Movie director Nasu Hiroyuki died yesterday of liver cancer at a hospital in the Tokyo suburb of Chofu. He was 53. He was known for several hit movies that starred popular idols, such as Morning Musume in “Pinch Runner” and last year’s adaptation of the hit manga “Devilman.” But his most influential film was 1985’s “Bebop High School,” another manga adaptation that starred Nakamura Toru and Shimizu Kojiro.
• The movie “Ashurajo no Hitome” closed last weekend’s Yubari International Fantastic Film Festival. Starring kabuki actor Ichikawa Somegoro (32) and actress Miyazawa Rie (photo, 32), the period/fantasy/romance story was adapted from a recent stage play of the same name. The catch phrase is “koi wo suru to, oni ni naru” (fall in love, and you will become a demon). The film will go on general release here on April 16. Producers say they would like to enter the movie at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
• Talento, pin-up girl and the face of credit company Acom, Ono Mayumi (23) has denied rumors that she and actor Sasaki Kuranosuke (37) are planning to get married in June.
Actor Watari Tetsuya (63) has revealed that last year he filmed his role in the current NHK taiga drama “Yoshitsune” despite having pneumonia. He made the announcement on Thursday at a press conference to mark the end of filming. Last autumn, he told NHK staff that he had a cold, but was using an oxygen mask and checking into a Tokyo hospital every weekend. Watari plays the major role of Taira Kiyomori, while the title role of Minamoto no Yoshitsune is played by young heart throb Takizawa Hideaiki (22). The drama is based on “Heike Monogatari” (Tale of the Heike), the legendary story of warring clans in the late Heian Period.
• Former NHK chief producer Isono Katsumi (48) has been arrested for the fourth time. The latest arrest is for defrauding his employer of ¥11.5 million in fictional production costs for over 30 TV programs in 1999. The repeated surfacing of such cases has severely hurt NHK’s reputation over the last year or so.
The ongoing struggle between Fuji TV and Internet start-up Livedoor to gain control of radio station Nippon Broadcasting System continues to grab headlines. The latest move by NBS, which along with Fuji TV is part of the Fuji Sankei Group, is to give Fuji the right to buy new shares to be issued over the next few months. This would prevent Livedoor from gaining more than 50% of shares, a target the company has been using dubious means to achieve. NBS owns the biggest stake in Fuji TV, even though the TV station is much bigger, so control of NBS would give Livedoor a lot of influence over Fuji TV. The whole affair is generating lots of publicity for young Livedoor president Horie Takafumi (photo, 32), who also was in the spotlight during his company’s recent battle with fellow internet giant Rakuten to buy a pro baseball team. “Horiemon” lost that battle, but his company’s pageviews have skyrocketed.
• Japan is to waive visa charges for visitors who also attend the six-month World Exposition, the international showcase of technology and innovation which opens next month in central Aichi prefecture. Japan said short-term, non-employment visas issued from this Friday to September 25, the last day of the World Expo, would be free if the trip included a visit to the event. Japan generally charges ¥3,000 yen ($29) for a single-entry visa and ¥6,000 for a double-entry or multiple-entry visa.
Young kabuki actor Nakamura Shichinosuke (21) has said that he will not appear in the official productions to mark his father Kankuro’s succession to become the 18th Nakamura Kanzaburo. The decision is a kind of self-punishment following the young actor’s drunken punch-up with a police officer last month. Kankuro is one of the most famous and popular kabuki stars and his succession is a very big event in the traditional theater world. There will be a series of productions held at the Kabuki-za theater in Tokyo’s Ginza from March to May. Shichinosuke has suggested that he may take part in the latter half.
• A Korean-Chinese remake of the famous 1991 Fuji TV drama “Hyaku-ikkai no Puropozu” (101 Proposals), with popular Korean actress Choi Ji Woo in the lead role, is to air on the Sky perfect satellite network in April. The original series, which starred Asano Atsuko (43) and Takeda Tetsuya (55) and had an incredible audience rating of 36.7%, will also be re-broadcast.
Akamatsu Naoki (25), formerly leader of the pop group Hysteric Blue, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison. After the band broke up, his wife became pregnant and he felt he had no release for his sexual urges. As a result, between the end of 2003 and early 2004, he raped and sexually assaulted as many as nine women. Prosecutors sought an 18-year jail sentence.
• Miyara Shinobu (25) of the pop group Da Pump has been arrested for drunk driving. After a night drinking with friends, the car he was driving ran into the shutters of a store in Tokyo’s Minato ward around 2:30am on Sunday. The 39-year old male passenger injured his head and was hospitalized.
• Actress Esumi Makiko (photo, 38) has given birth to a baby girl, her first child. her husband, a 39-year old Fuji TV employee was present at the birth in a Tokyo hospital. Makiko is already planning to come back to work and will be visible again from March 24, when a new TV commercial for cosmetic maker Kose will start airing. Remarkably, filming of the commercial took place just three weeks ago.
• The upcoming Fuji TV Monday night drama series will star actress Koyuki (28) alongside SMAP heart throb Kimura Takuya (32). The story, set to start in April, is about a racing driver and has been provisionally named “Engine.” Koyuki, who achieved fame outside Japan for her role in “The Last Samurai,” will play a Golden Time heroine for the first time.
High-tension comedian Hosshan (photo, 33) has won the 3rd R-1 Grand Prix for “pin geinin,” a term for solo comedy performers. After beating over 1200 performers, including such up-and-coming stars as Tomochika (31) and Hiroshi (33), he was so overcome when he was announced as the winner that he fell over. He won prize money of ¥5 million. Formerly of the Yoshimoto manzai duo Chupa Chups, which broke up in 1999, a tearful Hosshan said he had considered giving up showbusiness many times.
• It was announced at the weekend that actor Kentaro Segal (29), son of Hollywood action star Steven Seagal, has married a 25-year old Malaysian model who was formerly his father’s assistant. They have a baby son, Shotaro. Kentaro is currently studying aikido in Osaka.
• The 1980s band C-C-B are to make a comeback, 16 years after they broke up. After they appeared in a recent TV commercial, it was decided to re-release their 1985 hit “Romantic ga Tomaranai”.
Movie director Okamoto Kihachi, known for his speedy, distinct style, died of esophageal cancer on Saturday. He was 81. He is survived by his wife and producer Mineko (67). Born in Tottori Prefecture, Okamoto graduated from Meiji University and began his film career at Toho Co. Among his best-known works are “Nihon no Ichiban Nagai Hi” (Japan’s Longest Day, 1967), a documentary-style film set on the last day of the Pacific War, and “Dokuritsu Rentai” (Desperado Outpost, 1960), compared by some to Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan.” He worked with some of the greatest Japanese actors, including Mifune Toshiro, Katsu Shintaro and Sanada Hiroyuki. His last film was “Sukedachiya Sukeroku” (Vengeance for Sale, 2001).
• At the Berlin Film Festival, Yamada Yoji‘s “Kakushi Ken, Oni to Tsume” (Hidden Sword, Demon’s Claws) failed to win a prize, as competition results were announced on Saturday. Another contender who fell short was actor Issey Ogata, who portrayed the late Emperor Showa (Hirohito) in the Russian film “Taiyo.” The movie deals with the immediate postwar period, up until the time when the emperor publicly renounced his divinity. It’s a controversial subject, especially among right wingers, and there are currently no plans to show the film in Japan.
The 28th Japan Academy Award ceremony was held at the Shin Takanawa Hotel in Tokyo on Friday. Suzuki Kyoka (37) won her first Best Actress award, after being recognized three times as best supporting actress, for playing an abused wife in “Blood and Bones” opposite Kitano Takeshi (57). The film was also a winner for director, Sai Yoichi (55). The Best Actor award went to Terao Akira (58) for “Han-ochi,” which also took Best Film.
• Fujimura Saori (31) is the third Fuji TV announcer to get married or announce an engagement in the last few weeks. She announced on Saturday that she married a 39-year old lawyer and CPA at the beginning of February, after a one-year relationship. She follows in the footsteps of fellow Fuji ana’s Umezu Yaeko (27) and Otsubo Chinatsu (38).
Yoshida Miwa (39), vocalist with the popular group Dreams Come True, has come down with influenza. The group have had to cancel two Shikoku dates this week on their national tour, one in Kochi and one in Ehime. The venues will be added to the end of the tour in March or April. Yoshida is expected to be back for the Nagoya gig next Tuesday.
• A segment on the NTV late-night quiz show “Coming Doubt” has caused a ruckus. The show featured an 18-year old talent talking about her shoplifting experiences as a junior high school student. There were a lot of complaints that the show was making light of this kind of crime, which has been on the rise in recent years, especially among young girls.
Police have “sent papers” to prosecutors over actress Koizumi Kyoko‘s (photo, 38) minor hit and run incident last week. She failed to stop after she hit a newspaper delivery man’s scooter parked on a narrow road in Meguro ward. Koizumi paid compensation for damage to the scooter and probably thought that was the end of it. Her publicist released a statement, saying: “I noticed I had hit something, but thought it wasn’t serious. I am sorry and sincerely would like to make up for my wrongdoing.”