A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

On Location- at Tsukuba Center ( filming another kids`program and the new GATCHAMAN movie!)

A film set was constructed in the lot between Tsukuba`s Central Post Office and Nova Hall ( just next to the Joyo Bank Building) at which the next GATCHAMAN movie is being filmed (until Nov. 4th 2012)

An episode of Kamen Rider being shot at Tsukuba Center (January 24th 2011). The crowds were being used as extras.

Nov. 3rd 2012 at Tsukuba Center- shooting an episode of a children`s tv show called Go Busters (GO BASUTAZ)

By Avi Landau

On days when the light is just right and there is very little chance of rain, you might get lucky and find a colorful collection of super heroes and monsters battling it out at Tsukuba Center. For many years, TV production companies have been using the Lion Pit between the Okura Hotel and the Right-On building as an unearthly-looking set (which more importantly for the producers is free of charge!) for shooting Sunday morning kids’ programs. Like me, you will probably have to ask one of the moms with toddlers who are excitedly watching the proceedings to find out the name of the show they are filming.

Today, on my way to the Center Building I noticed large crowds gathered around the edge of The Pit peering down. I knew right away that there was filming going on. It wasn`t until I approached for a peek of my own and was stopped by the production staff that I realized that all the people that had gathered were EXTRAS who would be appearing (as a featureless mass , no doubt) in the episode being shot. I was even more surprised when under the direction of the director, all these enthusiastic would- be- thesbians began to chant as if they were cheering on a battle between gladiators.

Filming in Tsukuba Center

As I walked on in my hurry to get to an appointment, I remembered how two years ago  I watched the cast and crew of the popular channel 10 show Go-On-Ja (ゴオンジャ), which often uses the Tsukuba Center location. It is  interesting (especially if you have small kids to bring along) to watch the actors get warmed-up, rehearse and shoot the individual shots, then get half out of costume and enjoy a cigarette break. Sometimes small explosions startle the onlookers who ring the set and are treated very politely. (Remember, the space is being used for free!)

When I went by the set again later the set had become even more of a spectacle as in  addition to the film crew this years Christmas decoration had begun to up- so the superheroes and villains were battling amidst tinsel laden trees and a giant inflattable Santa!

The professional way Japanese film crews go about their business is impressive to watch and should be eye-opening for those who can only picture the age-old racist parody of a Japanese TV director as shown in the very popular (and perpetuator of old stereotypes) Lost In Translation.

Filming in Tsukuba Center

For me, the bold poses taken by each character when they identify themselves or challenge each other, is reminiscent of the mudra positions introduced to Japan by Buddhist monks, most notably Saicho and Kukai, more than 1000 years ago. This may sound far-fetched, but please look closely at both and you might see the connection.

Also, one thought that I have had about the great international success of so many Japanese produced kids shows is that unlike their American counterparts which were also very entertaining for adults ( and in fact impossible for kids to really understand- take Bugs Bunny or Popeye, for example), the Japanese had the revolutionary idea of creating programs at a childs level- making them vitually unwatchable for adults ( POKEMON, for example).but absolutely fascinating for little kids. A brilliant and profitable concept!

No-one can predict when there will be filming at the center, but as I said earlier, there is a good chance it will be happening when the weather is favorable.

Dont forget to bring the kids!


Some of you might have been wondering what all that unusal construction work going on in the empty lot next to the Joyo Bank Building at Tsukuba Center was- especially since what was being put up seemed to be mere facades!

Well, that is exactly what they were: fake store fronts along fake streets which were created as a film set to shoot the upcoming GATCHAMAN movie, which will be released some time next year. Yes- GATCHAMAN  is a cartoon, but they still film the sets and plenty of action for the animators to draw over ( or work with on their computers). I actually saw hem swimging a girl from a crane which will later appear in the film as one of the characters flying through the air.

When I asked I was told that shooting will comtinue through November 4th.

If, like me, you had never heard the name GOTCHAMAN before read:


Filming the upcoming GATCHAMAN movie at a set between Tsukuba`s Central Post Office and the Tsukuba Center Building ( Nov. 2nd 2012)

A view from a little higher up of the Kamen Rider set and the throng of enthusiastic extras ( January 24th 2011)


  • Mamoru Shimizu says:

    Last spring when my naughty grandson was staying at our house there were some very severe struggles between him and I at around 8 am every Sunday morning. He wanted to watch Go-Ranger and I wanted to watch the News review. Go-Ranger was very appealling for him but not at all for me.

    Now from Avi-san’ article I understand that the Japanese producers were making programs at a child level(子供の目線:important concept!), Are you also suggesting that Japanese comics have become very popular because they are tagetting people of specific gender and generation?

    Mudra: I cannot find it in my dictionary, but I guess it a crossed-arm gesture? My other naughty grandson used that gesture toward me crying something like “Gyao-“”Pyao”. He thought it was very cool,I thought “fight with me? I am not afraid!”
    I myself am of the Godzilla(ゴジラ) generation (1954), worried about him destroying the NHK Tower in Tokyo. Or Tokyo Tower(built 1958).

    So when Gekkoukamen(月光仮面:Moon Light Mask) got on stage(1958), he didn’t appeal to me(already 16years old). Popeye-spinach I watched so much when I was in Kindergarten and I ate plenty spinach with advice from Mama wanted to become strong.

    Should I or should I not tell there will be possibility to see Location of Go-on-Ja in Tsukuba center to my grandson, this will be big distress!!

  • Avi Landau says:

    Mamoru-San! In the end did you take your grandson to see the Kamen Raider set today? I dropped by and there were lots of onlookers ( probably lots of Tsukublog readers!). Everyone seemd to be a good spirits!
    You are right to infer that I suggest that one reason for the success of MANGA is their being written for specific audiences.

    And about MUDRA, in Japanese this is INSO-印相, or INZO-.
    These are the various hand and finger poses, or even full body poses used in Buddhist meditation and iconography, and in yoga as well.
    Just as the various figures in the buddhist pantheon can be recognized by their MUDRA, so the various super hero characters on Japanese TV can be identified by the poses they strike.

    Thanks, as always, for your excellent comments.

  • Mamoru Shimizu says:

    I always miss something recently, I missed Kamen-rider in Tsukuba-Center 25th, how that audience got information about the location? It would be my bad dream that if I took my naughty grandson finding empty area, I could imagine his complain and I had to by some ice-cream as compensation. Any way I would like to begin an research project how to find those important schedules. I should uses maruda 説法印 or 来迎印 while thinking.

    Today I missed Hanamuro-Jo remain I went to the Tsukuba Central-Library to return DVDs and found “The history book about Tsukuba-Town” was made of two volumes and three times thicker than that of Yatabe-town, looked much more interesting about History around Tsukuba. Today I just looked briefly, but in the future I would like to read it closely.

    Anyway before dark I just thought I could visit Hanamuro-Jo which Avi-san introduced,
    I thought I could find it easily if I get Hanamuro-cross and make my mind as that of builder-War-lord: thinking where should I build a castle considering land shape. But I failed after 30 minutes bicycle riding around there just I found a memorial statue of rock for an imperial Japanese army general Miyamot in Meiji-era. After I came back my home, I checked the article again, found I searched wrong place. Next time I won’t miss the small shrine of “Migawari-Amidanyorai” and put on a pebble praying no missing much!!

    Another thing I missed was I missed what I had been missing!! Biggest miss!!