There’s been a wave of sports wedding announcements in the last couple of days. Yomiuri Giants star outfielder Takahashi Yoshinobu (30) and NTV announcer Onodera Mai (30) held a press conference at a Tokyo hotel yesterday to announce that they got married on January 29. They have known each other for six years and took the plunge before Takahashi starts spring training. Onodera talked happily about how her fiancee had proposed to her in December, but Takahashi was red-faced and flustered throughout.
• Toritani Takashi (24), an infielder for the Hanshin Tigers, appeared with his new bride Yuko (24) at a press conference at the team’s training camp in Okinawa yesterday. He revealed that they have been married since December 20. They have known each other since high school and started dating in college.
• Also recently married were NHK sports announcer Izumi Koji (34) and shogi player Iwane Shinobu (23). The two met when they appeared together on a shogi show on NHK’s educational channel. Iwane plays shogi, the Japanese version of chess, at the shoudan or first-grade level, and plans to continue playing under her maiden name.
Comedian Shimura Ken (55) is celebrating 20 years of his Baka Tono character with the release of a 3-DVD box set. He held a launch event in Tokyo’s Ginza district, along with his most recent sidekicks, comedians Dacho Kurabu. Shimura wryly remarked that the release came “a bit too late for some”, referring to Tashiro Masashi, his very first sidekick from the 1970s who was arrested for the fourth time in 2004 for drug possession. Shimura first got his own variety show in 1976 after he and the Drifters comedy group had become a national TV sensation. Baka Tono, which has been shown on TV networks in the US, is one of Japan’s most recognizable comic creations.
• The female stars who make up the Hello! Project turned out in force at the Yokohama Arena yesterday to finsih off their national tour. Morning Musume may be the most famous incarnation, but the show included a total of 67 singers who make up 15 different groups. The show also saw the first performance in over three years by Petit Morni, made up of former MM members Yasuda Kei (25), Goto Maki (20) and Yoshizawa Hitomi (20). All 67 young ladies were on stage for the grand finale, a lively rendition of MM’s mega-hit “Love Machine”.
• Also getting back together, though for the first time in 17 years, were the members of the Sadistic Mika Band. The four musicians, all in their 50s, teamed up with young vocalist Kimura Kaera (25) to record a live version of their 1973 hit “Taimu Mashiin ni Onegai” for a Kirin beer commercial to be aired in February.
Comedian Okamura Takashi (35, photo right) has promised to tell all about his reported romance with pin-up girl Kumada Yoko (23) next week. The romance between the two was revealed in the latest issue of the weekly magazine Friday. Okamura, one half of the comedy duo Ninety-Nine, was quizzed about it on their late night radio show yesterday. He said he had been caught completely by surprise by paparazzi who photograhed him and Kumada leaving his Tokyo apartment by car. He was most disappointed that in the heat of the moment, he hadn’t been able to produce a good quote for the reporters.
• The 1976 hit movie “Inugamike no Ichizoku” is to be remade, with the same lead actor and director. Ishizaka Koji (64) will again play Yokomizo Seishi’s famous detective creation Kindaichi Kosuke, and veteran director Ichikawa Kon (90) will be behind the camera once more.
• Singer Arashiro Beni (19) recently became the first Japanese artist to appear on a famous Chinese New Year song contest. The show on Guangxi TV is described as the Chinese equivalent of Japan’s Kohaku Uta Gassen. Arashiro sang “miracle” and “here Alone” as well as a song in Chinese. Her second album, “Girl 2 Lady,” is scheduled for release on February 22.
• SMAP member Kusanagi Tsuyoshi (31) has cancelled his regular appearances on several shows after coming down with a bout of influenza. He missed his regular Friday sot on “Waratte Ii Tomo”, the first time he’s failed to make the live afternoon variety show since he started on it in 1995. There haven’t been any reported cases of people catching the so-called “bird flu” in Japan, but the regular variety seems to be spreading at the moment.
Nigerian talento Bobby Ologun (39) got front page headlines in today’s sports papers following a brawl at his management agency yesterday. The K-1 fighter visited the agency yesterday afternoon with questions about his monthly salary, and became violent after the president of the company refused to see him. He got into a fight with the 2.1m tall John Muwete Muluaka (44), a fellow talento from Congo and former assistant to politician Suzuki Muneo. Muluaka and R&A Promotions boss Ito Kazuyuki (55) claim that Ologun and his Bangladeshi manager have been pocketing appearance fees to the tune of ¥10-15 million, in breach of a contract that splits fees 50-50 between the agency and employees. The incident also led to the revelation that Ologun is seven years older than he had previously claimed.
• Actor Fujiwara Tatsuya (23) is to take on the lead role in a movie adaptation of best-selling manga “Death Note”. The 9-volume manga, which has sold over 12 million copies, first appeared in the Shukan Shonen Jump manga in December 2003. The first volume became the fastest ever to sell a million copies. The story centers around the smart and cool high schooler Yagami Raito, into whose hands falls the Death Note, a list of names of people due to die, lost by the God of Death. His nemesis is the investigator known simply as L. At a cost of ¥2 billion, the movie will be in two parts, the first scheduled for release in June of this year, the second in October.
• “Tetsuko no Heya”, will be celebrating its 30th year on the air with the February 2 edition. The TV Asahi afternoon talk show is hosted by Kuroyanagi Tetsuko (72), who has welcomed a vast range of guests – over 3,900 of them – to her “room”. She has interviewed many foreign guests, including Queen Elizabeth II, and says she would most like to meet Sean Connery.
Sanada Hiroyuki (45) has become only the second actor to win three times at the 48th Blue Ribbon awards. With the latest award for his role in “Bokoku no Iijisu” (Aegis), he follows in the big footsteps of the legendary Mifune Toshiro. Sanada won in 1994 and 1996. He was in Tokyo yesterday for the local premiere of his latest movie, the Japanese-Korean-Chinese production, “Promise”. The Best Actress award went to Koizumi Kyoko (39) for her role in “Kuuchuu Teien”, whose director was arrested for drug possession two months before it opened. “Pacchigi!”, directed by Izutsu Kazuyuki, won the Best Film award.
• Former Luna Sea vocalist Kawamura Ryuichi (35) has married 2002 Miss Japan, Sano Kumi (26). According to his agency, a representative visited the local city office on Monday to register their marriage. The couple were first introduced through a mutual friend last spring and starting dating in the autumn. They are said to have no plans for a wedding ceremony or reception. Kawamura will be touring the country with his latest band, Tourbillon, from April 14.
• The Tokyo home of actress Matsuda Miyuki (44) was recently burglarized, she revealed this week. The widow of legendary (yes, that’s twice in one day I’ve used that word!) actor Matsuda Yusaku said that about ¥2 million worth of valuables were stolen, including her wedding ring, a rolex watch and a plasma screen TV. The burglary was discovered by son, actor Matsuda Shota (20), last Thursday night. The house is next to Zenpukuji-koen park, just down the road from Japan Zone! We’ll be keeping our doors locked…
Livedoor CEO Horie Takafumi (33) was arrested yesterday evening along with three other company executives. The golden boy of the Japanese IT industry had been denying any knowledge of his company’s financial misdeeds right up until the end. Investigators from the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office have been looking into the firm’s creative bookkeeping for the last few months, but a drastic slide in Livedoor’s shares in the last week, accompanied by a big drop in the Nikkei Stock Average, led them to go straight to the top and question Horie yesterday. His arrest and transportation to the Tokyo Detention House was covered live on several TV channels. The whole affair has happened so quickly – less than two weeks ago Horie was still a regular on TV and talking about his planned space tourism business – that it has been labeled the “Livedoor Shock”. The company was started up as Livin’ On The Edge Inc. in 1996 by then Tokyo University student Horie with just ¥6 million in capital. Through a series of aggressive M&A’s and Horiemon’s self-promotion, that valuation rose to over ¥730 billion just a week ago. The firm’s stock price has fallen from ¥696 on January 16 to ¥256 when the market closed yesterday. Also arrested yesterday were Horie’s right-hand man and Livedoor CFO Miyauchi Ryoji, Livedoor Marketing President Okamoto Fumito, and Livedoor Finance President Nakamura Osanari. Another top executive, Noguchi Hideaki, commited suicide in Okinawa last Wednesday.
Fuji TV is to air a four-night series of dramas next month featuring some of the hottest young female talent. All playing roles quite different from their images, the actresses will portray the hopes and struggles of today’s young female Japanese. The first episode will air on February 27 and feature Ueto Aya (20) as an office worker who dreams of the glamourous life and works nights as a hostess. Horikita Maki (17) stars on night two, as a girl who makes money from men in online chatrooms. Personal favorite Yamada Yu (photo, 21) plays an aspiring actress who works as a “cabaret club” hostess. In the final episode Ueno Juri (19), who made her name in the movie “Swing Girls,” plays a pachinko parlour worker who has no luck with men. The four episodes, under the omnibus title “Tsubasa no Oreta Tenshi-tachi” (Angels With Broken Wings), are based on stories by writer Yoshi, who is known as an author of online fiction.
• Popular voice actress Mizuki Nana celebrated her 26th birthday at the Nippon Budokan on Saturday. Despite the record snowfall in the capital, 8500 dedicated fans turned out for the show. Mizuki is particularly popular among the “akibakei” set, who frequent the Tokyo “otaku” mecca of Akihabara. She has released over a dozen singles and her voice has featured in many more anime and computer games.
Horiemon and Hinano a couple? It turns out that under-attack Livedoor CEO Horie Takafumi (33) and actress Yoshikawa Hinano (26) spent the New Year holiday on the tropical island of Palau. They were in a group of eleven that traveled to the tropical paradise on Horie’s ¥3 billion private jet. The IT entrepreneur is hardly in the mood to discuss the nature of the relationship, with the investigation of his company’s financial mischief having rocked the business world. In 1999, the ditzy Yoshikawa was briefly married to Izam, the cross-dressing vocalist of visual rock band Shazna, but the couple split after just 7 months. She is hardly the type Horie wants to be connected with as he seeks to re-build his reputation as an honest and serious business tycoon. Japan Zone says: Horiemon, stop the variety show appearances, drop the showbiz girlfriends and stick to making money. (No, we don’t own any Livedoor stock!)
• Actress Ito Yuko says she and comedian Watabe Ken are doing fine but have no plans for marriage. She was asked about their relationship at a PR event for the new horror movie, “Akuma no Sumu Ie” (House of the Devil), a re-make of the 1979 hit.
Actress Kimura Yoshino (29) donned a striking red kimono yesterday at the famous Sensoji temple, a popular tourist spot in downtown Asakusa. She was dressed up to take part in an event to encourage foreign tourists to visit Japan, in her role as an “amabassador” for the government’s ongoing “Yokoso!” campaign. The current event, “Yokoso! Japan Weeks 2006” will take place from January 20 to February 20. She and Transport Minister Kitagawa Kazuo joined visiting Chinese and Korean students in making origami cranes. The “Yokoso!” campaign aims to increase the number of foreign visitors to 10 million a year by 2010. How come they’ve never contacted Japan Zone!
• TV executives are trying to distance themselves from the ongoing Livedoor scandal, as the investigation of financial irregularities by the IT company continues. Fuji TV chairman Hieda Hisashi (68) was especially critical of Livedoor CEO Horie Takafumi (33) in a press conference yesterday. The two companies were locked in a battle for control of the Nippon Housou radio station for two months last spring. That battle resulted in Fuji buying a large amount of Livedoor stock, whose value has plummeted in the last few days. Also criticizing Horiemon and his company’s practices was TV Tokyo president Sugaya Sadahiko (67). He said that his company had cancelled a tie up with Livedoor on an online shopping site.
Popular comedian Daita Hikaru (30) announced yesterday that she got married on Monday. According to the Yoshimoto agancy, her new husband is a 30-year TV company employee. Daita revealed the romance last November on her personal blog. She also announced the wedding online, mentioning that Monday was a “butsmetsu” day in the Buddhist calendar, considered the worst kind of day for important events and something the vast majority of Japanese people will avoid. She said it had been the only day they were both free, adding that the atmosphere at the city office had been tense and weird. Daita is known for her “Dou demo ii desu yo” stand up routine (which, to be honest, is not very funny).
• Regular readers will have seen stories about the many silly awards that they give out here. Well the latest one is the “Best Jersey-ist Award,” which goes to the celebrities who are considered to look best in a “jersey,” or tracksuit top. The inaugural winners of this award are young talento Wakatsuki Chinatsu (21) and actor Narimiya Hiroki (23). Honorable mentions went to others including soccer player Miyamoto Tsuneyasu (28), K-1 fighter Musashi (33), and idol singers Ishikawa Rika (21), Yoshizawa Hitomi (20) and Fujimoto Miki (20).