Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: A Great Year!

At a Tokyo event in October featuring Teruyoshi Nakano, Hiroko Sakurai, Machiko Naka, Yasuhiko Saijo, and Eiichi Asada.

In Japan, it's already 2016, but I wanted to say a few words about the year that just ended. In short, 2015 was by far my best year in Japan. It easily toppled 2012 (my previous favorite) to claim the top spot.

There was so much to do, and keeping busy was never an issue. I made many new friendships and strengthened the ones I already had. There were many other positive developments (most of which are beyond the scope of this blog), but suffice it to say that when I think of 2015, the good far outweighs the bad.

Thanks for the memories, 2015!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR! Ulf and I Begin the Celebrations!

Ulf Otsuki and yours truly at our favorite Indian restaurant in Edogawa.

Today (December 30), I paid a visit to actor Ulf Otsuki at his home in Edogawa. I had a great time seeing him again. First, we watched the old MGM musical Till the Clouds Roll By (1946). (Ulf is a big fan of old Hollywood movies, and we've started watching one every time I come to visit.)

The sun always sets on Edogawa. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Following the movie, we made our way to our usual Indian restaurant for some curry. We spent a long time there, chatting about a variety of topics.

The Tokyo Sky Tree in the distance. Photo by Brett Homenick.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable evening, and it's always a blast to see Ulf. Celebrations for the upcoming new year continue tomorrow, and I'm quite excited for what's in store.

Happy New Year, from me and Ulf!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Signage for Star Wars: The Force Awakens at a movie theater in Tokyo. Photo by Brett Homenick.

First, a confession. I'm not the biggest Star Wars fan in the world. In fact, I haven't seen a new Star Wars film since my brother took me to see The Phantom Menace in the summer of 1999. Unsurprisingly, I haven't been in any particular hurry to catch up on the franchise since then, but truth be told, I pretty much left Star Wars behind in my early teens.

Hey, look! It's Paddington, and he probably wants some marmalade! Photo by Brett Homenick.

Given all the hype (most of which seems to come from meme-sharing fans on Facebook), I finally broke down and went to see it at the 109 Cinemas in Futako-Tamagawa (hence the name of this blog post, in case you were wondering).

Even though the film has been out for a while in Japan, my screening (which was on a Tuesday afternoon) was nearly sold out, and I had to settle for a seat in the very first row. Hm... 

How come Star Wars doesn't offer any marmalade soda? Photo by Brett Homenick.

Interestingly, the teaser trailer for Shin Godzilla (a.k.a. Godzilla Resurgence) played before the film. If J.J. Abrams catches a screening of Star Wars in Japan, he'll probably be wondering why it took his flick Cloverfield so long to get released in Japan and why it's being called Godzilla. Suffice it to say, the teaser was as unimpressive to me on the big screen as it was on YouTube.

(Minor spoilers ahead)

As for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the movie had me up until those gloopy tentacled monsters showed up on the Millennium Falcon (at least that's where I think it was -- the characters moved around so much it was hard to keep track of where they were). Not only were they boring and nondescript, but they belonged in another movie. After that, well, I just had a "been there, done that" feeling until the last shot of the film, which was just as unsatisfying as anything else on the screen.

I'd give the movie about two out of four stars, but again, I'm not the target audience for this sort of thing. I've certainly seen movies a lot worse, but it could have been so much better.


Thursday, December 24, 2015

A VERY TOHO CHRISTMAS! More Photos from the Christmas Eve Event!

Akira Kubo and Yoshio Tsuchiya pal around with an old friend.

Yoshio Tsuchiya and Yukiko Kobayashi talk shop with each other.

Three Toho legends pose for the camera.

Akira Kubo lights a cigarette for an old friend.

Yoshio Tsuchiya watches himself at work over 50 years ago in The Human Vapor (1960).

Akira Kubo holds up a Japanese program booklet for A Star Is Born (1954).

Return of Ultraman suit actor Eiichi Kikuchi honors Akira Kubo at the event.

Yours truly, posing with Akira Kubo, Yoshio Tsuchiya, and Yukiko Kobayashi.

With Akira Kubo.

With Yukiko Kobayashi.

Yukiko Kobayashi assists Yoshio Tsuchiya with his signings.

With Yoshio Tsuchiya.

A CHRISTMAS EVE TOHO ALL-STAR EVENT! Three Godzilla Series Bring the Holiday Cheer!

Actors Yoshio Tsuchiya, Akira Kubo, and Yukiko Kobayashi pose for pictures during a special event on Christmas Eve. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Thursday, December 24, saw an all-star reunion of three major Toho stars at a restaurant called Nano in Shinjuku. The three actors were Yoshio Tsuchiya (Seven Samurai, The Human Vapor), Akira Kubo (Gorath, Monster Zero), and Yukiko Kobayashi (Detroy All Monsters, The Vampire Doll).

Yoshio Tsuchiya reacts to the ovation he receives from the audience. Photo by Brett Homenick.

In particular, it was a rare opportunity to meet Yoshio Tsuchiya, who doesn't often appear at events in Tokyo. I was very excited to meet him, as he acting credits are among the most impressive of any Toho actor. He's one of the principal cast members of Seven Samurai (1954)!

Akira Kubo enjoyed mingling with the fans. Photo by Brett Homenick.

During the Q&A, I was privileged to ask the only question from the audience, and I asked it of all three quests. I asked them what their favorite childhood memories are. Kubo-san replied that joining Toho as a 15-year-old actor was his favorite.

Kobayashi-san then told the audience that when she was born, her father (an actor in his own right) wanted a boy, and so she grew up dressing like a boy, and even enjoyed playing with guns rather than dolls.

Tsuchiya-san talked about being afraid of King Kong (1933) as a boy. He also went on to talk about how many actors left Tokyo and went to Yamanashi Prefecture to escape the war. Since Tsuchiya-san lived there, he got to know many actors during that time. One of the actors he got to know turned out to be Kobayashi-san's father!

Yukiko Kobayashi talks about her acting credits at Toho Studios and Tsuburaya Productions. Photo by Brett Homenick.

After the interview session wrapped, the three guests joined the audience in singing "Silent Night" in both Japanese and English. During the English portion, I was invited to join the guests onstage (so to speak) and to sing along with them. It was quite a surprise for me!

Yours truly with the three guests of honor, after singing "Silent Night" with them.

Following that, it was time for autographs. Since Tsuchiya-san is a rare presence at events, he signed more autographs than the other guests by far. Despite it all, he remained in good spirits.

This was my fourth time meeting Akira Kubo, and I was gratified to know that he recognized me. He mentioned that we first met in Kyoto at a screening of Monster Zero, which took place four years ago in 2011. Kubo-san was very kind and was a joy to speak with.

Kobayashi-san was also great to see again. The Vampire Doll is a great Japanese horror film, and she is excellent as the film's vampire.

It was my first time to meet Yoshio Tsuchiya, and what can I say? He's a legend, and it was very exciting to speak with him.

I had an excellent time at the event, and I must commend the organizers on a job well done. What better way to close out 2015 than with three Toho legends?

Sunday, December 20, 2015

KADOKAWA DAIEI STUDIOS SEZ MERRY CHRISTMAS! Celebrating the Holidays with Gamera and Daimajin!

Tonight I paid a visit to Kadokawa Daiei Studios in Chofu, Tokyo, to photograph the Daimajin statues decked out in their yuletide glory. Here are the photos for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

GRACE MIKA IN CONCERT! The Jazz Chanteuse Wows 'Em in Ginza!

I just returned home from an evening at Cygnus, a live house in Ginza that specializes in jazz. I was invited to come by Grace Mika, an actress-singer whom I've recently come to know.

As expected, Christmas music was well represented, but there were many other types of songs in the lineup. Some patrons got so worked up by the energy of the music that they started dancing in the aisles, and no, this wasn't a dance club!

I had a nice chat with Grace following the performance, and I even got to say hello to some of my other friends in attendance. Given the lateness of the hour, and the fact that I've got work tomorrow, I couldn't stay long, but it was a great evening.

Not only that, but I had the chance to see Ginza's holiday decor. Pretty snazzy, eh?

That's all for now. More will be coming soon!

CHRISTMAS WITH SHINICHI YANAGISAWA! The Shochiku Star Brings the Holiday Cheer!

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

On Tuesday, December 15, I made my way to the HUB in Asakusa to see actor-singer Shinichi Yanagisawa perform jazz songs live. I do this every time he has a show in Asakusa, but I was especially interested to go this time, since I was looking forward to hearing some Christmas songs!

Shinichi Yanagisawa on the drums! No one does it better. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Suffice it to say, the show was great. Of course, Yanagisawa-san was extremely friendly, as he always is. I was very happy to give him and my friend Kyoichi their Christmas cards. Nothing beats getting into the holiday spirit!

Shinichi Yanagisawa is an actor best known in the West for portraying Miyamoto in The X from Outer Space (1967), and his "plastic water" line in the film remains one of my favorites in the entire genre. Still, Yanagisawa-san has numerous credits at Shochiku and Nikkatsu, dating back to the 1950s. His is a career definitely worth checking out!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Anthony Cardoza: 1930-2015

B-movie producer Anthony Cardoza, best known for his work on Ed Wood's Night of the Ghouls (1959) and Coleman Francis' The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961), died of a stroke about a week ago at age 85.

According to actor Conrad Brooks, Cardoza fell at his home a couple of weeks ago and eventually died of a stroke following surgery.

Among other titles, Cardoza produced The Skydivers (1963), Night Train to Mundo Fine (1966), Bigfoot (1970), and Misfit Patrol (1998). He also appeared as an actor in several of the films he produced.

Cardoza remained active into his 80s and ran a production/distribution company called Ace Pix International.

2015 IS 1974! Toho SFX Greats Turn the Clock Back to the Mid-1970s!

SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano (left) and model-maker Takashi Naganuma (right) discuss the state of the industry in the 1970s. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I just returned from a special event in Yokohama, highlighting some of the most impressive SFX movies from the 1970s. SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano and model-maker Takashi Naganuma were in attendance, and much of the discussion focused on the making of The Last Days of Planet Earth (a.k.a. Prophecies of Nostradamus, 1974).

Teruyoshi Nakano recalls blowing things up on the set ... and sometimes the set itself! Photo by Brett Homenick.

The Last Days of Planet Earth is a film that continues to be shrouded in controversy, especially in Japan, where it has yet to see an official home video release. However, that doesn't stop Toho fans from wanting to know more about its production.

Model-maker Takashi Naganuma makes a point during the discussion. Photo by Brett Homenick.

After the discussion, the attendees all had a nabe dinner together. It was another enjoyable meal, but the company with whom we ate made it truly special.

A fan gave Teruysohi Nakano a rather splendid gift. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Naturally, it was a lot of fun to see Nakano-san and Naganuma-san again. They are always affable and love talking shop with fans.

December will prove to be another busy month with many cool things happening. More cool things will be happening this week, so stay tuned to this blog for more!

See you later!