Monthly Archives: December 2004

Soothing Hitomi

With a beauty that belies her age, actress Kuroki Hitomi (44) is one of the most popular female stars, with both men and women. But to mark her 25th anniversary in show business, she will be using her soft and charming voice to, as the media put it, “ease the stress of hard-working salarymen” on a new radio talk show. “Kuroki Hitomi no Talk Radio” will air on Nippon Hoso on Thursday evenings from mid-January.

• Nagasawa Masami (17) was on hand to meet fans as the DVD of “Sekai no Chushin, Ai wo Sakebu” went on sale. Nagasawa became the youngest ever actress to win a Hochi Movie Award for her supporting role in the hit romance, which made ¥8.5 billion at the box office. Production of the DVD is already set at 920,000 copies and it is hoped that it will be a million seller, perhaps even surpassing “Bayside Shakedown 2” as the biggest seller of the year.

We’ll be shutting down for the holidays from Christmas Day. Look forward to more daily entertainment news updates in the New Year. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year of the Rooster!

Sting to Cloose Ashura

English rock star Sting (53) has recorded the ending theme to the movie “Ashurajo no Hitomi” (Blood Gets in Your Eyes). The SF/period drama about love and demons in the Edo Period is scheduled for release next April. It stars kabuki actor Ichikawa Somegoro (31) and Miyazawa Rie (31). Sting recently recorded his own arrangement of the jazz standard “My Funny Valentine” in Toronto.

• The latest Korean movie star to come a-wooing his many Japanese fans is Lee Byung Hun (photo, 34). The actor known for his “killer smile” met 2,300 fans chosen by lottery from 50,000 applications at the Shibuya Kokaido in Tokyo yesterday. Among them was a 79-year old woman, who got a hug for good measure. The star was in town to promote a series of photo books and DVDs.

Breaking Up

Recently divorced actor Hosaka Naoki (photo, 37) and actress Takaoka Yuki (photo, 32) have finally split up. The pair continued to live together after their June divorce, mainly for the sake of their children, but there have been rumors of another man in Takaoka’s life. Although rumors of a breakup have surrounded the couple for several years, the summer split came shortly after a weekly magazine published photos of Takaoka and guitarist Hotei Tomoyasu (42), who is married to singer Imai Miki.

• Hard times continue to befall actor Hagiwara Kenichi (54). The actor popularly known as “Shoken” said on a recent TV show that he and his third wife, Yuki are on the verge of divorce. The news ends a year in which he caused a traffic accident, injuring a motorcyclist, and a case where he made threats to producers over unpaid salary for a movie project he was kicked out of.

• On a brighter note, actor Kakei Toshio (42) recently married a 170cm-tall former music company employee, said to be in her 30s. Kakei described his new wife at a news conference as an “Angelina Jolie lookalike.”

Kobo-chan to be a Big Brother?

One of Japan’s longest-running newspaper 4-frame manga strips has been undergoing some changes lately. The “Kobo-chan” strip went color for the first time at the beginning of this month. And creator Ueda Masashi has hinted that the lovable kindergartener may soon be joined by a younger brother or sister. “Kobo-chan” has appeared over 8,000 times in the morning edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun and has been syndicated to almost every paper in the country. Its gentle humor is similar to that of the ever-popular Sazae-san and reminiscint of times past. Ueda maintains a strict daily schedule and always delivers his strip the night before publication. He has only missed a deadline four times in the last 23 years…Kobo-chan web site

Popular rock band L’Arc en Ciel made a secret live appearance yesterday at a promo event for an upcoming anime movie. The band have recorded the opening and ending themes for the movie version of the popular series “Hagane no Renkinjutsushi” (Fullmetal Alchemist), set to open next summer. The event, held at Osaka Castle Hall, was attended by over 10,000 fans, making it the biggest ever for an anime show. The anime, popularly known as “hagaren” started on TBS in October 2003 and ran until October of this year. The original comic has sold over 12 million copies.

TV CM Rankings

CM Databank, a company that analyzes the performance of TV commercials, has released its report for 2004. The most popular male and female commercial stars were SMAP member Kimura Takuya and Hello! Project member Matsuura Aya (photo, 18). SMAP again dominated the rankings, despite the fact that they didn’t release any CDs or do any touring this year. In 6th and 7th places in the overall rankings are Kuu-chan and Shimizu Shogo. The names may not be familiar, but they are the chihuahua and its middle-aged owner who star in the hugely popular commercials for credit company Aiful.


1. Kimura Takuya (SMAP)

2. Shimizu Shogo (Actor)

3. Nakai Masahiro (SMAP)

4. Katori Shingo (SMAP)

5. Kusanagi Tsuyoshi (SMAP)

6. Bae Yong Joon (Korean actor)


1. Matsuura Aya (Singer)

2. Matsushima Nanako (Actress)

3. Ueto Aya (Singer)

4. Yada Akiko (Actress)

5. Sato Eriko (Actress)

6. Kiki Kirin (Actress)

Momus Manpower

Pop group Morning Musume are to be the official ‘support group’ for the newly formed Rakuten Golden Eagles baseball team. “The Manpower,” penned by MM and Hello! Project svengali Tsunku (photo, 36), will go on sale on January 19. the song wil be played at Sendai Stadium before games next season to fire up the new team. Rakuten president Mikitani Hiroshi (39) is expected to bring a host of fresh businesses approaches to the often staid pro baseball world.

• Korean heart throb Bae Yong Joon (32) has sent a special gift to each of the middle-aged female fans injured in crowd chaos during his visit to Japan last month.

• Singer Hamasaki Ayumi (26) has become just the third Japanese to have a waxwork lookalike created at Madame Tussaud’s in Hong Kong. The others are the late politician Yoshida Shigeru and sumo yokozuna Chiyonofuji.

Hanryu Boom Online, Too

The major Japanese search engines have released the top search terms for the year. Figures from Yahoo, Goo, Google, Infoseek and Excite indicate a couple of the biggest topics of the year – the establishement of a new baseball franchise and the Korean pop culture boom (hanryu). Rakuten, the company that won the battle with fellow Internet startup Livedoor to establish a yakyu team in Sendai, broke into the Top 10 on both Yahoo and Goo. The comapny-sponsored Golden Eagles will be the 6th Pacific League team next season. The Korean soap opera “Winter Sonanta” ranked highly on both Google and Yahoo. Star Bae Jong Joon (32), known widely as “Yon-sama” was the most popular male celebrity on Infoseek’s rankings and No.2 on Yahoo.

SMAP Team Up With “God”

The upcoming new single from pop group SMAP is really something quite remarkable. “Tomodachi he…Say What You Will” has music and lyrics by none other than Eric Clapton (59). The lyrics have been translated into Japanese by record-breaking artist Takeuchi Mariya (49), and it is arranged by Mr. Children producer Kobayashi Takeshi (45). SMAP have had a very quiet year as a group, although they’re everywhere on the variety show circuit. They didn’t release any CDs or tour at all, and they won’t be appearing on Kohaku at New Year. In fact, the new single will be their first musical offering in two years. The song is said to be a medium-tempo, upbeat appeal for world friendship and peace. Clapton’s collaboration is inspired by the “Love the Earth” theme of next year’s World Expo, set to open in Aichi in March.

• Korean heart-throb Bae Yong Joon (32) is back in Japan again, though this time without fans finding out. Last month, there was mass pandemonium at both his hotel and Narita airport and some of the thousands of middle-aged housewife fans were even hurt in the chaos. So this time, he quietly entered the country via Fukuoka airport and drove across the country to Tokyo. Local Fukuoka news reported his arrival but didn’t know the purpose of his latest visit.

Wedding Bells

Popular Fuji TV announcer Sasaki Kyoko (photo, 31) is romantically involved with TBS “ana” Ikeda Hiroyuki (42), according to the latest issue of Flash magazine. The magazine revealed that the couple bought an ¥80 million apartment in Tokyo at the end of last month. Around the same time, Friday magazine caught Sasaki out on a date with an employee of a foreign firm. Ikeda, a presenter on the TBS “News no Mori” show, and Sasaki are said to have postponed their planned wedding till early next year.

• Speaking of wedding plans, actor Takashima Masahiro (39) announced recently that he and beautiful musical actress Sylvia Grab (30) are engaged to be married next autumn. Grab, the daughter of a Swiss father and Japanese mother, appeared with Takashima in a musical in 2000.