"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.

Buy The Amazon Kindle Store Ebook Edition

Buy The Amazon Kindle Store Ebook Edition
Get the ebook edition here! (Click image.)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Monster Japan Travel Guide Release In World Famous Comics.com

Above, Miki with "The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan." Photo by Armand Vaquer. The press release on the L.A. Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention (with The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan) made it into World Famous Comics Network's Comic Book News page. World Famous Comics is one of the premier sources for comic book news. To view the site, go here.

Collectors Weekly Picks Up Press Release On Monster Japan Travel Guide

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

Collectors Weekly.com picked up the press release on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan and the Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention.

If one is into collecting (all kinds of things), this is one site to take a look at.

To view it, go here.

Message From Sonoe Nakajima

Haruo Nakajima's daughter Sonoe received the birthday greetings and sent along this message and photo:

Happy New Year.

Thank you for father's message on the birthday.

XUSIE.com Picks Up Press Release On Monster Japan Travel Guide

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

The press release on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan at the Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention was barely minutes from distribution when it was picked up at XUSIE.com.

XUSIE.com provides news on books, games, movies and games.

To view the site, go here.

"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" Available at L.A. Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention January 15

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

The press release service I am using has released the news release on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan being available at the January 15 Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention:
"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" Available at L.A. Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention January 15 
Author, Armand Vaquer will be attending the January 15 Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention at the Shrine Auditorium Expo Center and will have available "The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan." 
Los Angeles, CA, December 31, 2011 --(PR.com)-- Armand Vaquer, author of "The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan," will be attending the Los Angeles Comic Book and Science-Fiction Convention on Sunday, January 15, 2012 at the Los Angeles Shrine Auditorium Expo Center at 700 West 32nd St., Los Angeles, CA. 
Vaquer will have available "The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan," the world's first and only Japan travel guide targeted to fans of Japanese science-fiction and fantasy movies at the convention. The travel guide provides information on movie locations, nearby attractions and accommodations. 
"I will have a booth at the convention so fans can purchase the travel guide," said Vaquer. "It is a fun convention featuring comic books, movie memorabilia, collectibles and panel discussions featuring celebrity guests." 
The Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention is a one-day event held near the University of Southern California campus. The celebrity guests include actor Ron Ely (Doc Savage, Tarzan), actress Yancy Butler (Witchblade) and stars of the Adventures of Superboy. 
Admission to the convention is $8.00, five years and under are free. Show Hours: 10:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M. 
"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" covers locations and landmarks shown in Japanese science fiction movies featuring Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera and others.

JR Kanto Area Pass

Above, the Wako Department Store in Ginza. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Suppose you are in Japan for a few days and would like to have a pass that would give you the freedom to get off and on anywhere for a flat rate. You're now in luck!

There is now such a pass.

It is called the JR Kanto Area Pass. It is good for three consecutive days on JR lines in the Kanto Area.

According to the JR website:

The JR Kanto Area Pass is a discounted pass for unlimited rides in Tokyo and the surrounding Kanto area. Valid for three days, the pass is good for unlimited rides using reserved seats on ordinary cars on Shinkansen, limited express and other trains. The JR Kanto Area Pass makes it easy to visit popular tourist destinations such as Mount Fuji, Izu and Karuizawa.

The pass is valid starting January 1, 2012. It is for travelers from overseas visiting on a temporary visitor's visa.

The cost is 8,000 yen for adults (4,000 yen for children).

For more information, go here.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Thanks For Your Nakajima Birthday Greetings

Above, Haruo Nakajima in 2008. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Thanks to all who've posted your birthday greetings for Haruo "Mr. Godzilla" Nakajima.

I've sent them on to his daughter Sonoe a few minutes ago as it is December 31 in Japan and his birthday is the next day.

It is not too late to post your greetings if you haven't done so already. I will keep passing them on to Sonoe.

Thanks again!

I'd Change My Name...

The second dentist's name is interesting...

The Looney Left vs. Voter I.D. Laws

The Looney Left Report

A battle over voter identification laws in different states is heating up.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is railing against a South Carolina voter i.d. law.

The law requires that a person who shows up at the polls produce a picture i.d. to prove who he/she is. Simple, right? Not so to the whiny, crybaby Left.

According to the Washington Times:

Democrats argue that voter ID laws are designed to disenfranchise poor black voters, the voters least likely to have photo ID and most likely to vote for Democrats. They've been referred to as "a return to the Jim Crow era," Wasserman Schultz calling them "a full scale attack on the right to vote."

Republicans counter that the laws are designed to prevent voting fraud. The Supreme Court upheld (6-3) an Indiana law stricter than South Carolina's. Not only did opponents of the law fail to show that it systematically disenfranchised any group, they failed to show that it disenfranchised anyone at all.

The issue isn't fraudulent voters or disenfranchised voters - those are partisan boogie men designed to galvanize the troops - but uninformed and stupid voters. Against stupidity, the gods themselves contend in vain. Against ignorance, we're too lazy to contend.

Remember all those 2008 shenanigans by those "community organizer" groups such as ACORN involving voter fraud?

From Fox News:

Nevertheless, a website of the Democratic National Committee refers to the photo ID push as "GOP tactics" and says: "Photo ID mandates are the most pervasive new restriction on the right to vote. ... They are costly and unnecessary and they disenfranchise voters."

The site goes on to say, "voter fraud is rare."

That is an assertion Republicans ridicule.

"We did a quick study," Norcross said. "In last 10 years, there have been voter fraud convictions in 46 states."

Spakovsky notes that just in April, "a local executive committee member of the NAACP was sentenced to five years in jail for voter fraud in Toneka County, Mississippi."

Most instances of voter fraud originated from the Left. One would be hard-pressed to find any originating from the Right.

Facts are stubborn things.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/12/28/battle-over-voter-id-laws-heats-up-in-states/#ixzz1i19MYFUS

Frisky Business At Japanese Airports?

Above, an Asakusa, Tokyo toy store. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

If you thought that going through the TSA screening process is just confined to U.S. airports, guess again.

Japanese transport ministry officials are considering a new policy of frisking air passengers before they board their flights.

According to The Japan Times Online:

CHIBA — The transport ministry is thinking of launching random body searches at international airports in April to bolster counterterrorism measures, airport sources said Sunday.

Departing passengers who set off metal detectors during screening are usually asked to submit to a body search. Under the proposed procedure, about 10 percent of all passengers would be randomly selected for body and baggage checks, the sources said.

Exactly how people would be searched was not specified.

So, if you plan to smuggle a Japanese sword or a kaiju toy in your boxer shorts and it sets off a metal detector, you might get yourself frisked.

To read the full article, go here.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Preparing for L.A. Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention

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

The Los Angeles Comic Book and Science Fiction Convention is a little over two weeks away, so I am laying the groundwork for it already. The convention will be held on Sunday, January 15 at the Shrine Auditorium Expo Center.

I will be having a table at the convention with plenty of copies of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan available for purchase.

Press releases are being prepared and sent out.

For more information on the convention go to http://www.comicbookscifi.com/index.html.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Theft Prevented!

A tip of the hat to my bank!

Their anti-fraud system prevented $500 from being stolen from my account. It appears that someone hacked into my account through my ATM card info. Fortunately, their system caught it and prevented the theft.

I had to get a new ATM card, but that's just a small price to pay.

The Man From Planet X

Without much (if any) fanfare, 2011 marked 60 years since The Man From Planet X was released.

The movie was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer (who directed the Karloff/Lugosi classic The Black Cat) at the old Hal Roach Studios in Culver City, California. The principal players were Robert Clarke, Margaret Field and William Schallert.

The Man From Planet X was released on March 9, 1951 in San Francisco. Its general release came on April 27, 1951.

William Schallert (right) plays the unscrupulous and ambitious scientist Dr. Mears in the movie.

The story involves an alien scout from the dying Planet X who lands in a Scottish moor. He was sent there to set up a wireless relay station in advance of an invasion from Planet X.

Below, William Schallert has a reunion with his "The Man From Planet X" co-star at the 2010 Monsterpalooza. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Man From Planet X is an effective little movie, considering its budget reportedly was $50,000.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On New Year's Resolutions

While fast approaching New Year's Day, talk will increase about New Year's resolutions.

Whenever I hear talk about making New Year's resolutions (I never make 'em myself), for some reason my mind drifts to a scene in the 1972 feature, The Cowboys starring John Wayne, Bruce Dern and Roscoe Lee Browne. The scene doesn't involve a resolution, but rather a prayer.

A band of desperadoes, led by Dern, steals a herd of cattle that Wayne was driving 400 miles to market with only Browne and a bunch of schoolboys to help. Wayne's character is killed and Browne is captured and is about to hung by Dern. Before he is to be hung, Browne says a prayer:

Jebediah Nightlinger (Roscoe Lee Browne): [praying to God before he's about to hanged by Asa Watts (Bruce Dern) and his gang] I regret trifling with married women. I'm thoroughly ashamed at cheating at cards. I deplore my occasional departures from the truth. Forgive me for taking your name in vain, my Saturday drunkenness, my Sunday sloth. Above all, forgive me for the men I've killed in anger...
[eyes shifting to Asa Watts]

Jebediah Nightlinger: ... and those I am about to.

Always loved that scene. Bruce Dern was at his scummiest in this movie.

Japan Tourism: Fix The Yen

Above, Ginza Crossing in Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The news of Japan's cancelling of the 10000 free flights plan was a disappointment to many. But it really wasn't that big of a surprise. There's an old saying, "If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is."

If Japan is really serious about boosting tourism, something has to be done about the rise of the yen versus other currencies. This is causing a chilling effect on tourism to Japan.

The San Francisco Chronicle wrote today:

The Japanese currency traded at 77.86 per dollar and 101.78 versus the euro as of 11:38 a.m. New York time. For the year, the yen advanced 4.2 percent against the greenback and 6.7 percent against the 17-nation currency.

This is causing travel to Japan to be more expensive as travelers' currencies aren't buying as much yen (in exchange) than they previously did. In 2007, I got 116 yen per dollar exchanged.

Besides causing tourism to slump, the over-valued yen is hurting Japanese businesses who rely on exporting goods overseas. Toyota and other exporters are talking about big lay-offs due to the over-valued yen as it makes their products more expensive.

Things won't change until the Japanese government gets the yen under control. If people can get a better rate of exchange, they will come.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2011/12/27/bloomberg_articlesLWVFQ10YHQ0X.DTL#ixzz1hnmkxxOa

10,000 Free Flights To Japan In 2012: Ain't Gonna Happen!

Above, the Ginza Mitsukoshi Department store in Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Remember that story of a few months ago about 10,000 free flights to Japan for foreigners from the Japan Tourism Agency to help boost Japan's tourism? Well, it ain't gonna happen, folks!

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Back in October, Japan’s national tourism agency floated a plan that seemed an ideal remedy to boost flagging visitor numbers in the wake of the March 11 disasters. Free flights to Japan in 2012. A full 10,000 of them.

Now, as the country crunches through the detail of tight budget numbers for next year, the hope many had for visiting Japan in 2012 has evaporated into a pipe dream: There won’t be any free flights next year, period. The budget for them has not been approved.

Whatever tourism authorities thought a good idea, Japan simply can’t afford it, the government’s budget planners have concluded.

Above, the Imperial Palace's Nijubashi Bridge. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Somehow, the announcement was made prematurely, with wire services, news organizations and other sites (including travel-related blogs) running with the story. Potential travelers salavated over the prospect of free airfare.

All this means is that foreign tourists wanting to visit Japan in 2012 will have to come up with the airfare funds on their own. Aw, fiddle sticks!

Above, the Godzilla statue in Hibiya, Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Oh, well. Just get The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan and go anyway.

To read the full article, go here.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Criterion's "Godzilla" Reviewed

In a few weeks from now (January 24, to be exact), Criterion's Blu-ray edtion of Godzilla (1954) will be available.

Blu-ray.com has posted a review of the Criterion edition. In their review, they wrote:

Criterion's presentation of this classic Japanese film is leaps and bounds ahead of Classic Media's presentation (see review here). Not only are detail and clarity dramatically improved, but there are entire sequences where it literally feels as if a filter of some sort has been removed - the effect is most obvious during the nighttime sequences, even though Criterion's high-definition transfer is notably darker than the one used by Screen Media (compare screenshots #5 and 7 with screenshots #1 and 3 from our review of Classic Media's Blu-ray release).

Since I recently joined the ranks of Blu-ray player owners, I'll be picking up this item.

To read the full review, go here.

2012 World Ag Expo

When my mother passed away in January 2010, I inherited farm property in Buffalo County, Nebraska.

While I have an excellent tenant farmer working the property, it has been my desire to educate myself in the agriculture industry. Admittedly, I knew diddly-squat about the farming industry when everything fell into my lap. But nearly two years later, I now know a lot more than I did then about Dept. of Agriculture programs, crop insurance, property taxes, corn prices, etc.

But it would be wise for me to further educate myself on agriculture.

This coming February, the 2012 World Ag Expo will take place in Tulare, California (north of Bakersfield by about 60 miles). Former President George W. Bush will be participating at an event during the expo.

According to their website:

Located in California’s Central Valley, 45 miles south of Fresno and 60 miles north of Bakersfield, just off Highway 99. Airfields are located in Tulare, Visalia, Fresno and Bakersfield.

World Ag Expo is the largest annual agriculture exposition celebrating 45 years of innovative agriculture with:

1,600 exhibitors displaying the latest in farm equipment, chemicals, communications, and technology on 2.5 million square feet of exhibit space.

Free seminars on a variety of topics important to dairy producers, farmers, ranchers and agribusiness professionals.

Cooking demonstrations by chefs from California’s top restaurants in the World Ag Women Pavilion.

This looks to be something that could provide useful information for the future. Couldn't hurt to check it out!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Eve

After a drive of an hour and a half (95 miles) from Tarzana to the Lake Elsinore area, we had an enjoyable Christmas Eve party at my cousin's in Wildomar.

On the menu was many varieties of Mexican food including tamales and chili verde, along with some good Blue Moon ale.

The traffic was easier than usual. It got heavy at times, but at least it moved.

The drive home was also lighter than usual. The L.A. civic center greeted us with the Lindbergh Beacon lit up on top of City Hall.

A good time was had by all!

Christmas In Japan

Above, the Wako Dept. Store with Christmas lights lighting up the clock tower in Ginza. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

An interesting article on Christmas in Japan was posted at Huffington Post.com:

Although it is said that most Japanese are Shinto and Buddhist, few people are aware the Japanese also participate in "commercialized Christianity" in order to take advantage of those fun Christian holidays.

Christmas, with its sparkly, over-glitzed trees, a cherry-cheeked Santa Claus and the ritual of gift-giving is irresistible to the Japanese who have taken to celebrating Christmas on a superficial level. You can hardly blame them for wanting to participate in such an entertaining religion.

But the Japanese have adjusted Christmas to their own liking. Santa-san enters the house through the window and brings one gift to each child on Christmas Eve, which he leaves on the child's bed.

To read the full article, go here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Views of The Saikai Bridge

The 1956 Toho movie Rodan (ラドン, Radon) featured the Saikai Bridge located near Sasebo City in Kyushu.

The Saikai Bridge is a steel arch bridge constructed in 1955 (just in time to be demolished by Rodan the following year). The bridge has a span of 216m and crosses the Hario Seto Straits, which is famous for its whirlpools.

In the movie, one of the Rodans is being pursued by the Japan Air Self-Defense Force over the Sasebo City area. During the pursuit, Rodan flies over the Saikai Bridge. The wind turbulence from Rodan's fly-by causes the bridge to collapse into the strait in one of the most convincing miniature effects by Eiji Tsuburaya.

I visited the Saikai Bridge in 2007 and took a number of photographs of the bridge, some of which are posted for the first time.

Information on how to reach the Saikai Bridge is included in The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

The following photos are from my 2007 visit to the Saikai Bridge (click on image to view larger):

Friday, December 23, 2011

Frankie's Italian Kitchen, Tarzana, CA

Tarzana, California has been my place of residence for nearly 14 years, but I've never eaten at Frankie's Italian Kitchen until last evening. I've been aware of Frankie's, but never stopped in. I've noticed that they are usually packed. This was an indicator to me that this restaurant was worth trying out. As usual, I was right!

My roommate Jessica and I were in the mood for Italian food and we decided to give Frankie's a try. Boy, are we glad we did! The dinners we selected were excellent!

Frankie's is not a big restaurant, it looked like it would accommodate about 100 people. It was established in 1993.

Jessica chose Dave's Cioppino which consisted of clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops and salmon served in a seafood broth. It is normally served on a bed of linguine, but since she's on a low-carb diet, she had it without the linguine. She couldn't completely finish it at the restaurant even though she proclaimed it delicious. She'll finish it off at home.

I chose Fresh Clams Linguine. It consisted of fresh and chopped clams, sauteed in white wine sauce (they also have it available in red sauce) and served over linguine. It was the best linguine and clams dinner I've had in ages!

Both dinners came with soup or salad and their dinner rolls are great.

The servings of both dinners were quite generous and reasonably-priced (around $20 each).

They also have wide assortments of salads, pizza, hero sandwiches, pasta, baked dishes, seafood, veal, lamb and pork. Meals catering to vegetarian diets are also available.

Lunch is served from 11 A.M to 3:30 P.M. and dinner is served from 3:30 P.M. to close.

If you are in the Tarzana area of the San Fernando Valley, you won't go wrong in trying out Frankie's Italian Kitchen. They are located at 5538 Reseda Blvd. Phone (818) 705-1295. They also have take-out and delivery service. Their website is www.FrankiesItalianKitchen.com.

We'll definitely go back to Frankie's Italian Kitchen! My grade: A.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chia Obama: This Is NOT A Joke!

This has to be the dumbest product I've seen in a long time:

2011 Year In Review

2011 began much better than did 2010.

As been the tradition for the past few years, I attended the New Year's Day festival in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles. I plan to go again this coming New Year's.

It started out with an interview article in Metropolis magazine, Japan's number one English-language magazine, on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan. The January issue of magazine included a cover blurb and the interview article shared two pages with singer Christina Aguilera. Metropolis is distributed throughout the Tokyo metropolitan area and is free to readers. The interview was a direct result of my trip to Japan in December 2010.

I was honored as "Officer of the Quarter" by my company in my "parachute" job as a private patrol officer.

My ad for the travel guide appeared in Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine at the beginning of the year.

Kinokuniya Bookstores' Little Tokyo store is carrying the travel guide in their travel section. Thus far, they've placed one re-order after the initial order sold out.

A new batch of publicity photos was needed to augment those taken earlier with Yuu Asakura and Ai of Tokyo. The photo session of model Miki Hayashi was accomplished at a Japanese garden in the San Fernando Valley in February. After the photo shoot, I treated her to a sushi lunch at Crazy Tokyo Sushi in Tarzana.

I gave a presentation at the 2011 Monsterpalooza in April on Japanese kaiju movie location sites titled, "Scene To Seen." It was held at the Burbank Marriott Hotel and Convention Center. My daughter Amber was going to assist me there, but she was just recovering from the flu. Miki Hayashi graciously agreed to fill in. I introduced her to Haruo "Mr. Godzilla" Nakajima and Shinichi Wakasa at the show. Following my presentation, we beelined it to Fuddrucker's for dinner as both of us were quite starved. The show was a success, perhaps too much so as the facility was too packed with people. Growing pains! They really need a larger facility.

Claims work slowed down during the late-spring and summer months. We found that some of our client insurers cut back on using independent adjusters to control expenses due to the still sluggish economy. Fortunately, The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan's sales helped to fill the financial void. This was despite the shock the Japanese tourist industry received from the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima radiation fears.

Left, Haruo Nakajima and Miki Hayashi at Monsterpalooza. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

In July, I reconnected with Jessica and she moved in to my apartment at the end of the month. She is a great cook and a big help with household expenses.

Sadly, the autumn months saw the passings of Steve Born, XNGH of the Peter Lebeck Chapter of E Clampus Vitus and my uncle Tony Cimarusti. I was hoping that this year would be death-free for family and friends. Also, our 16-year-old cat, Buttons, died in Amber's arms on November 8 while we were driving to the vet.

Also in November, the 1989 Mustang required having its engine rebuilt after a rod broke. Fortunately, I already had the funds needed in the bank from this year's corn crop sale. The car now runs like a champ again.

I finally joined the digital age with a new Samsung 37" television set and a Sony Blu-ray player. We are enjoying them very much! Jessica is having a grand time with the television set's timer features.

Jessica and I went to my cousin's in the Lake Elsinore area for Thanksgiving. Amber had to work, but will be able to join us there on Christmas Eve.

Already things are starting to shape up for 2012. I will have a table at the year's first Los Angeles Comic Book and Science-Fiction Convention at the Shrine Auditorium Expo Center for The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

This year was an improvement over 2010. Hopefully, 2012 will be an even better year and we get a new president in November.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my readers!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Wild Goose, About To Be History

A 45-year-old South Bay institution will be closing down on Christmas Eve for good.

One I learned this morning from my high school alumni message board that the Wild Goose strip (topless) club in Inglewood is closing down to make way for 264 condos. The location of the club is at Aviation Blvd. and Imperial Highway near Los Angeles International Airport.

The club was opened in 1966 and was a hangout for South Bay locals. It was a favorite for free pizza, hot dogs and popcorn (I don't remember the popcorn), besides the girls and beer. Friends from out-of-town and I frequented the Goose whenever they were in town back in the 1980s. Also, when my dad worked at Hughes Aircraft back then and he and his co-workers would go there occasionally for lunch.

One time, a friend was about to fly home to Sacramento from LAX and we stopped in for a while before his flight. A dancer was up on stage (keep in mind this is a topless club) and was adjusting her g-string when, suddenly, it shot off like a rubber band, leaving her red-faced in just her birthday suit.

It had kind of a "Cheers" atmosphere to it (where everone knew everybody, including the dancers).

For more on the Wild Goose, go here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Travel Weekly's 2011 Year In Review

Above, a streetcar approaches a stop in Nagasaki. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Travel Weekly.com has posted their "2011: Year In Review" on the state of the travel industry worldwide.

On Japan, they posted:

Nuclear radiation may be even scarier than violence, and that was the grim aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that crippled Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, leading to the world's worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl accident in Ukraine. Japan has addressed the damage from the quake and tsunami, but the area around the damaged reactors remains cordoned off for 12 miles in all directions, a necessary precaution that casts a pall over the entire country. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, arrivals from the U.S. fell by more than half. The numbers are beginning to come back, as consumers come to realize that Japan's major attractions are unaffected, but for Japan's tourism economy, it can't happen fast enough.

I couldn't agree more with the last sentence. It is unfortunate that the initial hysterical reporting of the Fukushima nuclear power plant's problems exacerbated the drop in tourist numbers. Again, I would have to point out that the poor rate of exchange between the U.S. dollar and the Japanese yen also put a damper on American travelers' desire to visit Japan. Those numbers will pick up once the dollar/yen exchange rate is more favorable to U.S. tourists. The current rate of exchange is mired at around 77-78 yen per dollar exchanged.

Along with Japan's major attractions, kaiju locations and landmarks were also unaffected, such as the Sasebo Catholic Church at left. The church can be seen in the 1956 feature Rodan.

As far as I am concerned, at least I can say that my year in sales of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan has been steady. Thanks to the guide, the months of slow and low claims work were more bearable. It pays to have more than one oar in the water!

To view the full Travel Weekly post, go here.

A Late Evening Scramble

Today's been a busy day.

Spent most of it helping my roomie get enrolled in culinary school (she starts next month) and fighting traffic.

Then, after everything got done, we kicked back at Crazy Tokyo Sushi in Tarzana for a delicious sushi dinner.

Right, Ai with "The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" amongst Christmas lights in Tokyo. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

I thought I'd have a nice relaxing evening until I picked up today's mail when we got home. This is a good thing, so I'm not at all complaining. In the mail, were several orders for The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan. I then scrambled to get each order packaged and addressed so I can mail them tonight for a possible pre-Christmas delivery. Fortunately, the post office lobby was still open so I could weigh each one and have mailing labels printed (thank goodness for debit cards).

Now, I can finally relax. For now.


A friend sent me this photo of a modified Bob's Big Boy figure from the Burbank Bob's Big Boy restaurant:

The message with the photo:

...Meet Bob-Zilla. I created him a few years ago after watching a bad Japanese movie left me with unexplained cravings for a Bob's Bigboy "Double Decker" combo. Mmmmnn!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Nagasaki Mayor Iccho Itoh Murder

This evening, I was going through my photographs of my April 2007 trip to Japan. While doing so, my attention was directed to photos of the campaign headquarters of Nagasaki Mayor Iccho Itoh, who was gunned down on April 17, 2007.

Mayor Itoh (left) was campaigning for a fourth term as mayor of Nagasaki when a man approached him from behind in front of the campaign headquarters and shot him at point-blank range in the back.

According to news reports, the assailant, Tetsuya Shiroo, shot Mayor Itoh from behind after he got out of his campaign car and fired another bullet into his back after he had already fallen.

Above, Mayor Itoh being administered first
 aid by paramedics following the shooting.

Mayor Itoh arrived at Nagasaki University Hospital around 8:00 pm in critical condition. His heart and lungs had ceased functioning. Itoh was placed on a heart-lung machine and doctors proceeded with fours hours of emergency surgery in an attempt to stop internal bleeding. Unfortunately, Itoh died shortly after 2:00 am on April 18.

Police investigators found that Tetsuya Shiroo, age 59, was a senior member of Suishin-kai, a gang organization. Shiroo was allegedly upset that his claims for damages to his car at a public works construction site were denied. Shiroo was tried and sentenced to death, but the Fukuoka High Court tossed out the death sentence in 2008.

This was big news throughout Japan. I was in Kumamoto at the time of the shooting and my next stop was Nagasaki.

Above, the front of Mayor Itoh's campaign headquarters, where
 the Mayor was shot two days before. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

While in Nagasaki, I stopped at Mayor Itoh's campaign headquarters on April 19, two days after the murder. Flowers were beginning to pile up in front of the campaign office when I arrived. After taking a few photographs of the scene from a nearby pedestrian bridge, I went inside and signed the condolence book. The people inside the campaign headquarters were grateful that a foreign tourist would take the time to pay respects.

In a way, it is almost like being a witness to history.

Kim Jong-Il Dead At 69

Kim Jong-Il, the North Korean communist dictator and the man who brought Pulgasari (1985) to the daikaiju eiga world, died at age 69.

He allegedly died two days before the death announcement.

Il imported Kenpachiro Satsuma (the Heisei Godzilla suit-actor) and Teruyoshi Nakano (spfx director) from Japan for the Pulgasari project.

Above, Kim Jong-Il's "Pulgasari."

Kim Jong-Il will be succeeded by his son, Kim Jong-Un. Interesting name. Maybe his dad was a fan of 7-Up and named him after it.

You know, the UN-cola?

Tokyo Airfares: L.A. Times Dropped The Ball

Above, a Korean Air Lines jet being prepared for a flight to Japan. Korean Air had the lowest round-trip fare I found. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

While reading the listings of airfares in the Los Angeles Times Travel section yesterday, I noticed that the lowest (and only) airfare listed from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Tokyo was $1,064.00 from these airlines: ANA, American, Delta, JAL, Singapore and United.

I thought this price was odd as only a week before they listed the price for a round-trip ticket from LAX to Narita at around $800. Even this was a bit high as fares generally drop during the off-season. So I decided to do some checking on my own.

Through my source, the lowest airfare I found was $360.00 + tax and fuel surcharge from Korean Air Lines. Others (including Continental, ANA and United) averaged at $454.00 + tax + service fee.

The Times checks airfares on Thursdays, the day before the Sunday Travel section goes to press. It appears they didn't check very well since I found fares much lower than they did. And, it only took me a few minutes to do so.

This does not give me much confidence in the paper's travel section staff.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Travel Guide Holiday Sale: 6 Days Left

The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan holiday "stocking-stuffer" sale has six (6) more days remaining.

This is your chance to get the travel guide for $12.00 total (and that include shipping!) for that kaijulogist in your life (or for yourself).

Don't delay, order today!

For details, go here.

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

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