The Yoshimoto agency has released the latest ranking of its best-looking and ugliest comedians in its monthly magazine. Top of the “otokomae” (manly) chart this year for the first time is Inoue Satoshi (30), one half of the duo Jicho Kacho. In second place is Kawashima Akira (27) of the duo Kirin, followed by Fujimori Shingo (22) of popular upstarts Oriental Radio. Less happy with his rating is Yama-chan (28) of the duo Nankai Candies, who topped the “busaiku” (ugly) chart. Jicho Kacho, who formed in 1994, are regulars on the variety show circuit and are on TV just about every day.
• Sexy singer Koda Kumi (23) has managed to get 12 singles into the Top 10 in 12 weeks, one single released each week since early December. This week “Someday/Boys Girls” entered the oricon chart at No.3. Nine of the 12 releases sold over 50,000 copies and altogether they sold over a million. The songs will be released on a hits album on March 8.
• Actress Yokoyama Megumi (36) is to remarry within the year, it was revealed yesterday. According to the Shuukan Josei weekly magazine, her fiancee is a Tokyo University graduate who is vice-president of a major foreign firm.
Former Dreams Come True member Nishikawa Takahiro (41) has been arrested again. He was found in posession of amphetamines while alone in his car in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district in the small hours of Saturday morning. He told police he had bought the drugs, which he was hiding in a candy box, a week before in Shibuya. The former DCT keyboard player was previously arrested for assaulting his sister-in-law in October 2002, seven months after leaving the pop group, and again almost immediately afterwards for drug posession. In that case, he received an 18-month sentence, suspended for three years. This time around, he could face up to 10 years in prison. Since June of last year, he has had a regular monthly gig as a club DJ in Tokyo and an associate said he had shown no signs of a drug problem at recent gigs.
• Movie director Oshima Nagisa (73) made his first public appearance in five years at the weekend. Battling a prolonged illness, the veteran director of such hits as “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” and “Ai no Corrida” (Empire of the Senses), appeared in a wheelchair at an event to mark the 70th anniversary of the Director’s Guild of Japan. He seemed in good form but left it to his wife, actress Koyama Akiko (71), to address the audience of about 400, which included DGJ chairman Sai Yoichi (56), director Yamada Yoji (74) and actress Yoshinaga Sayuri (60).
• A couple of big names announced for this year’s 10th Fuji Rock Festival, to be held on July 28-30. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers will be back for the third time – they are something of a Fuji Rock legend after a typhoon practically blew them off the stage in the very first year of the 3-day summer event. That year it was actually held near Mt. Fuji, but since 1999 it has been held in the picturesque ski resort of Naeba. Also among the 150 international and domestic acts playing this year will be Scottish band Franz Ferdinand. 3-day “early bird” tickets may still be available for ¥32,800 at the official website.
A new big showbiz couple is born, or at least is out in the open. Romance between Dragon Ash leader and vocalist Furuya Kenji (27) and talento Megumi (photo, 24) was revealed in the latest issue of weekly magazine Friday, out today. Megumi has managed to shed her image as just another busty pin-up girl to become a regular on the variety show circuit. She originally got into showbiz because of her interest in music, and after making her recording debut in 2003 she made friends in the hip hop scene. She and Furuya are said to have begun dating last year. She was spotted spending the night at his Tokyo apartment at the beginning of this month, and went directly from a late night of work on February 9 to Furuya’s birthday party. Noda Yoshiharu, president of the Sun Entertainment agency to which Megumi belongs, is said to have given his approval of the relationship. This is in sharp contrast to his anger last December at the romance between talento Seto Saki (20) and TM Revolution singer Nishikawa Takanori (35).
• Congratulations to figure skater Arakawa Shizuka, who became Japan’s first medalist of the Winter Olympics in Turin. She took gold following a performance that brought the crowd to its feet. Main rivals Sasha Cohen and Irina Slutskaya both fell during their routines and settled for silver and bronze. Suguri Fumie gave a rousing performance but had to settle for fourth place.
• Singer Gackt gave a performance of his new song at a PR event yesterday in Tokyo for the latest Gundam anime features. The song “Love Letter”, scheduled for release March 1, is the theme for “Mobile Suit Z Gundam 3: Love Is the Pulse of the Stars”, which opens in theaters March 4. gackt, dressed in a black suit, appeared alongside the cast of voice actors and director Tomino Yoshiyuki (64).
Hayami Mocomichi (photo, 21), the popular actor with the impossibly small head, has been chosen as the first male “image character” for the Ban deodorant. The brand, from maker Lion, has been around for 44 years and has been promoted by some major female stars, including Sakai Noriko, Amuro Namie and Goto Maki. In the new commercial, Hayami will play the coach of a high school girls’ softball team.
• Sexy singer Arashiro Beni (19) had a good day yesterday. On the same day she released her second album, “Girl 2 Lady” on the Avex label, she sang the national anthem at the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama, where the Japanese national team went on to beat India 6-0 in a qualifier for the Asia Cup. Arashiro said she was especially delighted to have had the honor as she played soccer in junior high school. The Nissan Stadium hosted the World Cup final in 2002.
• Crayon Shinchan, the animated brat that parents love to hate, is to make his first appearance in school textbooks. As the TV Asahi anime heads into its 15th year this April, about 73,000 new junior high school students (most born in the same year as the show) in and around Tokyo will find Shinchan and the Nohara family in their social studies textbooks. The textbooks use the Nohara’s to illustrate a typical modern nuclear family, in contrast to Chibi Maruko-chan and her more traditional family, with three generations living under one roof. “Cray-shin” has several times topped the annual PTA survey of TV shows that parents don’t want their children watching. But the show and its spin-off movies – the 14th will be released in April – have seen continued commercial and critical success, even winning an award from the Ministry of Culture.
Top fashion model Ebihara Yuri (photo, 26) is to play the girlfriend of SMAP member Inagaki Goro (32) in a new light drama series on Fuji TV. The series, “Busu no Hitomi ni Koishiteiru” (“Love in the Eyes of an Ugly Woman”, Tues. 10pm from April 11), is based on essays by Suzuki Osamu, a writer on the SMAPxSMAP variety show and married to comedienne Oshima Miyuki of the trio Morisanchuu. The word “busu” means ugly, and is often used to describe the members of the trio. Meanwhile Ebihara, known to her legions of female fans as Ebi-chan, is the regular cover model for fashion magazine CanCam. Her “cute-stylish” look is imitated by thousands of OLs (office ladies) and university students. The drama series, in which she plays herslef with a minor name change, is basically a marketing tie up between Fuji and CanCam.
• Actor Saigo Teruhiko (59) and singer/talento Henmi Mari (55) are appearing on stage together for the first time since their divorce 25 years ago. The parents of recently married talento Henmi Emiri (29), seem to have put the past behind them. Saigo heaped praise on his ex, recently divorced for the second time, for her still fine singing voice and expressed his thanks to her for raising their two children. The two are part of a group on a 19-date national tour.
• Veteran movie critic Mizuno Haruo (74) looked slimmer but in good form after his recent hospitalization. At the end of January, the TV regular suffered internal bleeding and was unconscious when admitted to a Tokyo hospital. He remained in that state for a day and a half but recovered fully and was released on February 10. At a press conference yesterday, he apologized to media and fans for causing concern and promised that he would ease off on his heavy workload.
• Popular freelance announcer Kojima Natsuko (37) said by fax yesterday that she gave birth to her first child on Sunday. She plans to return to her regular job on Tokyo FM radio in April.
Singer/songwriter Ayaka (photo, 18), who’s still in high school, recently made her first public appearance since making her highly anticipated recording debut with “I Believe” on February 1. She appeared at the famous Spain-zaka radio studio in Shibuya, a district popular with young people. The singer, who with her good looks and powerful voice is widely expected to be a big star, shares a birthday with Olympic figure skater Ando Miki (18), one of Japan’s hopes for a medal at the Turin Winter Olympics. She says she became friends with “Mikiti” after sending her a copy of her debut single and is cheering her on.
• Dreams Come True gave 2,500 fans a sneak preview of their new album at the weekend. Playing on the artificial beach in Tokyo’s Odaiba waterfront district, the pop duo of vocalist Yoshida Miwa (40) and Nakamura Masato (47) performed several songs from “The Love Rocks” which goes on sale tomorrow. They will embark on a 22-date national tour from April 8 to June 18.
• Comedian Arino Shinya (33), of the duo Yoiko, is to be a father. He tried to keep the good news a secret, but being a comedian means that anything like is to be used against you on the first available variety show. In Arino’s case, it meant getting covered in baby oil and smothered by similarly lubricated fellow comedian Yamamoto Keiichi (35) on last Saturday’s edition of “Mecha Mecha Iketeiru!” His wife Yuko (33) is expecting the child on March 24.
Hollywood star Samuel L. Jackson is to bring the “Afro Samurai” to the big screen. Jackson has already done the voiceover for the 5-episode TV version of the manga, made with Japanese studio Gonzo and Fuji TV, and has teamed up with “Batman Begins” producer Charles Roven to make a live-action version. The sci-fi/action story tells of a black samurai who sets out to avenge the death of his father, blending samurai style with hip-hop, creating a new kind of hybrid anime. The US office of Tokyo-based animation studio GDH came across the manga while searching for new material from Japan. Afro Samurai is the creation of graphic designer Okazaki Takashi (31), who self-published less than 100 copies of the strip in a magazine in 1998. Though virtually unknown in Japan, the Americans considered the manga very innovative and cool, and when Jackson got involved the project took on a whole new momentum. The series is scheduled to debut on SpikeTV in the US in the late autumn.
• Pin-up girl Kumada Yoko (23) has denied that she and comedian Okamura Takashi (35) are sexually involved. She was photographed several weeks ago leaving his apartment by photographers from a weekly magazine. Her explicit denial came on yesterday’s edition of the TBS show “Akko ni Omakase!” Hostess Wada Akiko (55) asked the direct question the gossip media have been speculating about for the last couple of weeks: “Did you have sex with him?” To which Kumada answered, “Honest answer. No I didn’t.” She added, “I couldn’t really hear what he was talking about most of the time. The only subject he really talked passionately about was Jackie Chan!” Showbiz denials are pretty standard, but the truth about this non-relationship may never come out.
Former baseball star Sasaki Kazuhiro (37) and his second wife, talento Enamoto Kanako (25), made their first public appearance together on Thursday. The former Yokohama Bay Stars and Seattle Mariners star pitcher caused quite a media storm last year when he was thought to have dumped his wife, former talento Shimizu Kaori, and the mother of his two kids for Enamoto, considered a “high maintenance” type. But Sasaki has custody of the kids and they all attended the Tokyo preview of “The Chronicles of Narnia” together, looking every bit the happy family. Sasaki, known to fans as “Daimajin” and who now works as a baseball analyst for TBS, admitted that appearing together in public made him uncomfortable, but added that if they didn’t do so occasionally, the weekly tabloids would start writing divorce rumors again. On a recent TV appearance with fortune-teller Hosoki Kazuko, Sasaki described how basically his former wife had been the one to walk out, leaving him to – as he put it in typical Japanese style – “make their lunchboxes every morning.”
• The latest issue of the weekly magazine Friday reports that rotund comedian Yamamoto Keiichi (37) and model/talento Osawa Akane (20) are romantically involved. Yamamoto is one half of popular comedy duo Gokuraku Tombo, while Ohsawa is the grand-daughter of Ohsawa Keiji, manager of the Nippon Ham Fighters baseball team. The unlikely romance is said to have started last October. Her agency describe Yamamoto as “just a friend, like a big brother.”
Police have filed papers with the Tokyo District Court on talento Bobby Ologun (39). The decision was made after they failed to resolve exactly what happened and who did what to whom during a brawl at his management agency in January. At the time, Ologun turned up at the Shibuya agency to dispute payments with R&A Promotions boss, Ito Kazuyuki (55). When Ito refused to meet with him, Ologun – a burly K-1 fighter – started trashing the office and got into a fist fight with 2.1m-tall John Muwete Muluaka (44), a fellow talento from Congo. The pair later appeared at a press conference and tried to patch things up. But when repeated questioning by police failed to resolve conflicts in their versions of events, it was decided to try and settle the matter in court. Talento Thane Camus (35), formerly with the same agency, offered encouragement for his friend at the opening of a new bar in central Tokyo yesterday. Camus himself is currently in a dispute with R&A after he left the agency to set up his own.
• Talento Niiyama Chiharu (25) is five months pregnant. She married Yomiuri Giants infielder Kuroda Satoshi (31) in December 2004. Kuroda is currently at the Giants’ spring training camp in Miyazaki Prefecture.
• Actress Matsushima Nanako (32) has been named to the cast of “Inugamike no Ichizoku”, a remake of the 1976 hit movie. It will be her first movie role in six years. The movie has the same lead actor, Ishizaka Koji (64), and director, Ichikawa Kon (90), as the original. Ishizaka will again play Yokomizo Seishi’s famous detective creation Kindaichi Kosuke.
Okinawan six-member hard rock band High and Mighty Color are to make their US debut, and in record time. The band’s first album “Goover”, which went on sale here in September of last year and entered the Oricon chart at No.2, will be released in the States on March 21. Shortly afterwards, they will release their second album in Japan, “Gouon Progressive”, on April 4. The US-market release of Goover comes just fourteen months after they made their major-label debut here in Japan, a new record. Much of the band’s success and popularity comes from the use of their song “Pride” as the theme for the anime series “Kidou Senshi Gundam – Seed Destiny”, which will air in the US from April. To coincide with this, on April 28 they will play about 10 songs at the Shiokaze Con anime convention in Houston (April 28-30). Haikara, as they are known to fans, will play Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka before heading to the US, and another ten shows after they get back. The band, labelmates of fellow Okinawan band Orange Range, is made up of five guys in their early 20s and vocalist Maaki (18), who said she couldn’t believe it when she heard of their US debut. The only band member with decent English ability is said to be guitarist Meg (21).
• Also looking forward to her US debut is musician Uno Misako (19), though she is heading for Tinseltown. A member of the pop group AAA, which won a Best Newcomer award last year, Uno is making her acting debut in the Hollywood remake of “Juon 2”, entitled “The Grudge 2”. With her good English and acting abilities, she was chosen by director Shimizu Takashi and producer Ichise Takashige to play the role of Miyuki, a cursed student at an international high school. She will play alongside Sara Michelle Gellar, who continues her role from the first film. Filming in Japan began on February 13. AAA (Triple A) is with the Avex record label and made of five guys and three girls.
• Hollywood actress Natalie Portman (24) is in town for the first time in six years. Arriving at Narita Airport yesterday in jeans and a sweater, she looked none the worse for her long flight from London. She’s here to promote “V for Vendetta”, the latest movie from the Wachowski brothers, makers of the “Matrix” trilogy. She’s scheduled to hold a press conference in Tokyo today.