Romance has blossomed for actress Tanaka Reina (30) and actor Sato Yuuki (26), according to today’s issue of weekly magazine “Friday.” The couple, who worked together last year on an NHK drama, were recently spotted riding Sato’s motorcycle and leaving his Tokyo apartment hand in hand. But both actors will have a hard time finding time for romance in their mutually busy schedules.
Tanaka is currently in Kyoto filming the movie “Genji Monogatari” while fitting in her regular job as presenter on the NHK show “Top Runner.” She first made a breakthrough in 1998, appearing in TV commercials for the soft drink Natchan, and won a best newcomer Japan Academy Award the same year for her first starring role in “Gambatte Ikimashoi.” She won the best actress award for “Hatsukoi” in 2000. Meanwhile, Sato is currently working on two TV dramas to be aired next month, Fuji TV’s “Strawberry Night” and NTV’s “Face-Maker.” He made his acting debut in the 2005 season of the drama “Gokusen.” His fan base grew the following year when he landed a supporting role in the TV Asahi action hero show “Kamen Rider Kabuto.” In 2008 he got his first starring role in Fuji TV’s “Shiro to Kuro” under the new stage name of Sato Tomohito. This year he changed to a new management agency and went back to using his real name.
NTV’s Miyazaki-ana Takes Medical Leave The latest TV personality to take a break from work due to health problems is NTV announcer Miyazaki Nobuko (31), a presenter on the 4am show “Oha! 4 News Live.” She stepped down from four TV shows in June 2009 to undergo treatment for TMJ syndrome, chronic inflammation of the temporomandibular joint, which connects the jawbone to the skull. She returned to work in April but started having health issues again at the end of September.
Singer Nakamori Akina (45) has canceled all scheduled performances due to unspecified health problems. She was scheduled to perform a series of 10 dinner shows in December, and the length of the advance notice has led to media speculation that the problem could be something serious. Management for Nakamori say they have heard only that she is unwell and her website has no further details. One unverified report said that she was to undergo surgery to have a polyp removed from her throat.
The dinner shows were scheduled from December 11 to 24 at hotel venues in seven cities across the country and tickets were already on sale. They were to be Nakamori’s only live performances this year. She played a series of shows at Yokohama Blitz in August 2009, her first shows in three years. She released a download-only song, “Crazy Love,” and attended a PR event for a new pachinko machine bearing her name on her 45th birthday on July 13.
Though she has released a single and/or album in just about every year of her 28-year career, Nakamori’s heyday was definitely as a top idol in the 1980s and in recent years she has looked almost anorexic.
UPDATE: Nakamori’s management updated their website today saying that her showbiz activities have been suspended indefinitely. It didn’t give details about the nature of her condition other than top say that accumulated fatigue had taken a toll on her immune system and she had been advised to rest.
Sakagami Jiro Hospitalized Also suffering from health problems is veteran talento Sakagami Jiro (76). He is currently hospitalized in Tochigi Prefecture after injuring his head in a fall at his home on August 13. He previously suffered a stroke while playing golf in 2003, and was left partially paralyzed. His former comedy partner Hagimoto Kinichi (69) broke the news of his friend’s condition at a PR event for an upcoming stage show. Sakagami was originally scheduled to appear but it was decided that it was impossible.
In the latest sign of her frustration with the music biz, singer Utada Hikaru (27) has made it quite clear that she is unhappy with record company plans to release two of her hits albums on the same day. EMI had previously announced that it would be releasing “Single Collection Vol. 2” on November 24. So when Universal Japan chose the exact same date for the release of “Utada the Best,” an album of material previously available overseas, Utada was quick to slam the decision on Twitter and her blog. She said, “I’m not against the release of a hits album, but from a music industry point of view isn’t this decision just senseless and rude?” She added that, as an artist, she wasn’t prepared to just stay quiet and accept it.
The 16-track “Utada the Best” was previously released in the U.S. under the Island Def Jam label. Utada said of its Japan release, “It contains no new material and is not an album I put my heart into. I don’t think there’s any reason to but it.” The EMI release contains 18 tracks, including hits as well as and rare inserts such as TV commercial tie-up songs. They include a cover of the 1950s Edith Piaf song “Hymne Ã l’amour (Ai no Anthem).” Utada sings the original French lyrics, as well as her own Japanese translation.
Utada, a major star for more than a decade, is clearly jaded and probably frustrated that she hasn’t been able to translate her superstardom at home into commercial success overseas. She announced back in August that she is taking an indefinite break from her music career from next year. Related stories: Utada Hikaru to Take Indefinite Break (Aug. 10, 2010)
The latest high-profile showbiz couple is actor and former Johnny’s Jimusho boy idol Higashiyama Noriyuki (44) and actress Kimura Yoshino (34). The couple registered their marriage at a Tokyo municipal office on Saturday and announced the news with cookies and hand-signed letters sent to close friends. They sent a fax to the media on Saturday evening, just hours after Yoshino had appeared as a special guest at the opening ceremony of the 23rd Tokyo International Film Festival. The event’s closing ceremony on October 31 is expected to be her first public appearance as a bride and she will be in the full media glare. According to their management, the couple have no plans to hold a press conference and have not announced any date for a wedding ceremony.
The pair’s romance is said to have started when they appeared on stage together in March 2008 and was first reported in the media in November of last year. They immediately made a formal announcement acknowledging their relationship. They were expected to tie the knot this spring and when their work schedules kept them both busy through the summer, rumors grew of a split. But when he finished filming of the movie “Ogawa no Hotori” earlier this month, Higashiyama sought the advice of his close friend actress Mori Mitsuko (90). She advised him to take the plunge but be sure to choose an auspicious date to get married. Related stories: Higashiyama, Kimura are “Serious” (Nov. 30, 2009)
Abu-chan Has Her Day Comedienne Abukawa Mihoko (36) got married to restaurant owner Masuya Shuichiro (37) at the Four Seasons hotel in Tokyo yesterday, followed by a reception for about 150 guests. Among them was her comedy partner Ito Saori (36), who herself got married to volleyball star Shinoda Ayumu (30) in April. Abu-chan is said to have doggedly pursued Masuya since they first met two years ago on the TBS morning show “Hanamaru Market.” She proposed to him in a most unusual way earlier this year on the “Haneru no Tobira” comedy show. Related stories: Abu-chan’s Wacky Wedding Ring (Apr. 8, 2010)
Popular “new half” beautician and company president Okae Miki (38) has been charged with tax evasion. Also a writer of half a dozen books on beauty and a regular guest on TV, Okae is described as Japan’s first trans-gender “beauty researcher.” She is the president of the Triplesun cosmetics company and it was in that capacity that she apologized publicly in a press conference today. She has been charged with evading some ¥170 million ($2.1 million) in corporate taxes on ¥610 million in earnings over the last three years. “It is true that I evaded taxes. I would like to apologize to all the women who have used our cosmetics.”
Real name Tada Miki, she was a fan of actress Okae Kumiko and borrowed her family name after undergoing sex change surgery at the age of 22. She established her company in 1996 and launched the Eporashe cosmetics brand in 2001.
Japan has lost its oldest living actress. Nagaoka Teruko died of old age at her home in Tokyo in the early hours of October 18. She was 102. Best known for her role in the hugely popular NHK drama series “Oshin,” she had an eight-decade career as a theatrical producer, stage and TV actress and narrator.
A native of the northern city of Morioka, she went to study in Paris in 1928 after graduating from the Toyo Eiwa Women’s University. On her return to Japan two years later, she and her first husband formed the Teatoru Comedie theater group. Her husband died in 1937 and amidst growing militarism Nagaoka was forced to close down her theater group. She later joined the Bungaku Company, where she produced plays including those written by the up-and-coming Mishima Yukio. While continuing to produce, she made her formal debut as an actress in 1951 and made most of her 30+ movies in the 1950s. She left the theater group in 1971 and focused on stage readings of the Bible and the works of Miyazawa Kenji (1896-1933). She continued this work until recently.
Written by Hashida Sugako, “Oshin” was a massive TV hit from April 1983, and told the life story and struggles of a farm girl in northern Japan. The role of Oshin was played by three different actresses, including Tanaka Yuko (55) and Otowa Nobuko (1924-94), while Nagaoka played her employer. Aired for a year in the morning time slot, the series had an average audience rating of 52.6% – unthinkable today – and peaked at an even more impressive 62.9%, both records for a drama series that will probably never be broken. The series has been shown in dozens of countries worldwide and is considered Japan’s most successful ever drama export.
Actress Sawajiri Erika (24) is once again doing what she does best – getting the media excited and confused. It’s been several months since the media started speculating about her imminent divorce from hypermedia creator Takashiro Tsuyoshi (46). Sawajiri’s attitude and comments seemed to suggest that she had decided to formalize the split. But the couple were spotted together yesterday at Taoyuan International Airport in Taiwan. Sawajiri was there for a cosmetics company PR event but canceled at the last minute claiming she had a high fever. The Sankei Shimbun newspaper speculated today that the trip might have been an attempt at reconciliation by the couple. If it turns out that the trip is being used for private reasons at the expense of prior professional commitments, it could have a serious impact on her already poor image in the entertainment industry.
Once considered one of the most promising young actresses in Japan, Sawajiri seemed to have given it all up as her behavior became increasingly erratic after a famously moody PR appearance in 2007. Her marriage to the much older Takashiro took people by surprise, as did their decision to spend most of their time overseas (photo above). When Sawajiri finally made the move back to Japan earlier this year, pundits wondered whether the industry would even want her back, though she still had a loyal young female fan base. It seemed she had made a breakthrough when she started negotiations with the major Avex management company. But Sawajiri’s divorce is also said to have been one of the prerequisites of the contract, and negotiations are now reportedly stalled as the company has not been able to reach her since the beginning of this month.
Talking to reporters camped outside the family’s Tokyo home, Sawajiri’s mother denied that her daughter had been avoiding her responsibilities, adding that she spent some time in hospital last month and has recently been resting quietly. Related stories: Erika-sama Headed For Divorce? (Apr. 26, 2010) Showbiz Bad Boys (and Girls) on the Comeback Trail (Mar. 4, 2010) Bitch or Bad Hair Day? (Japan Forum, Oct. 3, 2007)
Japanese producers did well at the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union awards held in Tokyo yesterday. The 47th ABU General Assembly was hosted by NHK, Japan’s public broadcasting network, which took prizes in four of the 13 categories. Of the 199 nominated shows, 141 were TV programmes and 58 were radio programmes. NHK won for Children’s TV (The Three Musketeers: Ep 20: The Chaotic Ball, photo above); Youth TV (Discover Science: Let’s See the Speed of Sound); Sports TV (Miracle Body: Downhill Skiing â Race Against Fear); and Radio Drama (Revival). The ABU Technical Review Prize went to Shogen Kazuyoshi of NHK’s Science and Technology Research Laboratories.
Japan-based radio and television presenter Peter Barakan spoke to the assembly on Monday on the topic of introducing non-mainstream music programming. Long known for playing music from obscure artists, particularly African music, Barakan said “You have to take the public demand into consideration but you have to lead them as well.” If you were too far ahead, you could lose them, so the ideal position was for the presenter to stay half a step ahead.
Romance for Abiru Yu, F-1 Driver It seems that romance has blossomed between talento Abiru Yu (24) and Formula One racing driver Kobayashi Kamui (24). Video of the pair on a date has been circulating on the Web since they were spotted at a go-kart facility in Gotemba on October 2. Abiru was also seen cheering on Kobayashi at the Japan Grand Prix a week later. Her management insists that the two are just good friends. A few years ago, Abiru was romantically linked with Da Pump member Issa.
The nice folks at New York – Tokyo have asked us to plug an upcoming live appearance in the Big Apple by one of Japan’s best rock artists. Boom Boom Satellites, supported by alternative rock band Zamza, will be playing as part of the CMJ2010 Music Marathon & Film Festival. You can check them out on Wednesday, October 20 at Bowery Poetry Club. Organizers said, “this is a special night that CMJ and New York – Tokyo have put together. CMJ badge holders will enjoy the whole night for free and only $10 for those without. Tickets will be gone very quick.” You can find out more and pick up tickets here.
Brit music magazine NME has described BBS as “Like The Prodigy fighting Underworld with bloody big sticks.” And their CMJ bio says the Tokyo rockers “offer a brutal clash of high-tech hooks, renegade rhythm and distortion-drenched guitar.” Meanwhile, two members of Zamza are probably better known for their work with the hugely successful Judy and Mary. In a literary twist, the band’s vocalist is also a winner of the prestigious Akutagawa Prize as well as a movie director.
The director and stars of “Saigo no Chushingura” were in Los Angeles yesterday for the movie’s ‘Hollywood’ premiere. It is the first major Japanese-language project taken on by Warner Brothers, and so it became the first ever Japanese movie to be screened in the Steven J. Ross Theater at the company’s headquarters. Director Sugita Shigemichi (67) and stars Yakusho Koji (54) and Sakuraba Nanami (17) received a standing ovation from the audience of 500 industry professionals, including a rare public appearance by WB Chairman and CEO Barry M. Meyer. The movie is scheduled to open in Japan on December 18.
Titled “The Last Ronin” for its U.S. release, the movie is the latest in a long history of adaptations of one of Japan’s most famous historical events. A remake starring Keanu Reeves (46) is also said to be in the works. It tells of the 47 Ako Roshi (masterless samurais of Akou) and is the quintessential tale of the “bushido” or samurai code. The story is often used to relate the Japanese world-view as it relates to honor and loyalty. The 47 samurai are left leaderless when their master is forced to commit “seppuku” (ritual suicide) for raising his sword against an imperial court official. The ronin plot their revenge though they know it will inevitably lead to their own deaths.