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Ultra Q and Ultraman Forever!

• Ultra Q and Ultraman mark the 50th anniversary this year, and Ultraman and Akiko Fuji of the Science Special Search Party appeared in Rosemont as the special guests in G-FEST, which was held on July 15 to 17.

• In 1966, Japanese children were all awaiting for Sunday evenings to watch the TV program “Ultraman”. The excitement of the childhood memories still brightly returns to the heart of Ultraman fans.
• Suit actor Bin Furuya created the character of Ultraman with the staff and taught a sense of justice, bravery, and compassion to the children. Furuya pondered how to express those senses without any words and repeated trial and error to reflect the senses in his back.

• Ultraman’s costume was made of a thin-rubber-wet suit and painted with silver and red color. Inside of the costume was extremely hot with the lights in the shooting studio. The Ultraman’s mask was made based on Furuya’s life mask, so it was appressed to his face. Underwater shooting was life threatening to him because even a small amount of water in the mask blocked his breathing.
• He thought that he would quit the role of Ultraman; however, some children’s chattering changed his mind. One morning he was riding on a bus to the shooting studio to say good-bye, but then children came on the bus and were enthusiastically talking about Ultraman. They never knew about Furuya’s face, but Ultraman was their absolute hero. He reaffirmed the importance of his role and thought that if somebody else wore the costume, Ultraman would be different from the hero he had established.

• Q: How did you feel when you asked to become Ultraman?
• Furuya: I wanted to become a melodrama star like Mr. Takarada, so I rejected being a suit actor, but the Ultraman designer repeatedly asked me to do it saying, “You are the only one who can play Ultraman’s role.” One day, my grandmother told me, “You can do it if you were begged like that.” So, I decided to accept it. She cried when she watched me as Ultraman on TV.

• Q: When you fight with a kaiju monster, you take stooping posture. Why?
• Furuya: Do you remember James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause? I couldn’t forget the scene that he was holding a knife and fighting with bad guys. At that time, I thought that I wanted to use the posture when I became an actor someday.

• Q: Haruo Nakajima is a famous suit actor. Ultraman fought with many kaiju, which were acted by Nakajima.
• Furuya: Nakajima san is very gentle now, but everyone was afraid of him at that time. Kaiju’s body was very thick, so he didn’t feel any pain when he got my punches. On the other hand, my costume was very thin, so his punches were so painful. I always had bruises everywhere in my body.
• But Nakajima san knew how to make Ultraman to win, so he always led me to a good position to defeat him.

• Q: How did you develop the pose when Ultraman casts Spacium ray?
• Furuya: Staff and I, four of us talked about it and developed it. I practiced it 300 times in a day, so I never made a mistake.

• Q: Why were there three types of Ultraman’s mask, A, B, and C?
• Furuya: It was a commercial reason. You can sell toys for three times more.
• Originally Ultraman had dialogues, so the mask was very soft. But Ultraman came from outer space, so it would be funny if he spoke Japanese. That’s why his dialogues were canceled.

• Q: Ultraman ended with 39 stories.
• Furuya: Ultraman’s audience rating sometimes hit more than 40%. Director Tsuburaya came to me and asked if I could continue to play Ultraman for 13 stories more. Of course I said, “Yes!” Everyone wanted to do it, but tokusatsu (special effect) team couldn’t catch up with the TV schedules. TBS TV asked Toei to produce another TV program “Captain Ultra”, and Tsuburaya Production reorganized its system to make Ultraseven.

• Q: You became Amagi, a member of the Science Special Search Party and regularly appeared in the Ultraseven.
• Furuya: Although I wasn’t a main figure, I was pleased to play Amagi’s role regularly. Costume designer Narita kindly created the Party’s uniform, which perfectly matched me.

• Q: You played Alien Kemur’s role in Ultra Q.
• Furuya: Yes. Director Tsuburaya said, “Bring somebody who is tall and thin.” So I was chosen.
• Kemur should have worn roller skates and run in the first scenario, but the head was too heavy and the eyesight was too narrow, so it would be too dangerous. The head weight was eight kg (17.6 pounds). Eventually, I created a unique running pattern of Kemur.

• Thank you very much


• Hiroko Sakurai played as journalist Yuriko Edogawa in Ultra Q and Akiko Fuji in Ultraman. She became the first heroine in the tokusatu films.

• Q: How were you chosen as the heroine?
• Sakurai: Three years from my debut, I passed the audition, and Director Hajime Tsuburaya, son of Eiji Tsuburaya, pointed to me as the role of Yuriko.

• Q: When did the shooting start?
• Sakurai: We started it in 1964 and took us more than a year to complete 28 stories. The broadcast started in January, 1966.
• At that time, few people know about what Ultra Q looked like, so we tried many different things. Ultra Q was born from our trial and error.

• Q: Could you tell us some episodes in the shooting?
• Sakurai: After the first three stories, more kaiju monsters were employed in Ultra Q. I had to make a big surprise when I saw an imaginary kaiju in the air, but I didn’t know how to do it because my acting school didn’t teach me about it at all. I watched Mr. Kenji Sahara’s action and followed him because he played many roles in tokusatsu movies before.
• My role was a journalist of Mainichi Shimpo, so I was given a camera. I didn’t know how to use it, so I believe that the all photos I took were out of focus.

• Q: What is the most memorable story?
• Sakurai: It would be “One/eighth Project”. Humans became one-eighth of their sizes, so the staff made a huge telephone, memo pads, my camera, and anything else. The scene was a big surprise for me. The huge camera is still kept in Toho’s storage room.
• I remember that Director Eiji Tsuburaya seldom showed his smiling face during the shooting of Ultra Q, but it made a big hit so he was always smiling. I thought, “Oh, he does smile!”

• Q: How about the shooting of Ultraman?
• Sakurai: It was very busy with tight schedules because a story must have been broadcasted on Sunday evenings. We worked until late at night and went home but soon returned to the studio, so we became very close as a family. The members still get together for a drink. When we had the 50th anniversary event in Tokyo, all casts and staff members gathered except Arashi. He had a good paying job, so he sent us a video message!

• Q: How did you feel when Ultraman came to the end?
• Sakurai: It was a big shock to everyone when we saw the letters “Good-by Ultraman” on the scenario book because we didn’t know about it.
• I usually saw that the tokusatsu staff members were sleeping in a room where we change our clothes, so I thought that they could not catch up with the schedules.

• Q: After 50 years past from Ultraman, what do you do now?
• Sakurai: I’ve been working as a coordinator for the Tsuburaya Production.
• I’m working with younger people to think about the future of Ultraman since the number of people who had worked with Tsuburaya has decreased.
• I’m so impressed to see that there are still many Ultraman fans from elderly to young adults. Everyone worked hard to continue the Ultraman series after Tsuburaya’s passing in 1970. I wish that young people would take over the jobs to continue the Ultraman Series, and Ultraman will be on the earth forever after my death. I’m really pleased to work with the young people to keep Ultraman!

• Thank you very much.

Bin Furuya (R), suit actor for Ultraman, poses casting Spacium ray.

A scene from Ultraman screened in G-FEST

Hiroko Sakurai, the heroine in Ultra Q and Ultraman

Sakurai plays as Akiko Fuji in Ultraman.