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Japan Entertainment News - May 2005

A Star Returns

Hollywood actor Watanabe Ken (45) was one of a glittering group of stars who appeared at a PR event yesterday for the new movie "Batman Begins." The event was held at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Tokyo's trendy Roppongi district and a huge number of press from Hong Kong, China and Taiwan turned up to see the new Batman, Christian Bale (31), director Christopher Nolan (34), Tom Cruise's new love Katie Holmes (26), Oscar winner Morgan Freeman (67) and Irish star Liam Neeson (52). Unlike many Japanese actors, Watanabe seemed quite at home with the Hollywood stars, joking around and playing "host."

• Tired British rockers Oasis have finally got to No.1 in the charts. Though they've been hugely popular here in Japan for years, "Don't Believe the Truth" is their first album to reach the top of the local Oricon chart. It is the first original album by a British band to reach No.1 since the Bay City Rollers did it in 1977. Meanwhile, at No.2 is the eponymous album by indies duo Def Tech, made up of Shen (24), born in China and raised in Hawaii, and Tokyo boy Micro (24). It's taken a while since the January 22 release, but they are only the second independent group to put out a million-selling album, after Mongol 8000. It's also the first original million seller this year.

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Four in a Row for Namie

Talento Yamaguchi Moe (27) spoke yesterday for the first time about her romantic relationship with Ozeki Shigeo (30) founder of the IT company Zeel. She told fellow showbiz types on the Wada Akiko TBS show "Akko ni O-makase!" that her boyfriend has "living expenses" of over ¥1 million a month and is interested in reading books on philosophy. This prompted a surprised reaction, as Moe-chan is generally regarded as either pretty dim or a better actress than she is given credit for.

• The MTV Video Music Awards were held last night at the Tokyo Bay NK Hall. Taking three prizes, including the Best Video award, were the Okinawan sensation hip hop group Orange Range, Japan's best selling artists in 2004. Amuro Namie (photo, 27) became the first artist to pick up an award four years running, getting the nod as the Best Asian Performing Artist and for the Best R&B Video. Visiting special guest Mariah Carey (35) picked up the International Video Icon award.

• English actor Gerald Butler (35) arrived at Narita Airport on a PR trip yesterday. His first trip to Japan was to promote "The Phantom of the Opera" in January, when he was relatively unknown, and he slipped through the airport almost unnoticed. This time around 2,000 screaming fans ensured a suitably chaotic welcome in the terminal building. Butler's in town to plug another movie from 2004, "Dear Frankie," which opens here June 25.

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One Dream Comes True

Pop group Dreams Come True performed along with top foreign acts including Jamiroquai and Ashanti at yesterday's "MTV Asahi Super Dry Live" event. The show was held at the Yoyogi No.1 Gymnasium in Tokyo. The theme of the event was making dreams come true and DCT vocalist Yoshida Miwa (photo, 40) helped one young couple do just that. After the band's performance, she took part in a marriage ceremony on stage.

• Pop diva Mariah Carey (35) arrived in town yesterday for the MTV Video Music Awards show tomorrow. It's only been two months since her last visit, which was to promote her latest album, "Mimi," which has sold over 2 million copies in the US and about 300,000 here. About 1,000 fans turned out to greet her at Narita Airport. Dressed in her trademark low-cut dress, she told her fans "Aishitemasu!" (I love you!). She appeared last night on the live "SmaStation-4" TV Asahi show, talking to SMAP member Katori Shingo.

• Oscar winners Morgan Freeman (67) and Hilary Swank (30) seem to be enjoying their visit to Japan. Both appeared at the Japan premier of "Million Dollar Baby" and Freeman joked that he's planning to stay in Japan to master the language. When asked in an interview what he thought of Watanabe Ken (45), Freeman replied that he sees him becoming the next Mifune Toshiro, who in his day was the Japanese actor best known outside the country. Swank said she spent her day off yesterday getting a foot massage and shopping in Harajuku. Saying she's a big Yomiuri Giants fan, she said she had to get a baseball cap before she left. She could always get one in the Japan Zone Store of course...

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Love at the Budokan

Pop/rock duo Love Psychedelico (photo) played at the Nippon Budokan for the first time yesterday. Backed up by the stellar guitar work of Sato Naoki (31), vocalist Kumi (29) told their 12,000 fans, "I can't tell you often enough, Thank you! I love you!" She is one of the few vocalists in Japan who can sing in excellent English. The duo's greatest hits album "Early Times" topped the oricon chart for two weeks after its February release. They have a new single, "Right Now," coming out June 16 and will play in Taiwan for the first time June 22.

• The movie "Densha Otoko" (Train Man) is to be shown in several countries in East Asia, including Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, following sales efforts at the recent Cannes Film Festival. The movie is based on a supposedly true story that played out on the Channel 2 web site, Japan's most popular BBS. It tells of an "otaku" (nerd), played by Yamada Takayuki (21), who comes to the rescue of a woman (Nakatani Miki, 29) being groped on a train. Not knowing how to pursue his newly found love, he turns to the Web for help and advice. The love story was turned into a best-selling book and has the subject of a lot of publicity over the last year, and has publishers scouring the Web looking for the next big hit. The biggest question that remains is whether it's really a true story of innocent love triumphing or just a clever marketing ploy. The movie opens on June 4.

Matsuda Seiko's agency have denied a recent magazine report that she was romantically involved with a handsome former sports trainer in his early 30's. Matsuda is 43.

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Addicted to Coke

With their hair tied up, tight black suits and glasses, playing their instruments in a circular room with people dancing all around them, the girls in the new Diet Coke TV commercial are obviously taking their cues from videos by Lenny Kravitz and the late Robert Palmer. Leading the "rock group" is Mayama Keiko (26), who is becoming one of the countries most popular fashion models. Known by her nickname of MayaKei, she made her name the same way as many other models, as a cover girl for JJ magazine. With a strong femal fan base, the new commercial, which clearly appeals to rock fans and those with a secretary fetish, is bringing her lots of male attention, too.

• According to a weekly magazine, the son of legendary idol singer Yamaguchi Momoe (46) and actor Miura Tomokazu (53) is planning his showbiz debut. Currently a university student, the 20 year old is said to resemble his mother and be a "Johnny's Jimusho" type. But the article says he's planning to join the more macho Ishihara Promotion agency, founded by the also legendary Ishihara Yujiro and home to many of the top action stars. The plan involves father and son Miura appearing together in a revival of a popular old TV drama series, "Daitokai." The agency denies the report, but if it turns out to be true, the debut will receive huge media attention.

• Actress Seto Asaka (28) acknowledged her relationship with Johnny's Jimusho idol group V6 member Inohara Yoshihiko (28) for the first time this week. At a PR even for an upcoming TV drama, Seto said she and Inohara were doing fine, thank you.

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Aegis Set to Destroy Summer Competition

Production has finished on the big summer movie, "Boukoku no Aegis." The movie, which features "Last Samurai" star Sanada Hiroyuki (photo, 44), Nakai Kiichi (43) and Sato Koichi (44), is based on a popular manga about terrorists taking control of a Maritime Self Defense Forces "Aegis" class destroyer. The Sakamoto Junji-directed flick is scheduled to open July 30.

• In town to promote multiple Oscar-winning movie "Million Dollar baby" are Hilary Swank (30) and Morgan Freeman (67), both of whom took awards for their roles in the Clint Eastwood boxing flick. They will attend the Japanese premier of the movie tonight in Tokyo. This is Swank's first time in Japan, while it's Freeman's fourth visit. It's rare these days for Hollywood stars to appear at the Japanese opening of their movies, and considering they are both Oscar winners, this is a rare treat indeed for local film fans. Both stars arrived directly from a stint as judges at the Cannes Film Festival. Presenting them with a bouquet at a PR event yesterday was young actress Kuriyama Chiaki (20), who appeared in the Tarantino movie "Kill Bill, Vol.1."

• Silly Award Season: Actress Momoi Kaori (53) has been chosen as this year's Miss Lily, given to the celebrity who most suits the white flower. Momoi will appear later this year in the Hollywood movie "Sayuri," based on the bestseller "Memoirs of a Geisha."

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4 Japanese Movies Make Time Top 100

"Ikiru" (To Live), directed in 1952 by the legendary Akira Kurosawa (photo), and three other Japanese movies have been selected among the "All-Time 100 Movies" by Time magazine. "Ikiru" was also chosen as the best movie of the 1950s. The other Japanese movies to make the list, which didn't actually rank the movies, are 1953's "Tokyo Story" by Yasujiro Ozu and "Ugetsu" by Kenji Mizoguchi, and "Yojimbo" (The Bodyguard) by Kurosawa from 1961. Needless to say, the list was dominated by Hollywood epics including "Casablanca" (1942), "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962), "The Godfather, Parts I and II" (1972 and 1974) "Schindler's List" (1993) and "The Lord of the Rings" (2001-2003).

• Kinjou Ayano (27), the pianist in the female duo Kiroro, is married and three months pregnant. She married a 31-year old restaurant "producer" yesterday. Her partner, vocalist Tamashiro Chiharu (28), got married just last month. The duo will play a series of five dates across the country in August and September, finishing up in the hometown of Okinawa.

• The band Day After Tomorrow announced that they're going to put the band on hold and the three members will go solo. Guitarist Kitano Masato (30) has recently been in the news due to his romantic involvement with Sayaka (18), daughter of pop diva Matsuda Seiko. It's thought that he might be planning to write songs for her and help her develop her career, possibly on the Avex label. The other band members are vocalist Misono (20) and keyboard player Suzuki Daisuke (26).

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Korean Boom Continues

The Korean boom shows no sign of cooling off. About 3,500 female fans flocked to Narita Airport on Sunday to welcome actor Kwon Sangwoo (28), star of "Sad Love Song." Kwon is on his second PR visit to Japan. He attended a "fan meeting" of about 6,000 screaming, mostly middle-aged, females at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba. Tickets for the event cost up to a whopping ¥15,000 but were sold out in less than an hour. With merchandising selling like hotcakes, the brief visit to Japan is believed to have earned Kwon close to ¥200 million. The drama series, whose Japanese title has been abbreviated to "Kanakoi," airs on Saturday afternoons on Fuji TV.
Sad Love Song official Japanese site

• Meanwhile Korean R&B singer SE7EN (20) is also in town. He played a gig at the Tokyo Bay NK Hall on Sunday, kicking off his 7-city tour of Japan. 6,000 fans who bought his album were given free invitations to Sunday's show. He recently released "Style," his second single in Japan.

• Top Takarazuka star Ayaki Nao (photo, 34) gave her farewell show at the Tokyo Takarazuka Theater on Sunday. More than 8,000 fans turned out in the rain to bid her farewell. Having always played male roles in the all-female troupe, she will make her debut as an "actress" in the stage production of The Producers in August.

• Pop idols Tackey and Tsubasa finished their national tour at the weekend and announced to the 15,000 fans at the Yokohama Arena that each will go on their first solo tours later in the year. Imai Tsubasa (23) will start his national tour in September at the Tokyo International Forum, while Takizawa Hideaki (23) will kick off his tour in November.

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Anri, Lee Ritenour to Wed

Singer Anri (43) announced to fans after a concert on Friday that she is engaged to legendary LA jazz fusion guitarist Lee Ritenour (52). Anri made the shock announcement during the encore of her show at Yokosuka Arts Theater. Ritenour worked with the singer as a producer on her 2000 album "Smooth Jam - Quiet Storm" and they have been collaborating since. Anri made her debut in 1979 and has had hits such as "Olivia wo Kikinagara" and "Cat's Eye." She also sang the theme song for the Nagano Winter Olympics in 1998. She married the president of an apparel company in 1989, but bankruptcy and heavy debts led to divorce in 1993. Ritenour is also a divorcee.

• Sayaka (18), daughter of J-pop legend Matsuda Seiko (43), announced to fans on Saturday that she is taking an extended break from showbusiness. She said in a letter to her fan club that she wants to separate herself from her mother, who is in rehearsal for a tour to celebrate her 25th anniversary in the business, and dedicate herself to her singing career in a more disciplined way. The pair have appeared together in several TV commercials, but cracks started to appear in their relationship late last year. Seiko controls the money as her daughter is still a juvenile and this is said to have led to trouble. Sayaka moved out of her mother's Tokyo home last autumn, and these days seems to rely more on boyfriend Kitano Masato (30), guitarist with the band Day After Tomorrow. Sayaka had a success with her debut single in 2002, but her fourth single, released in January, only sold about 30,000 copies. She recently graduated from an international high school in Tokyo.

• On Saturday, actor Oguri Shun (22) made his first public appearance since his relationship with former Morning Musume leader Yaguchi Mari (22) caused her to have to quit the group. After doing a voice-over recording for an upcoming anime movie, he acknowledged the relationship to the media and aplologized to fans for any "inconvenience."

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Former Pop Idols Turn to Crime

Two former members of the Johnny's Junior idol group were among a trio arrested this week on robbery charges. The two unemployed 19-year olds were not named as they are juveniles. Also arrested was a 24-year old, though there are believed to have been others involved in the criminal gang, including other former JJ members. The group stole about ¥310,000 in cash from a 55-year old company worker on his way home on the night of April 6, leaving him with slight injuries. They are suspected in several other cases of "oyaji-gari" (hunting middle-aged men) as well as about 30 safe-breaking cases in western Tokyo, amassing about ¥3 million in ill-gotten gains. The former pop idols said that they had grown tired of the rigorous and hectic entertainment business and just wanted to hang out with friends.

• I suppose every country has them. Those quirky stories that are just fluff but seem to capture the public imagination. We have the mystery "piano man" in the UK. And Japan has "Fuuta-kun." A 2-year old Lesser Panda at a zoo in Chiba, his claim to fame is...wait for it...he stands on his hind legs. Fair enough, I thought it was a hoax when it was just photos on TV, but actual footage of the creature has been on all the wide shows and news programs. Oh, and it's not even something that unusual. His "grandfather, a 9-year old, does it, too. You can see a bigger picture of him on our message board.

• Enka singer Mori Shinichi (57) gave a tearful performance this week at the strangely named Potato association Charity Show at NHK Hall in Shibuya, Tokyo. He performed with his wife Masako (46) at the very first event in 1985 and again in recent years, but the two recently divorced.

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Best and Worst of TV

The national PTA conference has released the results of its annual survey of the best and worst TV shows for kids. The survey ranks the shows that parents don't want their kids to watch, and the lineup is much the same as last year. Top of the list is TV Asahi's "London Hearts," which features comedy duo London Boots exposing the immorality of Japan's youth and getting lots of belly laughs in the process. Second was a personal favorite of mine, "Sui10!" named after its time slot of 10pm on Wednesday on Fuji TV. Also known as "One Night Rock n' Roll" the hugely popular comedy show features a host of outlandish characters and often mayhem. Ranked third was TV Asahi anime tyke "Crayon Shinchan," the 5-year old whose antics include dropping his pants and lusting after older women. Most of the other shows in the Top 10 were variety. Needless to say, many of the shows parents do want their kids to watch are the very ones they're least likely to enjoy. NHK had four of the Top 10, and none in the other ranking. Most kids would rather do their homework than watch news and documentaries, but TBS travel shows like "Sekai Fushigi Hakken" (#9) and "Sekai Ururun Taizaiki" (#10) are pretty good. The parents' favorite was NHK's documentary "Project X", followed by the "Doubutsu Kisoutengai!" animal show and long running "3-nen B-kumi Kimpachi Sensei" school drama, both on TBS.

• Popular band Southern All Stars are to play this summer's 6th Rock in Japan festival, the biggest outdoor event in the country. It will be held at the Hitachi Waterfront Park in Ibaragi on August 5-7, and will be Sazan's first outdoor festival performance since they played at the Seibu Stadium Super Fest 22 years ago. The band have a big few months ahead of them - they will release their 51st singles on July 20 and start a 21-show nationwide tour in the autumn.

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Japanese Films Selling at Cannes

Several Japanese films have received offers for foreign distribution at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival, including the latest movie starring young Yagira Yuya (photo, 15), who took the festival by surprise last year by becoming the youngest ever Best Actor award winner for his role in "Dare mo Shiranai" (Nobody Knows). In "Hoshi ni Natta Shonen" (Little Randy and Shining Boy) he takes on the real-life role of Sakamoto Tetsumu, who went to Thailand to become an elephant trainer. After returning to build an elephant park in Japan, he was killed in a traffic accident at the age of 20. The movie is based on a book by Sakamoto's mother. With a music score by Academy Award-winning composer Sakamoto Ryuichi, there is already talk of an Oscar nomination for Yagira. Another film receiving offers from more than a dozen countries is "Ima Ai ni Yukimasu" which stars kabuki actor Nakamura Shido (32) and Takeuchi Yuko (25), who announced their wedding engagement just this month.

• It was revealed yesterday that talento and former NTV announcer Uozumi Rie (33) and Mori Keisuke (26), currently with the network, have divorced. The couple married on New Year's Day 2004, eight months after they started working together on an afternoon show. Uozumi quit NTV last April and went freelance, working in radio, narration and TV commercials. Mori is in his fifth year at NTV, considered to be the hardest time.

• Kabuki actor Matsumoto Koshiro (62) has been recognized by the province of Castilla-La Mancha in Spain for his more than 1,000 performances over 36 years as Don Quixote in the stage musical "The Man from La Mancha." Matsumoto was handed the award by his daughter, actress Matsu Takako (27), who is also currently appearing in the show in Nagoya. Koshiro will give his 2,000 performance at the Imperial Theater in Tokyo in June.

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Time for Andy to Settle Down

Popular TBS announcer Ando Hiroki (37) is engaged to marry talento Kawahata Yuka (29). "Andy" has something of a reputation as a ladies' man and has been connected with a host of female celebrities. But he is said to have seen Kawahata as a marriage partner almost straight after they started dating a year or so ago. The pair first met in 1998, when Kawahata was a guest reporter on the TBS "Sekai Fushigi Hakken" travel documentary show. They plan to get married in the autumn.

• The Tokyo apartment of singer Hirai Ken (33) was broken into on May 13 and his personal computer was stolen, according to police. He returned home about 2:30am to find a window broken and called the police. The break-in happened the night of a live show that Hirai held in Harajuku to mark the tenth anniversary of his live debut. He started a national tour yesterday in his hometown of Iga in Mie Prefecture.

• Actress Sakai Wakana (24) admitted yesterday that she and comedian Kajiwara Yuuta (24) are an item. The couple were spotted together recently at a baseball game at Tokyo Dome by a weekly gossip magazine. Kajiwara is one half of the manzai duo King Kong.

• Mariah Carey (35) has been announced as a last-minute addition to the lineup for the upcoming MTV Video Music Awards Japan 2005. The event will be held at the Tokyo Bay NK Hall on May 29. Carey was in Japan just two months ago to promote her latest album. Also planned for the MTV event is a new dance number by Gorie, the outlandish cross-dressing character created by comedian Gori (32).

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Utada Tops Showbiz Earners

This year's figures for the tax bills paid by the rich and famous in Japan have just been released. Topping the list in the showbiz world for the first time since 1999 is singer-songwriter Utada Hikaru. At the tender age of 22, she forked over almost ¥365 million in taxes, on income that was just a regular office worker's salary shy of ¥1 billion. Utada moved up from the No.5 spot last year largely thanks to sales of her greatest hits album "Single Collection Vol.1," which has shifted over 2.5 million copies, and her US debut album "Exodus" which sold about 1.3 million copies at home and abroad. But she was the only celebrity to make the national Top 100, coming in at No.75. Her parents didn't do too badly, either. Her father and producer Utada Teruzane coughed up ¥67 million in taxes, while her mother, herself a former pop singer, got a bill for just under ¥60 million. The nation's top taxpayer was an employee at an investment advisory firm, who paid an unbelievable ¥3.7 billion yen in income tax. Consider that these are just their tax bills and that the average salaried worker earns about ¥5 million a year.

• Other stars moving up the tax rankings include: SMAP leader and 2002 top earner Nakai Masahiro (32) earned over ¥500 million, largely thanks to lots of endorsements and 9 regular TV shows, and had a bill of almost ¥190 million; actor Watanabe Ken, now based in Hollywood, more than doubled his tax bill to just under ¥50 million; Ichise Takashige, producer of the movie "The Juon," a Hollywood remake of the hit horror flick, paid out about ¥42 million; veteran director Yamada Yoji (73) paid just under ¥40 million thanks to the success of his recent samurai movies such as "The Twilight Samurai." .

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Tsuri Baka Bobby

Filming started at the weekend on the 16th episode in the "Tsuri Baka" (Fishing Fool) movie series. Starring regulars Nishida Toshiyuki (57) as the happy-go-lucky salaryman "Hama-chan" and Mikuni Rentarou (82) as his boss, the latest movie also features hot actress Itoh Misaki (27) in the so-called "madonna" role and Kaneko Noboru (25) as her romantic interest. The movie is set in Nagasaki, Kaneko's hometown. It is also close to the Sasebo US naval base, and making his acting debut as a US serviceman is up-and-coming Nigerian talento Bobby Ologun (32). The gormless Ologun was a regular on the "Sanma no Super Karakuri TV" variety show and made his debut as a K-1 fighter last New Year's Eve. His unexpected victory in that event turned him into a national celebrity and the movie role shows that he's cashing in on that.

• Popular Fuji TV announcer Sasaki Kyoko (32) married 43-year TBS newscaster Ikeda Hiroyuki yesterday. Both are graduates of the prestigious Tokyo University and have been romantically involved for three years. Sasaki plans to continue her TV career.

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NTV to Lose its Fire

Leading Nippon TV (NTV) announcer Fukuzawa Akira (41) said yesterday that he is going to quit the network at the end of June. Though he will become a "free announcer," he plans to continue with the two NTV shows he currently hosts. Known for his high-tension delivery and catchphrases such as "Fire!" and "Just Meet!" Fukuzawa first made an impact on the TV scene in 1991 when he took over as emcee on the popular show "America Oudan Ultra Quiz." he said the job had been incredibly tough and he had considered quitting. But overcoming that had prepared him to take on any kind of job. he married a former flight attendant in 1995.

• Japan's No.1 male vocalist Hirai Ken (33) held a concert yesterday at the Harajuku Ruido venue where he made his live debut on June 8, 10 years ago. The show was attended by just 150 lucky fans selected from 20,000 hopefuls. But it was also broadcast live to 8 big screens on street corners of 5 cities across the country. From next Tuesday he will start a 29-show nationwide tour.

• "The Promise," a Chinese movie starring Sanada Hiroyuki (44) and Korean actor Jang Dong Gun (33) had its first sneak preview yesterday at the Cannes Film Festival. The 12-minute preview drew applause from over 240 movie critics from 35 countries. The film is scheduled to open in Japan next March. Meanwhile, the Kobayashi Masahiro-directed film "Bashing," nominated in the competition section, was shown on Thursday but received three stars from only one of the nine judges.

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Shinobu's First TV Starring Role

Award-winning actress Terajima Shinobu (32) is to make her first starring appearance in a TV drama series. The series, provisionally titled "Otona no Natsu Yasumi (Adult Summer Vacation) will air on NTV from July 6. The "serious" actress will have comedienne Nakajima Tomoko (33) of the manzai duo Othello alongside her as they portray women running a house by the sea. Terashima was born in Kyoto into the kabuki family of national treasure Onoe Kikugoro and actress Fujii Junko, and grew up in the world of the stage and movies. She has won awards for such movies as 2003's "Vibrator" and "Akame Shijuyataki Shinju Misui" (Akame 48 Waterfalls). She has appeared, but never starred in, TV dramas, notably the 2003 NHK taiga drama "Musashi."

• It was revealed yesterday that comedian Nagura Jun (36), of the trio Neptune, and talento Watanabe Marina (34) got married on May 5. The couple announced their engagement last month. Watanabe is a former member of the 80s idol group O-Nyanko Club. Nagura is a Hyogo Prefecture native and decided to delay the announcement following the fatal train crash in Amagasaki on April 25.

• Fujiki Chiho (37), an announcer for Bunka Housou radio, said on air yesterday that she is getting married. She met the 42-year old A-san in January and he proposed at the end of March. They plan to hold a ceremony in July and Fujiki says she will continue working.

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A New Man for Yumi?

Actress Adachi Yumi (photo, 23) may have a new love in her life. Just weeks after the public split from boyfriend Kuroda Arthur (44), Adachi is now seeing Itoda Jun (32) of the comedy duo Speed Wagon, according to the weekly magazine Josei Seven. At a PR event yesterday for an autumn Fuji TV drama series, Adachi described Itoda as a friend, someone she occasionally meets for dinner. In the new drama, she will play a "yankee" (delinquent girl) who battles her father and domestic violence.

• Also rumored to be romantically involved is singer BoA (18). The weekly magazine Friday reports that the Japan-based Korean singer is going out with a 26-year old stylist, and published photos of the couple kissing in Odaiba, a popular waterfront date spot. It is her first romance made public. The popular singer is in the 4th year of a successful career, though she only recently had her first No.1 on the Oricon chart with "Do the Motion". She is currently in Korea recording her new album, due for release in June.

• Uchi Hiroki (18), a member of the pop groups News and Kan Johnny 8, was admitted to hospital on Monday. The cause is said to be pneumothorax, a condition in which air escapes from the lungs into the chest cavity and compresses the lungs. He has undergone surgery and will need about three weeks to recover. according to the Johnny's Jimusho agency, he experienced chest pains during his performance in a musical in Osaka on Sunday and went to hospital the following morning. As is the Japanese style, he apologized to his fans for worrying and inconveniencing them.

• Talento Nakayama Hideaki (37) is a father for the third time. His agency announced this week that his wife, former Takarazuka star and talento Shiraki Ayaka (37), gave birth to their third son, whom they've named Keigo, on May 6.

• Father and son Tokumitsu Kazuo (63), an announcer, and talento Masayuki (33) are currently making their first TV appearance together. The pair are in the TV commercial for the new album by Kawashima Ai (19). The elder Tokumitsu, a veteran Giants fan known for his ability to cry, is said to be a big fan. He and his son say they have been moved to tears by Kawashima's latest album, "12-ko no Uta" (12 Songs), which goes on sale today. The singer-songwriter recently played her 1,000th "rojo raibu" (street performance).

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Puffy to Tour US Again

Pop duo Puffy will play four shows in Japan in June and tour the US east coast in the autumn. They recently played to 2,000 fans at the legendary Fillmore in San Fransisco on April 27, rounding off their US concert tour, "Hi! Hi! Puffy AmiYumi Rock Show -- Go West!!" The duo, Yoshimura Yumi (30) and Ohnuki Ami (31), went to see a SF Giants baseball game the night before the gig and were introduced on the big screen. the following night, they appeared on the popular late-night network show Jimmy Kimmel Live.

• We reported here about the wedding announcement of kabuki and movie actor Nakamura Shido (32) and actress Takeuchi Yuko (25), mentioning that Takeuchi was not pregnant. Well, it turns out she is. Nakamura gave a press conference yesterday at the Kabukiza theater in Tokyo's Ginza. The always ebullient Shido was unusually nervous in front of about 100 media reporters. He said they had decided to register their marriage in June and hoped to have a wedding ceremony within the year. He also revealed that Takeuchi is three months pregnant.

• It was revealed yesterday that comedian Uchimura Teruyoshi (40) and former TV Asahi announced Tokunaga Yumi (29) got married on April 23. According to Uchimura's agency, the Amagaseki train crash on the morning of April 25, which caused 107 deaths, made the couple decide to delay the announcement of their marriage.

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Shido, Yuko to Wed

Another big showbiz wedding was revealed yesterday - popular young kabuki and movie actor Nakamura Shido (32) and actress Takeuchi Yuko (25) are to get hitched before the end of the year. The romance started when the two co-starred as a couple separated by death in last year's movie "Ima, Ai ni Yukimasu." They are said to have made the decision and announced it to family, close friends and, of course, their agencies at the end of last month. Both are planning to continue their highly successful acting careers after marriage. The beautiful Takeuchi is said not to be pregnant, a question that seems to be standard for showbiz couples. Shido, who is one of the young kabuki generation that have drawn fans back to the traditional theater, was thought to be connected with talento Shinohara Tomoe (26) since 2003, but he has denied that they ever actually dated. Having made his kabuki debut at the age of nine, he entered the world of movies with 2002's "Ping Pong" and has been all over the small and big screen since. Takeuchi made her TV debut in a commercial in 1995. Her break came as the heroine of the NHK morning serial "Asuka" in 1999. She was voted No.1 last year in an image poll of the most popular talentos.

• Former Luna Sea vocalist Kawamura Ryuichi (34) and guitarist Inoran (34) have teamed up with songwriter H. Hayama (30) to form the new group Tourbillon. Hayama has written hits for Amuro Namie (26) and boy band W-inds.

• Heavy metal legends Judas Priest are back in Japan for the first time in 14 years. They kicked off their 6th Japan tour at the Pacifico Yokohama arena on Sunday. With Rob Halford back on vocals, they will play eight shows in seven cities, including the equally legendary Nippon Budokan on May 19.

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Star-studded Lineup for A-Nation '05

Avex has announced the star-studded lineup for this year's "A-Nation '05" concert tour. The seven shows will play to 250,000 people at five venues nationwide between July 30 and August 28. Nine of the ten acts on the bill have had made No.1 on the Oricon charts. Last year's lineup of Hamasaki Ayumi (26), BoA (18), Otsuka Ai (22), Hitomi (29), ELT, Do As Infinity, Koda Kumi (22), Road of Major, and TRF will be joined by new Avex stablemate Suzuki Ami (photo, 23).

• The world will get its first look at Watanabe Ken's second Hollywood venture, "Batman Begins," on May 31 at Tokyo's fashionable Roppongi Hills. Watanabe (45), currently living in Los Angeles, and star Christian Bale (31) will be in Japan for the world premier. The film goes on general release on June 18. Speaking at a PR event in London yesterday, director Christopher Nolan described Watanabe as an actor with "charisma" who he'd like to work with again. The Japanese star has a fairly minor but "important" role as Ra's al Ghul, a mentor who teaches the young Bruce Wayne about the boundaries between good and evil.

• As reported here yesterday, talentos Fujii Takashi (33) and Otoha (24) gave a press conference today to announce their engagement. The event was broadcast live by the afternoon wide shows. It is the latest in a recent spate of comedians getting married to other showbiz stars: Uchan Nanchan's Uchimura Teruyoshi (40) and announcer Tokunaga Yumi (29) made headlines in March, while Neptune leader Nagura Jun (36) and talento Watanabe Marina (32) announced their nuptials in April.

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Fujii, Otoha Engaged

It was revealed yesterday that talentos Fujii Takashi (33) and Otoha (24) are engaged. They plan to give a joint press conference in Tokyo tomorrow and are expected to announce a July date for their wedding. The romance had been rumored since January of last year but is still surprising to many people as Fujii is often believed to be gay. He exploded onto the variety show circuit back in the late 90s with a character that was at once innocent and raunchily gay. Over the last few years, his Matthew Minami character has been very successful. The late-night "Matthew's Best Hit TV" show on Fuji TV features Fujii in a blond wig and pink pin-stripe suit interviewing various guests. One of these "guests" was Hollywood star Bill Murray as the show was featured in a fictional segment of the movie "Lost in Translation." Otoha is a former pin-up girl, initially best known for her F-cup chest, who has built a modestly successful career as an actress and singer. The two met while making a coffee commercial (photo) in 2003. Fujii was very supportive when she lost her father in May 2004 and she returned the favor in October when he was suddenly hospitalized with acute gastritis two weeks before a planned concert in Los Angeles. Fujii's illness no doubt was a result of having to maintain his always "high tension" onscreen persona. Offscreen he is said to be very quiet.

Morning Musume gave the last concert of their national tour yesterday at the Nippon Budokan. They said sayonara to member Ishikawa Rika (20), who will pursue a solo career, and welcomed new member Kusumi Koharu (12). 10,000 fans waved pink penlights as they gave a tearful farewell to end Rika-chan's five years with the group. She is the twelfth member to "graduate" from the group.

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Gloom and Bloom

The glorious weather of Golden Week is behind us, though anyone who took Friday off too will still be enjoying the extended break. TV execs will be glad to see the end of the holiday as it really hits viewer ratings. Live coverage of a Yomiuri Giants night game failed to reach double digits for just the 3rd time ever. The May 4 game against the Yokohama Bay Stars on NTV, also owned by Yomiuri, pulled in a meager 9.9% rating. On the drama front, the third episode of the Kimura Takuya series "Engine" dropped below 20%. Kimutaku has starred in the most successful drama series ever and the 19.6% figure must be a disappointment for Fuji TV. The only bright spot was on the K-1 front. The preliminary rounds of the World Max 2005 championship helped TBS to break the new sport's 20% barrier. particularly popular were young up and coming Japanese fighters Masato (photo), Norifumi "Kid" Yamamoto, and Kohiruimaki Takayuki.

• Model and actress Yamada Yuu (20) is the official PR character for the upcoming Ridley Scott blockbuster "Kingdom of Heaven." Yamada, who appears in a TV commercial from today, says she is a big fan of star Orlando Bloom (28). Since his rise to fame in the "Lord of the Rings" series, Bloom is popularly known as "Orly" in Japan. The movie opens here May 14.

• Actor Ichimura Masachika (56) is rumored to be dating actress Shinohara Ryoko (31). He refused to comment on the rumor at a PR event for the musical "Mozart," in which he plays the composer's father.

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News Summary

Popular boy band News finished their first national tour with two shows at Yokohama Arena yesterday. The 8-member singing and dancing group played to a total of over 170,000 screaming teenage fans during the 14-show tour. They will also tour again this summer in a show called "Summary 2005" alongside fellow Johnny's Jimusho youngsters Ya-Ya-Yah. The group's debut album "Touch" has made No.1 on the latest Oricon weekly charts, as have all three singles released from the album.

• Actress Takigawa Yumi (54) and her daughter, talento Takigawa Hanako (16), gave their first "joint performance" yesterday. They appeared at a PR event for Lotte's Ghana chocolate, held ahead of Mother's Day on May 8. Hanako is curently appearing in the latest Ghana TV commercial.

• The mother of talento Carouselle Maki (63) died of heart failure in a Hokkaido hospital yesterday, surrounded by her nine sons and daughters. Maki was in the news most recently following the successful official registration of her female name, several years after she underwent a sex change operation.

• Former NFL player and variety show darling Bob "The Beast" Sapp (30) is to make his Hollywood debut in June. Sapp, who was ever-present on Japanese TV until last year and is now officially a K-1 fighter, has a small part as a villain in "Elektra." The movie is about the heroine from the 2003 Ben Affleck turkey "Daredevil" and stars Jennifer Garner. Sapp has also finished shooting on a remake of the 1974 movie "The Longest Yard."

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Crowds Turn Out for Tackey, Amigo

On May 3, 280,000 people packed into the small Iwate town of Hiraizumi for a glimpse of "Yoshitsune." The occasion was an annual festival commemorating historical figure Minamoto no Yoshitsune, the subject of this year's "taiga" period drama series on NHK. Yoshitsune is played by young heart throb and pop star Takizawa Hideaki (23), hence the much larger than usual turnout for a minor regional event. "Tackey" and his pop partner Imai Tsubasa (23) released their 5th single, the double A-side "Kamen/Mirai Koukai," on May 4.

Meanwhile in Chiba, over 1,000 fans turned out to see rejuvenated pop singer Suzuki Ami (23). At an event organized by the Bay FM radio station at the Makuhari Messe conference center, she made her first live broadcast since joing the Avex label in January. Photos on her official web site show that "Amigo" is going for a much more "grown up" image. The site's profile and discography make no mention of the past troubles in her career. In her late teens, she was one of the biggest up and coming pop stars in the country. With Sony Records, she had shifted over 10 million units by 2000. But legal dispute between her parents and her management company, and later with Sony, led to her being blackballed by the media and her career looked to be on the rocks. But Avex president Masato "Max" Matsuura, who groomed Hamasaki Ayumi to superstardom, took her on and she has been steadily rebuilding her fan base over the last few months. The title of her new single with Avex, "Eventful" says it all and is in keeping with the first two, "Hopeful" and "Delightful." It goes on sale May 25.

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Tomoyo Weds Ed

Actress Harada Tomoyo (37) announced yesterday on her official web site that she married illustrator Ed Tsuwaki (38) on May 1. The two met in just October of last year and are said to have hit it off straight away. Harada, who has made three movies already this year, plans to continue her acting and singing career. Ed is a successful illustrator who has worked particularly on women's magazines such as Vogue. He also has his own fashion brand, nakEd Bunch.

• Former Takarazuka star Kawai Minako (35) underwent surgery Monday for injuries she suffered in last week's train crash in Amagasaki. Kawai was standing in the third carriage of the train and suffered multiple fractures in both legs. She was a member of the famous theater troupe from 1987 to 1998.

• Popular actress Kuroki Hitomi (44) was overwhelmingly chosen as the "Coolest Mother" in a poll by fountain pen maker Waterman ahead of Mother's Day on May 8. Kuroki easily topped the poll across all age groups. Second was singer and actress Kudo Shizuka, wife of heart throb Kimura Takuya. In third was actress Matsushima Nanako.

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New Addition to Momus

The latest addition to pop group Morning Musume was announced May 1. Niigata Prefecture native Kusumi Koharu (12) is a 7th grader and was chosen from over 20,000 hopefuls at recent auditions. She will be "presented" to fans at the Momus concert at Nippon Budokan on May 6 and will formally join the group at the Osaka Castle Hall concert on July 10. The Budokan gig will see the "graduation" of Ishikawa Rika.

• Actress Mizuno Maki (photo, 35) has given birth to her first child. She married politician Gotoda Masazumi (35) last year. The bouncing baby boy was born April 30, about two weeks late, in a Tokyo hospital.

• "Astro Kyudan," a popular baseball manga from the 1970s, is to be made into a drama series on TV Asahi. The late-night, 30-minute show will star Hayashi Tsuyoshi (22) as the team founding member, cleanup hitter and ace pitcher Uno Kyuichi, and 'Sonny' Chiba Shinichi (66) as team manager J. Shuuro. The team is made up of nine players all born at 09:09:09 on 9/9/1954 (Showa 29), who take on and beat not only the dominant Yomiuri Giants but also a Major League team.

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