SMAP member Kimura Takuya (33) is to revive the hugely popular dramatic role he played in “Hero”. The 2001 show had an average audience rating of 34.4%, the highest ever for a Fuji TV drama series. It was also the first time that all eleven episodes of a public network drama had broken the 30% barrier. It is just one of several solid performances from Kimura that have made him probably the most popular male star in Japan. Fuji announced this week that will be broadcasting a Hero special in July. As for the timing, with a series of recent headline stories featuring public prosecutors investigating high-profile crimes, Fuji decided it was a good time for Kimutaku to revive his role as the rebellious prosecutor Kuriu Kohei. The special will include original cast members such as Matsu Takako (28) and Abe Hiroshi (41), but also add big names like Tsutsumi Shinichi (41) and Nakai Kiichi (44), and rising young star Ayase Haruka (21).
One of the popular “sexy groups” of the 90s is to be revived with new young members. The trio will make their debut in May with the song “Cherry Girl”, a Japanese euphemism for a virgin. The group is made up of Araki Nozomi (18), Airi (23), and Chiba Miku (18). With their teeniest of mini skirts and “t-back” thongs, the group are said to combine sexiness with the currently popular term “moe”. The term is difficult to translate but is close to the English words crush or infatuation. It’s often used to describe the feelings that otaku (nerds) have for girls dressed up in maid or anime character costumes.
• Actor Watanabe Ken (46) was presented with the 15th Yodogawa Nagaharu Award yesterday. The award is named after the late movie critic who was a regular presenter of movies on TV for many years until his death in 1998. Watanabe, who recently worked with director Clint Eastwood (75) on the movie “Red Sun, Black Sand” about the WWII battle of Iwojima, said he would like to direct himself someday.
• Actress Sakurai Sachiko (32) has divorced music producer Tanaka Satoshi (43) after two and a half years of marriage. The couple first met in 1990, when Sakurai made her singing debut, and started dating six years later. In a fax sent to the media, the couple said their work schedules had driven them apart but that they will remain friends. They have no children.
• This week, singer/songwriter Nagabuchi Tsuyoshi (49) said a final farewell to his father, who died of cancer at the age of 77. A funeral was held on Wednesday for the former police officer at the Honganji temple in Tokyo’s Tsukiji district. Nagabuchi read the lyrics of a song he wrote for his father and performed his new release, “Close Your Eyes”.
Now this is one showbiz couple that’s caught everyone by surprise. According to the latest issue of the weekly magazine Friday, actress Koizumi Kyoko (40) is involved in a secret love affair with Kamenashi Kazuya (20) of the boy band Kat-Tun, who was photographed visiting her Tokyo apartment in her car. The magazine says he now spends about half of every week at her home. The pair have not worked together, and are said to have met through the owner of a bar in the capital. Johnny’s Jimusho, which represents Kamenashi, as well as just about every other young male pop star in Japan, has denied that the pair’s relationship is romantic. They added that Koizumi is a “dai sempai” (lit. respected superior) who has been offering fashion and other advice. Koizumi was one of the top idol singers of the 1980s, when she gained the nickname Kyon-Kyon, and is now an established actress. She was married for several years to actor Nagase Masatoshi (39), but they divorced in 2004. Kamenashi is one of the most promising among the young crop of Johnny’s stars. Kat-Tun recently topped all the charts with their debut single, album and DVD, while Kamenashi last year teamed up with fellow Johnny’s member Yamashita Tomohisa as the duo Shuji to Akira, releasing one of the year’s best-selling singles. He also appeared in last year’s hugely popular NTV drama series “Gokusen”.
• Talento Enamoto Kanako (25) is pregnant with her second child, a year after she and retired baseball star Sasaki Kazuhiro (38) had their first. She is expecting the baby in mid-July. Sasaki divorced his wife, a former talento, a year ago and almost immediately married the already pregnant Enamoto.
Singer Kitade Nana (18) is hoping to create a “gosukawa” boom. The expression is an abbreviation of “gothic kawaii”, and combines “kawaii” (cute) with the “gosuloli” fashion that mixes the stark black and white of Gothic with the frills and lace of Lolita girls. The name Nana is pronounced the same as the word for “seven”, so Kitade is releasing a new song on every day that has a seven in it over the next four months. The first, “Moonlight Densetsu” is a cover of the Sailor Moon theme song and is due for release on April 27. There will be 13 releases in all up to August 27, though they will only be available as ¥100 “chaku-uta” (songs downloaded to mobile phones). The idea is similar to marketing tactic used by singer Koda Kumi (23), who released a single a week over 12 weeks at the end of last year and saw huge combined sales, while also coining the phrase “erokawa” (erotic kawaii).
• Popular Fuji TV announcer Sasaki Kyoko (33) announced on live TV yesterday that she recently got divorced. The “Tokudane!” morning wide show co-presenter, who married TBS announcer Ikeda Hiroyuki only in May of last year, broke the news on her return from a two-week foreign location shoot. It seems she registered the divorce before she left on April 8. Ikeda is a presenter on the TBS show “Evening Five”.
• The band Godiego are to get back together for the first time in seven years. It’s been 30 years since they started and they are well past their heyday. They are best known for a couple of theme tunes, the Saiyuki theme “Monkey Magic” and “Ginga Tetsudo 999”. Saiyuki has been enjoying a revival with a new updated version doing well on TV this year. Godiego first split in 1985 and there was a brief reunion in 1999.
Musician and producer Tsunku (37) is engaged to marry a 25-year old former model. The SharanQ vocalist is also the man behind Morning Musume and the many other spinoff groups spawned by the Hello!Project. He and Kanako, a native of Fukuoka Prefecture, met through a mutual friend last year. They are planning a June wedding, most likely with the Momus hit “Happy Summer Wedding” playing in the background. Tsunku said, “Having met her, I feel I have a new challenge ahead of me. I also have someone to share all my emotions with.” SharanQ are also planning to make a comeback this autumn, performing for the first time in five years.
• And returning to the big screen for the first time in five years is singer Hiro (22). The former Speed member will star in “Back Dancers” along with fellow singer Sonin (23), Saeko (19) and Hirayama Aya (22). The movie is scheduled to open in September.
• One of Japan’s biggest pop stars and the man behind the legendary anime “Akira” make quite a team. Singer/songwriter Utada Hikaru (23) has teamed up with anime director Otomo Katsuhiro (52) on Nisshin’s latest Cup Noodle TV commercial. “This Is Love” is the background to a story of freedom fighters set in the 23rd century. The commercial airs from today, while the song goes on sale as a single on June 14 and will be included in Utada’s upcoming 4th original album, “Ultra Blue”.
Up till now, the only guys to grace the cover of Marie Claire magazine have been foreign superstars. But on the cover of the June issue is J-pop idol Matsumoto Jun (22). A member of popular Johnny’s Jimusho boy band Arashi, “Matsujun” is one of the agency’s up and coming stars. On the magazine cover, he is shown in an embrace with a Russian model. Inside, he talks about his ideas of love and romance. In its 24 years, the women’s fashion mag has featured several foreign men on the cover, including soccer star David Beckham, but Matsumoto is the first Japanese guy.
• Rock duo Love Psychedelico played their first ever free gig as part of the global Earth Day events on Saturday. The performed eight songs, including a cover of the Beatles’ “Help!” which they will release as a single in June. Earth Day events took place in 140 countries worldwide.
• Singer/songwriter Otsuka Ai (23) played her first ever arena concert as part of her ongoing 9-city national tour. She performed 22 songs, including her current hit “Frienger”, for 15,000 fans at Yokohama Arena.
• Comedian Gori (33) is to try his hand at movie direction. He will not only take the megaphone but also write and star in “Keiji Bogey”, described as a “hard-boiled comedy”. The movie will be shown at the Short Short Film Festival 2006 in June. In its eighth year, the event is Asia’s biggest for short films. Gori, one half of the comedy duo Garage Sale, is best known for his garish, cross-dressing Gorie character.
Actress Adachi Yumi (24) got a couple of surprises yesterday. One was her mother, 48-year old Adachi Yuri (photo), announcing her book of nude photos, including so called “hair nudes” which show pubic hair. The book, titled “Myself”, will go on sale on May 29. The “stage mama”, who has been by her daughter’s side since she debuted as a child actress, says she didn’t inform her of this latest career move. Yumi may have been taken by surprise by that announcement, but the revelation that her husband, comedian Itoda Jun (33), was recently spotted at a hotel with his ex-girlfriend must have come as more of a shock. The story appears in this week’s edition of the gossip magazine Friday, which photographed Itoda and a 24-year old actress named only as N entering a hotel on April 3, just nine days before Adachi gave birth to their first child. Itoda’s agency released a statement saying his ex-girlfriend had met with him simply to talk and that he had already told his wife about the meeting. But a friend of the couple says that Yumi was more than a little displeased about the whole thing.
• Singer/songwriter Yoriko (21) has been hospitalized due acute abdominal pains. She has been forced to postpone a five-date national tour that was scheduled to start on April 28. She made her debut in 2002, and has a history of cancer from her childhood.
• The work of actor Yakusho Koji (50) will be in competition at cannes yet again this year. “Babel”, in which he appears with Brad Pitt (42), has been entered for the Palm D’Or, the main prize at the cannes International Film Festival. It’s the fourth time for Yakusho to be in the spotlight at Cannes, following the nomination of “Unagi” (1997), “Yuriika” (2000) and “Akai Hashi no Shita no Nurui Mizu” (2001). The movie will be screened on May 23 and the winner of the Palm D’Or will be announced on the last day of the festival, which runs until May 28.
Ten years after the death of actor Asami Kiyoshi, a recording he made almost 30 years ago is to be re-released. Asami will forever be remembered for his role as Tora-san in the “Otoko wa Tsuraiyo” movie series, the longest running series in the world. The movies had various themes but traveling salesman Tora-san always returned to his shitamachi (dowtown) home. The Asakusa district is the capital’s most famous shitamachi and the song “Asakusa Nikki” recalls Tokyo in a bygone age. The 1977 recording has been remastered as a duet between Asami and Kaguyahime member Yamada Panda (59). Asami died in 1996 at the age of 68, having made 48 movies as Tora-san under the direction of Yamada Yoji.
• Talento Fujimori Yuuko (37) is five months pregnant. The former member of sexy group C.C. Girls married the 38-year old president of a TV production company in 2004. She will the first of the group’s original members to become a mother.
• Actress Lee Reisen (64) has won her libel case against a magazine publisher. The mother of actor Otsuru Gitan (35), she took the publisher Shufu to Seikatsusha to court for an article that appeared in its Shuukan Josei magazine. The article claimed that a typical bad “yome shuutome” (bride versus mother-in-law) relationship between Lee and singer Marcia (37), led to her son’s divorce. Lee sought ¥5.5 million in damages and was awarded &1.1 million by the Tokyo District Court. Otsuru and Marcia split in 2004 following another of his extra-marital affairs, for which he apologized during a live press conference. The Tokyo-born Lee is the daughter of ethnic Koreans and was married to actor Kara Juuro (real name Otsuru Yoshihide) from 1967 to 1988. Marcia (real name Nishiie Kazue Marcia) is a Brazilian of Japanese descent.
The host club boom continues to grow. The world of host clubs has recently given us comedian Hiroshi (34) and actor Shirosaki Jin (28), who is to make his recording debut in June. The latest name to set the ladies swooning is Houzyou Seiji (28), a host at the famous Club Aqua in Osaka, which featured in a recent TV documentary. More than 300 female fans turned up to the launch of his new book, “Ichioku Hoshiika!” (Do You Want 100 Million?). The appeal seems to be that these guys have movie star looks and charisma but fans can meet them anytime, if they fork out the money to visit their club. Club Aqua has pretty intensive training for its hosts, including teaching them speaking techniques using rakugo CDs and having their teeth fixed or even plastic surgery, things that any talent agency will put its prospects through. The industry took a hit earlier this year when some students from one of Osaka’s elite universities who also worked as hosts were arrested for extortion.
• Talento Abe Mihoko (30) and South Korean soccer player Choi Sung Yong (30) are expecting their first baby. The couple married in 2003 and are currently living in the Korean city of Suwon. Abe has yet to decide whether to have the baby, due in November, in Korea or at home. She will be in Japan later this month to promote a new book of Korean cooking.
Music chart company Oricon has carried out a survey to find Japan’s ideal leader figures. Among junior and senior high school boys, Seattle Mariners star Suzuki Ichiro was the number one choice as an ideal “sempai” (senior member) for their club activities. The choice reflects Ichiro’s clear leadership role and enthusiasm in the recent World Baseball Classic, where he led his countrymen to the championship. He was followed in the survey by former tennis player Matsuoka Shuzo, now a regular on TV, and comedian Akashiya Sanma. Strangely enough, comedian Razor Ramon HG (Hard Gay) was the No.4 choice. In 10th place was singer Otsuka Ai, the only female choice. On the other hand, teenage girls made popular comedy duo Oriental Radio their No.1 choice. Other male choices included Kamenashi Kazuya of the pop unit Kat-Tun (#2), Koike Teppei of duo WaT, Ichiro (#5), and Porno Grafitti vocalist Okano Akihito (#9). Female choices were actress Ueto Aya, talento Becky, and sexy singer Koda Kumi.
• Talento Kubo Keiko (34) is engaged to basketball player Kita Takuya (33), who plays for the Toshiba team in Japan’s pro basketball BJ League. Kita was a fan of Kubo’s and she first agreed to go on a dinner date with him in 2001 if Toshiba won the league. He is said to have proposed a year ago and they have been living together since. Kubo plans to continue her career after their marriage on May 13.
• Model Akai Saki (19) was on the catwalk at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo yesterday. The daughter of actor and former pro boxer Akai Hidekazu (46), she is a campaign girl for Asahi Kasei’s new range of summer bikinis. The tall and slender model is being compared to Yonekura Ryoko and Sato Eriko, who have built on their modeling careers to become successful in showbiz.