Sunday, January 28, 2024

Revisiting Yokohama Marine Tower (and Other Locations)!

The exit that takes you to Yokohama Marine Tower. Photo by Brett Homenick.

During King Ghidorah's raid on Yokohama in the popular Godzilla series entry Ghidrah the Three-Headed Monster (1964), the space beast's gravity rays destroy a tower in one of the film's most impressive effects shots. That structure is Yokohama Marine Tower.

Yokohama Marine Tower is accessible by taking Exit 4 from Motomachi-Chukagai Station on the Minatomirai Line. It's only about a minute walk from the station. It's also very close to Yamashita Park. Best of all, it's so big that it's impossible to miss!

I paid my first visit to the tower in a few years, and it was a great opportunity to take in the sights again. While I didn't enter the tower, just seeing it from the outside was enough for me. After all, that's how we see it in Ghidrah

While in the area, I also saw Cosmo Clock 21, which is a humongous Ferris wheel, and the InterContinental Yokohama Grand, both of which appear in Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992). Also nearby was the Yokohama Bay Bridge, which is a GMK: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) location.

It was a lot of fun to see these places again in person. Here's what I saw. Enjoy!

The Cosmo Clock 21 (the Ferris wheel on the left) and the InterContinental Yokohama Grand (the crescent-shaped structure on the right). Photo by Brett Homenick.

The Yokohama Bay Bridge. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

'Godzilla Minus One' Plus Blue!

Godzilla Minus One toys at Toho Cinemas Roppongi. Photo by Brett Homenick,

And I'm free to be who I choose 
To get my [blues] any old time
-- The Soup Dragons, "I'm Free"

Speaking of the Soup Dragons song "I'm Free," here's a new creation. Yesterday, when I was at Toho Cinemas Roppongi, I found some new Godzilla Minus One (2023) figures for sale. I'd never seen them before (and, being all blue, they're kind of hard to miss), so I thought they were worth sharing here. So here they are.

A Dramatic Reading Gets Much More Dramatic Afterward!

Masanori Machida. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Last night (Saturday, January 27), I made my way to another dramatic reading performed by Masanori Machida. This time, Machida-san's story was less a recital of a script and more like a miniature play, featuring several other actors who weren't reading from a script. The story centered around an old woman who wanted to look young and beautiful, so she sought out plastic surgery. It was quite interesting and was a nice change of pace.

Suffice it to say, I came to the venue prepared. After the performance, I brought quite a few DVDs and Blu-rays that feature Machida-san. Most were public-domain releases of Monster from a Prehistoric Planet (1967), which is one of my favorite kaiju movies. On one release, it's paired with Yongary, Monster from the Deep (1967), as well as the Roger Corman edit of the Soviet film Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965), another favorite.

I thought it would be cool to have Machida-san pose with these various releases before signing them. The photos turned out great, as did the autographs. With that said, here are some of the shots I was able to get. Enjoy!

Friday, January 26, 2024

Having Lunch with KG from 'KG'!

Kent Gilbert. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today (Friday, January 26), I enjoyed lunch with Kent Gilbert, a familiar face in Japan for viewers of film, television, and current events. Godzilla fans, of course, recognize him as the American ship commander from the World War II scenes in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991).

Kent Gilbert. Photo by Brett Homenick

Could you believe it had been 10 years since we last saw each other in person? I'm just as surprised as you are!

Today, we met in front of Meguro Station at noon and went to a nearby tonkatsu restaurant that he recommended. Although we had to wait a few minutes before getting seated, it was worth the wait. I'm not sure I'd ever had tonkatsu prior to our lunch, but it was quite delicious!

Our chat covered a wide variety of topics: Kent's experiences in the Japanese entertainment business, the recent goings-on in American politics, his King Ghidorah memories and co-stars, and my plans for March. 

To say the least, it was wonderful to catch up with Kent after so many years. We usually exchange several emails every year, but there is no substitute for face-to-face communication. Many thanks to Kent for his generosity today, especially for picking up the bill!

A Legendary Evening with a Legend of TV Tokusatsu!

Akihide Tsuzawa poses with a signed shikishi board. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Last night (Thursday, January 25), I was lucky to spend a fun evening with former child actor Akihide Tsuzawa. Tsuzawa-san is best known for playing Isamu Hoshino on the original Ultraman (1966-67) TV series. 

I called Tsuzawa-san from the train station as soon as I arrived, and shortly thereafter he met me at the station. From there, we headed to a nearby Jonathan's family restaurant and ordered our food. Without any prompting from me, Tsuzawa-san brought a shikishi board with him and signed it for me. I usually don't collect these boards (if you have too many, they can start to take up too much room), but this is one I'll certainly cherish.

During our conversation, I was surprised to learn that Tsuzawa-san has an older brother who lives in Paris with his French wife. The couple has a daughter together, and Tsuzawa-san showed me a couple of photos of his older brother and his Parisian family. 

Tsuzawa-san also enjoys driving long distances, including to places like Okutama, with which I'm pretty familiar myself. He takes his mother, Masako, with him on trips, whom he takes care of in her old age. According to Wikipedia, his mother, who is a well-known haiku poet, was born in 1927, but thankfully she's still going strong. 

Akihide Tsuzawa with his script for The Birth of Ultraman (1966). Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tsuzawa-san brought along a few scripts, including the one for The Birth of Ultraman (1966) TV special, as well as the one for Ultra Q (1966) episode 12, "I Saw a Bird," in which he played the young boy Saburo. It was fascinating to thumb through these treasures of tokusatsu history. In addition, he pulled out a plastic bag that contained New Year's greeting cards from the likes of directors Toshihiro Iijima, Nobuo Nakagawa, and Eizo Yamagiwa, all of whom Tsuzawa-san had worked with in the 1960s. Tsuzawa-san received these cards around the time he had worked with these directors in the '60s.

The script for The Birth of Ultraman. Photo by Brett Homenick.

As if all that weren't enough, Tsuzawa-san also brought a few photo albums with him to our dinner. Many of the photos were taken by his mother on set and on various filming locations. For example, there was a photo of Tsuzawa-san with Kenji Sahara at the filming location for Ultra Q.

Akihide Tsuzawa with his script for Ultra Q (1966) episode 12 (which was called "Unbalance" at the time). Photo by Brett Homenick.

When I asked Tsuzawa-san what Sahara-san was like, he said that Sahara-san was a star who had that kind of aura around him. For what it's worth, director Harunosuke Nakagawa was also included in the photo album, and Tsuzawa-san commented that he was kind.

The script for Ultra Q episode 12. Photo by Brett Homenick.

One interesting aspect of the photo albums he brought is that they contained many photos taken of their home TV set whenever Tsuzawa-san was onscreen. Naturally, his appearances on Ultraman were well represented among these snapshots, but so were assorted commercials he was on. In those pre-VHS days, there was no other way to record such broadcasts, which is why his mother took those photos whenever Tsuzawa-san was on TV.

Tsuzawa-san was quite proud of the photos he had with famed Japanese pro wrestler Rikidozan on the set of the TV series Champion Futoshi (1962-63). Speaking of which, it was actually on this show where Tsuzawa-san worked with Eizo Yamagiwa, who was an assistant director at the time.

In fact, there was a photo of Yamagiwa-san in one of the albums taken at the time of Champion Futoshi, which was my first time to see Yamagiwa-san when he was young. Coincidentally, Yamagiwa-san would go on to direct many episodes of the Ultra-series in the 1970s.

But we also talked about things not related to Tsuzawa-san's entertainment career. For example, he was quite interested to get the proper pronunciation of my first and last name, which is quite difficult for most Japanese. He was also interested in my family history and background. 

What was particularly fun for me was when Tsuzawa-san took pictures of and with me. It's always great when I'm not the only one snapping photos!

When it was all said and done, I insisted on paying for dinner, even though Tsuzawa-san did his best to convince me to let him pay. That wasn't going to happen, so, when the waiter left the bill on the table, I made sure to snatch it before Tsuzawa-san could. It was my privilege.

At the end of the evening, Tsuzawa-san walked me back to the train station. He took a couple of photos of me after I entered the ticket gate, and we waved to each other until I went down the escalator and was completely out of sight. All I can say is that Tsuzawa-san is a true gentleman, and this was one of the best evenings I've had in years.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Revisiting Dracula's Former Abode in Tokyo!

The entrance to Kyu-Furukawa Gardens. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Today (Thursday, January 25), I braved freezing temperatures and strong winds to pay another visit to Kyu-Furukawa Gardens in Kita, Tokyo. I go into more details about the location here, but, suffice it to say, it has been used as a filming location for a number of movies -- most notably Evil of Dracula (1974). 

What I wasn't expecting was that the Western-style house on the property, which of course is the filming location in question, would be under renovation. Still, it was a rather unique sight to behold, so it was interesting to see. (You can see those photos below.) A staff member I spoke with told me the renovations will be going on until March, so maybe I'll return around that time to see the finished renovations. I guess we'll see how that goes.

Until then, here's what I saw today. Enjoy!