Akira Takarada Returns to G-FEST
to Celebrate 65th Anniversary of Birth of Godzilla
This year the convention invited actors Akira Takarada and Peggy Neal, new Gamera series Director Shusuke Kaneko, Godzilla and Ultraman series director Yoshikazu Ishii, and diorama modeler Takuji Yamada as guests of honor.
Veteran actor Takarada is known for starring in the
first Godzilla movie. Neal was cast for “Terror beneath the Sea” and “The
X from Outer Space” while she was studying at Sophia University in Tokyo
during the 1960s.
The three-day weekend was filled with a rich selection of events, including presentations, talks and Q&A sessions with the guests of honor, lectures on kaiju and other monster movies, hands-on workshops, games, costume parade, monster movie screenings and more.
G-FEST was initiated by a “longtime Godzilla fanatic”
J.D. Lees, a Canadian high school teacher.
The first face-to-face meeting of G-FAN friends was held outside Chicago in 1994, attended by about 20 people. Since then the convention has met annually in the Chicago suburb, for the convenience of the attending fans from all over the world, with its prime access to the O’Hare International Airport.
In the official program book of this year’s G-FEST, Lees recalls when he put together the first G-FEST program – “I don’t remember how many there were, perhaps a few hundred” – and rejoiced that the event has grown so much over the years “to the point that more than 3,000 programs are now required.”
What’s not changed over the years is “a great feeling of connection and camaraderie” among the fans, who share a “common fascination with Godzilla and his kaiju kin” that unites them into a fandom family. And that’s an aspect of G-FEST that doesn’t exist at similar gatherings, writes Lees.
Takarada is instrumental in linking G-FEST and Toho Co., Ltd., the creator and owner of the Godzilla franchise. He has helped arrange G-FEST fans tours to Toho Studios, while attending G-FEST as a guest of honor and introducing other Godzilla film casts to the fans.
Takarada Talks about War,
the Message behind
• Takarada, who missed last year’s convention, appeared
in front of the cheering audience who long awaited the return of this
“Godfather of G-FEST.”
• Takarada spent his childhood in Manchuria during World
• Takarada and his family returned to Japan two years
after the war had ended. Their hardship continued in Japan. He attended
school part-time to help the family’s finance.
• After joining Toho in 1953 as one of that year’s young hopefuls, Takarada was cast as the starring role in the original Godzilla movie.
• The first of the Godzilla franchise brought an audience
of 9.61 million people to the theater – more than 11% of the entire population
of Japan at that time. That’s a record that hasn’t been broken to this
day, according to Takarada.
• “Unfortunately, the  film you have seen [“Godzilla,
the King of Monsters,” the overseas version of the 1954 “Godzilla”] was
the version that had been revised for the American audience, with the
anti-nuclear message removed or changed,” explained Takarada.
• It was only 14-15 years ago that the unchanged version
of the 1954 Godzilla film was finally shown in 20 cities in the U.S.,
providing the first opportunity for the American audience to see what
was originally intended.
Gamera: Guardian of the Universe by Shusuke Kaneko
• Shusuke Kaneko directed the film “Gamera: Guardian
of the Universe” in 1995 to bring back one of the most memorable monsters
in Japan’s kaiju movies.
• Kaneko shared that he had trouble securing the Self
Defense Forces’ cooperation in shooting “Gamera,” because the SDF had
been criticized for attacking Mothra in the film “Godzilla vs. Mothra.”
• Thus produced, “Gamera” was a story for adults, pursuing
reality as much as possible.
Godzilla Tea Kettle
• The tea kettle created by sculptor Len Makabe weighs
32 kilograms, including the 2-kilogram lid shaped like Godzilla’s head.
• Makabe’s wife Sorin, an outgoing tea master in a uniquely-designed
kimono, served green tea using the Godzilla tea kettle.
• The Godzilla tea kettle has a price tag of $100,000.
A Godzilla fan roams around the hall of g-Fest venue.
Akira Takarada, known for starring in the first Godzilla movie in 1954, speaks about misery of the aftermath of WWII based on his own experiences and reminds Godzilla fans of the message behind the Original Godzilla Movie.
Godzilla fans listen to talks of Akira Takarada at 2019 G-FEST.
Shusuke Kaneko, Director of the film “Gamera: Guardian of the Universe” in 1995.
Sorin Makabe, Omotesenke tea master, serves a bowl of tea for each visitor.
Sculptor Len Makabe and his Gdzilla tea kettle