It was announced yesterday that this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival will award a new Kurosawa Akira Prize, named after one of Japan’s greatest directors. The award will be given to a producer or director active during the preceding year. The prize money will be same as that for the Grand Prix in the main competition, at $10,000. This year’s festival, the 17th, will be held October 23-31. The venues will be expanded from the usual Shibuya theaters to also include the sanky new Roppongi Hills development in central Tokyo. There will also be new international market for films, anime and manga/comics.
Popular author and award-winning screenwriter Nozawa Hisashi (44) was found hanged at his Tokyo office yesterday. Police found what they believe to be a suicide note. Nozawa was the lead writer on an NHK “taiga” drama planned for 2007 and associates were baffled by his sudden suicide. Nozawa made his writing debut in 1985 for Yomiuri TV and wrote several award-winning dramas over the following decades. He is survived by his wife and two children.
• Fuji TV, which has produced box-office hit movies such as “Antarctica” (1983) and “Bayside Shakedown” (1998), is to make its first feature length anime. The company is aiming to make “Brave Story” an international hit. Based on a manga by popular writer Miyabe Miyuki, it tells of a young boy who ventures to a fantasy world to save his dying mother. Teaming up with Fuji will be the new star in Japanese anime, Gonzo Digimation, a company that already enjoys a good reputation in Hollywood.
Former sumo champion Konishiki (40) and his wife Chie (28) held their wedding ceremony at the weekend. The giant Hawaiian and his regular-size bride had already registered their wedding – Konishiki’s second – in January. The formal ceremony was held at the Torigoe Jinja shrine in Tokyo. It was followed by a reception for 300 people on Tokyo Bay aboard the Symphony cruiser. The bride even wore a wedding ring designed by her husband.
Keeping with yesterday’s divorce theme, actor Watanabe Ken (photo, 44) and his wife Yumiko (44) seem to be getting closer to a settlement in their ongoing Tokyo district court case. The main bone of contention are the huge debts built up by Yumiko, revealed in court to be ¥180 million. Her husband says he doesn’t know where the money went, but she claims he told her to use it to hush up various “scandals.” A final decision is to be handed down on September 9.
• Meanwhile, the same district court held the first hearing in the divorce case initiated by former pro wrestler Onita Atsushi (46), currently a member of the House of Councillors. His lawyer said that the couple have been living apart for some time. His wife (43) is refusing the divorce, saying that his work keeps him away from home for long periods anyway, so their separation shouldn’t be considered the same as for an ordinary couple. Onita has one high-school age son.
It hardly comes as a surprise that actor Hosaka Naoki (36) and actress Takaoka Yuki (31) have finally called it a day. On Wednesday, the couple announced their divorce after seven and a half years of marriage. They used to be known as a very devoted couple, and even appeared regularly in TV commercials on the back of that image. But in recent years rumors of affairs and splits have been abundant. The most recent – just last week – put Takaoka in a late-night clinch with married rock guitarist Hotei Tomoyasu (42).
• On a happier note, TV personality Katsumata Kunikazu (39) is to be a papa. His wife, former flight attendant Sumiko (31), is currently six months pregnant. In a bridal magazine poll, Katsumata was chosen as the most ideal match for their daughters by female readers in their 50s. The best match for sons was bubbly TV personality Hashino Emi (30).
Kinashi Noritake (photo left, 42) of the comedy duo Tunnels is to put on his first ever one-man stage show in Tokyo this weekend. “Noritake Guide” will feature comedy, drama, singing and dancing. With a 20-plus-year career behind him, Kinashi is considered something of an all-round entertainer and, along with sidekick Ishibashi Takaaki (42), is one of the biggest earners in Japanese showbusiness. “This show is a chance for me to do all those things I’ve always wanted to do,” he said, adding “I’ll even appear naked!” Tickets for the show have already sold out.
Popular veteran actress and singer Asaoka Ruriko (63) has been romantically linked with stage actor Matsui Makoto (44). It’s probably no coincidence that the story broke at the same time that a new single, a duet between the pair, was announced. According to women’s magazine Josei Jishin, Matsui was a fan of Asaoka and the relationship escalated from there. Both are divorcees, Asaoka having split from actor Ishizaka Koji in 2000 after 29 years of marriage.
• Matsumoto Tak (43) guitarist of Japan’s top rock unit B’z has been named as the man to do the music for next year’s Ultraman movie. A fan of the superhero since childhood, Matsumoto said he was “truly honored” to have been chosen.
• Super idol Matsuura Aya (17) will provide the theme song for the upcoming Nippon TV drama series “Aijo Ippon”, in which she will also star. The single is “Your Song – Seishun Sensei”. In what will be Ayaya’s first leading role, she will play the daughter of a judoist, to coincide with the Summer Olympics.
Fuji TV announcer Masai Maya (28) was recently spotted on a date with popular model Maekawa Yasuyuki (30) by women’s magazine Josei Jishin. Masai was in the news last year for getting involved with a fellow announcer while engaged to a producer at the same channel. Fuji has probably been the most successful channel at using its female announcers as sales points, building them up like pop stars or actresses.
• Meanwhile, young actress Ikewake Chizuru (22) was recently spotted with new boyfriend, actor Arai Hirofumi (25), by the weekly gossip magazine Flash. Both have admitted their relationship but deny rumors that they are living together.
• A single recorded by Amuro Namie (26) is to be used as the theme song for a TV drama, the first in six years. Fuji TV’s romance “Kimi ga Omoide ni Naru Mae ni” (Before You Become a Memory) will use the song “All For You”, Amuro’s 27th single scheduled to go on sale July 22. The series will star Mizuki Arisa (27) and the recently married Shiina Kippei (39).
Actor Popular hip hop unit Kick The Can Crew played their final gig on Sunday. The three-man group performed 23 songs for 3,100 fans to finish off their last national tour at an outdoor venue in Hibiya, central Tokyo. Leader Kreva (28) and his cohorts Little and MCU announced that they will each pursue solo careers.
• Nagase Masatoshi (photo, 37) appeared at a Shinjuku theater for the opening of his latest movie “Loved Gun”, but the media were more interested in developments with his private life. Nagase seemed a bit at a loss for words when facing the standing-room only audience. He divorced actress Koizumi Kyoko (38) in February and was later connected with singer Nakashima Mika (21).
• Yomiuri TV announcer Miura Takashi (35) is engaged to marry television production company employee Murakawa Takako (34) at the end of this month. Miura was previously married for two years until the end of 2001.
Actor and singer Shimizu Kentaro (51) was indicted on drug possession charges at a Tokyo court on Friday. He has had three previous drug-related arrests in the past and has done prison time.
• Comedian Kato Koji (photo left, 35), one half of the Yoshimoto manzai duo Gokuraku Tombo, is to be a dad for thes econf time. His wife, actress Ozawa Rin (25) is expecting a baby in October.
• Both MC Verbal and DJ Taku Takahashi of the hip hop/rap duo m-flo have announced that they are engaged. The pair made the revelation on a live radio show on Friday. Verbal is said to be planning a wedding ceremony in the U.S. in September.