National

Fukushima city plays its Ultraman card

Kyodo, Staff Report

An official Ultraman store has opened in the hometown of the superhero’s creator.

Makoto Tsuburaya, 57, the son of a cousin of Eiji Tsuburaya — the creator of the science fiction series that has generated great enthusiasm among children over the last five decades — opened the store called SHOT M78 Otsukaya at the site of Eiji’s birth in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture.

Nebula M78 is the home world of Ultraman, who helps the members of Science Patrol battle aliens and giant monsters.

The first incarnation of the TV series, titled simply “Ultraman,” took to the airwaves on July 17, 1966.

The shop owner said he hopes the store will become “a base (for fans) to tour around” other Ultraman-related spots in Sukagawa.

The city boasts a variety of monuments of Ultraman as well as giant monsters, while local restaurants offer dishes related to the superhero.

Ultraman mugs, dolls and other goods are available at the store, which Makoto Tsuburaya placed next to his coffee shop.

Items linked to Eiji Tsuburaya, a pioneer of live-action special effects, including those in the original “Godzilla,” are also displayed in the store, including his 8 mm movie cameras and a letter sent to his uncle before he was purged by the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces for making propaganda films during World War II. He didn’t return to Toho Studios until the early 1950s. He died at the age of 68 in 1970.

Ren Saito, 4, recently visited the shop with his father. “I can tell all the names of the (character) dolls because I love (Ultraman),” he said as he pointed to some of about 40 different types of dolls in the store.

Not just children but many adults remain avid fans of Ultraman. In 2013, “Ultraman” was recognized by Guinness World Records as the television series with the largest number of spinoffs.

The city of Sukagawa is stepping up its promotion of the superhero to attract more visitors.

Sukagawa has already forged a sister-city agreement with Nebula M78, the fictitious planet and homeland of Ultraman. The city also issues Ultraman-themed license plates for cars and bikes.

“I want to cooperate with local people to make the city more attractive,” Makoto Tsuburaya said.

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