Singer Go Hiromi (49) has taken his ex-wife Nitani Yurie (40) to court. The weekly magazine Shukan Post reported that Go has sued his ex at the Tokyo District Court for ¥20 million in damages for failing to uphold the terms of their 1997 divorce. Go claims that Nitani has denied him visitation rights to their two daughters and has allegedly misued the ¥150 million she received from Go in child support.
• Outrage at public broadcaster NHK continues unabated. After his resignation as chairman following a long period of scandals, Ebisawa Katsuji was offered a consultant position with the company. The offer was rescinded by new chairman Hashimoto Genichi, who apologized in a televised press conference, when NHK was flooded with angry telephone calls. The result is that even more people are refusing to pay their subscription fees.
• “Tony Takitani”, a rare film adaptation of a story by best-selling author Murakami Haruki, opened Saturday. The critically acclaimed film stars Issey Ogata (52) in the title role and Miyazawa Rie (31) in dual roles. Directed by Ichikawa Jun, it picked up three awards at last years Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland and was entered for this month’s Sundance Film Festival, which ends today.
Actress Koizumi Kyoko (photo, 38) was involved in a minor hit and run incident in Tokyo this week. She hit a newspaper delivery man’s scooter parked on a narrow road in Meguro ward early on Wednesday morning, but didn’t stop. The man noted the registration number and reported the incident to the police. On Friday, Koizumi paid him minor compensation for damage to the scooter.
• Yoshimoto comedian Takada Akinori (47), better known as Hanshin of the manzai duo All Kyojin Hanshin, was involved in a collision with a scooter in Osaka on Friday. The bike rider suffered a broken leg when he was thrown after hitting Takada’s car, which was making a right turn. Police are still looking into the case.
• Mochida Kaori (26), vocalist of pop group Every Little Thing, has come down with acute bronchitis and has had to cancel two concerts in Hokkaido.
Shimizu Takeshi (32) is to direct “The Grudge 2,” the Hollywood remake of his own hit horror movie. “Juon 2” was released in Japan last summer. The Sarah Michelle Gellar version of the 2002 original first movie pulled in $110 million at the US box office last autumn. It was the first time for a Japanese-directed movie to make the No.1 box office ranking for two weeks running. That project got the green light after “Spiderman” director Sam Raimi saw the Japanese version, and Raimi has been encouraging Shimizu to go for a sequel.
• Former sumo star turned talento Konishiki (41) spent almost a month in hospital over the New Year, according to a statement by his wife Chie on his official web site. He was hospitalized on December 23, just three days after his younger sister died in Hawaii of a heart attack.
SMAP‘s Kimura Takuya (32) is coming back to the Monday 9pm “Golden Time” slot again. The new Fuji TV drama series is yet to be titled, but Kimutaku will play a racing driver who finds romance. His legions of fans have boosted ratings for such successful series as “Love Generation”, “Gift”, “Good Luck!” and “Pride.”
• The trial of disgraced former talento Tashiro Masashi (48) came to an end yesterday at the Tokyo District Court. He was arrested last September for drug possession, his fourth arrest. He has put on about 18kg in the subsequent five months. Prosecutors asked for a prison sentence of four years and six months, saying he had a history of repeated offences. Sentencing will take place on February 7.
NHK chief Ebisawa Katsuji (70) has finally bowed out. He announced his resignation at an executive meeting yesterday. He will be replaced as chairman by present managing director Hashimoto Genichi. Ebisawa has been under growing public pressure to take responsibility for a seemingly endless list of scandals and arrests at the national broadcaster. It’s feared that the number of households that are refusing to pay their annual subscription fees may grow to almost half a million.
• “Dare mo Shiranai” (Nobody Knows), the movie that garnered a Best Actor award at Cannes for young Yagira Yuya (photo, 14), has failed to get a nomination for the Academy Awards.
SMAP‘s first single in almost two years has taken the Oricon charts by storm. “Tomodachi e – Say What You Will” easily outsold the next-best sellers from Janne Da Arc and Morning Musume. It is SMAP’s 36th single release and their 14th chart topper. It was written by none other than Eric Clapton, while local music legend Takeuchi Mariya wrote the words.
• Post offices nationwide today started selling postage stamps with photos of locations used in the popular South Korean TV soap opera “Winter Sonata.” The drama took Japan by storm last year and made overnight stars of actor Bae Yong Joon (32) and actress Choi Ji Woo (29). Today also saw the start of Japan-South Korea Friendship Year, with opening events being held in central Tokyo. The first events will take place in Seoul on Thursday.
• The latest showbiz baby has been born to actress Ishida Hikari (32). She had a baby girl, her second, at home early on Sunday morning.
Hajime Chitose (26), the singer with the “voice in a million,” has given birth to her first child. She announced Sunday on her web site that she’d had a baby girl on Thursday of last week. She was pregnant when she married a restaurateur in January 2004, but she suffered a miscarriage shortly afterwards. She decided to take time off work and had an uncomplicated pregnancy this time around. She plans to resume her career this summer.
• NHK chairman Ebisawa Katsuji is set to announce his resignation before the end of his third term, rather than in March as he suggested earlier. He will make the anouncement at an executive meeting this afternoon. The public braodcaster has been plagued by scandals and viewer revolt for the last year.
• Singers Banba Hirofumi (54) and Hirayama Miki (55) have divorced after 27 years of marriage. Both were stars of the “new music” scene when the married in 1977 and have remained well known in the Kansai region. The main cause of the split is said to be Banaba’s affair with another woman last year.
There’s a big music trade meet going on in Cannes, France this week. And JETRO, the Japan external trade folks, and the Music Publishers Association are doing a big sell of Japanese pop music. For the first time at the annual MIDEM show, there’s a Japan Pavillion. 58 record companies and talent agencies are represented. You can listen to CDs and watch DVDs by over 100 of Japan’s top young artists, including Puffy and Moriyama Naotaro. J-pop is a ¥1.6 trillion industry (yes, trillion – that’s about $16 billion) and is second only to the US. But it exports only ¥2.9 billion and imports nearly ten times that, mostly from the US. Could this be the beginning of a wave of Japanese pop hitting the world market?
Tamashiro Chiharu (photo right, 27) of the popular Okinawan duo Kiroro announced at a concert at the weekend that she is engaged to be married this spring. The concert was a free event in their home city of Naha, where her 27-year old fiancee also lives. They played a set that included hits “Best Friend” and “mirai He.”
• The movie “Lakeside Murder Case” is looking to be a big success. Before it even opens here next month, it has received offers from over a dozen international movie festivals. Directed by Aoyama Shinji, it stars Yakusho Koji (49) and Yakushimaru Hiroko (40). There have also been foreign offers to remake Aoyama’s 2001 hit “Eureka,” which also starred Yakusho and won a couple of prizes at Cannes.
Singer songwriter Utada Hikaru marked her 22nd birthday on Wednesday with a long-overdue English message to her fans. In response to the recent tsunami disaster in south Asia, she hinted at some big personal venture she is planning in an attempt to “change the world.”
Message from Utada Hikaru
Talento Ishida Junichi was spotted with young beauties on each arm by the weekly magazine Josei Seven. The photos were taken on January 15, his 50th birthday. The once-divorced Ishida and model Hasegawa Rie (31) only recently broke up after more than eight years together.