"There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn't mind who gets the credit." - President Ronald Reagan.

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Airline Trade Groups Sue TSA Over Fees

After Congress approved the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) fee increase last year, the TSA pulled a fast one on air travelers by imposing extra fees not intended by Congress. The result: the TSA is now getting sued.

According to Travelpulse.com:
Two influential trade groups that represent the majority of the major airlines have filed suit against the United States government over the Transportation Security Administration fee increase that went into effect last week. 
Airlines for America and the International Air Transport Association filed the suit Wednesday in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., alleging that the new, higher fees imposed by the TSA violate federal law. 
“When Congress authorized the $5.60 fee in a budget bill, the law based the fee on a ‘one-way trip’ regardless of connections or length of time,” the suit alleges. “Instead of honoring congressional intent and simply accepting the increased fees on one-way trips authorized by the Budget Act, TSA attempts to conjure up even more fees by eliminating the round-trip cap.”
According to the article, the TSA changed the definition of what constitutes a round-trip flight by imposing an extra $5.60 fee for each leg of the flight where there is a connection of more than four hours.

To read more, go here.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Japan Duty Free Ginza

Above, the Mitsukoshi Dept. Store at Ginza Crossing. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Shoppers in Tokyo can soon take advantage of a new duty-free store to be set up in one of the upper floors of Ginza's Mitsukoshi Department Store.

The Japan Times reported:
An airport terminal, duty-free shops and a department store chain are teaming up to open an airport-style duty-free store in Tokyo’s ritzy Ginza district. 
Japan Airport Terminal Co., NAA Retailing Corp. and Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings Ltd. will open Japan Duty Free Ginza on the eighth floor of the Ginza Mitsukoshi department store next fall.
While stores at Japan's major airports and tourist spots eliminate the sales tax, the new store will also "ditch" tariffs like stores at airports, according to the article.

To read more, go here.

Metropolis and ANA Blog Posts Picked Up

Two of yesterday's blog posts were picked up by The Japan Daily for their readers' enjoyment.

They are:

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Make-Up Artist Dick Smith Dies At 92

One of Hollywood's great make-up artists, Dick Smith, passed away tonight at age 92.

Born Richard Emerson Smith, but best known to friends and fans as Dick Smith, passed away at 11:00 PM July 30, 2014. He was 92.

Above, Jonathan Frid aged by Dick Smith for Dark Shadows.

His work included such films as House of Dark Shadows (1970), Little Big Man (1970), The Godfather (1972), The Godfather: Part II (1974) and Taxi Driver (1975). He also was called upon to age Jonathan Frid (as Barnabas Collins) for several episodes of ABC-TV's Dark Shadows.

Above, Jonathan Frid aged again for House of Dark Shadows by Smith.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"Godzilla" Presumably Made $500 Million Worldwide

Godzilla apparently did well enough in Japan for Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures to break open the champagne bottles.

Film Business Asia reported:
Hollywood executives can breathe a sigh of relief as reboot Godzilla stomped to the top of the Japan box office over the weekend. 
Opening on Friday, the Gareth EDWARDS film made ¥684 million (US$6.7 million) from 427 screens on its first three days in cinemas, including ¥508 million (US$4.98 million) from 339,000 admissions on Saturday and Sunday.
Some websites, such as Forbes.com, are "presuming" that Godzilla has already passed the $500 million mark in earnings worldwide. Thus far, I haven't seen anything officially stating such.

To read more, go here.

The Adventures of Superman Plaque Layout, Now Typo-free! (We hope!)

The plaque layout, now typo-free:

It is best to catch any typos now, rather than having them discovered when the plaque is already made. If it were an E Clampus Vitus plaque, it would have been left in as it is traditional for misspelled words or typos to be on their plaques (being that they are a fraternal organization based on humor).

All Nippon Airways Back In The Black

Above, ANA's display of their Business Class seating at the L.A. Travel & Adventure Show. Photo by Armand Vaquer. 

Singapore's Channel NewsAsia reported that All Nippon Airways (ANA) had swung back into profitability this year.

They reported:
TOKYO: Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) said on Wednesday (July 30) it had swung back to profitability in the three months to June, thanks to an expansion at a Tokyo airport and a change to its pension plan. 
The carrier said net profit was 3.5 billion yen ($34 million) against a loss of 6.6 billion yen a year earlier, while quarterly sales rose 10.0 percent to 386.8 billion yen. It also logged an operating profit of 347 million yen, from an operating loss of 5.6 billion a year ago. 
The sharp improvement came as ANA expanded its international services, benefiting from a major expansion of Tokyo's downtown Haneda Airport, which helped offset a jump in operating expenses mainly due to higher fuel costs.
After my disappointing flights on United Airlines (once my favorite U.S. carrier) last February, I decided that my future trips will be on either Korean Air (I've flown with them several times and felt well taken care of and the food was good), Singapore Air (I had a good experience with them) or ANA. I am leaning towards ANA. I joined ANA's Mileage Club and am looking forward to trying them out. I was impressed by ANA's staff when I visited their displays at last year's Los Angeles Travel & Adventure Show in Long Beach.

To read the full article, go here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Nippon.com's "Being Godzilla: An Interview with Nakajima Haruo, the Man Inside the Suit"

Above, Armand with Haruo Nakajima in 2013 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo by Jeff Blanken.

Nippon.com has posted an interview with the original Godzilla suit actor, Haruo Nakajima.

They preface the interview with:
What makes Godzilla tick? If anyone can answer that question it might be Nakajima Haruo. The former actor suited up to play the role of Godzilla in 12 films. We recently interviewed Nakajima to discover how he managed to bring the monster to life on the big screen.

Above, the Wako Building in Ginza. In his interview, Nakajima said that the only "blooper" in Godzilla (1954) 
was during filming of the destruction of the building (known then as the Hattori Building). Photo by Armand Vaquer.

To read the interview, go here

Last Surviving Crew Member of Enola Gay Dies At 93

Above, the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall in the 1930s.

The last surviving member of the crew of the Enola Gay that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima during World War II has died.

The BBC website reported:
The last surviving member of the US air crew that dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima has died in Georgia aged 93. 
Theodore Van Kirk, also known as "Dutch", was 24 when he became the navigator of the Enola Gay, the aircraft which dropped the bomb. 
The attack on Japan on 6 August 1945 killed an estimated 140,000 people. 

Above, the former Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotional Hall,
now the "Atomic Bomb Dome" in 2004. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

To read more, go here.

The Adventures of Superman Plaque Layout

The layout of the Adventures of Superman plaque has been received and here it is:

Yes, we know about the typo and it is being corrected.

Tokyo Fox's Godzilla Bike Tour

Above, the Godzilla statue at Toho Studios. The longest ride of Tokyo Fox's
bike tour was getting to the studios in Setagaya. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Prior to my October 2005 trip to Japan, I seriously considered either renting a bicycle or buying one (one of those folding bikes that fit into a bag) to tour around Tokyo.

Those plans were dashed as rainy conditions greeted me much of the time I was in Tokyo on that trip.

However, Tokyo Fox recently took a bicycle tour to Godzilla sites around Tokyo. He had dry, but hot, weather during his bike tour. He posted an article on his tour along with plenty of photographs of the Godzilla sites he visited.

He begins his article with:
Following on from my Wolverine cycling trip, and with not too many other themed cycling ideas coming forth, I began to think about other filming location based rides. There was a clear winner which stamped all over the rest like no other and with the 2014 incarnation (directed by Gareth Edwards) finally getting released over here, it seemed like the timing was ideal for a Godzilla tour of Tokyo. 
On the day of it’s long awaited release in Japan (July 25th); two months after the rest of the world got to see it, I decided to cycle round a mix of Gojira-themed statues, shops and filming locations amid scorching temperatures that reached 34 degrees celsius!
To view Tokyo Fox's bike tour article, go here

Latest Japan Daily Pick-ups

The Japan Daily picked up several of yesterday's blog posts to share with their readers.

They include:

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" Ebook Shoots Up In The Rankings

It looks like I may have spoken too soon today, for the Amazon Kindle ebook edition of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan shot up in Amazon's Kindle Store rankings this evening.

Instead of just one category, it is up in the rankings in three.

First, it is now listed at number 23 in Best Sellers in Japanese Travel.

Next, it is now listed at number 48 in Best Sellers in Two-Hour Travel Short Reads.

Lastly, it is now listed at number 49 in Best Sellers in General Japan Travel Guides.

Japan To Guam Flight Services Cancelled By United Airlines

Seeing this story at Guampdn.com reminded me that I almost had to take a flight to Guam in order to get back home to Los Angeles from Japan:
United Airlines later this year will cancel twice-weekly service between Guam and the Japanese cities of Niigata and Hiroshima. United's Guam-Okayama flights will end in February. 
"We have regretfully made this decision because the services' financial performance did not meet our expectations in order to continue regular service on these routes," stated Koji Nagata, United's communications director for Asia and the Pacific. 
United will discontinue its twice-weekly Guam-Niigata service on Dec. 14; Guam-Hiroshima Service on Dec. 19; and Guam-Okayama on Feb. 21, 2015, Nagata confirmed.
One good reason to have Internet access is to check on your flight's status. This is what I did before leaving Tokyo last February. I checked and found that my flight had been cancelled. I figured it was due to the snowstorm that hit that morning.

As such, I searched further and found that the airline, United, had me re-booked on a flight that would have taken me to Guam for a several-hour layover and then, from there, to Los Angeles via Honolulu. In other words, it would have taken me almost an extra day to get home from Japan. Normally, the flight time from Tokyo to L.A. is around nine hours.

I emailed a friend in California and mentioned about the side-trip to Guam. She thought that may be a nice place to see for a few hours. I said it would, except that there wouldn't be much to see as my entire time there would be at night. She responded, "Good point!"

Once I got to Narita International Airport, I bee-lined it to United's departure counter and asked if there were a better flight available. The clerk (a very attractive Japanese girl) checked and found that there was. It was scheduled to leave in a few hours and it was a direct flight to L.A. So I grabbed it. It was actually better than the flight that was cancelled, which, it turned out, was not due to snow. It was due to maintenance. Couldn't they have gotten another plane? Another reason, besides the mediocre food, that I won't fly with United Airlines anymore.

"Godzilla" Made $6,710,492.94 In Japan

The Japanese box office numbers are in for the weekend take by Godzilla in Japan.

According to Toho Co., Ltd. and Warner Bros., Godzilla took in (Friday-Sunday) ¥683,500,000, which converts to $6,710,492.94.

Godzilla should top the $500 million mark worldwide with today's receipts.

"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" No. 52 At Amazon's Kindle Store

The week is starting out on a high note as the ebook edition of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan is now at number 52 in Amazon's Best Sellers in Japanese Travel.

The ebook is available at Amazon's Kindle stores for the following countries: U.S., United Kingdom, Spain, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Italy, India, Brazil, Germany, France and Australia.

Before ordering, make sure your device's browser, software, app or programs are compatible with the Kindle program so it renders correctly for you.

To get the ebook edition in the U.S., go here.

For information on ordering the print edition, go here.

Ryokan Etiquette: What Not To Do and What To Do

Above, the Hotel Fukudaya in the Shibuya section of Tokyo. This was the first ryokan I stayed at. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Visitors to Japan have several kinds of accommodations to choose from. They range from capsule hotels, budget hotels, business hotels, luxury hotels, youth hostels, some temples and ryokans.

This blog post will focus on the ryokan (Japanese inn).

Generally, ryokans are family owned and operated. They can be found in big cities or in small towns. I have stayed at three different ryokans and enjoyed each of them.

Rocket News 24 via Trip Advisor Japan has an article on the proper etiquette visitors should be know and practice while staying at a ryokan.

The article begins with:
Ryokan are traditional Japanese hotels whose roots can be traced back to the Edo Period (1603–1868). Although nowhere near as ubiquitous as they once were, there still exist thousands of such establishments, which are most often associated with relaxation, hot spas and, of course, good Japanese food and drink. Even those who would ordinarily choose a bed over a futon would be wise to experience staying at a ryokan at least once during a visit to Japan, but there are a number of dos and don’ts that visitors – both Japanese and otherwise – really ought to know before setting foot inside one. 
Trip Advisor Japan has helpfully published a list of tips, designed to look like set of cards teaching the characters from the Japanese syllabary, which instructs visitors on the right way to enjoy a Japanese inn. Some are as obvious as telling guests not to take stuff home with them, but there are others that really ought to be given your full attention.
 To read the article to make sure that your visit to a traditional Japanese inn is "faux pas-free," go here

Foreign Credit Card-Friendly ATMs Coming To Japan?

Above, an ATM booth at Niigata Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Japan is relatively a cash-only country as far as foreign tourists are concerned. Very few businesses or banks accept ATM cards or credit cards. 

The Japanese government would like to change all that ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The Japan Times reported:
Under the campaign to help tourists ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the government plans to step up pressure on banks and convenience stores to update their ATMs so it’s easier to withdraw cash with a foreign credit card. 
In response to complaints from foreign travelers about the lack of ATMs that will accept foreign-issued cards, the Japan Tourism Agency has called on major banks to take action as part of the government’s effort to increase the number foreign travelers here to 20 million over the next six years.
 Generally, one has to go to a Japanese post office to use an ATM that will accept foreign credit cards.

To read more, go here.

"Godzilla" Takes In Estimated $6.9 Million In Japan

Above, soundstage no. 7 at Toho Studios. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Godzilla roared into Japan this weekend, topping the box office charts. And, Godzilla's parent company, Toho Co., Ltd. is having a banner year.

According to Variety:
The film debuted to an estimated $6.9 million across 773 screens. The  opening is on a par with “Transformers: Dark of the Moon,” which grossed $54.2 million in Japan, and more than double that of “Pacific Rim,” which went on to make $14.5 million in the country. 
It was a home-coming for the scaly beast. The Legendary Entertainment release was distributed by Toho in Japan, the company behind the original Godzilla movie. The distributor and exhibitor is enjoying the strongest year in its history, putting up a record first half box office of $365 million.
Godzilla should top $500 million today (Monday).

To read more, go here.

A Little Change In L.A. To Tokyo Airfares

Above, the Tokyo Sky Tree and Asahi Beer Hall. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Last week, I reported that the Los Angeles Times Travel section found airfare prices on the low end of $1.254.00 and high end of $1,850.00 for Los Angeles to Tokyo.

There has been a little change as yesterday's Times Travel section reported that the low end airfare they found was $1,204.00 and the high end airfare of $1,794.00.

There seems to be a fluctuation of roughly $50 (give or take) in price changes weekly. Is this a sign that prices are settling down? Bear in mind that all prices quoted are before any taxes and fees are added in.

We'll see next week when I do the first August check.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Japan's Shinkansen "Dream Team"

Above, a shinkansen cleaning crew member waiting to begin work at Tokyo Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

One of the nice things about Japan's shinkansens (bullet trains) are the near-spotless conditions one finds inside the train cars upon boarding.

This is due to the cleaning crews, who only have minutes to clean each train before passengers board.

Travelpulse.com has an article about the cleaning crews which includes a fascinating video of seats being reset.

They wrote:
We aren’t quite sure what is quicker, Japan’s bullet train system or its workers who would give some NASCAR pit crews a run for their money. 
BBC’s The Travel Show recently posted a video that profiles the astounding and highly efficient Japanese bullet trains. The brief video gives viewers a glimpse of how the system manages to haul around a reported 150 million commuters every year, all while maintaining the stunning aesthetic quality of each cabin’s interior.
Check out the BBC video at the link above.

To read the article and see the seat reset video, go here.

"Godzilla" Winning Japan's Weekend Box Office

Godzilla appears to be the box office champ this weekend in Japan.

According to Variety:
Released in four different versions (2D sub-titled and dubbed, 3D subbed and dubbed) on 773 screens on Friday by local exhibition/distribution powerhouse Toho, the picture topped rankings at both online ticket sales sites and Tokyo area multiplexes. 
We won't know how it actually did this weekend until two more days as the Japanese entertainment press usually reports the weekend box office rankings on Monday and nationwide ticket sales data on Tuesday, according to Variety. However, Warner Bros. may be releasing their box office estimates tonight (Pacific Time).

To read the full article, go here.

Japan's Top 5 Konbini

Above, Newdays at Harajuku Station. They seem to have a monopoly at train stations, according to the article. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It seems there's a convenience store on just about every block in Japan. Maybe not on every block, but at least within easy walking distance.

The convenience stores I've been to in Japan, such as Lawson's, 7-Eleven and others, carry the same things (and sometimes more) as do the convenience stores in the United States. But, unlike the U.S. convenience stores, the Japanese ones don't seem to overprice their goods. I've found their goods to be priced reasonably.

Gaijinpot.com has an article on the top five convenience stores. Most, if not all, of them I've shopped at.

The article begins with:
In fact, convenience stores are so convenient that they are even called ‘konbini’ so you don’t have to waste time pronouncing those extra two syllables. The best thing is that there are lots of different brands of konbini all trying to be more convenient than the other in an epic contest of economization across Japan. 
So, I have carefully compiled a ranking of my own top 5 konbinis, mostly based on personal tendencies towards disorganization and being bad at cooking. 
 To see what "the top five are," go here.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

"Godzilla 2" To Feature Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah

Above, the Mothra mural at Toho Studios. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It must be true! (Either that or four sources have it all wrong.)

I received four news bulletins with the same news from this year's San Diego Comic Con that Legendary Pictures CEO Thomas Tull announced the line-up of monsters for Godzilla 2.

Here's what one of the sources, Flickering Myth, wrote:
Kicking off today’s Legendary Pictures Hall H panel at the San Diego Comic-Con, Legendary CEO Thomas Tull offered up a first look teaser for the sequel to this year’s Godzilla, which revealed that the sequel will see the King of the Monsters going up against three of his classic foes in Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah!
 Although many G-fans were a bit tired of Toho's overuse of Mothra before Godzilla was put out to pasture ten years ago, it will be interesting to see how an American production company handles the character. Ghidorah and Rodan were always fan favorites and their inclusion should be pleasing news.

Japan Today also carried the news, to read what they had to say, go here.

The Latest Blog Post Pick-ups

Two blog posts from yesterday have been picked up by The Japan Daily.

They are:

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

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