Sonny Chiba Still a Street Fighter

Sonny ChibaVeteran martial arts actor Chiba Shinichi (69) and an associate (49) have been questioned by police following a fight in central Tokyo on Wednesday night. The two were eating in separate restaurants in the Higashi Shimbashi district when Chiba heard from a friend that the other man was spreading rumors about his financial problems. The two got into an argument and then a fight in a nearby public square, and both are said to have suffered injuries. Police are investigating who instigated the violence, but as both men were reportedly drunk at the time a settlement out of court is the most likely result. Chiba was one of the first Japanese actors to find success in Hollywood, and was back in the spotlight again when he appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s 2003 hit movie “Kill Bill, Vol.1”. Last year he changed his stage name to JJ Sonny Chiba.

• Dressed in a black suit and white blouse rather than her usual revealing style, pop singer Koda Kumi (25) made a televised apology to fans yesterday evening (as reported here). In the recorded interview shown on Fuji TV’s “FNN Super News”, a tearful Koda said she had been surprised by the reaction to her flippant comment on live radio last weekend. But online bashing, especially from older female listeners, and the subsequent work-related consequences forced her into a leave of absence at a time when she should be heavily promoting her latest album.

• Artist and Kome Kome Club vocalist Ishii Tatsuya (48) was on stage with dozens of business and industry leaders in Tokyo yesterday. The event was the launch of a campaign to celebrate 150 years of the domestic steel industry, for which Ishii designed the image character Aira. He and science producer Yonemura Denjiro (53) will be the public faces of the campaign throughout the year. “Denjiro Sensei” regularly appears on TV to popularize science for children, and is putting on two days of science shows at the Roppongi Hills complex at the end of July as part of the campaign. Organized by the Japan Iron and Steel Federation, the campaign slogan is “Steel for Life”. Ishii has also written an image song, which will be released on February 26.

• Yesterday fallen talento Haga Kenji (46) and former world boxing champion Watanabe Jiro (52) had their second day in court in their ongoing extortion case. The accused were passive as their alleged victim gave evidence, but Haga had to wipe away tears when his wife Mayu (30) was called to the stand. Married only since October 2006, the couple hadn’t been allowed to see each other since Haga’s arrest last June. Asked about entries in her husband’s bank books, which she kept charge of, Mayu said she didn’t remember. When asked if she planned to stay married to Haga, she replied simply “Yes.”

• Former idol singer Kokusho Sayuri (41) is turning back the clock on Valentine’s Day. She has re-recorded her 1986 hit “Valentine Kiss” and will be supporting it with live appearances on TV and radio shows all over Tokyo. The song was voted the one most people wanted to hear on Valentine’s Day in a survey by chart company Oricon last year. Kokusho was member #8 of the top ’80s idol group Onyanko Club and is now an actress.

• Popular young actor Matsuyama Kenichi (22) was at the Tokyo International Forum last night for the Japan premiere of “L Change the World”, the latest movie spinoff from the “Death Note” manga. The movie, directed by Nakata Hideo, opens on Saturday.

• Kansai TV has submitted a request to be allowed to broadcast again, a year after it was exposed for faking data on a popular TV show. In January 2007, the company was found to have made up data used on the long-running “Hakkutsu! Aru Aru Daijiten II” and was expelled from the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters the following April (that story).