Women’s figure skating is enjoying a real boom at the moment. The women’s event in the recently held Japan National Figure Skating Championships had a 33.7% audience rating for Fuji TV in the Kanto region, the network’s highest rating this year. Suguri Fumie captured her fifth national title on Sunday and secured one of three spots for Japanese women at the Turin Winter Olympics, along with Arakawa Shizuka and Ando “Mikiti” Miki. Teen sensation Asada Mao (photo) finished second with a free skate that included two triple axels, but is too young to be eligible for the Olympics. Even Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro chimed in that he couldn’t understand why Asada wouldn’t be skating in Turin, but rules are rules.
• Singer Noguchi Goro is to appear in next year’s historical taiga drama on NHK, his first taiga role since 1996, when he played Tokugawa Yorimoto. This time around, he’ll be playing the brother-in-law of the famous shogun Toyotomi Hidetoshi (played by Emoto Akira). The star-studded cast of “Komyo ga Tsuji,” which starts on January 8, also includes Tachi Hiroshi (as warlord Oda Nobunaga), Nishida Toshiyuki (as shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu), Nakama Yukie and Takeda Tetsuya. Noguchi turns 50 next February, when he will issue a special DVD of a live performance this spring which marked his 35th anniversary in showbiz.