Singer Koda Kumi is officially the talk of Japan. The flamboyant Kyoto native’s revealing stage outfits have earned her the label “erokakkoii”, a newly-coined phrase that is a mixture of erotic and cool, and certainly haven’t hurt her image with both female and male fans. Publishing company Shogakkan chose her to be their Notable Person for 2006 in their annual awards to mark major trends for the year, held this week at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. Koda’s been around since 2000, but she made her big break last year with the help of a series of chest-revealing, hip-hugging outfits and has managed to consolidate that this year with a slew of hits and eye-catching publicity events. She started off the year by releasing a new single every week for 12 weeks, all of which made it into the charts. She also earned herself an appearance on NHK’s Kohaku Utagassen, the New Year’s Eve song spectacle.
• Irish rock band U2 played their first show in Japan for eight years at the Saitama Super Arena last night. They had the 20,000-seat venue jumping to the strains of “Vertigo” and a slew of other hits. The 22-song set included the first live performance of their latest single “Windows in the Skies”. They have two more shows, tonight and December 4, and yours truly will be there rocking out with the Dublin boys.
• One can only hope that the rumored romance between Ishida Junichi (52) and sweet sixteen-year-old Fukuda Saki is no more than a silly publicity stunt. The young actress herself laughed off the whole thing when her minders tried to stop reporters asking her about it, saying “He’s older than my father. He and I laughed about it.”
It’s official! Mino Monta (62) is the world’s hardest working man on television. Alistair Richards, COO of Guinness World Records, was at the TBS studios in Tokyo’s Akasaka yesterday morning to officially recognize Mino for his record-breaking work rate. The man who never seems to stop talking paused long enough to down a glass of champagne, though he joked that his wife warned him not to drink in the mornings because of his afternoon work schedule. The master emcee and housewive’s favorite has two live shows every weekday, one from 5:30 in the morning on TBS and an afternoon show on NTV, and another at 5:45 on Saturday mornings. Altogether his live shows add up to 21 hours and 42 minutes of on-air time – not including commercial breaks! He made his breakthrough more than 30 years ago as a Bunka Housou radio presenter, and he still does a Saturday afternoon show on the public network. He also has four weekly recorded TV shows, does TV commercials, and is the president of a water meter company that was established by his father.
• Actor Osawa Takao (38) and singer/songwriter Hirose Kohmi (40) announced yesterday that they have divorced. They had been married since 1999. Hirose began composing at the age of five and while in the U.S. had the same voice training teacher as Michael Jackson. She debuted in 1992 and had a huge hit with the single “Romance no Kamisama” the following year. Osawa started out as a fashion model before switching to acting in 1994. He has apperared in several smash hit movies, including “Sekai no Chushin de, Ai wo Sakebu” (2004), as well as last year’s Steven Segal movie “Into the Sun”.
Women’s fashion magazine Vogue yesterday announced its “Woman of the Year” award winners. Among the women chosen as having had the best 2006 were young actresses Sawajiri Erika (20) and Nagasawa Masami (19), who between them have been sweeping the newcomer awards for the last couple of years. Sawajiri, the daughter of a Japanese father and French-Algerian mother, received a host of awards for her role in last year’s “Pacchigi!”. She played the lead role in this year’s TBS drama series “Taiyo no Uta”, releasing a chart-topping album under her character’s name of Kaoru Amane. Nagasawa made her screen debut as early as 2000, but had her breakthrough with 2004’s hit romance “Sekai no Chushin de, Ai wo Sakebu”. At 29, Hoshino Aki (photo) represents hope for “older” women who are hanging on to their dream of becoming a pin-up girl. She has become a regular face on variety shows and TV commercials. Other winners included actresses Nakatani Miki (30) and Momoi Kaori (54) as well as Miss Universe runner-up Chibana Kurara (24).
• Talento Watanabe Megumi (42) recently married a model 14 years younger. The former member of the Yomekin Trio on Fuji TV’s popular afternoon show “Waratte Iitomo” married Hoshino Yoshinori (30), a popular model in men’s magazines, on November 22.
• Billy Joel (57) arrived at Narita Airport from Hong Kong yesterday and will kick off his first Japan tour in eight years tonight at Tokyo Dome. He told reporters that the set list is not fixed and will depend on the response from fans.
The latest celebrity to make a wedding announcement is actress Igawa Haruka (30). She held a press conference at a Tokyo hotel yesterday to formally announce her marriage to fashion designer Matsumoto Atou (44). Igawa wore a black dress chosen by her new husband, who established the Ato menswear brand in 1993. Asked if the age difference bothered her, Igawa said Matsumoto works out every day and looks much younger than his age and at 180cm, he is relatively tall. The couple first met in the autumn of 2005 at a dinner party but didn’t even talk. It took another couple of encounters before they started dating in April, but marriage was in their minds from the start. They have been living together at Matsumoto’s Tokyo home since the summer and registered their mariage on November 22. In Japanese, the date 11/22 can be read “ii fufu” or “good husband and wife”. Every year, a showbiz couple is chosen as the ideal “fufu”, but this year’s choice – kabuki actor Nakamura Shido (34) and actress Takeuchi Yuko (26) – are already on the verge of divorce. So it can only be hoped that Igawa and Matsumoto will fare better. Igawa said she is not pregnant but is hoping to have three or four children.
• Meanwhile Razor Ramon HG swapped his black leather outfit for a white tuxedo yesterday. Sumitani Masaki (30), best known for his outlandish Hard Gay character, and former idol Anna (22) held their wedding ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel in central Tokyo. Emcee for the occasion was fellow Yoshimoto comedian Jinnai Tomonori (32), himself rumored to be on the verge of marriage to actress Fujiwara Norika (35).
I thought talento Sugita Kaoru had been too quiet recently. Well she lived up to her fiery reputation by invading the studio of NTV’s live afternoon show “The Wide” yesterday. The show had been looking at her ongoing divorce proceedings and showed a video of her arguing with the lawyer for a publishing company and being restrained by a security guard. Sugita happened to be in the Nippon Television Network building filming a different show when she saw the live broadcast. She burst into the studio saying she was “looking for a fight with (presenter) Kusano Hitoshi” (62). She complained that the video was “over the top” and misleading and then she left the studio. A former child star, Sugita has a history of drunken, abusive and sometimes violent behaviour. But her outspoken manner has also brought her many fans. She took the showbiz world by surprise with her sudden marriage to wealthy heir Ayukawa Junta (45) in January of last year. But the marriage ended quickly and acrimoniously.
• 400 students of Keio University got a rare treat yesterday when Hollywood star Watanabe Ken gave a special lecture as part of the school’s Mitasai festival. The actor spoke of his experiences making the Clint Eastwood-directed “Letters From Iwo Jima” and said he wanted to help the students understand the horror of war. He told them he hoped they would watch both his film and its companion piece, “Flags of Our Fathers”, and see the infamous WWII battle from both sides.
• Meanwhile, on the same campus, 20-year-old Takeuchi Yoshie was chosen as this year’s Miss Keio. Over the last 23 years, the contest has been a launching pad for several showbiz careers, including that of popular Fuji TV announcer Nakano Minako (26). Takeuchi has already had offers from four networks and looks set to join the eight other contest winers who have gone on to be Tv announcers or weather ladies.
Crystal Kay (20) is to team up with Beethoven for her next single. She has been chosen to sing the theme tune to next January’s anime version of Fuji TV’s drama series “Nodame Cantabile”. The single has yet to be titled but with feature segments of the first movement from Beethoven’s 7th Symphony. The series is an adaptation of a popular manga that sold over 18 million copies. The live-action version currently airing stars Ueno Juri (20) and Tamaki Hiroshi (26) and has had respectable audience ratings. The soundtrack has reached No.7 on the Oricon chart, the highest ever ranking by an album of classical music. Full name Crystal Kay Williams, the half-Korean half-African American, Yokohama-born singer is known to fans as ‘Kurikei’ or just ‘Kuri’. She made her debut at the tender age of four, singing a TV commercial theme, and appeared in her first commercial with her singer mother when she was just six. She released her first single at 13.
Newscaster Yamamoto Mona (30) is to make her TV comeback earlier than expected. Forced to step down after less than a week on the TBS “News23” show in October following the revelation of an affair with a married politician, she has been given a helping hand by none other than Kitano “Beat” Takeshi (59). His Office Kitano has hired her to appear on NTV’s New Year’s Day special “Owarai Ultra Quiz”, which ran from 1989 to 1996 and is being revived after an almost 11-year absence. Japanese TV is harsh in its treatment of celebrities caught up in scandals but usually allows them to return to work after a period of penitence. Since she lost what was to be her breakthrough job, Yamamoto is said to have been attending English conversation and cookery classes.
• Celtic’s Japanese midfielder Nakamura Shunsuke (26) scored from a spectacular free kick to defeat powerhouse Manchester United in the Champions Legaue in front of home fans early this morning, Japan time. He is the first Japanese player to reach the last 16 of Europe’s top club championship. United missed a last minute penalty, and the 1-0 final score ensured that Celtic would finish no lower than second in their group. United now need a result against Benfica in two weeks to qualify. Nakamura also scored a free kick against the English Premier League leaders earlier in the group stage but was on the losing end of a 3-2 scoreline.
• Talento and mangaka Ebisu Yoshikazu (59) is getting remarried. He went through a period of depression after losing his wife to pulmonary hypertension in 2001. Two years later, the weekly women’s magazine Josei Jishin set up an omiai, or arranged meeting with a view to marriage, with four women. Ebisu met his new fiancee (40) at that time, and he says he knew at first sight that he wanted to marry her. He is known to be a huge fan of kyoutei (motorboat racing), and her home in Osaka is close to the local racing venue. Their first date was at the Tamagawa Kyouteijo in western Tokyo.
The latest single from Mr. Children is their 25th straight chart-topping hit. “Shirushi” entered the Oricon singles chart at No.1, putting the band in second place to rock unit B’z, who have done it an amazing 38 straight times. In the album charts, “Stop the Clocks”, the first greatest hits collection from Oasis, is at No.1. Surprisingly, it’s only the third time ever that a western artist has had two consecutive chart-topping albums, and the first time in more than 11 years. And the soundtrack for Fuji TV’s drama “Nodame Cantabile” has reached No.7, the highest ranking for an album of classical music. The series is based on a best-selling manga.
• Hollywood actor Watanabe Ken (47) is the face of the new Nissan Skyline. He appeared at a launch event for the company’s flagship sedan in Ginza yesterday. He took the opportunity to send encouragement to baseball pitcher Matsuzaka Daisuke (26), who may soon also be headed for a new career in the U.S. A new Nissan TV commercial featuring Watanabe airs from today.
• And continuing the theme of music and TV commercials, popular rock/hip hop group Dragon Ash are to do a CM tie-up for the first time. Their new single, “Rainy” will be used in the CM for snowboard brand kissmark, which will feature vocalist Kj (27) showing off some of his moves. The single goes on sale December 6.
• And finally, guitar legend Eric Clapton (61) was back “home” yesterday. His latest Japan tour, which opened in Osaka, arrived at the venerable Nippon Budokan, one of his favorite venues. Stopping between songs only to greet the 10,000 fans with “Domo arigato”, Clapton played a 17-song set that included the classic blues number “Five Long Years”. Two new dates have been added at the Budokan on December 8 & 9. That will bring his total to 70 shows at the venue, putting him third behind local legends Yazawa Eikichi and Matsuda Seiko, who have played there 82 times each.
Quentin Tarantino (43) is to have a cameo role in the new movie by Miike Takashi (46). A hugely prolific director with 34 movies in the last 11 years, Miike has tried his hand at comedy, violence and horror. For his latest project, “Sukiyaki Western Django”, he is turning for inspiration to the ‘spaghetti westerns’ of the 1960s, with Franco Nero’s “Django” (1966) being one of the most influential. Tarantino, whose role is described simply as a ‘mystery man’, will be in Japan later this month to film his scenes. Filming began at the Syonai Eigamura open set in Yamagata Prefecture at the weekend. The movie stars Itoh Hideaki (31) and, borrowing heavily from old Japanese history, involves a rivalry between the “Genji Gang” and the “Heike Gang”. The Japanese cast members, including “Memoirs of a Geisha” star Momoi Kaori, Sato Koji and Kimura Yoshino, spent two months in intensive language training to handle the script, which is all in English. The theme song, “Sasurai no Jango”, is sung by veteran enka star Kitajima Saburo (70). Miike recently had a guest appearance in “Hostel”, the splatter movie produced by Tarantino, who has heavily influenced his work. “I wanted Tarantino to be in this project as I see him as the ‘anti-Hollywood’, someone who’s trying to change Hollywood,” he said. Django is scheduled to open in the autumn of 2007 and is sure to feature in film festivals worldwide.
• Another U.S.-Japan tie up is between hip hop star Kanye West (29) and the 5-man unit Teriyaki Boyz, led by fashion leader Nigo (35). West is due to visit Japan later this month to take part in an event organized by fashion brand Fendi and produced by Nigo. West will be performing and will feature the new song “I Still Love H.E.R.”, though the single isn’t due for release till January 24. He first met Nigo three years ago on his maiden visit to Japan and was originally supposed to take part in last year’s Boyz debut album, “Beef or Chicken”. That plan fell through due mainly to West’s rapid success.
• Up and coming actress Mimura (22) announced that she married conductor Kim Seikyo (36) on November 15. Sources say the couple are already living together in Tokyo. Kim is decribed as the new Ozawa Seiji in classical music circles. The couple met on the set of last year’s movie “Kono Mune Ippai no Ai wo”, in which Mimura played a violinist and Kim a conductor.
It seems the ailment that bothering popular talento and pin-up girl Wakatsuki Chinatsu (22) is more serious than it seemed. As we reported here about ten days ago, she recently underwent checks at a hospital after suffering from stress and exhaustion. A regular on six TV shows and two on the radio, she had to suddenly cancel her recording of two Fuji TV horse-racing shows. She had been resting at home since the beginning of the month but her condition is said to have remained the same, and doctors have advised her to check into hospital for treatment of up to a week. The last couple of months of the year are the busiest for many celebrities, with a whole host of year-end special programs being recorded.
• Major record label Avex has announced that it is establishing a fully-owned Chinese subsidiary. The company that has such top stars as Hamasaki Ayumi and Koda Kumi on its books will be aiming to develop local talent from its new Avex China office in Beijing. The company begins operations from today.
• Actor Nakaya Noboru died at a Tokyo hospital of chronic lung disease on Thursday. He was 77. A veteran of stage, movies and TV, he was married to actress Kishida Kyoko from 1954 to 1978. He was a founding member of En, one of Japan’s leading theater troupes.
• Flamboyant comedian Michael (34) has been taking a break since the end of October. It turns out the reason is that he’s looking after his mother, who had a stroke in September. He made his showbiz debut in 1990 in the musical “Starlight Express” and later was a member of an idol group, a dancer and a choreographer before turning to comedy in 2002.