"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Monday, March 2, 2015

New Tributes Unveiled in Tsuburaya's Hometown

来たぞ我らのウルトラマン像 ! 故・円谷監督の出身地に ...

Mayor Hashimoto with 4-year old Ultra Fan, Kosuke Mastsuzaki.

On March 1st in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, four fiberglass statues were unveiled of Ultraman, Ultra Seven, Gomora and Eleking along the street where the house that Eiji Tsuburaya (1901-1970) was born in once stood — honoring the birthplace of the legendary film-maker who created the traditional Japanese cinema art form of Tokusatsu (special visual effects). Mayor Katsuya Hashimoto, hopes these installations will help attract more tourism to Sukagawa.

Statue of one of the most popular of all the Ultra heroes, Ultra Seven!

Interviewed by the Asashi Shimbun's Naoyuki Takahashi, Hashimoto said, "When the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, we had citizens who helped many others rather than dwelling on their own personal disasters. I want our city to be full of such citizens who embody the Ultraman spirit."

The mighty Gomora roars in the night along peaceful Taimatsu-dori!

This is not the first cooperative between the city of Sukagawa and Tsuburaya Productions, the company that Eiji built. As part of the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the company, in May of 2013, Sukagawa was officially christened as the Sister City to the "Land of Light," the homeworld of Ultraman in the Nebula — becoming the virtual town of "Sukagawa M78: Town of Light." With the city hall accepting resident registration applications (!).

The eerie Eleking howls during the Full Moon over Sukagawa City!

This was followed by the unveiling of an actual stone, art deco-style edifice of Ultraman in front of Sukagawa's main train station on July 7, 2013 (the fictitious birthdate of Eiji Tsuburaya, which falls on the Tanabata), commemorating the "Sister City" status. Of course, there have been Ultraman statues and a permanent exhibit at Fukushima Airport since 2008, including displays with some original props from the pantheon of the long-running series.

The beautiful art deco-style Ultraman sculpture at Sukagawa Station!

On December 28, 2014, the first of six "Ultraman Mailboxes" was christened at Fukushima Airport, a co-op between Japan Post Co., Ltd., Tsuburaya Productions, and the Fukushima Airport Building Co,, Ltd. Letters and Postcards dropped into these special mailboxes will be postmarked with a special design incorporating Ultraman with Peonies, the official flower of Sukagawa. The others are stationed at various locations around Sukagawa.

Sukagawa's Postmaster drops in the first piece of mail into the box!

Needless to say, Sukagawa has other, and older tributes to the "Old Man" and his children from the Ultra Series — and while there's always the Soshigaya "Ultraman Town" walk in Tokyo, one really just needs to take a side trip to the birthplace of Eiji Tsuburaya to get closer to where it all began.

Only in Japan... (and that's why its awesome.)

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