It is known among ardent fans of Ultraman that there are pictures taken at the ski field (Ishiuchi Maruyama Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture) where the location shooting for the Woo episode was done back then showing the costume of Woo with an actor inside in the snow field. Not much is referred to and known about the details of these photos while there are no scenes in the show where Woo appeared in the human-size.
Moreover, It is likely that Dorako accompanied Woo on that occasion although the combination is really unexpected while we can see this Dorako was the costume before it was remodeled into Reborn Dorako with some horns added to the costume from Imora by Kunio Suzuki maybe just for pleasure. Suzuki also played Woo in the show although it is uncertain the human-sized Woo had him inside as well.
Even though the Dorako costume still looks neat, marks can be found where it was repaired in some parts of the costume especially in the ditch-like sections between the tile-like surfaces.
According to the caption for the top photo, it seems that an event was held in the ski field in February 1967 to celebrate the completion of Episode 30 (the Woo episode) with the costumes brought over there.
By the by, in the talk among the cast about this Woo episode included in one of the memoirs authored by Hiroko Sakurai (Fuji), it was also revealed that, on a location shooting trip apart from this Woo episode, Masanari Nihei (Ide) got so drunk that he got out of control rampaging at night to the degree that the other people had to tie him up with a rope and that Nihei smashed the door of his room in the lodge (after getting out of the rope) while Iyoshi Ishii (Arashi) ended up paying for the damage at the request of the lodge employee as Ishii added in the talk he still remembered the amount he had paid (2000 yen at the monetary value of the 1960s).
At any rate, it looks very odd somehow to find the human-sized Woo among people in the snow field because it makes it look as if an UMA or something actually showed up there with the smiling people including kids!
Yuzo Higuchi, the director of this episode, agrees with the interviewer in a book article who asked him if this episode was meant to warn people about the excessive resort development which spread into every part of Japan back then.
“Woo” seems to be described as the name which came either from an Okinawan word (the script of this episode was written by Tetsuo Kinjo who was originally from Okinawa) denoting a kind of fabric pronounced in a similar way or from the title of the show “WoO” being planned along with “UNBALANCE” while “UNBALANCE” finally turned into “Ultra Q.”
As it is likely they had a lot of snowfall on the location set they hadn’t had for the last 20 to 30 years, chances are it made the filming very hard. Higuchi recalls they had to walk very carefully not to leave any footprints on the snow and that none of the cast and staff were good at skiing so they had to hire ski instructors in the locality to have them perform for the long shot scenes showing the SSSP members skillfully skiing down the slope in a graceful manner instead of the cast members, Kurobe, Ishii (present Dokumamushi) and Nihei.
While having the instructors ski instead of them, it seems that the cast had to wait shivering in cold with their overcoats on as their SSSP uniforms were worn by the instructors while they didn’t bring the spare uniforms to the location.
Higuchi says they had a very hard time because, for the medium shot scenes showing the actual cast, the SSSP members were not able to stop on skis where they were supposed to play to be properly caught on film as they easily got out of the picture with the momentum out of skiing from a place a little way off with their skis on.
The ski field that appeared in this episode is likely to have had a resort facility affiliated with TBS, which should indicate how much popular going to resorts including ski fields was among people during Japan’s postwar high economic growth period.
Tohl Narita: “In a word, it is a sen-nin. As there is nothing interesting if it’s all white (while the set would be white too*), I made its face dark. Even though I initially drew A, it looked too much like a sen-nin, and I drew B instead by flattening its head.”
*Narita’s own remark
Sen-nin means a wizard or hermit seen as immortal living in the mountains while it should have originated from Taoism and the word is often used in Japan to refer to someone living in the mountain, not necessarily in seclusion or for a religious purpose, saying something like “He’s a man just like a sen-nin living so deep in the mountain” apart from the Chinese religion (I believe most Japanese people are even unaware that the idea of sen-nin originally came from Taoism even though the word itself is so familiar to them).
It seems that Yuzo Higuchi who directed this episode featuring Woo had something more like an abominable snowman in mind and that he realized the actual costume had excessively long hair when he looked at it for the first time. But he says, as he didn’t know a kaiju like an abominable snowman (Guigass) had already appeared in the show then, the design of Woo is now fully acceptable to him.
As to its sculpture, the costume was made by Ex Production instead of Ryosaku Takayama following Goldon that appeared in the previous episode.
Keizo Murase who was with Ex Production back then says they used plant fabric of Manila hemp usually called “sutaffu (stuff?) among them. Even though the stuff is usually rather short in length, he says they obtained the long one from a bike store which used to be located right across Toho because the store owner had a lot of knowledge of the fabric material as they also dealt with ropes (I don’t exactly understand why ropes can be associated with a bike store).
Tetsuo Yamamura says the Woo costume was very light in weight with the long hair just covering the lower part of the body like a straw skirt with nothing to cover the actor’s body while the actor looked out through the bunch of hair so that his face could have been exposed if the covering hair should have been pushed aside.
In one of the pictures shown in the magazine along with the talk between Kaimai and Murase, while it should have been taken at Toho with Baragon and the sculpting staff shown, the woman on the left hand side with a big smile could also be Kato-san as she and the woman shown in the photos taken at Ex Production look alike.
While the photo posted in this entry shows the Imora costume that was remodeled from the Banila suit with its head replaced, the caption of the Tokusatsu Hiho says it is unknown why Imora is included in the photo as it was written in Ryosaku Takayama’s diary that the sculpting of Banila and remodeling into Imora were done by himself without referring to the involvement of Ex Production.
At any rate, I like these photos as if showing an idyllic atmosphere of Japan we definitely had in those days with the people smiling happily. As there was a lot of demand for kaiju costumes when the “Second Kaiju Boom” arose with such tokusatsu products as “The Return of Ultraman,” “Spectreman (P Production)” and “Mirrorman” in the 1970s, it seems that many part-timers including housewives helped to sculpt the costumes.
Around the “First Kaiju Boom” including the original Ultra Series it is said that a lot of art university students took part in the production such as costume sculpting or miniature modeling as part-timers while many of them were from Musashino Art University from which Tohl Narita and Noriyoshi Ikeya had graduated. Young, quiet and stoic-looking Ikeya devotedly working on the set seems to have gained much popularity from female students from the art universities.
Anyway, I believe this should be the first blog where Kato-no-obachan was referred to for people outside of Japan (I made her name into one of the tags)! I would like to thank those part-timers including her for their great job they did in enabling us to enjoy the tokusatsu shows when we were kids!
A talk featured in an issue of Tokusatsu Hiho (secret treasure) made between Eizo Kaimai and Keizo Murase, both of whom were involved in sculpting work at Toho for the movies including the Godzilla series, revealed Kato-san referred to in my previous post was one of them, and it is likely that she could do almost every piece of work related to sculpting as she had been working for Toho as a part-time assistant for sculpting.
While the moderator in the talk says he has often heard of Kato-san’s name as Kato-no-obachan (obachan, not obaachan as it denotes an older woman, represents “auntie” but it can also be used for a middle-aged woman who is close to you when you call her or refer to her in a friendly way; no is a Japanese modifying particle explaining the attribute of the obachan in this case), Murase says in the talk that Kato-san was so helpful because she was kind enough to bring would-be part-timers together who would rally around her whenever she called them.
Kaimai and Murase say pasting the scales onto the King Ghidora costume was the work done by those obachans including Kato-san as those including her and her kids spread latex onto the scale mold, cast it out, cut each scale out of the sheet cast out of the mold with scissors and pasted them from the lower part of the costume (to make the scales come over one another).
While the Ghidora heads and legs were sculpted separately from the body to be put together later, it seems that the scales were pasted temporarily leaving some marginal space scaleless about 10 centimeters in length from each end of the separate parts so that the people could put the scales onto the joined sections after the separate parts came together.