiko Iguchi (right). Photo by Brett Homenick.

The film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) has no bigger champion than Dave Filoni. But Dave is no ordinary fan. He skyrocketed to success by helming the movie Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008), as well as the subsequent Emmy® Award-winning TV series (2008-2014). Dave is now executive producer/supervising director of a new critically-acclaimed TV series, Star Wars Rebels (2014-), which has quickly become a fan favorite.

Hiroyasu Yamaura and Akihiko Iguchi show off their newly-acquired artwork, personally drawn by Dave Filoni. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Taking his first vacation since 2008, Dave has come to the Land of the Rising Sun and embarked on a journey that would be a dream come true for any fan of Godzilla's greatest mechanical foe. A few weeks before arriving in Japan, Dave contacted me, and my friend Yasushi and I began working on introducing Dave to several Toho alumni who had worked on Mecagodzilla.

Dave Filoni proudly shows his Akihiko Iguchi Mechagodzilla rendering for the camera. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Over time, we successfully arranged meetings with four personalities: designer Akihiko Iguchi, screenwriter Hiroyasu Yamaura, SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano, and actor Masaaki Daimon. Yasushi and I had met the first three gentlemen at previous events and gatherings, but Daimon-san would be brand-new for us, too, increasing the excitement that much more.

The first meeting was scheduled to take place on Sunday, June 7, which coincidentally also happened to be Dave's birthday. I met Dave at Shinjuku Station, and we made our way to Shin-Yurigaoka Station to meet Iguchi-san and Yamaura-san for lunch at a French restaurant. On the way, we talked about Godzilla and some of our early childhood memories of watching the movies for the first time.

Two Mechagodzilla legends reveal their true feeling about the spacemen from the Third Planet of the Black Hole! Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Yasushi and Iguchi-san met us at the station, and Yamaura-san joined us at the restaurant. We spent a few hours together, and Dave got to ask many questions (all of which were translated ahead of time by Yasushi) about their respective careers. Dave gave each gentleman a woodblock with original King Seesar art on it, and Iguchi-san returned the favor by giving Dave a drawing of Mechagodzilla. Talk about an awesome birthday gift!

When the time came, we said our goodbyes and headed back to Shinjuku Station. Dave, Yasushi, and I hung out at a cafe for a while and chatted until Dave had to leave.

Dave Filoni meets SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano at Shinjuku Station. Photo by Brett Homenick.

We met again at Shinjuku Station the following day with SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano. We went to a Japanese restaurant for a few hours, and Dave and Nakano-san swapped stories about working in the movie biz.

Teruyoshi Nakano reflects on his decades-long special effects career over lunch. Photo by Brett Homenick.

After that, we immediately made our way to a nearby cafe and met with actor Masaaki Daimon and his manager. Daimon-san played Keisuke Shimizu in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and Kusakari in Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975). Daimon-san has also appeared in Return of Ultraman (1971-72), Lady Snowblood (1973), Cockroach Cop (1973), G-Men '75 (1975-82), Ultraman 80 (1980-81), and Zero (1984). We were all very excited to meet Daimon-san, and I'm pleased to report that he exceeded our expectations. He was a very open-minded gentleman who appreciated that we were interested in his career.

Actor Masaaki Daimon poses with Dave Filoni and his new Star Wars artwork. Photo by Brett Homenick.

After about an hour and a half, I had to leave to go to work. (Gotta make a living!) As I was going to the elevator (in a bit of a rush, as I was already a little late), Dave followed me out and gave me a gift, thanking me for helping to organize these meetings. Suffice it to say, I was touched by the gesture.

That's a wrap! Yours truly with Dave Filoni, a real Godzilla fan!

Many thanks to Dave for being such an energetic and enthusiastic fan of Godzilla. It's always refreshing to know that people who truly understand fans and fandom are in important positions in the entertainment business. Hollywood could certainly use a lot more folks like Dave Filoni!

Arigato gozaimasu, Dave-san!

Monday, June 8, 2015

MEETING MECHAGODZILLA'S MEN! A Two-Day Adventure with Mecha-G Alumni Comes to a Close!

 Yours truly in between screenwriter Hiroyasu Yamaura and designer Akihiko Iguchi.

On June 7, I had a special lunch at a French restaurant in Shin-Yurigaoka with Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla  (1974) staff members Hiroyasu Yamaura and Akihiko Iguchi. I was joined by a couple of friends for this lunch, but the details will follow in a future post.

With SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano at Shinjuku Station.

On June 8, we met up with Teruyoshi Nakano for a Japanese lunch in Shinjuku. After that, we met actor Masaaki Daimon for drinks and a chat. It was our first time meeting Daimon-san, and he couldn't have been friendlier.

It was truly exciting to meet the star of one of my favorite Godzilla films, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974)!

So why did we meet so many Mechagodzilla alumni, and who was with us? For the answers, stay tuned to this blog!

TERUYOSHI NAKANO'S KING KONG?! The Famed Toho SFX Director Reveals He Almost Remade The Great Ape!

Teruyoshi Nakano shares a laugh with fans as he recounts his decades in tokusatsu. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On June 8, a group of us ate lunch at a Japanese restaurant in Shinjuku with longitme Toho SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano, whose best-known credits are Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971), Submersion of Japan (1973), Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), and Godzilla 1985 (1984).

On this day, Nakano-san told us something I had never heard or read before, although I'm told that he's recounted this story several times at events in Japan.

According to Nakano-san, producer Dino De Laurentiis approached Toho Studios and Teruyoshi Nakano to handle the special effects for his King Kong remake, which was eventually released in 1976. Apparently, the process had moved far along enough that Nakano-san made a trip to New York to meet with De Laurentiis and to scout locations.

So why didn't it happen? Apparently, there were union problems preventing a crew from outside the union from doing the SFX work.

Naturally, had the '76 King Kong's effects been handled by Toho, the film would have been remembered in a much different light by fans. Maybe they wouldn't even call it "KINO"!

NEW GODZILLA PICS! Stopping by Shinjuku's Hotel Gracery for Another Look!

Godzilla keeps a watchful eye over Shinjuku while also shilling for PlayStation. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On June 7, I returned to the Hotel Gracery Shinjuku to take another look at the Godzilla head. The photos are below. Enjoy!

MASAMITSU TAYAMA STILL ROCKS! The Folk Singer Comes to Hino, Tokyo!

Masamitsu Tayama rocks the house in Hino, Tokyo! Photo by Brett Homenick.

Shinji Chujo has really grown up. Most of us would remember Masamitsu Tayama as the chubby youngster from the kaiju classic Mothra (1961), but the former child actor has been a musician and singer for decades, choosing to pursue a different form of entertainment.

Tayama-san recently moved to Shikoku, making his trips to the Tokyo area even rarer, but it is always a treat to see him perform live. On June 6, he came to Hino, Tokyo, to sing Japanese folk music to his appreciative audience.

I told Tayama-san about the recent passing of Hiroshi Koizumi, his Mothra co-star. He hadn't heard about it and was naturally saddened. We both agreed he was a true gentleman.

One of Tayama-san's trademark is his ubiquitous Superman hat, so I finally asked him about it. He told me he was a fan of the old George Reeves Superman TV show, making him by far the coolest fan of that program I've ever met.

When it was all said and done, Tayama-san and I (along with our mutual friend Tada-san) rode back toward the center of Tokyo together. On the train ride, Tada-san played some clips of kaiju movies he had prepared on his smartphone, including ones from Gamera 3 (1999) and Godzilla (1954). 

Tayama-san's next live performance in Tokyo will be in September, and I hope to be in attendance for that.

DESTROY ALL MONSTERS LOCATIONS! Exploring Where Certain Scenes Were Shot in Tokyo!

The Nippon Budokan, which was seen among the ruins of Tokyo in Destroy All Monsters (1968). Photo by Brett Homenick.

Located in Chiyoda, Tokyo, the Nippon Budokan is a venue that has hosted many popular musical acts from around the world, but fans of Japanese monster movies will most likely recognize it as that unusually-shaped building seen in the Tokyo skyline after the Kilaak-controlled monsters ravage the city in Destroy All Monsters (1968).

The Nippon Budokan still attracts throngs of music lovers. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Those who have visited Super Festival have likely passed the Nippon Budokan on the way to the event, without even realizing that the building was seen in one of the most popular kaiju movies of all time. The Nippon Budokan is about a five-minute walk from Kudanshita Station.

Shimizu-mon Gate, part of Tokyo's Imperial Palace, also played a role in Destroy All Monsters. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

The scene in which the masses in Tokyo flee the rampaging kaiju, and actress Yukiko Kobayashi steps into the shot and flashes a sinister grin, was filmed near the Imperial Palace. Specifically, it was filmed at Shimizu-mon Gate.

Shimizu-mon Gate was the site of panicking Tokyoites in the film Submersion of Japan (1973). With this location, you get two for the price of one!

The Nippon Budokan, as seen (more or less) from Shimizu-mon Gate. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I'm working on photographing more locations from Destroy All Monsters and other films. As always, keep it here for further updates.

Monday, June 1, 2015


Toho actor Hiroshi Koizumi, signing autographs at a Grissom Gang event, in June 2012. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Some very sad news started making its way across the Japanese press and the Internet worldwide this morning. Former Toho star Hiroshi Koizumi passed away at age 88 in the early morning hours of May 31.

Hiroshi Koizumi and Teruyoshi Nakano in June 2012. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I had the good fortune to meet Koizumi-san a couple of times during my time in Japan at some events. The first time was at a screening of Godzilla vs. the Thing (1964) held in June 2012. Other guests in attendance that evening were SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano and Millennium series director Masaaki Tezuka.

Koizumi-san contemplates his career following a screening of Godzilla vs. the Thing. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I sat next to Koizumi-san during the screening, and when it was finished, our group went to dinner. Suffice it to say, it was a memorable evening.

Shaking hands with Hiroshi Koizumi, the star of many great Toho films, in September 2013.

The following time was in September 2013 at Super Festival. Koizumi-san and Akira Kubo were guests at the event, and after their interview session was completed, I approached the guests in the autograph line and (thanks to my friend Yasushi) was able to have a conversation with both gentlemen.

While I interviewed Koizumi-san by correspondence in 2009, it was a brief interview, and I felt strongly that his entire film career (and not just the usual monster films) should be documented in English. Koizumi-san agreed to the interview, but I'll always regret never getting the opportunity to conduct it.

Akira Kubo and Hiroshi Koizumi take the stage together at Super Festival in September 2013. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Speaking of the interview, it was done for G-FAN, a copy of the magazine was mailed to Koizumi-san's office so that he could be photographed holding it to illustrate the article. The picture was taken by Koizumi-san's agent and sent to us. What truly surprised me, however, was several years later seeing a very similar photo being used on the agency's Web site! To put it mildly, I was honored. A screen cap of the site is below.

Koizumi-san was a warm and friendly gentleman, as many Japanese actors from the old school are. Whenever I saw him interacting with his fans, he was always welcoming. I'll remember him that way.

Thank you for the memories, Koizumi-san, on and off the screen. Please rest in peace.