Monthly Archives: December 2005

A “Promising” Award Season?

“Promise,” the Chinese movie starring Sanada Hiroyuki (45), has been nominated for a Golden Globe award. The movie, which only had its world premier in Beijing this week and is not scheduled to open here until next February, was nominated for Best Foreign Film. “Memoirs of a Geisha” star Zhang Ziyi (26) was nominated for Best Actress, with the movie also getting the nod for Best Score. The award ceremony will be held on January 16 in Los Angeles.

Mino Monta (61), the busiest man in Japanese showbiz, is to undergo surgery just days after he hosts NHK’s Kohaku Uta Gassen on New Year’s Eve. Monta, who hosts five hours of live TV every day as well as several weekly recorded shows, will enter hospital on New Year’s Day and have surgery on January 4. He plans to be back hosting his three live shows from January 14. The surgery is for a condition called spinal stenosis, caused by a narrowing of the spinal canal, which leads to back pain and difficulty in walking. Monta started experiencing lower back pains in April.

• Actor Mitamura Kunihiko (52) has once again shown his preference for much younger women. According to the latest issue of weekly gossip magazine Friday, a 25-year-old TV production company employee was spotted spending the night at his Osaka apartment earlier this month. Mitamura married actress Nakayama Maki (57) in 1980 but they divorced in 1999 after his affair with actress Takahashi Kaori (30).


SMAP, Aya Still Rule the Roost

SMAP‘s rule of the showbiz world shows no signs of fading. The 5-man pop group easily topped this year’s TV commercial popularity rankings, and the individual members took the Top 5 of the male star rankings. Katori Shingo (28) pushed Kimura Takuya (33) out of the top spot for the first time in 3 years, followed by Nakai Masahiro, Inagaki Goro and Kusanagi Tsuyoshi. Fellow Johnny’s Jimusho band Tokio, band member Nagase Tomoya, and gangly comedy duo Ungirls also made the rankings. The most popular female star was last year’s No.3 Ueto Aya (photo, 20) followed by 2004’s top star Matsuura Aya (19). Kuu-chan, the oh-so-cute Chihuahua from the Aiful commercials, was the most popular character.

Overall

1. SMAP

2. Katori Shingo

3. Kimura Takuya

4. Nakai Masahiro

5. Tokio

6. Ueto Aya

7. Inagaki Goro

8. Matsuura Aya

9. Kuu-chan

10. Kusanagai Tsuyoshi

Male

1. Katori Shingo

2. Kimura Takuya

3. Nakai Masahiro

4. Inagaki Goro

5. Kusanagai Tsuyoshi

6. Shimizu Shogo

7. Nagase Tomoya

8. Tsumabuki Satoshi

9. Yamane (Ungirls)

10. Tanaka (Ungirls)

Female

1. Ueto Aya

2. Matsuura Aya

3. Yada Akiko

4. Kiki Kirin

5. Yasuda Misako

6. Kato Ai

7. Matsushima Nanako

8. Horikita Maki

9. Miyazawa Rie

10. Suzuki Kyoka


Tomomi Bares (Almost) All

Singer Kahara Tomomi (31) has released a book of photos, including several semi-nude shots. “Crystallize” was shot on location in Melbourne and Cairns. The publication of the book comes several months after her latest album, “Naked,” which came out in June and had a shot of her topless but taken from behind. PR for the new book features a more risque shot of the faded star.

• The Tokyo apartment of actor Ishida Junichi (51) was recently burglarized, with a total of ¥5.5 million worth of items stolen. The total included ¥1.5 million in cash, several wristwatches and items of clothing. The burglar broke in through a garden window of the first-floor apartment in Aobadai district of Meguro Ward.


Sanada Gets Red Carpet Treatment in Beijing

Actor Sanada Hiroyuki (45) was in Beijing yesterday for the world premiere of his latest movie “Promise,” in which he shares top billing with Korean star Jang Dong Gun (33). The fantasy-action movie was made in China and directed by top Chinese director Chen Kaige. With temperatures dropping to -10ºC, the Japanese-Korean-Chinese cast removed their coats and braved the elements to greet about 1,500 fans and 250 reporters. The movie opens this week across China and on Friday in the US, but is not scheduled to open in Japan until February.

• Former idol star Kondo Masahiko (41) is making a real comeback. The Johnny’s Jimusho star made his debut 25 years ago and is marking the anniversary with a series of dinner shows across the country up to Christmas Day. He delighted fans at a show in Kagoshima yesterday with the announcement that next February he’s scheduled to play his first concert at the Nippon Budokan in 22 years. The show will be on Valentine’s Day and no doubt will feature at least some of his younger Johnny’s stablemates as special guests.

• Folk singer Yamashita Tatsuro (52) has managed to make the Top 100 of the Oricon singles chart for 20 years in a row with the latest release of his hit “Christmas Eve.” The next best is Wham’s “Last Christmas” at 10 years in a row. Meanwhile, on top of the chart is Koda Kumi (23). “You” is her first No.1 single, and the first of 12 she plans to release over the next 12 weeks.


TMR Vocalist and the Pin-Up Girl

Singer Nishikawa Takanori (photo, 35) and pin-up girl Seto Saki (20) are romantically entwined, according to the latest edition of weekly magazine Friday. The two were recently spotted holding hands as they entered Nishikawa’s home. The vocalist with TMRevolution and recently formed 4-man rock band Abingdon Boys School was previously married to Puffy member Yoshimura Yumi but divorced in July 2002.

• Rock star Yazawa Eikichi (56) played at the Zepp Tokyo venue last night, a medium size venue that saw him playing to crowd of about 2,700, a third of the size of his usual shows. Last night was the first of three nights in the capital, on a sold-out nationwide tour of “live houses.” It’s all part of a “back to my roots” approach to his 30th anniversary as a solo artist, following the break up of rock band Carol in 1975. ‘Ei-chan’ delighted fans with a rendition of “Whiskey Coke,” a hit from that year, as well as numbers from his latest album, “Only One,” released in September. The tour finishes up in Okinawa on December 21.

• Australian actress Naomi Watts (37) arrived at Narita Airport yesterday and was welcomed by about 300 fans. She’s in town to promote the new Peter Jackson version of “King Kong.” The movie will have its Japan premiere at the Tokyo International Forum tonight and opens at theaters on December 17.


Ryokos In and Out of Love

A wedding announcement yesterday came from stage actor Ichimura Masachika (56) and actress Shinohara Ryoko (32). The couple registered their marriage on December 8 and plan to give a press conference. They first met during a theater production of “Hamlet” in 2001. Rumors of romance have appeared several times in the weekly magazines but they were always denied. Ichimura divorced actress Yaezawa Mami in May 2003. He is currently in rehearsals for a production of the musical “Fiddler on the Roof.”

• Meanwhile the relationship between kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo (28) and actress Yonekura Ryoko (30) has come to an end. Yesterday Ichikawa made his first public appearance since the breakup but refused to make a comment.

• Singer Otsuka Ai (23) is the queen of the ringtones. She has a total of 163 ringtones, or chaku-uta, to her name and they have been downloaded over 10 million times. Her 2003 hit “Sakuranbo” was the first chaku-uta to become a million-seller. Her new album, “Love Cook,” goes on sale on December 14.


Ken’s Shock Wedding

Actor Watanabe Ken (46) and actress Minami Kaho (41) shocked the media with yesterday’s announcement that they had married last Saturday. The news came as Watanabe was in New York for the US opening of “Memoirs of a Geisha” (“Sayuri” in Japan), his third venture into the world of Hollywood. Minami was originally identified as an “unknown guest” at the premiere, an indication of how secret their romance had been. Watanabe and Minami issued a joint fax statement to the media, saying, “We’ve both been through a lot, but now we can look forward to calm and abundant time ahead.” In September Watanabe finalized his divorce from his wife Yumiko, who built up huge debts while her husband was battling leukemia. Minami divorced musician and award-winning novelist Tsuji Hitonari in 2000.

• Madonna (47) is currently in Japan promoting her latest album “Confessions From a Dancefloor.” It’s her first visit in 12 years, and yesterday at the Tokyo International Forum she gave her first press conference here in 20 years before giving a show for 2,000 fans. She said she planned to visit Kiddyland to buy toys for her two kids back home in the UK. Her new album is atop the Oricon western music chart and has sold over 300,000 copies here.


Sayonara, Obaachan

Actress Hara Hisako died on December 4 of heart failure. She was 96. Known as “Nihon no Obaachan” (Japan’s Grandma), she recently made the cover of the New York Times as Japan’s oldest active actress. She had been in poor health in the last few years, but continued working. Just last year she played a bed-ridden hospital patient in “Sayonara Color,” directed by actor Takenaka Naoto. “Even when we worked late, she was always, always smiling,” he recalled. “When we finished she thanked me and took my hand. I’ll never forget the warmth and softness of her hands.”

• 10 of the top Japanese and Korean pop artists took part in a joint concert yesterday in Seoul. The lineup included Nakashima Mika (22), the most popular Japanese artist in Korea, Johnny’s boy band V6, and Hirahara Ayaka (21). Although the temperature was -10 outside, Nakashima took to the stage in her trademark bare feet. She sang several songs from Korea’s best-selling Japanese album, “Love”. Her first greatest hits album, simply called “Best,” goes on sale today in Japan, tomorrow in Korea. Meanwhile V6 gave an acrobatic display of back flips and dance moves. Korean artists on the bill included rivals P (23) and SE7EN (21), as well as the Japan-based BoA (19). The event was part of the “Japan Korea Friendship Year” to mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

• The latest silly award goes to actress Kuroki Hitomi (45), who was named the first “Lifestylist of the Year” yesterday. In her 25th year in showbiz, the hugely popular actress is active in movies, dramas, stage productions and has has won awards for her writing.


Pop Marketing

You’ve probably never heard of the U.N.O. Band, and you’ll never see them play live. The five-man group was formed to record just one single and play one live event before disbanding. Made up of two manzai comedy duos, Ungirls (photo) and Itsumo Kokokara, and one half of the duo Cunning, the group recorded the song “No.1” which was used for TV commercials promoting Shiseido’s “Uno” cosmetic range for men. The single went on sale on Friday, the band played a record-store event and immediately announced that they were breaking up. Of course, it’s all a marketing ploy to milk the current popularity of the band members, as the comedy boom continues to populate the variety show circuit with dozens of comedy acts. The tall and gangly Ungirls in particular have managed to gain a huge following among schoolgirls, though playing in a band is probably a bit too cool for their carefully tended dorky image.

• Another celebrity has ben the victim of a break-in. It was revealed yesterday that the Tokyo home of rock singer Uchida Yuya (66) was broken into in mid-November. Several watches and jackets that the singer described as “priceless” were stolen. The news of the burglary comes shortly after that suffered by actor and former boxer Akai Hidekazu just last week.

• Rock band Southern All Stars played Tokyo Dome last night, wowing 47,000 fans with a set made up of 29 hits and songs from their new album “Killer Street.” The album has sold over 1.25 million copies. The 21-date tour continues up to New Year’s Eve, when the band will play Yokohama Arena.


More Kohaku Surprises

The media expressed great surprise that singer Wada Akiko will be taking part in this year’s Kohaku Uta Gassen, NHK’s annual New Year’s Eve song spectacle. The surprise is largely because she’ll be taking part as a member of rap trio “m-flo Loves Akiko Wada.” The gimmick act, featuring “Akko” and popular rap duo m-flo, released one single earlier this year, “Hey!” And though Wada is a popular star, the single was her first time in 33 years to make the Oricon Top 10. The move is seen as yet another attempt to revive the struggling ratings of the once-mighty jewel in NHK’s crown. Another was last month’s announcement that “king of the emcees” Mino Monta would be given that role for the show, the veteran’s first venture onto the public broadcaster. Other first-timers scheduled to appear include folk veteran Matsutoya Yumi (51), sexy club queen Koda Kumi (22), and WaT, the duo of Wentz Eiji (20) and Koike Teppei (19) who made their major label debut just last month.

• Actor Sakaguchi Kenji (30) and actress Ito Misaki (28) have been awarded this year’s “Best Dresser Award”. Sakaguchi was dressed in a black suede jacket and jeans for the award ceremony, but said he only has two jackets altogether. The actor, who spoke briefly for the first time about his split from girlfriend Koyuki (28) earlier in the year, said, “I can’t easily describe what I’ve been through this year,” adding that the award was both an honor and pressure. Ito wore a camisole-type long white dress. Other winners were music producer Matsutoya Masataka (54) and Cyber Agent CEO Fujita Susumu (32).