"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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Saturday, September 20, 2014

1954 H-Bomb Tests Affected 556 Japanese Ships, Documents Reveal

Above, the bow of the Lucky Dragon No. 5 Dream Island Park in Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Lucky Dragon No. 5 incident in March 1954 is a familiar story to many, especially to those who are Godzilla fans. The Mainichi Shimbun has posted a story that "missing" documents (now found) reveal that there were more boats and ships affected by the H-bomb tests.

They reported:
Recently released government documents reveal that the crews of 556 Japanese ships were tested for radiation exposure in the wake of the United States' 1954 hydrogen bombro tests around the Bikini Atoll -- one of which irradiated the crew of the Daigo Fukuryumaru tuna boat from Shizuoka Prefecture. 
The recently released documents included results from tests conducted between March and June that year. The testing, which included Geiger counter measurements of radiation levels among crew members from the 556 ships, revealed that individuals from a total of 12 ships were found to have been exposed to 100 counts of radiation or more per minute.
The Lucky Dragon No. 5 was later restored and is now on display at Dream Island Park in Tokyo. Because of its influence on the Godzilla character, the Lucky Dragon No. 5 is spotlighted on page 25 of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

To read more, go here.

Why Does Japan Have So Many Overhead Power Lines?

Above, the Godzilla slide at the Kurihama Flower World in Yokosuka with nearby power lines. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Rocket News 24 posted an interesting article. It asks (and answers) a question that some visitors to Japan have asked.

The question: Why does Japan have so many overhead power lines?

First, though, overhead power lines came into play in the 1954 Godzilla. According to movie's script, a special electrical fence was erected around the perimeter of Tokyo Bay to block Godzilla from coming ashore. We all know that didn't work out too well. The "electical fence" towers were the familiar overhead power line towers we all see everyday (even in the U.S.).

Then, in King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), the overhead power lines that encircled Tokyo managed to block Godzilla from entering the city, but were ineffective against King Kong.

Rocket News 24 begins their article with:
Something many visitors to Japan notice is the abundance of overhead power lines. Whether you’re in the suburbs, city center, or even rural communities, it’s rare to look up at the sky or towards the horizon without the view being crisscrossed by thick, black cables.
So, why does Japan have many overhead power lines? The answer is a simple one (and they are not for keeping kaiju out of populated areas) and makes perfect sense.

To read the article, go here.

Blog Post Picked Up By Two

This blog must be getting popular.

Two different online "newspapers" have picked up the same blog post from yesterday on the dollar's rise to 109 yen in Tokyo trading.

First, The Japan Daily:

Next, comes the Japan News (Junar Japan):

I must be doing something right.

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

To read the Japan News, go here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dollar At 6-Year High of 109 Yen

The U.S. dollar today reached a six-year high above 109 yen in Tokyo trading.

According to Jiji Press:
At 5 p.m., the dollar stood at 109.09-10 yen, up from 108.54-55 yen at the same time Thursday. 
This is good news for U.S. travelers to Japan. With the dollar this high, ordinary travelers will get at least 100 yen per dollar exchanged (probably slightly more). 

Warner Bros. To Cut 10% of Its Workforce

Above, Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It will be hard times for some employees at Warner Bros. Entertainment as moves to cut overhead costs will result in layoffs of about 10% of the company's workforce.

According to Variety:
Warner Bros. Entertainment is expected to cut as many as 900 to 1,000 jobs worldwide as part of a studio-wide cost-cutting move, according to people familiar with the company’s plans. The estimated reductions would amount to more than 10% of the studio’s 9,000-person workforce. 
The cuts will be made in late October or early November.
One interesting side note. The article cites Godzilla as one of the studio's box office hits, although Warner Bros. only had a 25% stake in the movie.

To read more, go here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Monsters Attack! Number 4

A recent posting by Stan Hyde at Facebook Monsterland prompted this recollection.

Following Terror of Mechagodzilla in 1975, Toho Co., Ltd. put Godzilla on a long hiatus. During those years, all was quiet on the Godzilla front.

Then, out of the blue, Toho released Godzilla in 1984 (renamed Return of Godzilla and released here (heavily edited) with Raymond Burr reprising his Steve Martin character as Godzilla 1985). The movie, although well-done in its original Japanese form, received a lukewarm response here. The movie was a direct sequel to the original 1954 Godzilla and ignored all of the prior sequels.

Then, following that movie, Godzilla disappeared again, at least as far as the United States was concerned.

In Japan, Toho finally decided to produce a sequel to the 1984 movie, based on a story-writing contest, in 1989. The result was Godzilla vs. Biollante. Unfortunately, not too many people in the U.S. were aware of this movie and it received no stateside theatrical release. It seemed that Godzilla was gone again.

However, the following year, Monsters Attack! (no. 4) was published. The cover date was September 1990, The magazine featured Godzilla on the cover by John Severin. The magazine contained an article on Godzilla that recapped his cinematic career and featured the first word (and images) about Godzilla vs Biollante that many U.S. fans received. It was the first time I was made of aware of the movie. To me, in seeing those images, this was the best-designed Godzilla suit in a long time.

I remember buying Monsters Attack! at a local comic book shop and bringing it along to read on a camping vacation to Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 1990. I still have the issue (somewhere around here).

Today, Monsters Attack! no. 4 is a much sought-after Godzilla collectible for being one of the first (if not the first) source of information Americans received about Godzilla vs. Biollante. It ranks up there with Famous Monsters of Filmland issue 114, the special 100-page all-Japanese monsters issue.

Preparation Steps To Travel To Japan

Above, a shinkansen window view of Kyoto. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Some of you may be seriously considering a trip to Japan now that the U.S. dollar is doing much better against the yen (it is now at 108.53 to 108.55 yen per dollar) in exchange.

Before going, it is best to do some studying so that your trip goes smoothly.

Kavita Joshi, on her blog, Kavita Yoshi Travels has ten good tips you may want to take a look at, especially if you are a solo traveler.

She begins with:
Some of you must be wondering that how did I prepare myself to go to Japan and travelled there so smoothly. Yes I did have some preparation before I left as you all know its a country with different culture and language which makes it hard to travel in such countries if you are not much familiar with the customs and the language. I had some hiccups where I had trouble asking for directions along with boarding the wrong bus and some other small things that are part of travel I think and we need to be ready to tackle any such things while travelling solo.
To read her ten tips for a trouble-free trip, go here

Latest Blog Post Pick-ups

The fine folks at 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.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dollar At 6-Year High of 108 Yen In Tokyo

Things are looking monetarily better for American tourists to Japan as the dollar has reached an six-year high against the Japanese yen.

According to the Mainichi:
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The U.S. dollar traded at a six-year high around the mid-108 yen level early Thursday in Tokyo amid growing speculation that interest rate hikes in the United States may come sooner than expected. 
At 9 a.m., the dollar fetched 108.53-54 yen compared with 108.32-42 yen in New York and 107.26-28 yen in Tokyo at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

To read more, go here.

How To Get To Reagan's Rancho Del Cielo

Above, President Reagan addresses the campaign kick-off rally in Fountain Valley, California in 1984. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Ever wondered how to get to Rancho Del Cielo, President Reagan's ranch near Santa Barbara, California?

Here's a hand-drawn map on how to get there by President Reagan:

Image: Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation.

The ranch is currently owned by the Young America's Foundation and the ranch house is being preserved as it was when the Reagans used to spend time there.

Fukuoka Yahoo! Dome Renamed Again Last Year

Above, the Fukuoka Yafuoku! Dome in 2007. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Back in 1995, the Fukuoka Dome was used in Gamera, The Guardian of the Universe to try to trap three maneating Gyaos birds.

The Fukuoka Dome opened on April 2, 1993.  It was renamed the "Fukuoka Yahoo! Japan Dome" on February 2, 2005 when Yahoo Japan purchased the rights.

In January 2013, it was again renamed the "Fukuoka Yafuoku! Dome" to promote the Yahoo! auctions website in Japan. It's part of the Hawks Town commercial complex that contains a hotel and shopping mall in addition to the stadium.

Looks like I will have to change another thing in the revised edition of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

Who Stays In A Japanese Love Hotel?

Above, a cigarette lighter advertising a Tokyo love hotel. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Who stays in Japan's love hotels? 

The United Kingdom's Telegraph has an article on a documentary that will answer that question.

Their article begins with:
Love Hotel is a film documentary set in the Angelo Love Hotel in Osaka, offering a fascinating insight into the lives of the eponymous manager, his staff and the guests that spend time there. 
We asked Phil Cox, one of the film’s directors, what sort of person stays at a love hotel and how they became so popular in Japan.
I wonder if a love hotel has a special "Godzilla" or "kaiju room" for those couples who are monster fans?

To read more, go here.

Foreign Visitors To Japan Hits 1.11 Million In August

Above, Nakamise Street in Asakusa. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

From the looks of things, it appears that Japan is on track to surpass their 2013 10 million record number of foreign visitors.

According to Kyodo News:
The estimated number of foreign visitors to Japan in August soared 22.4 percent from a year before to about 1.11 million, a record figure for the month, government data showed Wednesday. 
The growth was attributable to expanded international flights at Tokyo's Haneda airport and increased charter flights from Asian countries to regional airports in Japan, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization. 
The estimated number of foreign passenger arrivals in Japan between January and August stood at 8,637,800, up 25.8 percent from a year earlier, the government body said.
To read more, go here.

Note: The headline was in error. As I was being rushed, the number read 11.1 instead of 1.11. But it's fixed. Whew!

Tokyo's Skytree Commercial Complex Celebrates 100 Million Visitors

Above, the Skytree. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Tokyo's Skytree has hit another milestone since its opening in May 2012.

According to Kyodo News:
The number of visitors to a commercial complex around Tokyo Skytree, the world's tallest broadcasting tower, reached 100 million on Wednesday following its opening in May 2012, the operator of the tower said. 
It was the 849th day since the 634-meter-high tower opened on May 22, 2012, in Tokyo's Sumida Ward, becoming a new landmark in the Japanese capital.
I visited the Skytree's commercial complex last February, but didn't have enough time to go up to the tower's observation deck although there were no crowds at the time of my visit.

To read more, go here

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Promise Broken: "Godzilla" Blu-ray Is Sans Akira Takarada

Godzilla is now out in home video. But, Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. reneged on their promise to include Akira Takarada's cut scene from the Blu-ray edition of Godzilla.

Frankly, I don't find this surprising, but fans were told when word came out about Takarada's scene being cut that the scene would be included in the Blu-ray edition. Well, it's not there! (I have not purchased it yet, so I am relying on reliable sources.)

Above, the cut scene featuring Akira Takarada. Photo: Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros.

One fan wrote in Facebook:
Nearly Everyone involved promised Takarada-san's scene would be on the Blu-Ray. I have seen it in writing and I have it in writing myself. So I am waiting. Picture quality is not the issue for me. No Takarada scene is a deal breaker for me. I hope for a directors/extended cut later. Who knows. It will not be the first time the studio was somewhat less than respectful to the fans.
The Blu-ray and DVD discs of Godzilla has been met with mixed reviews. Some say the movie plays too dark and has noise, while others say it plays just fine. I suppose it depends upon the player and television monitor one is using.

It is my understanding that there's a special edition of the Blu-ray at Target department stores featuring a 30-minute featurette titled, "Rebirth of an Icon." In order to get it, one must buy the disc with the view of Godzilla's backside (or spines) on the box art (I've read).

Still, is it disappointing that Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. broke their word pertaining to Akira Takarada's scene.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Today's Blog Pick-ups

The fine folks at The Japan Daily picked up several of today's blog posts to share to their readers.

They include:

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

Tokyo Area Rattled By 5.6 Quake


A M5.6 earthquake hit the Tokyo area at 12:38 p.m. It was centered in the Iwai area.

This is from the USGS:

5.6 2km WNW of Iwai, Japan 2014-09-15 20:28:31 UTC-07:00 53.9 km

UPDATE: No major damage was reported and no tsunami warnings issued. 

Japan: 50 Years of the Bullet Train

Above, the interior of a shinkansen car. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

As mentioned previously, 2014 (specifically October) marks 50 years since Japan's shinkansens (bullet trains) have been in service.

We have an article from the U.K. Telegraph that takes a look at the shinkansen by Joanna Symons, who took a tour of Japan aboard the shinkansen earlier this year.

She begins her article with:
Fifty years ago this October, a year after Dr Beeching’s first report had sounded the death knell for much of Britain’s railway system, a revolution in train travel was taking place on the far side of the world. 
As visitors flocked to Japan for the Olympic Games (held in October to avoid the summer heat), Japan’s first Shinkansen, or bullet train, slid out of Tokyo station and gathered speeds of up to 130mph en route for Osaka, heralding a new age of high-speed rail. 
The Japanese were well ahead of the game. It was 13 years before Italy followed suit, then France with the TGV. But although high-speed trains now glide across hills and plains from Spain to China, Japan’s futuristic-looking bullet train retains an aura that our grime-caked intercity expresses can never capture. 
To read the full article, go here

"14 Ways To Visit Japan On A Budget"

Above, the famous statue of Hachikō at Shibuya Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Not all kaiju fans are as rich as Bill Gates, or even the owner of the corner mom & pop grocery store, but they do have a desire to someday visit Japan to see where their favorite monsters once stomped (at least on screen). And, they have to watch their budget.

When In Manila.com (a Filipino blogsite) has posted "14 Ways To Visit Japan On A Budget" written in mind for those who are budget-minded. It really doesn't matter where cost-saving tips come from, just as long as they are practical enough for anyone in the world to use.

The article begins with:
Traveling to Japan can equate to a 2-week vacation to Indochina. It is that expensive, but you will feel that every centavo is worth it with the services they provide you. While going there is costly, it doesn’t need to be that way. Listed below are the things to consider to save a dent on your wallet: 
100 USD = 10,129.50 JPY | 10,000 JPY = 4,275.22 PHP 
For a 6 days / 5 nights trip covering Tokyo-Osaka, a budget of P30,000 – 35,000 (including entrance to one theme park like USJ) is okay for an economic traveler. That is to say if you avail of the tips below, control overspending on pasalubong, and bring some cup noodles with you just in case; the said budget will be much more than enough. 
Please note that our entry point is Tokyo and the exit is Osaka. You can save more if you do this instead of going back and forth. Another option is to stay at one city at a time. We only did two cities primarily because Universal Studios Japan, which is located in Osaka, recently opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
The first tip (#14) is one that I've been advocating for quite a while. Getting a JR Rail Pass (if one is planning to do a lot of extensive traveling to other cities (such as Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka or Sendai) would save a visitor a lot of money and would make one tip (#6) unnecessary.

To find out the 14 ways to save money, go here.

Brian Wilson Biopic: "Love and Mercy"

Above, the plaque on the Beach Boys monument in Hawthorne, California. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

A biopic on Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys met with high praise, even from Brian himself, at the Toronto International Film Festival.

According to Japan Today:

TORONTO —The two actors who portray Beach Boy Brian Wilson in a film about his troubled life say getting a deeper knowledge of the revered Californian songwriter’s music helped their performances nearly as much spending time with the man himself. 
“Love and Mercy,” which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday, stars Paul Dano and John Cusack as younger and older versions of Wilson, cutting between his creative peak in the 1960s and painful recovery from mental illness, addiction and abuse two decades later. 
Wilson’s turbulent life is already the stuff of music industry legend. He shot to fame in the early 1960s as the lead songwriter for the Beach Boys, producing hits like “Surfer Girl” that became the soundtrack for an era. 
Yet Wilson’s ambitions ran deeper. Enthralled by the complexity of the Beatles’ “Rubber Soul,” he set out to top them. “Love and Mercy” depicts the production of his landmark “Pet Sounds,” one of the most highly regarded albums in rock history.

Above, the Beach Boys monument. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Most of the members of the Beach Boys came from my alma mater, Hawthorne High School in Hawthorne, California. The band played at the Senior Prom in 1969 during my tenure at the school (I was in my freshman year
at the time).

I attended a Beach Boys concert on New Year's Eve in 1980 at the Forum in Inglewood, California. At the time Brian was still in his troubled period and essentially wandered around the stage or just sat at a grand piano. It is amazing that he outlived his brothers Carl and Dennis. Carl died of cancer and Dennis died by drowning.

Above, a little closer view of the Beach Boys monument sculpture. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

A monument has been erected near where Wilson's Hawthorne home once stood (it was removed for the construction of the Glenn Anderson Freeway (commonly known as the Century Freeway).

Wilson was an honoree at the 2008 Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C.

To read more, go here.

Two Blog Posts Picked-up

Two blog posts were picked up by The Japan Daily for sharing with their readers. They are both in their Business section.

They are:

To read The Japan Daily, go here.

L.A. To Tokyo Airfares Slightly Unchanged

Above, the Niigata City Art Museum. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

In checking the Los Angeles Times Travel section of yesterday, I found that the airfares the paper came up with were slightly unchanged from the week before. The difference is only a few dollars (at least they're lower).

Last week's L.A. to Tokyo airfares were on the low end of $1,007.00 to the high end of $1,595.00. Yesterday's Times had them pegged at $1,006.00 on the low end and $1,593.00 on the high end. Naturally, all of these prices are before any taxes and fees are added in.

We'll see if what the fares are next week.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review of ANA's First Class Chicago To Tokyo

Above, yours truly trying out ANA's Business Class seating at a travel show.

A couple of years ago, I attended the Los Angeles Travel and Adventure Show at the Long Beach Convention Center. While there, I checked out All Nippon Airways' (ANA) Economy and Business Class seats. The Economy seats were a little better than average, but I was amazed by the Business Class seating.

That said, a review article was posted late last month over at One Mile At A Time at Boarding Area.com. It was a writer's experience in flying to Japan from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport aboard ANA's Boeing 777-300ER jetliner. If I thought the Business Class seating arrangement I tried out was something, then seeing ANA's First Class seating was something else again. The article has plenty of pictures to feast one's eyes upon.

The writer, who calls himself/herself "Lucky," provides details on his/her flight from boarding at O'Hare to arrival at Narita International Airport.

This was the flight:

ANA 11
Chicago (ORD) – Tokyo Narita (NRT)
Tuesday, August 13
Depart: 10:50AM
Arrive: 1:45PM (+1 day)
Duration: 12hr55min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 2K (First Class)
The First Class seating and the amenities are amazing, although I really don't like the yellow color scheme of the First Class Cubicles.

From what Lucky describes, ANA really treats its passengers like royalty.

To see the article, go here.

The U.S. Should Follow Japan's Example On Immigration

Above, Tom Logan and Armand at Starbucks in Shinagawa Station last February.

Yesterday's post about Japan granting extended stay visas to the wealthy up to a year prompted an interesting response from friend Tom Logan. I totally agree with his points.

Logan had been living and working in Yokohama and during my visit to Japan last February, we met up over coffee in a very cold Shinagawa train station in Tokyo. Since then, Tom had moved to Northern California.

In response to my blog post, Tom wrote:
A country decides who and who will not enter and stay in their country--on THEIR terms and on what basis the visitor can bring something beneficial to that country--rather than just take. Imagine that! My! How novel! (Unlike what we do letting in anyone to eat out our national substance upon the backs of our citizens and tax payers). (That's why I truly enjoyed living there, in Japan, and contributing to both them and me, for over two decades).
Yes, what novel approach!

Instead of allowing anyone and everyone to immigrate into the country (as the United States is currently doing in allowing the dregs of humanity to illegally enter in order to suck the teats of the taxpayers or commit crimes), Japan has standards on who is to be allowed to live and work in the country.

In general, Japan only grants work visas to persons who have at least a B.A. degree and a company sponsor, among other requirements.

The United States should follow Japan's example. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Superman Plaque Dedication Photos

Above, Jack Larson addresses the plaque dedication ceremony. Photo by Steven Kirk.

Photographer Steve Friedman came all the way from New York to attend the Superman plaque dedication last month in Tarzana and took many (and I do mean MANY) photographs of the event.

He has posted online proof sheets of photos of the event (11 pages). The photos are available for ordering.

To see the photos, go here.

Just contact Steve Friedman Photography for ordering information at:

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