"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, July 22, 2014

Top Ten Places Anime Fans Should Visit In Japan

Above, a view of the Statue of Liberty and Rainbow Bridge from Odaiba's Aqua City. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Most of what is posted here about Japan tourism concern kaiju fandom. On occasion, other forms of Japan otaku subcultures find their way here.

The latest is the top ten places in Japan where anime fans should visit. They are provided by SGCafe.

There is one place on their top ten list that overlaps kaiju fandom: Odaiba. Odaiba was primarily featured in Godzilla x Megaguirus (2000) and some of it was also shown in 2003's Godzilla x Mothra x Mechagodzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. Many kaiju fans are also fans of anime. (Funny how one thing leads to another.)

SGCafe begins with:
One of the biggest tourist draws for Japan is of course, its unique culture which is a unique mix of ancient tradition and modern culture. Rising from this unique blend of traditional and modern is the otaku subculture which centers around anime, mangas, and video games, and this very subculture has spread all over the world, attracting millions of visitors to the country. In other words, anime tourism is BIG in the country, so big that an anime pilgrimage guidebook has even been published. 
We take a look at ten of these anime hot spots and rank them. 
To see the top ten list, go here

Japan Gov't. Cannot Take Credit For Rise In Foreign Tourists, Report Says

Japan saw 10 million foreign visitors come into the country for the first time during 2013. This was after the 2011 Great East Earthquake and tsunami.

Following the earthquake and tsunami (and the related Fukushima radiation problems), Japan undertook a massive public relations campaign to get people back to visiting the country. Some of these efforts helped, some did not, according to an article in The Japan Times.

The Japan Times wrote:
The government probably can’t take credit for the increase in the number of foreign tourists. Many of its projects to attract visitors, such as inviting foreign travel agencies to Japan, participating in trade shows overseas and various advertising campaigns, are ineffective, according to a recent report by the internal affairs ministry. 
Of the 244 projects the Japan Tourism Agency funded from fiscal 2010 to 2012, 31 of them, on which the agency spent as much as ¥90 million, failed to attract even one tourist.
It has been my belief (based on what I observed) that the increase in Japan tourism rose when the Japanese yen weakened. Foreigners found that their currencies did not buy as much yen as in previous years. This turned off potential Japan tourists. I blogged back then that once the dollar regains strength against the yen, U.S. tourists will begin to come back.

Around the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake, the U.S. dollar only bought 90 yen. From there, it got even worse. (See the history of the yen/dollar exchange rate since 1999 by going here.) On October 28, 2011, the dollar only bought 75.86 yen. Small wonder American tourists stayed away.

After October 2011, the dollar began to gain strength against the yen as the yen began to weaken. The dollar/yen exchange rate is currently hovering around 101-102 yen. But that rate is only for the "high rollers." For us serfs, we now get around 98-99 yen per dollar exchanged. Back in April 2007, I got 116 yen per dollar. For some reason, the exchange rate between the dollar and yen is stuck at 101-102. This has been the case for months.

Still, although stuck at 101-102 yen, the rise in foreign tourism was roughly commensurate with the weakening of the yen. As foreign currencies bounced back, so did foreign tourism. Campaigns by the Japanese government's tourism agencies had minimal effect.

To read the full story, go here.

Cheap Tokyo Transport Deals For Tourists

Above, the Tokyo Skytree. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Japan is "legendary" for being expensive. Some of that is true, but a lot of it isn't. It is no more expensive than the United States. Both countries are about even when it comes to expense.

To make your tourist dollars (exchanged to yen) stretch out more, Time Out Tokyo has some cheap Tokyo transit deals. All you have to do is to flash your passport and you've got them.

They begin with:
Everyone keeps telling you how expensive Tokyo is, right? Don't let the naysayers get the better of you. There are ways and means of beating the budget-blowing travel expenses that come with sightseeing around the city and beyond. Here are a few tips to get you started – and scroll down for more articles on cheap travel, food and hotel deals. 
One of the deals they have listed is for the Tokyo Skytree and the Sumida Aquarium. This deal also includes a one-day railway pass for the area.

To see the list of deals, go here.

Play Around Money

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

Receiving good news is always most welcome. Waking up to good news is even better.

Such is the case of this morning as I awoke to a message from Amazon Kindle that royalties for the past six weeks for the Kindle Store ebook edition of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan has been processed into my account.

The past six weeks have been excellent sales-wise for the ebook edition. So, what this means is that I have some "play around" money available.

Monday, July 21, 2014

"Godzilla" On Blu-ray and DVD September 16

Above, the Godzilla BD Combo Pack.

Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. will be releasing Godzilla on DVD and Blu-ray on September 16.

There are several ways it will be available on home video: Godzilla on Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, 2-Disc DVD Special Edition and Digital HD, all coming on September 16.

Godzilla will be a bit pricey. Godzilla on (MetalPak) Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack will retail at $44.95 and the Blu-ray Combo Pack will retail for $35.99.

Hopefully, Akira Takarada's cut scene will be included in the extras.

Peter Greenberg: How To Check The Weather Before Your Flight

Above, the San Gabriel Mountains with the Mojave Desert in the distance. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Many people are afraid of flying. Some are more fearful than others and this fear is made even worse if the flight they're on happens to run into some turbulence.

The worst flight I ever been on was an hour-long flight from Los Angeles to Las Vegas in a Boeing 737 in April 1976. I was headed there for a wedding and as we flew near the San Gabriel Mountains and the Mojave Desert, it became an extremely bumpy ride.

Peter Greenberg, "The Travel Detective," has posted an article on how to "prepare for a flight during a storm and put your mind at rest."

It begins with:
If you’re a regular traveler, you know that weather can have a big impact on your flight. Events such as storms and lightning can cause turbulence, but the truth is that pilots are equipped to handle any situation. To help you prepare for a flight during a storm or to simply put your mind at rest, Captain Tom Bunn explains why you should check the weather before a flight. 
To read the full article, go here.

Japan Times: "Godzilla's Message Still Relevant"

Above, Godzilla smashes a wing of the National Diet Building in 1954. Toho photo.

We are now four days away from when Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. Godzilla opens in Japanese theaters, the Japanese media have been getting on the bandwagon with feature stories on the Big G. One of which will feature an article by yours truly in the upcoming issue of Metropolis magazine on the top five kaiju attack locations in Tokyo. The issue will be out this week in Tokyo.

The U.S. media also ran many articles prior to and during the U.S. theatrical run of Godzilla. It is actually more interesting to see how the Japanese media take a look back on their own iconic character.

Yesterday, The Japan Times ran an editorial on Godzilla, "Godzilla's Message Still Relevant." However, its focus is on the original 1954 Toho feature film.

The editorial begins with:
Ahead of the first run of the latest, Hollywood-produced version of “Godzilla” on July 25 in Japan, the digitally remastered edition of the original 1954 “Godzilla” movie has been shown at theaters across the country and broadcast on NHK-TV to mark the 60th anniversary of the birth of the monster — a pop culture icon that has inspired the production of about 30 sequels. 
The original “Godzilla” movie not only still shines as great entertainment, but also carries a serious theme that remains relevant today — the horrors of nuclear weapons and related technology, which could inflict devastating damage to the Earth and human lives. It is hoped that the new Hollywood version will also rouse people’s interest in the original “Godzilla” film and its message.
Above, a hat tip to the Lucky Dragon No. 5 in Godzilla. Notice the
number 5 on the life-preserver in the background in this scene.

The editorial cites the influences on the 1954 film, including the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Lucky Dragon No. 5 incident on March 1, 1954. The new movie provides a reminder of the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant nuclear meltdown from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Above, the deck of the Lucky Dragon No. 5. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The editorial ends by saying that the new movie offers the Japanese a chance to ponder the message of Godzilla.

To read the full editorial, go here.

Yesterday's Blog Post Pick-ups

Several of yesterday's blog posts on Japan travel were picked up by the good folks at The Japan Daily.

They include:

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

L.A. To Tokyo: This Week's Airfares

Above, inside busy Tokyo Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

There was a little change in airfare prices between Los Angeles International Airport and Tokyo this week.

Last weekend, I reported that the Los Angeles Times Travel section found the low end price to be at $1,304.00 and the high end price at $1,791.00. These are before taxes and fees are added on.

Yesterday, the Times Travel section found the low end price to be at $1,254.00 and the high end price at $1,850.00. Again, these are before taxes and fees are added on.

While the low end price was a tad lower than last week's, but the high end price went up a tad as well.

We'll see how the prices are next week.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tokyo Fox and the Godzilla Slide

Above, a snow-dusted Godzilla slide in February. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Blogging about Godzilla (and other kaiju) locations and putting out The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan are intended to help people who also have these interests visit these places.

The latest beneficiary of my efforts was Tokyo Fox, who just found out about the Godzilla slide through this blog. A big "thank-you" to Tokyo Fox for the acknowledgement!

This tells me that this blog and the travel guide are doing their job!

Also, it is interesting to note that the link posted in the blog article to Armand's Rancho Del Cielo is a Japanese link (http://armandsrancho.blogspot.jp/). It appears that Blogger tailors blogs for different countries by assigning URLs for each.

Tokyo Fox immediately paid a visit to the Godzilla slide in Yokosuka and posted a blog full of photos. From his photos, it is clear that the area surrounding the slide is a lot drier than when I visited it last February when the ground was a muddy mess with patches of snow.

To see Tokyo Fox's blog post on the Godzilla slide, go here.

"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" Slideshow Video In Asia Info

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

Asia Info, a travel website of reviews, hotel & flight bookings has posted the YouTube slideshow video of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

I made the video back in 2010. It features some of the kaiju-related locations and landmarks used in the movies since 1954. The video also features model, actress and Japanese-language instructor Yuu Asakura.

About Asia Info:
Asia Info is a professional holiday booking service that makes your holiday planning easy and affordable. Our air travel and accommodation charges are often better than the large travel companies as we do not affiliate with just with one partner, we compare with many to get you the best pricing. As well as being an outstanding travel booking service, Asia Info also collects the best travel reviews & guides to help you make the most of your trip. As well as working in the travel buiness for many years our team have traveled extensively around the world so you can be certain we realise what works and what doesn’t.
To go to Asia Info, go here.

James Garner Reportedly Dies At 86

Above, James Garner in The Rockford Files.

Actor James Garner, famous for his roles as Bret Maverick in the 1950s Maverick series and as Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files of the 1970s has reportedly died. He was 86.

TMZ posted:

Legendary actor James Garner -- star of "The Rockford Files" and "The Notebook" -- has died ... TMZ has learned. 
Law enforcement sources tell us an ambulance was dispatched to the actor's home in Los Angeles around 8PM Saturday evening ... and he was dead when they arrived on scene.
There's been no other confirmation of Garner's reported passing as yet.

Garner also starred with Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones and Donald Sutherland in Space Cowboys (2000).

Read more: http://www.tmz.com/2014/07/19/james-garner-dead-dies-maverick-rockford-files/#ixzz37zySu15c

Apollo 11 Lands On Moon 45 Years Ago Today

Above, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin on the moon. NASA photo.

Forty-five years ago today, man first landed on the moon.

It was on July 20, 1969 that Apollo 11 lunar module, Eagle, landed on the Sea of Tranquility. Eagle carried Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin to the moon's surface while Michael Collins remained in orbit in the command module, Columbia. The moon landing was broadcast live on television.

Apollo 11 was launched from the John F. Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969. I remember the date as it was my grandmother's 69th birthday.

We watched the live broadcasts of the moon landing and the moon walks by Armstrong and Aldrin on our new (at the time) color television. Unfortunately, the images were in black & white and a bit ghostly. Still it was exciting to experience. I was 15 years old at the time.

Back when the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing was celebrated in 1989, A & E broadcast "As It Happened" programs over several nights with former NBC News reporter Edwin Newman hosting. My daughter Amber was two and a half years old at the time, but she sat on my lap mesmerized by the programs. I taped those programs and still have the tapes.

I've always contended that the U.S. Space Program was the only worthwhile government program. Too bad it has been pretty much dismantled in recent years.

Japan's Most Amazing Train Journeys

Above, a view of seating inside a shinkansen. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Australia's The Courier-Mail website has an article that should interest both train buffs and Japanophiles.

It is on "Japan's Most Amazing Train Journeys."

The article has a selection of train routes that offer the most scenic views and celebrates 50 years of the shinkansen (bullet train). Also, the article has features on train museums and what's in store for the future of train travel with the Maglev (construction of which was recently approved by the Japanese government).

The article starts out with:
Their sleek design and speeds in excess of 200km/h, soon saw the futuristic looking carriages nicknamed “bullet trains”. 
On October 1, this year, Japan celebrates the Shinkansen’s 50th anniversary. Dedicated gunzels will no doubt want to make the historic journey from Tokyo to Osaka; but you don’t have to be a train enthusiast to admire these magnificent machines. 
Travelling by rail in Japan is a delight and forms a large part of its culture. In some cases, it’s comparable to flying first class. 
Here are some of the best rail trips in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Above, a shinkansen waiting to depart Tokyo Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

I have ridden on the shinkansens several times and they are very enjoyable. The interiors are very much like the cabins of modern airliners, but more comfortable. If one should visit Japan, I would recommend at least one train trip out of Tokyo (even on a commuter train) to see the countryside as well as visiting other areas of Japan.

To read the full article, go here.

Latest Blog Post Pick-ups

The fine folks at The Japan Daily picked up two blog posts of mine from yesterday.

They are:

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Roadside America: "The Tomb of Superman"

Above, George Reeves as Superman.

Roadside America "Your Online Guide to Offbeat Tourist Attractions" has a page devoted to "The Tomb of Superman."

Actually, Superman isn't in the tomb, but instead it is the niche of actor George Reeves, television's first Superman.

I happened to be perusing the website and noted that Reeves's niche was listed. When I went there, I noticed an ad for The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan (no, I didn't plan that).

Here's some snaps of the page:

To go to "The Tomb of Superman" listing, go here.

Japan's Foreign Visitor Stays Spiked 27% In 2013

Above, the main entrance to Tokyo's Shiba Park Hotel. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

An indicator that the Japanese tourism industry roared back in its recovery from the post-Great East Japan Earthquake year of 2011 is the rise in the number of nights spent by foreign visitors.

The Japan Times reported:
The total number of nights spent by foreign visitors at hotels or other lodgings across the nation rose 27.4 percent to 33.51 million in 2013, the Japan Tourism Agency announced Saturday. 
The figure was up from 26.31 million in 2012, suggesting a recovery trend after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami detered foreign visitors. The corresponding total came to 18.42 million in 2011.
Japan set a record (for them) in the number of foreign tourists at over ten million in 2013.

To read the full story, go here.

Godzilla On Order

Finally, I broke down and ordered a NEC Godzilla 2014 12-inch action figure yesterday.

I like the 24-inch figure better, but since room is rather scarce these days between my stuff and my roomie's, I opted instead for the 12-inch figure. I should be receiving it in the mail by next Thursday.

The design is okay (way better than the iguana that was passed off as Godzilla in 1998) except for the feet and legs. It makes Godzilla look like he has a water-retention problem (or cankles).

G Expo Tokyo Godzilla

Above, illustration of G Expo to be held in Shibuya Hikarie.

A Godzilla exhibition is being held in Shibuya starting tomorrow, G Expo Tokyo Godzilla, to celebrate 
Godzilla's 60th anniversary and the upcoming opening of Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. Godzilla on July 25.

Here's a rough translation of an article on the expo at Zakzak.co.jp:
Finally, "Revealed G Expo Tokyo Godzilla" begins with Tokyo Shibuya Hikarie from the 20th tomorrow. To commemorate the 60th anniversary / Hollywood version of new movie Godzilla birth the "GODZILLA" published, is a big exhibition of Godzilla-related. Let me introduce in its entirety.

Godzilla appeared in the silver screen for the first time in November 1954. 2014 this year after time 60 years later, GODZILLA is born in the United States Hollywood, and came back to the screen in a new form. Godzilla series that has been produced in 60 years, a total of 30 work of 28 work of Japan, two works of the U.S. version. Exhibition look back on the history of the 60-year's "G Expo". 
To see the article at Zakzak, go here

Friday, July 18, 2014

Godzilla Pull-out Poster

If you happen to be in Japan and manage to grab a copy of the Japanese newspaper Yukan Fuji, it includes this special pull-out Godzilla poster:

Thanks to The Tokyo Reporter for the tip!

Meanwhile, Where's Our "Fearless Leader"?

President Obama has really upset people around the world for his disengagement from reality with his tepid reaction to the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. Instead of cancelling his fundraising appearances and be presidential, he zooms right along almost acting as if nothing happened.

He started a speech in Delaware with this (source: Daily Mail (U.K.)):
Before I begin, obviously the world is watching reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border. And it looks like it may be a terrible tragedy. Right now we’re working to determine whether there were American citizens on board. That is our first priority.
"May" be a terrible tragedy?! Unbelievable!

Then he goes on with his prepared speech, just joking away.

Even CNN's Piers Morgan was perplexed:
Former CNN host Piers Morgan reacted with his typical barbs. 
'President Obama massively dropped the ball just now,' Morgan tweeted. '23 Americans killed and he says "it looks like a terrible tragedy" then back to jokes?'
At the time, it was thought that 23 Americans were on the doomed airliner.

Folks, we've an idiot in the White House who was elected by morons. Thanks to Obama, "The Bear Is Loose."

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2696366/It-looks-like-terrible-tragedy-Obama-briefly-addresses-Malaysian-plane-crash-emerges-23-U-S-passengers-board.html#ixzz37pSO17uS

Vladimir Putin Owns This: "We have just shot down a plane"

Above, a scene of wreckage and bodies strewn about. Reuters photo.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, a Boeing 777, was shot down by a BUK surface-to-air missile at about 33,000 feet (cruising altitude).

Evidence is mounting that Russian military intelligence and Ukrainian separatists were the culprits.

According to the U.K. Telegraph:
Ukraine's security service released intercepted phone calls that it says show Russian military intelligence admitting they shot down the plane.

In one call, a rebel says, “We have just shot down a plane.”  
The BUK missile used to shoot down the jet is too sophisticated for separatists to soley operate without Russian military assistance.

Sadly, this incident is a reminder of the shoot-down of Korean Airline Flight 007 back on September 1, 1983. The then-Soviet Union first denied shooting down the passenger jet, but later had to admit fault.

President Ronald Reagan went on national television on September 5 and said:
Let me state as plainly as I can: There was absolutely no justification, either legal or moral, for what the Soviets did.
Reagan also said that the shoot-down of KAL007 was "an act of barbarism, born of a society which wantonly disregards individual rights and the value of human life and seeks constantly to expand and dominate other nations."

It appears the Russians haven't either evolved or learned their lesson from the 1983 tragedy.

Whether or not the Russian military fired the missile doesn't matter. They were there under Putin's orders and possibly given to the separatists to use against aircraft.

Russian President Vladimir Putin owns this.

The Fleecing of the Airline Customer

If you thought that the airlines are hurting, just hanging on by a thread, think again.

Travelpulse.com has an article that shows the airlines made over $30 billion in ancillary fees in 2013.

They wrote:
Checked bags, onboard food, the ability to pick your seat, seat upgrades... As long as revenue growth continues like this, expect the airline industry to not only maintain their ancillary fee programs but to also find new and innovative ways to charge passengers even more. 
Airlines made a whopping $31.5 billion globally in ancillary fees last year according to a new report, up 11 percent from the $28.1 billion they earned in 2012 and up more than 1,200 percent from 2007, generally considered the year ancillary fees first began. 
"What began as a trickle has grown to a flood,” the report stated.
Do you know which U.S. airline made the most in ancillary fees last year? United Airlines led the pack as they raked in $5.7 billion in ancillary fees last year.

Small wonder travelers feel like they're being fleeced. Because they are.

To read more, go here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Big G Is Covered

It is quite an honor to be asked to contribute to a special issue of a magazine that celebrates the Japanese theatrical opening of Godzilla by Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros., especially so since this is the 60th anniversary year of Godzilla in his home country of Japan.

This is made even more special when the cover of the magazine features the Big G in all of his glory. Such is the case with the upcoming issue of Metropolis magazine. Metropolis, based in Tokyo, is Japan's biggest (in circulation) English-language magazine in Japan.

I received the cover image tonight. What can one say except it is quite an eye-catcher?! Fans will definitely want to snag a copy of this issue!

Godzilla will be distributed to theaters in Japan by Godzilla's parent company, Toho Co., Ltd.

Godzilla In The Japan Daily

Two blog posts from yesterday that are Godzilla-oriented have been picked up by The Japan Daily.

The first one is on the upcoming article I wrote for Metropolis magazine on Godzilla places of interest in Tokyo and surrounding areas. Fans will want to grab a copy of this issue when it comes out.

The other is on the Rocket News 24 article on the Godzilla slide in Yokosuka.

To view The Japan Daily, go here.

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