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Godzilla-Movie-Star Takarada Returns to G-FEST 2016

• The Godzilla fans’ gathering “G-FEST” took place from July 15 to 17 at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, and about a thousand fans across the U.S. and other countries participated. Many events were prepared for the convention, such as kaiju film screenings, costume parades, video games, tokusatsu filming dojo, and kaiju craft classes.

• This year, Godzilla-movie-star Akira Takarada returned to G-FEST with Ultraman Bin Furuya and Hiroko Sakurai, who was the heroine in “Ultra Q” and “Ultraman”. Hiroshi Sagae, a master maquette sculptor and model maker for the film and toy collectible industries, also returned to the Godzilla convention with Sojiro Uchino, who had appeared in the Ultra series as a child role. Both Ultra Q and Ultraman mark the 50th anniversary this year.

• 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. Since then, G-FEST has been held every year for 23 years, and attendees increased year after year to about a thousand.
• Regarding the increase of its popularity, J.D. Lees said in the official program book that Godzilla fans offered a variety of interesting programs, which were the largest in G-FEST history. “More people are seeing G-FEST as not just a place to have fun and take in what’s offered, but also to offer something themselves,” he commented.

• Photographer Carleton Bailie, who took many rocket-launch scenes, remembered his interests in kaiju started with dinosaurs when he was six years old. One Sunday afternoon, he returned to home from a church, turned on the T.V. and chose watching Godzilla. He said that amazingly his mother was also watching it. The first movie he saw at a theater was King Kong vs. Godzilla. He returned to the theater and watched it for several times.
• He attended G-FEST from Florida for the first time. In his early 60s, he said that he was filling out his backlog list. Regarding the special guest from Japan, he was very thankful for their friendly greetings and hand shakings and said, “They are not like movie stars of today.”

• Todd Paul of Indiana met a Godzilla fan in Chicago through social media and participated in G-FEST for the first time. His step mother took him to a movie theater where he fell in love with Godzilla when he was seven years old. “I’m 46 now, so 40 years later I’m still a fan,” he said.
• He found a two-foot tall Godzilla at a toy shop in 1977 and has still kept it. He is also a Mothra fan, especially, a little twin fairies in the movie and uses their singing voice as his ringtone. On the news of their passing, Paul was saddened. “Now I know this (convention) exists. I’ll be here every year,” he said.

• One of the most popular programs was talks and Q&A sessions with the special guests. D. J. Lee welcomed Akira Takarada saying “He asked me that he wanted to come back again, so we should be very honored that he was interested in us.” Takarada has taken care of tour groups from G-FEST in Tokyo and made it possible for them to experience the Toho Studio tours.
• On the other hand, Takarada applauded Lee for devoting himself to hold the convention for 23 years.

• Takarada talked about many episodes in the Toho shooting studio and induced the audience’s laughter. He said that the first Godzilla movie was made by trial and error because no one could imagine what Godzilla looked like. When the cast had to look at an imaginary Godzilla over the mountain, they didn’t know where to look, and director Honda gave them a clue saying, “Look at the cloud over there.” During the shooting tests, the cloud moved away, and each cast looked at a different direction.
• When Takarada first encounter the Godzilla suit worn by Haruo Nakajima, he got goose bumps from head to toe. He and other cast members never saw Godzilla until one half of the shooting was finished.

• Takarada went on about the purpose of the first Godzilla movie, which was released in 1954 in Japan and 1956 in the U.S. He said, “The Toho Studio made the movie to push for nuclear abolition after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hit by instant deaths of 280,000 people, followed by Daini Fukuryu-maru ship’s irradiation incident in Bikini Atoll. The Godzilla movie, which carries this message, has been supported by the people of the U.S. and many other countries. I think that it is a very health phenomenon.”

• In the Q&A session, a fan asked Takarada’s opinion about the American version of the first Godzilla movie released in 1956. He said, “In my personal consideration, the important messages such as the nuclear threat and warning were all cut. It would be rude to say, but I think that it was a bad patchwork,” and he thanked the audience for watching and understanding the meaning of Japanese version of the first Godzilla movie. The audience sent a loud round of applause to him.

• “If I could play a role in a future Godzilla movie, I would like to be a person, who is able to communicate with Godzilla through eye contacts. I would ask him to destroy bases in the Japan’s neighboring country, which has been developing nuclear bombs,” Takarada said, and the audience gave him a rousing cheer.

Akira Takarada (R) poses for a photo with his fans

Photographer Carleton Bailie

Founder J.D. Lees

Todd Paul of Indiana

Godzilla fans listen to Takarada's talks.