A YOUNG LIFE IN CINEMA! Hiroyuki Kawase on Acting in the Godzilla Series and Working with Akira Kurosawa!

Hiroyuki Kawase in February 2021. Photo © Brett Homenick.

Born on August 28, 1963, Hiroyuki Kawase got one of the luckiest breaks any actor could receive by getting cast in Akira Kurosawa’s Oscar-nominated drama Dodes’ka-den (1970) as a child actor, playing the son of a beggar. Following this auspicious role, Mr. Kawase starred in Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971) as Ken Yano and Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) as Rokuro Ibuki. Other notable credits include Kihachi Okamoto’s World War II saga Battle of Okinawa (1971), Return of Ultraman (1971-72) episode 24 as Akio Takada, Mirrorman (1971-72) episode 15 as Satoshi Takeno, and Zone Fighter (1973) episode 2 as Jiro. In February 2021, Mr. Kawase answered Brett Homenick’s questions about his acting career in an interview translated by Maho Harada.

Brett Homenick: Please tell me about your early life. Where were you born?

Hiroyuki Kawase: I was born in Setagaya, Tokyo. A year and a half later, we moved to Kawasaki. I lived there until I became of age. So I was born in Tokyo and raised in Kawasaki.

BH: When you were young, what hobbies did you have?

HK: Nowadays, Kawasaki is a very big city, but, when I was in elementary school, it was very rural. There were only cliffs and hills. I was like a monkey; I would climb hills and slide down them for fun. In junior high and high school, I played basketball. In university, I joined the ski club.

BH: What university did you go to?

HK: Keio [University].

BH: What was your major?

HK: Science and technology.

BH: What high school did you go to?

HK: There was a university called Gakugei Daigaku in Setagaya. My high school was attached to this university. [I went to] junior high in Fukasawa and high school in Shimouma.

BH: Did you like to do anything else when you were a child? Any other hobbies or interests?

HK: I loved playing outside, like riding my bike.

BH: Did you ever pretend to be, for example, police or firemen when you were riding around?

HK: No, I didn’t think about anything when I was a kid.

BH: Did you watch movies?

HK: I only watched the movies I was in, which means I didn’t watch that many. But I did watch a lot of TV, mostly kaiju-themed shows like Ultraman and Kamen Rider, like everyone else did at the time.

BH: Did you watch Ultraman in real time?

HK: I watched Ultra Seven (1967-68).

BH: Did you watch Ultraman [shows] after Ultra Seven?

HK: I was in Return of Ultraman (1971-72), so I watched it. After that was [Ultraman] Taro (1973-74). I think I only watched Ultra Seven and Return of Ultraman. I hardly saw any episodes after those two.

I was in episode 24.

BH: Let’s talk about the beginning of your acting career. How did that happen? How did you become a child actor?

HK: When I was two or three years old, I joined a theater group called Nihon Jido [“Children of Japan”] in Oimachi. I don’t know if it still exists. That was how I got into acting.

BH: Whose idea was it? Was that your mother’s idea?

HK: It was my mother’s idea. At the time, we lived in the countryside, so I didn’t have any friends – there was no one around. I think my mother was worried about my becoming introverted, so she signed me up for a theater group so I would become extroverted. Nowadays, kids go to cram schools and after-school activities.

But, back then, there weren’t any cram schools or after-school activities for me to join. So, just like parents would sign their children up for cram school or a swimming club, I became a member of a theater group. I don’t know why she chose theater, but that was her reasoning.

BH: At the time that you joined the theater [group], how did you feel about it? Did you want to be there, or did you feel uncomfortable?

HK: It was fun. We did a lot of things. It didn’t matter if you were a boy or a girl, we learned ballet and Japanese traditional dance. Of course, we studied acting, too, but they let us do a wide variety of things.

BH: Specifically about acting, did they give you any training? How did they teach you acting?

HK: I don’t think we did much of that.

BH: Do you remember your first professional acting job?

HK: I think it was a TV showcalled The Guardman (1965-71). I was about three years old, which would be 55 years ago. Many famous actors, like Ken Utsui and Shigeru Koyama, were in it, although they’ve all passed away. It was about a poor kid who gets mistaken for a rich kid and gets kidnapped. The boy who played the rich kid was from the same theater group, and I played the poor kid who gets kidnapped by mistake. I was saved by Ken Utsui, or somebody like that.

BH: Around what year was it?

HK: I was about three years old, so [it was around] ‘66 or ‘67.

BH: Do you have any memories of Ken Utsui on the set?

HK: No.

BH: Do you remember anything about the shoot?

HK: On the set, they were shooting the scene where the kidnapped boy is sleeping on the sofa. While the boy is sleeping, the adults around him are talking about how they kidnapped the wrong kid. I remember actually falling asleep in this scene.

Photo © Brett Homenick.

BH: Do you remember how long it took you to film that episode?

HK: It was just one episode, so I don’t think it was that long. Maybe three or four days, less than one week.

BH: After that, what was your next job? Do you remember?

HK: I don’t remember the order, but the next one I remember was a commercial for Yakult. I hadn’t started elementary school yet. It was on location in a park, and I think there was a reservoir there. In the scene, I was supposed to be smiling, but I couldn’t smile at all.

BH: Why not?

HK: I don’t know. (laughs) But, in between takes, I was laughing, so they decided to shoot during the break. We moved to a different location and filmed there. I think a famous actor was in the same commercial, so I probably caused a lot of trouble for that person!

BH: Do you remember who it was?

HK: I don’t know! There were probably a few other things in between, but my big break came was when I was five or six years old. It was a theater production with Hiroshi Akutagawa. The theater group was called Kumo, and the theater production was called The Trojan Women. I played the role of a prince. But the price was dead, so I played the role of a corpse. I was just lying onstage the whole time because I was supposed to be dead, so I couldn’t move.

An actress named Haruko Kato saw this theater production. She also passed away two or three years ago. I think she knew director Akira Kurosawa very well, and director Kurosawa was looking for a child actor for Dodes’ka-den (1970). They were just about to start the auditions and interviews. Ms. Kato said to director Kurosawa, “I just saw this kid who stayed completely still onstage. He’s very different.” She introduced me to director Kurosawa, and that’s how I met him.

BH: Before we talk about Mr. Kurosawa, what was your secret to lying still onstage? How did you do that?

HK: I wasn’t sleeping [this time]! (laughs) It wasn’t hard for me to stay still. I think there are two types of kids: kids who can’t sit still, and kids who don’t move around that much. I think I was the latter type. My daughter didn’t move around very much, either, when she was little.

BH: Let’s talk about Mr. Kurosawa. Please talk about your meeting with him and how you got cast in Dodes’ka-den.

HK: I don’t remember much about it.

BH: Did you audition for Dodes’ka-den, or were you cast immediately?

HK: I think I met him a few times. I don’t think I had to wait in line with other people. When I met him, it was only me. I was cast right away, but I didn’t understand what was going on.

BH: So there wasn’t an audition where you had to read lines or compete with others. As far as you remember, you were basically cast without an audition.

HK: My memory is quite vague, but, when I met him, he asked me to say some lines from the script. Before I knew it, we were already doing the rehearsals. So maybe that was the interview, or maybe I was cast right away; I’m not sure. But what I’ve heard about director Kurosawa is that, if he decides he doesn’t like an actor while he’s reading out lines from the script during a rehearsal, he’ll take him out of the cast right then and there. But that didn’t happen to me, so I guess that’s why I was able to continue until the end.

BH: After you were cast, and after you started working on the film, talk about the rehearsal process with Mr. Kurosawa. How were rehearsals done, how many, and how long did it take?

HK: I remember going to the Toho Studios in Kinuta very often, and we would read out the script for hours on end there. I don’t remember how long it was, but I think the filming was relatively short for that movie. Maybe three or four months — definitely under six months. Major Kurosawa movies like Kagemusha (1980) took many years to film, but this movie was much more compact.

It was an omnibus [adaptation] of a short story by Shugoro Yamamoto called The Town Without Seasons. It was filmed at the studio in Kinuta, and in landfills like Yumenoshima, Urayasu, and Minami-sunamachi. These areas were used as garbage dumps, so they removed the garbage for the filming.

There were about six or seven interrelated stories, but I was only in the scenes with Noboru Mitani, who played the role of my father, and maybe one or two other people, so I didn’t meet any of the other actors.

BH: What do you remember about Mr. Kurosawa’s directing style? How would he work with you? What kind of direction did he give you?

HK: He didn’t say much. He left it up to the actors. When we were going through the script and reading our lines, I was getting tired. Because I was a kid – adults wouldn’t do this – I actually yawned in front of the director. The scene was about my getting bored of the conversation with my father, and I happened to yawn at that moment. [Director Kurosawa] said, “That’s good! You should yawn here.” That’s how he taught me. 

I also saw him do that in other scenes. There was another scene with a child actor. When he didn’t move the way he was supposed to, the assistant director placed his hands on the child so that he would move. I remember the director saying, “Don’t ever touch a child. The child will understand if you use words.” I guess he believed that, if you touched a child, his acting wouldn’t be very good afterward. So I remember that he said, “Use words, not your hands.”

I remember one time when the director was very happy with me. Dodes’ka-den was the first color film [directed by Mr. Kurosawa], so they did a lot of special things, like adding color. It was filmed on a set, so there was no natural light. In order to make the shadows look good, they sprinkled yellow powder where the light would shine. That way, the shadows would appear black, and the area where the light was shining would appear yellow and look like sunlight. That’s how the director created the set.

To go to my position on the set, I was told to be careful and not step on the yellow powder because I would leave a footprint. I remember jumping around to get to my position to avoid stepping on the yellow powder. But then a staff member stepped on the yellow powder. The director got very angry at him and said, “Even Kawase-kun knows not to step on the yellow powder! You’re an adult; why are you stepping on the powder?”

Photo © Brett Homenick.

BH: At the time, did you really have an understanding of who Kurosawa was? Obviously, he was world-famous even then. Did you understand that he was a top director around the world?

HK: No. I didn’t understand [who he was]. Obviously, I heard people around me talk about him, like my parents and the staff. At the studio, several directors were filming at the same time, and the areas we were using, like waiting rooms, were labelled “Kurosawa Team.” I heard people say, “That’s the waiting room for the Kurosawa team!” I saw people treating him with respect, so I understood that he was a great director. My mother also told me, “He’s a great director.” So I had this information from the outside, but I’d never seen any of his films or read any magazine articles about him.

BH: You of course worked as Noboru Mitani’s son. What do you remember about Mr. Mitani and working with him?

HK: I remember that he was very kind. He was very good at drawing and gave me a lot of pictures, mostly landscapes that he had drawn with colored pencils. The shoot was from spring until summer, and I remember receiving a beautiful summer greeting card from him that he had drawn himself. I remember his telling me that it was his hobby. At the time, I lived in Kawasaki, and I remember having a conversation with him about how close we lived to each other.

BH: In the movie, of course, you’re playing a homeless child. So could you talk about wearing the costume? Did you wear a wig, for example?

HK: I remember wearing a wig and making it look dirty using glue or something. It was probably like the glue they use to attach wigs in jidai geki [period dramas] to an actor’s forehead and scalp. They used this glue to make the wig look dirty so that it looked like there was gum in my hair.

The clothes were already torn, but they tore them even more and put color on them to make them look very dirty. Maybe they used paint; I’m not sure. Whatever it was they used, it wasn’t actually something dirty; it just made my clothes look dirty.

BH: Was it uncomfortable to wear this?

HK: (laughs) Not comfortable! The clothes weren’t new, and they smelled because they used so many things [to make them look dirty].

BH: Each day, how long would shooting last?

HK: If it was a long shoot, we would be shooting the entire day. Especially if we had to go to Urayasu, we would leave in the early morning in a taxi or car, and the shoot would go on until it got dark. I think we started at 7:00 a.m. and finished at 5:00 or 6:00 p.m.

BH: Do you remember how long the shoot lasted?

HK: I remember the interview was at the beginning of the spring. I started elementary school that spring in April, so I think I went to Toho and met the director in March during spring break. The movie was released around November that year. So we probably started going over the script in the spring and continued into the summer, but my memory is vague.

BH: During the filming, did you have much interaction with the assistant directors, or was it all with Mr. Kurosawa?

HK: I remember an assistant director named Mr. [Kenjiro] Omori. He taught me a lot of things and gave me messages from the director. During the short period of filming, I had the measles in April or May. It’s a designated infectious disease, so I wasn’t allowed to go to the shoot. Of course, the director and everybody else understood that, but it delayed the shoot. Like the coronavirus now, there was a shot that helped reduce the symptoms.

I went to an internal medicine doctor in my neighborhood and got this shot, which was called gamma globulin. It was very painful. I think they injected it into my rear end. It was May or June, but they had to delay the shoot by two or three weeks for my scenes.

Two years later, on Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973), I caught another designated infectious disease – this time, the mumps. Most kids catch designated infectious disease like measles and mumps in elementary school. For me, it happened to be during the shoot for Godzilla vs. Megalon. So I had to stay home for about two weeks, and they had to postpone the shoot. Everyone said, “Again?” It was at Toho again, with the same staff and everything.

BH: They remembered.

HK: Yes! (laughs)

BH: Do you have any other memories of Mr. Kurosawa?

HK: Although I didn’t understand it at the time, everyone knew that he was a great director. I remember one scene where they were grilling fish on a shichirin [an earthen charcoal brazier]. For visual effect, they wanted lots of smoke. We were waiting for the staff to make the smoke, but, no matter how long we waited, there was no smoke. We couldn’t start acting until there was some smoke. The staff was trying very hard, but there was no smoke at all, just a lot of fire.

The director started getting angry and said, “How long is it going to take you guys?” But, the madder he got, the more fire there was, but no smoke. At one point, he couldn’t take it anymore and said, “I’ll do it.” He put something wet on the fire, and suddenly there was no more fire and a lot of smoke. Watching that, I remember thinking, “What an amazing man. He gets angry all the time [at other people], but he’s actually able to do it himself.” Even as a kid, I was very impressed.

BH: Is there anything else you’d like to share from Dodes’ka-den?

HK: As I said, I wasn’t in many scenes with the other actors. But, in one of the scenes, we were going to different restaurants to get leftover food because we didn’t have anything to eat. At one of the restaurants – I think it was a yoshokuya [a restaurant serving Western food] – we were going to get leftover food from the owner of the restaurant and a woman who worked there.

The owner was very kind, but the woman, who wore heavy make-up, was very mean. I think she’s passed away now, but Toki Shiozawa played this woman. We were about to leave after getting some leftovers, and we saw some leftover food that was clearly still edible, but the woman put her cigarette out on this food. So the master [restaurant owner] said to her, “Don’t be so mean,” and gave us some other leftovers.

I remember Toki Shiozawa coming over to me after the shoot and saying, “I’m not mean like that character!” She was very kind. I wasn’t in many scenes with other actors. Other than the scenes with Mr. Mitani, it was only in the scenes where we go to these restaurants to get leftover food that I got to meet other actors. But, because the shoot took place at Toho, sometimes staff and actors working on other shoots would find out that the Kurosawa team was shooting and came to visit the set.

Photo © Brett Homenick.

I’m not sure whom I heard this from – maybe my mother. It was director Kurosawa’s first color film, so the colors were really intense. My character dies at the end, and they decided to dye my hair a strange color, like yellow or green or something, although they didn’t use it in the end. Rentaro Mikuni was at Toho and came to watch the shoot. When he saw my hair dyed green, he said, “It’s director Kurosawa’s first color film, so he doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

There were other child actors, too. I don’t know if it was the same for them, but, because I got sick and had to stay home, director Kurosawa’s driver came to my house a few times to deliver toys that the director had bought for me. The driver

delivered two or three toys, like toy airplanes or cars. I don’t remember if it was after the shoot or after the film came out, but director Kurosawa invited my family to his house for dinner. I met his son and his daughter Kazuko. I remember visiting his daughter’s room and seeing tons of stuffed animals.

BH: Was there a premiere of the film or any kind of big screening when it came out?

HK: I remember going to the theater and watching the film on the day it was released. I think all the staff and everyone else were there, too, but I don’t remember the details. It was in Hibiya.

BH: How did you get cast in Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (1971)?

HK: Before Dodes’ka-den, the offers came through the theater group I mentioned before. They would tell me to go to an interview, then they would tell me if I’d been cast or not. There were also direct offers through the theater group. For Dodes’ka-den, it was Haruko Kato who introduced me to director Kurosawa, as I mentioned before.

I quit the theater group when I started elementary school, which was around this time, so I wasn’t able to get offers through them anymore. But I was in direct contact with the Toho [casting] department. They had my phone number, so they would call directly.

I think, for Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, it was a direct offer. They probably called and asked if I was interested. I think I was cast directly; it wasn’t through an agent or theater group. I don’t think I had to go through interviews after that, either.

BH: I see. So there was no audition; you were directly cast for Smog Monster.

HK: Probably.

BH: First, let’s talk about Yoshimitsu Banno, the director. Please talk about the first time you met him and working with him, and let’s talk about his style as a director.

HK: Because of his appearance – at the time, he had a crew cut and huge eyes – my first impression of him was that he seemed intimidating. I don’t remember his giving me specific instructions about acting. I had memorized my lines, of course, and maybe he would give a vague indication of how he wanted me to act, but I don’t remember his giving me specific instructions.

BH: In the first scene of Smog Monster, you’re playing with the slide. There are the Godzilla toys, and you’re putting them down slide. They weren’t your toys, I guess. Could you talk about that scene?

HK: I don’t remember much about that scene. That’s the first scene in the film, but the first scene we shot was the last scene, the one where I say, “Godzilla!” at Mount Fuji. I don’t remember what season it was, but I remember it being ridiculously cold. I don’t remember what level we were at on Mount Fuji, but we were exposed to the wind with no shelter. It was early morning, it was very windy and very cold, and we started shooting the last scene first. That’s all I remember.

BH: What time of year was that?

HK: I was in the second grade, so [I was] maybe eight years old. It might have been in the fall. The film was released in the spring, and it was a short shoot, so it was probably in the early fall.

BH: So was this right after Dodes’ka-den?

HK: Dodes’ka-den was shot in the spring of 1970, and [Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster] was probably the fall of ‘72, so two years later.

BH: Well, Smog Monster was released in ‘71.

HK: Seventy-one? Dodes’ka-den was what year?

BH: Seventy.

HK: I remember I was in the second grade and that it was in the fall, so [it was] 1970.

Photo © Brett Homenick.

BH: Based on the description, if Dodes’ka-den was up to summer, and then this was fall, it would probably be…

HK: It wasn’t right away. It was maybe one year later.

BH: I see. Let’s talk about the house location in Smog Monster. I think it’s near Fuji [City]. What do you remember about that location?

HK: I don’t remember anything about it! (laughs)

BH: How about the actors, like Akira Yamauchi. What do you remember about him?

HK: Yes, the father. I only had two scenes with him [Mr. Yamauchi]. One was inside the house where he releases tadpoles that he had caught into an aquarium. The other was the scene where we go to the sea, and he goes scuba-diving when Hedorah appears, and I stab him with a knife. Those were the only two scenes that we had together, so I don’t remember much about him. I had a lot of scenes with Toshio Shiba, who was known back then as Toshio Shibamoto, and Keiko Mari.

BH: Speaking of the knife scene [at the beach], was that your hand? It shows the knife going into Hedorah. Was that your hand?

HK: I remember shooting the scene like this, but I don’t know whose hand was filmed in the scene where Hedorah is flying.

BH: I see. But it might have been your hand.

HK: It’s possible, yes.

BH: Where was that location? What beach was that?

HK: Maybe Suruga Bay in Shizuoka Prefecture. I remember the location being far away.

BH: Let’s talk about Mr. Shiba and Ms. Mari. What do you remember about working with these two actors?

HK: Mr. Shibamoto belonged to a modeling agency. I remember he was very cool. He would come to the studio in his sports car, which was a first-generation [Toyota] Celica. Nowadays, it’s old-fashioned, but, at the time, it was a cool car. He would let me sit in the passenger seat at the studio at Toho.

I remember the power windows, which were unusual back then. I remember thinking that he was a really cool guy with a really cool sports car. I was a kid, in the second grade, so he was very kind to me and played with me a lot.

Keiko Mari and I were together in the first scene that we shot on Mount Fuji where it was very cold. Because I was a kid, everybody was very kind to me.

BH: Your mother was played by Toshie Kimura. What about her? Do you remember much?

HK: I don’t remember much about her because I only had two scenes with her. One scene was with Godzilla and the slide where she calls me or something like that, and then the scene inside the house. So I don’t remember much.

BH: For Mr. Yamauchi’s face [that was] injured, do you remember what kind of make-up they did, or do you remember how they did that?

HK: I think they used make-up. Or maybe they didn’t use any make-up and wrapped his face in bandages; I’m not sure. I guess they used make-up.

BH: You handle the Hedorah tadpole. Part of it is dry, and it crumbles in your hands. Do you remember what that was made of?

HK: I vaguely remember that scene. Maybe it was charcoal.

Photo © Brett Homenick.

BH: In the movie, Godzilla does [his mouth-wiping gesture], and you imitate Godzilla’s [gesture]. Was this a reference to [something in Japanese pop culture at the time]?

HK: I have no idea. The actors don’t participate at all in the kaiju scenes. I don’t know the reason. Maybe it was [special effects] director [Teruyoshi] Nakano’s idea.

BH: There’s the location where you and Keiko Mari and Toshio Shiba — maybe Mr. Yamauchi, too — arrive by car, and it’s a factory area. Where was that location?

HK: I think it was in Kawasaki, near the sea.

BH: Also, the amusement park scene where you’re on the roller coaster.

HK: I remember the scene, but I don’t remember where it was shot.

BH: Do you remember anything about that scene at all, like, how many takes you did, or anything like that?

HK: I think it was a very short scene.

BH: There’s also the scene where you’re running, and you see the skeletons on the ground after Hedorah’s attack. You’re very frightened.

HK: There was nothing there.

BH: What were you told? What kind of direction were you given about that scene?

HK: I was only given very simple instructions like, “Pretend there’s something there.” For the scenes with Hedorah, they said, “Hedorah is flying there at that height, so look there.”

I don’t remember if it was for Godzilla or Megalon, but someone would point and say, “Look there.” Then someone else would come along and say, “Look there,” and point to a different place. It wasn’t always clear where they were pointing, so sometimes they used a bamboo stick to indicate where they wanted me to look.

BH: But, in terms of acting really scared when you see the bodies on the ground, and [in] that scene where you cover your eyes, were you told anything about how to act or what you were looking at?

HK: They would describe the situation to me, like “There are some dead bodies here,” or “Hedorah passed by here.” Then they would say, “You’re supposed to be scared,” so I would act scared. I don’t remember how specific the instructions were, but they were basically telling me things that were already in the script like, “You’re very scared, so look away.” I think I just followed their instructions.

BH: There’s another aquarium scene with a tadpole. Before, we had the dry one that breaks apart in your hand. There’s another scene where there’s maybe a real tadpole or a fish of some kind. Do you remember how they did that?

HK: I don’t remember seeing a real tadpole or a fish or anything like that. But there was a really big tadpole that was dead. I think that’s the one that crumbles when I pick up. I vaguely remember the dead tadpole and that it was fake.

BH: Let’s talk about the Mount Fuji party scene. There’s a lot of young people around. What do you remember about the Mount Fuji party scene?

HK: That was probably the scene where they used the bamboo stick to point where it [Hedorah] was supposed to be.

BH: There’s a lot of dancing, and people are playing instruments. Do you remember any direction given to you specifically or the other people?

HK: I don’t know how they gathered so many people there. I’m not sure if all of them were actors. They were probably extras. I don’t remember much about the shoot for that scene.

BH: Later on, in that same scene, Hedorah attacks. You try to get a torch, and he throws the sludge at your hand. It knocks the torch out of your hand. Could you talk about the making of that scene?

HK: I don’t know if they shot that when we were there. I don’t remember seeing that.

BH: Do you know what kind of substance they used [for the sludge]?

HK: I wonder what it was. I think the staff made the green, slimy substance. What was it? I don’t remember touching it.

Photo © Brett Homenick.

BH: With the reaction shots, how much of it were your choices, and how much of it was maybe Mr. Banno’s direction? What would you say?

HK: I don’t think I was given specific instructions. I would first act according to what was in the script. Based on that, I would be told to do more or less of it. For example, the director would say, “Act more surprised.” I don’t remember being given specific instructions, probably because I wouldn’t have understood even if I had been told what to do specifically.

BH: The party scene we talked about, was that at Mount Fuji, or was that another location?

HK: I think it was an open-air set in a square at Toho.

BH: How much was actually filmed in Fuji or around there? Just the scene where you go after Godzilla and yell at him?

HK: The only time I remember going to Mount Fuji was for the last scene, which was the first scene we filmed.

BH: And then the [Yano family] house, wasn’t that near Fuji City or something like that?

HK: It was outside, but I’m not sure where it was. I think it was by the sea somewhere, but I don’t remember the exact location.

BH: To go to the locations, would it be [by] bus or car?

HK: We usually went by “micro bus,” so I think we went by micro bus to these locations.

BH: Every day, how long was shooting typically on Smog Monster?

HK: Usually, it was from morning till evening. I don’t remember a location shoot only taking half a day. At the studio, it could be a half-day. But location shoots were usually for the entire day. Because I was in elementary school, they tried to arrange my schedule so I could go to school.

Sometimes, they adjusted my schedule so that I would have a shoot in the morning, then go to school in the afternoon, or vice versa. But, for the most part, I was at shoots for the entire day. I really hated having to leave school early or go to school late.

BH: Overall, how long was the shoot — how many weeks, or how many months?

HK: It was about two or three months; I’m not sure.

BH: Do you have any other memories from the set or anything else about Smog Monster that you can remember?

HK: The only things I remember are the shoots that I talked about.

BH: After that, was there any kind of premiere or some sort of thing like that?

HK: I don’t think there was a premiere. I did go see the movie on my own with kids from my neighborhood. I told you about the doctor who gave me the shot during Dodes’ka-den. This doctor had his practice in our neighborhood, and he had two sons who were around my age. The older son was my age, and he had a younger brother. Because the doctor had been very kind to me, I remember my mother taking the two boys and me to see the movie together when it first came out.

BH: Of course, you were very young at the time, and there’s a lot of scary images in Smog Monster. At the time you saw it, what did you think of it? Did you think it was too scary, or how did you think about it?

HK: Hedorah is a kaiju born from pollution, so I remember thinking that kaiju are scary, but that pollution was also very scary. Director Banno was quite different in that he didn’t just want to make another kaiju movie; he wanted to incorporate social issues into the story.

Even as a kid, I remember noticing a big difference from Ultraman and other shows because director Banno wanted to incorporate what we would now call environmental issues into the story. Even as a kid, I understood that. Because Hedorah was born from sludge or chemical waste – that’s what Hedorah means – I remember thinking that pollution was scarier than kaiju.

BH: Around this time, you were in Return of Ultraman (1971-72). So please talk about how you got cast in Return of Ultraman.

HK: I was a child, so they didn’t call me directly. My parents must have taken the calls, but I don’t know what they negotiated. I just remember being told, “This is the next movie you’re going to be in.” I don’t remember auditioning for the director of Ultraman. They probably just asked me to be in it. That was the case for all of the movies after that. I don’t know how I was cast. I was just told, “This is your next shoot.”

BH: What role did you have in Return of Ultraman, and what can you tell us about shooting the episode?

HK: Going back to what I was saying about the offers, the phone calls were usually from Toho. Because I had a relationship with them, most of the movies and TV shows I was in were Toho productions. I wasn’t in very many with Daiei or Toei. We knew people in the Toho [casting] department, and they would give me an offer. That’s why I was mostly only in Toho productions. Ultraman was made by Tsuburaya Productions in Kinuta, which was also related to Toho. That’s how I got cast in Ultraman.

When a space monster comes to Earth, a group called MAT, which stands for Monster Attack Team, catches the monster and decides to blow it up. The children in the neighborhood hear that they’re going to blow up a monster, so they come to watch. When they blow up the monster, a piece of it lands in front of me, so I pick it up and put it in my pocket.

I take it home with me and stick it on the wall, and it grows up to be a full-size monster that destroys the apartment building and attacks people. When the monster is growing, people learn that there’s a monster in their apartment building and start talking about it.

Then Hideki Go, played by Jiro Dan, and another person from the MAT team come to the apartment building. They get angry at me and say, “Why did you do this? This is a space monster! You shouldn’t have done this!” They decide to fight the monster, thinking that they can defeat it, but they can’t. And the monster gets bigger. But, because I made the monster, it does what I say. I also know its weakness. So Ultraman fights the monster and almost loses, but I tell Ultraman what the monster’s weakness is, and Ultraman is able to defeat him.

Photo © Brett Homenick.

BH: Who was the director of this episode? Do you remember?

HK: I don’t remember.

BH: Do you remember working with Jiro Dan?

HK: I remember that he was very tall. I was in the second or third grade, and the shoot lasted about a week. It was during school vacation, and I had to keep a picture diary for homework. I remember drawing a picture of Jiro Dan during the shoot. He was very tall, so, whenever he entered a room, he would hit his head on the door frame. I remember he said, “Oh, I bumped my head again!” all the time. So I remember him as a fun and interesting guy. I also remember showing him the picture of him I drew for my picture diary and that he was happy about it.

BH: Where did you shoot your scenes for Return of Ultraman?

HK: It was mostly on sets. For the exterior of the apartment building, it was shot in Tokyo somewhere. I don’t remember exactly, but it was in the north of the city, like Kita Ward or Itabashi Ward. We just filmed the exterior of a high-rise apartment building.

BH: So that was Toho Studios?

HK: That’s right. The rest was filmed on Toho sets. We used Studio 1 at Tsuburaya Productions, but I think we also filmed in a Toho studio. They were very close, a 10- or 15-minute walk apart.

BH: Do you have any other memories of Return of Ultraman?

HK: I mentioned Toshio Shiba’s Celica earlier, but, when I was in the second or third grade, I loved cars. When we filmed the exterior of the apartment building in the north of Tokyo, there was a scene where the MAT car pulls up in front of the building.

The MAT car was a Cosmo, which was a cool sports car made by Mazda, so I remember being really happy when we filmed that scene.

BH: Generally, you’re on TV, you’re in the movies, and you’re still going to school. So, when you were ever at school, did other children go, “Oh, Megalon!” or, “Oh, Smog Monster!” or, “Oh, Ultraman!”? Were you ever recognized?

HK: Not really. Like I mentioned earlier, I often had to leave early or go to school late, but the other kids were like, “Oh, Kawase, did you have another shoot?” They knew it wasn’t because I was sick or anything. I would tell them about the shoot, but they were sort of nonchalant about it, surprisingly.

BH: Let’s continue with Godzilla vs. Megalon. I would imagine the casting process was the same.

HK: (laughs) Yes.

BH: First, let’s talk about Jun Fukuda, the director. What do you remember generally about Mr. Fukuda, working on Megalon?

HK: Unlike director Banno, he was very kind, even from his appearance. I don’t remember his giving me specific instructions or anything like that.

BH: The opening scene is, you’re on the dolphin boat in Lake Motosu. Please talk about the filming of that and what you remember about that scene.

HK: I was asked the same question in a magazine interview, and I answered in detail. I think it was early fall; it was quite cold, in any case. We had to shoot the scene twice because it didn’t work the first time around. The first day, my parents dropped me off at the location bus, and I went on my own to Lake Motosu. It was very cold, and the bottom half of my body was completely wet. The dolphin boat barely moved on its own, so they had to use a motorboat to move it.

They used rope to pull it by motorboat, but the rope kept getting caught on me, and I almost fell into the water a few times. It was very cold, and the bottom half of my body was completely wet, and I kept getting caught in the rope. I was cold and scared, and it didn’t work in the end. So it was a horrible situation for me. And, because I was cold and scared, I didn’t have a good expression on my face. We were shooting for the whole day, but. in the end, they couldn’t use what they had shot, and we were going to have to do it over again.

I was really angry, so I remember saying to my mom, “Please come! It was so horrible.” So she came for the next shoot. But, this time, there was no wind; it was really warm, and the water was calm. And, this time, they used a row boat instead of the motorboat, which they could push by hand to make it move.

So it was completely different from the first shoot. My mother said, “What was the big deal? Everything is fine.” I told her that it was completely different from the first time, which I just remember being a horrible experience. I remember talking about this episode in detail for a magazine interview.

BH: How much time was in between the first shoot and the second shoot?

HK: Probably a week.

BH: Were you operating the dolphin boat, or was a crew member operating the boat?

HK: During the shoot? I did.

BH: So you were making it move?

HK: There was an engine, or motor. You could turn it on with a switch. So I was just riding the boat.

Photo © Brett Homenick.

BH: How long [were the] shoots both times?

HK: Probably one or two hours.

BH: During the first shoot, do you remember Mr. Fukuda’s reaction? What would he say to you?

HK: (laughs) I was on the water, so the director was giving me directions from the shore. I think it was a scene where I was supposed to be waving and smiling. But it was so cold that I couldn’t smile. I don’t remember if it was the director or the assistant director – he told me to smile, but I just couldn’t.

I think the director was on the shore, and the assistant director and some staff members were on a boat nearby, communicating by walkie-talkie. Whenever the assistant director got directions from the director, he would come over in his boat and tell me what the director said. So I didn’t communicate directly with the director because I was on the water, and he was on the shore.

BH: On the first shoot, was it canceled, or did you film everything?

HK: Maybe they used some parts from the first shoot. We did the entire shoot the first time, but I don’t remember the details. In any case, they decided to schedule an additional shoot.

BH: But everything was shot the first time.

HK: I don’t remember exactly, but I think we did finish the shoot.

BH: Is there anything else you could share about the Lake Motosu scene?

HK: I just remember it was very cold. On land, they had a few drum cans with charcoal inside so we could warm up.

BH: So there was fire inside?

HK: Yes.

BH: There’s the car scene where you’re in the car with Mr. [Katsuhiko] Sasaki and Mr. [Yutaka] Hayashi. Do you remember anything about the car scene on the way back from Lake Motosu?

HK: It was filmed on the Chuo Expressway and the Kawaguchiko Line. The Kawaguchiko Line had just been opened, and there was no divider. I can’t remember if there was one lane or two, but there was no divider. It was a long scene, and we had to reshoot the scene several times.

We were shooting while we were driving, but we wouldn’t be able to finish the scene because it was so long. We had to stop and go back to where we started, so we did a U-turn on the highway! I can’t remember who was driving, but, when he was told to do a U-turn, I remember the driver saying, “We shouldn’t be doing this!”

BH: And then there are also the [Ibuki] house exteriors, of course. So what can you tell us about filming outside the house?

HK: I think we filmed three scenes there. The first one was going inside the house after some foreigners had stolen something from the house. We weren’t sure if they were still inside, so we had to go inside and check, and I had to go up the stairs. The second scene was where Jet Jaguar takes off outside the house. The third was my leaving the house on the minibike.

BH: You told a story about the lights [around the house before the interview started].

HK: I think it was just before or after Jet Jaguar takes off. It was in the evening or at dusk; it was getting dark. I don’t remember the reason, but they wanted the streetlight to turn on. There was a sensor on the streetlight; when it sensed that it was dark, the streetlight would automatically turn on. Maybe it was during the day, and they wanted to turn the streetlight on to make it look like it was evening. For whatever reason, they wanted the streetlight to turn on, so they covered the sensor to make it turn on.

Photo © Brett Homenick.

BH: The foreigners were played by Kotaro Tomita and Ulf Otsuki. What do you remember about these two actors?

HK: Ulf Otsuki really looked like a bad foreigner! They filmed us going into the house [at the Ibuki house location], and the interior was filmed on a set. Inside the house, there was a strange cube hanging from the ceiling. I remember shooting the scene where I swing on the cube and knock one of the foreigners over. Actually, I don’t remember if he knocks me over or if I knock him over. Maybe both of them get away, and then Mr. Hayashi chases them in his car.

BH: Later on, there is a fight scene where you swing on the cube at Mr. Tomita. Do you have any memories of shooting that scene?

HK: It was fun. (laughs)

BH: You’re in other fight scenes. I think you grab one of their legs. Who choreographed the fight scenes? How was that done?

HK: I think it’s the scene where I’m clinging on to the bad guy’s leg, but I get kicked off and get knocked out. In that and the scene where I’m swinging on the cube, I had a lot of fun in the scenes where I moved around a lot. I think it was written in the script.

BH: Throughout the movie, you’re wearing a Snoopy sweater. Was that yours, or was that from Toho?

HK: From Toho. I never wore my own clothing.

BH: If you wear that in a movie, could you keep it, or did you give it back?

HK: I probably gave it back.

BH: You did mention the Baby Rider, the small motorcycle.

HK: Very fun! (laughs)

BH: Please talk about it.

HK: There was a short scene where I come out of the house, and the scene were I’m kidnapped. We shot that in Tsukushino or Machida. I’m not sure if I was allowed to drive the Baby Rider on a public road, but they said it was all right, so I drove it. It was a bike with an engine, and it was really fun to drive. I remember wanting one, but I was told it was very expensive.

The exterior of the house was filmed there [at the Ibuki house location]. I’m not sure if the scene with the gate was filmed on location or on an open set [at the studio]. The surrounding area when I come out of the house was filmed in Tsukushino or Machida. But they made it look like it was all connected.

BH: What about the kidnapping scene where you’re riding the bike, and then they [the Seatopian agents] pull up and pull you in? It looks very violent. Could you talk about filming that scene?

HK: It didn’t feel dangerous. The door [of the car] opens. I almost hit it, but stop in time, then I’m taken into the car. I really liked the scenes where I move around a lot. It was fun, and I never felt scared.

BH: Do you remember how many takes were used to film it?

HK: Not so many — two or three.

BH: Do you happen to remember the spot where it was [filmed]?

HK: I tried looking for it on Google once using Street View, but the area has changed quite a bit, and a lot of houses have been built there now. But I found a place that I think is quite close. I think it was in Tsukushino or Suzukakedai, around that area. Now it’s a residential area, but back then they were subdividing the land, and the streets were quite wide.

BH: Next, let’s talk about the container scene where you’re with Mr. Sasaki. Please talk about how they did the container scene.

HK: I was inside the container. Obviously, it didn’t turn over completely, it just tilted. I was supposed to roll around inside. They told me to move around a lot. They said, ”We won’t be able to film the scene properly unless you move around a lot.” We shot the scenes inside the container on a set; I’m not sure if they used a real container or not. They sprinkled Siccarol [baby powder] on the floor to make it more slippery.

BH: Then there’s your acting when Megalon hits the container, and it flies. You have to act like it’s spinning around. How did you do that? What kind of direction were you given to make it look like you’re spinning around?

HK: I was told to pretend that the container was rolling over, but, obviously, it didn’t roll over completely. I did my best, but I don’t think it looks convincing on camera. I was told to make very big movements. As I said before, they sprinkled powder on the floor so that I would slide around more. They told me to make big movements and pretend that I was really rolling around on the floor. So all that created the impression that I was rolling around inside a container.

Photo © Brett Homenick.

BH: Was the container set actually moving at all, or was it totally still?

HK: I don’t know how many degrees, but it tilted.

BH: About how much was it tilting, could you say?

HK: When they tilted it, I did actually slide because they had also sprinkled the powder. I’d say 30 degrees or so.

BH: Was it just tilted, or was it moving at all?

HK: It was just tilted.

BH: Then there’s the shot where, after Megalon hits it, it lands. In the movie, you can see it drop, and then you roll out. How high was it before they dropped it?

HK: I don’t think they actually dropped it. In the scene, I come out when the door opens, but, when we shot it, the door just opened. The scene with the container being dropped was filmed separately, not when we were inside.

BH: You just rolled out.

HK: When we rolled out, Mr. Sasaki landed on top of me and stepped on my head. I remember that it hurt a lot. I was a child, and he was an adult, so it really hurt. But it probably made the scene more convincing.

BH: Where was that exterior shot?

HK: I remember there being a lot of grass. I don’t think it was a set; it was a location shot. But I don’t remember where.

BH: Another scene is in Tsukushino. You’re with Mr. Hayashi. You ride on the motorcycle, and there are a bunch of shops. You take the airplane. Could you talk about that scene?

HK: It was probably toward the end of the Den-en-toshi Line, around Fujigaoka. The shoot took place in a real hobby shop that was in a real shopping arcade. In the scene, we buy [the airplane] in the store and ride the motorcycle back to the house. There were two of us on the motorcycle, but the seat was small; it probably wasn’t meant for two people. I remember the balance being really bad, and Mr. Hayashi saying, “I have to be very careful so we don’t fall over.”

BH: So the plane was not actually from the real store; that was a Toho prop?

HK: (laughs) Probably.

BH: After that, there’s the other fight scene with Mr. Tomita where you swing on the cube. Do you have any other memories about the fight scene with Mr. Hayashi where you throw the airplane?

Photo © Brett Homenick.

HK: Maybe the scene where I throw it was filmed [at the Ibuki house location]. But it was a model [airplane], so it didn’t fly very well. They had to use wire to make it glide more. They filmed the moment where I throw the airplane [at the Ibuki house location], and the rest was probably filmed at the studio.

BH: Later on, there’s a scene where Jet Jaguar jumps down, and he lands in front of you at the house. Do you remember how high the Jet Jaguar suit actor was to jump down?

HK: There was a suit actor inside, so it couldn’t have been that high. They probably used composite shots, but the last part where he jumps down was probably less than a meter high.

BH: And then he takes off, as well. It looks like he jumps up.

HK: I don’t know how they filmed the part where he takes off.

BH: At the end of the movie, I guess [those scenes were filmed] in Ikuta.

HK: Yes, yes.

BH: Please talk about what you remember about filming in Ikuta for the last scene.

HK: We were in Ikuta, Kawasaki, in an area where they had leveled a hill and were going to subdivide the land. The scenery was quite impressive. At the end, when Jet Jaguar was no longer moving according to his own will and was only listening to what we said through the receiver, I was on his shoulders while he was walking. I remember enjoying being on his shoulders with this surreal scenery of a leveled hill in the countryside.

BH: Generally speaking, what do you remember about Mr. Sasaki?

HK: It wasn’t just Mr. Sasaki, but, in general, everyone was very nice to the child actors — not just on Megalon, but in other movies, as well. I’m sure it was a lot of trouble to have a child actor, but they were very considerate with me. Children can be very moody, so they were very kind to me. They would do things to keep me in a good mood and would often ask if I was all right. I just remember everyone being so nice.

BH: Do you have any specific other memories of Mr. Hayashi?

HK: I remember that he was a lot of fun. He would tell jokes and say funny things.

BH: How long was the shoot for Megalon?

HK: (laughs) Maybe less than three months, about two months.

BH: Every day, was it similar to Smog Monster, in terms of when you would show up to work and how long each day was?

HK: It was probably similar.

BH: Do you have any other memories about Megalon?

HK: For the kaiju shoots, we had to start very early in the morning so there would be fewer people around. Someone from Toho’s acting department would come to my house to pick me up early in the morning. They would pick me up at around 5:00 a.m. and take me to the shoot.

If my family had a car, my parents would have driven me to the shoot. But we didn’t, so someone from Toho would come pick me up early in the morning because it was before the trains started running.

BH: When you saw Megalon, what did you think of it at the time?

HK: Megalon was the first movie where I went to watch them film a kaiju scene. I think it was only once, but they took me to watch the shoot. Megalon’s suit was big and looked very heavy. They were pulling it with piano wires, so it looked like it was a lot of work.

When I saw the film, even as a child, I remember thinking, “The suit is so heavy that the movements don’t look realistic.” And, even though the scene with the dolphin boat had been very difficult for me, I looked completely natural. So I thought, “The audience doesn’t realize all the work that goes into making a movie.” Overall, I thought it was really well-made.

BH: What do you remember about A Salaryman’s Honor (1973)? That’s with director [Tsugunobu] Kotani. There’s Kunie Tanaka, Yu Fujiki, [and] Masanari Nihei. What do you remember?

HK: I don’t remember much about that shoot.

BH: What about Rise, Fair Sun (1973), with Kei Kumai, the director, and Tatsuya Nakadai? Do you remember anything about Mr. Kumai or Mr. Nakadai?

HK: This is the shoot in the Nagano area I spoke about earlier that lasted about a month. I have a lot of memories about this shoot. I was in the fourth grade, and I couldn’t attend my school’s closing ceremony at the end of the first semester, so the shoot probably went from July into August. I was in Nagano for a month and a half, and it was pretty much all on location. I don’t think any of it was filmed on a set.

We first went to Kamikochi, then Kurohime, and I think we went to three other areas, including Kinasa, which was between Hakuba and Nagano City. I remember staying in different places for the shoots. I remember that we didn’t come back to Tokyo at all; we stayed in the Nagano area the entire time.

Photo © Brett Homenick.

BH: What about memories of Mr. Kumai?

HK: Director Kumai was very tall and looked intimidating. He was also quite strict. As with the other directors, I don’t remember his giving me specific direction for acting. But I do remember for the scene where the cow dies, he gave me specific direction for what I should do, but I don’t remember exactly what he said.

BH: Do you remember Mr. Nakadai?

HK: He played my father. Like everybody else, he was very kind. He was very considerate. We were shooting for a month and a half, so we had two or three days off. I don’t remember if his personal assistant came with us, but, on one of our days off, Mr. Nakadai took me bowling.

He was very famous, so people recognized him at the bowling alley and asked him for his autograph. He was very kind, so he gave his autograph to everyone. But, after they left, he said, “It’s a shame because I wanted to spend quality time with you, but giving my autograph to these people takes away from our time together.”

BH: Anything else about Rise, Fair Sun? Any other memories you’d like to share?

HK: I remember Mr. [Kinya] Kitaoji’s personal assistant. He played with me a lot. Personal assistants] had nothing to do while the actors were acting, so they would wait in the location bus. As a child actor, I also had to wait around a lot. So the personal assistants played with me a lot, and we would do things like play catch. Mr. Kitaoji’s personal assistant was very athletic. I remember he suddenly did backflips and backward somersaults to entertain me. He was a lot of fun and played with me a lot.

Keiko Sekine, who’s now Keiko Takahashi, played my older sister. At the time, she was 19. Nowadays, university students have to wait until they turn 20 to drink alcohol, but, at the time, you could drink as soon as you started university. But she was very strict with herself at parties and said, “I’m 19; I’m underage, so I can’t drink.” Later on, she started doing all sorts of crazy things, but, when she was 19, she was various serious and said, “I’m a minor, so I can’t drink.”

Later on, when she was in her 20s, she became the talk of the town because she would disappear in the middle of a shoot and things like that. I think she also eloped with her husband, Banmei Takahashi. Anyway, she caused a sensation in her mid-20s. At least in terms of alcohol, she respected the law.

BH: You’ve done many TV appearances. Is there any TV appearance that you have a specific memory about that you’d like to share?

HK: I was in many shows, but there are only a few that I remember. I was in a show [produced by] HBC, a TV station in Hokkaido, [which was called] the Toshiba Sunday Theater. I think, in the Kanto region, it airs on Sunday nights. The show was called “The Silver Sea” (1971). It was a standalone story with Hiroyuki Nagato and Yoshi Kato, who played the grandfather.

It was filmed in the mountains in Teinei, Hokkaido, as well as in a studio. I remember this shoot because it was the first time I ever took a plane, and we also filmed in the snow. I think it was in March, maybe during spring break. I was in the second grade at the time.

The story is about a child who is taken care of by his grandfather. I don’t remember why, but I think his parents have gone away or something. Mr. Nagato plays a photographer who comes to the area, and we become close. I remember filming in the snow in the mountains, and that Mr. Nagato was very kind.

During a break, Mr. Nagato, or maybe it was his personal assistant, used a knife to carve a branch into the shape of a knife and gave it to me as a present. I remember having fun in between takes during shoots.

BH: So why did you stop acting?

HK: As I mentioned earlier, I would have to miss school for the shoots. In the end, I quit in spring of the fifth grade. When I started the fifth grade, my teacher said, “In the fifth and sixth grades, there will be experiments and other activities. I’m not telling you to quit, but, if you miss school, you’re going to have to miss these activities. It’s up to you to decide what you want to do.” I didn’t like missing school. I liked school and enjoyed being with my friends, so I decided to prioritize school and my friends. That’s why I quit.

BH: Of all the work that you’ve done, the acting, which job do you like the best? It could be your favorite. Which one are you most proud of, or which one is your favorite?

HK: People around me have told me this, and I also think so myself, but the fact that I was in a Kurosawa movie was a great experience. He’s world-renowned, so that was an incredible experience. I’m grateful to Haruko Kato for introducing me to him.

Of all the shoots I was in, Rise, Fair Sun was great because it was a month-long shoot in Nagano. And, because it was during the summer, I didn’t have to miss school. Maybe I missed a little bit. But we were in the Nagano area for the entire shoot, and that was really fun.

Everyone in my generation grew up watching kaiju films like Godzilla and Ultraman. When one of these films come up in conversation, I tell them that I was in them, and they’re impressed. So that’s also fun.

Photo © Brett Homenick.

BH: Between Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster and Godzilla vs. Megalon, which do you prefer?

HK: As a film?

BH: Any way you want to answer.

HK: It’s difficult to say. I remember more about Megalon because I was older, and there was the dolphin boat scene, too. Maybe that’s why, but I like Megalon. Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster left a strong impression on me because it wasn’t an ordinary kaiju movie. Director Banno used the environmental issue of pollution as the theme, so it felt more purposeful.

As an ordinary kaiju movie, I have good memories about Megalon because I hada lot of fun, like doing illegal U-turns on the highway and things like that, so I like Megalon, too. But I can’t choose one over the other; both of them were special.

BH: After you finished acting, what did you do?

HK: I quit [acting] when I was in the fifth grade, and I returned to normal life after that. I went to a public elementary school. Then I took the entrance exams for junior high school and went on to junior high, where I played basketball. I studied for the university entrance exams and went to university, where I joined the ski club. I was a normal university student. I don’t usually tell people that I used to be a child actor, so most people don’t know that about me. Of course, people who are close to me know.

When I started working, if it came up in conversation, I would sometimes tell people. If someone started talking about kaiju movies, sometimes somebody who knew me well would reveal that I used to be a child actor, and the others would be surprised. Otherwise, I didn’t really mention it. Now that I’m older, I get nostalgic about those days. Sometimes, I look for a Blu-ray or DVD of the movies so I can watch them again. Sometimes, they show reruns on cable TV, so I watch them, or I record them so I can watch them later.

“The Silver Sea,” which we spoke about earlier, was rerun twice last September. They aired it in the morning, but it was already noon when I noticed, so I missed it. I called the TV station and asked if it would be aired again sometime. At the time, they said no, but I found out that they’re going to air it again next month [from the time of this interview]. So I’m hoping to record it and watch it.

It was a really good experience, something that very few people are able to experience, like riding the dolphin boat, going to all these places I’d never been to, and meeting all these people. All these experiences, including meeting director Kurosawa and going to his house. I got to meet a lot of famous people who were on TV, although many of them have passed away.

I’m not sure if this experience has any meaning; maybe it doesn’t have any meaning. In any case, I feel that I’ve experienced things that very few people have experienced.

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