Sunday, March 31, 2019

Seeing a Dinner Show with an Old Favorite!

Yutaka Hayashi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Last night, on Sunday, March 31, I went all the way out to Kisarazu, Chiba, to see a dinner show performed by Yutaka Hayashi and his band. The show took place at the Washington Hotel near the station, and it was a packed house. Other than Narita Airport, this was the farthest into Chiba I've ever been. It was certainly a new experience for me.

I hadn't seen Hayashi-san in almost exactly six years. I was quite eager to see him again after such a long time, so I was pleased when I was able to arrange ahead of time to visit him in the green room before the show.

The show itself was a lot of fun, featuring a mixture of '60s-era American and Japanese pop songs. Hayashi-san was great on the drums, and the lead singer could belt out those American oldies extremely well. Overall, it was a great night, but I spent a long time on the train!

The Return of Ultraman Gaia!

Takeshi Yoshioka. Photo by Brett Homenick.

 Also on Wednesday, I paid another visit to the bar owned and operated by actor Takeshi Yoshioka, who played Ultraman Gaia's human alter ego on Tsuburaya Productions' Ultraman Gaia (1998-99). Although it had been a long time since I set foot in his establishment, Yoshioka-san immediately recognized me and commented that I'm "forever young." Hey, those were his words, not mine!

It was a lot of fun hanging out with Yoshioka-san again. At one point, he picked up his smartphone and called Maria Theresa Gow, his Ultraman Gaia co-star, whom I've met several times. Then he handed the phone over to me for me to chat with her. That was certainly unexpected, but it was another fun memory from the evening. Many thanks to Yoshioka-san for his unparalleled hospitality!

Postscript: On Saturday night (March 30), when I entered the train to go home, Ms. Gow was standing right there on the train. So we had another nice chat. Quite a coincidence!

Paying a Visit to a Godzilla Scribe!

Hiroshi Kashiwabara. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Wednesday, March 27, I had a pleasant visit with Hiroshi Kashiwabara, a longtime movie and TV writer who wrote or co-wrote three Godzilla screenplays during the Heisei and Millennium eras. 

I really enjoyed our meeting. It'd been quite a while since I last saw Kashiwabara-san, and I hope to see him again soon.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Fuyumi Shiraishi: 1936-2019

In between Masaki Tsuji and Fuyumi Shiraishi in September 2018.

Anime voice actress Fuyumi Shiraishi passed away on March 28, 2019, at the age of 82. Born on October 14, 1936, in Beijing, China, Shiraishi-san grew up in Shizuoka Prefecture and would eventually go on to have a successful career as a voice actress, radio personality, and narrator. She even has some tokusatsu connections, having voice-acted in Ultraman Leo (1974-75) episode 40 and Super Robot Red Baron (1973-74) episode 17. 

Rest in peace, Shiraishi-san. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A Night of Toho SFX!

Teruyoshi Nakano. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Saturday, March 23, I left work and immediately headed out to another event with former Toho SFX director Teruyoshi Nakano.

Naturally, it's always great to see Nakano-san, and since I couldn't attend last week's screening of Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, this more than made up for it.

In between Teruyoshi Nakano and Takashi Naganuma.

The evening ended with a brief discussion about Davy Crockett between Naganuma-san and me. I mean, isn't that a common topic of conversation these days?

Visiting a Toho Legend!

Shigeo Kato. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Earlier this week, on Wednesday, March 20, I had a chance to catch up with Shigeo Kato, the veteran Toho actor who began working with the studio in the early 1950s. One of his earliest roles was in Akira Kurosawa's Ikiru (1952), ans he went on to appear in numerous films for the director. Kato-san's latest film, in which he plays the main character, is set to be released later this year.

I last visited Kato-san in January and was very happy to see him again. He continues to do well, and will turn 94 years old this June. I'm already looking forward to seeing him again.

Special Effects Shooting!

Yoshihiro Mori. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today I was pleased to attend a special event with a new special guest whom I'd never met before. The guest was cinematographer Yoshihiro Mori whose career in SFX productions spans several decades and covers some of Japan's most famous creations. 

Yoshihiro Mori began his career in the late 1950s at Toho, working on such tokusatsu classics as The Three Treasures (1959), Battle in Outer Space (1959), The Secret of the Telegian (1960), I Bombed Pearl Harbor (1960), and Mothra (1961). After working at the studio as an assistant cameraman, he quit Toho to join Toei and later worked at Tsuburaya Productions during the studio's heyday, lending his talents to Ultra Q (1966), Ultraman (1966-67), Kaiju Booska (1966-67) Ultra Seven (1967-68), Time of the Apes (1974-75), and Megaloman (1979), among many others. 

As if Mori-san's participation weren't enough, we were joined by a surprise guest: actor Shinya Ono. Ono-san was a regular on the TV series Wild 7 (1972-73) and Strada 5 (1974), both of which feature tokusatsu elements. Mori-san also worked on Wild 7 as a cameraman.

With Shinya Ono.

It was a wonderful event with friendly guests. It was also interesting to hear many firsthand stories about tokusatsu shooting.

Monday, March 11, 2019

TAKURO TATSUMI: From Destoroyah to Governor?

With actor Takuro Tatsumi in June 2018.

I came across a very interesting bit of news today. Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) attempted recruiting Osaka-born actor Takuro Tatsumi to run for Osaka governor next month, but it was just announced a few hours ago that Mr. Tatsumi has decided against running. 

What makes this news particularly noteworthy is that Takuro Tatsumi was the star of Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995). Having a Godzilla movie star as Osaka governor would have been quite amusing, to say the least, but, given his decision not to run, it appears it will remain just a fun thought experiment. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Strada 5 Panic!

 Yukihiro Sawada. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today, I attended a 35mm screening of Koko Dai Panic (a.k.a. Panic in High School, 1978), a controversial film co-directed by Nikkatsu's Yukihiro Sawada. The film chronicles a crazed student who steals a rifle and goes on a rampage at his school after another student's suicide. (Yes, the subject matter is quite dark.) It was interesting to see Koichi Ueda (a staple of the Heisei and Millennium Godzilla series) in the film as a policeman who tries to subdue the shooter. 

I'd met director Sawada once before, but this was my first time to see a film of his. I mostly know Sawada-san as the director of the first episode of Strada 5 (1974), Nikkatsu's task force-themed action series that predates Super Sentai by a year. I had Sawada-san sign my Strada 5 Blu-ray.

After the After-Party!

Hiroyasu Yamaura. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Earlier today, I attended the new play written by Hiroyasu Yamaura. The play had everything -- action, comedy, singing, and even Shakespeare. But the real fun was after the show. I was invited to attend the after-party with the cast and crew, and before I knew it, I stayed way longer than I'd anticipated. It was a lot of fun hanging out with everyone. 

Revisiting the Heisei Godzilla Series!

With Megumi Odaka. 

On Saturday, March 9, I attended a special dinner event with two key players from the Heisei Godzilla series. The first of whom was actress Megumi Odaka, who portrayed Miki Saegusa from 1989 until 1995. It certainly wasn't my first time meeting Odaka-san, and even though she had to leave shortly after I arrived, it was great to see her again.

With Shogo Tomiyama.

The other special guest was none other than producer Shogo Tomiyama. Likewise, it was great to see him again, even though things were a bit brief (due to my work schedule).

A Stroll Around Inokashira Park!

Yumi Mizusawa. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

On Wednesday, March 6, I enjoyed a stroll around Kichijoji's Inokashira Park with actress-singer Yumi Mizusawa. Of course, it's still too early for cherry blossoms, but the weather wasn't warm enough to enjoy a lengthy walk.

By sheer coincidence, while I was waiting to meet Mizusawa-san at the train station, I spotted writer Fumio Ishimori approaching the ticket gates. We were both quite surprised and had a brief conversation.

I was happy to speak with Mizusawa-san about her acting and singing career in great detail. She began appearing on television in the early 1960s as a child actress, so her career in entertainment covers a lot of ground.

Many thanks to Mizusawa-san for the enjoyable afternoon!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Godzilla vs. Destoroyah Screened!

In between director Takao Okawara (left) and actor Yasufumi Hayashi. 

Today, I attended a screening of Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995) in 35mm. The film looked better than ever, but I was still underwhelmed by it. Once again, I got bored to distraction during the climactic battle and lost track of what was going on. This never happens to me while watching a Showa-era filn, but it seems to be the norm among the later Heisei films.

One of the guests of honor for the event was actor Yasufumi Hayashi. Hayashi-san is certainly best known in the West for his role as the young wiz kid Kenichi Yamane in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. He also appears in Nobuhiko Obayashi's The Drifting Classroom (1987) and Ultraman Cosmos 2: The Blue Planet (2002). Hayashi-san had to leave the event rather early due to filming commitments, but I enjoyed meeting him for the brief time I was able to.

Takao Okawara. Photo by Brett Homenick. 

Returning as another special guest was director Takao Okawara, who not only helmed this film, but also Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), and Godzilla 2000 (1999). One interesting bit of trivia was that the filmmakers sough out Toyoaki Suzuki, who played Shinkichi in Godzilla (1954), for a cameo. But they were unable to find him. To this day, nobody seems to know what happened to him.

Overall, it was a fun event, and I was especially glad to have the opportunity to see Destoroyah in 35mm for the first time. As a result, I've seen every Heisei Godzilla film on the big screen in 35mm. Not too shabby.