Saturday, October 31, 2015

SADAO IIZUKA TALKS SHOP! The Optical FX Veteran Dissects The Three Treasures!

Sadao Iizuka discusses his optical SFX techniques during a Q&A session. Photo by Brett Homenick.

October 31 saw another event at DeNs Cafe in Sagamihara, Kanagawa, with optical photography veteran Sadao Iizuka. Iizuka-san worked on the original Godzilla (1954) and went on to animate King Ghidorah's gravity rays and Ultraman's Specium Ray. Suffice it to say, his credits in tokusatsu are legendary.

The focus of this talk was the optical effects in Songoku: The Road to the West (1959) and The Three Treasures (1959). Iizuka-san demonstrated how many of the optical effects in these two films were accomplished. To say the least, it was an eye-opening discussion.

After the Q&A wrapped, the attendees sat down for dinner. Iizuka-san happily answered any and all questions from his fans during the meal. He also signed many autographs from those in attendance. Famed illustrator Yuji Kaida (and his wife Aya) were among those at the event, adding a bit more star power to the occasion.

When Iizuka-san stepped outside for a break, I took this photo with him. As you can see, it's a pretty standard photo op. But, seeing as how it was Halloween, I had another pose in mind.

There I am, fully dressed as President Ted Thomas, standing next to a legendary Toho SFX technician. It was a great evening with many friendly people, as the events in Japan always are. It's great to see Iizuka-san get his due among fans who know and appreciate his work.

HALLOWEEN IN TOKYO! Shibuya Overflows with Costumed Characters!

President Ted Thomas (yours truly) and the Mad Hatter enjoy a brief reunion at Shibuya Station on Halloween!

I just got home from a fun (and exhausting) evening in Shibuya, and as expected, the place was packed. It was extremely difficult to get from one place to another, as the streets were overflowing with people in costumes. Despite the crowds, I had a blast wandering the area.

Some of the costumes were inventive, and some were just downright strange. I'm not sure why so many people dressed up as Ronald McDonald (the above photo just scratches the surface of what I saw -- trust me), but there you go. To make things even more bizarre, I only saw one Colonel Sanders cosplayer the whole night! Who knew the Japanese loved Ronald McDonald so much?

Scenes like the above were abundant. I saw lots of selfies and the requisite selfie sticks. If you were wearing an interesting costume, chances are you'd get stopped and asked for a photo. I saw this scenario play out over and over again, and some of the costumed characters were even shouting to the hordes of people that they were available for photo ops.

Unlike last year, I decided to get in on the action and dress up in a costume. Admittedly, it had been many years since I last put one on. Over the years, I just haven't had any desire to wear a costume. But after stumbling upon Halloween in Shibuya last year, and seeing the throngs of people dressed as every pop culture character you could imagine, I decided that I couldn't pass up the opportunity.

I dressed up as President Ted Thomas. Who is President Ted Thomas, you ask? He's a bit of an inside joke. Suffice it to say, he's a dictatorial commander-in-chief in a really bad wig. I was actually surprised by the amount of attention my costume garnered. It was a very minimal costume (I just dressed up in a suit and the aforementioned wig), but I turned quite a few heads and earned just as many smiles. A few folks even wanted their picture taken with me. The two young ladies above approached me for a photo, and after we took theirs, we posed for this one.

As I was walking by the young women in the above photo, one of them exclaimed "Kawaii!" and beckoned me over for a photo. After that, I took this one on my camera. I have to admit, "Kawaii!" was about the last reaction I expected my costume to get!

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 26, 2015

PHOTOS GALORE! More Shots from Teruyoshi Nakano's 80th Birthday Celebration!

Teruyoshi Nakano, Machiko Naka, and Yasuhiko Saijo pose for the gathered paparazzi. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

At last night's birthday celebration for retired SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano, I took more photos than I'd ever like to post on this blog. But there are several more shots that I'd like to share, and you'll find them below. Enjoy!

Actress Machiko Naka (Godzilla's Revenge) offers her congratulations to Nakano-san.

Millennium series SFX director Eiichi Asada (Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S., Godzilla: Final Wars) toasts his Godzilla series predecessor.

The man of the hour, Teruyoshi Nakano, speaks to the crowd at his birthday celebration.

Hey, nobody told me the 58th floor of Sunshine 60 in Ikebukuro would be that high!

Does it make your mouth water? Well, it doesn't mine, but this collectibles display was still cool to photograph!

Actress Hiroko Sakurai (Ultra Q, Ultraman) is all smiles as she wishes Teruyoshi Nakano a happy birthday.

Teruyoshi Nakano and Machiko Naka pose for photographers while holding signage for the King of the Monsters.

Hiroko Sakurai, Teruyoshi Nakano, and Machiko Naka share a laugh about the good ol' days.

Posing with Hiroko Sakurai in an alternate photo. I spoke to her again about the Shacho series!

An alternate shot with Teruyoshi Nakano. Even at 80 years old, he's still most often the coolest guy in the room.

A different photo with Eiichi Asada, a very friendly and approachable gentleman.

A great shot of yours truly with Yasuhiko Saijo (sans cap). His appearance proved to be an excellent surprise!

Hanging out with Machiko Naka, a great lady who appeared in numerous Toho films.

Godzilla approves! That's all for now. Stay tuned to this blog for all the latest happenings in Japan!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

TERUYOSHI NAKANO'S 80TH BIRTHDAY! A Milestone So Big He Needed Another Party!

From left to right: Hiroko Sakurai, Yasuhiko Saijo, Teruyoshi Nakano, Machiko Naka, and Eiichi Asada gather in Ikebukuro to celebrate Nakano-san's birthday. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On October 25, Sunshine Cruise Cruise (a restaurant on the 58th floor of Sunshine 60 in Ikebukuro) hosted another celebration of Toho SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano's 80th birthday. Several notable guests were on hand, and one guest in particular was brand-new to me.

Ultra Q almuni Hiroko Sakurai and Yasuhiko Saijo (who played Yuriko Edogawa and Ippei Togawa, respectively) enjoyed a reunion at the event. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The special celebration attracted several fans of Toho and Tsuburaya Productions, many of whom have become very familiar faces. It's always great to speak with them, and they are quick to lend a helping hand whenever needed.

Teruyoshi Nakano and Yasuhiko Saijo sing the "We Are Space Pilots" song from Gorath (1962), karaoke-style. Photo by Brett Homenick.

One of the highlights was seeing Teruyoshi Nakano and Yasuhiko Saijo take the stage with several other fans and sing a karaoke rendition of the "We Are Space Pilots" song from Gorath (1962). Saijo-san appears in the film, and Nakano-san worked on the SFX end of it, making this rendition of the song all the more special.

Throughout the event, the guests were happy to pose for pictures and sign whatever items were brought to them. I didn't have much to get signed, and the only item I brought was my 3 Gents in Hawaii (1963) DVD sleeve, already signed by Hiroko Sakurai, to be signed by Machiko Naka, who also appears in the film. Saijo-san was a surprise guest, and had I known he would be in attendance, I would have brought a few things. Oh, well, there's always next time!

A special cake was made for the event, and it featured Nakano-san along with his friend. After attendees snapped photos of it, it was divided up and served to everyone who wanted a slice.

Think the karaoke was over? Think again! SFX directors Nakano and Eiichi Asada (Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.Godzilla: Final Wars) teamed up to sing "Godzilla and Jet Jaguar: Punch! Punch! Punch!" from Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973). Who knew that Toho SFX directors had so many talents?!

Of course, the man of the hour was Teruyoshi Nakano, and I enjoyed hanging out with him as much as ever. When I get to be 80 years old, I hope to be half as energetic as he is!

I've only met Eiichi Asada a couple of times, so I was surprised when he was able to mention my name without any prompting! Asada-san and I briefly spoke on the train ride to Koichi Kawakita's memorial tribute earlier this year, and (through my friend Yasushi) had a more in-depth conversation at the studio. He seemed surprised to know that I knew who he was at the time, so it must have left quite an impression on him.

I spoke with Kyoko Ifukube (the daughter of composer Akira Ifukube) several times throughout the evening, and naturally she is very familiar with my brother, Erik, who runs

I was very excited to meet Yasuhiko Saijo, who is well known for playing Ippei Togawa in Ultra Q (1966). However, I know him better as a familiar face who'd turn up in Toho classics like Secret of the Telegian (1960), War of the Gargantuas (1966), Son of Godzilla (1967), Destroy All Monsters (1968), and other roles. He was very kind and enthusiastic, and when a fan lent him a replica of his trademark hat from Ultra Q, he insisted that we take another picture together so that I'd have this shot.

It was my second time to meet Machiko Naka (best known for playing Ichiro's mom in Godzilla's Revenge), and she is someone I'm always happy to meet. I've seen her in several Young Guy and Shacho series films from Toho (she was a regular performer in both series), so my interest in her career goes well beyond the one Godzilla movie she made. She was very surprised by my level of interest.

Hiroko Sakurai is a popular figure among Ultraman fans, and she was as approachable and warm as ever. Despite having been a fixture at many events over the years, her fans never lose their enthusiasm to meet her. I enjoyed getting the chance to speak with her again.

And that's a wrap! October has been another huge month, but it's not over yet, and there are still a couple of things in the works. November is already taking shape, too, and there will be quite a few surprises. As always, watch this space!

MASAAKI TEZUKA TALKS FILMS IN KOENJI! Unmade Movies in the East and West Are Discussed!

Director Masaaki Tezuka speaks to the audience at a special event in Koenji, Tokyo. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On October 24, I was invited to join a special event in Koenji, Tokyo, highlighting some famous unmade films in movie history. The event ran for almost four hours, and most of the films discussed were American or European. However, some unmade kaiju films were discussed, and some rare screenplays for some of these movies were on display. It was a treat to see them in person.

The guest of honor was director Masaaki Tezuka, who directed Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000), Godzilla against Mechagodzilla (2002), and Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003). Among other titles, he served as assistant director on Virus, (1980), Princess from the Moon (1987), Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), and the last two entries in the Rebirth of Mothra trilogy.

Yoshikazu Ishii promotes his new film Sakurabana at the event. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Yoshikazu Ishii was also on hand, and many Godzilla fans are quite familiar with his credits. He was chief assistant special effects director on Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) and served in a similar position on Ultraman Saga (2012). Ishii-san promoted his latest film project, Sakurabana. The official site can be found here.

Yours truly posing with Toho power player Yoshikazu Ishii after the event wrapped.

When the event finished, my friend Yasushi and I were invited by the organizers to join a special dinner with Tezuka-san. I sat next to Tezuka-san for the meal, and I enjoyed spending the evening with him.

It had been quite a weekend up to this point, but even after all of this, it was far from over! 

YOU ONLY LIVE THRICE! Meeting Actress Mie Hama Again!

Posing for a photo op with retired actress Mie Hama, who follows a different passion today.

During the 1960s, Mie Hama was one of Toho's biggest stars. She headlined King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) and King Kong Escapes (1967), for which she is best remembered kaiju eiga fans. James Bond fans will instantly recognize Hama-san from You Only Live Twice (1967), which teamed her up with Sean Connery.

Today, however, Mie Hama has retired from acting and now speaks her mind as a commentator and essayist, promoting various causes in which she believes. She also has a strong interest in the arts, and occasionally hosts events highlighting the work of a particular artist or musician. This was one such event. Hama-san was very friendly, the same as she was the first time I met her two years ago. I was able to spend more time with her on this occasion, and it was most certainly time well spent.

SCENES FROM HAKONE! Out and About in One of Japan's Most Beautiful Areas!

The scenery just outside of Hakone-Yumoto Station is absolutely stunning. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On October 24, I got up early to attend a special event in Hakone. The ride from Tokyo to my final destination took quite a long time, but it was well worth it. It was my first time in the area in two years, but this time I was actually able to enjoy the scenery and take some photos.

As soon as you leave Hakone-Yumoto Station, you are immediately treated to some beautiful scenes that any shutterbug will be compelled to photograph. But this is only the beginning.

A nearby tourist destination is Lake Ashi, which I would highly recommend. I got to spend a bit of time out there, but I hope someday to take the cruise on the pirate ship!

In a shop's window, some familiar faces (Ultraman Taro, Baltan Seijin, Super Sentai, and Kamen Rider Ryuki) were seen.

Lake Ashi in Hakone is gorgeous, but my guess is that there's only one way to experience it.

Who wouldn't love to see Lake Ashi from a pirate ship? If you're interested in checking this tour out, the official Hakone Sightseeing Cruise Web site has your hookup.