"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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Monday, October 31, 2011

Ten Years Gone In A Flash (Almost)

Right, Armand at the 2001 Tokyo International Film Festival. Photo courtesy of Clawmark Toys.

Besides being Halloween, today marks ten years since I first stepped aboard a jet and headed off for Japan with an arrival on November 1 (Japan is 17 hours ahead of Los Angeles time and the International Dateline is crossed in the mid-Pacific). Until then, all my flying had been on domestic flights.

Before heading off for Japan again (most likely next spring), there is one thing I have to do: renew my passport. Passports are valid for ten years and mine expired back on September 16. It will be interesting to receive the new passport once I renew it and see what changes have been made to them by the government. In a way, I'm going to miss using the old passport with all its stamps, including ones from different tourist attractions in Japan that had rubber stamps for tourists to stamp their passports with.

It is interesting to see pictures of one's self of ten years ago. My hair was thicker and darker (i.e., less grey) and my mustache was darker. I was also about 50-60 pounds heavier than I am now (which is a good thing).

Above, the Nijubashi Bridge at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Some of the stamped places and attractions of Japan in my passport include: Harajuku Station, Mt. Fuji Visitor Center, JR Miyajima Island Ferry, Inaricho Station (Tokyo), Hiroshima Cenotaph (for A-bomb victims), Lucky Dragon No. 5, Mt. Aso Volcano National Park, Fukuoka Tower and others (some are in Japanese with no picture, and I don't remember what they were from).

Right, Armand with the Godzilla statue in Hibiya. Photo by Richard Pusateri.

It has been an interesting ten years. Some good things happened, and some not-so-good things happened. But that's life. All in all, it has been a pretty good ten years.

I am looking forward to getting the new passport and getting it filled up with new stamps.

Halloween, etc.

It is nice to wake up to some good news. And today I woke up to some good news.

I heard from my Nebraska farm tenant this morning and he said he "picked your corn this weekend. Corn was good for what it has been thru this summer. [We had some wind and hail damage. Fortunately, it was relatively minimal.] Will sell this week and get check headed your way."

The check will amount to roughly half of my annual income.

And, today is Halloween. That means that I will follow tradition (begun in the 1960s) and watch Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Steve Born ECV Necrology Ceremony

Funeral services for Steve Born, XNGH of Peter Lebeck Chapter of E Clampus Vitus were held today at Oakwood Cemetery in Chatsworth.

Oakwood Cemetery is where the final resting places for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers are located.

Attendees of the services included around 35 members of E Clampus Vitus. The Clampers held a necrology ceremony in Born's honor following the services. The pictures below were taken with my cell phone of the necrology ceremony.

Japan Times: Five Scary Spots In Tokyo

Above, Nakamise Street in the Asakusa section of Tokyo. One of the five scary spots is in Asakusa.

Two more days until Halloween.

If you happen to be in Tokyo during Halloween, here's something that may be of interest to put you into the Halloween spirit:

The Japan Times online has an article on "Top Tokyo Haunts: Five Scary Spots."

To see the article, go here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

On Traveling...

Above, Armand with Shogo Tomiyama and Koichi Kawakita among old Godzilla event suits at Toho Studios, November 2001. Photo by Richard Pusateri.

I was finishing a book last night and the topic of travel came up in the final chapter.

Here's a few notable quotes from the book:

"Travel is one of the most rewarding compensations of old age. There is so much to see, not only in other countries but in the United States."

"People with a yen for travel should do it when they are young. If you don't have the time, make it; if you don't have the money, borrow it."

"Traveling is more than taking shapshots and buying souvenirs."

"I urge young people to travel not just because it gives them pleasure but because it gives them perspective. Seeing the world helps you appreciate both the strengths and weaknesses of your own country."

"To understand America, see the world."

"What is really fascinating about foreign travel is meeting people."

The author of the above quotes?

Former President Richard Nixon in his book "In The Arena" (1990), published by Simon and Shuster.

Above, President and Mrs. Nixon at the Great Wall of China in February 1972.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Boeing 787 Era Begins

Boeing's new 787 "Dreamliner" made its inaugural flight today.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

After a delay of more than three years, Boeing's much-hyped jet, the 787, made its first commercial flight, from Tokyo to Hong Kong — and landed on-time.

The All Nippon Airways flight was packed mostly with aviation reporters and enthusiasts, some of whom paid thousands of dollars for the privilege and treated the experience like a rock concert, clapping after lift-off and snapping photos for posterity.

The 787, which is nicknamed The Dreamliner, is neither the fastest nor largest jet. But it is built out of ultra-lightweight materials and promises to be 20 percent more fuel-efficient than comparable aircraft, a big deal at a time of high oil prices.

Thus far, I've flown on Boeing's 747 and 777 jetliners with different carriers including United, Singapore Air and Korean Air to Japan. It will be interesting to fly aboard the new Dreamliner and whether or not the ultra-lightweight materials translates to lower air fares.

To read the full AJC article, go here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Japan Travel: Get Your Reference Material First!

Before traveling anywhere, particularly to a foreign country, one should gather reference materials for aiding in vacation planning.

Over the past ten years, I've accumulated many reference books, travel guides, brochures, maps and pamphlets on Japan. These have been great sources of information on attractions, transportation, lodging and dining. Each time I go, I obtain updated material on places I've already been to (for return visits) as well as on new places to see and do. These also will tell the vacationer the dos and don't when visiting a foreign country. This will help in avoiding making any custom or etiquette faux pas.

These have also been helpful to me when I was putting together The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

Above, the travel section of the Little Tokyo's Kinokuniya Bookstores.

The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has been a great source for travel guides, maps, brochures and other materials on places to see. The best part about JNTO, they provide these at no charge!

Also, I have made good use of my hotel's brochure racks in gathering more reference material during past visits to Japan. I got the map at right at the hotel brochure rack.

I have also made good use of the travel sections of major (and not-so-major) bookstores for travel guides including Borders Books, Barnes and Noble and B. Dalton. I am lucky to live in Los Angeles where Japanese bookstores, such as Kinokuniya Bookstores, are available for Japan travel books.

One mustn't forget to tap into a local travel agent who can also provide reference materials on Japan.

Plus, if you are a member of the Auto Club (AAA), their travel service desk can provide more reference material!

Remember, before heading off to Japan or any other foreign country, do yourself a favor and get your reference material and do some research!

Alternate Japanese Capital Idea: "Life Imitating Art"?

Above, Tokyo's National Diet Building. It was located in Osaka in "Godzilla x Megaguirus" (2000). Photo by Armand Vaquer.

This news article from Bloomberg BusinessWeek caught my attention:

Japan Lawmakers Propose Alternate Capital Site In Case of Quake

Oct. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Japan's government should turn Osaka's old airport into a site to handle administrative functions and economic activities in the event an earthquake or other disaster knocks out Tokyo, a group of lawmakers said.

Why did this catch my attention?

Eleven years ago, Toho Co., Ltd. released Godzilla x Megaguirus in which (in the story scenario) Godzilla, in 1954, totally destroys Tokyo. This forces the government to relocate to...get this, Osaka!

Above, yours truly with a Godzilla filming suit used in "Godzilla x Megaguirus." Photo by Richard Pusateri.

There's a shot of the National Diet Building with Osaka Castle in the movie. This, I heard, amused Japanese audiences.

It appears that the lawmakers' plan could very well be a case of "life imitating art." Perhaps these lawmakers screened Godzilla x Megaguirus and that's where they got their idea?

To read the full article, go here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

More Halloween Decoration Pictures

Here's some more Halloween decorations that residents in my community of Tarzana, California put up in their front yard. These are cell phone pictures, click on image to view larger:

Services For Steve Born

Funeral services for Steve Born have been announced:

Services for Steve Born will be held Saturday, October 29, at 10 AM
at Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery
22601 Lassen Street
Chatsworth, CA 91311

Go to Topanga Canyon Blvd. from either the 101 or 118 (Ronald Reagan) Freeways and then go WEST on Lassen Street until it ends right at the cemetery entrance.)

Clamper attire for the Brothers!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Plight of the Japanese Inns

Above, Shibuya, Tokyo's Hotel Fukudaya, the first ryokan I stayed at.

The U.K.'s Daily Telegraph posted an article on "Japan's Battle To Rebuild."

In it, it tells of the plight of Japanese inns (ryokans) since the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and radiation problems.

The article stated:

Sliding screens, paper lanterns, tatami mat floors, kimono-clad staff and exquisite cuisine: a stay in a traditional ryokan is often an atmospheric highlight of any visit to Japan.

Now, however, the nation’s precious ryokan industry has hit hard times: 68 inns were forced to close down across Japan during the first five months of the year alone, according to new research.

The global economic crisis is seen as the main driving force behind the demise of many of the inns, though this has been compounded by the triple disaster earlier this year of an earthquake, a tsunami and a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

I've stayed in three ryokans over the past ten years and they are much more enjoyable than in business hotels.

To view the full article, go here.

Media Blasters' "Godzilla vs. Megalon" and "Destroy All Monsters" DVD/Blu-ray: AIP Dub Included?

Above, the box art for ADV Films' DVD of "Destroy All Monsters" from 2004. Media Blasters hasn't released any photos of their upcoming box art. They say they have a few "surprises" in store.

Media Blasters' DVD and Blu-ray editions of Destroy All Monsters and Godzilla vs. Megalon are days away (slated for October 25) from being released.

The big question in fans' minds is, "Will they include the AIP (original distributor American International Pictures) dub on DAM?" Fans generally agree that the Toho "international dub" is horrendous (I am in this camp) and that the inclusion of the AIP dub would be a big selling point.

Well, once people start receiving their discs and post reviews on the Internet, we will know for sure! It is rumored that the AIP dub had been sourced from a 16mm print of DAM.

The last video release of DAM by ADV was back in 2004 (for Godzilla's 50th anniversary) and it only included the "international dub." As a refresher, here's my 2004 review of that release:

Taking advantage of Godzilla's 50th Anniversary, ADV Films has produced a Special Edition DVD of Destroy All Monsters! (1968) complete with a soundtrack CD for the price of $14.99.

While I have other and better (including one with the original U.S. dubbing) copies of DAM, the price of $14.99 for a DVD with a CD were too good to pass up. Was this worth the $14.99? Easily yes!

On the DVD itself, it contains the "international" Toho dub that many fans aren't too fond of. Since I've owned the ADV VHS edition with the same dub, that really didn't bother me and I fully expected it.

However, the film transfer itself is not one that I would give high marks for. The print used was a bit worn to begin with and the "natural" enhancement that digital transfers do to older films only accentuate the film scratches and sound pops of the soundtrack. It was not anywhere near as obvious in the VHS edition of a few years ago. I would have expected that ADV would have been able to obtain a more pristine print of the film to make the digital transfers. Plus, there are no chapter stops or a menu (well, since there's no chapters, who needs a menu?) and no extras on the DVD. It would have been nice if they included the original Japanese and/or U.S. trailers. This is pretty bare-bones!

The soundtrack CD, on the other hand, is a gem of an item and it alone is worth the price of the item. There are 30 Akira Ifukube tracks on the CD. But, unfortunately, there's nothing in the package to tell you the titles of each track. Since most of us pretty much memorized the movie anyway, we can picture in our own minds which scenes each track came from. If you don't already have the soundtrack for DAM in your kaiju library, this item is a must-have. Your neighbors will love you for cranking up your system's volume while playing this!

I have to admit the packaging art for this DVD/CD is very nice. It is a lot better than the cartoony one ADV released before. "50th Anniversary" is quite evident in the packing art. The average person not "in the know" might be led to believe that it is the 50th Anniversary of Destroy All Monsters!, not Godzilla himself.

The DVD is in widescreen and 2.0 English.

My overall grade for this item is B. Too bad ADV didn't put out a product that matched or came close to their recent Gamera trilogy releases.

The DVD gets a C and the CD gets an A.

Media Blasters has promised a few "surprises" with their release. We'll see.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Steve Born, Dedicated Clamper

Above, Steve Born addresses the gathering of Clampers at the Six-Way Clampout plaque dedication in 2006.

Clamperdom lost a tireless and dedicated Clamper with the passing of Steve Born yesterday.

Right, Steve chats with the late Jerry Zorthian at a Platrix clampout in the Mojave Desert.

For several years, Steve ran the Platrix Chapter's store with Glenn Thornhill. He also participated in many initiations of PBCs (Poor Blind Candidates) into the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus. He also attended the annual E Clampus Vitus greybeards gatherings (usually in Murphys, California) in the heart of the Mother Lode.

Above, Steve (second from left) participating in a Platrix initiation ritual in 2001.

He joined and soon became the Noble Grand Humbug of the Peter Lebeck Chapter.

His biggest project was planning the gigantic Six-Way Clampout that was attended by over 1,200 Clampers.

From the Peter Lebeck website:

The Randsburg-Mojave Road Six-Way didn't just magically spring up in the desert like some kind of mirage. It took four years of serious planning by representatives from each of the six Southern Alliance Chapters that had committed to the Doin's in 2002: Peter Lebeck, of Kern County; Billy Holcomb, of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties; Queho Posse of Southern Nevada; Platrix, of Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange Counties; Lost Dutchman, of the combined territories of Arizona and New Mexico; and John P. Squibob, of San Diego, Imperial Counties and Baja California.

For more details on the Six-Way Clamptrek from Fall, 2006, go here.

He will be missed.

Japan Quake Losses Pegged At $211 Billion

Above, the Godaido Temple at Matsushima Bay. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The News.com has an article on the dollar cost of the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and radiation leakage. It is pegged at $211 billion.

This includes property losses, losses to the agricultural, fishing and tourism industies along with infrastructure losses.

TOKYO: Japan’s economy has sustained colossal loss of $211 billion as of October 8, 2011 in the wake of the Great East Japan earthquake followed by tsunami. The leakage of the nuclear power plants has also damaged the exports of the country and other sectors of economy that include agriculture and fishery particularly the tourism industry.

The fishery industry has been damaged the most affected because of the contamination of the water and soil, Yozabura Ishihara, member of House of Representatives of Japan told this to The News here on Friday. “Now the central government has allocated $10 billion from its budget just for the decontamination of the water and soil and to this effect the process has begun.” To a question he said the unemployment rate, which before the tragedy was at 4.3 percent, has increased to 6.5 to 7 percent particularly in disaster affected prefectures of Miyagi and Iwat.

To read the full article, go here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dollar Sinks To New Low Against Yen

The U.S. dollar hit a new low against the Japanese yen today.

According to Reuters:

NEW YORK, Oct 21 (Reuters) - The U.S. dollar slumped to a record low against the yen on Friday in its biggest one-day decline in nearly two months, bringing back into focus the threat of official intervention to weaken the Japanese currency.

Traders reported initial large selling of dollars from a U.K. clearer and macro funds, and losses accelerated after the pair broke through a series of stops around 76.30 and 75.90.

The dollar fell as low as 75.78 yen on trading platform EBS , surpassing its previous record low of 75.941 set in August.

For the full story, go here.

XNGH Steve Born Gone To Golden Hills

Above, Steve Born (right) poses with a plaque commemorating The Ridge Route with Glenn Thornhill.

Steven Born, XNGH of the Peter Lebeck Chapter of E Clampus Vitus, has gone to the Golden Hills.

Steve was admitted to St. Joseph's Hospital yesterday afternoon. He developed an infection and required a blood transfusion because his blood was too thin from medication (for multiple medical issues) and his body was in shock with massive organ failure.

He passed away this morning at 5:00 a.m.

He married his longtime sweetheart Joanne in October 2009 in a ceremony (below) on Catalina Island on a hilltop overlooking Avalon Harbor.

Information on services will be posted here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gaddafi Dead

Above, the alleged death photo of ex-Libyan dictator Gaddafi.

According to Reuters:

SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) - Disturbing images of a blood-stained and shaken Muammar Gaddafi being dragged around by angry fighters quickly circulated around the world after the Libyan dictator's dramatic death near his home town of Sirte.

The exact circumstances of his demise are still unclear with conflicting accounts of his death emerging. But the footage, possibly of the last chaotic moments of Gaddafi's life, offered some clues into what happened.

Gaddafi was still alive when he was captured near Sirte. In the video, filmed by a bystander in the crowd and later aired on television, Gaddafi is shown being dragged off a vehicle's bonnet and pulled to the ground by his hair.

He is said to have been beaten and shot in the head, according to reports.

The question for today is: Where's the bin Laden death photos?

Godzilla 2014 Blog

Above, yours truly with "The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" at Toho Studios in Setagaya, Tokyo.

There's a Godzilla-oriented blog in the neighborhood ("The more, the merrier," I always say).

It's called Godzilla 2014: The Legendary Pictures movie and other fun stuff and it is run by Jason Winter, who is "originally from Kansas City, Ks., but for the past 11 years have been living here in Yonago City, Tottori Prefecture, Japan. I've also been a huge G-fan all my life."

He has posted a review article on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

He starts it with:

There are lots of books about Godzilla, about the movies, how they were made, or original stories. But there is only one book which is a travel guide to real film locations from Godzilla movies in Japan. It's "The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" by Armand Vaquer. Published in 2010, the book is a complete travel guide and history of film locations from not only Godzilla movies, but other Kaiju Eiga movies as well. The book is really one of a kind.

To view it, go here.

Stop by and view Jason's blog and be sure to bookmark it!

Yokohama's Monster Mash

Left, the Yokohama Landmark Tower that was blasted in "GMK." Photo by Armand Vaquer.

In 2005, one of my excursions in Japan was a day-trip down to Yokohama.

Only about a 30-minute (give or take) train ride from Tokyo Station on the Tokaido Line, the port city of Yokohama has seen its share of monster destruction.

Yokohama was featured prominently in two movies: Godzilla vs. Mothra (1991) (hard to believe that movie is 20-years old) and Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) (also known as GMK).

In Godzilla vs. Mothra, the Big G does battle with Mothra and Battra in the Minato Mirai port section. Landmarks destroyed include the Cosmo Clock Ferris Wheel and the crescent-shaped InterContinental Yokohama The Grand Hotel (photo below).

In Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack the Yokohama waterfront is the site of the final battle between Godzilla and the Guardian Monsters of Yamato. Yokohama's Landmark Tower and the Yokohama Bay Bridge get destroyed in this movie.

The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan will guide monster fans to these locations/landmarks. The travel guide, tailored to fans of Japanese science-fiction and fantasy movies, is available for $15.00/copy at ComiXpress.com, through this blog and through the dealers whose links are posted at this blogsite.

Right, a view of Yokohama from the observation floor of the Landmark Tower. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Biofuel Policies and the Beef Industry

Harvest season is now here. I am looking forward to a nice infusion of cash from this year's sale of the corn crop from the farm in Nebraska.

I've been told that while we don't have a "bumper crop," the corn market prices will make up for any losses (we did have some hail damage several months ago).

Speaking of corn market prices, I saw an interesting article on beef prices in relation to the competing market for biofuel corn production from the Western Farm Press (I get regular reports from them via email). The article stated in part:

The question that often is asked is: What is the impact of changing biofuel policies on production agriculture? The answer requires solid data, and so does the question on evaluating production costs and herd performance for late-spring (early May) calving in contrast to the traditional spring (late-March, early April) calving in southwestern North Dakota.

Asking a question usually triggers a quick response that implies a simple answer is available. Seldom, if ever, is that true. Determining biofuel policy and its impacts on beef production systems is not simple.

Asking if increasing demand for corn by expanding market options would change prices is a simpler question than determining the biofuel policy impacts on beef production. Nevertheless, the questions are real.

As a participant on the producing end, what happens to the crop after it is sold to the buyer is not my concern. I am a free-marketer who believes in letting the free market (i.e., supply & demand) set prices without government interference. Too often, interference by the government with farm policy regulations written by clueless politicians cause more problems. Federal energy policies pertaining to oil by the current administration are insane anyway.

To read the full article, go here.

Japan's 10,000 Free Airfare Plan, More Details

Above, the garden at Nijo Castle in Kyoto. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

News of the proposed 10,000 free airfares plan to foreigners by the Japan Tourism Agency hit the news by storm.

Gaijinpot.com has posted more details:

TOKYO — Japan will offer 10,000 foreigners free airfares to visit the country next year, in an attempt to boost the tourism industry which has been hit by the ongoing nuclear disaster, a report said Monday.

The Japan Tourism Agency plans to ask would-be travelers to submit online applications for the free flights, detailing which areas of the country they would like to visit, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said.

The agency will select the successful entrants and ask them to write a report about their trip which will be published on the Internet.

Tourism authorities hope that positive reports from travelers about their experiences in Japan will help ease international worries about visiting the country, the newspaper said.

Above, Tokyo Tower. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

While the public relations behind this plan is a good one, it still doesn't fix the chronic problem (of the past three years) of the poor rate of exchange between the U.S. dollar and Japanese yen. The exchange rate is currently hovering around the 76-77 yen per dollar exchanged. Unless the amount of yen obtainable by the dollar improves, travel to Japan by Americans will remain down.

The only silver lining in this is that if Japan travelers don't spend all of their money in Japan, they actually can buy more dollars when they exchange their yen before heading home. I was able to obtain $115 for every ¥10,000 I exchanged last year at Narita Airport. Right now, a tourist can buy more dollars than I did in Japan. This is something to consider.

If a tourist plans wisely (including finding hotel and airfare bargains), and manages to not spend all of their vacation money, they can actually still have a great Japan vacation and make money.

The Japan Tourism Agency's airfare plan is one kaiju fans should try to jump on board.

To see Gajinpot.com's full article, go here.

Left, Ginza, Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Halloween Display

One of my favorite times of the year is the Halloween season.

Working in my "parachute job" in security patrol, I have the good fortune to see Halloween decorations people set up in their yards during my patrols.

Yesterday, I saw a pretty elaborate display in a gated community in Tarzana. I took these photos with my cell phone (click on images to view larger):

Above and below, characters from "The Wizard of Oz" seem to have had run-ins with the trees.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Criterion Collection: "Godzilla"

Details on the upcoming Criterion Blu-ray and DVD of Godzilla (1954) are now available at Criterion's website. Both the Blu-ray and DVD editions will be available January 24, 2012.

Features include:

New high-definition digital restoration (with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition)

Audio commentary by David Kalat (A Critical History and Filmography of Toho’s Godzilla Series)

New high-definition digital restoration of Godzilla, King of the Monsters, Terry Morse’s 1956 reworking of the original, starring Raymond Burr

Audio commentary for Godzilla, King of the Monsters by Kalat

New interviews with actor Akira Takarada (Hideto Ogata), Godzilla performer Haruo Nakajima, and effects technicians Yoshio Irie and Eizo Kaimai

Interview with legendary Godzilla score composer Akira Ifukube

Featurette detailing Godzilla’s photographic effects

New interview with Japanese-film critic Tadao Sato

The Unluckiest Dragon, an illustrated audio essay featuring historian Greg Pflugfelder describing the tragic fate of the fishing vessel Daigo fukuryu maru, a real-life event that inspired Godzilla

Theatrical trailers

New and improved English subtitle translation

PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic J. Hoberman

To see Criterion's site on the Godzilla Blu-ray and DVD, go here.

Alluring Japan

An interesting article appeared last week in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, "Despite Setbacks, Japan Remains Alluring."

The article tells of different things to see and do. It also acknowledges the problems that has beset the country in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

To read it, go here.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Monsterland Toys

Above, Kevin and Frances Ratliff.

The holiday season is just around the corner. That means giving that kaiju fan something to put under their Christmas tree or stocking.

One place to consider purchasing that kaiju gift is Monsterland Toys. Here is a spotlight article on Monsterland Toys I wrote for G-FAN magazine a few years ago:

If you thought Monsterland was somewhere out in the South Pacific, guess again! There is a Monsterland, but it is located in Kimper, Kentucky. The Monsterland we're talking about is Monsterland Toys.

One would never expect a kaiju toy dealer in the land of race horses and "My Old Kentucky Home," but that is where Kevin Ratliff has set up shop to provide the latest and vintage Godzilla and kaiju collectibles to the rabid collector.

Kevin started his business in 1998 after G-CON '98 under the banner of Kevin's Sci-Fi and Toy Collectibles. His intent at the time was to sell toys part-time to support his own hobby of collecting kaiju toys and movies. Kevin and his wife Frances run their business as a web-only company, although they attend as many shows as they can. The business is run out of their home but Kevin hopes to open a store in the near future. They've attended such shows as G-FEST, Adventure Con, AFFE, Wonderfest and Creature Fest.

Kevin says he has been a fan of sci-fi and monster movies "as far back as I can remember. As a child growing up in Eastern Kentucky in the mid-1970s, the only exposure I had to the world of monsters was through Famous Monsters of Filmland and Chiller Theater, a late-night show that was broadcast out of Huntington, West Virginia. I spent every Saturday night glued to the television set watching the Wolfman, Frankenstein, Creature From the Black Lagoon, King Kong and other classic horror/monster movies, but my favorites were the Japanese monster movies. Especially Godzilla!"

Kevin points to a pivotal point in his life during a period after he moved to Florida in 1992, where he discovered some Bandai figures in a local comic book shop. Until then, "the only Godzilla/kaiju toys that I even knew existed were the Shogun Warrior (by Mattel) and the old Monogram model kits. Later, I discovered Jim Cirronella and Club Daikaiju, which was also the time I discovered G-FAN magazine. To say the least, I thought I had died and gone to heaven!" He then later attended G-CON in 1995, 1996 and 1998.

"At the beginning," Kevin says, "most of our inventory was Star Wars-related items. However as time passed and the business grew, we began carrying such items as Batman, Spiderman, Pokemon, Universal monsters, kaiju toys and a variety of sci-fi/monster movies." At the end of 2000, Kevin and Frances changed the business name to Monsterland Toys and specializing in monster-related movies and toys, especially kaiju-related items. In January of 2001, they officially became Monsterland Toys and their website became an official domain, Monsterlandtoys.com.

Most of their inventory today is all monster/kaiju-related, but they still do offer some Star Wars and other collectible action figures. The business is no longer a part-time support of a hobby. It has grown into a full-time, seven-days-a week consuming business. "I love it dearly and I don't ever plan on stopping," Kevin adds.

"I would like to thank Mr. J. D. Lees for having us at G-FEST and for his dedication to G-fandom, Mr. Carl Craig for all of his help, support and friendship and a special thanks to Jim Cirronella for his advice and help. A tremendous THANK YOU to all of our customers! Without you, guys, there would be no point to this. And, last but not least, thanks to God. Without him, none of us would be here."

Kevin tries to carry as many items as possible and make as many people happy as they can. Monsterland Toys accepts money orders, personal checks and credit cards through Paypal.com. His mailing address is 810 Hurricane Road, Kimper, KY 41539. Telephone (606) 631-1085. His email address is sales@monsterlandtoys.com. Give Monsterland Toys a try today!

Monsterland Toys is also a dealer carrying The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

They have a website that makes shopping for that kaiju fan much easier! They are located at www.monsterlandtoys.com.

L.A. Times: Japan Tourism On Slow Rebound

Above, a gate at Nijo Castle in Kyoto. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Los Angeles Times posted an article on the recovery efforts of Japan's tourism industry.

Their article states:

The tourism industry in Japan -- devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami in March -- has slowly begun to rebound, with a full recovery expected by next year.

Those conclusions came from a report by the Worth Travel and Tourism Council that said the number of international visitors to Japan dropped off significantly in June and July, 36% below the average for the same period in 2010. Foreign visitors generate about $16 billion in annual spending in Japan.

Much of it was caused by erroneous reports of radiation leakage in areas outside of the Tohoku region (where the quake and tsunami occurred and where the Fukushima nuclear power facility is located). And, also, the poor performance of the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar and Japanese yen.

Still, it is heartening to hear that things are improving.

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