"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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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla": Whatever Happened To The "Queen Coral"?

Above, the Queen Coral as it appeared in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974).

Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) featured the first appearance (and first incarnation) of Mechagodzilla. The movie also featured the first appearance of the Okinawa god monster, King Seesar.

The movie also featured a passenger ship that took several of the cast members to Okinawa. While en route to Okinawa, one of the ape space aliens was shot and fell overboard. The ship, the Queen Coral.

The Queen Coral had a long service. It was built in 1972 by the Hayashikane SB & Eng. Co., Ltd. of Nagasaki, Japan. After it was retired from service in Japan, the vessel was sold several times. It also was renamed at least twice. It was also known as the RIF (1987) and Hanaa (1992), but one database indicates it was also named the Queen Vergina.

Above, the Queen Coral as the Hanaa a few years before it was scrapped.

It was sold for scrapping in February 2004 under the Hanaa name.

Tokyo's Top Ten Non-Tourist Sites To Explore

Above, the Rainbow Bridge and Odaiba. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

There are so many tourist websites with their "top (you insert the number)" lists of places to see and do.

I've another one for you to take a look at (if you so choose). It is provided by Examiner.com and it is the "Tokyo's Top Ten Non-Tourist Sites To Explore." Many of the places on the list I have spotlighted before. But, if you are intersted in Japan travel and have never seen them, well, who am I to deny you the information?

They begin with:
You'll find parks, mountain, public bath, fashion district, train line, bridge, fish market, and others are just some places in Tokyo not many foreign tourists know about. There is so much more to see in Tokyo, Japan besides the popular tourist sites. Tokyo may be a super high-tech city, but there are hidden places that reflect the traditional Japanese lifestyle.
The Rainbow Bridge, that crosses Tokyo Bay, is one of the places listed.

To read more, go here.

Monday, October 20, 2014

New Blog Post Pick-ups

The fine folks at The Japan Daily picked up several blog posts from today to share with their readership.

They include:




To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Godzilla/Gamera Anniversary Panel Schedule Change



Due to a goof by the organizers of Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo, they had our panel leader Jessica Tseang scheduled for 2 panels at the same time, ours and one on James Bond.

Since she wasn't born twins, our panel will begin Friday, October 31 at 5:00 PM, one hour earlier. I made the change at the original post.

This is good for me as well as I wanted to attend the James Bond panel as a spectator. Now I can.

We'll see you at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Halloween!

The Japan News: Trip Through Time At Elvis Presley's Graceland

Above, Graceland. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Memphis, Tennessee, Graceland and Elvis Presley are about as far away from Japan as one can get. Yet, The Japan News (Yomiuri Shimbun) has a feature article on the King of Rock 'n Roll's mansion.

They begin it with:
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — There’s a sightseeing spot in Memphis, Tenn., that draws 600,000 people every year. About 200 adults were lined up there recently on a blisteringly hot day, without showing any sign of fatigue from the heat. 
They were waiting to enter Graceland, where Elvis Presley lived for about 20 years until his death in 1977.
Above, Elvis Presley's grave in the Meditation Garden of Graceland. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

I visited Memphis in 2001 and took the Graceland tour (as well as the tour through Elvis's jet, the Lisa Marie) and wandered around Beale Street, the city's blues center.

To read the article, go here

Spending Dough

Above, comic books for sale at last year's Comikaze Expo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Great news was received today, and it comes at the most opportune time.

My Nebraska farm tenant told me this morning that he finished harvesting the corn crop grown on my land and the check from the buyer will be coming within the next week or so. As expected, although corn prices are down (what can you do?), we had an almost unbelievable high yield this year that will help to make up for it.

Above, a costume and t-shirt vendor at the 2012 Comikaze Expo. Photo be Armand Vaquer.

What I mean about "opportune" is that the crop check should be here before I go to Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo on October 31 for the Godzilla/Gamera anniversaries panel discussion. [Details here.] As one can imagine, Comikaze Expo (besides comic books, celebrities, panels and displays) has many vendors hawking their goods. With plenty of spending money on hand, I will be able to make some purchases there.

For the list of Comikaze Expo's exhibitors, go here.

Tokyo Cheapo: Which Japan Rail Pass To Choose?

Above, two rail passes I used during past Japan trips. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

One of the most convenient things that the Japanese tourism industry and Japan Rail devised are the JR Rail Passes.

These are only available to foreign tourists and in order to purchase a pass, a tourist has to buy a JR Rail Pass voucher (Exchange Order) in their home country. Then, after entering Japan, the voucher is exchanged for the pass at a JR ticket office.

Before buying, one must decide whether it is worth buying a JR Rail Pass (there are several types available at different prices) or not.

Generally, if a visitor is planning to make a trip up north to Sendai (as I did in 2006) or southwest to Osaka, Kyoto or even to Kyushu (as I did in 2007), then the Rail Pass will save a lot of money. But, if one is just staying in Tokyo, then getting a Rail Pass would not be cost-effective.

With some restrictions, the JR Rail Passes are valid on shinkansens and commuter trains operated by a JR company. In 2007, I used the JR Rail Pass to get to Fukuoka in Kyushu. While in Kyushu, I used it to get to other cities (such as Kumamoto, Nagasaki and Sasebo) on local JR-operated commuter trains. I even made use of it for the train ride to Mount Aso Volcano National Park.

Above, inside of the two rail passes I used. Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Tokyo Cheapo has posted an article detailing the kinds of Rail Passes available and will help tourists decide on what kind to get and whether it would be cost-effective to do so.

They begin their article with:
JR Passes are available to anyone visiting Japan on a short term tourist visa.  They are a fantastic discount on regular rail travel, but if you don’t have any experience with Japan’s rail transport system it’s difficult to know if you need it and which one you should get.  To add to the confusion, the various regional companies that constitute JR (JR East, JR West, JR Central, JR Hokkaido, JR Shikoku and JR Kyushu) all have their own passes.  Each is priced differently and has different conditions.  To try and put some of the confusion to rest, we’ll try to explain the exact conditions of the main JR Pass and that of the two biggest regional companies – JR East and JR West and hopefully give you enough info so you can decide which one to get.
The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan has information on the JR Rail Pass (although the prices have changed since publication) on pages 10-12.

The JR Rail Passes are a great tool for exploring around Japan. A visitor with a Rail Pass doesn't have to reach for their wallet of yen. All they have to do is just show the Rail Pass to the clerk when getting a train ticket.

To read more, go here.

Japanese City Makes Condé Nast Traveler's "Top 25" List

Above, the Kiyomizu-dera pagoda in Kyoto. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Condé Nast Traveler has posted their Readers' Choice Awards for 2014 and one Japanese city made into their list of the "Top 25 Cities In The World."

Before getting into their list (which is presented as a photo slideshow), they posted:
Nearly 77,000 of our readers rated their favorite cities in the world. Is your favorite on the list? Read about all the best hotels, resorts, islands, spas, and cruise lines in the world in our Readers' Choice Awards 2014.
The Japanese city that made it into the top 25 list was Kyoto.

To see what number Kyoto came in at, as well as seeing what other world cities made the list, go here.

Monster Japan Travel Guides Ready For Shipping

Above, Yuu Asakura with The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Sales of the print edition of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan have been doing well last week and this weekend. 

All orders are ready for mailing, so I will be heading off to the local post office to mail them all out.

In case you've "missed the show," the guide is in the midst of a close-out (or clearance) sale of $9.95 per copy (that's $5.05 off the cover price) plus $2.00 shipping & handing.

The guide will also be available at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center following the Godzilla/Gamera anniversary panel discussion on Halloween (that's Friday, October 31). The one-hour panel begins at 6:00 PM. (Comikaze Expo begins October 31 and runs through November 2.)   

For ordering information (including PayPal), go here.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bogus Arguments Against West Africa Flight Bans



The so-called disease control "experts" (the World Health Organization's "experts" have already botched the containment of west African Ebola) are against travel bans to or from affected countries.

President Obama is also against any flight bans. He's a fine one to talk since he isn't enforcing existing immigration laws or securing the borders, thereby allowing people with diseases to enter.

One argument is that such a ban will prevent needed medical supplies and physicians from getting to affected areas. Another is that it will cause people to flee affected areas in other ways.

Those are ridiculous arguments.

It is doubtful that a flight ban to or from Ebola-affected countries would also include special humanitarian flights with medical supplies, etc. An exception would or should be made there.

Also, it is bogus to say that banning flights will cause people to "flee" in other ways.

In order for someone to enter another country, they would have to produce a valid passport. The border guards will check passports of people to see where they've been by the stamps. If someone tries to hide where they've been by tearing out any stamped pages, they then can be refused entry. They can also be screened for Ebola at the border crossings just like at the airports.

If someone is hell-bent on entering this country, nothing we can do will prevent them from doing so. But why make it easier to allow someone with Ebola to come in and infect the American people?

Current Blog Pick-ups

The latest blog posts pertaining to Japan travel have been picked up by The Japan Daily for sharing with their readers.

They include:





To read The Japan Daily, go here

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Grave Hunting In Tokyo's Cemeteries

Above, the view of the snow-covered Aoyama Cemetery from Tokyo City View at Mori Tower. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Does exploring cemeteries and looking for graves of famous people interest you? If it does, you're in luck.

The Japan Times has an interesting article on "Grave Hunting In Tokyo's Realms of the Dead." Here, the writer tells about four different cemeteries in Tokyo where people hunt down the final resting places of notable people.

One part of the article:
Four (pronounced “shi”) is considered an unlucky number in Japan because it’s a homophone for 死, the character for death. It’s appropriate, then, that when you talk about Tokyo cemeteries, there are only four places worth discussing, not only for the names you’ll find inscribed on their combined 450,000 headstones, but for the storied histories of the places themselves. Dead men may tell no tales, but stories grow like weeds in the boneyard.
To read more, go here.

Godzilla and James Bond As Tour Guides

Above, the Wako department store was featured in Godzilla (1954). Photo by Armand Vaquer.

When I started out making The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan several years ago, it was with the premise that fans will want to visit Japan to see for themselves the landmarks and locations featured in Godzilla, Gamera and other giant monster movies.

Sure enough, I was right. For the most part, members of the baby-boomer generation received their first exposure to Japan and Japanese culture through these movies. So, too, fans of James Bond movies were exposed to the exotic locations that were featured in the 007 movies.

An article has been posted in the Philippines' Sun.Star on James Bond and tourism. They got the premise right, but goofed on the pre-title sequence of Thunderball (1965). The writer describes the scene in Hong Kong where Bond (Sean Connery) is assassinated in a Chinese Murphy Bed. That sequence was actually in You Only Live Twice (1967), where the movie's main center of action was Japan.

It is still an interesting article to read and it begins with:
THERE is no doubt that James Bond movies are promoting tourism… places, festivals, food, lifestyle, and fashion. Agent 007 is suave but dynamic charmer, equally capable of disarming both bomb and bombshell. That makes James an effective tour guide. 
When I presented my paper before a group of college students taking up BS Tourism, many eyebrows went up. Probably (just probably), they have just realized (and their teachers, too) that James Bond movies are not just about James, super villains, fantastic girls, prodigious gimmicks, neoteric guns, and phantasmal gadgets. 
I am encouraging tourism students, teachers, tourism officers and those who are involved in tourism to review (see again) James Bond movies. When producers, Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli, introduced James Bond (Sean Connery) in 1962 in the movie “Dr. No”, the movie audience was brought to scenic Jamaica (sun and beach).
Likewise, Japan's giant monster movies also are promoting tourism: Godzilla (1954) is centered in Tokyo. Godzilla Raids Again (1955) is centered in Osaka. King Kong vs, Godzilla (1962) prominently features Tokyo and Atami. Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964) is centered in Nagoya. Rodan (1956) is centered in Kyushu (mainly Sasebo and Fukuoka). Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993) prominently features Kyoto as does Gamera 3 (1999).

To read more, go here.

Michelin Star Chefs Collaborating With ANA On Meals

Above, an ANA jetliner being loaded up at Narita International Airport. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

After my rather disappointing experience flying aboard United Airlines (once my favorite U.S. air carrier) in February, I decided that future flights to and from Japan will be strictly aboard Japanese or other Asian (such as Singapore Air or Korean Air) airlines.

One of my beefs was the food. It wasn't bad (as in swill). It was edible. But being edible alone does not make me want to fly on United Airlines again. Prior to my trip this year to Japan, I last flew aboard Korean Air to Japan. The food was very good (the best airline food I've had during the past ten years was with Singapore Air in 2004). United's food was probably no better than elementary school cafeteria food.

After this year's trip to Japan, I became a member of All Nippon Airways' (ANA) Mileage Club. I intend to give ANA a try the next time I go to Japan.

Incentive Travel & Corporate Meetings (U.K.) posted an article that provides another incentive for giving ANA a try:
ANA, Japan’s largest airline, has announced a new partnerships with two world-renowned chefs, Pierre Gagnaire and Toru Okuda.  
This is the first time the 3-star Michelin chefs have collaborated with ANA. They will work with the airline’s in-house, expert catering team to offer the best of French and Japanese cuisines onboard flights from Japan.  
The chefs join the close-knit circle of The Connoisseurs, launched by ANA in September 2013: a unique panel, bringing together 26 premier chefs, sommeliers, oenologists, sake specialists and ANA chefs. Under The Connoisseurs label, ANA is proud to offer its passengers an exceptional quality of service with a choice of exclusive dishes. 
Sounds good to me!

To read more, go here

Friday, October 17, 2014

Godzilla Actress Anna Nakagawa Passes Away



Sad news.

Actress Anna Nakagawa (Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)) passed away today from cancer, according to Sanspo.com.

She was 49.

Godzilla's 60th Anniversary/Gamera's 50th Anniversary Panel October 31 At Comikaze Expo


Note: The time has changed for our panel. It will now begin at 5:00 PM, an hour earlier.

Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo 2014 schedule is now out and a panel on Godzilla's 60th anniversary and Gamera's 50th anniversary will be held at 5:00 PM on Halloween, October 31 in Room 404AB of the Los Angeles Convention Center.




The participants, along with yours truly, will be the same as last year's panel and will be headed up by Jessica Tseang. I will have copies of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan available following the panel discussion. Our panels on Japanese monsters have been some of the best-attended (standing-room-only) at Comikaze, so make sure you get there early enough to get a seat.

Above, the panel at last year's Comikaze Expo.

Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo will be held October 31 through November 2.

For the full schedule for Friday, October 31, go here (.pdf format).

To access Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo's website, go here.

The Japanese Skimp On Sleep

Above, Japanese workers zonked out on a subway train after work. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

There had been many a time when I've taken a Tokyo subway train during the evening rush hour and found many of the city's citizens (men and women) inside the train car fast asleep. Each time, my immediate thought was, "Will they wake up in time to get off at their stop?" 

Strangely, they usually do.

Rocket News 24 has posted an interesting article on the amount of sleep Japan's workers get after a full day at work, plus overtime (paid, if they're lucky) and possibly an after-work gathering of co-workers at a local bar to unwind.

The article begins with:
It’s a stereotype about Japan that most people are familiar with – the Japanese work hard, give their lives to the company, and stay at work until after the boss has gone home. It’s a country where karoushi, or death from overwork, is a commonly-used buzzword. While some people might argue that the Japanese don’t actually work any harder than those in the west, it certainly seems that they’re working longer hours than the rest of us. 
But as a consequence, how much sleep are they getting?
To read more, go here

Latest Pick-ups

The good folks at The Japan Daily picked up three blog posts for sharing with their readers.

They are:


To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Tsukiji Fish Market: 9 Things You Need To Know Before Visiting

Above, a row of stalls in the fish market. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

One of the memorable things I did when I visited Japan in December 2010 was to see the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. I've heard about the fish market for years and wanted to pay it a visit and have a sushi meal for breakfast.

Tokyo Cheapo has an article on the nine things one needs to know before visiting Tsukiji. One of which is that activities there begin in the early morning hours when there is no train or bus service. I actually got up a half hour or so earlier than what I set my clock for as I was rudely awakened by a minor earthquake.

As the bus lines and subways were in not in operation at the time, I called for a taxi to get to the fish market.

Tokyo Cheapo's article has very good advice for first-time visitor (and for people who may have been there before, but may have forgotten a few points).

They begin with:
The Tsukiji Fish Market appears in literally every guide book about Tokyo and on most people’s tour itinerary plus entrance is free! It is the largest wholesale fish market in Tokyo, and one of the largest fish markets in the world. It also has a kick-ass Tuna Auction before the sun rises most mornings. The Tsukiji Fish Market is destined to relocate to a larger and slightly more inconvenient location (in Toyosu) – a move that will be complete in late 2016. However, until then, there is a giant fish market and live tuna auction just begging to be seen.
The article also includes a 2014-2015 calendar that shows the dates when it is open to visitors and when it is closed. I managed to go on a "closed" day (unintentionally), but since I entered through a side or back entrance, I had no hassles while I wandered around. It was only when I made my way to the main entrance that I was accosted by the gate guard (he thought I was trying to enter, not leave). By then, I saw all that I came to see.

To read the article, go here.

Japan’s Three Climates

Above, a snowy street scene in Chiba Prefecture. What climate zone is this? Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Ever wondered what the climate is like in Japan? Where are the cooler areas in summer? Where are the warmer areas in winter? What areas get the most precipitation or the least?

Tofugu.com has the answers for you in their new article, : Japan’s Three Climates: A Virtual Journey Through the Wilds of Japan."

In it, they wrote:
After some research, you discovered that Japan can be divided into three broad climatic zones: mild-summer continental (Hokkaido), hot-summer continental (northeast Honshu), and subtropical (central/southern Japan).
By the way, according to one of their maps, Chiba Prefecture is in the subtropical climate zone as is Tokyo.

Above, the Ueno section of Tokyo in February. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

 To read more, go here.

John Forte & George Klein On Jimmy Olsen



Above, is the cover of Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen (number 80) from 1964. This issue is in my collection of Silver Age comic books.

Recently, some members of the Facebook group, The Silver Age Mythology of Superman, were aghast when I mentioned that Curt Swan's then-regular inker George Klein also inked artist John Forte's work. Generally, Forte did ink his own work, but on occasion, Klein was called in to do the honors. I noticed the difference in Forte's artwork immediately when I saw Klein's inks over them. I thought then (and now) that they improved Forte's artwork. That gave me an idea for this blog topic.

The above cover was penciled by Curt Swan and inked by his back-up inker, Sheldon Moldoff. The interior story of Jimmy Olsen's encounter with the Bizarros (imperfect duplicates of Superman and members of the Superman Family) was penciled by Forte and inked by Klein.

Here's are two examples of Forte/Klein art from the issue:



Now do you believe me, guys?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Is 'Crabzilla' Real?

Above, "Crabzilla" in the lower middle portion of the photo.

AOL posted a story and picture of a giant crab that was spotted in the United Kingdom.

Here's the first paragraph:

The crabs human see or eat are usually only six or so inches across their shells. An aerial image taken in the UK captured a massive crab, and is now garnering a lot of attention online. The aerial shot enables viewers to see the full body of the crab, including its pinchers and legs. It's estimated that the beast measures 50 feet long.

To read more about Crabzilla, go here.

International Travel: To Tip Or Not To Tip

Above, a Tokyo taxi. No tip is expected or required. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Every country has their own customs concerning business transactions. That extends right down to whether or not to tip a cab driver, waiter (or waitress), barmaid or anyone else.

In many countries, gratuities are added into the price of a meal. Some have even outlawed tipping.

TravelDailyNews has an article on the subject of international tipping.

They begin with:
Tipping while travelling can be confusing, differs by country and doesn’t always depend on service quality. Wego, the leading travel search site in the Asia Pacific and Middle East, revealed where and when you should tip while on the road.
In Japan, there is no tipping.
“Knowing which countries where you should leave a tip is just as important as knowing which countries not to,” said Joachim Holte, Chief Marketing Officer for Wego. 
“In Argentina for example, tipping is actually illegal, however, waiters often expect to be tipped by foreigners so if you were to tip, discretion is advised. In the US, low wage earners in the service industry are reliant on tipping to balance out their income, yet in Romania, tips are often declined and in Japan, tipping is considered offensive.” 
The article has a nice graphic from Wego. You may want to right-click it and save it for future reference.

In case you're in Japan and forget what the tipping customs there are, The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan covers tipping on page 9.

To read the article, go here.

Harvest Time



Harvest season is now upon us. This means that farmers across American are harvesting their 2014 crops and getting them to market.

Concerning corn, prices are down (about $3.47/bushel) thanks to a big supply, which places downward pressure on corn prices. Prices were also down last year, but since the crop yield was very good (this year will be about the same or even better than last year), this helped to make up for the low prices. It should be about the same this year. Two years ago, prices were about double of what they are now.

Next year, we have to contend with and make decisions on new Dept. of Agriculture programs that were enacted in the 2014 Farm Bill.

Farmers in Nebraska and around the country also have to contend with the Environmental Protection Agency's "Waters of the U.S." rule. Farm experts say that this rule will be harmful to the nation's farms and will “cause cost increases, confusion and uncertainty to agricultural producers.” See this article for more. That's what happens when left wing lunatics are in charge of the federal government.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Dave Bautista Lands James Bond Henchman Role

Above, Dave Bautista.

It looks like the producers of the James Bond movie franchise have found their henchman for James Bond 24 (scheduled to begin filming December 6). The actual movie title will be announced later.

According to Latino-Review, the call went out for a man over 6'2" tall, with a sports background and the age range of 30-45 to play a character in the same mold as Oddjob (Goldfinger) and Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker) by the name of Hinx.

Latino-Review wrote:
Seems like the found their guy because according to sources, Dave Bautista, mega hot off his career making role as Drax The Destroyer in Marvel's Guardians Of The Galaxy, has bagged the role of HINX in the upcoming Bond 24!
They also report that locations for Bond 24 include Austria, Rome and possibly Morocco. Daniel Craig returns as James Bond and the movie will be directed by Skyfall director Sam Mendes.

According to Screen Rant, the movie aims to complete the Skyfall story. 

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