Monthly Archives: March 2005

Mori Shinichi, Masako to Divorce?

Enka singers Mori Shinichi (57) and his wife Masako (46) have separated after 19 years of marriage. Masako issued a statement in which she said they had grown apart and lost their sense of trust in one another. She was rushed to hospital at the beginning of February and resolved to leave her husband shortly afterwards. She took their 11-year old son with her when she returned to her parents’ Setagaya home on March 13. Meanwhile her husband has checked into a Tokyo hospital after developing complications with his hepatitis, which he has lived with for the last 20 years. The couple, among the biggest names in enka, have been giving stage shows together for the last three years, despite the fact that they originally contracted to do it for a year. The workload and stress of constant performing is said to have been the reason for Masako’s deteriorating health.

• French beauty Sophie Marceau (38) is in town to promote her role as the new image character for cosmetic brand Socié World, which celebrates its 45th anniversary next month. A new TV commercial featuring the actress and mother of two will air from April 17.

One for the Ladies

Toshiba EMI is to put out a CD compilation of Japan’s biggest and best female artists. Following the success of last year’s “Venus” albums, compilations of foreign female artists, “Venus Japan – For Your Departure” will feature artists such as Utada Hikaru (photo, 22), Shiina Ringo (26), Matsutoya Yumi (51), Imai Miki (41), Yaida Hitomi (26), and Oguro Maki (35). With the new school year coming up, the theme of the album is departure and new journeys. It goes on sale tomorrow, March 30.

• Hollywood star Richard Gere (48) is in town to promote the US remake of the hit movie “Shall We Dance” in which he co-stars with Jennifer Lopez. The movie opens on April 23. Gere, who criticized China’s repressive policies in a press conference at a Tokyo hotel yesterday, will probably be a bit more diplomatic when he meets Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro today. The PM is often said to look like the movie star, though the resemblance doesn’t really extend below the hairline.

Rocky Start for Rakuten

The baseball season got off to an interesting start at the weekend. The Sendai Rakuten Golden Eagles, the first new franchise in over 50 years, won their very first game 3-1 on Saturday but then lost by the staggering score of 26-0 on Sunday. Both games were against Bobby Valentine’s Chiba Lotte Marines, who set a club record in the second game. Meanwhile over at the Yahoo! Dome, the renamed Fukuoka Softbank Hawks had popular actress Ueto Aya (photo, 19) and fellow Oscar Pro beauties Yonekura Ryoko (29), Kikukawa Rei (27), Ishikawa Asami (27) and Tamaru Maki (26) on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch to Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters poster boy Shinjo Tsuyoshi (33). Ueto and Shinjo teamed up for the Oronamin C TV commercial, and the flamboyant outfielder carried a bottle of the “genki” drink rather than a bat into the batter’s box.

• Actress Momoi Kaori (52), who has a major part in the upcoming Rob Marshall geisha flick “Sayuri,” has joined the US Screen Actor’s Guild. It’s unusual for an actor to join the organization with less than three Hollywood features under their belt. Momoi is said to be considering following co-star Watanabe Ken‘s lead and moving to Los Angeles. “Sayuri” is due for worldwide release in December.

Uchan, Tokunaga to Wed

A big wedding announcement yesterday – comedian Uchimura Teruyoshi (40) gave a press conference to say he is engaged to TV Asahi announcer Tokunaga Yumi (29). Uchimura, better known as Uchan of the comedy duo Uchan Nanchan, has long been considered one of the most eligible bachelors in the geinoh (showbiz) world. He has been romantically linked with several announcers, but it looks like he’s finally going to settle down, like comedy partner Nanbara Kiyotaka (40) did 13 years ago. Tokunaga divorced in September 2003, five months after the scandal of an affair with Uchimura forced her to step down from several regular TV spots. She will quit TV Asahi on April 8 and the couple will marry sometime after that.

• Kurosawa Kiyoshi (50) is one of the directors who have made a series of horror movies based on 6 comics by manga-ka Umezu Kazuo (68). Kurosawa’s “Mushitachi no Ie” will go on sale at the Cannes Film Festival in May. Another in the series is “Zesshoku” (Fasting) by “Ringu” scriptwriter Takahashi Hiroshi.

A Big Day

Some big events today. The 2005 World Exposition Aichi officially opens its doors to the public, with the theme “Nature’s Wisdom.” Thousands attended the opening ceremony yesterday, including the Emperor, Empress, Crown Prince and Prime Minister. 121 countries are taking part in the expo, built among wooded hills about 20km from the city of Nagoya in central Japan. About 15 million people are expected to visit the event over the next 185 days.

• TV viewers will be glued to their screens tonight for the World Cup qualifier against Iran. The kickoff at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium is at 10:35pm Japan time. With an expected crowd of over 100,000 fanatical supporters behind them, Iran will give Japan its biggest challenge in some time. Nakata Hidetoshi is back for the first time in over a year and will wear the captain’s armband.

Court Hands Victory to Livedoor

In the ongoing saga between Livedoor and Fuji TV for control of Nippon Broadcasting System, the latest round goes to the Internet startup (see earlier story). The Tokyo High Court ruled yesterday that the attempt by NBS to issue new shares to Fuji was illegal. Livedoor president Horie Takafumi (photo, 32) gave yet another press conference and the news shows all had it as their top story. His company have recently brought their total shareholding in NBS to over 50%, meaning they will have the upper hand at the upcoming directors’ meeting. NBS is the biggest shareholder in Fuji TV, so control of the radio station brings with it major influence in one of the country’s biggest TV networks. Commentators, celebrities and the general public have been coming down on one side or other of the long-running financial battle. Singer Nakajima Miyuki (53), comedian and emcee Tamori (59) and baseball commentator Emoto Takenori (57) have said they won’t appear on Fuji if Livedoor gains a stake in the network. This would mean Tamori having to give up his record-holding afternoon show “Waratte Ii-tomo.” Meanwhile, perhaps reflecting the fact that he appears on shows with a lot of young celebs these days, veteran talento Mino Monta (60) criticized Fuji management as “nasakenai” (miserable, shameful).

Have a Break…

I saw a news feature last night that showed a new way of shifting CDs. The popular rock band 175R (Inago Rider) released their 7th and latest single “Grafitti” yesterday as a pack with a Kit Kat chocolate bar. The news feature showed the chocolate/CD products, priced at ¥315, lined up on the top shelf of a Seven Eleven convenience store. They expect to sell about 500,000 copies. The band have just finished a 3-month nationwide tour. The new sales technique reflects a CD market that has seen continually declining sales for the last few years.

• The popular NTV drama “Gokusen” finished with a bang last Saturday. Audience figures released yesterday show the final episode reached a ratings high of 32.5% and the average for the series was 28%, the highest ever for a drama on the network. The series featured popular actress Nakama Yukie as a high school teacher and a host of “hot” up and coming male actors as her students. &$149; Comedian Nagai Hidekazu (35) became a father yesterday when his wife gave birth to a baby boy at a Tokyo hospital. Nagai made a big breakthrough on the TV variety circuit last year with his standup routines and the catchphrase “Machigainai!”

US Gets Japanese Chills

Japanese horror directors really are the hot ticket in Tinseltown! Tom Cruise (42) is producing a Hollywood remake of the Thai horror flick “The Eye” and has picked Japanese director Nakata Hideo (photo, 43) to take the helm. Nakata’s “The Ring 2”, a US remake of his 1999 hit, made No.1 in the US box office during its recent opening weekend, bringing in $36 million. This follows the US success last year of Shimizu Takashi’s remake of his own horror film, The Ju-on. Nakata is credited with starting the current horror boom in Japanese cinema, in particular with Ringu (The Ring) and its sequel, as well as “Honogurai Mizu no Soko Kara” (Dark Water, 2002). The latter is also being remade in the US, starring Jennifer Connelly.

• Popular singer Kuraki Mai (22) was one of 2,100 students who graduated from Ritsumeikan University yesterday. Dressed in a pale blue kimono, she said “It all passed so quickly. I had exams at the same time as concert tours, and I couldn’t join in club activities. But I made it, thanks to my friends.”

Yu is the Culprit!

Today is the Shunbun no Hi (Vernal Equinox) national holiday

There were reports last month of a female talento who admitted in a late-night quiz show to having experience of stealing. She said that she and friends had stolen boxes of food and drinks from a store’s stockroom over a period of six months. The program, “Coming Doubt,” ran a subtitle saying “Stealing is a crime!” but the revelation caused a fuss beyond what the girl and the NTV network were expecting. She wasn’t named in the media as her age was given as 18, making her a legal minor. But a report on the opening of a new movie on Saturday mentioned that star Abiru Yuu (18), who has recently been enjoying growing popularity on the variety circuit for her outspokenness, was unable to attend the opening ceremony as she was on “temporary leave.” Co-stars were very serious and tight-lipped about the matter, leading this reporter to put two and two together. Sure enough, the young talento was indeed the guilty party. Her father is in the shady money-lending business and has in the past been arrested for tax evasion.

Next Up for Rie

The next project in the works for talented actress Miyazawa Rie (31) is a movie with director Koreeda Hirokazu (42). Titled “Hana Yorimo Naho” it is a samurai drama that will reunite her with writer Fujisawa Shuuhei, who also wrote “Tasogare Seibei” (Twilight Samurai). It is the first “jidai-geki” for Koreeda, who is best known for last year’s Cannes hit “Dare mo Shiranai” (Nobody Knows). Miyazawa will play a widow living in an Edo tenement who becomes the love interest of a samurai.

• On-location filming for the new Kimura Takuya (32) TV drama “Engine” took place at the Malaysia Grand Prix yesterday. Kimutaku met members of the Toyota team, including Ralf Schumacher.