Korean actor Bae Yong Joon (33) is back in Japan yet again. It seems he just can’t keep his multitudes of middle-aged female fans happy without making regular trips. A change of hairstyle for a recent appearance in Seoul got such an online bashing from Japanese fans that he returned to his old style before setting foot in Narita Airport. He was at the Tokyo International Forum yesterday for the Japan Premier of his latest movie “Shigatsu no Yuki” (Snow in April). To avoid mass panic and a repeat of the injuries suffered by fans on Yon-sama’s previous visits, only 4,000 tickets were sold and seating was pre-arranged by lottery. About the same number of ticketless fans were waiting outside the venue to catch a glimpse of their idol. There was another large turnout today for an appearance at the Saitama Super Arena, which Yon-sama merchandising selling like hot cakes. It’s sure to be yet another very profitable couple of days in Japan.
• Life is imitating art for popular actress Yada Akiko (26). She and actor Oshio Manabu (27) are said to be seriously involved after they appeared together in the TBS drama series “Yume de Aimasho” (Let’s Meet in Our Dreams), which ran from April to June. They were reportedly seen together on a date in June and they travelled together to Hawaii during the summer.
• Model Nishimura Miho (24) has denied rumors of a split with Livedoor CEO Horie Takafumi (32). Horiemon has entered himself in the upcoming Sept. 11 general election, running in the Hiroshima constituency of powerful LDP rebel Kamei Shizuka. Perhaps he’s spreading himself a little too thin (though he seems to have put on weight) and his love life is suffering for it. Nishimura says she wants get married and have kids someday, but that the election and a possible political career has to come first.
The Nikkei Entertainment magazine recently published the results of its latest poll of the most popular and unpopular foreign celebrities in Japan. Top of the “out” list by a mile was Kaya (photo), the loud-mouthed American wife of singer/actor Kawasaki Mayo. She was followed by the king of lame jokes, Dave Spector. Third was singer Anges Chan, with many people complaining that even after many years in Japan, her Japanese pronunciation is strange. Next was Brazilian singer Marcia, who divorced hubbie actor Otsuru Gitan a year ago. Rounding out the Top 5 was Taiwanese pin-up Yin Ling of Joy Toy – yes, that’s her name! No further comment required, I guess. Doing better was Thane Camus, who topped the “in” list. Apart from his frequent variety show appearances, Thane has his own English school and talent agency for foreigners. Second in the list was Nigerian Bobby Ologon, who has burst onto the scene this year. He has been in the ring against K1 fighters and even landed a role in the latest movie in the “Tsuri Baka” series. Third was Korean actress and variety show regular Yoon SonHa.
• Among the highlights of Nippon TV’s 24-hour TV marathonwere the 100km run by a 59-year old lawyer and a scrawled message from a recovering baseball legend. Lawyer Maruyama Kazuya became the oldest runner to complete the annual gruelling 100km marathon that is always a centerpiece of the show. He is a regular panelist on the popular variety shows that feature fictional legal situations. Former Yomiuri Giants great Nagashima Shigeo (69) is still in rehab following a stroke but managed to sign a brief message, “Ikiru” (To Live), which he sent to the live show. He remains partially paralyzed on his right side.
Popular kabuki actor Ichikawa Danjuro (59) is taking an extended break to undergo treatment for leukemia. He was first diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukemia in May 2004, and he had treatment which was thought to have been successful. He made his comeback for a performance in Paris last October with his son, the current Ichikawa Ebizo (27). He and his son toured around Japan in June in celebration of the younger actor’s succession to the Ebizo name. The reoccurence of the disease was discovered during a regular checkup this month.
• Singer Kuraki Mai (23) has been doing the rounds in a yukata (light summer kimono) to promote her new album. “Fuse of Love” went on sale on August 24 and is her first release in a year and eight months. Her yukata is purple, which she says is her lucky color. It seems to have helped, as the album is currently at No.3 in the Oricon daily album chart.
• Meanwhile, top of the weekly album chart for the second week is the “Disco Zone” album by East-European group O-Zone. The infectious single “Koi no Maiahi” is still sweeping the country and popular as ever with young music fans. Actually sung in Moldovan, an online animation that put Japanese “lyrics ” to it caught the public imagination on 2Channel, the country’s biggest BBS.
Young movie director Toyoda Toshiaki (36) was arrested this week for possession of stimulant drugs. Five packets of the drug (about 3.9g) were found by police at his home in Komae, Tokyo. He admitted that the drugs were for his own use. Toyoda’s latest feature, “Kuuchu Teien” (Garden in the Sky) was due for release in October but the date is likely to be extended. Star of the movie, actress Koizumi Kyoko (39) is said to have been shocked by the news. Toyoda made his directorial debut with 1998’s “Porno Star,” winning a newcomer’s award from the Director’s Guild of Japan. Other films such as “Nine Souls” and promo video work for popular band Asian Kung-fu Generation had won him acclaim, making him one of the rising stars of the business.
• A TV company director was arrested in Tokyo on Wednesday for secretly filming up a woman’s skirt. Fukushima Tatsuo (45), an employee of NTV affiliate Nippon Terebi Video, was arrested after a woman noticed he had his mobile phone under her skirt on an escalator at Shimbashi station on the Ginza subway line. Fukushima has admitted and apologized for the incident.
• Yoshimoto comedian Tokui Yoshimi (30) had his briefcase stolen from his car this week while he was enjoying a late dinner. He was downing a bowl of gyudon (rice covered with beef and vegetables) when the window of his Peugeot was broken and the briefcase stolen. In fine comic fashion, he said the only thing he wanted back was his mobile phone, as it had the phone number of a female college student he had recently met. Tokui is one half of the manzai duo Tutorial.
Kabuki actor Nakamura Shido (32) appeared at an event yesterday to promote the upcoming TV Tokyo period drama about the Tokugawa clan. Shido will play the role of legendary swordsman Yagyu Jubei in the second episode of the 3-part mini-series. The series tells of the power struggles that continued for 20 years after the sudden death of the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, who unified Japan after centuries of civil war. According to a statement from the management agency of actress Takeuchi Yuko (25), she and Shido recently moved into a new home in Tokyo and are eagerly awaiting the birth of their first child. The couple married in June.
• Another kabuki actor is also in the news. Yamauchi Takaya (33) is rumored to be romantically involved with the recently divorced actress Okina Megumi (26). When asked about the rumor at a PR event for an upcoming stage production, he just smiled. Okina, who divorced the president of an IT company in July, flatly denied the rumor through her agency, which is standard practice.
• Some big names known for their “cute” appeal are making a few bucks on the side. Hollywood actress Meg Ryan (49) is to appear in the new TV commercial for Nescafe Excella coffee from next month. World No.1 women’s tennis player Maria Sharapova (18) will appear in the commercials for Canon’s new range of digital cameras. They will go on air from August 26. And local girl Suzuki Ami (23) is to make her CM comeback after 4 years. Enjoying a resurgence in a career that saw her at the top of the idol singer pack in the late 1990s but almost disappear for several years, she will be the face of Internet shopping mall N’s Street.
Yamane Yoshiaki (photo left, 29), one half of the comic duo Ungirls, has been romantically linked with popular talento Yamakawa Erika (23). The two first met on a variety show in May where they were paired together to do a bit of ballroom dancing. Ungirls have been one of the more unusual comic acts to enjoy the recent comedy boom. With Yamane and his partner Tanaka Takushi (29) both being tall and incredibly skinny, their visual impact and general nerdiness has made them hugely popular, especially with young girls. But not many would imagine Yamane as a romantic partner, so this latest showbiz couple is sure to turn lots of heads.
• Veteran actor Watari Tetsuya (63) has made his debut as a voice actor. He provided one of the voices for the upcoming new Sega action-adventure game for Play Station 2, “Ryu ga Shiku.” The cast also includes actress Mihara Junko (40) and former wrestler Fujiwara Yoshiaki (56). The game cost ¥2.4 billion to develop and is due for release this winter. Watari and Sega chairman Satomi Hajime were classmates at Aoyama Gakuin University and have been friends since. Sega and Watari, as president of the Ishihara Promotions agency, have also cooperated on supporting cancer charity work.
• Hamasaki Ayumi‘s latest TV commercial for Panasonic will feature the pop diva dressed as a maiko (apprentice geisha) in a striking red kimono and speaking in the distinctive Kyoto dialect. Ayu (26) has appeared in a long series of ads for the company’s digital cameras, the latest of which is the Lumix. She also wrote a new song for the commercial, “Will,” which goes on sale on September 14.
Singer Amuro Namie (27) has won parental rights to her 7-year old son. She divorced TRF dancer Sam (43) in July 2002 after five years of marriage, at which time Sam was given “parental authority” over their son, while Amuro had the “upbringing authority.” Following an arbitration by the family court, Amuro now has both. Both Amuro and TRF are with the Avex record label and are said to remain friends.
• The Korean entertainment boom is still alive and well. Singer/actor Park Yong Ha (28) yesterday became the first Korean artist in more than 20 years to play solo at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, something of a hallowed ground for musicians. He sang 23 songs, including one in Japanese and the theme to the hugely successful drama series “Winter Sonata.” With most of the 10,000 tickets going for a pricey ¥10,000, the concert pulled in about ¥100 million. Park will play the Osaka Hall on August 28. The success of the Budokan gig will be good news for other Koreans lined up to play the venue this year: R&B singer P (23) and singer-actor Ryu Siwon (32) will play two concerts each during the autumn.
• Veteran actress Nakamura Tamao (66) is said to be recovering well following her recent surgery. The ditzy widow of legendary actor Katsu Shintaro was forced to drop out of a planned September theater role when a polyp was discovered on her vocal chords.
The divorce of actress Sugita Kaoru (40) and wealthy heir Ayukawa Junta (44) doesn’t look like fading from the media glare after all. Early statements suggested that the couple would just put it all behind them. But now it seems that there’s going to be a war of words and a court case. Ayukawa’s lawyers have hinted at a libel suit against Sugita following claims of violence and harassment that she made in last Friday’s edition of a weekly magazine. Sugita certainly seemed to want to have her say on the air on a radio show at the weekend. But time and the show’s producers stopped her. You can expect this story to be around at least until something bigger comes along, like the September 11 election.
• Singer Matsuda Seiko (43) played her first ever overseas concert at the weekend. Seiko, in her 25th year in showbusiness, played for 5,000 fans in Taiwan — including about 600 who had made their way from Japan — to finish off her anniversary concert tour.
• Hollywood star Johnny Depp (42) is to make his first trip to Japan in ten years. Depp will arrive on September 3 to promote “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” his latest collaboration with director Tim Burton. It will be his second trip to Japan.
One of Japan’s most beautiful women is to make a long-awaited return to the small screen. Former actress Goto Kumiko (31) will make her first appearance on TV in five years as a special guest on NTV’s “Tokyo Bijin Monogatari” on Sunday night. She now lives a “celeb” lifestyle in Geneva with her husband, Formula One driver Jean Alesi (41), and their two children. On the show she will show her old friend Mauyuko (daughter of actor Tsugawa Masahiko) around their second home, a sprawling chateau near Avignon in France. The show is sponsored by cosmetics maker Shiseido and features Tokyo-based beauties, including Ito Misaki and Shinohara Kyoko, interviewing famous women around the world, such as Yoko Ono and Korean actress Choi Ji Woo.
• Nishikawa Takanori (34), drew a huge crowd on the streets of Shinjuku yesterday but only got to play one song for them. Nishikawa, who goes by the name of T.M. Revolution, was to play two songs in a “guerilla live” PR event for his new single “Vestige.” He turned up 10 minutes late, arriving in a ¥70-million Lamborghini Diablo – the only one in Japan – and surrounded by huge black bodyguards (there seems to be a stereotype in Japan that black bodyguards are more intimidating). By this time 5,000 people had stopped to see what was going on and police decided to limit him to just one song.
• Busty talento Megumi (23) is back to work today after last month’s traffic accident. She’s in Nagano for filming of an ongoing drama series. She was returning from the same location last month when the car driven by her manager was hit by a bus. She suffered a fractured hip and has been undergoing rehab.
Singer and actress Chinen Rina (24) announced that she recently married model Nakamura Kentaro (22) and is carrying his baby. She said in a statement that she is expecting the baby next April and will step down from her planned role in the December musical “Jekyll and Hyde.” Her place will be taken by Suzuki Ranran (30). A representative for Chinen and Nakamura registered their marriage at a city hall on August 10. The couple are living separately but are said to be looking for a new home. Chinen plans to take maternity leave as soon as filming of her current TBS drama series finishes. She says she will continue to work after becoming a mother.
• We seem to be having more than our usual share of earthquakes and heavy rain recently. A quake struck off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture in northern Japan yesterday afternoon, leaving about 60 people injured and stranding many on shinakansen (bullet trains) for hours. Among them was popular young model and singer Uehara Nami (14), who was stuck on the Tohoku Shinkansen for more than six hours. The cover model for teen magazine “Hana*Chu” was travelling between PR events for her new single “Real Me.”
• Fujita Susumu (32), president of IT company Cyber Agent, last night made his first TV appearance since his July 22 divorce from actress Okina Megumi (25). He appeared on the Fuji TV “Sora Tobu Guutan” variety show, which focuses on pseudo-psychoanalysis, usually of women. The show is hosted by popular female talento Yuka and actress Shinohara Kyoko. Fujita didn’t do too well in his analysis of several women on video, and admitted that the divorce has robbed him of his confidence in dealing with the opposite sex.