Saturday, April 29, 2023

What Happened When a Kamen Rider and a Toho SFX Director Crossed Paths!

Masato Uchiyama. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight (Saturday, April 29), I attended a special event -- one that boasted a familiar guest as well as a brand-new one for me. The new guest was Masato Uchiyama. Uchiyama-san's credits include playing Ren Senju on Ultraman Nexus (2004-05), Katsuhiro Kumagai on episode 11 of Ultra Q: Dark Fantasy (2004), and Yoshio Kobayashi (Rabbit Orphnoch) on Kamen Rider 555 (2003-04). His best-known role, however, would have to be that of Shun Kageyama (Kamen Rider PunchHopper) in Kamen Rider Kabuto (2006-07), Kamen Rider Decade (2009), and Kamen Rider Zi-O (2018-19). 

Masato Uchiyama strikes a pose with Eiichi Asada. Photo by Brett Homenick.

It's not often that I meet guests who are actually younger than I am, but that's the case with Uchiyama-san. He was quite friendly, but, due to my lack of familiarity with his work, it was a bit difficult to come up with things to say. Thankfully, a group of about four young women (who looked like they came straight from Harajuku) were on hand, attracted by the opportunity to meet Uchiyama-san, and did the talking for me. One young lady even brought out a few Kamen Rider toys for the occasion. It was a rare sight at a tokusatsu event, but I guess Uchiyama-san has that kind of fanbase. 

Masato Uchiyama and Eiichi Asada. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I did talk quite a bit with Uchiyama-san's colleague (and assistant) who was there at the event with him. She told me she isn't an actress or even Uchiyama-san's manager; she just works at the same company as Uchiyama-san and was there to assist him. She also told me a bit about of her own background, as well as Uchiyama-san's current projects. 

With Masato Uchiyama.

The most fun at the event, however, was definitely Eiichi Asada. I showed up to the event quite late, and, when I arrived, Asada-san was standing outside by himself on a smoke break. We engaged in a bit of small talk, and Asada-san was a bit concerned that I might be a bit cold because I wasn't wearing a coat. I assured him I was fine (which I most assuredly was), despite the cold weather. During the event, Asada-san told Uchiyama-san's group of admirers about me, pointing out to them that I was single. I had a bit of fun with that (telling the young ladies the reason I'm single is that I play for the other team), to which Asada-san jokingly got exasperated. It's kind of amusing when a Toho SFX director tries to play matchmaker for you.

With Eiichi Asada.

Asada-san left the event a bit sooner than I did, so you can imagine my surprise when I heard someone call my name when I was about to get on the elevator at the train station. It was Asada-san (who was with another person from the event), and we all went up the elevator together. I was holding a flyer for the recent soundtrack release for the Ken Takakura film Station (1981), which Asada-san pointed out was a good film. Actress Chieko Baisho was on the flyer, and I mentioned that she was married to the composer of Godzilla 1985 (1984), of which Asada-san wasn't aware. He then told me I knew a lot about these movies, which I guess after all this time I kind of do. 

We went out separate ways at the next station. What a fun event! Even though I wasn't sure I would attend, I'm glad I did. Bring on the next one!

Thursday, April 27, 2023

A New Nobuyuki Yasumaru Q&A on Vantage Point Interviews!

Nobuyuki Yasumaru in September 2021. Photo by Brett Homenick.

My latest Q&A has just been published on Vantage Point Interviews, which may have been Godzilla suitmaker Nobuyuki Yasumaru's last-ever interview. (It was conducted only about five months before he passed away.) In the interview, Mr. Yasumaru gives the most likely explanations for why Jet Jaguar was named "Jaguar" (and why it was probably changed from Red Arone), recounts the toilet-related shenanigans the Toho SFX took part in during the making of the otherwise somber The Last War (1961), and goes into detail about his work on The Last Days of Planet Earth (a.k.a. Prophecies of Nostradamus, 1974), among many other fascinating topics. You can read about all this and more on Vantage Point Interviews, where content is king!

Godzilla the Art by Parco!

Godzilla the Art by Parco. Photo by Brett Homenick.

A friend of mine informed me about Godzilla the Art by Parco, which is currently being held (where else?) at Shibuya Parco from April 27 (today) through May 15. It highlights some "interesting" interpretations of Godzilla by some hip young artists, so you could imagine that I didn't care much for what I saw.

There were some interesting photos on display of the original Godzilla maquette from Godzilla (1954) that I'd never seen before, and I guess that was a tie-in for some toy or model that was being offered for sale as an online exclusive. There was also a cool Godzilla diorama, but I'd already seen it just a few months ago. Admission was only 500 yen, though, so I can't complain. Here's what I saw.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Toei Heroes Return to the Stage!

Top row (from left to right): Narimitsu Kurachi, Shocker Ono, Toshimichi Takahashi, and Kenju Hayashi. Bottom row (from left to right): Kihachiro Uemura, Mariko Matsuoka, Yumiko Tanaka, Miyuki Nagato, and Hiroko Kojima.

On Saturday evening, April 22, I attended a play performed by various actors from the world of Toei tokusatsu. Well, I say "attended," but, due to a prior commitment, I arrived just as the play was finishing! Too bad. But there was plenty of activity after the show to make it all worthwhile.

But who are all these folks, you ask? Well, let's take a look!

Yumiko Tanaka starred in Kamen Rider Super-1 (1980-81) as Harumi Kusanami, but she also appears in Godzilla 1985 (1984) in a small role that was cut out of the American version.

Kihachiro Uemura plays Green Flash on Choushinsei Flashman (1986-87).

Miyuki Nagato played the villainess Wolk on Flashman.

Kenju Hayashi would be best known as Prince Megiddo on Kagaku Sentai Dynaman (1983-84).

Narimitsu Kurachi portrayed Battle France on Battle Fever J (1979-80), but he also appears in Toho's The Imperial Navy (1981) and Toei's The Imperial Japanese Empire (1982). On television, Kurachi-san can be seen in guest appearances on Toei's Spider-Man (1978-79), Denshi Sentai Denziman (1980-81), and Space Sheriff Gavan (1982-83). 

Toshimichi Takahashi is an actor and suit actor who appears in numerous films and TV productions from Toei and other studios, including: Wolf Guy (1975), Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon (1977), Mechanical Violator Hakaider (1995), the Toho superhero series Megaloman (1979), and numerous Super Sentai, Kamen Rider, and Metal Hero series, beginning with Himitsu Sentai Goranger (1975-77).

Mariko Matsuoka plays android girl Carolyn in episode 24 of Ultraman Leo (1974-75), Ritsuko Okamura in Kamen Rider Amazon (1974-75), Misaki Minekawa in episode 29 of Akumaizer 3 (1975-76), episode 32 of UFO Great War Fight! Red Tiger (1978), and Jun in episode 37 of Kyoryu Sentai Koseidon (1978-79). She also appears in the Fumio Ishimori-penned Shochiku film Frozen River (1976) as Harumi Hayata.

Shocker Ono (real name: Hiroshi Ono) is a former stuntman with the Japan Action Club and appeared in small roles in a bevy of classic Toei programs, such as Kamen Rider Super-1, DenzimanDai Sentai Goggle-V (1982-83), Dynaman, Choudenshi Bioman (1984-85), Gavan, and Space Sheriff Sharivan (1983-84). 

Hiroko Kojima former Japan Action Club member who did stunt work  in Dengeki Sentai Changeman (1985-86) and episode 16 of Dennou Keisatsu Cybercop (1988-89). but is best known for playing the villainess Kilt in Flashman

After the performance, the cast took photos with attendees and generally mingled with the folks. I spoke to Tanaka-san and Hayashi-san the most out of the group. Not coincidentally, I picked up the autographed photos that they were selling, too. Just before leaving, Matsuoka-san and I struck up a conversation. It was my first time to meet her, and she turned out to be quite a sweetheart.

Although he wasn't acting in the stage show, Koji Unoki, who played Dyna Blue (both in and out of the suit) on Dynaman, was in attendance, and it was great to see him again after so long.

What a way to cap off a busy day!

Sunday, April 23, 2023

Ultraman Flies into Ginza!

A familiar location to fans of tokusatsu. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Yesterday (Sunday, April 23), I went to Ginza to attend an event hosted by Bin Furuya. Entitled "Ultra Live Concert," the event was mostly a performance of tokusatsu music. A five-member band played mostly electronic renditions of well-known tunes from the Toho and Tsuburaya Productions world.

Bin Furuya addresses the audience. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Naturally, recordings of the performances weren't allowed. I'd say the most authentic-sounding rendition was that of the Ultra Q (1966) theme. It was basically spot-on. The other music was obviously well performed, but it wasn't like hearing an orchestral rendition of it. Many cues from Ultra Q, Ultraman (1966-67), and Ultra Seven (1967-68) were performed, as were marches and other tracks from King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (1964), Monster Zero (1965), and The War of the Gargantuas (1966), all of which feature Furuya-san in small roles. 

Bin Furuya. Photo by Brett Homenick.

In between sets, Furuya-san held a Q&A during which he talked about some of his more recent outings. The event also served as an early 80th birthday celebration (at least it was billed that way -- he doesn't turn 80 until July 5), and Furuya-san shared his thoughts about turning 80. He asked the audience if there was anyone who was also 80, and I'm sure you can guess the answer.

He also shared some behind-the-scenes info about developing the fighting style of Ultraman, such as incorporating the karate chops of famed Korean-born Japanese wrestling star Rikidozan. During one amusing moment, Furuya-san noticed the lack of picture-taking of his session (due to the rules regarding the concert) and started encouraging folks to take pictures during his interview.

During an intermission, Furuya-san came up to my seat to greet me. I told him I was also 80 years old, but he didn't seem to believe me. I'm not sure why. As we were leaving the event, I got this quick selfie with him.

And that's a wrap! I can only wonder if there will be a more proper birthday event for Furuya-san as we get closer to his real birthday, but only time will tell.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Visiting a Hideko Takamine Gallery in Ginza!

Signage for the Hideko Takamine gallery outside Mikimoto Ginza Main Store. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I saw an ad on social media for this special exhibition entitled "Words and Life Hideko Takamine" that would be taking place on the 7th floor of the Mikimoto Ginza Main Store (right behind the Wako department store) and thought it would be worth checking out. Hideko Takamine was a Toho actress during the 1950s and '60s, although her filmography usually doesn't overlap with the genre films that the studio produced. The exhibition will be taking place from April 12 through May 12, and today (Friday, April 21) I had time to stop by and take a look.

The first thing you see at the entrance of the exhibition. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Unfortunately, photography wasn't allowed, except for what you see in this blog post. The gallery contained many personal items from Ms. Takamine's collection, including some jewelry (not surprising, given the location is a jewelry store), art supplies, eyeglasses, and even her luggage! The exhibition also displayed numerous blow-ups of her and her screenwriter-husband Zenzo Matsuyama relaxing at home or on the go in Europe. I never realized that Ms. Takamine was so into art and painting. But, seeing her work up close, she had a real talent for it!

That's about all I have to say. It was interesting to see once, but I don't think most folks reading this blog would be all that enthralled by it. That said, it was an intriguing look into the personal life of one of Japan's most famous actresses. 

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Odds and Ends

Yotsuya Station. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I was at Yotsuya Station, but didn't see any ghosts! What gives?

Oh, well, at least I had fun!

M11, you say? Photo by Brett Homenick.

Say, that number sounds a bit familiar! 

Um, the less said about it, the better!

An Ultra-Good Photography Exhibit in Yotsuya!

Signage for "Bath Time" at the Portrait Gallery of the Nippon Photography Center. Photo by Brett Homenick.

This afternoon (Thursday, April 20), I stopped by a photo exhibition dedicated to the work of photographer Akiko Fukushima in Yotsuya, Tokyo, which runs from today until April 26 in the Portrait Gallery of the Nippon Photography Center. Fukushima-san had been married to actor Masanari Nihei (Ide/Ito from the 1966-67 Ultraman TV series) until his passing in 2021. 

Masanari Nihei enjoys "Bath Time." Photo by Brett Homenick.

Even though I hadn't been there in years, I remember passing by this gallery a long time ago and seeing some eye-catching photos of Showa-era actors on display. When I saw the news about the photo exhibition, I figured it had to be the same place and was able to find it easily. Thankfully, my instincts were correct!

On hand at the exhibition were Fukushima-san herself, as well as her daughter, Kazuka. I had a lot of fun chatting with Kazuka about her father and (naturally) about herself, too. I wasn't sure if anyone related to Nihei-san was even going to be there, so it was certainly an added bonus for me.

With Akiko Fukushima.

I should explain that the photo exhibition consisted of a series of photos called "Bath Time," and (as the name would suggest) it features various Japanese celebrities bathing. This, of course, includes Nihei-san himself. According to a sign at the exhibition, it started in 1984, and Fukushima-san explained to me that the whole project lasted about a year. "Bath Time" was serialized in a weekly magazine called Emma.

Other Japanese celebs who participated in "Bath Time" include Tatsuya Nakadai, Sandayu Dokumamushi, Jiro Dan, Ichiro Mizuki (with sheet music in the shower!), and Hiroshi Miyauchi. Miyauchi-san's picture was the last to be put up. In fact, when I entered the gallery, a staff member was hammering in the hooks for his picture to hang on the wall!

Akiko Fukushima poses with the photo she took of her husband. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Akiko Fukushima is a photographer and haiku poet. She was born in Tokyo in 1943 and graduated from Nihon University College of Art's Photography Department in 1965. "Bath Time" remains one of her most famous works.

Mother and daughter. Photo by Brett Homenick.

One interesting tidbit that Fukushima-san told me was that the photo of Nakadai-san was taken while he was making Akira Kurosawa's Ran (1985), and you could even see a horse in the shot! Pretty fun stuff.

Takeshi Yoshioka. Photo by Brett Homenick.

After I left, in a total coincidence, I ran into Ultraman Gaia (1998-99) star Takeshi Yoshioka! I immediately saw him as I stepped out of the building. I told him about the exhibition, but he actually wasn't aware of it. He took a photo of the signage on his phone, and then I snapped a photo on mine.

Naturally, there had to be a selfie with him, too! He said he'd check it out later, which sounded Ultra-good to me. What a fun afternoon! I didn't expect it to be as fun as it was, so it was a pleasant surprise. It was most definitely an Ultra-good day!

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

A Former Toho SFX Director Is in the House!

Yuichi Kikuchi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

 Earlier today (Wednesday, April 19), I spent a fun afternoon with former Toho special effects director Yuichi Kikuchi. It was great to hear so many stories about Toho, Tsuburaya Pro, and beyond!

Yuichi Kikuchi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

The meeting lasted in excess of four hours, which surprised even me. But Kikuchi-san said that, after being busy for much of the year so far, he finally has some down time, so he was able to hang out for quite a bit. Well, it certainly works for me!

I was floored by Kikuchi-san's generosity and kindness. What a day it was -- and definitely informational! I really look forward to seeing him again!

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

A Return to Tokyo Chanson!

Yoshiro Uchida. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Earlier tonight (Tuesday, April 18), I attended a live chanson performance by Yoshiro Uchida. Well, I attended as much of it as I could. Due to my work schedule, I arrived as it was wrapping up. Uchida-san was performing his final song when I entered the venue!


I especially wanted to attend this performance given that Uchida-san took a break from performing, and I hadn't seen him since last summer -- quite a long time! I also brought something for him to sign, which was the DVD sleeve for my copy of the Mill Creek 100 sci-fi movie pack that features Gammera the Invincible (1966). 

It was great to see Uchida-san again, even though I wasn't there all that long. He's a terrific guy to hang out with, and I certainly look forward to seeing him again soon, which I hope to do when he has his next performance in June.

Sunday, April 16, 2023

New Content Available on Vantage Point Interviews!

Linda Masson with fellow voice actor Peter Gilchrist during their Hong Kong dubbing days. Photo © Linda Masson.

A brand-new vintage account has just been published with former Hong Kong voice actress Linda Masson. Ms. Masson was married to Ted Thomas during the heyday of Axis International and lent her voice to numerous dubs recorded at the studio. She dubbed Yuriko Hishimi in Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972), Hiroyuki Kawase in Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), and Reiko Tajima in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974). Check out the interview for her whole story on the website where content is king!

Friday, April 14, 2023

A Fun Evening Hearing About Tokusatsu History!

Hiroshi Yamamoto. Photo by Brett Homenick.

On Thursday night, April 13, I spent the evening with Hiroshi Yamamoto, a friendly gent I met almost exactly 10 years ago. We first met at an event for the late Sonny Chiba in April 2013, and who would have guessed that we'd still be hanging out 10 years later?

Yamamoto-san worked in the post-production end of numerous tokusatsu productions, both on film and television, from the late 1970s through the early '90s. He talked about how meticulous director Kinji Fukasaku was on projects like Message from Space (1978) and Legend of the Eight Samurai (1983), while noting how gentle and even passive Noriaki Yuasa was during the making of Gamera Super Monster (1980). He also described the kindness of Toei/Tsuburaya tokusatsu director Nobuo Yajima, whom he got to know quite well.

It'd been quite a few years since I last visited Yamamoto-san, which I really regret. I'm glad we had a chance to catch up again after so many years. Yamamoto-san updated me about his current pursuits in the entertainment business. At 77, I'm glad he is staying active.

I look forward to meeting Yamamoto-san again soon!