The 9th Fuji Rock Festival kicked off at the Naeba ski ground in Niigata Prefecture yesterday. Foo Fighters were officially top of the bill for opening day, but probably more fans turned out for the hugely popular British band Coldplay. Chris Martin and the band were making their second Fuji Rock appearance after they played in 2003. But Martin’s attempt at Japanese back-fired when he came on stage and greeted the audience with “Sayonara” (Goodbye) instead of “Konbanwa” (Good evening). Coldplay’s latest album “X&Y” has been No.1 in 31 countries and looks set to match the 10 million-plus sales of its two predecessors. Other big names on the opening day were The Music and The Pogues, and local bands such as The High-Lows and Crazy Ken Band. Photos and more are already up on the official site (http://www.fujirockfestival.com).
• The slump in TV popularity for the Yomiuri Giants shows no signs of letting up. Giants fans have always been fickle, and the 5.2% Kanto area viewer rating for NTV’s broadcast of their Thursday night game against old rivals the Hanshin Tigers was yet another season low. It was the lowest figure on all the networks, worse even that the 5.3% for “Pocket Monsters” on TV Tokyo. By contrast, the rating for the game among viewers in the Kansai area, centered around Hanshin’s hometown of Osaka, was a healthy 19.2%.
Popular South Korean actress Choi Ji Woo (30) finally arrived in Japan yesterday. She was scheduled to arrive for a series of PR events at the beginning of the month, but was rushed to a Seoul hospital the day before due to chronic fatigue. The actress – known to Japanese fans as “Choi Hime” (Princess Choi) was welcomed at Narita Airport by about 150 fans, far fewer than usually turn up for male stars. A spokesperson said she is not yet back to full strength, but she will meet fans and attend an event to mark the release of a new DVD and photo book tomorrow.
• This year’s 5th “John Lennon Super Live” event will mark the 65th anniversary of his birth and 25 years since his death in New York in 1980. To be held at the Nippon Budokan, it will feature a solo performance from Lennon’s widow Ono Yoko (72) for the first time. Also on the bill are a selection of big local names, including Love Psychedelico, Puffy, Okuda Tamio and Bonnie Pink. Tickets for the October 7 event go on sale on August 27.
• Actor Sugimoto Tetta (40) was questioned by police recently for stealing a bicycle, it was revealed yesterday. Sugimoto was stopped by police in Setagaya Ward of Tokyo late on the night of July 17. He was drunk and admitted to having taken a bicycle he found on the street. Police are unlikely to prosecute the actor and will deal with it as a minor offense.
It looks like the brief marriage between actress Sugita Kaoru (40) and wealthy heir Ayukawa Junta (44) really is at an end. Sugita is said to have taken the case for arbitration at the domestic affairs court. Appearing on recent variety shows, she has strongly hinted that her days as a “celeb” wife are close to an end, just six months after she shocked the showbiz world with her surprise engagement. She says she has returned her wedding ring — by parcel delivery, no less — and hasn’t seen her husband since a highly publicized fight four months ago. Asked if she still loves him, she simply replied, “No, I don’t.”
• Comedian Oka Hachiro died yesterday at a hospital in Hyogo Prefecture of complications resulting from pneumonia. He was 67. One of the stars of the “golden age” of the Yoshimoto Shinkigeki comedy troupe, he was among the first young comedians to join the group in 1969. In 1990, he and other older members found themselves being displaced for younger, more telegenic comedians and were relegated from TV appearances to regional theater performances. Over the following years, Oka struggled with alcoholism and cancer as well as his wife’s suicide and the untimely death of his son. He was recently in high spirits when he appeared in his role as mentor to the popular manzai duo of All Kyojin-Hanshin, who this year celebrate 30 years in showbusiness.
It seems like popular Okinawan duo Kiroro have to do everything together. Vocalist Tamashiro Chiharu (photo right, 28) announced yesterday that she is 3 months pregnant. Both she and the other half of the duo, pianist Kinjou Ayano (27), got married in the spring, and Kinjou announced her pregnancy in May. They will start a tour as a “foursome” on August 13.
• Some good and bad news for TV stations that had high hopes for some recent broadcasts. Fuji TV’s 25-hour TV marathon managed a high “shuukan” rating of 25.4% on Saturday night. The show also got a very respectable 22% for the finale on Sunday evening, when host Shofukutei Tsurubei (53) ended up in tears. At the other end of the scale, even the all-star games seem to be suffering from the declining interest in televised baseball. The two-game series was shown on TV Asahi on Saturday and Sunday. The first game got a poor 11.9% rating, while game 2 did even worse. Its 10.3% was the worst since monitoring began in 1994 and lower than 2001’s 11%, when it was still a three-game series.
• Actress Nakamura Tamao (66) is to undergo surgery to have a polyp removed from her vocal cords. The operation, planned for August, means that she has had to step down from her planned role in a stage show at the Meijiza Theater in September.
It was revealed yesterday that sumo star Chiyotaikai (29) and talento Kawamura Hikaru (photo, 25) have broken up. The media first reported on their romance in the summer of 2003, and marriage was thought to be on the cards. But it seems they split up about six months ago. Kawamura made the revelation during the recording of a variety show on Sunday. She recently joined the agency Suns, set up by former Yellow Cab founder Noda Yoshiharu (59), which specializes in busty female talento. Kawamura made her debut in Playboy magazine in 1996 (yes, she would have been about 16 at the time).
• Popular guitar duo Yuzu played to more than 120,000 fans over two nights at the weekend in their hometown of Yokohama. They played the two concerts at the Nissan Stadium, built for the World Cup in 2002 and the biggest in Japan.
• Academy-award winning musician Sakamoto Ryuichi (53) is back on the road again. His first tour in ten years will take him to four venues across the country, starting with Zepp Tokyo last night. The theme for his tour is the environment, and he has been an advocate of sustainable energy for several years. His rehearsals and concerts make use of electricity created by wind or solar energy. On Wednesday, he will make his first ever in-store appearance at the Tower Records outlet in Shibuya, Tokyo.
• Rising Hollywood star Orlando Bloom (28) is to pay another visit to Japan, just three months after promoting “Kingdom of Heaven” here in the spring. “Orly” will be arriving on August 1 to promote his latest feature, “Elizabeth Town,” directed by Cameron Crowe and produced by Tom Cruise. He can expect even more than the 700 fans who turned up at Narita Airport to welcome him in April.
It turns out that rumors about a split between actress Okina Megumi (photo, 25) and her husband were true. The actress married 32-year Fujita Susumu, president of IT company Cyber Agent, only in February of last year, and up until last month she was insisting that everything was fine between them. But her agency announced the news of their divorce today. In the statement she said that they had discussed and mutually agreed on the split. Last year’s romance was seen as part of a boom in eligible showbusiness women going for high-profile and wealthy IT types.
• Japan’s most famous and successful race jockey is to make his acting debut. Take Yutaka (32) will appear as himself in the ongoing NHK morning drama series “Fight!” His wife, former actress Sano Ryoko is said to be envious as she never got to appear in an NHK morning drama.
Actor turned singer Matsudaira Ken (51) is to release the follow up to last year’s smash hit “Matsuken Samba II” on September 14. For “Matsuken Samba III” he will augment his gold lame kimono with some fiery red. This time around Matsudaira has written his own lyrics. The actor best known for years as the “Abarenbo Shogun” samurai in the TV series of that name is hoping to cash in on another boom this year.
• Actor Takashima Masahiro (39) and musical actress Sylvia Grab (31) tied the knot on Grab’s birthday last Sunday and held a ceremony in Kyoto yesterday. They held a traditional wedding ceremony at the Shimogamo Shrine, a World Heritage Site that is open to members of the public for such ceremonies. They will then travel with about 50-60 guests for another ceremony and reception in Hawaii on July 30. They will also hold a formal reception party for about 1,000 guests at the Hotel New Otani in Tokyo on November 11. The couple gave a press conference to announce their engagement last December and originally planned to only have the ceremony in Hawaii, as Grab is studying in Boston. She is the daughter of a Swiss father and Japanese mother. Takashima comes from an acting family, with both his parents and his younger brother Masanobu (38) all familiar faces on TV and stage.
&$149; Also getting hitched was Golgo Matsumoto (38) of the comedy duo TIM. He married a 38-year old aromatherapist and former high school classmate. The two met up again after many years at a school reunion last summer.
The media have been surprised at the reletively light punishment given to Fuji TV staff involved in the recent scandal where an underage member of the popular group News was detained by police for drunken behavior. The group had been special guests in Sendai at a game played by national women’s volleyball team, after which the 18-year old was taken out dining and drinking by Fuji TV staff till the early morning. The company said that announcer Kikuma Yukino (33) and nine others will have their salaries docked. Kikuma will not appear on her regular morning show slot this week, and may be removed from the show altogether. The station received thousands of calls from irate viewers and many thousands more complaints on its website after the incident became known, most complaining that the punishment was too light. The case is so high profile that even the Chairman of the National Public Safety Commission made a public statement condemning both the behavior of the adults involved in the incident and the company’s response. Meanwhile, the 18-year old’s place in the 8-man group has been taken by Taguchi Junnosuke(19), a member of fellow Johnny’s Jimusho group Kat-Tun.
• Talento and former pin-up girl Megumi (23) was briefly admitted to hospital yesterday following a car crash on Sunday. She was being driven between work assignments by her manager when the accident occured. Megumi suffered bruising and is expected to take a brief break from her many drama and variety show commitments.
A veteran of over 300 movies, Osugi Ren (53) is to finally get the spotlight all to himself. In “Life on the Longboard” he will play his first sole starring role, as a man who feels lost after taking early retirement, only to find a new lust for life in surfing. Osugi has had starring roles a couple of times before, but always sharing the limelight with at least one other actor. The “man of many faces” was the natural choice for director Kita Ichiro, even though he had no experience of surfing. Normally, an actor would have time to learn the ropes before shooting, but a tight schedule meant Osugi had just five hours, and that was in between shoots! But the high-school soccer star still managed to get the first wave-riding shot done in the first take. He has since added surfing to his interests listed on his official website. The movie, which incidentally is Osugi’s tenth this year, is scheduled for release in mid-August.
• Another veteran back in the spotlight is singer Wada Akiko (55), whose latest single has set a new record. “Loop in my Heart/Hey!” her collaboration with popular duo m-flo, has entered the Oricon singles chart Top 10 at No.9, more than 33 years since she last made the Top 10 with “Yoake no Yume” in February 1972. The previous record of 22 years and one month was held by the Carpenters.
• Meanwhile, entering at No.1 for the fourth consecutive time are young boy band News with “Teppen.” (One of the younger members of the group was briefly taken into police custody last week for underage drinking. Fuji TV announcer Kikuma Yukino (33), who is reported to have encouraged the 18-year old to go drinking, has had to step down from her regular morning show.) Ketsumeishi kept the No.1 spot in the album chart for the third week with “Ketsunopolis 4”.
Today is the Umi no Hi (Marine Day) national holiday.
• Comedian Ayanokoji Kimimaro (photo, 54) married the former president of his agency, it was revealed on Saturday. The “mandan” stand-up comedian and his new wife have both been divorcees for some time and have been living together for years. Her son took over her position as president early in the spring, allowing the couple to finally tie the knot. Ayanokoji became an “overnight star” a couple of years back after a long career, first in his native Osaka and later in Tokyo. His distinctive look and sharp one-liners had won him a growing and loyal following among middle-aged housewives. But it wasn’t until their support helped make his CD the first comedy album to make the Oricon charts Top 10 in 2003 that the media finally put him in the spotlight.
• Another marriage just revealed: actress Ogawa Noriko (31) recently married a 53-year old TV company employee. A fax was sent out to the media yesterday saying that Ogawa and Yoshida Akio registered their marriage on July 1. The couple have been friends since Ogawa appeared in a TBS drama produced by Yoshida when she was just 13. She has been playing the daughter of the veteran detective “Hagure Keiji Junjoha” in the long-running TV Asahi series for 18 years. This is her first marriage, while Yoshida is a divorcee and father of two children.