"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, June 30, 2012

Japan National Tourism Organization

The best resource for potential tourists to Japan is the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO).

From the JNTO website:

What is JNTO ?

Official Name: Japan National Tourism Organization
Established: 1964
Purpose: To further international exchange through tourism


JNTO is involved in a broad range of activities promoting travel to Japan through various activities overseas as well as tourism-promoting activities in Japan.

Our activities include:

1. Operating Tourist Information Centers in Japan for foreign visitors
2. Arranging reception facilities for foreign visitors
3. Promoting international conventions and trade fairs
4. Operating offices in key cities around the world
5. Conducting tourism-related research
6. Publishing travel literature and videos about Japan

Activities by Overseas Offices

JNTO maintains 13 offices in key cities around the world, through which a wide range of tourism-related promotions are carried out. Each overseas office is responsible for promoting travel and tourism to Japan; one of the most important functions is to help the travel industry encourage their clients to visit Japan.

The activities of the overseas JNTO offices include:

1. Providing up-to-date information on travel to and in Japan
2. Participating in local travel fairs and exhibitions
3. Assisting in developing tours to Japan
4. Supplying free brochures to the travel industry
5. Lending display materials, prize-winning films and
video tapes for travel professionals to show to their clients
Above, Nakamise Street in Asakusa, Tokyo.  Photo by Armand Vaquer

Before each trip to Japan I've made, I went to the JNTO website to order maps of the cities I planned to visit along with brochures and booklets for lodging and attractions.

They usually send the requested materials within a week after placing my request.

Besides brochures and maps, tourists can also find transportation, accommodations, festivals & events, shopping & dining, travel tips and many others.

To visit JNTO, go here: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/

Japan Tourism Agency

Regular readers of this blog will notice occasional references to the Japan Tourism Agency. To satisfy your curiosity (if you are curious) here is what the Japan Tourism Agency is about.

According to their website:

The Japan Tourism Agency was inaugurated on October 1, 2008. The Japanese government is currently working to enhance tourism-related measures, towards the ultimate goal of creating a tourism nation. The JTA was newly established as an organization to serve as the hub for these efforts, and drive their deployment.

In addition to carrying out measures to expand international tourism exchange such as the Visit Japan Campaign, the JTA works to prepare a national environment friendly to tourist travel. This includes creating appealing tourist destinations in Japan, upgrading tourism industries to fit traveler needs, promoting training and utilization of talent in the tourism field, encouraging the Japanese people to take vacations, and preparing safety measures for Japanese travelers abroad.

Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism established the Japan Tourism Agency “to promote the creation of a tourism nation in a comprehensive yet organized manner."


Source:  Anime Expo News Release

LOS ANGELES (June 30, 2012) Anime Expo 2012 (AX) -- North America’s largest anime, manga and Japanese pop culture celebration -- will present the highly-anticipated premiere of Total Eclipse” on July 1 -- the same day the anime debuts on TV in Japan. Kouki Yoshimune, the anime’s executive producer will appear in a special panel discussion in conjunction with the screening. In addition vocalists featured on the show, Minami Kuribayashi and ayami, will perform in live concert at Anime Expo when it returns to the Los Angeles Convention Center from June 29 – July 2, 2012.

"The stars were truly in alignment to allow Anime Expo to give our attendees the chance to see the first episode of “MuvLuv” on the very same day fans in Japan will view it,” said Marc Perez, CEO of the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, the non-profit that produces Anime Expo.

“Total Eclipse” will be produced by Kouki Yoshimune whose previous productions include “MuvLuv” Series. Based on the popular “MuvLuv” PC Game and visual novel, the anime’s main story takes place in Alaska and its main character, Yuuya Bridges, is Japanese-American.  The simultaneous Japanese and American debuts echo the global essence of the anime’s narrative.

Minami Kuribayashi has performed songs for many anime series, including “Carnival Phantasm,” “Infinite Stratos,” “Katanagatari,” “Medaka Box,” “Mobile Suit Gundam AGE,” and “Rumbling Hearts.” The singer ayami performed on the opening theme song “Freedom” for “Battle Spirits: Heroes” as a vocalist with the musical group RAMM.

The “Total Eclipse” production team joins the previously announced Anime Expo 2012 line-up that includes composer joins the previously announced Anime Expo 2012 line-up that includes composer Yuki Kajiura/”FictionJunction;” anime-inspired heavy metal band ANIMETAL USA; Culture Japan’s Danny Choo; Fate/Zero” creative team Hikaru Konda, Ei Aoki and Rikiya Koyama; Madhouse creative team Morio Asaka, Kunihiko Hamada and Takuya Tsunoki;, animation director Tatsuo Sato; voice actors Ryo Horikawa, Nobuhiko Okamoto, Jamie Marchi, Monica Rial, and Steve Blum; Japanese pop star LiSA, Lolita fashion designer Cyril Lumboy, Lolita model Misako Aoki; Tokyo-based Gallery of Fantastic Art and popular cosplayer Jessica Nigri.

About Anime Expo
Now in its 21st year, Anime Expo is North America's largest celebration of anime, manga and Japanese pop culture. Anime Expo gives fans the rare opportunity to meet and hear from some of the most famous anime, manga, musical, game and fashion artists from Japan. AX 2012 will feature an exciting schedule of exclusive screenings; artists' panels; live concerts; cosplay, dance parties, karaoke and video competitions; non-stop video gaming and unsurpassed shopping from more than 300 vendors. AX 2012 takes place June 29 – July 2, 2012 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. To register or for more information, please visit www.anime-expo.org. Connect with Anime Expo on Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube.

About the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation
The Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation (SPJA) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to popularize and educate the American public about anime and manga, as well as provide a forum to facilitate communication between professionals and fans. This organization is more popularly known by its entertainment property, Anime Expo®. For more information, please visit www.spja.org.

Truman Grandson To Visit A-Bomb Cities In Japan

Above, the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Three years from August will mark 70 years since President Harry S. Truman gave the go-ahead to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki thus ending World War II.

The Japan Times is reporting that a grandson of Truman will be visting both cities for research on a book he is writing.

According to the article:

WASHINGTON — A grandson of the late U.S. President Harry Truman plans to visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, both devastated by U.S. atomic bombings in 1945, as "a good starting point" for writing a book about the bomb sites.

Clifton Truman Daniel, who revealed his plan in a recent interview, will visit the cities in August with his wife and two sons to attend the annul peace memorial ceremonies.

This will be the first time for a relative of Truman, who gave the go-ahead to use the atomic bombs, to visit the cities.

Asked whether the decision to drop the atomic bombs was right or wrong, Daniel, 55, said that is a "very hard question."

I've visited both cities (Hiroshima in 2004 and Nagasaki in 2007) and found the museums and memorial parks in each to be quite sobering.

Above, the Hypocenter Memorial in Nagasaki.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

However, as the bombings were an inspiration to the Godzilla character, both cities' peace parks are included in The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan. The Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome was briefly seen in 1991's Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah. I recommend visiting either (or both) to anyone planning to visit Japan.

To read the full article, go here.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Get A Gundam Hotel Room!

AboveArmand on the Gundam Lift at the Bandai Museum.

Fans of Gundam characters can now get a hotel room decorated in a Gundam motif.

The Japan Times reported:

Grand Pacific Le Daiba, a hotel in Minato Ward, Tokyo, will be offering three guest rooms starting Friday with interior decorations featuring characters from the popular "Mobile Suit Gundam" animated series.

Gundam Front Tokyo, which features a huge, life-size Gundam statue and a museum, opened April 19 in the neighborhood and has turned out to be a popular attraction. The hotel's campaign is part of an effort in the area to take advantage of Gundam's popularity.

For more, go here.

Changing of The Guard At Toho L.A.

Yukio Kotaki's tenure as general manager of Toho Co., Ltd.'s Los Angeles office is ending next week.

He will be returning to Tokyo, Japan next week to rejoin his family (they returned to Japan about a year ago) and will be taking on a new position at Toho's International Business Department.  He has been the Los Angeles office's general manager for the past five years.

I spoke with him today and he is looking forward to returning to Japan and reunite with his family.

His successor at the Los Angeles office will be Masaki Fujiwara.

Best wishes go out to Mr. Kotaki on his return to Japan and his new company position.

Communing With Owls

Sometimes, working the graveyard shift can be fun.

A little while ago, while parked at a cul de sac in the Burbank hills, a couple of owls were screeching nearby. I decided to do my own owl bird call ("who-who who who" is how it goes).

After doing this, one came over to where I was parked and perched himself/herself on the arm of the nearby streetlight (12' in front of me).

He/she sat there a for several minutes and looked down at me and continued screeching. Then, the mate flew by and it took off and followed.

I got a fairly good look at it and it appeared to be a Great Horned Owl that is indigenous to Southern California.  It looked like the one in the photo (above left).

Report: Comic Con Will Unveil Legendary's Godzilla

There's been hardly any information on Legendary Pictures/Warner Brothers' Godzilla project for quite some time.

That is about to change if a report from Latino Review is accurate.

In their post, they claim that Legendary's vision of the Big G will be unveiled at Comic Con in two weeks:
You know what big Hall H surprise Legendary is bringing along with Pacific Rim

Not only is Legendary bringing the Lizard to comic con but get this, I hear the presentation is SICK! I’m not going to get into specific spoiler territory because then what’s the point of attending the panel, but take this one to the bank. 
Godzilla will stomp both the audio and video systems within Hall H two weeks from this Saturday! I’ll be there to witness it myself. I can already envision them shutting down the lights, hearing Godzilla’s roar, and the crowd going wild! 
Anyway, Max Borenstein is currently re-writing the script from David Goyer. Gareth Edwards is directing.

If this report is accurate, G-fans will want to be in San Diego for the unveiling.

To see the full post, go here.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Foreigners Avoiding Tohoku Region

AboveMatsushima Bay.  Photo by Armand Vaquer

While the Japanese tourism industry has been recovering pretty well in general, it isn't the case for the Tohoku region.

The Jakarta Post reported:

Many foreign tourists are avoiding trips to the disaster-hit prefectures of Iwate, Fukushima and Miyagi due to lingering concerns about radioactive contamination and fears that another major earthquake or tsunami could strike the Tohoku region.

The number of tourists to the prefectures plunged after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Although Japanese visitors have gradually returned in growing numbers, the same cannot be said for visitors from overseas. The number of foreigners staying overnight in the prefectures nose-dived to about 90,000 in 2011 from about 330,000 in 2010.

It likely will take more time before visitor numbers return to the level seen before the March 11, 2011, disaster.

The Tohoku region has much to offer in scenic beauty, particularly Matsushima Bay. It has been often compared to Carmel, California in scenic beauty.

The businesses who cater to tourists need visitors to stay afloat. I would urge potential Japan visitors to go there.

To read the full article, go here.

Angry Citizens Donating To Romney Campaign After ObamaCare Decision

The Supreme Court's decision on upholding ObamaCare drove angry citizens to contribute to the Mitt Romney campaign in droves. It is estimated that the campaign took in over $2 million in contributions today.

I received this email from the campaign:


When President Obama assumed office three years ago, he had a Democrat-controlled House and Senate and ample opportunities to make good on his promises of "hope" and "change."

Instead of focusing on the economy, President Obama decided to make job-killing, big government, $2 trillion Obamacare his top priority. The White House "assumed a recovery was under way" and decided that fixing the economy was "no longer their top priority."

Rather than helping job creators, Obamacare hurts job creators:
  • Obamacare contains the largest tax increase in nearly two decades.
  • Obamacare will raise taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars over its first 10 years.
  • Nearly 3/4 of small business owners blame Obamacare for impeding job creation.

Regardless of the Supreme Court's decision on its constitutionality, Obamacare is still bad policy. Obamacare will raise taxes on job creators, send jobs abroad, and hinder small business hiring.

Mitt Romney has his priorities straight. On day one, he will take immediate action to repeal and replace Obamacare with real reform that empowers individuals and frees job creators from the burdens this President has imposed on them.

Mitt Romney will do on his first day in office what the Supreme Court didn't do on the last day of its session. But first, it's up to you to repeal Obamacare by replacing Obama.

Let's hold Barack Obama accountable -- donate $10 or more to make him a one-term president:



Matt Rhoades
Campaign Manager
Romney for President

House Votes Holder In Contempt

At least today wasn't a total loss.

The Washington Post reported:

The House of Representatives voted 255 to 67 to make Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. the first sitting attorney general in U.S. history to be held in contempt of Congress for withholding documents requested as part of a congressional investigation into Operation "Fast and Furious."

Seventeen Democrats joined the Republican majority in voting for contempt.

Supreme Court: ObamaCare A "Tax"

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the biggest tax increase in the history of the world.  The vote was 5-4.  Chief Justice Roberts voted with the liberals.

Barack Obama and the Democrats lied by saying the ObamaCare individual mandate is "not a tax." The morning talk shows have been playing the sound clip of Obama saying this.

The Court found otherwise. They deemed it a tax.  We have been deceived and betrayed.

Now the federal government has the power to dictate what people must buy. Anyone just breathing are forced into this. The Supreme Court essentially rubber-stamped tyranny. There will be no limits on federal power. All Congress has to do is call it a tax!

As Rush Limbaugh said, "This was a stealth tax!"

Unless we elect a new president and a conservative Congress, this will definitely bankrupt this country. This will lead to a single-payer system. It will also kill jobs. Just watch!

We have to work even harder to elect Mitt Romney president and defeat as many Democrats in the House and Senate as possible. That is our only option available to get ObamaCare repealed.

Western Farm Press: Ruling Renews Agriculture’s Call For Reliable Labor Law

Western Farm Press.com posted:

Agricultural leaders contend the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling on Arizona’s controversial immigration law means industry organizations must continue to push Congress to modify farmworker laws to provide a more reliable and legal labor supply for businesses including agriculture.
“The Supreme Court ruling means that we’ll continue to keep our nose to the grindstone and work with Congress and our elected leaders for positive farm labor changes,” said Kevin Rogers, a Mesa, Ariz., farmer and Arizona Farm Bureau Federation president. 
“The bottom line is the federal government needs to step up and fix the visa labor program so we can have the needed legal workers in this country for agriculture and other industries.”

This I totally agree with.  Having a guest worker program that will supply agriculture with a reliable labor workforce and would go a long way to solving the illegal immigration problem.

Illegal immigrants come here to work to support themselves and their families.  Unfortunately, although I can sympathize with them, there are no controls on the numbers who are coming in and how long they stay.

One way to fix this would be to have offices in Mexico set up where guest workers can register, be pre-screened (to make sure no undesirables come in) and be given work visas with specific time periods for work.  If guest workers come to work for specific time periods and then leave the country, they guarantee that (in subsequent years) they will be allowed back in again.  If they don't follow the rules, they won't be allowed in.  If a guest worker fulfills five years of compliance, they can receive more perks.  This would be a further incentive for them to comply.

It could be the modern version of the old Bracero Program, which was:

The Bracero Program (named for the Spanish term bracero, "strong-arm") was a series of laws and diplomatic agreements, initiated by an August 1942 exchange of diplomatic notes between the United States and Mexico, for the importation of temporary contract laborers from Mexico to the United States.

(Source: Wikipedia)

This would control the numbers of foreign nationals entering the country and supply agriculture with a reliable labor workforce.  As an owner of farm property, I am keenly aware of the need to have the labor to handle the fall crop harvests.

Today Will Be "Verrrrrry Interesting!"

In a few hours, the U.S. Supreme Count will announce its ruling on whether or not all or none of the provisions of ObamaCare is constitutional.  Either way, it will be interesting to see what transpires following the ruling.

The House of Representatives will vote on the contempt of Congress resolution on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for not providing the documents requested by the House oversight committee on the botched "Fast and Furious" gun-walking operation that led to the murder of border agent Brian Terry and about 200 Mexican citizens.  Several Democrats have indicated that they will vote for the resolution.

One has to ask, what Hispanic, in his or her right mind, would vote to re-elect an administration who allowed hundreds of guns into Mexico to fall in the hands of drug cartels?

Today is going to be a very interesting news day!

Doris Singleton Dies At 92

Actress Doris Singleton has died at age 92, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

She is best known as Carolyn Appleby on I Love Lucy.

The Hollywood Reporter posted:

A native of New York City, Singleton appeared on many other TV shows, including as a regular on 1955's The Great Gildersleeve and 1960-61's Angel and roles in Adventures of Superman, Hogan's Heroes, My Three Sons (amazingly, as two recurring characters), Hazel, The Munsters, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., The Fugitive, The F.B.I., Marcus Welby, M.D., Phyllis, Days of Our Lives and Dynasty.

Singleton appeared in the Adventures of Superman's 1953 episode, "The Jungle Devil" and in the I Love Lucy episode "Lucy Meets Superman" that featured the guest appearance of George Reeves.

To read The Hollywood Reporter article, go here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Emi Ito, one of The Peanuts, dies at 71

Some sad news has been reported at Kyodo News:

Emi Ito, one of the identical twin sisters comprising Japanese pop duo The Peanuts, who graced TV shows and films mainly in the 1960s, died on June 15, people close to her said Wednesday. She was 71. 
In 1961, they appeared in the movie "Mothra," featuring a moth monster, and released many hit songs such as "Koi no Bakansu" (Vacation of Love). The duo quit in 1975.
To read the full article, go here.

Who writes their headlines?

I spotted this most unfortunate headline at News On Japan:

Japan police probe man who cooked own genitals 

I'll refrain from making any comments. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

20 Years of "Godzilla vs. Mothra"

An example on how quickly time marches on is by noting that 2012 marks 20 years since Toho's Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992) was produced and released.  It was released in Japan on December 12, 1992.

Here's what Wikipedia says about it:

Godzilla vs. Mothra (ゴジラ対モスラ Gojira tai Mosura) is a 1992 Japanese Science Fiction Kaiju film produced by Toho. Directed by Takao Okawara with special effects by Koichi Kawakita, the film starred Tetsuya Bessho, Satomi Kobayashi and Akiji Kobayashi. The 19th installment in the Godzilla series of films, the film remains the highest grossing film of the entire Godzilla series (unadjusted for inflation). [I'd hazard a guess that King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) is still the boxoffice champ if adjusted for inflation. - A.]  After the success of the previous year's Godzilla vs King Ghidorah, Toho decided to bring back their second most famous creation Mothra into the new series. Composer Akira Ifukube's score won a Japanese Academy Award. The film was the second highest grossing film in Japan in 1993, second only to the Hollywood film Jurassic Park.  
The film was released straight to video in the United States in 1998 by Tristar as Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth.

Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The movie also introduced a new kaiju: Battra.  The big battle in the movie took place on the oceanfront of Yokohama, Japan.   The structures demolished include the Cosmo Clock Ferris Wheel at the Yokohama Cosmo World amusement park and the crescent-shaped InterContinental Yokohama Grand Hotel (photo above).  These are covered on pages 19-20 of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan (which will also tell you how to get there).

It is somewhat incredible that this year will mark 20 years since the movie was made and released. Time does fly by!

Jonathan Frid Honored At Daytime Emmys Ceremony

AboveJonathan Frid.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
The Dark Shadows News blog reported on a number of items in connection to the 1960s classic soap opera (or spook opera).

One of which was this item:
  • The recent 39th Daytime Emmys paid tribute to departed Dark Shadows star Jonathan Frid (Barnabas Collins) as part of last Saturday's awards ceremony. Jonathan was included in the traditional In Memoriam montage, represented with a photograph from House of Dark Shadows.
This was nice to hear.  I was wondering if the Daytime Emmys would honor Frid or if any of the daytime soap opera magazines would carry any articles (so far, I haven't heard of any).  At least the Emmys came through.

The blog has other news, including one that says 40 episodes are now available for viewing online.

To read the full article, go here.

I wonder if next year's Academy Awards show will also include Jonathan Frid in their memorial montage.  I won't hold my breath on that one.

Japan International Airports To See Improved Visitor Services

Above, Narita Airport's arrival lobby.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Japan is getting even more serious about getting more foreign visitors to the country.

Jiji Press reported:

Tokyo, June 25 (Jiji Press)--The Japan Tourism Agency plans to improve services at international airports in a bid to increase the number of foreign visitors to the country, agency sources said Monday. 
The agency is considering establishing facilities within these airports to comprehensively offer services such as tourism and traffic information, and currency exchanges to foreigners, the sources said.

Above, Narita's train and bus tickets windows.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

My experience with Japan's international airports have been pleasant ones.  The workers have been helpful and very courteous.

The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan has a big section on the procedures for entering Tokyo's Narita Airport (NRT) from getting a passport to customs and immigration.

To read the full article, go here.

Jack Remembers

It is fun to be involved in a project like the Adventures of Superman plaque project.  What makes it a joy is working with someone who is also enthusiastic.  That certainly is the case here.

Jim Nolt of The Adventures Continue, reported that he spoke with Jack "Jimmy Olsen" Larson about the plaque project (that will commemorate "The Man Who Could Read Minds" episode of 1953):

I just got off the phone with Jack about 20 minutes ago. He remembers that location well and will surely be there when we dedicate the spot. Yea!

It should be an interesting plaque dedication in 2014.  Jack's recollection of the location shoot should include some good stories (including his fight on Wilbur Ave. with "the phantom burglar" shown above).

We'll need to find the "Tip Top Club" for the post-dedication party and have Jack re-enact his tango!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Super Day!

Today has been an interesting, but productive one.

It started off with paying a call to the property owner of where we hope to place a commemorative plaque in 2014 honoring the Adventures of Superman.  He could not have been nicer and is excited over the plaque/marker project.

Next, the fun part was notifying Jim Nolt of The Adventures Continue website on the above and spreading the word around the Internet.  Now he's excited!

I also discovered today that actress Noel Neill has moved to Metropolis.  Metropolis, Illinois that is!

The icing on the cake was more orders arrived over at ComiXpress.com for The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

I could use more days like this!

Superman Supersite Picks Up Plaque Story

Good news travels fast!

The Superman Super Site website has posted an article on the planned plaque in Tarzana, California commemorating the location shoot for the 1953 Adventures of Superman episode, "The Man Who Could Read Minds."

To read the article, go here.

Superman Plaque Project Progressing

Things are moving pretty fast and productive with the Adventures of Superman historical marker/plaque project.

Plans are taking shape to celebrate the 100th anniversary of George Reeves's birth in 2014 and part of the celebration is to dedicate a plaque at the spot of a location shoot for the 1953 episode, "The Man Who Could Read Minds."

Today, I am pleased to report that I obtained the verbal okay from the property owner of the house where the stake-out for The Phantom Burglar was set up to place the marker/plaque on his property in Tarzana, California (above photos).  We will formalize this later.

The plaque dedication will take place in August 2014.  The actual date will be on or about August 16.

Besides this, what remains to be done is to set the dedication date, raise the funds to have the plaque made and make it, and organize the dedication ceremony.  Jack Larson has already indicated that he will participate in our celebration events as will Beverly Washburn.

We will solicit contributions for the making of the plaque from the fans.  Details will follow on how much we'll need to get it made once a design and cost are determined.

Since the Hollywood Walk of Fame now charges $30,000 for each star, having a marker in this manner is a lot more cost-effective.  The marker/plaque's text will name the show's actors.  I am also planning to work in Phyllis Coates into the text as she was the first season's Lois Lane.

This is like old times!  11 years ago, I worked with The Adventures Continue editor and publisher Jim Nolt on "Superman Week" at the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.  Now we've teamed up again for this project!  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tohoku Shinkansen Celebrates 30 Years of Service

The Tohoku Shinkanen (above) is celebrating its 30th anniversary of service in Northeastern Japan.

Kyodo News reported:
TOKYO, June 23, Kyodo
The Tohoku Shinkansen bullet train connecting Tokyo and the northeastern Tohoku region marked 30 years in service on Saturday, with East Japan Railway Co. operating an original Yamabiko train for a commemorative run between Saitama and Iwate prefectures.
The high-speed service began on the 505-kilometer stretch between Omiya Station in Saitama and Morioka Station in Iwate on June 23, 1982, when it was still operated by the publicly owned Japanese National Railways. Construction of the line had begun in 1971.

I rode the Tohoku Shinkansen in April 2006 when I visited Sendai and Matsushima. I caught the train at Tokyo Station and rode it to Sendai Station.  Sendai Station was featured in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993) and, more notably, in Gamera 2: Advent of Legion (1996). Sendai Station was the detonation point  for the Legion flower pod that destroyed Sendai.

Sendai Station is spotlighted in The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan on page 16.

To read the full Kyodo News article, go here.

Japan's May Tourism Numbers Up 87%

Above, Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

There is more good news on the status of Japan's tourism industry.

The Daily Yomiuri reports:

The number of people visiting Japan in May shot up 87 percent from a year before to 669,000, the Japan National Tourism Organization has said. 
The surge reflects a sharp rebound from the fall a year earlier in the wake of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami and the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
To read the full article, go here.

Friday, June 22, 2012

CAROLINE MUNRO: First Lady of Fantasy

A new book on actress Caroline Munro is now out.

CAROLINE MUNRO: First Lady of Fantasy, the new filmography by Robert Michael 'Bobb' Cotter (McFarland, softcover, 178 pages, $45).

From McFarland's website:

About the Book

This filmography (including television and music video appearances) chronicles the career of Caroline Munro, a woman of humble beginnings whose chance entry in a "Face of the Year" photo competition propelled her to international fame as a model and actress, and whose work in genre cinema has won her the well-earned title of "First Lady of Fantasy." It provides complete technical and cast credits for each film, a synopsis, reviews and notes, and a foreword by Caroline Munro. 
I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Munro last April at Monsterpalooza in Burbank.  I had a photo taken with her (below) and obtained her autograph (bottom) on a photo from the 1977 James Bond flick, The Spy Who Loved Me.

Heritage Foundation: The Imperial Presidency

From The Heritage Foundation:

The United States was born when rebellious colonists declared their independence from an imperial ruler who had vastly overstepped his bounds. "The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States," they wrote in their Declaration of Independence.

Today's presidency lacks the regal air of George III. But imperialism is back, in a big way.

Last week, the Obama Administration's Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum instructing U.S. immigration officials to use their "prosecutorial discretion" to create a policy scheme contrary to existing law, designed to implement legislation that Congress hasn't passed.

The President himself has admitted he doesn't have the authority to do this. "The idea of doing things on my own is very tempting, I promise you, not just on immigration reform. But that's not how our system works," he told Hispanic activists last year. "That's not how our democracy functions."


We can now see before us a persistent pattern of disregard for the powers of the legislative branch in favor of administrative decision-making without—and often in spite of—congressional action.  This violates the spirit—and potentially the letter—of the Constitution's separation of the legislative and executive powers of Congress and the President.

Examples abound:

  • Even though the Democrat-controlled Senate rejected the President's cap-and-trade plan, his Environmental Protection Agency classified carbon dioxide, the compound that sustains vegetative life, as a pollutant so that it could regulate it under the Clean Air Act.
  • After the Employee Free Choice Act—designed to bolster labor unions' dwindling membership rolls—was defeated by Congress, the National Labor Relations Board announced a rule that would implement "snap elections" for union representation, limiting employers' abilities to make their case to workers and virtually guaranteeing a higher rate of unionization at the expense of workplace democracy.
  • After an Internet regulation proposal failed to make it through Congress, the Federal Communications Commission announced that it would regulate the Web anyway, even despite a federal court's ruling that it had no authority to do so.
  • Although Congress consistently has barred the Department of Education from getting involved in curriculum matters, the Administration has offered waivers for the No Child Left Behind law in exchange for states adopting national education standards, all without congressional authorization.

Likewise, the Administration has often simply refused to enforce laws duly enacted by Congress:

  • Since it objects to existing federal immigration laws, the Administration has decided to apply those laws selectively and actively prevent the state (like Arizona) from enforcing those laws themselves.
  • Rather than push Congress to repeal federal laws against marijuana use, the Department of Justice (DOJ) simply decided it would no longer enforce those laws.
  • DOJ also has announced that it would stop enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act or defending it from legal challenge rather than seeking legislative recourse.

On Tuesday, the President invoked executive privilege to avoid handing over some 1,300 documents in an ongoing Congressional investigation.  The Supreme Court has held that executive privilege cannot be invoked to shield wrongdoing.  Is that what's happening in this case? "Congress needs to get to the bottom of that question to prevent an illegal invocation of executive privilege and further abuses of power. That will require an index of the withheld documents and an explanation of why each of them is covered by executive privilege—and more," Heritage legal scholar Todd Gaziano writes.

Earlier this year the President crossed the threshold of constitutionality when he gave "recess appointments" to four officials who were subject to Senate confirmation, even though the Senate wasn't in recess. Gaziano wrote at the time that such appointments "would render the Senate's advice and consent role to normal appointments almost meaningless. It is a grave constitutional wrong."

There is no telling where such disregard may go next, but the trend is clear, and it leads further and further away from the constitutional rule of law.

The President has unique and powerful responsibilities in our constitutional system as chief executive officer, head of state, and commander in chief. Those powers do not include the authority to make laws or to decide which laws to enforce and which to ignore. The President - like judges or Members of Congress - takes an oath to uphold the Constitution in carrying out the responsibilities of his office.

Indeed, the President takes a unique oath, pledging he "shall faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States" and "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." We don't need a new Declaration of Independence, but we do need a President who will defend and vigorously exert his or her legitimate powers, recognizing that those powers are not arbitrary or unlimited.

Dr. Matthew Spalding is the Vice President for American Studies and Director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at The Heritage Foundation. He is also the author of We Still Hold These Truths.

Japan's Tourism Continues To Recover

AboveTokyo Tower.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

An encouraging report on the recovery of Japan's tourism industry has been posted by TravelDailyNews.asia.

They report:
TOKYO- With Japan’s experiencing a devastating earthquake, tsunami and a nuke catastrophe last year, it was no surprise that tourism collapsed in 2011. Released figures provided by the Ministry of Justice and the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) show a decline of 28% last year with total international arrivals to the country back to 6.22 million compared to over eight million in 2010.

Meanwhile, recovery is in full swing. According to estimated figures from the JNTO, markets are bouncing back.

To read the full article, go here.

Tokyo Skytree Draws 5.8 Million In First Month

Above, the Tokyo Skytree under construction in December 2010.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Tokyo Skytree  and the commercial complex connected with it  seems to be exceeding expectations for the number of visitors drawn there.

According to Kyodo News:

Tokyo Skytree, the world's tallest broadcast tower at 634 meters, marked one month Friday since its opening to the public, with its operator putting the number of visitors to a new commercial complex featuring the landmark during the period at more than 5.8 million in total.
Over 400,000 people had gone up to the tower's observation decks by Thursday following its opening on May 22, according to Tobu Tower Skytree Co.
The monthly turnout surpassed the operator's daily projections of 130,000 visitors on weekdays and 200,000 on weekends and holidays, with an official of the operator describing it as "a promising start."
It will be interesting to see if Toho Co., Ltd. decides to produce a 60th anniversary Godzilla movie in 2014 and if they use the Skytree in the movie.

To read the full article, go here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Japan Times Book Reviews Listing Page

To get a publication reviewed by a major news outlet does one's heart good.  The Japan Times recently (May 27) published a review of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide to Japan.

The Japan Times is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) English-language daily newspapers in Japan.  I read it daily while at the Hotel Asia Center of Japan in Tokyo during my trips to Japan.

Now, they have a listing page of their recent book reviews (in their online edition) and the travel guide is right smack in the middle of them. To view it, go here.

Heritage Foundation: President Obama's Fast and Furious Scandal Grows

From The Heritage Foundation:

On the night of December 15, 2010, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot and killed by an untraceable assault weapon that was deliberately handed to Mexican drug lords by U.S. officials via Operation Fast and Furious. Ever since, the Terry family and Americans across the nation have asked how this could have happened.

And ever since, Attorney General Eric Holder has stonewalled Congress in its attempts to find these answers. Yesterday, President Obama joined this stonewalling effort, asserting executive privilege over many of the documents about the operation that Congress had subpoenaed but still had not received.

Executive privilege is legitimate when properly invoked. But even then, the Supreme Court has maintained that it is not absolute. The Department of Justice (DOJ) must provide a compelling rationale for each assertion. Shielding wrongdoing has never been a qualifying rationale.

Heritage legal expert and former Department of Justice counsel Todd Gaziano explains:

First, the Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon (1974) held that executive privilege cannot be invoked at all if the purpose is to shield wrongdoing. The courts held that [President] Nixon's purported invocation of executive privilege was illegitimate, in part, for that reason. There is reason to suspect that this might be the case in the Fast and Furious cover-up and stonewalling effort. Congress needs to get to the bottom of that question to prevent an illegal invocation of executive privilege and further abuses of power. That will require an index of the withheld documents and an explanation of why each of them is covered by executive privilege—and more.

It is now up to Congress to ascertain the specific reasoning for executive privilege with every withheld document. Even in the unlikely case it is determined that this was a proper invocation of executive privilege, the administration is still not off the hook to inform Congress of what they know.

Gaziano explains further:
[T]he President is required when invoking executive privilege to try to accommodate the other branches' legitimate information needs in some other way. For example, it does not harm executive power for the President to selectively waive executive privilege in most instances, even if it hurts him politically by exposing a terrible policy failure or wrongdoing among his staff. The history of executive–congressional relations is filled with accommodations and waivers of privilege. In contrast to voluntary waivers of privilege, Watergate demonstrates that wrongful invocations of privilege can seriously damage the office of the presidency when Congress and the courts impose new constraints on the President's discretion or power (some rightful and some not).

President Obama now owns the Fast and Furious scandal. It is entirely up to him whether he wants to live up to the transparency promises he made four years ago, or further develop a shroud of secrecy that would make President Richard Nixon blush. If the stonewalling continues, and the privilege is not waived, it will be up to the American people and the media to demand the reasoning for the cover-up.

It is also time for the media to begin responsibly covering this scandal. For more than 16 months, only a handful of reporters have appropriately researched the facts and sought answers. Most members of the national media would not even acknowledge the existence of the scandal. Reportedly, NBC Nightly News ran its first story on the scandal just this past Tuesday.

The national media must now follow the lead of their colleagues CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson or Townhall's Katie Pavlich and investigate the specific facts and details of the operation and administration involvement. Attkisson, as you may remember, was screamed and cussed at by White House spokesman Eric Schultz in October for asking questions about Operation Fast and Furious.

Answers must be demanded. When was the first time President Obama was briefed on this operation? Given his previous conflicting testimony, when in fact did Attorney General Eric Holder become involved? What exactly did he know and when did he know it?

Despite the fact that Mexico was left in the dark by the Obama administration, this was still an international operation. If Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must approve the Keystone pipeline, wouldn't she also be consulted on this cross-border operation?

Liberals will try and pretend this operation that began in mid-2009 is connected to former President George W. Bush's administration. The media should challenge this false assertion. Operation Wide Receiver in 2006 did not remotely resemble Fast and Furious, as National Review's Andrew McCarthy has ably examined. Mexico helped coordinate it, and there was traceable controlled delivery. Even Holder admitted in testimony that you cannot "equate the two."

We will also hear that this is "election-year politics." The problem with that refrain is that this investigation has been ongoing since early 2011, well before campaign season started. It has been Attorney General Holder's evasiveness that has dragged this process closer to Election Day.

If it were not for conservative media outlets, bloggers, a few dogged reporters and the steadfastness of House Government Reform Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), this troubling scandal would have been buried long ago.

A brave American border agent is dead. At least 200 Mexicans have been slaughtered with these weapons. Drug violence on the border remains unabated. Now, President Obama is attempting to conceal the facts of what happened. This is an opportunity for Congress and the media to demand sunlight.

Vacation Time Is Here; Japan Bargains

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

Summer is now here and that means that many people are planning their annual vacation trips.

Some will stay close to home and head to their favorite beach, campground or resort.  Others will venture a little further and visit a national park.  Still, others will fly to a foreign country.

As Japan tourism industry is still recovering from last year's devastating earthquake, tsunami and radiation problems, visitors can find many bargains there to lure them. Many stores, hotels, ryokans and attractions have slashed prices to entice foreign travelers.

The best way to find bargains is to search for them via the Internet.  Even in normal times, many hotels discount their rates when reservations are made online.

Japan Airlines (JAL) recently applied to the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to have their international fuel surcharges cut.  No doubt, other carriers will be following suit.

One place for finding bargains is Japan Cheap Travel.com.
Above, the Imperial Palace's Nijubashi Bridge.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Remember, shop around for the best deals!

Diamond Distributors Picks Up "Flights of Fantasy"

"Flights of Fantasy" author Michael J. Hayde has made the following announcement:

My publisher has informed me that Diamond Distributors has picked up FLIGHTS OF FANTASY... so if you don't yet own a copy, look for it at your favorite comic book shop!
"Flights of Fantasy: The Unauthorized but True Story of Radio & TV's Adventures of Superman" is a great book loaded with information on all Superman episodes of radio and television.  This is a must-have book for Superman fans!

 I even get a mention in the book's chapter notes!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Fast and Furious Cover-up!

The Obama Administration is following in the footsteps of the Nixon Administration in covering up the facts over Fast and Furious gunrunning operations in Mexico that resulted in the murder of a border patrol agent and scores of Mexicans.

Fox News reports:

Rep. Darrell Issa pressed ahead with a committee vote Wednesday to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, despite an 11th-hour move by President Obama to exert executive privilege over the Fast and Furious documents at the heart of the dispute.
The announcement touched off a caustic debate on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that lasted into the afternoon, as Democrats accused Issa of prosecuting a "political witch hunt" and Republicans stepped up their criticism of Holder's "stonewalling" over the Fast and Furious probe. Even for Washington, the tone at the hearing was decidedly bitter and accusatory.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was first informed of the president's decision to exert executive privilege in a letter Wednesday morning, shortly before the contempt vote was scheduled. 
At this point, a contempt vote on Holder is insufficient.  He needs to either resign or be impeached and removed from office.

UPDATE:  The House panel voted 23-17 to charge Holder with contempt of Congress.  Rep. Issa's statement: http://oversight.house.gov/release/issa-statement-on-committee-approval-of-fast-and-furious-contempt-report/

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Kaiju Toy-Buying In Tokyo

Above, the entrance to the Broadway Mall in the Nakano section of Tokyo.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
One of the things that attracts fans of Japanese science-fiction and fantasy movies to Japan is to fill in gaps in their collections of character toys and movie memorabilia.

There are two sections of Tokyo that are my favorite sources for collectibles.

The Nakano section of Tokyo is one major source for monster goods.  Near Nakano's JR Chuo Line station (north exit) is the Broadway Mall.  In the mall (in the upper floors) are several stores of Mandarake.  Each store specializes in genre collectibles.  One store would specialize in manga.  Another would specialize in toy collectibles.  I last went there in December 2010 and purchased a porcelain figure of "Nipper," the RCA Victor dog ("His Master's Voice").

Over the years, I've made many purchases of Godzilla and Gamera-related toys at Mandarake.  (See page 26 in The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.)

Also, the Broadway Mall (third floor) has another store that specializes in kaiju toys and collectibles, Robot Robot.  Both Robot Robot and Mandarake sell used as well as new toys.

More recently, I found a toy store right on Nakamise Street in Asakusa that sells kaiju collectibles.  And, on a side street off of Nakamise Street, is another toy store where I've purchased kaiju toys.  It is right next door to a McDonalds restaurant (photo below), which makes finding it easy.

The nice thing about purchasing kaiju toys in Japan is that the prices are reasonable, whereas, U.S. importers greatly jack-up the prices.  There are other places in Tokyo where fans can buy collectibles.  Akihabara is a mecca for otaku.

For Ultraman collectibles, the Rox department store in Asakusa is the place to go.  A statue of Ultraman stands at the store's entrance (photo below).

And, in the Setagaya district of Tokyo, Ultraman goods can be found at the Ultraman Shopping District (Ultraman characters adorn storefronts and lamposts). See page 22 of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

For more information on the Broadway Mall, go here.

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