"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.)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Farm Bill, Reforms Needed Before Passage

The Heritage Foundation has come up with reforms needed on the current farm bill. The current bill was rejected by the House of Representatives.

One of the reforms suggested was to split the farm bill into two: one for farm programs and the other for the food stamp (SNAP) program.

That is definitely one reform that I can support.

To read more, go here.

Collecting Travel Books, A Worldwide Hit

Above, the Japan section at Distant Lands Travel Bookstore in Pasadena.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

People will collect just about anything.

Here's a subject near and dear to my heart: collecting travel books.

The Somerville News (of Somerville, Massachusetts) reported:
Summer is primetime for journeys to far-away lands by way of one’s imagination and by actually making the decision to travel! A collection of travel books is a great way to sample life in other countries and learn about their culture and history whether or not one makes the necessary arrangements to turn their dream into a reality. From the very first travel guide put out by Baedekers in Germany, collectors and travelers alike have been fascinated with books that provide a colorful verbal and sometimes pictorial view of the world.
The article reports that some country guidebooks are rarer and more collectible than others:
As one gets a little more off the beaten travel path, old guides become very rare and more valuable. Guides for Greece are rarer than for Paris, while finding a guide for a country like Syria is even rarer. 
Guides to Russia are also rare. When communism closed the borders in 1917, travel writers were not allowed in to document the sites for many years, leaving a hole in the Russian travel guide history.
Collecting travel books is relatively less expensive than other items:
The best part about collecting travel guides is the cost. For relatively little money, you can start collecting these books. They are also easy to find. Travel guides pop up in boxes at garage sales, inside antique shops and at flea markets. If you are concentrating your collection on a certain area or specific time period, it may take a little more effort to find the right books but the payoff is worth it. 
Could The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan be in someone's travel book collection?

To read the full article, go here

Goodbye Ginza's Matsuzakaya

Above,  Matsuzakaya Dept. Store can be seen in the background at left
in this shot of Ginza taken in December 2010.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
The Matsuzakaya Department Store in Ginza has ceased business as of today. At least for now.

According to News On Japan:
Matsuzakaya, the oldest department store in Tokyo's famous Ginza shopping district, closed Sunday for a total makeover and will reopen as a large commercial complex in four years.

Under a block-wide redevelopment project, the venerable 88-year-old, seven-story department store will be replaced in fiscal 2017 by a 13-floor high-rise with six basement floors and office space, operator J. Front Retailing Co. said. 
Above, the Matsuzakaya Dept. Store is the large building at right in this 1933 post card.

Matsuzakaya was featured in Godzilla (1954).  It opened in 1924.

To read more, go here.

Niigata Manga Animation Museum

Above, the JR Niigata Station.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It appears that I visited Niigata two and a half years too early.  There's a new anime museum that has opened up near JR Niigata Station that fans of anime and manga may want to check out.

It is the Niigata Manga Animation Museum.

According to The Japan News (Yomiuri Shimbun):
NIIGATA--In the fast-expanding field of manga and anime museums, an institution that opened last month in Niigata is aiming to take its exhibitions to a whole new level through a bonus element: interactivity. 
The city has produced many renowned manga and anime creators, and the museum hopes to make that a more visible part of the city’s identity, say those behind the founding of the new Niigata Manga Animation Museum. 
Among the big names that have hailed from Niigata are Shinji Mizushima, Rumiko Takahashi and Mineo Maya. Fujio Akatsuka also lived in the city during his teens.
Presently, there's a special exhibit based on Space Battleship Yamato 2199. It runs until July 31.

For details, go here.

First-Timer Japan Trip Planning

Above, a rainy day at Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Summer vacation is here and the kiddies are out of school.  Now you're planning your vacation.

Let's say the vacation choice is Japan.  But you've never been there before.  What are you going to do?

Here's an article (a rather helpful one at that) from Tofugu.com from last year, but the information it provides is still worth taking a look at.

They come to the nitty-gritty immediately:
A lot of people who are visiting Japan for the first time have no idea where to go. I understand! There’s a lot to see and do. While I personally tend to get off the beaten track, I do have a recommended “first-timers” trip for people who are heading to Japan for a week or two (which seems like the standard visit time for most people) and I’d like to share that with you. Of course, there are so many other things to see in Japan besides this particular trip itinerary, so don’t let this stop you from seeing other things. That being said, I hope this is helpful to those of you visiting Japan for the first time.
The tips they provide are broken down into different topics.  The topics include:
  • The Route
  • JR Pass
  • Finding Places To Stay
  • Packing
Then, the article goes into day-by-day itinerary planning on recommended places to go to and see. It also discusses shopping in Japan.

To view the full article, go here.

Of course, you'd want to bring literature including maps and travel guides (the Japan National Tourism Organization is a great source for free maps, brochures and travel guides). Fodor's and Lonely Planet are two great travel guides to obtain.  If you are an Auto Club member, they have Japan travel guides available as well.  

If you are a Japanese giant monster fan and want to see the locations and landmarks shown in the movies, you'd want to bring along The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan (of course). 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

"Surreal" Tokyo

Above, a Shibuya store's barker doing his job enticing customers to the store.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Anyone contemplating a visit to Tokyo may not have a clue as to what to expect when arriving there.

An article by TNT Magazine will give you a good idea at what to expect when visiting Tokyo.  Tokyo is definitely a city of contrasts.  There's something for everyone there.

TNT writes:
A city of extremes, Tokyo’s glimmering neon, exotic food, dizzying skyscrapers and ultra-posh toilets will keep your head spinning. 
First things first, forget about London, Paris or New York. If you’re craving an all-out attack on your senses, there’s one city above all others that keeps the blows coming, 24/7, leaving you dazed, dazzled and desperate for more; that’s Tokyo. Put simply, the Japanese capital is as exciting, overwhelming and downright surreal as it gets.
I first saw this "surrealism" firsthand in 2001 when I visited Tokyo for the first time to attend the Tokyo International Film Festival.  Tokyo struck me at the time to be one big party city.  Or, maybe I just happened to know the right people over there.

One thing is for certain, in the shopping districts, Tokyo is one noisy city!

The TNT article captures the essence of "surreal" Tokyo pretty well.

Read more: Big trip to Tokyo: Japan's capital is 'as exciting, overwhelming and surreal as it gets' - TNT Magazine

Follow us: @tntmagazine on Twitter | tntmag on Facebook

Huffington Post: The Very First Season of TV's Superman Was Superb!

Above, Phyllis Coates and George Reeves in "Superman and The Mole Men."

Four days ago, an article appeared in the Huffington Post on the Adventures of Superman (1951-1957) television show starring George Reeves.

It seems whenever there's a new Superman movie released, the media takes a look back at past incarnations of the Man of Steel. Thank God for that!

The article, by Dr. Franklin Ruehl, Ph.D., begins with:
The very first season (1952-53) of TV's Superman with George Reeves was outstanding, including intense film noir elements, such as the deaths of a couple who learned his secret ID in "The Stolen Costume"... he flew them to a mountain cabin where they fell to their deaths trying to climb down (he was definitely responsible for their demise). 
And, in "The Secret of Superman," a nefarious criminal (Peter Brocco) who learned his ID was conveniently shot to death by the police. 
Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane was very serious, contributing to the drama of each episode. But, she was replaced after that first season by light-hearted Noel Neill (who actually previously had portrayed Lois in two serials). 
Actually, the series began as a 67-minute theatrical film, Superman and the Mole Men, then transitioned into a TV project. That film was later re-edited into an excellent two-part episode,"The Unknown People," which was the only two-parter during the run of the show.
I'll let you read the rest of the article for yourself.

Above, Phyllis Coates and Armand in 2007.  Photo courtesy of Carl Glass.
Next year, plans are being made to commemorate George Reeves's 100th birthday with a plaque dedication of one of the second season episodes, "The Man Who Could Read Minds" in Tarzana, California.  The plaque will be placed where the episode's location scenes were filmed. In the episode, the Metropolis Police Dept., headed by Inspector William Henderson (Bob Shayne), had a stakeout set up in the hopes to catch the "phantom burglar." The stakeout was filmed in a residential neighborhood of Tarzana in 1953.

The plaque will honor all of the principal cast members of the show.

To read the full article, go here.

What To Do When Your Flight Is Canceled Or Diverted...

Above, Cleveland International Airport.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

This is something I've never had to face while flying, but sooner or later it is bound to happen.  Especially, if one travels by air frequently. At worst, I've had a flight or two delayed. The law of averages will catch you eventually and you'll find yourself stuck.

However, here's an article on a few tips on how to make a canceled or diverted flight a little less hassle-free.

Seattle's King5.com's article says:
SEATAC, Wash. - Travel experts say if you find yourself on a canceled or diverted flight, getting into the customer service line for an alternate booking is just one thing you should do.

While in that line they recommend getting on the phone with reservations or getting onto your wireless capable laptop and trying to get on a new reservation early. 
But Steve Danishek with TMA Travel says you need to make that reservation change with the same airline you're on. If you book a flight with another airline on your own, you may find you're not reimbursed under the airline's rules.
This was just for starters.  For the rest, go here

Communist Party To Ally With Democrats In 2014

2014 is shaping up to be an interesting election year.

Sam Webb, Chairman of the Communist Party USA, said:
Contrary to what some on the left think, the starting point of transformative politics isn’t political desires and wish list, but a sober and concrete assessment of the balance of class and social forces on the ground, not least of which is the political consciousness of the majority of working-class people and what they are ready to fight for. 
How do we accelerate this transition from a movement with transformative potential to a movement with transformative power and capacity? 
…a movement with transformative hopes must be up to its ears in the struggle for jobs, a higher minimum wage, immigration reform, gun control, infrastructure renewal, abortion rights, protecting the climate, preserving earned-benefit programs, marriage equality, voting rights, saving public education, reversing the sequester, winning a federal budget favoring people’s needs, cutting the military budget, and many more issues at the federal, state and local level. 
It should also be an energetic part of the struggle to give the Republican Party a licking in next year’s congressional elections. Defeating right-wing extremist candidates is the key link in moving the whole chain of struggle forward. It will take an expansive coalition of voters, including independents, centrists and even some moderate Republicans.
Some may ask, what's the difference between the Communist Party and the Democrat Party (as it is now constituted with socialists)?  Not much.

This ought to be a lesson for Tea Party members!

To read more, go here.

2nd Quarter Ends With Dollar Regaining Ground Against The Yen

Above, the "golden flame" of the Asahi Beer Hall in Tokyo.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The second quarter of 2013 ended with the U.S. dollar regaining some ground against the Japanese yen in foreign exchange.

The dollar ranged from 99.12 to 99.20 yen at the end of the business week.

The dollar did lose some ground during the past three weeks, but recently regained some ground.  It is better than the exchange rate of 94.28 yen on March 31, the end of the first quarter of 2013.

The dollar, at this pace, should clear over 100 yen within the next two weeks.

The more yen the dollar is able to buy, the cheaper it is to buy Japanese goods for U.S. consumers and travel to Japan becomes more affordable.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Take A Tour of 007's Hashima Island With Google's Street View

Above, using Google's Street View, I got myself over to this spot on Hashima Island.

Hashima Island was once home to a coal mining facility until coal mining declined in the 1970s. The island was abandoned and its buildings were left to decay.

Not too many people heard about Hashima until the James Bond movie, Skyfall, used it for villain Raoul Silva's headquarters. Thanks to the movie, people are curious about the island and want to see it.

Now they can without leaving their living rooms.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Google Street View will now "take visitors" on a walking tour of the island.

They wrote:
Now Google has documented Hashima with its Street View imagery technology, shown above, and the company was even allowed to go into parts of the island that are off-limits to tourists.
Hashima is off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan and opened to tourists in 2009. I was in Nagasaki in 2007, but I never heard of the island until Skyfall. The island was still off-limits at the time of my Nagasaki visit anyway.

To read more and take your own tour of Hashima, go here.

Roger Moore Makes His 007 Debut 40 Years Ago

Today (actually yesterday, but I started this before midnight) marks 40 years since the U.S. premiere of Live and Let Die. The movie was Roger Moore's debut as James Bond 007. It premiered on June 27, 1973.

Moore was tapped to play Bond after Sean Connery bowed out from the role after a one-picture deal which resulted in 1971's Diamonds Are Forever.

The Ian Fleming novel was the second Bond novel (it followed Casino Royale) published (April 5, 1954).

The movie was set in New Orleans and along with Moore, it featured Jane Seymour, Gloria Hendry, David Hedison and Yaphet Kotto.  It was directed by Guy Hamilton. The script was by Tom Mankiewicz.

Paul McCartney and Wings performed the title song, which was produced by George Martin.

For more on Live and Let Die, go here.

Tokyo Tower Reaches 170 Million Visitors Milestone

Above, a street view of Tokyo Tower in the background.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Tokyo Tower has been overshadowed by the much-taller Tokyo Skytree Tower in attention and visitors of late, and it has been relegated to back-up status once the Skytree began its life as the primary broadcasting tower for Tokyo this year.

But there's still life in the old girl yet.

According to Kyodo News:
The total number of visitors to the observation deck of Tokyo Tower reached 170 million Friday since its opening in 1958, its operator said. 
Around 2.4 million people visited the deck 150 meters above the ground last year, compared with the largest-ever annual figure of 4.9 million marked in 1959, according to Nippon Television City Corp.
Tokyo Tower is patterned after France's Eiffel Tower and is a little taller.  It has also served as a battleground for a number of giant monsters over the years.

Above, a view of Tokyo Bay, the Rainbow Bridge and Odaiba from
the observation deck of Tokyo Tower.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
First, it was used to support Mothra's cocoon in Mothra (1961).  More recently, it was shown as a ruin in Godzilla Final Wars in 2004.  In the years in-between, Tokyo Tower suffered abuse by such monsters as Gamera, Gyaos, Godzilla, King Kong and Mechani-Kong. All this activity garnered Tokyo Tower a spotlight in The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan on page 30.

To read the full article on Tokyo Tower, go here.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Don Glut Sued By Mattel Over He-Man and Masters of the Universe Franchise Rights

Above, Don Glut.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Looks like Goliath is going after David in court.

Writer, director and dinosaur authority Donald F. Glut is being sued by Mattel, Inc. over franchise rights of the Masters of the Universe and He-Man characters.

The South Bay Daily Breeze reported:
Mattel Inc., the world's biggest toy company, is suing the author of early Masters of the Universe comic books to prevent him from asserting any ownership interest in the franchise starring He-Man. 
The El Segundo-based toymaker filed suit on Friday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles against Donald F. Glut, who has a long resume that includes writing for various TV series, videos and documentaries. 
Since the early 1980s, Mattel has leveraged Masters of the Universe for toys and accessories, two animated TV series, consumer products, comic books and a feature-length film. 
Mattel's suit accuses Glut of a "baseless and time-barred attempt to grab a piece" of Masters of the Universe, but does not specify how he is pursuing this.
To read the full article, go here.  To read the full lawsuit, go here.

According to the Hollywood Reporter:
The toy-maker has filed a lawsuit in California federal court that seeks a declaration of its rights. According to the complaint, Glut has recently come forward to assert that he created the characters and is entitled to copyright ownership. Mattel says that it is too late, that for more than three decades it's been acknowledged that Glut's contributions fell under the work-for-hire doctrine. 
But Mattel now says in its lawsuit that Glut claims that his work on Masters of the Universe was not done as a work-for-hire, and that he owns an interest in the copyrights to his works. Glut is reported to have filed a copyright registration on a treatment featuring the He-Man characters and is threatening to sue.
 The Daily Breeze article is correct, the lawsuit does not specify how or when Glut allegedly claimed he has rights to the characters.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Above, JapanVisitor's masthead.

One of my favorite reference sources for Japan travel is JapanVisitor.com.  They describe themselves as "Your Tourist and Resident Guide To Japan."

According to their "About" page:

JapanVisitor.com is a subsidiary of Soccerphile Limited and:
  • is based in Japan, the UK and USA.
  • offers useful information and services for visitors to Japan.
  • provides the essential when and where and how to get there.
  • specializes in Japanese-English and English-Japanese translation.
  • offers an unrivalled 'You Ask For It, We Look For It' search service.
  • has over 10 years' experience of doing business in the Far East.
  • is a member of the American Chamber of Commerce (ACCJ) Japan.
  • offers the longest established, most reputable and reliable Yahoo Japan Auction Service.
  • Japanese-English, English-Japanese, Chinese-English, English-Chinese translation for your business or website.
  • Internet solutions for businesses wishing to invest in the Japanese market or already operating here including complete packages of website design, construction domain name registration and hosting.
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services for Japan-related websites.
  • JapanVisitor assumes no responsibility for the content of third-party websites linked to from this Site. See our Disclaimer for more details.
  • Cute icons brought to you by Maniackers Design

JapanVisitor.com has plenty of information at your fingertips on temples & shrines, hotels, city guides, culture, travel guide, Korea A-Z and book reviews.

They reviewed The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan back in November 2010 and it is posted here at their blog (yes, they also have a blog).

JapanVisitor.com also provides travel information, flights, Japan tourist & hotel guides, as well as visa information.

To pay a visit to JapanVisitor.com, go here.

Kumamoto Castle Chosen "Top Japanese Castle"

Above, the Mt. Aso blizzard I saw instead of Kumamoto Castle.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Six years ago, I went to Kumamoto in Kyushu as it is the "gateway" city for Mount Aso Volcano National Park.  Mount Aso, as kaiju fans know, was one of the prime locations used for Rodan in 1956.

I spent most of one day traveling from Tokyo to Kumamoto, first by shikansen and then by commuter train.  I got to my ryokan (Japanese inn) late in the afternoon.  After all that riding, I was too tired to wander around.  The next day was spent at Mt. Aso.

Now I see an article posted by the Asahi Shimbun about Kumamoto Castle.

It states in part:
KUMAMOTO—Kumamoto Castle was chosen as the top Japanese castle in a recent survey conducted by the popular travel information website TripAdvisor. 
The survey was titled, “Itteyokatta Nihon no Shiro 2013” (Japanese castles favored by visitors, 2013 version). The latest ranking was based on travelers’ comments and evaluations given during a one-year period starting in May 2012. 
Some visitors said they liked the stone walls of Kumamoto Castle, calling them beautiful. Others said they liked the samurai warriors, whom they could pose for pictures with, in the castle’s compound.
Too bad I had to leave Kumamoto the morning after my visit to Mt. Aso instead of visiting Kumamoto Castle. I was set on heading to Nagasaki, Sasebo and Fukuoka to visit locations and landmarks used in Japanese kaiju movies.

Instead of seeing Kumamoto Castle, I experienced a Kyushu blizzard instead.

Oh, well.

To read more on Kumamoto Castle, go here.


If you are "into" politics, love humor, satire and want to "vault" your opinion by interacting with political dialogue, then Polvaulting.com is the place for you!

What is Polvaulting?

Here's what they say:
Polvaulting.com is a juggernaut of free speech. It’s new. It’s fun and it’s free.  
Polvaulting.com will show you powerful techniques which you can use to articulate another person’s view point and harness those ideas to say what you want about the world. 
There is simply nothing on the internet or in social media like Polvaulting. com. This is a unique website that marries free speech and and deep thought. 
Our Political Characters and their Dialogues give you an opportunity to ‘vault’ your opinion and interact with the most compelling issues in contemporary political life. 
We invite to you to choose one or several Dialogues listed to the left. When you have made your choice, you can add your thoughts and opinions using our Characters as conduits. 
Discover how you can stimulate discussion and debate in this creative environment. 
Why not get involved right here, right now with this revolutionary social form of political Satire?
The definition of "Polvaulting" is:
Polvaulting’s concept is simple. The ”POL” reflects politics. The “VAULT” mirrors the capability of the human brian. When combined, an intellectual athleticism occurs, resulting in a deeper and more meaningful experience for our guests.
Go to www.polvaulting.com and give it a try! 

Guide To Odaiba, Tokyo

Above, the Fuji TV building in Odaiba.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

JapanVisitor.com has a Tokyo area guide on Odaiba.  Godzilla fans know that Odaiba was extensively used in the 2000 Toho feature, Godzilla x Megaguirus.

The guide begins with:
Odaiba (or Daiba), built on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay, is a new high-tech shopping, restaurant, residential and entertainment area in south-west Tokyo. 
You can catch Japanese TV dramas in the making at the wildly futuristic looking Fuji TV studio, meander through Venus Fort: a "theme park for ladies" built in the style of an eighteenth century European city, or pay a visit to the Maritime Museum (Tel: 03 5500 0011), housed in a reproduction of a cruise ship, and there's a great view of Tokyo Tower and the Rainbow Bridge. Not surprisingly, Odaiba is popular with the young and dating couples.
The guide provides a great selection of attractions for visitors to choose from.

Read more: http://www.japanvisitor.com/tokyo/tokyo-area-guides/odaiba#ixzz2XJKU08fq

Odaiba is spotlighted on page 25 of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

Is The Japan Rail Pass Worth It?

Above, Tokyo Station.  Phjoto by Armand Vaquer.
Australia's SBWire asks the following question in a new article posted yesterday:
Is the Japan Rail Pass worth it?
This topic has been discussed here on this blog a number of times, but it bears repeating.

Although the article mainly pertains to Australia's Japan Rail Pass Now, it does answer some questions that Americans may be wondering about. The rail pass I've purchased for several trips was the JR Rail Pass (good for the whole country) or the JR East Rail Pass.

The article says there are three important factors to consider before buying a Rail Pass: Itinerary, Time and Flexibility.

In a nutshell, if you are going to Japan and plan to travel to other cities or prefectures outside of Tokyo, then the money savings by purchasing the Rail Pass would be realized.

For example, I spent twelve days in Japan in April 2007.  While there, I went from Tokyo to Fukuoka in Kyushu on the shinkansen (bullet train).  To get to Fukuoka, the train will take you through Kyoto (after a change of trains in Shin-Osaka).  According to the article, "If you were to purchase a Tokyo to Kyoto return trip it would end up costing roughly the same price as a 7 day rail pass."  Upon arrival in Fukuoka, I took a slower commuter train from Fukuoka's Hakata Station to Kumamoto Station.  The JR Rail Pass was valid for that as well.

While in Kyushu, I took more trains to Mount Aso Volcano National Park, Sasebo City, Nagasaki and and back to Fukuoka.  From Fukuoka, I took the shinkansen back to Tokyo.  I must have saved at least $1,000 using the Rail Pass for all of these train trips.  Generally, the more train trips (of long distance) one takes, the Rail Pass ends up paying for itself.

If you are wondering whether or not to buy a Rail Pass, reading the article could help you reach a decision and possibly save you some money.  Go here to read the article.

The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan contains information on the Japan Rail Pass.

"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" Back On Craigslist

A discussion with a co-worker tonight about craigslist.org reminded me that I haven't re-posted my ad for The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan recently.

So, I just had it re-posted.

To view the ad, go here.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tokyo Gets High Marks For Bid To Host 2020 Summer Olympics

Above, a view of Tokyo from Tokyo Tower.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Things are looking good for Japan's bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo as they received a favorable report from the International Olympic Committee.

The Japan Times reported:
The International Olympic Committee has released its Evaluation Commission report for cities vying to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, giving Tokyo high marks for its proposal for a compact games in which 85 percent of the competition venues would be within an 8-km radius. 
Tokyo, which was also lauded for its fluid transportation network and financial soundness, is bidding against Istanbul and Madrid for the 2020 Summer Olympics. The winning city will be announced at the IOC’s general assembly in Buenos Aires on Sept. 7.

Japan last hosted the Summer Olympic Games in 1964, known as the Games of the XVIII Olympiad.

To read more, go here.

More Photos From Billy Holcomb's 2007 Amboy Clamp-out

Above, Roy's Motel in 2007.  Photo by Armand Vaquer
Back in October 2007, I attended a "Clamp-out" with the Billy Holcomb Chapter of E Clampus Vitus in the ghost town of Amboy. It was attended by 500-600 members.

The Billy Holcomb Chapter is the Clamper chapter for Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Their camping events tend to be out in the Mojave Desert, which makes them the "desert rats" of Clamperdom.

Here's a few more photos from that weekend:

Above, Glenn Thornhill, Abe Hoffman and Armand at Roy's Motel.

Above, the Clamper plaque at Roy's Motel.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the Amboy Chapel.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, lunch is being grilled at the Holcomb encampment.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Above, Glenn Thornhill at Roy's Motel.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Above, XSNGH Sid Blumner (left) at dawn.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, XNGH Abe Hoffman chasing his hat.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Above, the Billy Holcomb Chapter kitchen.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Ghost Town of Amboy

Above, Roy's Motel in 2007 with Amboy Crater in the background.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
If you find yourself in Southern California and want to do something unusual, then take a drive out to the Mojave Desert, pick up old Route 66 (National Trails Highway) and head east to Amboy, California.

Amboy is a former mining community established in 1883 (although settled in 1858) and now a ghost town.  The town is currently owned by Albert Okura, the owner of the Juan Pollo restaurant chain.  He re-opened the gasoline station at Roy's Motel in 2008. The motel remains closed, but people are welcome to take a close look at the motel's rooms.

Above, Amboy Crater.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Nearby is Amboy Crater, a 6,000-year-old cinder cone volcano, made primarily of pahoehoe lava.

I visited Amboy in late 2007 while on a camping event with the Billy Holcomb Chapter of E Clampus Vitus. A plaque honoring Amboy is mounted at Roy's Motel.

Above, Armand with the ECV plaque at Roy's Motel in 2007.
The town became a ghost town then it was bypassed by the newly-opened Interstate 40 in 1973.  The best way to Amboy is take Interstate 40 eastbound from Ludlow and exit the National Trails Highway (Route 66) and go east.

Above, the empty cabin rooms of Roy's Motel in the early morning.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

New Zealand's "Must-Do" List For Tokyo

Above, Akihabara "Electric Town."  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Everyone has different tastes on what they want to see when they go to another country on vacation.  This also goes with different nationalities. Each has their own priorities.

The New Zealand Herald has an article on "A Must-Do List For Tokyo."

Their "must-dos" include:
Shibuya Scramble (known to most of us Americans as Shibuya Crossing) 
Rooftop 'PDT' Bar (PDT stands for "Please Don't Tell") 
Roppongi Robataya 
Streamer Coffee Company - Shibuya branch 
Electric City (known to most of us Americans as Electric Town)

For details on these places, go see the full article by going here.

Japan's Tourism Industry Is Neglecting Kaiju "Sacred Places"

Above, the clock tower of the Wako Dept. Store in Ginza. The tower
was featured in "Godzilla" in 1954.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
The Tokyo Times carried the article about the Japanese government and the Japan External Trade Organization encouraging tours to "sacred" places in the world of anime.

I blogged about this subject a few days ago.  Since then, more news outlets are picking up the story, including the Tokyo Times.
Above, the Saikai Bridge was
featured in "Rodan" (1956).  Photo by
Armand Vaquer.

I responded to the Tokyo Times article with:
It is a tricky concept that "sacred" anime places are promoted in this manner. Whereas, in kaiju movies during the past 59 years, they actually used locations and landmarks in Japan and edited miniature versions in with the real places. The tourism agency should also target fans of Godzilla, Mothra, Gamera, Rodan and others in this manner.

It is probably safe to say that anime fans vastly outnumber kaiju fans. The question is, Who has the money to make a trek to Japan? I would guess that kaiju fans are generally older, as they became fans of the genre in their youth back in the 1960s and 1970s. I would also guess that anime fans are generally a lot younger. I would also say that the older kaiju fans are more likely to have the "disposable income" to afford to go to Japan.

The Japanese tourism industry is missing the boat in neglecting kaiju fans in their tourism promotions.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Lonely Planet To Release New Japan Travel Guide In August

Above, the giant lantern at the entrance to Nakamise Street in Asakusa.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Lonely Planet is about to release a new edition of its Japan Travel Guide this August.

According to JapanToday:

TOKYO —This August, global travel authority Lonely Planet is publishing the 13th edition of its Japan Country Guide. This edition includes a chapter on Tohoku, providing new, post-tsunami research. Tokyo-based author Rebecca Milner writes that Tohoku is open for travel. 
Special features in this edition include: 
• Cuisine, skiing, onsen & more
• Tips for first-time travellers
• Japan on a budget
• Top sights in illustrated detail
To read more, go here

Fire Breaks Out In Building Housing Famous Sukiyabashi Jiro

A fire broke out in the building in Ginza, Tokyo that houses the famous sushi restaurant that was the subject of the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

According to News on Japan:
A fire broke out on Monday morning in a Ginza building housing the Michelin Guide 3-star sushi restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro.

Police said the fire started at around 11:30 a.m. in the B2 floor of the 9-story building at Ginza 4-chome. 
Hopefully, the fire was contained in a small area and that the restaurant can re-open soon.

To read more, go here

Trip Planner To Japan

Above, the gardens of Kyoto's Nijo Castle.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The Economic Times (from the Times of India) has a good article on planning a trip to Japan.

It begins with:
Culture, history, retail therapy, grief tourism ... Japan packs all this and more. ET tells you how to ensure a smooth, convenient trip to the country in any of the four seasons.
 I don't know what "grief tourism" is, but the article does contain some great tips on making a visit to Japan an enjoyable one.

One item caught my eye.  It is on the recommended trip duration.
According to the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO), the ideal trip duration would be 6-7 days.
Personally, my trip durations in Japan tended to be about 9-12 days in length.  Maybe that's just me. Also, they say the spring or summer seasons are the best for visiting. Perhaps for some people, but the summers in Japan can be brutally hot and humid and not my cup of tea.  I prefer autumn or spring.

Despite some disagreements, it is a worthwhile article to read for some ideas.

To read the article, go here.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

"Visual Sheets" Replace Giant Video Monitor At Shibuya Crossing

Above, the old days of the Q Front giant video screen.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

In regard to the giant video monitor of the Q Front building at Shibuya Crossing, the following was posted back in October 2012:
そこで1月下期より3月下期限定で、Q‘s Wall+Q‘sEYEと合わせてビジョン部分もシート媒体として販売することになりました。 
Source: http://www.transit-ad.com/news/ooh/qfront/

Which, roughly translated by Google Translate, means:
Video media QFRONT is, will stop selling due to stop airing in January of next year. 
Then, in late March period limited than one late stage, it was decided that vision part also sold as sheet media in conjunction with the Q's Wall + Q'sEYE. 
And medium good very rich, stuck in visual sheet to the glass wall, high impact appeal becomes therefore possible, please examine.
Thomas, the administrator at Japan Reference,says:
The ad agency running the screen at the Q-Front Bldg. announced in October 2012 that they will stop airing ads as of January 2013. Instead of the screen they will offer "visual sheets" (Q's Wall + Q'sEYE) as displayed on the photo. 
So, it looks like the days of the giant video monitor are gone.  It is almost akin to removing the Hollywood Sign and replacing it with billboards.

UPDATE (6-24-13):  On one of the other posts on this subject, a comment was posted that said:
As per my other post, it appears we were jumping the gun a bit. According to a Japanese website transit-ad.com, the Q-Front screen is being replaced with a 16:9 screen from 1st August. Here is an English translated extract from the article:
It becomes the new Q'S EYE next resale large vision of the landmark building of the Q FRONT Shibuya Hachiko crossing "Q'S EYE" is renewed.
Screen is smaller, but the diversion of material is now easy to be changed ratio of 16:9.
Broadcast start, scheduled for 8/1.
Maybe it is not the end of a giant monitor screen on the building after all?

The Q Front Building Today

The big screen of the Q Front building at Shibuya Crossing has definitely been removed.  A friend shot this photo of the building this morning and it appears to him that this is not "a temporary measure."

If this is the case, it appears that Shibuya Crossing will never be the same. I'll check with my media contacts in Japan to see if they know more.

Photo by Thomas from JREF.

Revisions, Revisions, Etc.

Above, Peter H. Brothers in November 2009.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Peter H. Brothers has been busy re-working and revising his biography on Godzilla director Ishiro Honda, Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda. He has completed "Phase II" of the project and is now starting "Phase III."

He is adding more material from Japanese sources, among other things. He mentioned that it has been three years since the original edition was published (hard to believe it has been that long). As I recall, it came out around November 2009, about two months before The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan. We had a gathering at his stately manor in Thousand Oaks, California to celebrate its publication.

Above, yours truly scrutinizing Pete's book in November 2009.

This reminds me. Since ComiXpress has decided to close its doors, I have been mulling about doing a revision (or update) of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan. As I mentioned previously, I am leaning towards that, but if I do, it won't be started until early next year. Most, if not all, travel guides go through updates, usually on an annual basis. But as I am not "corporate America," it will take a while to get completed.

In the meantime, since we (the Nakajimas and I) are not going to the Days of the Dead convention, this frees up more copies that otherwise would have been allocated for the convention from my at-hand stock.

Details for snagging a copy are here.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Godzilla Suits & Props

Above, a "GMK" Godzilla filming suit on display at the Shibuya
HMV store in November 2001.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Over the years, I managed to see a lot of movie history in the U.S. and in Japan.

In November 2001, I made my first visit to Japan and was treated to a V.I.P. look at Toho Studios.  I was lucky to be able to see the studio as it pretty much was when Ishiro Honda, Eiji Tsuburaya and Tomoyuki Tanaka were in their heyday.

After Godzilla Final Wars (2004), the studio lot underwent a major change.  Several of the old sound stages were torn down (including Stages 1 and 2, where much of Godzilla's battles were shot) as well as the giant pool and other buildings.  New sound stages were built as well as a new front entrance to the studio.  While it is understandable that a studio would want to modernize to keep up-to-date with modern movie-making, it is sad to see historic structures go the way of the wrecking ball. The historical value of a studio visit is lost when those old structures were demolished. I'm glad I got to see them before the ball swung.

I was perusing my photo collection and thought that I should post some of Godzilla suits and props that I have seen. Enjoy!

Above, the green-hued Godzilla filming suit from
"Godzilla x Megaguirus." Photo courtesy of Richard Pusateri.
Above, Armand and Richard Pusateri with a "GMK" Godzilla  prop.
The Mothra prop sits nearby on a shelf.  Photo courtesy of Richard Pusateri.
Above, one of the "GMK" Godzilla filming suits on display at the
Shibuya HMV store in November 2001.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Above, the Baragon filming suit getting ready to pounce on the "GMK"
Godzilla filming suit at the Shibuya HMV store. Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Above, a "GMK" Godzilla event suit entertains the crowd at the
2001 Tokyo International Film Festival.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Above, a close-up of a Godzilla prop used in "Godzilla x Megaguirus"
at the Bandai Museum in 2005.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Above, the press gets blasted by "atomic breath" sprayed from a "Godzilla
Final Wars" event suit in Hollywood in 2004.  Photo by Armand Vaquer.
Above, Richard Pusateri surveys the giant pool at
Toho Studios. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

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