Monthly Archives: October 2005

A Princess for a Princess

Illusionist Princess Tenko (age unknown) has paid ¥17 million ($150,000) for a pretty ordinary used care. Ordinary except for the fact that it once belonged to John Lennon. The Austin Princess was driven by Lennon in the video for his classic hit “Imagine.” Tenko performs around the world and is known for her extreme wealth and lavish lifestyle. Also going under the hammer at the auction in Las Vegas was the white suit Lennon wore on the “Abbey Road” album jacket ($118,000) and a notebook that belonged to Marilyn Monroe ($16,000).

• Popular 80s rock band Anzen Chitai (Safety Zone) are to release their first album in 18 years. The album is actually a previously unreleased recording of a concert they played at the Nippon Budokan in July 1989, when they were at their peak. “Anzen Chitai VI – Live” will go on sale November 9.

• Actress Kinoshita Ayumi (21) met with over 800 fans as she launched her latest photo book at a PR event in Ginza yesterday. “La Dolce” includes many revealing photos of the popular pin-up girl taken during the summer on the southern island of Yakushima, a World Heritage Site. There’s even some of her original poetry in the book, for those who want more than just pictures…

Rare B’z on iTunes

Rock unit B’z have tied up with Apple Computer to offer buyers of their upcoming greatest hits album a chance to download rare video footage of the band. “Pleasure II,” due for release on November 30, will include a prepaid card for the iTunes music download service in Japan. The card can be used to download one of four videos of live performances, the oldest of which dates back to 1999, when B’z played the Kyoto Kaikan No.1 Hall, a much smaller venue than any they have played in recent years. The most up-to-date of the videos was recorded at their Osaka Dome show just last month.

• Talento Konishi Hiroyuki (46) and his wife Kou (42) are headed for divorce. She is said to have applied to the Tokyo Family Court to initiate the arbitration procedure in September and is seeking ¥5 million in alimony and ¥100,000 per month in child support for each of their two sons until they graduate university. The couple have been married since 1989 but Konishi suddenly walked out on the family in 1998. He has not provided adequate support over the intervening years, leading his wife to start filing for divorce. In February Konishi notified her, through a lawyer, that he was suffering from kidney cancer and she postponed the proceedings. But following a full recovery, he has agreed to attend the arbitration at the end of this month. It will be the first time in almost two years for the couple to meet face to face.

Shibata’s Tragic Secret

This week is a time of celebration for actor Shibata Kyohei (photo right, 54), with last weekend’s release of the detective movie “Mada Mada Abunai Deka,” in which he co-stars with Tachi Hiroshi. But it was revealed just this Monday that Shibata’s 20-year old second son died at the end of last year. A university student in Kyushu, he was found dead, apparently of a heart attack, in his apartment in mid-December. Shibata and his wife flew down from Tokyo to identify their son, who suffered from asthma. Shibata started filming the latest movie in the Abunai Deka series, the first in seven years, just three months later. The series has had a cult following since its days as one of the top Tv series of the 1980s. Shibata married a former model, who had a son from an earlier marriage, in 1983. They had a son of their own the following year and a daughter in 1987.

• Troubled rakugo performer Kairakutei Black (52) recently underwent emergency 3-hour surgery following a stroke. He was rushed to a Tokyo hospital complaining of chest pains after he finished a radio show last Friday. The son of an American father and Japanese mother, he has gone through many name changes during his career, including Tachikawa Levchenko and Kairakutei Sex, and took on his latest name in 1992. He recently amassed large debts, which led to his being dismissed by the Tachikawa rakugo school in June and being divorced by his wife. He now lives alone in a small Tokyo apartment without even a bathroom.

• Congratulations to the Chiba Lotte Marines baseball team and their manager Bobby Valentine on winning the Japan Series last night. It’s their third title and the first since they won as the Lotte Orions in 1974.

Bobby’s Budding Career

Nigerian talento Bobby Ologon (32) is to have his first dramatic role on TV. One of this year’s breakthrough TV celebrities, the goofy former K-1 fighter made his acting debut in this year’s 16th addition to the “Tsuri Baka Nisshi” movie series. And he’ll follow that up next month with a role in the Fuji TV drama series “Abunee Futari – Uranaishi, Ibuki Kei no Jiken File,” in which he plays the bodyguard of a fortune teller played by the cross-dressing singer Mikawa Kenichi.

• Actor Negami Jun died this week at a Tokyo hospital following a stroke. He was 82. A supporting actor on TV and in movies, he was best known as the devoted husband of singer Peggy Hayama (73). They often appeared on variety shows as a couple in the 1960s. Negami made over 100 movies during 20 years with the Daiei movie studio before switching to a long career on TV. He and Hayama married in 1965 and they recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in the hospital.

• Comedian Hotohara Toru (37) of the popular Yoshimoto duo Ameagari Keshitai broke a finger in a recent motorcycle spill. His comedy partner, Miyasako Hiroyuki (35), took his place in the scheduled filming of a mahjong TV show.

The Queen is Not Dead

Rock legends Queen (or what’s left of them) arrived in town yesterday. original members Brian May (58) and Roger Taylor (56) were joined by ex-Free vocalist Paul Rodgers (56) for the band’s seventh vist, but their first in 20 years. 300 fans turned out at Narita Airport to greet them. They have very fond memories of Japan, having been met by huge crowds on their first visit 30 years ago, just before they returned to the UK and released the earth-shattering hit Bohemian Rhapsody. This time around, they’ll play a series of dates starting tomorrow at the Saitama Arena, then Yokohama Arena and Fukuoka and Nagoya Domes.

• The Japan Series is turning into something of a slaughter. The Chiba Lotte Marines have put up double digit runs on the board in all three games so far and the usually formidable Hanshin Tigers batters have failed to show their fans much to hang their hopes on. The first two games were played in Chiba, the opener being the first Japan Series game ever called due to fog. And the TV ratings show that Hanshin fans were glued to their screens hoping their team would return to Kansai with at least one win under their belts – the region’s rating for the opening game was a whopping 33.2%. Lotte finished second in the Pacific League and had to go through two rounds of playoffs, beating last year’s champion Seibu Lions and then the Softbank Hawks, to advance to the series. They haven’t been there in 31 years but are playing like postseason veterans, perhaps thanks to rather than in spite of the postseason games. A lot of the credit also goes to Lotte’s popular manager Bobby Valentine, the first to take a team to both the Japan Series and the major league World Series, and on the verge of being the first non-Japanese manager to take his team to the pinnacle of the Japanese game (if you don’t count the Taiwanese-born, but Japanese passport holder, Oh Sadaharu). Ironically, the last time Lotte won it all was in 1974, when they were the Lotte Orions, and the team they beat, the Chunichi Dragons, was the first to reach the series managed by a foreigner, Hawaiian native Wally Yonamine.

Love Lost and Found

Romance has bloomed between popular actress Fukada Kyoko (22) and actor Uchida Asahi (23), according to the latest edition of weekly magazine Friday. The two, who are both with the major Hori Pro management agency, were spotted on a date in the upmarket Azabu Juban district of central Tokyo. They were photographed wearing “pair look” fashion and holding hands. “Fuka-kyon” has been spotted dining at the restaurant run by Uchida’s family, and Uchida has stayed over at her home, so the romance is hardly a secret. The couple met during filming of the 2000 movie, “Shisha no Gakuensai” (School Festival of the Dead) which marked Fukada’s first lead role and in which Uchida made his showbiz debut. Last year, Fukada was romantically linked with comedian Arita Teppei (34) of the duo Cream Stew, though both denied the rumor.

• Veteran actor Yokouchi Tadashi (64) and his wife, former actress Horikoshi Yoko (54), have separated. The women’s magazine Fujin Koron says they are close to divorce after Yokouchi left suddenly in July and joined another management agency run by a woman he is allegedly romatically involved with.

TIFF Starts Today

The 18th Tokyo International Film Festival kicks off today and runs until October 30. As last year, films will be shown at two main venues in the city: the Bunkamura arts complex in Shibuya and the trendy Roppongi Hills. And this year, the festival has a particularly distinct Asian flavor. The opening film is “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles,” the latest from celebrated Chinese director Zhang Yimou, while “Rikidozan” – a joint Japanese-South Korean biopic of the famous pro wrestler of Korean descent who was Japan’s first real TV icon – will be the festival’s closing screening. “Riding Alone…” stars veteran Takakura Ken, as a man who goes to China to meet his estranged and dying son. Director Zhang is head of this year’s jury, which will have to choose from a selection of 15 films in the competition category. In addition to the above and a selection of Japanese films, there are 12 from Southeast Asia, up from seven last year. Among the high-profile guests this year are Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park, who will hold a discussion event with Japan’s animation master Miyazaki Hayao, and Hollywood star Tommy Lee Jones. The Hollywood blockbuster’s getting their first exposure in Japan include Terry Gilliam’s “The Brothers Grimm,” starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger; “Proof,” starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Anthony Hopkins; Johnny Cash biopic “Walk the Line” with Joaquin Phoenix; and Roman Polanski’s version of “Oliver Twist.”

Yu’ve Been Robbed!

Popular model/actress Yamada Yu (21) is paying the price for her new-found fame, ¥4 million to be exact. That’s how much she lost in cash and jewellery when her familiy’s home in central Tokyo was burglarized last weekend. Nobody was home on Saturday evening when the security alarm went off, notifying local police. They arrived to find a window broken and ¥2 million in cash and the same amount in watches and jewellery missing. Yamada’s face is everywhere these days but the fact that she still lives at home and that the cash was all in ¥500 coins suggests that she still has her feet on the ground despite her leap to stardom over the last year.

• Pop duo Chemistry will release a new album on November 16, their first in 21 months. “Fo(u)r” is also their first self-produced studio work. They will play a 5-city tour from next January and ten lucky fans will be invited to meet them backstage at each venue. Member Kawabata Kaname (26) is said to be a big fan of comedy star Laser Ramon Hard Gay, whose catchphrase “Foh-!” may not be the inspiration for the new album title but is likely to be heard on the tour.

• Veteran comedian Miyagi Kenji of the manzai duo W Kenji died at a Tokyo hospital this week of lung cancer. He was 81. His widow Toshiko (58) said he had been in and out of hospital since being diagnosed with terminal cancer last year. “He loved cigarettes and smoked three packs a day. I wasn’t able to ask him to quit,” she told the press. Together with his late partner Higashi Kenji, Miyagi was a popular comedian in the early 1960s. He continued performing up to November of last year.

Issei Wins Art Award

World-famous fashion designer Miyake Issei (67) was among the winners of this year’s 17th Praemium Imperiale prizes. The awards are presented each year by the Japan Art Association. The awards ceremony was held at Meiji Kinenkan hall in central Tokyo, with honorary patrons Prince and Princess Hitachi attending. Each of the five winners received ¥15 million, a diploma and a medal. Miyake won in the sculpture category, as his designs are famous for their use of modern materials and 3-dimensional quality, such as the famous “Pleats Please” brand. The other award recipients included architect Taniguchi Yoshio and pianist Martha Argerich.

• Stevie Wonder is coming to Japan at the end of this month to promote his first new album in ten years. He’s also bringing an 11-member band, so there is obviously some serious PR going into the new album, “A Time to Love.” Though his music is often used in TV shows and commercials, he will be making his first studio appearance on a TV music show. According to Universal Records, he will arrive at Narita Airport on October 31 and stay in Japan for six days.

Seagal’s Blues

Hollywood star Steven Seagal (55) is in town at the moment, promoting not only his latest movie but also a new CD. The actor appeared on the Tokudane wide show this morning, speaking fluent Japanese and doing a pretty good PR job. His latest action film, “Into the Sun” was filmed entirely in Tokyo and Seagal’s dialog is almost all in Japanese, and Kansai-ben no less! He is married to a Japanese and has two children working in the entertainment business here as well as his own aikido dojo. But his American roots are there to see in his new CD, a blues album called “Songs From the Crystal Cave.” He collaborated on the album with such major names as Stevie Wonder. Asked during the Tokudane show for a comment on Sylvester Stallone’s new “Rocky 6” project, Seagal grinned as he said that Sly obviously didn’t get much work these days.

• Seattle Mariners star Ichiro has provided plenty of drama in his career, but he is soon to make a dramatic debut of a different kind. He will play himself in a 3-night special of the popular Fuji TV detective series “Furuhata Ninzaburo,” which will air over the New Year. In typical Ichiro fashion, he will be trying to pull off the perfect crime. The outfielder is said to be a huge Furuhata fan and has all the DVDs of the series. Since 1994 there have been three series and five specials, with big-name celebrities playing the villain each time (basically a ripoff of the Columbo concept). Star Tamura Masakazu (62) is perhaps one of the most impersonated actors on Japanese TV.

• Congratulations to baseball’s Chiba Lotte Marines, who won the Pacific League playoffs and will be in the Japan Series for the first time in 31 years. Managed by the popular Bobby Valentine, the Marines are a fairly low-profile team but have former MLB star Benny Agbayani. In the Japan Series they will be up against the fanatically supported Hanshin Tigers.