Chicago Shimpo
G-FEST Celebrates 25th Anniversary with Stars in Godzilla Movies

• The Godzilla fans’ gathering “G-FEST” took place from July 13 to 15 at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Rosemont. Every year, more than a thousand fans from across the U.S. and other countries participate. Many events were prepared for the convention, such as presentations and Q & A sessions by actors, actresses, directors and crew from the Japanese Godzilla films, costume contests, classic-kaiju-movie screening, games, kaiju craft workshops, and more.

• This year, G-FEST celebrated its 25th anniversary and invited Akira Takarada, a big star in Godzilla movies, but he had to forgo coming to Chicago to save his energy for a show in August after he got a sick although he had fully recovered from the illness. So Takarada sent his friend Kenpachiro Satsuma, a suit actor of Godzilla from 1984 to 1995.
• Other special guests were Megumi Odaka, who played a role of psychic girl Miki Saegusa, in Godzilla movies for the sixth consecutive time; Keizo Murase, Godzilla and kaiju monster suit builder; and Tetsuya Takarada, son of Akira Takarada.
• Robert Scott Field’s witty translations and interpretations have enabled those Japanese guests to communicate with G-FEST participants. He is an actor, musician, and former baseball player, and very active in Japan.

• G-FEST was initiated by a Godzilla fan, J.D. Lees, who was 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 about 20 members and held the second meeting at Arlington Heights in 1995. Since then, G-FEST has been held every year, and attendees increased year after year to over a thousand.
• To commemorate the 25th anniversary, a series of G-FAN magazines, past photos, memorabilia, and other things were exhibited. The Chicago Shimpo was honored to be included in the exhibition.

Never Give Up
Kenpachiro Satuma Speaks about His Half Life

• Suit actor Kenpachiro Satsuma was welcomed by a full house of Godzilla fans. In 1947, he was born in Kagoshima Prefecture. He was tossed by the ups and downs of the movie industry, but he never gave up and carved out a career for himself.

Q: Why did you get into the movie industry?

• Satsuma: I longed for Yujiro Ishihara, a big action star in Nikkatsu studio. I applied to new-face recruiting by Nikkatu, but I was rejected.
• I was working at a steel factory in Kobe. It was very hot place where melted steel was shaped into agglomerates. You have to take salt and water frequently; otherwise, you lost your energy. Such circumstance helped me when I became a suit actor. (Big applause from fans)

Q: You didn’t give up becoming an actor.

• Satsuma: I finished probation period with no late starts and no absenteeism and was accepted as a regular employee by the steel company. A new factory was built in Chiba Prefecture, close to Tokyo, and I was transferred there. My job was the same, hard work in a hot place.
• One day, I saw an advertisement that Nikkatsu was recruiting new faces again. Of course, I applied for it. This time, I passed exams and entered Nikkatsu’s actor training school.
• Later, I recognized that Nikkatsu didn’t care about talents of the applicants. They would accept anybody.

• I had a strong Kagoshima accent, but I worked hard to become an actor. There was a show in the school, and my teacher appointed me as a main character because I was working very hard. I was so pleased about it.
• Several big brass came to see the show, and a director told me to come to his office. Wow!!
• He gave me a good role in a movie. That was a hitman, who hovered around the main character. However, my ranking was very low, so other brass complained about me. After all, the role of hitman became Subordinate A, a very small role in the movie.

• I wasn’t beaten by that. I worked harder, and then Nikkatsu officially made a contract with me as a formal staff. If you work hard, somebody is watching you. Don’t forget about it.

Q: It’s a good story.

• Satsuma: Yes. I worked harder and harder and showed up in several movies. I was very excited, but then Nikkatsu got into a crisis. It decided to move to blue film making and said to me, “Undress if you want to stay in.”
• You know, I dreamed to become an action star, so I worked in Nikkatsu. I was distressed.

Q: So what did happen to you after that?

• Satsuma: I had a senior colleague in Mifune Production, and he arranged a job for me in there. Mifune Production and Toho studio had a very close relationship at that time, so I showed up in Toho movies. I dived into water, jumped one place to another, and played such minor rules.

• One day, a director of Toho called me to his room. Of course, I was very excited and thought that he would give me a good one.
• I knocked his door and introduced myself, but he said nothing to me. He was just saying, “hmm, hmm, hmm…” Finally, he said, “You fit perfectly. You’ll be monster Hedorah!” “Jeez! Wait a minute,” I said to him and went home helplessly.
• I went to Mifune Production and reported about everything in the meeting with the director, and then they said, “Congratulations! Hedorah will fight with Godzilla, so you’ll be a standout. Payment is also good.”

• I didn’t like it, but anyway, I took it and decided to do it one time only.

Q: What did inside of a monster suit look like?

• Satsuma: It was very heavy and hot, and I had to stay inside for a long time, so I decided to write about daily happenings in the studio while I was observing things from inside of the suit. It became “Godzilla Diary” later.
• Sometimes, young, pretty students from art schools came to the studio. I enjoyed watching them.
• Journalists and reporters gradually came to see me, so I showed my writings to them. An editor of a magazine company offered me to publish my writings as a book. I had written about 16,000 words.

Q: While you were inside of Hedorah, Haruo Nakajima was in the Godzilla suit.

• Satsuma: Yes, he was very active at that time. I was a new face, so I couldn’t talk with him and didn’t ask his advice because I had a pride as an action actor.
• I wasn’t sure if I did as good a job as Hedorah, but then I was asked to play the rule of Gigan in “Godzilla vs. Gigan.”

• I had thought that I would do it one time only, but I accepted it because I saw the staff members were working very hard in the dirty studio. I liked them and my job, too.

Q: Thank you very much.

Kenpachiro Satsuma (C), a suit actor of Godzilla, speaks about half of his life.

A full house of Godzilla fans welcome Kenpachiro Satsuma.

Kenpachiro Satsuma (R) and Tetsuya Takarada, son of Akira Takarada

Megumi Odaka, who played a role of psychic girl Miki Saegusa, in Godzilla movies for the sixth consecutive time (C), and Robert Scott Field (R).

A Godzilla fan roars at 2018 G-Fest.

Another Godzilla fan roars in an exhibition room at 2018 G-Fest.