Monday, August 31, 2015

How Times Have Changed...

Mt. Fuji on a cloudy day. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Ever since I've moved to Tokyo, I've started blogging a lot more. Of course, it makes sense. During my first three years in Japan, when I would get home to Nakatsugawa, Gifu, from visiting Tokyo, I would usually be exhausted. I often took the night bus to and from Tokyo, so blogging was about the last thing I wanted to do when I got home.

But now that I'm in Tokyo, blogging is much more convenient for me, and I'm enjoying it more. As a matter of fact, according to this blog's archives, in the entire year of 2013, I only made 26 blog posts. However, for the month of August this year, I have written 29 posts (including this one).

So I have blogged more this month than I did for the entire year two years ago. I must say, that's pretty incredible.

As usual, keep it here for more updates on the coolest kaiju events happening anywhere in the world!

LAKE MOTOSU IS THE ONE! Discovering Godzilla vs. Megalon's Iconic Lake!

Lake Motosu (a.k.a. Motosuko) in Yamanashi Prefecture was the filming location for the opening scenes of Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973). Photo by Brett Homenick. 

One of the most recognizable locations in the entire Godzilla series is the lake at the beginning of Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973). The Seatopians drain the lake in order to allow Megalon to rise to the surface and exact revenge on Japan.

In the film itself, the body of water is given the fictitious name Lake Kiriyama. In reality, the filming location was Lake Motosu (a.k.a. Motosuko), one of the Fuji Five Lakes. Situated in Yamanashi Prefecture, it stands in the shadow of Mt. Fuji, although Fuji-san is never visible in Godzilla vs. Megalon.

Mt. Fuji begins to emerge from the clouds. Photo by Brett Homenick.

As you can plainly tell by the photos, I went on a cloudy day, making a clear view of the lake (and especially Mt. Fuji in the distance) rather difficult at times. Even though it sprinkled on occasion, it never rained, so I guess I should be thankful for that.

Lake Motosu is rather inaccessible by rail, so travelers who wish to visit the lake should take a highway bus from Shinjuku Station. The trip is about two and a half hours one way, so it will take a large chunk of your day to see it. It's a beautiful lake, and the filming location is iconic (in my opinion, of course), but your mileage may vary.

I still think it would be cooler to ride on some plastic dolphins. Photo by Brett Homenick.

For just under 1,000 yen, visitors can take a boat ride out over the lake, which gives you a great view of Mt. Fuji. Thankfully, while out on the boat, the clouds parted just enough to get a glimpse of the mountain. Other than that, the sky was completely opaque when I was there.

I am happy to report that there were no signs of Seatopians, and at no time did the water levels go down. I suppose Lake Motosu will be a safe haven for Godzilla fans interested in checking out locations from the coolest Godzilla films.

GODZILLA CONQUERS SHINJUKU ... AGAIN! Shinjuku Chuo Park Feels the Big G's Wrath!

Godzilla takes a bite out of Shinjuku Chuo Park in his latest incarnation. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Until September 27, Shinjuku Chuo Park will host an incredible sand sculpture of Godzilla (more than three meters tall) and his famous foes. It's all part of the Shinjuku Creators Festa 2015, and if you have a chance to see it, be sure to do so while it lasts!

A closeup shot of the King of the Monsters. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Appropriately enough, the sculpture stands in the shadow of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (a.k.a. the Tax Towers) in Shinjuku, which was destroyed in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991). In fact, the Tax Towers themselves are a part of the sculpture!

Can you spot all the kaiju in this picture? Photo by Brett Homenick.

Although the sculpture has been in the works for a few weeks now, it still hasn't seemed to attract the attention of Godzilla fans, even in Japan. That seems to be changing just a little, and various news outlets have started to pick up the story. Still, there's less than a month to check it out for yourself, and the clock is ticking!

King Ghidorah spreads his wings as the other monsters look on in amazement. Photo by Brett Homenick.

It's been cloudy all week, and while that has given us Tokyoites a much-needed respite from all the heat, it makes for much less interesting photography. That said, I still think the pictures came out quite well.

 While I knew that Godzilla would be the main attraction, I was surprised to see so many other kaiju as part of the sculpture. Seeing the likes of Gigan and Hedorah make the cut was rather pleasing. Oh, and lest we forget...

I can see why he's all smiles! Shinjuku Chuo Park is the place to go for Godzilla this summer!

SCENES FROM SHINJUKU! Revisiting Some Famous Skyscrapers!

A view of the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building in (where else?) Shinjuku. Photo by Brett Homenick.

 Today was a busy day, and since I spent some time in Shinjuku, I decided to photograph some familiar skyscrapers to fans of the Heisei Godzilla series. The first was the Shinjuku Sumitomo Building, on which Godzilla fell after being temporarily defeated by the Super X in Godzilla 1985 (1984).

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (a.k.a. the Tax Towers) towers over Shinjuku on this cloudy day. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Nearby is the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (or the Tax Towers), which was featured prominently during the climactic battle of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991).

There isn't much else to say, as I've photographed and blogged about these buildings in  the past. But I wanted to take this opportunity to share my most recent photos.

Another big update is coming soon, so watch this space.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Remembering Anna Nakagawa on Her 50th Birthday

Yours truly took this photo during chance meeting with actress Anna Nakagawa on the Odakyu Line in Tokyo in 2013. Photo by Brett Homenick.

A painful reminder came today via Facebook that today (August 30) would have been actress Anna Nakagawa's 50th birthday. Nakagawa-san starred as Emmy Kano in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), one of the most popular entries in the Heisei Godzilla series.

Posing with Anna Nakagawa at Shinjuku Station in 2013.

I had the privilege of interviewing Nakagawa-san in early 2012 and had a chance meeting with her about a year later. We stayed in touch via Facebook and e-mail after the interview, and it was always heartening to get a "like" from her on my Facebook photos or statuses.

Sadly, Nakagawa-san suddenly passed away last year, and it is absolutely heartbreaking that she never lived to see her own 50th birthday. I'll always be grateful for the kindness she showed me.

Rest in peace, Nakagawa-san.

Celebrating the Life of Linda Hardisty with Yuriko Hishimi

A photo of Linda Hardisty (1947-1986) is situated between two Kobe Port Tower candles at Asian Taipei in honor of her memory. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight I was part of an incredibly special dinner at Asian Taipei, the restaurant owned by actress Yuriko Hishimi (Ultra Seven, Godzilla vs. Gigan) in Chofu, Tokyo. Hishimi-san organized the dinner for those who helped in the search to locate Linda Hardisty. As I wrote about on this blog, Hishimi-san was very interested to reunite with her former Ultra Seven colleague. Unfortunately, Ms. Hardisty passed away almost three decades ago of natural causes.

Yours truly sat next to Yuriko Hishimi during the celebratory dinner at Asian Taipei.

Although we met under sad circumstances, many laughs were had throughout the evening, which lasted nearly four hours. Hishimi-san was very friendly and open with her thoughts and memories, and while she regaled us with stories and answered her questions, we dined on her restaurant's trademark Indian food.

Posing with Hishimi-san and a photo of the late Linda Hardisty.

It's been a long time since I last met Hishimi-san, so it was very enjoyable to catch up with her again. She thanked me for my role in finding out what became of the former Ultra Seven guest star, but it was truly a group effort. The fans in Japan did their part, and I had an assist from Mike Barnum and Jacob Dow. We all pulled together and accomplished something significant.

We hope to continue to celebrate the life of Linda Hardisty. Many thanks to Hishimi-san for graciously hosting this private event.

AN AUDIENCE WITH SADAO IIZUKA! Meeting the Man Who Gave King Ghidorah His Bad Breath!

Sadao Iizuka talks shop at DeNs Cafe in Sagamihara. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

It's not everyone that you get a chance to meet an SFX staff member who worked on the original Godzilla (1954). Suffice it to say, when such an opportunity arises, any self-respecting Godzilla fan ought to take it. Thus, when my schedule allowed for me to attend this event in Sagamihara, Kanagawa, on Saturday, August 29 (I usually work on Saturdays), I jumped at the chance.

Iizuka-san's illustration of how the lava effect at the end of Rodan was accomplished. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

The guest of honor for the event was Sadao Iizuka, who worked for many years at Toho in optical photography under the supervision of Eiji Tsuburaya. Starting with Godzilla (1954), Iizuka-san worked on numerous SFX films at Toho throughout the golden age. His biggest claims to fame are animating King Ghidorah's gravity ray and Ultraman's trademark Specium Ray. Given that he was born in 1934, he's not quite as old as one might have assumed, but as one of the last surviving links to the SFX side of the original Godzilla, I was naturally excited to meet him.

The event was limited to a small number of people, and one of the attendees was illustrator Yuji Kaida. Iizuka-san has held other talks at the cafe over the last several months, chronicling his SFX work at Toho in the order the films were made. This time, the event focused on Madame White Snake (1956) and Rodan (1956). During the talk, several of Iizuka-san illustration were displayed on a flat-screen TV, detailing how the SFX staff at Toho created several effects on both films. A picture is most certainly worth a thousand words!

After the Q&A, it was dinnertime with Iizuka-san, and he happily answered questions from the fans who gathered to see him. I'm very happy to have met Den-san (his nickname), and I hope to have many other opportunities in the near future.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

YOKOHAMA MARINE TOWER! Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster Was Here!

Yokohama Marine Tower was featured in Toho's kaiju classic Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (1964). Photo by Brett Homenick.

During King Ghidorah's raid on Yokohama in the popular Godzilla series entry Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (1964), the space beast's gravity rays destroy a tower in one of the film's most impressive effects shots. That structure is Yokohama Marine Tower.

A closeup shot of Yokohama Marine Tower's observation deck. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Yokohama Marine Tower is accessible by taking Exit 4 from Motomachi-Chukagai Station on the Minatomirai Line. It's only about a minute walk from the station. It's also very close to Yamashita Park. Best of all, it's so big that it's impossible to miss!

The tower was completed in 1961, making it quite new when it was selected for destruction in the Godzilla series.

Godzilla fans from all over the world enjoy coming to Japan to get a firsthand look at some of the real-life places used in their favorite monster movies. Surprisingly, though, this one is often overlooked. It's certainly more impressive (and relevant) than some of the other locations that sometimes get highlighted.

Be sure to add Yokohama Marine Tower to your next trip's itinerary!

VISITING YOKOHAMA CHINATOWN! Out and About in a New Location!

Ho! Ho! Huh? This Chinese restaurant has a rather unusual mascot. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Right next to Motomachi-Chukagai Station is Yokohama Chinatown, the biggest one in all of Asia. It was my first time to visit the area, and given all I'd heard about Yokohama Chinatown over the years, I was eager to look around.

Eat your heart out, Jurassic World! Photo by Brett Homenick.

One of the things that caught my eye was a Chinese restaurant with a Santa Claus statue out in front (much like the Colonel Sanders statues that adorn many of the KFCs in Japan). It was certainly random, to say the very least, but it was also attention-grabbing. In fact, we ended up eating there! (The food wasn't bad, either!)

This dragon stands on guard against any and all shoplifters. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I suppose many of the sights were just what you'd expect to find in a Chinatown. There were dragons and pandas aplenty, and many restaurants and other buildings had very traditional designs. Still, it was a fascinating change of pace to "leave" Japan and check out another country, so to speak.

Do you like pandas? Then Chinatown is the place for you! Photo by Brett Homenick.

I'd like to do a bit more research and find out if there are any shops for movie-related collectibles. I'm sure there aren't any Shaw Brothers stores in the area, but how cool would that be? Perhaps there's something of interest, so I'll keep my eyes peeled. If you have any tips, please let me know.

Why go to China when you've got Yokohama's Chinatown? Photo by Brett Homenick.

And that's about all. Not much else to say, but we didn't spend a lot of time exploring. It was more of an overview of the town than anything else. I plan to go back eventually, and if I do find anything movie-related, I'll be sure to blog about it here.

AN EVENING IN YOKOHAMA! Scenes from Minato Mirai 21!

Pikachu (and several lookalikes) make a special appearance at Yokohama Landmark Plaza. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Tuesday, August 25, I took a trip to Yokohama to visit my friend. We spent the afternoon and evening taking in the area. We walked around the Minato Mirai 21 area, and there was much to photograph.

Land ho! The Nippon Maru is Yokohama's floating museum. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I've been to Minato Mirai 21 a couple of times over the years, and there is still much left to do. For example, even though I've seen the Nippon Maru from the outside, I've never entered this museum on water. It certainly seems like an intriguing place, and I'd like to check it out sometime.

Standing tall: The massive Yokohama Landmark Tower dwarfs all other structures in its vicinity. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

The Yokohama Landmark Tower was a new location for me. It was featured in the Godzilla film GMK (2001), and since that film is one of my least favorites, the locations used therein hold little interest for me. Still, the skyscraper itself is impressive, and I enjoyed looking around the adjacent Yokohama Landmark Plaza.

The Yokohama Bay Bridge is always an impressive sight to see. It's even more impressive to drive across! Photo by Brett Homenick.

The Yokohama Bay Bridge is another GMK location, but it's a cool landmark all its own. I drove across the bridge with Ulf Otsuki in 2011. It's a sprawling bridge that starts to become a little less fun if you drive across it on a windy day!

Minato Mirai 21 at dusk: A beautiful view of a unique cityscape. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The area itself is a quite beautiful, and during the summer there is a lot to do and see. (That is, if you can stand the heat!) For example, while walking around, my friend and I saw a Bon Odori dance performance taking place. August is certainly the time to visit if you enjoy seeing such performances.

The Cosmo Clock 21 (the Ferris wheel on the left) and the InterContinental Yokohama Grand (the crescent-shaped structure on the right) were both featured in the Godzilla series. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Last year, I took a ride in the humongous Ferris wheel that is the Cosmo Clock 21. During the ride, I got a great view of the nearby InterContinental Yokohama Grand, both of which appear in Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992). Like GMK, that movie is far from a favorite, but it is nonetheless fun to see Godzilla locations up close and personal.

Wanna take a ride? The Cosmo Clock 21 invites you to reign over Yokohama. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Overall, we had a great time. Of course, we visited other places that day, but the next couple of blog posts will tell you all about them!

Monday, August 24, 2015

LINDA MILLER INTERVIEW POSTED! Vantage Point Interviews Has the Scoop!

Actress/model Linda Miller, just after completing her work on King Kong Escapes. Photo courtesy of Linda Miller.

Great news for kaiju fans!

If you've been wanting to read my interview with King Kong Escapes (1967) star Linda Miller ever since it was first published, the wait is over! Vantage Point Interviews has published the conversation in full!

I think you'll find that it's well worth the wait!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

CELEBRATING A NEW PLAY! Writer Hiroyasu Yamaura Hosts a Party in Kawasaki!

Shuwatch! Ultraman fans join writer Hiroyasu Yamaura (front row, second from right) in striking Ultraman's Specium Ray pose.

Tonight I attended an after-party celebration for a new stage play by famed screenwriter Hiroyasu Yamaura. Yamaura-san was in great spirits after a successful performance. The cast and crew joined fans and had a great time mingling with one another.

Yamaura-san signs my The Genesis of Ultraman 1966-1980 book. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Yamaura-san wrote several episodes of many Tsuburaya programs, but the most notable were Ultra Q (1966) and Ultra Seven (1967-68). Naturally, I asked him to sign my The Genesis of Ultraman 1966-1980 book, which he enjoyed thumbing through. Several tokusatsu fans gathered around during this time, and we took several group shots together.

I hadn't seen Yamaura-san since June, so it was a great opportunity to catch up. While I wasn't able to see the play (it sold out before I could reserve tickets), Yamaura-san invited me to attend the after-party celebration. Suffice it to say, I was only too happy to accept.

TAC CELEBRATION IN SHINJUKU! An Ultraman Ace Alum Throws a Shinjuku Shindig!

Utraman Ace actor Mitsuhiro Sano sings a karaoke rendition of his series' theme song. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday, August 22, I made my way to Shinjuku's Kabukicho district to attend a party at Poppo, a bar owned and operated by Ultraman Ace actor Mitsuhiro Sano (TAC member Kozo Yoshimura). The party was attended by several familiar faces, many of whom I meet on a regular basis.

Sano-san's autograph joins those of many other Ultra-series alumni in my The Genesis of Ultraman 1966-1980 book. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Karaoke was a major aspect of the celebration, and several attendees sang various songs, such as tokusatsu TV show themes and even Beatles tunes (specifically "Yesterday"). Sano-san himself got in on the act and belted out the theme song to Ultraman Ace. It was quite a sight to see (and hear).

Yours truly with Mitsuhiro Sano at his bar in Kabukicho.

I must thank Sano-san for his hospitality and for throwing such an enjoyable shindig. When it comes to tokusatsu events, no one does them quite as well as the Japanese. I feel fortunate to have made as many friends in Japan as I have. A sincere thanks to every one of them!

Friday, August 21, 2015

DRAWN TO GODZILLA! An Evening with Illustrator Shinji Nishikawa!

Manga artist and kaiju designer Shinji Nishikawa poses with a '93 Mechagodzilla toy. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight I enjoyed a great evening with Godzilla series designer Shinji Nishikawa. Having worked on everything from Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) to Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) and just about everything in between, Nishikawa-san has certainly made an indelible impact on the series.

Yours truly with another fan's Mosugoji puppet. 

The event was an informal dinner of Godzilla fans who gathered in a restaurant in Kichijoji. Many familiar faces were on hand, but I also got to meet new friends. Many cool items were passed around, ranging from kaiju puppets to obscure books. It was a veritable collectors' paradise!

Godzilla series composer Akira Ifukube enjoys a reunion with G-Force's Mechagodzilla. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Nishikawa-san was the guest of honor, and even though I've encountered him at other events over the years in Japan (dating as far back as 2011), this was my first time to get to know him. I found him to be extremely warm and welcoming. It was great to share a few laughs with him this evening.

Hanging out with Shinji Nishikawa -- a very nice and friendly gent!

Suffice it to say, a fun time was had by all. Afterward, most of our group headed to a local McDonald's to continue the conversation, but I had to pack it in. (Working on Saturdays has its drawbacks.) I'll just have to wait for the next event. Thanks to everyone who had this night one for the history books!