Talento Hinagata Akiko (photo, 28) has denied the rumor that appeared in a recent women’s weekly magazine saying that she is the true love of singer Nishikawa Takanori, better known as TM Revolution (35). Appearing at a PR event for Taiwanese fruit yesterday, she insisted that Nishikawa was an old friend and nothing more. He is said to be involved with Seto Saki (21), who is with the same Suns Entertainment management agency as Hinagata. Both stars are divorcees: Hinagata was married to TV commercial director from 1998 to 2003 and they had one child; Nishikawa was married to Yoshimura Yumi, one half of the pop duo Puffy, from 1999 to 2002.
• Talento Enamoto Kanako (25) gave birth to her second child yesterday morning at a Tokyo hospital. She and retired Yohohama Bay Stars and Seattle Mariners baseball star Sasaki “Daimajin” Kazuhiro (38) have been married since last year, when he divorced former talento Shimizu Kaori.
• Singer Hajime Chitose (27) finished her national tour yesterday with a show at Nakano Sun Plaza in Tokyo. It was her first tour since getting married in 2004 and becoming a mother. She was joined on stage for one song by singer Yamazaki Masayoshi (34), who is with the same management agency.
Johnny’s Jimusho yesterday announced its first international collaboration project. Yamashita Tomohisa (photo, 21), a member of the group News, is to team up with pair of Thai pop stars and several other Johnny’s members to form a new group. The 7-member Kitty Gym will be active for a limited time only, as it is being formed purely to promote the upcoming Women’s Volleyball World Grand Prix. The event opens in Tokyo on August 18 and the group will record the official “ouen” song. The Thai stars are popular brothers Golf (19) and Mike (16), who were members of the Thai Jr. idol group set up by the local Johnny’s office in 2002. They have participated in several recording and live events in Japan. The rest of the group will be made up of four members of Johnny’s Jr.
• Matsumoto Kouta (27), one half of the comedy duo Regular, got hitched yesterday. He announced to fans at the Yoshimoto Hall in Tokyo that he and his new wife Megumi (29) had earlier registered their marriage at the city office. Comic partner Nishikawa Akihiro (26) even dressed up in a wig and white sleeveless dress to give the audience an idea of what the newlyweds look like.
Kyogen actor Izumi Motoya (32) is in trouble again. This time it’s the tax authorities that have him in their sights, as the company that represents his business interests is charged with hiding over ¥150 million in income. Accounting errors are said to amount to over ¥200 million, and the company is facing an additional tax bill of more than ¥100 million. While Motoya himself is a director of Izumi Souke, the company is headed by his overbearing mother Setsuko. She is said to have denied the existence of an “off the books” bank account, into which payments for theaterical and TV performances were made. The incident comes at a bad time for Izumi, as it follows the recent Supreme Court rejection of an appeal against his dismissal from the official Nohgaku Kyokai. The organization kicked him out following a series of cancelled performances, double-bookings and publicity stunts that were considered to have damaged the traditional art form, which dates back to the 14th century. He has since continued in the same vein, even recently taking part in full costume in a pro wrestling event.
• Suzuki Ami (24) has teamed up with Avex labelmate Otsuka Ai (23) to produce her latest single. ‘Amigo’ penned the lyrics for “Like a Love?”, while Otsuka was in charge of the music and arrangement. The pair became friends after they performed together in Avex’s annual “a-nation” festival last year.
• “Hysteric Summer 2006”, an outdoor music festival scheduled for the end of July in Fukushima Prefecture, has been cancelled due to poor ticket sales. Less than 10% of the total 15,000 tickets had been sold, despite the lineup including such fairly popular acts as Da Pump, Suzuki Masayuki (49), and Jay Walk. Organizers are refunding the costs of tickets sold.
Yesterday I described the ailing Shimada Shinsuke as one of the hardest working men in Japanese showbiz. But the undisputed champion is Mino Monta (61), and it’s now official. The latest issue of Forbes magazine mentions Mino in an article related to its annual Celebrity 100. The local media has picked this up as though he were the first Japanese to appear in the list of the world’s top stars. Of course, he doesn’t enjoy anywhere near the global celebrity status of Tom Cruise, Tiger Woods or even fellow countryman Watanabe Ken. But his incredibly gruelling schedule, that sees him working ten regular shows and has him on air a whopping 35 hours a week, makes him the country’s highest-paid TV star. Forbes reports his annual income as $10 million, though that is probably just for the regular shows and doesn’t include book royalties and TV commercials.
• Hamasaki Ayumi (27) has reached a remarkable milestone. With her 40th sinle “Blue Bird” entering the Oricon charts at No.1 and having sold over 160,000 copies in its first week of release, she is the first solo artist to have sold over 20 million. The only other artists to manage that feat are B’z, Southern All Stars, Mr. Children and SMAP. All groups and all male, except for SAS keyboard player Hara Yuko. Hamasaki has also extended her own record of No.1 singles to 27, the most by any female artist (Matsuda Seiko is No.2 with 25 and unlikely to have too many more).
Singer Utada Hikaru (23) is gearing up to go back on the road. Following the recent release of her first original album in four years, she is set to go on tour from July 1 to September 10. She held a rehearsal at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba Prefecture on Sunday, her first live performance since playing at Nippon Budokan in 2004. The show was attended by about 3,000 people from the press and music industry. She put on almost a full show, based around tracks from “Ultra Blue” but also including almost all of her 19 singles, which have sold over 17 million copies to date. Her upcoming tour, the first since her exhaustion-interrupted debut national road trip six years ago, will take in 11 cities across the country. The “Utada Unite 2006” show will feature visuals designed by her husband, Kiriya Kazuaki.
• Hamasaki Ayumi (27), Koda Kumi (23) and Otsuka Ai (23) were among the stars performing at a special show yesterday for 4,400 Avex shareholders at the Tokyo International Forum. The record label saw record sales last year of ¥89.7 billion, with profits up more than five-fold, and seems to have overcome the internal power struggle that shook the company in 2004. Hamasaki arrived on stage accompanied by birds before launching into her latest single, “Blue Bird”.
• Master emcee Shimada Shinsuke (50) has taken time off work to recover from illness. One of the hardest working people in showbiz, the former comedian was recently diagnosed with tonsilitis and forced to cancel the recording of one of his several regular weekly shows.
• Fuji TV presenter Ogura Tomoaki (59) was robbed during his recent visit to Germany. The host of the daily “Tokudane” morning wide show was in Germany for what was to be Japan’s final World Cup game against Brazil. His room at a top-class hotel in Dortmund was broken into while he was at the game. His money and passport were in a safe and untouched. But various country team shirts that he had bought as souvenirs were stolen – all except the Japnese shirts.
If it works for The Simpsons…popular young stars Hayami Mokomichi (21) and Aibu Saki (21) are to be the first actors to appear as themselves on the long-running TV Asahi anime series Doraemon. Yesterday the pair were in the studio to record their parts for the June 30 one-hour special episode, a tie-up with their upcoming drama series “Regatta”, also on TV Asahi from July 14. During its 27-year run, Doraemon has become a TV institution that handles moral issues with a light touch but rarely brings in the real world. Singer Watanabe Misato (39), who once sang the show’s theme song, is the only star to have made an appearance. In the upcoming episode, self-centered main character Nobita and his friend Doraemon, a robot cat from the future, happen across the riverside location shoot of a drama series. The tall Mokomichi, who looks like he stepped from the pages of a manga, is hugely popular these days with girls of all ages. In Regatta he plays a university rowing team star who gives up the sport after the death of his friend. But love develops between him and the team manager, played by Aibu, who persuades him to aim again for his dream of rowing in the Olympics.
• Up-and-coming Fuji TV announcer Hirai Rio (23) is romantically involved with a director from the same network. According to the weekly magazine Friday, the “Suporuto” presenter was spotted on a trip to the mountain resort of Karuizawa with the handsome 27-year old, like Hirai a Keio University graduate. The couple met last year while working on a late-night show, and started dating in May. Hirai was a model and “idol talento” before joining Fuji TV in April 2005.
• Morning Musume member Takahashi Ai (19) is to have her first dramatic leading role. She will star in a new drama series on the GyaO network, Usen’s Internet TV channel, that has global warming as its main theme. Takahashi also sings the theme song for the series.
Hollywood-based actor Watanabe Ken (46) had a lot to be thankful for yesterday. His latest domestic production, “Ashita no Kioku” (Tomorrow’s Memories), has started an extended run and has already been seen by over 1.7 million movie-goers. Watanabe met about 280 of them at the Cine Citta theater in Kawasaki yesterday. He reassured them that he is doing well in his battle with Hepatitis C, which he revealed in his recently published autobiography. Distribution deals for the movie are all but tied up for China, Hong Kong and South Korea, while negotiations are ongoing for a U.S. release. Watanabe stars in the film and also acted as executive producer.
• Popular group Southern All Stars yesterday announced that they have put together a major outdoor event this summer. The two-day festival at the Hamanako Garden Park in Shizuoka Prefecture will also feature such big acts as Mr. Children, Glay, Dragon Ash, Porno Graffitti and Fukuyama Masaharu. The event will be attended by over 120,000 fans on August 26-27. Also on the bill is Kayama Yuzo (69), a major star from the 60s, who will have the All Stars as his backing band.
• The father of injured New York Yankees star Matsui “Gojira” Hideki (32) says he hasn’t heard from his son about the reported breakup with actress Toda Naho (32). He told a press conference held after he performed at an enka concert that he thought his son was the right age to get married. He said they have talked several times recently and the subject of the rumored split simply hasn’t come up.
Hollywood star Tom Cruise (43) took to the high seas yesterday. Well not quite. He’s in town to promote his latest movie, “Mission Impossible 3”, and did so in style. He arrived by private jet at Haneda Airport around 5am and attended an afternoon press conference at the Meiji Kinenkan, where Japan’s Meiji Era consitution was drawn up. In the evening he used a motorboat to make a grand entrance across Tokyo Bay, landing at the Odaiba beach area. Dressed in a white suit, he signed autographs for the 1500 fans that lined the red carpet to the movie premiere. The 10-minute trip across the bay is said to have cost ¥200 million, as all shipping had to be stopped temporarily. The stunt was based on a scene from the movie. Today he’s travelling by “private” shinkansen (bullet train) to attend a fan event in Osaka, and flies out from Kansai International Airport tonight. Cruise promised fans on his last visit in March that next time he’d bring his wife, actress Katie Holmes (23), and their new daughter Suri. But as this trip is only a day and a half, it was impractical. He reassured fans that he was still hoping to make a movie in Tokyo and that the whole family would be here for a week, a month or longer.
• Singer/actor Fukuyama Masaharu and pin-up girl Yasu Megumi are the ideal marriage partners, according to chart ranking company Oricon. With June considered by many the ideal month to get married, Oricon recently carried out a survey that asked which celebrity people would most like to marry. Fukuyama, who also topped a recent poll looking for the celebrity most people would want to perform at their wedding, appeals to many women with his laid back manner. He was followed in the rankings by three Johnny’s Jimusho stars: Kinki Kids duo Domoto Tsuyoshi (#2) and Domoto Koichi (#4), either side of V6 member Okada Yuichi (#3). And in fifth place was actor Tsumabuki Satoshi. Meanwhile, the guys chose popular pin-up girl and variety show regular Yasu, who is considered an “iyashi-kei” or “healing/stress-relieving type”. She was followed by singer Otsuka Ai, pin-up girl Yasuda Misako, and actresses Konishi Manami and Ueto Aya.
• SMAP leader Nakai Masahiro (33) missed the afternoon Fuji TV show “Waratte Iitomo” yesterday for the first time in 13 years. He has had trouble with his right eye for several days and was diagnosed with conjunctivitis, a contagious eye infection commonly known as pink eye. Nakai is resting at home and will also miss recording of several other regular shows this week.
Award-winning actress Terajima Shinobu (33) has some French romance in her life. According to today’s issue of the weekly Josei Jishin magazine, the actress is involved with a French employee of a trading company, said to be around 40 years old. The couple met through work and began dating last autumn, and Terajima is said to be studying French. The daughter of kabuki actor Onoe Kikugoro, she was seriously involved with kabuki star Ichikawa Somegoro in 1997, but they broke up after it was revealed he was the father of a 5-year old illegitimate child. Terajima was later linked with actor Omori Nao. She is currently working on a movie adaptation of the NHK drama series “Ai no Rukeichi” (Penal Colony of Love).
• Celebrities visiting the studios of Tokyo FM radio are testing the power of miracles. The Japan soccer team is said to need a miracle to advance to the second round of the World Cup, as it meets world champions Brazil in its final group match. So celebrities are challenging the football fates and promising to do a series of outlandish things if the Samurai Blue can pull it off. Talento and 80s sexy idol Aota Noriko (38) says she dress in “bodicon” style and dance in Tokyo’s Roppongi district; pop duo Yuzu say they’ll do their next recording at the home of a Tokyo FM listener; and actor Ishida Issei promises to adopt the hairstyle of a Brazilian soccer star. The station has already received some 4000 pledges from listeners and celebs alike.
• The official figures for Sunday’s game against Croatia are as high as expected. Video Research say the TV Asahi broadcast of the game had a ratings high of 68.6% in the Kanto region. With the recent increase in the number of people following games on the Internet, in sports bars and outdoor broadcasts, the figure holds up very well to those of past events. It remains to be seen if enough people believe the team still has a chance to progress in the tournament to create a similar audience for the Brazil game, which airs from 4am on Friday.
• Actress Adachi Yumi (24) made her return to work yesterday. After a busy year that has seen her marry comedian Itoda Jun (33), give birth to a baby girl, watch the media speculate over her husband’s alleged infidelities, and embarrassed by her mother’s publication of a nude photo book, she finally got back to work. Her first job since becoming a mother was to record a character for the summer’s new Anpanman anime feature. Meeting the press afterwards, she fielded the inevitable questions with good humor, saying the rumors about Itoda were simply untrue and that her mother looks beautiful for her age. She said her only worry was leaving her daughter and husband alone for the first time, but added that recent events have only served to deepen their love for each other.
Hope lives on for the Samurai Blue. The Japan soccer team flirted with disaster against Croatia at the World Cup yesterday but lived to fight another day. A series of saves, including an early penalty, by goalkeeper Kawaguchi Yoshikatsu kept the hopes of the nation alive. With the game played in searing heat, the players were reduced to the same exhaustion that was their undoing in the loss to Australia. The last 20 minutes saw a series of embarassing mistakes and missed chances by both teams. But this time the game ended scoreless, probably a fitting result and one that leaves all three teams with a chance to join Brazil in the next round. With their place secure after a 2-0 defeat of the Aussies, it’s possible that the Brazilians will field a less than full strength squad for the final group matchon June 23. And so Japanese fans still have a reason to tune in for that game, even though it kicks off at 4am local time.
Audience ratings for last night’s broadcast of the game on TV Asahi are expected to beat the 49% that NHK managed for the Australia game, and maybe even the 66.1% that watched Fuji TV’s broadcast of the Japan-Russia game in 2002. The highest rating last year was for a soccer game, Japan beating North Korea in its final World Cup qualifier, and that was also shown on TV Asahi. If the network manages to pull the highest rating for this year, it will be the first time a private network has done so two years in a row.
• Sekine Mari (21), daughter of popular talento Sekine Tsutomu (52), has made her showbiz debut. In May she graduated at the top of her class from Emerson College in Boston, where she studied Marketing Communication. She had considered joining one of Japan’s top ad agencies, but this month she joined the Asai Kikaku management agency that handles her father’s busy schedule. She got off to a busy start herself on Saturday, appearing on three different shows.