Monthly Archives: February 2007

Kano Sisters to Go to Court

The “Gorgeous Kano Sisters” drama has escalated. Though her elder sister Kyoko (44, photo center) earlier this month reported to police that she stole jewelery worth ¥400 million, a lawyer for Oyama Harue (photo left) stated yesterday that she took only what belonged to her when she moved out of her Tokyo home in January. She has also insisted that the items she took are worth far less than her elder sister claimed. On hearing that her sister had decided to file a criminal complaint and sue her for the return of the items, she replied that she would answer the case in court. It was widely speculated that the whole affair was simply a stunt by the never publicity-shy sisters to promote a new book by Kyoko, but it now looks like the matter will go to the courts. Such a court case would probably reveal to the public for the first time much of the financial dealings of the Kano Sisters, the funding of whose extravagant lifestyle has always been something of a mystery. Another mystery is the man in Harue’s life, described as a Belgian whose family is connected with the jewelery business, and whom she met in France two years ago. He is said to have been living off her in her Tokyo home, but she was hoping to marry him.

• Actor Takamatsu Hideo died of a heart attack at his home on Monday morning. He was 77. A popular character actor in many TV dramas such as “Judo Icchokusen”, which ran on TBS from 1969 to 1971, he was working right up until his death. He started working last Thursday on location in Ibaraki Prefecture for a new TV Tokyo drama. Complaining that he was feeling unwell, he returned to his Kanagawa prefecture home by express bus on Sunday night. His wife, former fashion model Yoko (71), awoke on Monday morning to find his body cold and lifeless. A TV Tokyo spokesman said the network has yet to decide whether to re-shoot or even continue making the drama.

Japan Misses Out on Oscars

Ah well, maybe next year. Japan failed to produce its first acting Oscar in 49 years last night as Kikuchi Rinko (26) lost out to Jennifer Hudson (25) for the best supporting actress award. The relatively unknown Kikuchi has had a dream ride with her new found fame and success in the movie “Babel” and remained pretty upbeat. “The awards are over now, so I’ve completely ‘graduated’ from Babel. The Oscars were really fun and a great experience. Through this movie I’ve learned so much and the world has opened up for me.” She’s already working on her next Hollywood project, co-starring with Rachel Weisz and Adrien Brody in “The Brothers Bloom”.

Meanwhile, Clint Eastwood’s gritty WWII film “Letters From Iwo Jima” was pipped for the best picture award by Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed”, the remake of Hong Kong flick “Infernal Affair”, which also won Scorsese the best director Oscar on his sixth nomination. Forest Whitaker and Helen Mirren won the best actor and actress awards, with Alan Arkin recognized as the best supporting actor.

Filmed entirely in Japanese with a Japanese cast, “Letters…” failed to become the first totally foreign-language movie to win best picture and of its four nominations it took only the award for best sound editing. But the movie’s star, and 2004 best supporting actor nominee, Watanabe Ken (47, shown with wife Minami Kaho) got his moment in the spotlight. Together with veteran French actress Catherine Deneuve, he presented a feature on the 50-year history of foreign films at the Oscars. He spoke in confident English that no doubt made him the envy of many a Nova student! Another Japanese who missed out this year was makeup artist Tsuji Kazuhiro (37), who was nominated for his work on the Adam Sandler movie “Click”.

• Guitarist Ohmura Tasshin (31) has quit the rock trio Kururi. The band will continue as a duo with Kishida Shigeru (30) on vocals and bassist Sato Masashi (30), who is also president of their record label “Noise McCartney Records”. Another former member of the band is drummer Christopher Mcguire (31), who was later briefly with Kid Dakota in the U.S.

• Actress Itaya Yuka (31) has married stylist Furuta Hirohiko (40). The two first met about 12 years ago, but started dating in 2005.

End of an Era

Veteran rakugoka Sanyuutei Enraku (74) left his audience in tears yet again in Tokyo yesterday. But while they are usually tears of laughter, yesterday his fans were filled with mixed emotions. The former host of popular NHK show “Shoten” was hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage in October 2005 and made his comeback to the stage a year later. He said that he would use yesterday’s performance to decide his future. It was standing room only at the National Engei Hall and some members of the audience could be seen wiping tears from their eyes during his 45-minute act. But Enraku announced after the show that he was bringing his 53-year career to an end, saying “It’s no good, no good at all. I’m going to retire as a storyteller.” He added that he would be embarrassed to ask people to pay money to see him when he can no longer perform at his best. He will most likely continue to make occasional appearances as a guest performer, and plans to continue as leader of the Enraku Ichimonkai school of rakugo. All but one of his apprentices are in their 50s and 60s and have become stars, and he has said he would like to continue until Ouraku (29) also reaches the top level. Enraku has been buy ventolin inhaler treatment for nine years and his poor health forced him to retire after 23 years as the host of Shoten last year. He had been a performer on the show since its start in 1966.

Johnny’s Jimusho idol Takizawa Hideaki (24) fell on a staircase and fractured his nose last Friday. But the show must go on, so he and partner Imai Tsubasa (25) performed two scheduled concerts as Tackey & Tsubasa in Nagoya over the weekend. Takizawa missed Friday’s recording of the TBS show “Zubari Iuwayo!” and had to wear a face mask for the concerts. His injury is expected to take a month to heal.

Mori Saga Continues

Enka singer Mori Shinichi (59) has been trying to make up with composer Kawauchi Kouhan (86) but with no success. Kawauchi is furious with Mori for singing an altered version of his 1971 hit “O-fukuro-san” and has refused to let him perform any of his songs or to even meet with him. Mori and his staff tried to meet with Kawauchi without an appointment at his Tokyo hotel yesterday but were turned away. Mori left a letter and said he would return every day until Kawauchi agreed to meet him. Kawauchi checked out of the hotel last night. (See earlier stories for more details)

• The online music business continues to show solid growth in Japan. Last year’s revenues from music downloads totalled ¥53.4 billion, an increase of 56% over 2005. Of the total, about 90% was downloaded to mobile phones. This was the first time the total exceeded that of CD single sales, which were at ¥50.8 billion, and it is fast catching up on revenues from DVDs and other music video recordings, which were ¥56.8 billion. Excluding download sales, the total revenue from music-related software was &408.4 billion, continuing an 8-year slide from 1999’s high of ¥607.4 billion.

Madonna, Leo Flogging Tokyo Real Estate

Madonna (48) has been chosen as the latest international celebrity to promote a new luxury apartment complex in Tokyo. In a sign that Tokyo’s property market is indeed on the up, the singer will appear in TV, web and newspaper advertising for a new 33-floor high rise in the Ariake bayside area. The TV commercials are directed by fashion designer and long-time Madonna collaborator Steve Klein. The Brillia Mare Ariake complex is being built by a trio of companies including Tokyo Kenbutsu, whose spokesman said Madonna suited the area’s “international image”. They won’t be revealing the amount paid to the Material Girl, but the advertising budget is thought to be about 3% of the development’s total sales value. There are 1,081 apartments in all, so assuming a conservative average price of ¥50 million, that adds up to more than ¥1.6 billion ($13.5 million) in advertising alone. Madonna is likely to get a decent chunk of that. But with the project not due for completion till March 2009 and Ariake being built on land reclaimed from Tokyo Bay, what happens if an earthquake wipes out the whole area in the meantime?

Tokyo Kenbutsu used French actor Jean Reno to help sell apartments in Kinshicho three years ago, while Orix Real Estate are currently using the star appeal of Leonardo DiCaprio (32) to sell their “Re-Tokyo Project”. As for local talent, Mitsui Fudosan have enlisted the enduring popular appeal of SMAP and actress Kuroki Hitomi, and Hollywood-based Watanabe Ken has been signed up by Nomura Fudosan to plug a development in the Tokyo sleeper town of Urayasu that goes on sale next month.

Kano Sisters Turn on the Tears

The “Gorgeous Kano Sisters” know that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Yet they insisted yesterday that all the fuss about their missing “sister” is not a stunt. A third “sister” is said to have absconded with some ¥500-million worth of jewelry. Kyoko even reported the matter to police earlier this month. The “sister”, who worked as a manager for the other two celebrities, went missing earlier in the year along with the borrowed items. The media wanted to talk about nothing else at a PR event for the sisters’ latest book, “Love & Sex”. All the fuss certainly won’t hurt book sales, though Kyoko insisted that it would harm its image. Yeah, right. As younger “sister” Mika wept beside her, she also added that the stress had caused her to lose 5kg in two weeks. Could there be a diet book on the way, too?!

• Another TV network has had to fess up to a “netsuzou” scandal. TV Tokyo president Sugaya Sadahiko (68) apologized to viewers, sponsors and comedienne Yamada Hanako (31) for faking the content of one of its shows. Sugaya will take a 20% cut in salary for one month, while four executives were punished. The show, broadcast on January 6, featured Yamada on a yoga diet, and included what it said was blood samples showing how her circulation had improved, though it was actually a director’s blood that was shown. TV Tokyo, which was caught in a similar case in January 2005, has severed ties with Human View, the production company responsible for the show.

• In Tokyo yesterday promoting his latest movie was Hollywood star Nicholas Cage (43). With him was “Ghost Rider” director Mark Steven Johnson. At a press conference, Cage was joined on stage by talento Moto Fuyuki (55), who calls himself a Nicholas Cage lookalike. But standing next to one another, he had to admit the resemblance was non-existant.

• Guns ‘n’ Roses are following up last year’s summer festival appearance with a full Japan tour. Their first Japan tour in 14 years will kick off at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba Prefecture on April 14-15, followed by Nagoya’s Rainbow Hall on the 18 and two dates at Intex Osaka on April 21-22. After achieving mega-success in the late 1980s and early ’90s, the band broke up in 1993. Vocalist Axel Rose (45) put together a new lineup in 2001 and the Japan shows will be the first of a world tour in support of the upcoming album “Chinese Democracy”.

• Singer Suga Shikao (40) cancelled a radio appearance yesterday due to acute bronchitis. He was scheduled to appear on the local radio station FM Sendai, but has been advised to rest. he has a couple of concerts coming up at the end of the month in Tokyo to commemorate the tenth anniversary of his debut.

Singer, Songwriter Fall Out

It seems that enka singer Mori Shinichi (59) has bitten the hand that feeds him. Songwriter Kawauchi Kouhan (86) is furious that Mori has been performing a version of his best-known hit, “O-Fukuro-san”, that is different from the one he wrote. The weird thing is that the hit dates back to 1971 and Mori recorded the new version, with a verse added at the beginning, as long ago as 1977. He held an emergency press conference before a televised NHK concert yesterday, and insisted that nothing had ever been said about the matter and that he left such things in the hands of his staff. Kawauchi retorted that he has been protesting about it for six or seven years. After watching a video of Mori performing on last New Year Eve’s “Kohaku Uta Gassen”, he insisted on a meeting with the singer and his staff last weekend. Mori cancelled at the last minute saying he had a cold. This was the last straw for Kawauchi, who insists he will never meet Mori again or allow him to perform any of the more than 30 songs he wrote for him. He has even made this formal with JASRAC, the organization that protects artist copyright, and says he is prepared to take legal action if Mori performs his songs. The singer had planned to perform “O-Fukuro-san” yesterday, but made a last-minute switch. The song, whose title means “Mother”, is dedicated to Mori’s own mother, who commited suicide in 1973. The added verse is an apology for being a bad son and a futile request to be scolded one more time. A bad start to the year for one of enka’s top stars, who also had a rough time in 2006 when he had a messy split with Masako, his wife of almost 20 years.

• Singer-songwriter Onitsuka Chihiro (26) is coming back after an absence of more than two years. She plans to release a new single at the beginning of summer, to be followed up by her first original album with Universal Music. Her 11th single, and to date her only release with the label, was in October 2004. She has been on hiatus since failing to renew her management contract with Sony Music Artists the following January. She was the victim of a stalker in July of 2005. It wasn’t until a magazine article in September 2006 that she gave any indication that she was still writing songs. Her latest recording is being produced by the renowned Kobayashi Takeshi (47), best known for his work with Mr. Children and married to My Little Lover vocalist Akko.

Exile Grab 1000th Top Spot

The 1000th single to top the Oricon weekly chart is “Michi” by pop group Exile, which entered at No.1. The ballad was up against some strong competition to grab the landmark top spot. Popular duo WaT teamed up with TV kids’ character Gatchapin Mukku to record the No.2 hit, “Kimi ni Okuru Uta”. Tenor Akikawa Masafumi (39) has managed to stay in the Top 3. Not only was his “Sen no Kaze ni Natte” the first classical recording to top the chart, it’s also the first by a male solo artist to stay in the Top 3 for six weeks running since Fukuyama Masaharu‘s “Niji” in 2003. The 32nd single from Morning Musume, “Egao Yes Nude”, has entered the chart at No.4. They have now made the Top 10 for ten years running, a record for a girl group. Kuraki Mai (24) has seen every one of her 26 singles enter the Top 10, extending her record for a solo female artist. Her latest, “Season of Love”, entered at No.6. One spot below is the Japanese debut single from American model Leah Dizon (20). She’s been busy on a recent trip to Japan, making appearances in record stores and on TV. The half French-American, half Chinese-Philippina model’s self-promotional savvy has worked particularly well in Japan, and she had one of the best-selling photo books of last year.

• The mysterious “second sister” of the “Gorgeous Kano Sisters“, says she has nothing to hide. She visited the Akasaka police station in central Tokyo on Saturday to answer claims that she had absconded with some ¥500-million worth of jewelry belonging to Kano Kyoko (44). She says she only knew about the matter after it was reported in the media last week. Previously a manager for the other two celebrities, she allegedly went missing earlier in the year along with the borrowed items, and Kyoko reported the matter to police on February 7. Media will be watching for a first public comment from Kyoko on Wednesday, when she is scheduled to hold a PR event for her latest book, “Love & Sex”. Wait a minute…there couldn’t possibly be a connection between the timing of theses two things, could there?!

• Saturday’s live partial broadcast of the wedding between actress Fujiwara Norika (35) and Yoshimoto comedian Jinnai Tomonori (32) managed a high 22% audience rating. It was shown only on Yomiuri TV in the Kansai region, where rain kept many people home. Similarly cold and rainy weather in the capital on Sunday meant good ratings for the first Tokyo Marathon, which reached a peak of 31.3% in the Kanto region. In Kansai, where the weather had cleared up, the figures were less than half.

The Big Wedding

The big story over the weekend was of course the wedding of actress Fujiwara Norika (35) and Yoshimoto comedian Jinnai Tomonori (32) on Saturday. Ikuta Jinja shrine in Kobe was surrounded by some 425 security personnel, while 2,000 fans turned out hoping for a glimpse of Fujiwara’s spectacular “junihitoe” or twelve-layered kimono, and Jinnai’s “sokutai” or old ceremonial court dress. But the traditional Heian Era outfits were only shown on news and variety shows. The ceremony was attended by 112 family members and close friends. A visibly tense Jinnai hardly had a chance to take it all in before heading back to a hectic work schedule. On Sunday, he had three performances at Yoshimoto’s theater in Tokyo at 1pm, 4pm and 7pm, and even fitted in a guest appearance at the premiere of the movie “Parfum” at NHK Hall in Shibuya between the second and third shows. And Fujiwara is no slouch, either. She heads off to do TV location work in India tomorrow. The couple will move into a new home in the capital next month.

Fujiwara, Jinnai – Almost Live

Saturday’s big wedding ceremony will be broadcast “almost” live. Yomiuri TV viewers in the Kansai region will be able to watch live coverage of actress Fujiwara Norika (35) and Yoshimoto comedian Jinnai Tomonori (32) speaking to the media after they tie the knot at Ikuta Jinja shrine in Kobe. But with this being the biggest showbiz wedding of recent years, other stations in the NTV network are busy negotiating for broadcast rights. Fujiwara plans to wear the spectacular “junihitoe” or twelve-layered kimono, while Jinnai will don the “sokutai” or old ceremonial court dress. The traditional ceremony will be shown in pre-recorded segments, following which the couple will hold a live press conference for about half an hour from 4:20pm. About 400 security personnel will be on hand to keep the shrine and surrounding areas clear of fans and unauthorized media.

• Stevie Wonder (56) didn’t seem too upset that only about 10 fans turned out to greet him at Narita Airport. On his 15th visit to Japan, he will play a 6-date tour starting at the Saitama Super Arena on February 17/18. He was over an hour late for a press conference at his Tokyo hotel last night, but made up for it by giving a quick performance on his keyboard. He talked about how much he loved Japan, adding “I think I must have been born in Japan in a previous life”.