Sunday, January 31, 2016

TAKE TWO! Nikkatsu Takes Over Yokohama!

Nikkatsu Studios star Masako Izumi listens intently to a question from one of her many fans.

Screenwriter Fumio Ishimori poses for a photo.

Hanging out with the kind and energetic Masako Izumi.

Does it look like we're having a good time?

Meeting Fumio Ishimori, who was worked for many of Japan's greatest studios.

A selfie with a great Japanese screenwriter!

One last photo for the road!

NIKKATSU IN YOKOHAMA! Masako Izumi and Fumio Ishimori Talk Film Over Dinner!

Nikkastu Studios star Masako Izumi chats with fans over dinner in Yokohama. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Last night, I was privileged to attend a special dinner event with two Nikkatsu Studios alumni. The headliner of the event was Masako Izumi, who was a young star at Nikkatsu during the 1960s. I met her last year at a similar event and was pleasantly surprised to find that she recognized me.

Screenwriter Fumio Ishimori has written numerous scenarios for many of Japan's biggest studios. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The other special guest in attendance was screenwriter Fumio Ishimori (sometimes credited as Shiro Ishimori in the West). Ishimori-san penned several films for Nikkatsu during the 1960s before eventually leaving for Shochiku Studios. In the 1970s, Ishimori-san wrote the horror opus Crest of the Wolf (1973) for Toho Studios.

Masako Izumi listens to a question while sitting under a poster for her film Thanks for the Tears (1965), a youth actioner from Nikkastu Studios. Photo by Brett Homenick.

While there was a film screening prior to the dinner event, I missed it. (I have to work, you know.) But I was able to enjoy sitting with Izumi-san and Ishimori-san, who were quite gregarious and eager to mingle with their fans.

Yours truly poses for a photo with Masako Izumi in Yokohama.

It was intriguing to see how the attendees acted around Izumi-san. For this event, the folks in attendance were all new to me. I made some new friends and enjoyed chatting with them. But they were all in awe of Izumi-san. Her name is hardly known to Americans, but fans in Japan are well aware of who she is. After becoming familiar with her credits, it would be hard not to become impressed!

Posing for a photo with Fumio Ishimori, a man of many screenplays!

The event was a lot of fun and a big success. Masako Izumi was full of boundless energy, and despite her previous success as a Nikkatsu star, she was a approachable as anyone else I've seen. Ishimori-san was a very friendly chap whom I hope to see again soon. Congratulations to everyone involved!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

MORE PICS FROM THE EVENT! Yukiko Takayama and Kensho Yamashita in Action!

Terror of Mechagodzilla's Yukiko Takayama and Kensho Yamashita reminisce about their famous film.

Yukiko Takayama gesticulates in order to make a point.

Kensho Yamashita recalls Terror of Mechagodzilla.

Yukiko Takayama signs autographs.

With the two celebrity guests at the event.

With Yukiko Takayama.

With Kensho Yamashita.

Yukiko Takayama and Kensho Yamashita pose for pictures.

Takayama-san and Yamashita-san check the photos taken on Yamashita-san's camera.


Terror of Mechagodzilla screenwriter Yukiko Takayama (left) and assistant director Kensho Yamashita (right) discuss the making of their kaiju classic following a screening in Yokohama. Photo by Brett Homenick.

January 24 saw a great event take place in Yokohama. The film of the day was Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975), a bona fide classic in the Godzilla series. The event opened with a screening of a 35mm  print of the film and was followed by a Q&A session with a couple of very special guests.

Screenwriter Yukiko Takayama remembers writing the story of Terror of Mechagodzilla. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The two special guests were TOMG screenwriter Yukiko Takayama and assistant director Kensho Yamashita. Yamashita-san went on to direct his own Godzilla movie, Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla (1994).

Assistant director Kensho Yamashita answers questions about his career. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The interview session proved to be very interesting. Of particular note, the building used as the Mafune family home was actually an old hospital (!) in Setagaya Ward that was eventually torn down. I was hoping to visit that location someday, but unfortunately it's long gone. At least we know what it was.

Also, when talking about the "racy" scene with Katsura on the operating table, Yamashita-san pointed out that it was actually dropped from the U.S. version. Then Yamashita-san looked at me and said in English, "For the children!" I laughed and gave him a thumbs-up.

Yours truly with Yukiko Takayama, a first-time meeting that hopefully won't be the last!

Although I've met several Terror of Mechagodzilla alumni over the years, I'd never met Yukiko Takayama. Naturally, I was very excited to meet her. At first, she seemed a bit shy, but during dinner, she easily warmed up and became very talkative.

I was very privileged to sit next to Yukiko Takayama during our nabe dinner.  

During dinner, Takayama-san talked about her interest in sci-fi films and cited Blade Runner (1982) as one of her favorites. I was glad to tell Takayama-san about how TOMG was actually a pretty scary movie to watch as a young child (the dark atmosphere was a bit much for me at that age), even though it's now one of my favorites.

Yours truly with Kensho Yamashita, who is always in motion, even when posing for photos!

There were many familiar faces at the event, and I enjoyed catching up with them. I was very happy to spend so much time with Takayama-san, who proved to be a warm and friendly special guest. She seemed as interested in her fans as we were in her. Kensho Yamashita is always a blast to hang out with, and he brought his own camera and took pictures of his own!

More photos from tonight's shindig to come!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A DAY AT THE MUSEUM! With Ulf Otsuki at the National Museum of Modern Art!

Ulf Otsuki stands outside the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today I was invited to join Ulf Otsuki and friends at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, which is right across from the Imperial Palace. It was a rather special occasion, as artwork by Ulf's father, Gosta Georgii-Hemming, was on display as part of a temporary exhibit at the museum called "Visit Japan: Tourism Promotion in the 1920s and 1930s."

Gosta Georgii-Hemming's artwork, as reprinted in the museum's commemorative booklet. Photo by Brett Homenick.

In 1932, Gosta Georgii-Hemming designed the above poster for NYK Line, a major shipping company in Japan. This (among many other fascinating posters, brochures, and other items) were on display for museum patrons to view. The exhibit runs until February 28, so if you'd like to see how Japan promoted tourism just before World War II broke out, you still have time to check it out!

Ulf and I just before dinner at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.

After we saw the exhibit, we made our way to Yurakucho and had dinner at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan. After parking, we made our way up to the 20th floor of the Yurakucho Denki North Building and sat down at the restaurant. It was my first time there, but hopefully not the last!

The view of the Tokyo shy line as seen from the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan. Photo by Brett Homenick.

We ate a delicious chicken dinner and talked about several things. During the dinner, there was some obligatory picture-taking.

That's a wrap! Thanks very much to Ulf for all his hospitality!

Monday, January 11, 2016

THREE GIANT STARS: THE GREATEST REUNION ON EARTH! Akira Takarada, Yosuke Natsuki, and Linda Miller Join Forces in Tokyo!

Yosuke Natsuki, Linda Miller, and Akira Takarada pose for pictures at a special event in Nakano, Tokyo. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

January 11 saw the final of three events in Tokyo for Linda Miller during this visit. It was particularly special for Linda, as it was the first time she'd seen her old friend, Toho star Yosuke Natsuki, in more than 40 years.

The event took place on the 11th floor of the Nakano Sun Plaza, and (for my money) it was much more fun than yesterday's Super Festival.

Before the event, a Japanese fan sitting next to me asked me a question. He wanted to know if I was an actor in Japanese films. I laughed and assured him I wasn't. Last month, I was asked the same question at a different event. I wonder if a pattern is starting to develop.

Yosuke Natsuki signs autographs for the fans in attedance. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Shortly thereafter, the three actors took the stage, and the Q&A session was hosted by Akira Takarada himself. (There was no other moderator; Takarada-san himself was it!) Linda recalled her memories of King Kong Escapes (1967), and then Takarada-san went over Natsuki-san's filmography. Takarada-san worked from a few notes, and it was clear he had done his homework. He came prepared with many facts and figures, even King Kong's weight and height!

Several times during the talk, I was asked questions by the actors onstage. For example, Takarada-san asked me who the monsters were in Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (since the Japanese title doesn't exactly make it clear). Much to my surprise, Takarada-san spent some time talking about me to the audience (describing my time in Nakatsugawa, etc.).

Natsuki-san asked Linda some questions about her experience making King Kong Escapes and then talked about the conversation that he and I had, which eventually led to Linda's discovery. In addition, when he mentioned that he was in the movie The H-Man (1958) for one cut, he looked at me for conformation. (Since Natsuki-san appears in two different scenes, it's a bit more accurate to say he was in two cuts.) Suffice it to say, it was a lot of fun to interact with three great Toho stars from the audience.

Once the Q&A wrapped, it was time for autographs. Shortly going through everybody's line, I had to leave for work.

It was a great event, and before I left, I commended Ms. Kojima on another job well done. I had a great time, and I look forward to attending other such events in the future.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

MORE PHOTOS! Super Festival Lives Up to Its Name!

Linda Miller and Akira Takarada share a laugh about King Kong Escapes (1967).

Haruo Nakajima discusses playing King Kong, as Akira Takarada listens in.

Almost 50 years later, Akira Takarada and Linda Miller still look great!

Yuuta Mochizuki discusses Kamen Rider J (1994) and Keita Amemiya.

With Return of Ultraman suit actor Eiichi Kikuchi.

Nobuyuki Ishida and Mirrorman wow the audience at Super Festival.

With Akira Takarada.

With Haruo Nakajima.

Jirass invades Super Festival!

Ultra Seven and Red King bury the hatchet long enough to shop for toys.

Mirrorman masks!

SUPER FESTIVAL 70! A King Kong Escapes Reunion and More!

Akira Takarada and Linda Miller share a hug for the first time since 1967! Photo by Brett Homenick.

Japanese monster movies have always been bigger and better than American monster movies. That's what I've always liked about them. It's no exception with their special events, which are always bigger and better than their American counterparts.

Haruo Nakajima, Akira Takarada, and Linda Miller discuss the making of King Kong Escapes (1967). Photo by Brett Homenick.

Super Festival 70, taking place on January 10, proved to be the same way. The organizers of Super Festival brought together three of the stars of Toho's celebrated King Kong Escapes (1967) for the first time ever. Akira Takarada, Haruo Nakajima, and Linda Miller shared the stage to discuss the production of this kaiju classic.

Of course, there was a lot of joking around, too, which made the panel discussion so special. Others will try to imitate it, I'm sure, but there's nothing quite like the first time.

Hiroshi Sagae shows off one of his latest sculpts. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

After the King Kong Escapes interview, I walked around the convention center and ran into many familiar faces. One of whom was Hiroshi Sagae, a sculptor who has worked on numerous projects from the Heisei era. We had a nice chat, and he showed me some of his latest works.

Kamen Rider takes the stage at Super Festival! Photo by Brett Homenick.

Yuuta Mochizuki was interviewed onstage about his starring role in Keita Amemiya's Kamen Rider J (1994). Mochizuki-san is well known to fans of Super Sentai and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, as he starred in the series Zyuranger (1992-93), which was Americanized as the Power Rangers.

Yuuta Mochizuki addresses the audience at Super Festival. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The interviewer read a special message from director Keita Amemiya, which he then gave to Mochizuki-san. He certainly seemed impressed by it!

While walking the floor, I met Sojiro Uchino, whom I've blogged about several times. Uchino-san was a child actor who appeared in episodes of Ultra Q and Ultraman, among other series and movies. Uchino-san usually makes appearances at Super Festival.

Nobuyuki Ishida reunites with his heroic alter ego, Mirrorman! Photo by Brett Homenick.

I also caught part of the interview with Mirrorman (1971-72) star Nobuyuki Ishida. His onstage reunion with Mirrorman was particularly amusing!

Nobuyuki Ishida answers the questions posed to him about his famous TV program. Photo by Brett Homenick.

While wandering around, I bumped in to another Japanese celebrity who was not there as a guest but as a fan. Interestingly, he was one of the featured guests as the last Super Festival!

Striking a pose with Eiichi Kikuchi, a veteran Tsuburaya Productions suit actor. 

Eiichi Kikuchi was at the show, checking out the merchandise for sale and listening to the guest interviews. Kikuchi-san was the (Ultra-)man in the suit for Return of Ultraman (1971-72) and even played Ultra Seven for the King Joe episodes of the 1967-68 series.

After all that, it was time to meet the guests. It was great to see Akira Takarada again...

... as well as Linda Miller...

... and Haruo Nakajima! Whew, so much to say. A lot happened at Super Festival, so I must commend the organizers and Ms. Kojima for a job well done. It was a blast!