Pop group Mini Morni are to go on an indefinite sabbatical while leader Mika (photo, 19) is studying in Los Angeles. Mika, whose father is Australian jazz pianist Johnny Todd, was chosen back in 1999 as one of five winners in a Hawaii song contest, who were put together as a unit in Coconuts Musume. Like Mini Morni, they were part of the Hello! Project and closely tied and often inchanged with Morning Musume.
• Among the 50 lucky girls chosen from over 1,000 applicants to enter the Takarazuka theater troupe this year are the daughter of former sumo wrestler Sakahoko and a pair of twins from my local area here in Suginami ward, Tokyo. Over the course of two years, the girls will study ballet, music and Japanese dance before being allowed to perform on stage before adoring fans.
Comedian Akashiya Sanma (48) may be considering getting hitched again. He is reported to have had an omiai (a meeting with a view to marriage) set up by enka singer Mori Shinichi (56). The woman in question is said to be the daughter of a company president and in her 20’s. Sanma was previously married to actress Ohtake Shinobu (46). They divorced in 1992 and have one daughter, Imaru. He has since been considered one of Japan’s premier playboys.
• Degawa Tetsuro (40), often chosen by the ladies as Japan’s Least Popular Guy – is set to marry former model and “race queen” Abe Ruriko (26) next month. Degawa proposed while on a trip to Rome that was aired tonight on a London Hearts show.
While we were away, Japan lost two of its entertainment icons. On March 20, Ikariya Chosuke, actor and former leader of the legendary comedy troupe The Drifters passed away. He was 72. He was hospitalized with cancer last year but still managed to put in one last performance in the successful movie Bayside Shakedown II. Meanwhile newsreader Kume Hiroshi (59) stepped down from TV Asahi’s popular “News Station” on March 26 after 18 years and 4,795 shows at the helm. At the end of the show, he downed a beer in a final “kampai”. The former comedian stepped down once briefly several years ago but is not expected to make a comeback this time.
A movie version of the popular TV Tokyo anime “Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Monsters” will be released in 4,000 US theaters on August 13. The movie will be joint effort between publisher Shueisha, TV Tokyo and Warner Bros. The anime has its roots in the Shonen Jump manga, whose English version has been selling well in the US since its 2002 launch, and the TV show began in 2000. A card game based on the show has also been extremely popular with its core audience, junior and senior high school-aged students. The American network version of the show, which aired from September 2001 reached No.1 in the rankings for children’s shows.
Joshima Shigeru (33), leader of the Johnny’s pop group Tokio, has been romantically linked with model Kosaka Hitomi (26). The former “race queen” is this year’s campaign girl for a French lingerie maker. It seems that Kojima jumped straight from his previous relationship with model Morishita Satomi (32) for a younger “model”. As usual, Johnny’s gave the media the expected denial of any romantic involvement despite pictures in the women’s magazine Shukan Josei.
• TV personality Sonomama Higashi (46) has graduated with honours from the Lit. department of the prestigious Waseda University. From April he will study politics at the same school.
Comedy duo Saruganseki have announced that they are going to break up at the end of this month. Ariyoshi Hiroiki and Moriwaki Kazunari (both 29), who first met as high school students, are to go solo after a ten-year career together. They became an overnight success in 1996 when the hit variety show Dempa Shonen featured their hitchhiking adventure across Asia and Europe. They were left in Hong Kong with just ¥10,000 and instructions to make their way to London any way they could. The country cheered them on over the course of several months until they reached their goal (photo), but people were shocked to learn that they had secretly been given airline tickets for certain legs of the trip. It was one of several scandals that hit audience figures and eventually brought the show off the air.
• Takamura Luna, a member of the Showa-era pop group Golden Half, died yesterday of cancer in Hawaii. She was 54. The group, made up of five half-Japanese girls, became very popular in the early 1970s through their appearances on the hit Drifters comedy show “Hachiji Dayo!” Luna had an American father and Japanese mother.
Singer and actress Miyaji Mao (photo, 20) gave her fans a tearful apology at a recent CD launch event. The cause was a series of compromising pictures published in the gossip magazine Friday that showed her in a romantic clinch with a 27-year old man referred to as her “manipulator.” It is a common feature of the Japanese entertainment business that younger female artists have to apologize to (male) fans for shattering their illusions by getting romantically involved.
• Comedians Shinomiya Akira (21) and Matsumoto Mika (33) are set to get married on March 20, at an event to be organized by the Matsutake Geino agency which represents both artists. The event is ominously titled “Divorce Reorganization.” Shinomiya is one half of the manzai duo Ojin Osbourne who currently are hugely popular with high school girls.
TV personality and former “idol” singer Hayami Yu (38) has released a CD of English songs with her daughter, who is all of two years old! Hayami and her eldest daughter Alisa sing 24 children’s songs on “Let’s Sing Together,” which was also produced by “mama”. Most are classics like the “ABC Song” and “Humpty Dumpty” but there are also 4 original tracks, including “Alisa’s Voice.” Alisa also has a one-year old sister Karen. Hayami spent most of her childhood in the US and speaks fluent English.
• Impressionist Kurita Kanichi (46), known as Kurikan, has married actress Osawa Sayaka (31). The couple registered their marriage on March 3 but are still living separately and have not made plans for a ceremony. Kurita was divorced in January of last year.
Baseball legend Nagasima Shigeo (68) was hospitalized yesterday for a stroke. The man they call “Mister”, revered for his cavalier play in the golden era of the Yomiuri Giants in the 1960s and 70s, recently guided the Japanese Olympic team to qualification for this year’s games in Athens. His son, former baseball player and now a TV personality, Nagashima Kazushige said, “Now we leave everything to the doctors and wait for my father’s recovery.”
Godzilla is to make his last big screen appearance at the end of this year, his 50th anniversary. “Godzilla – Final Wars”, to be directed by Kitamura Ryuhei, will be the 28th movie in a series spanning the entire postwar period. Moviemaker Toho Co. announced the giant lizard’s imminent demise on Tuesday. The movie will feature a whopping ten other infamous monsters, in an effort to boost sagging fan numbers. The last two Godzilla films have been disappointing, perhaps a side-efect of the Hollywood-ization of one of Japan’s most revered characters in 1998.