Sunday, November 29, 2015

BRUCE LEE FETED IN SHINJUKU! An All-Star Event in Shinjuku Features Several Japanese Celebrities!

Yours truly with the special guests at the Bruce Lee special birthday event in Tokyo. 

Sunday, November 29, saw a special Bruce Lee celebration take place in Shinjuku that I was fortunate enough to be invited to. There were several celebrity guests on hand who had strong connections not just with Hong Kong cinema but with Japanese tokusatsu.

Actor Daiki Kato has appeared in several 1970s-era Japanese SFX movies and TV programs. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

One of the guests I was particularly interested in meeting was Daiki Kato (whose real name is Hisashi Kato). Kato-san is both an actor and a suit actor. As a suit actor, he played Goliath in Tsuburaya's Daigoro vs. Goliath (1972), Silver Kamen in Silver Kamen (1971-72), and Iron King in the TV series Iron King (1972-73), As an actor, he appears in Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972), Iron King, Super Robot Red Baron (1973-74), and Super Robot Mach Baron (1974-75).

Actor Shinzo Hotta addresses the audience and talks about his experiences making action movies and TV series. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Prolific actor Shinzo Hotta was another featured guest, and he was another I was excited to meet for the first time. His acting roles date back to the mid-1960s at Toei Studios. Among many others, his credits include: Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 (1972), Iron King (1972-73),  Ninja Captor (1976-77), and Message from Space: Galactic Wars (1978-79).

The legendary Riki Hashimoto recalls his memories of working with Bruce Lee. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

As great as the other guests were, the main attraction for me was Riki Hashimoto. Hashimoto-san portrayed Daimajin as a suit actor in all three of the classic Daiei films from 1966. He went on to portray the villainous demon Daimon in Spook Warfare (1968), and one of the aliens (in human form) in Gamera vs. Viras (a.k.a. Destroy All Planets, 1968). In 1972, Hashimoto-san battled Bruce Lee onscreen in The Chinese Connection (1972). I met Hashimoto-san last April, and when he was me at the event, he recognized me and pointed at me.

All the special guests were given their own birthday cakes at the event. Photo by Brett Homenick.

During the Q&A, I asked Hashimoto-san about his memories of Daiei producer Masaichi Nagata. He said that he had great respect for Nagata-san and that Nagata-san always took care of his needs. (Interestingly, Gamera series screenwriter Niisan Takahashi held the opposite opinion of Nagata-san.)

After the guests talked about their careers and their various connections with Hong Kong cinema, attendees could get items signed, pose for pictures, and generally mingle with the guests. I brought all three of my Daimjin DVD covers for Hashimoto-san to sign. Suffice it to say, they look great!

Yours truly with Riki Hashimoto, a true living legend of Japanese and Hong Kong cinema.

I also took photos with Daiki Kato and Shinzo Hotta, who were both very friendly and personable. During the event, I met several new friends and reconnected with one I've known for a while. Since there were no designated photographers at the event, I began assisting Hashimoto-san with taking photos for his fans. He thanked me for my efforts, but the pleasure was all mine.

Shaking hands with Daiki Kato. a suit actor for many enjoyable movies and TV programs.

As things were winding down, Hashimoto-san invited me to sit down next to him and chat. We could only communicate on a very basic level, but it was such a joy to be sitting and hanging out with Daimajin that I ate up every second of it. After a while, a helpful bilingual fan joined us and assisted with the communication. I've said it once, and I'll say it again: Japanese fans are the best in the world.

Posing with veteran Toei actor Shinzo Hotta. Even though he's adept at playing bad guys, he's as nice as they come!

All in all, it was an excellent event, and it far exceeded my expectations. I feel very fortunate to have been invited to this event, and I hope to join others in the future!

The only way the event could have been any better is if Bruce Lee himself joined us. But I have to believe he was smiling down on us from above. The love and admiration he was shown was second to none. Many thanks to everyone involved!

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