In a rare TV hiccup, the TBS travel documentary “Sekai Ururun Taizaiki” was interrupted for more than a minute last night. A “teroppu” message saying “Please wait” was broadcast. The exact cause is still not known but is believed to have been an error in the TV commercial data. The show features young TV personalities who are sent to spend a week with families in remote world locations.
• J Friends, the group formed by Johnny’s Jimusho band members to raise money for Kobe earthquake relief, has come to an end. The 13 members of Tokio, Kinki Kids (photo) and V6 raised more than ¥870 million over 9 years.
• The female duo Hana-Hana announced on the last night of a national tour that they are going to take a few months off. 26-year olds Ono Makiko and Kojima Izumi have had a breakneck couple of years, with hits like “Ah, Yokatta” and “Sayonara Daisukina Hito”, and making their Kohaku debut last New Year’s Eve.
Yaguchi Mari (20) has “graduated” from Morning Musume sub-unit Mini Moni, to be replaced by Takahashi Ai (16). During a concert at Tokyo International Forum yesterday, the tearful group leader announced that she was leaving, causing mass hysteria from the thousands of “chibiko” (tiny tot) fans. Mini Moni is just one of many groups and solo projects under the Hello! Project umbrella created by MM founder Tsunku (40).
• Director Ninagawa Yukio has opened a production of Shakespeare’s “Pericles” at the Royal National Theatre in London. Ninagawa has a long association with the Bard and set out in 1998 to put on all of his works. The British press has raved over the show, using such words as “achingly beautiful” and “a director of genius.”
The future finally looks a little brighter for singer Suzuki Ami (21) after the Tokyo district court ruled that she is free of any legal ties to the Sony Music Entertainment record label. Hugely popular just a couple of years ago, things went sour with her management agency and Sony, and her career was put on hold while they tried to unwrangle the legal mess. She had talks with the giant Yoshimoto agency but it was said they backed out when Suzuki’s side demanded too much money.
• Mori Hosachi (28), the fastest ever to become a Takarazuka top star, is to make her debut as a TV regular in the long-running “Hagure Keiji” detective series. The show has aired on TV Asahi for the last 15 years.
• Actor Nishida Toshiyuki (55) has been released from hospital, 9 kilos lighter, after having suffered a heart seizure several weeks ago.
A company that operates karaoke boxes was ordered by the Tokyo District Court to repay ¥2.8 billion against loans taken out from the now bankrupt Kokumin Bank. Popular enka singer Ishikawa Sayuri (45) is the president of the company and was a joint guarantor of the loan. She was ordered to pay ¥220 million of the debt.
• Following arguments during the making of a recent TV variety show, there are rumors of an imminent breakup of the comedy duo Bakusho Mondai. The pair are currently hugely popular and present several regular TV shows.
Japan’s No.1 rock band just added to their own legend. To mark the release of their new single “It’s Showtime,” B’z re-released ten other old singles on Tuesday. Not surprisingly, the new single went straight to No.1 on the Oricon daily chart. But what no one expected was that the other singles took the rest of the spots down to No.11. An Oricon spokesperson said, “I don’t think anyone will ever top that!”
• Popular actor Matsumoto Koshiro (60) reached a kabuki milestone when he played the part of Benkei for the 700th time yesterday. It was the final day of a production of “Kanjincho,” one of the 18 kabuki classics. He first played the part of the famous hero more than 44 years ago. Matsumoto, who is the father of actor Matsu Takako, can often be seen on TV in dramas and commercials.
Actor Furuoya Masato (45) was found hanged in his Tokyo apartment yesterday, following an emergency call by his family to the fire department. Police believe the death was a suicide. Furuoya made his debut in 1977 and starred in many movies and TV dramas.
TV personality and former child star Enari Kazuki (18) is said to be trying to get into a prestigious private university, thought to be Todai.
• Veteran actress Toake Yukiyo (left, 60) is currently romantically involved with Kaname Jun (28). That’s a 32-year age difference! Kaname plays the action hero Kamen Rider Agito.
• Comedian Matsumoto Hitoshi (39) of the comedy duo Downtown was recently seen at one of his Tokyo apartments with a young woman. It was not the busty personality Yuka (24), with whom he’s usually seen at another of his Tokyo bachelor pads.
Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi) has won the Oscar for best animated feature. The 2001 movie, directed by Miyazaki Hayao was described as a rare and deep animated movie, of the type that comes along only once every 50 years.
• Taira Tetsuo (56), former president of the Rising Production Co. talent agency, was convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to 30 months in jail. The company has since been renamed Freegate Promotion.
It’s been a busy time for actress Uchiyama Rina (22). In her debut movie “Sotsugyo” (Graduation), which just opened, she gets romantically entangled with a father she hasn’t seen in twenty years. In the popular TV series “Good Luck”, which just finished last night, she played an ANA flight attendant flying the friendly skies with SMAP member Kimura Takuya (30). And she also appeared in the recent NHK Taiga drama “Musashi.” In each case, she worked alongside actor Tsutsumi Shinichi (38), who plays her father in the movie. “He’s very open and honest,” she said, “but not my type!”
Eccentric actor Amamoto Hideyo died of pneumonia in a hospital in his home town of Kitakyushu today. He was 77. Unusual in Japan, he is to have a catholic rather than buddhist funeral. Tall and thin, he was perennially cast as the bad guy, particularly in most of the films by director Okamoto Kihachi. A dropout from Tokyo University law school, he is most famous for the role of Mr. Death in the popular Kamen Rider superhero TV series. He had a passionate interest in Spain and would often talk for hours about the country and its poetry.