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The 21st G-Fest: Thousand of Godzilla Fans Get Together at Rosemont

Godzilla fans’ gathering “G-FEST” was held from July 11 to 13 at the Crown Hotel Plaza in Rosemont. Many events were prepared for the festival, such as kaiju film screenings, costume parades, games, and kaiju craft classes. In addition, concerts were held to commemorate the centennial celebration for Akira Ifukube, who composed pieces of music for Godzilla movies.

This year, main figures of “Terror of Mechagodzilla”, Tomoko Ai and Katsuhiko Sasaki; special effect director Koichi Kawakita; maquette sculptor and model maker for the film and toy collectibles industries, Hiroshi Sagae, attended the festival as guests from Japan. Japanese students also participated in it and introduced their independent kaiju (monster) film “Zella: Monster Marshal Law”.

G-FEST was initiated by a Godzilla fan, J.D. Lees, who is a high school teacher in Canada. Lees first published a newsletter G-FAN for his friends in 1993. When he ran a small ad in a science magazine, many G-fans applied for a subscription.
G-Fans had its first meeting in 1994 with 20 members and held the second meeting at Arlington Heights in 1995. Attendees increased year after year, and about a thousand gather in Rosemont every year.
This year G-FEST marked its 21st anniversary. According to Lees, the number of attendees set a record last year, and more attendees were expected this year.

Frank Hufnagel, who has studied film making, participated in G-Fest from New York with his father Frank Hufnagel. Hufnagel (son) became a Godzilla fan after his uncle showed him a Godzilla movie, and eventually his father joined him.

Mark Grosser and Erica Kendall were Godzilla fans since they were children. Kendall said that she could not remember when she encountered the monster, but it was always with her.
The two met each other at their work place in a college in Indiana and participated in Anime Central. They decided to come to G-FEST for the first time this year. Kendall said that Japan brought them together.

Actress Tomoko Ai

Tomoko Ai was playing a role as Haruko Matsuki in “Ultraman Leo” semi-regularly. When she heard of the audition for “Terror of Mechagodzilla”, she ran to the audition room with Matsuki’s costume, and she was hired. Charming Ai played as the daughter of a scientist, Katsura, who fell in love with young man Ichinose, who was trying to solve kaiju or monster threatening problem. Ai, however, was no normal human being. She was accidentally killed and revived as a cyborg. Unfortunately, she was installed with a kaiju controller in her body by aliens who wanted to take beautiful Earth. Ai spoke about her memory of the Terror of Mechagodzilla.

Q: Do you have memories of Director Honda?

Ai: Actually, I visited his home and talked with his wife four days before I was coming to Chicago. People said, that fiend Kurosawa, and Buddha Honda, which means hard-boiled Kurosawa and tender Honda. He was very gentle. My role was difficult one because I had to play the characters of robot and human. So he advised me on the difference of the two. He never demanded of me to play certain ways.

Q: Could you tell us about Akihiko Hirata, who played your father’s role?

Ai: To tell you the truth, nobody talked with me in the shooting studio. Only Mr. Hirata cared about me and took me to a dinner one time. He encouraged me, saying what an actress looked like and to never give up. He also said, “You cannot smile, and neither do I.” He played the role of a scientist who was against the society, and his makeup was very thick and weird.

Q: How about Mr. Katsuhiko Sasaki, who played your lover?

Ai: I met him at Narita Airport for the first time in 40 years. I asked him why he didn’t talk with me at all when the movie was shot. He said, “Well, I have no memory that I chatted with you.” We laughed.

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Although Mechagodzilla had success overseas, it recorded the worst attendance in Japan, where kaiju movies’ popularity had declined. “Terror of Mechagodzilla became the last of Godzilla’s Showa series, and it took nine years to make Heisei series.

Katsuhiko Sasaki’s story

Q: How do you think about “Godzilla vs. Megalon”

Sasaki: It was unfortunate to tell this story to the American fans, but it was the time to think about how Godzilla should to go. Anyway, Toho tried to make one on a low budget.
A scene was set as late summer or fall, but the shooting was held in the middle of winter. Children with short pants were shivering, and I couldn’t speak any dialogue. Director Fukuda brought me a bottle of whisky. It was the first time and last time in my life that I took an alcoholic beverage when I did my job.

Q: Why didn’t you talk with Ms. Ai?

Sasaki: Well, I was a honeymooner at that time, so I didn’t have any room to pay attention to Ms. Ai. I went home as soon as shooting ended. I regret now that I didn’t invite her to a dinner.

Q: Your grandfather and father were actors and played a role in Godzilla movies. Why did you want to become an actor?

Sasaki: I graduated from the Hosei University majoring in economics, so I was supposed to work in a company, but my interest in the movie industry grew, and I became a part-time driver for my father. I was lucky to appear in a movie with Sayuri Yoshinaga, a big figure in the industry, and a director of Toho watched it and invited me to Toho.
I played a role of an English teacher in a cruel war-time movie. It was a really heavy one. The main actor was awarded with a prestigious prize, and I was patted on my shoulder by the director. He said that you did a really good job and should continue to work on that. I was very impressed by his words and decided to become a good actor.

(The full story is available in the Chicago Shimpo’s 2014, July 27th issue.


A kaiju gives a surprise to the attendees with his sudden appearance in a ballroom where Katsuhiko Sasaki spoke about his stories.


Frank Hufnagel (R) and his father Frank Hufnagel


Mark Grosser (R) and Erica Kendall


A tokusatu room in G-Fest

Actress Tomoko Ai


Actor Katsuhiko Sasaki


Concerts were held to commemorate the centennial celebration for Akira Ifukube, who composed pieces of music for Godzilla movies.