"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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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Philippines: Legacy of Godzilla Comes Alive

Above, the giant Godzilla poster-sign at Warner Bros. in Burbank. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

With the new American production of Godzilla hitting theaters in a little over two weeks from now, the excitement is becoming more palpable worldwide. It is interesting to read different countries' take on Godzilla.

The Philippines, who suffered under the wrath of the Imperial Japanese military in World War II, is the latest country to weigh in on the return of "the King of the Monsters." Their opening day for the movie is May 15, a day earlier than the U.S.

The Philstar.com, the online version of Manila's Philippine Star, has an article on the movie and it begins with this:
MANILA, Philippines - Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures unleash the epic-action adventure Godzilla, a powerful story of human courage and reconciliation in the face of titanic forces of nature, when the awe-inspiring monster rises to restore balance as humanity stands defenseless. 
Godzilla stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Oscar nominee Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins, with David Strathairn and Bryan Cranston. 
In 1954, Japan’s Toho Co., Ltd., released Ishiro Honda’s groundbreaking monster movie Godzilla in a country still reeling from the devastation of World War II. The film became a massive hit in Japan, and 60 years later, continues to resonate around the world for distilling the fears and horrors of the atomic age into an awe-inspiring force of nature...Godzilla.
And, recognizing Godzilla's impact on pop-culture around the world, they said this about the original 1954 movie's impact:
Partially reshot, softening some of its metaphorical bite and dubbed into multiple languages, the film was released abroad two years later and a legend was born. For the past six decades, the towering “King of the Monsters” has cut a swath through pop culture, spawning numerous sequels, an army of toys and incarnations in everything from comic books to video games. A whole new genre of movies emerged — kaiju eiga — and Godzilla became one of the most beloved and recognizable movie heroes of the 20th and now, 21st centuries.
 To read the full article, go here.

Bob Hoskins Dies At 71

Above, Bob Hoskins as Eddie Mannix in Hollywoodland. Photo: Focus Features.

Some sad news this morning.

Actor Bob Hoskins, who starred in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and portrayed MGM Executive Eddie Mannix in Hollywoodland, has died.

According to Fox News:
British actor Bob Hoskins, whose varied career ranged from noir drama "Mona Lisa" to animated fantasy "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" has died aged 71. 
A family statement released Wednesday by agent Clair Dobbs said Hoskins died in a hospital after a bout of pneumonia. 
A versatile character actor capable of menace, quiet poignancy and Cockney charm, London-raised Hoskins appeared in some of the most acclaimed British films of the past few decades, including gangster classic "The Long Good Friday."
I thought he did a great job in his portrayal of Eddie Mannix in Hollywoodland. One would never guess that he was British as he hid his accent so well.

To read more, go here.

Petitioning Hollywood: An Exercise In Futility

Fans are circulating a petition (maybe several) demanding that actor Akira Takarada's scenes, filmed for the upcoming Godzilla by Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros., be restored to the theatrical release prints.

One petition begins with:
Thanks to the support of Godzilla fans around the world, Akira Takarada was included (in a cameo role) in the upcoming Legendary Godzilla movie. At the eleventh hour, his scene has reportedly been cut from the film. Please sign this petition asking director Gareth Edwards to restore Mr. Takarada's scene to the finished film.
As the movie is a little over two weeks away from being released to theaters, it is most likely too late to restore Takarada's scenes back into the movie, even if the director and film editor are sympathetically inclined to do so. Had this decision been made and announced to the world months earlier, fans would've had a better shot at getting Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. to reverse course. Even then, I'd have my doubts that they would.

I have not seen an instance where a film was changed to placate the demands of fans, except where it was leaked out that something was in a film so offensive that it caused a major uproar. Otherwise, it just doesn't happen. That's not how Hollywood works!

The movie is locked into a May 16 release (some countries will have it open May 15). Do you really think stomping your feet now will get the studios to restore (maybe) a few seconds of footage with millions on the line in order to make a few fans happy? Get serious!

To better understand how the film (or digital) editing process works in Hollywood movies, check out this website on the subject.

I, too, am disappointed that Mr. Takarada's scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. But it is possible that his scenes were not shot well or some major blooper occurred rendering the scene(s) useless. We don't know why. The best we can hope for at this point would be to have his scenes included as an extra when the DVD and Blu-ray discs are released (petitioning for that would be a much more practical petition to circulate).

All this right now, I'm afraid, is an exercise in futility. But, if it makes you feel better, go ahead and sign it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Monster Japan Travel Guide Blurb In The Japan Daily

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

The Japan Daily posted (again) my April 16 blog post announcing the pre-vacation season sale of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan.

Well, no complaints here! (A thank-you to The Japan Daily!)

Something did occur today that concerned the sale (besides the two orders that arrived today). I received a message from a fan asking if the print edition were still available as he's going to Japan next month and is not into ebooks. I've always thought that with all the publicity and blog posts I do, everyone should be aware that, yes, the print edition is available and there's a sale currently going on.

Apparently not, so I guess I'll have to keep on plugging away. If there's one fan who wants/needs the book but didn't get the word, there must be others out there.

To see The Japan Daily, go here.

Clinton Administration Caused Housing Crash and Bank Crisis

From Investors.com:

Subprime Scandal: Newly released memos from the Clinton presidential library reveal evidence the government had a big hand in the housing crisis. The worst actors were in the White House, not on Wall Street. 
During the 1990s, former Clinton aides bragged that more aggressive enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act pressured banks to issue riskier mortgages, lending more proof the anti-redlining law fueled the crisis. 
A 2012 National Bureau of Economic Research study found "that adherence to that act led to riskier lending by banks," with "a clear pattern of increased defaults for loans made by these banks in quarters around the (CRA) exam, (and) the effects are larger for loans made within CRA tracts," or low-income and minority areas. 
To satisfy CRA examiners, Clinton mandated "flexible" lending by large banks. As a result, CRA-approved loans defaulted about 15% more often, the NBER found. 
Exhibit A in the 7,000-page Clinton Library document dump is a 1999 memo to him from his treasury secretary, Robert Rubin. 
"Public disclosure of CRA ratings, together with the changes made by the regulators under your leadership, have significantly contributed to ... financial institutions ... meeting the needs of low- and moderate-income communities and minorities," Rubin gushed. "Since 1993, the number of home mortgage loans to African Americans increased by 58%, to Hispanics by 62% and to low- and moderate-income borrowers by 38%, well above the overall market increase. 
"Since 1992, nonprofit community organizations estimate that the private sector has pledged over $1 trillion in loans and investment under CRA." 
Other documents reveal how the community-activist group ACORN and other organizations met with Rubin and other top Clinton aides on "improving credit availability for minorities." 
Clinton's changes to the CRA let ACORN use the act's ratings to "target merging firms with less-than-stellar records and to get the banks to agree to greater community investment as a condition of regulatory approval for the merger," White House aide Ellen Seidman wrote in 1997 to Clinton chief economist Gene Sperling. 
"Community groups have come to recognize how terribly powerful CRA has been as a tool for making credit available in previously underserved communities," Seidman added. 
Seidman later boasted that Clinton's 1995 CRA revisions created not only the subprime mortgage market but also the subprime securities market. Of course, subprime loans and their high default rates ruined minority neighborhoods when the market crashed. 
Memos also reveal how Clinton aides held repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act hostage to strengthening the CRA. They gave Republicans deregulation of banking activities in exchange for over-regulating how those banking activities applied to low-income communities. 
Clinton aides viewed ending the Glass-Steagall Act as a way to "extend the CRA to Wall Street firms" and wanted to extend it to insurers, mutual funds and mortgage bankers. But due to GOP opposition, that was "not politically feasible," Rubin told Clinton in a 1997 memo. 
In 2000, HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo lit the fuse on the subprime bomb by requiring Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to purchase subprime, CRA and other risky mortgages totaling half their portfolios. 
A 1993 memo, "Racism in Home Lending," captured the tone of Clinton's affordable-housing crusade. It proposed coordinating with the Washington Post and Congressional Black Caucus on bank investigations. 
These White House papers are smoking-gun evidence of Clinton's culpability in creating the subprime bubble. The mainstream media's silence is deafening.

Naturally, because the "fit hit the shan" during the final months of George W. Bush's administration, Democrats try to blame him for the crisis. It was the Bush Administration that first sounded the alarm that fell on deaf ears and led Christopher Dodd, Barney Frank and Maxine Waters (among others) to claim everything's alright and charge the whistle-blowers of racism. [See this.]

Japanese Fans: New American Godzilla "Too Fat"

Above, the new Godzilla. Photo: Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros.

As we are getting closer and closer to the May 16 release of Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. Godzilla, we have been treated to numerous trailers and stills of Godzilla.

For the most part, Godzilla fans are pleased that Godzilla looks like Godzilla this time, instead of a mutated iguana that TriStar tried to pass off as Godzilla in 1998.

But, what do Japanese fans think of this incarnation of their biggest mon-star?

Rocket News 24 has some answers:
When clear pictures of the creature hit the net this week, the response was probably not what studio execs were hoping for. Some Japanese fans are apparently calling this incarnation of Godzilla “fat”. Ouch.
This could have been said of the Heisei Godzilla starting with Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II (1993) in which the Big G really started getting "thunder thighs" like a morbidly obese woman.

To read more, go here.

Nation's Corn Crop Planting At 20%

AgWeb.com reports that the nation's corn crop planting is nearing 20%.

They show the agriculture states and the progress for each on the planting in this progress report:

Nebraska, the state where my farm land is located, is at 20%. Nebraska's 2009-2013 average for this date is 22%. 

White House Advisor Urged Rice To Blame Benghazi Attack On Video To Protect Obama

Judicial Watch obtained White House emails showing that senior staffers put out the false story that the Benghazi attack that led to the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya was due to a video. They knew it was a terrorist attack but wanted to protect President Obama's re-election.

Newsmax reported:
An email obtained by the government watchdog Judicial Watch shows that a senior White House official advised then-National Security Adviser Susan Rice to blame a spontaneous protest from a YouTube video for the 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Fox News reported.

Fox's chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge reported that the Sept. 14, 2012, email shows that White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes advised Rice to focus on a YouTube video as the cause of a spontaneous protest, though transcripts have since been revealed to show that senior defense officials had informed the administration on the night of the event that the assault was a terrorist attack.
These staffers should be fired, if they haven't been already. If not, Obama should be impeached for lying to the public. Richard Nixon was crucified for far less.

This does not look good for Hillary Clinton either as she also stuck to the Administration's false story and lied to the American people.

Benghazi aside...

Read Latest Breaking News from Newsmax.com http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/email-Susan-Rice-Benghazi-blame/2014/04/29/id/568416#ixzz30Iz0ZrBh

2nd "Godzilla" International Trailer Released

Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. have released the second international trailer to Godzilla. It is action-packed with some flying footage of Godzilla's foe, MUTO.

The People's Republic of California Loses Toyota To Texas

Well, the one-party state of California (The People's Republic of California) is losing another major employer to the state of Texas: Toyota.

Toyota is moving its headquarters to Texas as the business climate there is a lot friendlier than in California where corporations are over-taxed, over-regulated and over-litigated by the radical left-wing Democrats who control the state.

According to Forbes.com:
For Japanese auto brands, the logic of keeping their U.S. sales and administrative arms in California is breaking down under the outsized penalties of conducting business in the Golden State and the changing dynamics of the North American automotive industry. So Toyota is leaving, according to Automotive News. 
And where is Japan’s biggest automaker relocating its sales and marketing operations in America? Why, North Texas, of course. The move MOVE -0.69% to Plano, Texas, will involve most of the 5,000 managers and employees at Toyota’s current Torrance, Calif., headquarters, the magazine said. 
Texas Gov. Rick Perry apparently didn’t even have to make a recruiting trip to southern California to get Toyota to do this, although he has helped lure plenty of companies with that gambit over the last several years.
Why are companies like Toyota leaving California?

The article goes on to point out:
Besides, California’s business climate is becoming an even bigger downer. California has become infamous with business executives and owners there not only for high tax rates and complex taxing schemes but also for overzealous regulations and regulators that have managed to stifle the entrepreneurial energy of thousands of companies. 
Even Hollywood movie studios have been souring about producing flicks in California, increasingly reckoning that the sweet tax breaks and assistance packages now offered by so many other states offset the legacy advantages and ideal production climate in California.
A lot of this pre-dates the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown, but he has done nothing to stop it and has also added to the burdens of corporations. That's what you get when you hand a state over to one political party comprised of leftists and Marxist loons.

To read more, go here.

Space Shuttle Carrier 747 To Be Displayed In Houston

Above, the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft parked at Edwards Air Force Base in 1977. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Thanks to Barack Obama, another piece of NASA history will be consigned to being a museum piece as the U.S. manned space program is systematically being dismantled.

According to Canada.com:
HOUSTON — Another piece of history tied to the now retired space shuttle fleet is making its last journey. 
A convoy of giant flatbed trailers slowly began a 13-kilometre trip Monday carrying the biggest disassembled pieces of the old 747 jumbo jet that flew shuttles on cross-country trips for decades. 
Known as the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft, or SCA, it will be put back together, topped with a shuttle replica about 18 metres off the ground and become a museum piece scheduled to be shown next year just outside NASA’s Johnson Space Center, where centre director Ellen Ochoa will see it from her office window.
I first saw this 747 jet in 1977 parked at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert. Then, on July 4, 1982, I saw it again as it ferried shuttle Challenger over the crowd that attended the landing of Columbia earlier. I was one of 500,000 people at that landing.

Above, Challenger flies over the just-landed Columbia in  July 1982. .

The article states that there were two Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 747s:
NASA had two of the 747s, known by their tail numbers 905 and 911. The now Houston-based plane was NASA 905 and the first to get the distinctive struts protruding from its fuselage that served as mounts for the shuttle. 
The former American Airlines passenger jet was obtained by NASA in 1974, was renovated and was used first on test flights with shuttle prototype Enterprise.
 To read more, go here.

Monday, April 28, 2014

"Japanese Only"

Back in 2006, I was in Sendai, Japan one night and decided to take a stroll around the business and nightclub district.

While walking down a main street lined with nightclubs and bars, I noticed that some of them had signs posted that said "Japanese Only." I have heard of these before, but this was the first time I've encountered such signage. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me at the time to shoot photos of these signs. Although I heard there are signs of this nature in Tokyo, I have never seen any.

Many, if not most, foreign visitors to Japan find these signs as discriminatory and offensive. However, many businesses don't intend to discriminate against non-Japanese people, many of them just put the signs up to tell them that they only understand Japanese. Other businesses have put them up due to past bad experiences with foreign visitors.

Still, the issue of "Japanese Only" signs still rages and the Asahi Shimbun has a new article on the subject.

It begins with:
A “Japanese Only” banner at a professional soccer game made international headlines and led to unprecedented penalties. But such signs are not new in Japan, and some have even appeared at tourist hotspots. 
It is true that some signs like these have been put up by people who genuinely dislike citizens of other countries. But many others say they had no intention to be discriminatory, and that their “Japanese Only” displays stem from the language barrier and problems with foreign customers unaware of Japanese rules and customs. 
Two apparent reasons why these signs keep showing up is a general sense of apathy among the public and a lack of understanding at how offensive the words can be for foreigners in Japan.
Thankfully, according to the article, these kinds of signs are appearing less frequently as people in Japan are learning how offensive and discriminatory they are.

To read the article, go here.

Tokyo Business/Budget Hotels Under $100

Above, two budget hotels are near the famous Nakamise Dori in Asakusa. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Want to visit Tokyo, Japan but are unsure that you can afford it?  Well, you can!

As promised, I did some spot-checking for business/budget hotels with current prices that are below $100 (or, ¥10,000) per night.

As I previously posted, six hotels were given as examples over at Rocket News 24 back in December 2011. Unfortunately, most have jacked up their room rates to over $100 per night since the article was posted. So, I looked for six hotels who have current prices below $100 per night.

They are:

In Asakusa: Marroad Inn has rooms starting at ¥5,800, or roughly $58.00.

In Ueno: Hotel New Ueno has rooms starting at ¥6,510, or roughly $65.00.

In Shinagawa: Ours Inn has rooms starting at ¥5,700, or roughly $57.00.

In Ikebukuro: Hotel Ohedo has rooms starting at ¥7,200, or roughly $72.00.

In Shinagawa: Shinagawa Prince Hotel has rooms starting at ¥6,200, or roughly $62.00.

In Asakusa: Agora Place Asakusa has rooms starting at ¥8,200, or roughly $82.00.

If you want to pay for a room that charges over $100 per night, that is your choice. Some people do want to bask in luxury. The Imperial Hotel (a short walk from the Godzilla statue in Hibiya) is one such hotel. It is a lot more upscale since Steve Martin stayed there in 1954. Another luxury hotel that immediately comes to mind is the Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku that was featured in Lost In Translation.

By staying at a business or budget hotel, this'll free up money to spend on Godzilla toys or other goodies.

So, since there are affordable hotels in Tokyo, all you need (besides available cash) is your passport, plane ticket and a copy of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan and you're good to go!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Oh-oh! Akira Takarada's "Godzilla" Cameo On Cutting Room Floor

Above, Akira Takarada and Armand at last year's Son of Monsterpalooza.

Word is getting around that classic Godzilla actor Akira Takarada's cameo appearance in the upcoming Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. Godzilla has ended up on the cutting room floor.

Not surprisingly, some fans are up in arms over this decision.

The producers of the movie had brought over Takarada to appear in a cameo in the movie. Apparently, the editors (or someone) connected to the studios decided that the cameo wasn't a good fit, for whatever reason.

Well, hopefully Takarada's scene(s) will make it into the DVD/Blu-ray release of the movie as an extra.

At least Takarada (I presume) cashed the check.

ANA's New Uniforms Unveiled


For the first time in 10 years, Japan's leading airline, All Nippon Airways (ANA), has changed the design of their uniforms.

Japan Today reported:
ANA welcomed Prabal Gurung, who has experience designing for many notable public figures such as Michelle Obama and Princess Kate, and is the first foreign designer in ANA’s history. He made their 10th uniform elegant, feminine, chic, and in a modern style to express ANA’s 5-star high quality service.
To read more, go here.

How do you say, "Coffee, tea or me?" in Japanese?

Wi-Fi Expanded In Japan For Travelers

Japan has a reputation as a very hi-tech country. Except for one area: access to the Internet at public places. Compared to some other countries, Japan has been woefully lacking.

That is now changing.

In preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games and to meet foreign tourist demand, Japan is now embarking on providing Wi-Fi service.

According to News on Japan:
Domestic transportation operators are broadening wireless Internet access at train stations and on airplanes, in response to widespread use of smartphones and strong demand from foreign tourists. 
Even medical institutions are considering easing restrictions on Internet connections at their facilities. 
To read more, go here.

Six Tokyo Business Hotels

Above, the Skytree. One of the listed hotels has a view of the tower. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

My preferred hotel in Tokyo is the Hotel Asia Center of Japan. It has nice rooms, laundry, free bottled water and a nice restaurant with western or Japanese-style breakfasts. It is also centrally located in Tokyo and near the Ginza Subway Line.

Unfortunately, the hotel was fully booked during the time I was to be in Japan in February. So, I decided to stay at the Tsukuba Hotel in Ueno. I was familiar with the Tsukuba Hotel as I stayed there in 2005. But, I have since decided that I will need to find more reasonably-priced hotels in Tokyo, in case I run into the problem of a fully-booked Hotel Asia Center of Japan, to use as back-ups.

Rocket News 24 has a December 2011 article on six business hotels in Tokyo that may be worth a look into.

Keep in mind that the prices have changed, with or without the recent hike in the consumption tax (8%) and the current foreign exchange rate of the dollar (which is much better than when the article was written). I will be doing a blog article on budget or business hotels with more up-to-date prices soon. This will give you an idea on some budget hotels, what they look like and charge.

The article begins with:
When deciding to travel in Japan we are faced with a rather large assortment of hotels that don’t exist in our home countries, one of which is the “business hotel”. The label of business hotel may conjure up images of the infamous “capsule hotels” for some, while for other’s it may have the sense of a dank, narrow, room that was occupied by the cast of Mad Men. I suspected such things at first until, in an effort to save money, I bit the bullet and tried a few out. 
I can now confidently say that despite their label, business hotels are actually rather comfy – some of them downright elegant! 
These hotels don’t skimp on the amenities. For instance, it wouldn’t be hard to find a business hotel that offers air conditioning, humidifier, or even an air purifier. Most have fairly spacious bathrooms and offer a complimentary breakfast. Even if you are just looking for a place to have a brief romantic rendezvous, a business hotel can be a cheaper alternative to a dingy motel or robotic love hotel. 
Let’s take a look at 6 prime business hotels that can be found in the Tokyo area. All hotels charge rates less than 3,500 yen (US$44.80) per person when two people are staying in the room at a rate of 7,000 yen total ($89.60).
 To read the full article, go here.

Bullet Train Cleaning Crews Have 7 Minutes To Prepare Trains

Above, TESSEI shinkansen cleaning crew waits to begin work on a just-arrived train. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

An interesting article was posted in Rocket News 24 on the Tōkaidō Shinkansen (bullet train) cleaning crews. When the trains pull into Tokyo Station, the cleaning crews have seven (7) minutes to get the cars cleaned and ready for the next departure.

According to the article:
Japan’s shinkansen, or bullet train in the West, was the world’s first high-speed train running at 200km per hour, and today the Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the world’s most used high-speed rail line. Impressively, even with over 120,000 trains running on the line each year, the average delay time is a mere 36 seconds! 
Part of the reason the bullet train system can run as smoothly as it does is thanks to the ‘hospitality group’ working behind the scenes of the sleek, futuristic facades of these famous trains. These cleaning crews are charged with covering every inch of a train’s interior when it arrives at its final stop and preparing it for the next wave of customers–and they have just seven minutes to do it. 
JR East’s rail service company is known as TESSEI, and it is responsible for the cleaning of the bullet trains when they have come to a stop at Tokyo Station.
Above, a cleaning crew member waits for the signal to begin work. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Back in 2010, I watched as a TESSEI cleaning crew lined up along side of a shinkansen in Tokyo Station and began cleaning once the go-ahead signal was given. The word TESSEI is on their baseball cap's bill.

To read the story, go here.

"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"

One of the best (in my opinion) Gordon Lightfoot songs was about an actual tragedy, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

I came across the below YouTube video of Lightfoot's song with film footage of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which sank during a storm on Lake Superior in the 1970s.

Tokyo Tower Under Construction

Above, Tokyo Tower in 2014. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Built in 1958, it took about a year to build Tokyo Tower.

Tokyo Tower made its first appearance in a kaiju movie in 1961's Mothra. It is spotlighted in The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan on page 30

Before the Skytree was built, Tokyo Tower was the Tokyo area's prime broadcasting tower for radio and television. But, once Japan switched to digital broadcasting, Tokyo Tower's height (333 meters) was found to be inadequate for digital signal broadcasts. That is why the Skytree was built.

Tokyo Tower's main sources of revenue (before the Skytree was built) were tourism and broadcasting. There is some talk about adding 100 more meters to Tokyo Tower.

Here are a couple of photos of Tokyo Tower as it was being built in 1958.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Huffington Post: "Godzilla's Secret History"

Poster: Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros.

Back in 1998, the TriStar Godzilla (commonly referred to by fans as G.I.N.O. (Godzilla In Name Only)) was released to much-deserved bad reviews by critics and fans. At that time, before the movie was released in May of that year, very little, if anything, was mentioned about the backstory of the Godzilla character in Japan.

This year, with Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. Godzilla will hit theaters on May 16 and the media is paying more attention as that release date nears. The media is also taking a look at what led to Godzilla as a stand-in for the atomic bomb. This is very gratifying to see. I don't remember any articles even discussing this aspect 16 years ago.

The Huffington Post has a good article on "Godzilla's Secret History" which fans should take a look at and steer non-fans over to read it. They acknowledge that the Gareth Edwards-directed film will be getting Godzilla back to his roots. That couldn't be said of the Matthew Broderick debacle of 1998.

Here's the first paragraph for a taste on what the article says:
Godzilla is a multicultural icon. If there was a Coca-Cola commercial featuring monsters that sung the national anthem, he'd be singing his part in a mixture of English and Japanese. He's been terrorizing Tokyo for longer than Disneyland has been around. Over the span of 60 years, he's battled Earthlings, space monsters and robots, spawned offspring and chased Matthew Broderick, all while belting out the most iconic roar in film history. He's appeared in 28 Japanese films, a 1998 American film and an upcoming 2014 reboot, countless comic books, novels, video games and TV. That's an astounding feat of sustainability. The daikaiju has nestled in our hearts (and nightmares) carving out a permanent place in the annals of entertainment lore. But even more astounding is Godzilla's secret past. Where did Godzilla come from, and why? In anticipation of Godzilla 2014 hitting theaters May 16 (directed by Gareth Edwards, and starring Bryan Cranston, Elizabeth Olsen and Ken Watanabe), here's a brief guide to the monster's origin story. The truth may actually blow your mind. 
Above, the bow of the Lucky Dragon No. 5. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The article won't blow fans' minds, but it does give a good history of Godzilla that fans can pass on to friends who haven't a clue on what the Godzilla character was really all about.  The Lucky Dragon No. 5 story is a major part of the article.

To read "Godzilla's Secret History," go here.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Godzilla Roar Ringtone

Above, the Godzilla slide in Yokosuka, Japan. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Here's your chance to drive your friends, family and co-workers nuts!

To celebrate the upcoming Godzilla from Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros., you can add a classic Godzilla roar ringtone to your cell phone (it's as good an excuse as any, right?).

To get it, go here. Have fun!

Panel Revises Chances Of A Major Quake In Kanto Region

Above, modern Tokyo buildings have been designed to withstand earthquakes. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Being from Southern California, living under the threat of a major earthquake is something I am rather used to. The two major ones I experienced were the Sylmar Earthquake of February 1971 and the Northridge Earthquake of January 1994.

I have also felt others, but they were less strong where I was at (the Landers Earthquake and the Big Bear Earthquake hit on the same day around 1991 and I remember those). Los Angeles is overdue for a major earthquake.

Now, News on Japan reports that chances of a major earthquake in the Kanto Region of Japan (which includes Tokyo) have been revised up. This is the first time in ten years that a modification has been made.

They wrote:
Seismologists have revised upward the chance of a very big earthquake in Tokyo and vicinity within the next 30 years from zero to 2 percent to a maximum 5 percent. 
The government's Earthquake Research Committee on Friday released revised possible magnitudes and chances of powerful quakes near the Sagami Trough. 
The trough extends from Sagami Bay to off the Boso Peninsula in the Kanto region that includes Tokyo. 
To read more, go here.

Exchanging Business Cards In Japan

Above, Tokyo office and apartment buildings. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Back in 2001, I made my first trip to Japan. Having read much about Japanese customs previously, I was already familiar with how the exchange of business cards takes place. There's a lot of formality involved and it would be best that anyone who goes to Japan on business or pleasure (or a little of both) familiarize himself/herself on the customary of exchanging business cards.

Fortunately, GaijinPot has posted an article on just this topic. You may want to bookmark it for future reference.

They begin it with:
One of the perennial topics in Japanese business etiquette is the exchange of business cards, or meishi koukan (名刺交換) in Japanese. 
It’s a subject that has been addressed many times in all sorts of media, and yet the fundamental rules and social etiquette surrounding the practice are still frequently mistaken. 
Today I’ll go over the process of exchanging business cards and present a few choice phrases that should put you in good stead.
To read more, go here

Narita Airport Breaks Flight & Passenger Records

Above, the greeting gate at Narita Airport's Terminal One Arrival Lobby. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Narita International Airport broke their own flight and passenger records during the 2013 fiscal year that ended in March. Looks like my flights in and out of Narita were counted during that period.

The Japan Times wrote:
Takeoffs and landings at Narita International Airport rose 7 percent from a year earlier to a record 226,182 in fiscal 2013, according to the airport operator. 
In the year that ended in March, the number of passengers grew 8 percent to over 36 million, rewriting the all-time high, Narita International Airport Corp. said Thursday. 
The record reflects an increase in domestic flights by low-cost carriers and steady growth in passengers from overseas lured by a weakened yen, it said.
To read more, go here.

Travel Guide Pre-Vacation Season Sale Starts Today!

Today's the day that the pre-vacation season sale of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan begins.

Here are the details:
With vacation season only a few months away and the opening of Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. "Godzilla" coming May 16, Armand Vaquer, author of "The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan," announced a pre-vacation season discount of 20% off the guide's cover price, making the cost of the book $12.00, plus $2.00 shipping and handling, for a total of $14.00 each. 
"As vacation season is fast approaching and with the high awaress of the new "Godzilla" movie, it is time to launch the pre-vacation season sale of "The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan," stated Vaquer. "From Friday, April 25 to Monday, June 16, the travel guide will be available at a 20% discount directly from me." 
"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" is the world's only Japan travel guide tailored to fans of Japanese science-fiction and fantasy films who want to see locations and landmarks from the movies. 
Orders postmarked Friday, April 25 through Monday, June 16 are entitled to the discount. 
To order, send your check or money order payable to Armand Vaquer at 18618 Collins Street, #105, Tarzana, California 91356.
While supplies last!

"Godzilla" Bus Shelter: The Other Side

When I shot two pictures of the bus shelter in Burbank last night, I didn't walk around to see what poster was on the other side.

This morning, on my way home, I passed it and saw that it was another and different Godzilla poster. I took a picture of it this evening and here it is along with one of my photos from the night before for comparison.

Here they are:

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"Godzilla" Roars In Early Tracking

Above, the new Godzilla IMAX poster.

It is starting to look like Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. Godzilla is a blockbuster in the making in early tracking.

The Hollywood Reporter reported today:
May tentpole Godzilla came on tracking Thursday with impressive strength and should stomp past $60 million in its North American debut. More bullish box-office observers believe it could clear $70 million. 
The movie, hoping to finally launch a Hollywood studio franchise headlined by the giant lizard, could be a defining moment for Legendary Pictures, which spearheaded the $160 million reboot. Legendary co-financed 75 percent of Godzilla, with Warner Bros. putting up the rest of the money. 
Godzilla opens in North American theaters on May 16. It makes its international assault at the same time. Box-office observers believe Godzilla will have even more strength overseas.
To read more, go here

Obama Puts Tokyo's Vending Machines Out-Of-Service

Above, vending machines like this one in Tokyo were sealed for Obama's visit. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It has been reported in the Japanese (and some western) press that lockers at some of Tokyo's train and subway stations had been temporarily closed for President Barack Obama's visit to Japan.

Rocket News 24 reported yesterday that along with lockers, vending machines were also closed for business during Obama's visit. Prior to Obama's arrival, the vending machines were sealed with tape.

They reported:
This evening, U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in Japan. While here, he’ll be meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with the two scheduled to discuss strengthening diplomatic ties between the U.S. and Japan, and also the possibility of Japan participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP. 
Since we spend at least half of our time thinking with our stomachs, we can’t help but realize that Japan’s agreeing to the proposed trade agreement would likely mean lower import taxes on American beef. But while the possibility of a future with more meat has us excited, it comes with a gastronomic price, as the security measures surrounding the president’s visit mean that a number of beverage and ice cream vending machines in Tokyo have been temporarily shut down ahead of his arrival.
Notices had been posted that the machines would not be usable until after April 25. Even recycling boxes found near the vending machines were sealed, making it difficult for people to find place to discard their trash.

To read the article, and see many photographs of the sealed vending machines, go here.

ArrivalGuides and Knowledge Travel Partners Partner Up

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

Japan is serious about rolling out the welcome mat to visitors in the build-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and providing information on destinations in Japan.

Travel Daily News reported:
In the build up for the summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020 the Japanese National Tourist Board is investing large funds to promote Japan for foreign tourism. The city tourist bureaus (DMOs) in Japan have traditionally struggled in this area. ArrivalGuides has signed a partnership agreement with Knowledge Travel Partners, Japan’s first foreign tourism consultants, to attract more Japanese DMOs to join the ArrivalGuides network and make information about their destination available for the over 50 million travelers who actively use the ArrivalGuides destination content through the 260 travel partners in the ArrivalGuides network.
To read more, go here

"Godzilla" At A Bus Shelter Near You

As we get closer to May 16, which is opening day for Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. Godzilla, the advertising machine is either in high gear or getting very close to it.

I have seen television advertisements, billboards and, now, bus shelter ads.

Tonight, while on my way to work in Burbank, California (which is also home to Warner Bros. Studios), I spotted this bus bench shelter with a Godzilla poster and took a couple shots of it with my cell phone.

Here they are:

This brought to mind how disappointing the ad campaign, or lack thereof, of Godzilla 2000 back in the summer of 2000. There were no bus shelter or any other kinds of advertising that I saw at the time. Small wonder why the movie only earned $10 million at the box office.

And, in Chicago...

Above, Lenell Bridges poses with a Godzilla poster at a bus shelter in Chicago. Photo courtesy of Lenell Bridges.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Number of Foreign Visitors To Japan Reached All-Time High In March

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

People must have read about the grand time I had in Japan (despite the snow) in February as foreign tourists flocked to Japan in record numbers in March, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO).

The Bangkok Post reported:
TOKYO - The number of foreign visitors to Japan reached 1.05 million in March, an all-time high for a single month, topping the previous high of 1 million in July last year, an estimate released by the Japan National Tourism Organisation showed Wednesday. 
The figure for March was up 22.6% from the same month a year earlier.
To read more, go here

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Latest Blog Pick-Ups

The Japan Daily picked up a couple of blog posts from today.

The first is one about H.I.S. Co.'s plans to purchase an offshore island near Sasebo City in Kyushu to turn it into a casino resort.

The second was on The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan pre-vacation season sale that starts Friday, April 25.

To see The Japan Daily, go here.

Japan's PM Shinzo Abe On The Cover Of Time

Love him or despise him, but no recent Japanese prime minister has rattled the cages of Japan's neighbors as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has.

The current issue of Time Magazine has Abe on the cover and includes an interview with him.

Time Out Tokyo reports:
Well, well, look who it is. In his interview with Time magazine, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tackles sensitive subjects including the country’s territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku islands, Japan’s remorse over its ‘brutal wartime record’, and the controversy surrounding reports that he has considered revising the 1993 Kono Statement which recognised the Japanese military’s sexual enslavement of Asian ‘comfort women’.
Along with those topics, Abe also discusses Abenomics. It is sure to be an interesting read.

To see Time Out Tokyo's article, go here

New "The Flash" Television Show

Above, this is the new tv show Flash. How can someone be
 "the fastest man alive" in such a baggy and ridiculous costume? 

So, there's going to be a new The Flash television series.

It is being developed by writer/producers Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns. And, it is to air on The CW and it stars Grant Gustin and Candice Patton.

From the looks of the costume, I think I will pass on it. The costume of the 1990s television series looked much better (although the fake muscles were a bit overboard).

Looks like another Hollywood super-hero screw-up is in the making.

People's Republic of California Wants Pro-Boy Scout Judges Banned

The Looney Left Report

The People's Republic of California has come up with something that just boggles the mind.

The Daily Caller (thanks to The Federalist blog for the alert) has unearthed a plot by the left-wing-dominated California Supreme Court Advisory Committee to ban members of the Boy Scouts of America from serving as judges.

The Federalist Reported:
The People's Republic of California is proposing to ban members of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) from serving as judges because the Boy Scouts do not allow gay troop leaders, The Daily Caller has learned. 
In a move with major legal implications, The California Supreme Court Advisory Committee on The Code of Judicial Ethics has proposed to classify the Boy Scouts as practicing “invidious discrimination” against gays, which would end the group’s exemption to anti-discriminatory ethics rules and would prohibit judges from being affiliated with the group reports the Daily Caller.
This is what happens when wacko left-wingers have complete control of a state. California is essentially a one-party state controlled by radical, left-wing Democrats with their committee and judicial appointments.

According to a reliable source, the California Supreme Court Advisory Committe has strongly denounced the BSA for a long time as being "an inappropriate group" yet they "allow formation of pro-gay associations that support the advancement of gay judicial candidates."

To read more, go here.

"The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan" Latest News

Above, The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan table at last year's Mad Monster Party. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

It is three more days (June 25) until the pre-vacation season sale of the print edition of The Monster Movie Fan's Guide To Japan goes into effect. The travel guide's Facebook members don't have to wait and they can get the 20% discount now as a thank-you for their support. The sale runs through Monday, June 16.

For details on the sale, go here.


In regard to the ebook edition at Amazon's Kindle Store, I woke up today to receive a message from Amazon that the royalty payment for last month's sales (which was a good month, by the way) has been deposited. My thanks to those who purchased the ebook edition!

H.I.S. May Buy Island Near Theme Park For Casino Resort

Above, many islands dot the Kyushu coast and may be candidates for a casino resort. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Sasebo may be known more than just the Saikai Bridge and the Hario Towers (featured in Rodan (1956)) if casino resort developers have their way.

The Japan Times reported:
H.I.S. Co.’s Dutch-themed Huis Ten Bosch amusement park along the Nagasaki coast is considering buying a deserted offshore island in an expansion to boost its appeal as a possible site for a casino resort. 
“We are planning to buy new land to offer more games at the Huis Ten Bosch theme park,” Hideo Sawada, chairman of the Tokyo-based travel agency and park operator, said in an interview last week. “There are a lot of deserted islands nearby.” He said at least ¥100 billion is needed to fund a gambling resort at the park. 
Huis Ten Bosch and sites across Japan are preparing to compete for possible gambling resort developments before the nation ends a ban on casinos, with preliminary legislation expected to be passed in the coming months. Global operators from Las Vegas Sands Corp. to Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. have said they are prepared to invest billions of dollars should they win permits for casinos in the world’s third-largest economy. 
Japan’s casino market could eventually generate $40 billion in annual revenue, trailing only China’s Macau as a gambling hub, CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets estimates.
Above, the Shin-Saikai Bridge near Sasebo City. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Huis Ten Bosch is near Sasebo City (the train I rode on passed it while on the way to Sasebo in 2007) and is twice the size of Tokyo Disneyland, according to the article. There are many offshore islands near Sasebo, Nagasaki and Fukuoka, so any one of them could be a prime candidate for a casino resort.

To read more, go here.

Monday, April 21, 2014

"The Real Face of Jesus?"

The only Easter thing I did was to watch a History Channel video on the Shroud of Turin, "The Real Face of Jesus?"

Whether or not the man whose image is on the shroud is Jesus doesn't matter. This is an interesting video and worth a look.

36 Classifications of Japanese Train Nerds

Above, shinkansen trains at Tokyo Station. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Rocket News 24 has posted an article on 36 (yes, 36) varieties of "train nerds" (people who love trains).

I was surprised to read about the different train otaku sub-cultures the article came up with.

The article begins with:
You may already be aware that there is a subculture of train fanatics in Japan known as densha otaku, or train nerds. But did you know that there are loads of sub-subcultures within the densha otakus? From those obsessed with train noises to experts in train lunch boxes, we’ve got them all covered for you.
The article has a cool photograph of a model train layout that includes Tokyo Tower.

Are you a "train nerd" and, if so, what category(ies) do you fit in with?

To read the article, go here

Crazy China: Seizes Japanese Ship For Pre-War Debts

It is starting to look like the Chinese government is crazy.

Japan Today reported:
TOKYO —The Japanese government on Monday warned that the seizure of a Japanese ship in Shanghai over pre-wartime debts threatened ties with China and could undermine the basis of their post-war diplomatic relationship. 
Authorities in Shanghai seized the large freight vessel in a dispute over what the Chinese side says is unpaid bills relating to the 1930s, when Japan occupied swathes of China. 
The move is the latest to illustrate the bitter enmity at the heart of Tokyo-Beijing ties, with the two sides embroiled in a spat over the ownership of a small archipelago and snapping at each other over differing interpretations of history. 
Shanghai Maritime Court said Saturday it had seized “the vessel Baosteel Emotion owned by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines… for enforcement of an effective judgement” made in December 2007.
Wondering what this is all about? The article goes on to state:
Reports said in 1936, Mitsui’s predecessor, Daido Shipping Co. rented two ships on a one-year contract from Zhongwei Shipping Co. 
However, the ships were commandeered by the Imperial Japanese Navy and were sunk during World War II, reports said. 
A compensation suit was brought against Mitsui by the descendants of the founder of Zhongwei Shipping Co, and in 2007, a Shanghai court ordered Mitsui to pay about 2.9 billion yen in compensation. 
Mitsui appealed against the court’s decision, but in December 2010, the Supreme People’s Court turned down their petition for the case to be retried. 
Mitsui has argued that it is not liable for paying compensation given that the ships that Daido rented were requisitioned by the Japanese military during the war, Kyodo News said. 
On Monday, Japan’s chief government spokesman, Yoshihide Suga said the seizure undermined the 1972 joint communique that normalised ties between Japan and China, in which Beijing agreed to renounce “its demand for war reparation from Japan.”
This is like someone here suing Japan (such as descendants of the owner of the pier that was damaged by Japanese submarine shelling in 1942 near Santa Barbara, California) for compensation for wartime damages today. We have courts crazy enough to allow such a lawsuit go forward.

Suga makes a good point that China agreed to renounce any demands for war reparations from Japan in 1972. Nice of them to live up to their agreements, eh?

This is total stupidity on China's part. It looks like they are trying to bully Japan, by using any means, over the Senkaku Islands dispute. They just may lose a valuable trading partner in the process.

But this should come as no surprise. People forget that China still has a communist government, which, by the way, controls the Chinese judicial system.

To read more, go here.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Matsushima Bans Seagull Feeding To Save Islet Pines

Above, a passenger on a Matsushima cruise boat feeding gulls. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

Back in 2006, I went to Matsushima Bay to see the spot where my dad had his picture taken in front of the Godaido Temple in 1951, just before he was sent over to Korea.

While there, I took a boat cruise that circled around the many islets in Matsushima Bay. During the cruise, we were entertained (and overwhelmed) by many of the bay's seagulls begging for food from the passengers. The birds were quite aggressive and would take food from the passengers' hands.

The Japan News (Yomiuri Shimbun) reported that a ban on feeding the gulls is now in place as their droppings may be endangering the pine trees that grow on the islets.

They wrote:
Feeding black-tailed gulls has been a popular activity on the sightseeing boats that cruise around the Matsushima islets, considered to be one of the three most beautiful spots in Japan, but local authorities banned the practice this month in a bid to protect the islets’ famous pine trees from withering as a result of nitrogen in the droppings of the gulls, who have bred in large numbers in the area. 
Tourists who looked forward to feeding the birds have expressed disappointment, but the government of Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, has called for visitors’ understanding, saying it is the pine trees that make Matsushima (literally, pine island) what it is.
Above, some of the islets of Matsushima Bay. Photo by Armand Vaquer.

The ban on gull feeding will have a duration of one year. Gull-feeding or no gull-feeding, a visit to Matsushima Bay is one I recommend. Matsushima Bay is often compared to Carmel, California for its scenic beauty.

To read more, go here.

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