Monthly Archives: December 2005

Fujiki Weds OL

Popular actor Fujiki Naohito (33) got married to a 28-year old OL (office worker) on Tuesday, according to his official website. The announcement was made yesterday only to memebrs of his fan club. Fujiki, who has been having some success recently as a singer, met A-san when they were both attending Waseda University, so the relationship has been a well-kept secret for many years. She is said to work in the fashion industry. Fujiki made his movie debut in 1997’s “Hana Yori Dango” while still a student, but became a star with the Fuji TV comedy series “Naasu no Shigoto.” he made his singing debut in 1999 and has since released 12 singles and 5 albums. He got his first emcee job this year as host of the NTV show “Oshare-ism.”

Noriko’s Fashion Choice

Talento Kato Noriko (32) is to get married on New Year’s Day, according to her agency yesterday. The lucky man is Wakatsuki Yoshio (43), a creative director in the fashion world. The fax announcement of the engagement caught the media by surprise as the two have only been going out since the spring, though they’ve been living together for the last couple of months. They have known each other for several years, and met when Kato took a break from showbusiness to study in Paris in 2000. Wakatsuki was working on the Paris Collection at the time.

• Rock band Mr. Children finished up their first nationwide “dome tour” with a show last night at Tokyo Dome. They played to 45,000 fans, bringing the tour total to about 390,000. Vocalist Sakurai Kazutoshi (35), who battled with serious illness in 2003 that saw the band take a 6-month hiatus, said 2005 was the best year ever.

Kabuki actor Onoe Matsusuke died of cancer at a Tokyo hospital on Monday. He was 59.

• A survey has shown that people are pretty evenly divided about whether national broadcaster NHK should take legal action against those who refuse to pay their license fee. The number of those refusing to pay has increased to over a million following a series of scandals involving NHK employees.

All Eyes on Women Skaters

Women’s figure skating is enjoying a real boom at the moment. The women’s event in the recently held Japan National Figure Skating Championships had a 33.7% audience rating for Fuji TV in the Kanto region, the network’s highest rating this year. Suguri Fumie captured her fifth national title on Sunday and secured one of three spots for Japanese women at the Turin Winter Olympics, along with Arakawa Shizuka and Ando “Mikiti” Miki. Teen sensation Asada Mao (photo) finished second with a free skate that included two triple axels, but is too young to be eligible for the Olympics. Even Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro chimed in that he couldn’t understand why Asada wouldn’t be skating in Turin, but rules are rules.

• Singer Noguchi Goro is to appear in next year’s historical taiga drama on NHK, his first taiga role since 1996, when he played Tokugawa Yorimoto. This time around, he’ll be playing the brother-in-law of the famous shogun Toyotomi Hidetoshi (played by Emoto Akira). The star-studded cast of “Komyo ga Tsuji,” which starts on January 8, also includes Tachi Hiroshi (as warlord Oda Nobunaga), Nishida Toshiyuki (as shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu), Nakama Yukie and Takeda Tetsuya. Noguchi turns 50 next February, when he will issue a special DVD of a live performance this spring which marked his 35th anniversary in showbiz.

Ryoko Polishing Her Bridal Skills

Actress Yonekura Ryoko (30) is to start doing “hanayome shugyo,” or training in the homemaking arts, according to the women’s fashion magazine Miss. Usually a sign of impending marriage, in this case it’s actually a series of articles in which the popular actress will learn things like cooking and cleaning from experts. The series, the first in the magazine to feature an actress, will run for a year from the February edition. Speculation about a possible marriage might have been rife except for the fact that Yonekura just recently split up with popular kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo (28).

• Singer Gackt put on a one-off spectacle at the Tokyo Dome on Christmas Eve. The “Diabolos” show is said to have cost ¥500 million to put on. It started with the singer and four band members, dressed as medieval knights entering the arena on horseback and at full gallop, for which Gackt spent the last six months learning to ride. The show also featured Gackt hanging suspended 20m in the air and disappearing in a sudden puff of smoke from the stage.

• Actor Oshio Manabu (27) has issued a denial on his official website that he and actress Yada Akiko (27) are planning to get married. The couple made a very public show of their romantic relationship on the way to Hawaii for the Christmas break, and the media speculated that they might get hitched on December 23, Yada’s birthday.

Boyz of Summer?

The jury is still out on whether or not they’ve been a success in the US, but it looks like Universal Music Group International see the Teriyaki Boyz as having potential in Europe. There was an announcement this week that the group’s debut album “Beef or Chicken” is to go on sale in Europe next spring. It’ll be launched in March in Paris, where it’s already on sale in some boutique shops and where’s said to be a Japanese hip hop “movement” happening. This is probably due to the involvement of local group Daft Punk among the album’s producers and the fashion angle of having Nigo, founder of the street fashion brand A Bathing Ape, in the group. The others are Ryo-Z and Ilmari from Rip Slyme, m-flo vocalist Verbal, and Kaze no Hito’s MC Wise. Anyway, I can definitely see the group doing well in Europe, where there not up against the same kind of local hip hop competition as they are in the US. Of course, the US market is where the big money is, and it seems that they’ll be making another attempt there next summer. The Teriyaki Boyz have just finished a Japan tour, playing last night at Zepp Tokyo. They’re scheduled to play a New Year’s Eve countdown event at the Makuhari Messe convention center.

• Will the Boyz boom or bust? See our forum poll here >>.

Kyoka Denies Romance With Sanada

Today is the Emperor’s birthday and a national holiday.

• Actress Suzuki Kyoka (photo, 37) has denied rumors of a romance with award-winning actor Sanada Hiroyuki (45). She was asked about the rumors, published in the latest issue of the Josei Seven women’s weekly, at a PR event for next year’s 29th Japan Academy Awards ceremony. Suzuki was named as co-presenter with Sekiguchi Hiroshi (62), who’ll be presenting for the 9th year in a row. The awards ceremony will be held on March 3. The big winner in terms of nominations is “Always – San-chome no Yuuhi,” a movie adaptation of the best-selling manga, which is up for 13 awards.

• I’d also like to take this chance to wish both the Emperor and my lovely wife Chiho a very happy birthday!

Northern Romance Cools Off

The fiction-turned-reality romance between actor Yoshioka Hidetaka (35) and actress Uchida Yuki (30) has ended after just three years of marriage. Love between the two blossomed in 2002 when they co-starred in a revival of the popular Fuji TV drama series “Kita no Kuni Kara,” (From the North Country) in which Yoshioka had a major role from the age of 11. In the series, the two overcame hardships and tragedy to finally find love and marriage. They continued the romance off-screen, even holding their wedding ceremony on location, but the ending has not been so happy. The main reason is said to be Yoshioka’s film and drama work schedule which has kept him on location away from home for long periods. Uchida gave up acting after marriage saying that being together with her husband was enough to make her happy, but the success of his “Dr. Koto” series, filmed in Okinawa and China, and starring roles in two movies have kept them apart. Yoshioka finally moved out of their Tokyo apartment at the end of November and Uchida’s lawyer filed the divorce papers yesterday.

• A new version of the popular 70s series “Saiyuki” (Monkey) is to be broadcast from January 9 on Fuji TV, and will be the first Japanese drama to be shown at the same time in Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. The show will feature SMAP star Katori Shingo (28) in the lead role, supported by comedy duo Uchan Nanchan‘s Uchimura Teruyoshi (41). The show is sponsored by JAL and the PR event was held at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport yesterday. JAL unveiled a jet decorated with Katori’s Songoku character from the drama, a historical first. the theme song, “Around The World” is to be sung by the group Monkey Majik, made up of two Canadian brothers and two Japanese. It will be the second release on Avex’s new rock label, Vinyl Records. The original series aired between 1978 and 1980, and made TV icons of Sakai Masaaki, Nishida Toshiyuki, Kishibe Shiro and the late Natsume Masako.

One to Watch

Top of the Oricon weekly singles chart is club queen Koda Kumi (23) with “You.” But I’m told the act to keep an eye on is 4-man rock band Ellegarden, an indie group whose “Space Sonic” is a new entry at No.5. Around since 1998, the group supported Sum 41 on tour in February and played this year’s Summer Sonic festival.

• TV Asahi got the luck of the draw yesterday. Four networks took part in a lottery to see which would get the right to broadcast the Japan-Croatia game at next year’s World Cup in Germany. The Croatia game is the only one of Japan’s three group qualifiers that was up for grabs, the other two – against Australia and tournament favorite Brazil – being on NHK. TV Asahi also had exclusive rights to the games in the Asian qualifiers. Expectations are high for Zico’s team next summer, with the hope that they can at least match their achievement in 2002 and reach the second round.

• Actor Fujiki Yuu died on Monday of pulmonary embolism at a Tokyo hospital. He was 74. He was best known as a supporting actor in the mid-70s TV drama series “G-Men ’75”. His latest role was in this year’s movie “Kita no Zero-nen.” He broke his leg after a fall last month and was hospitalized. Complications arose during surgery and he went into a coma, from which he never recovered.

• TV celebrity Murakami Rikaco (39) was as classy as ever during a press conference yesterday to announce her divorce from actor Watabe Atsuro (37). Looking great for her age but tired from the obviously stressful situation, she was very good-humored with the very reporters whose gossip mongering has probably made life less than easy for her and her family. Watabe also spoke to reporters and denied that another woman was behind the divorce. Though probably less financially successful than his ex, he said he has agreed to support his two sons, now 11 and 6, until they graduate from university. (see yesterday’s story for more)

Watabe, Rikaco Finally Split

Celebrity Murakami Rikaco (39) and actor Watabe Atsuro (37) have finally divorced. Married since 1994, the couple have two sons, and were often portrayed as an ideal TV family, with Rikaco in particular often playing a typical “mama” in TV commercials. But they have been denying rumors of affairs and impending breakup for years. Rikaco said in a magazine interview in October that her husband had set up his own management agency and moved out of the family home in March. The couple have been spending more time on their own careers, with Watabe aiming to be a movie director and Rikaco setting up her own fashion brand and children’s hair salon. They are due to give separate press conferences today.

• Like many Japanese showbiz types, actor Oshio Manabu (27) and actress Yada Akiko (26) headed off yesterday to spend Christmas in Hawaii. But the rumors are that this showbiz couple might be planning to tie the knot while there. December 23 is Yada’s birthday, and reporters at Narita Airport asked the couple, holding hands and wearing matching rings, whether there would be a Christmas wedding. Oshio said “No,” but his expression hinted otherwise. We’ll see.

• “Seishun Amigo,” the one-off single by two young Johnny’s Jimusho singers, has been announced as the best-selling single of 2005. Kamenashi Kazuya (19), a member of the group Kat-Tun, and Yamashita Tomohisa (20) of News, released the single in April as and it was the year’s first million seller.

3 New Works from Anime Master

Anime director Miyazaki Hayao (64) gave a sneak preview of his latest work at the weekend. The three shorts will be shown at the Studio Ghibli Museum in Mitaka from January 3. “Hoshi Katta Hi”, “Mizugumo Monmon” and “Yadosagashi” run between 12 and 16 minutes, and each is made in quite a different style. “Hoshi Katta Hi” (The Day We Bought a Star) is a fantasy about a boy and his sister who raise a star from a seed. “Mizugumo Monmon” (Water Spider Monmon) is a romance between a spider and a less than gentle female water strider. Through it, Miyazaki hopes to reduce children’s recent dislike of insects. In “Yadosagashi” (House Hunting) a young girl sets out for the mountains and encounters the spirits of nature. The anime has no music and features manga-like visual sound effects, narrated by singer-pianist Yano Akiko and veteran comedian Tamori. Visitors to the museum will only be able to see one of the animes at a time. The next Ghibli feature production, “Gedo Senki,” (Tales From the Earthsea, based on the fantasy novels by US writer Ursula Le Guin) is due for release next July, and will be directed by Miyazaki’s son Goro (38).

• Keigo (28), vocalist of the rock band Flow, was hospitalized with whiplash yesterday after a traffic accident. He was waiting at a signal in Tokyo’s Nakano Ward when he was hit from behind by a mini-van. He will have to spend the next two weeks in hospital, so Flow have had to cancel two shows scheduled for Osaka and Tokyo this month.