Monthly Archives: February 2007

Gorgeous…and Gone

The “Gorgeous Kano Sisters” can never stay out of the news for long. This time it seems that Harue, the mysterious “second sister” (above left, in a rare photo), has disappeared and taken some of their expensive booty with her, according to women’s weekly magazine “Josei Seven”. The sisters, who are not actually related, were a trio when they first appeared on the scene. But Harue stopped appearing as a talento in the mid 1990’s, before they really broke through. She started helping out behind the scenes as a manager three years ago. She has been out of reach since the beginning of the year and is said to have taken some ¥500 million worth of jewelry belonging to Kano Kyoko (44, photo center), who finally reported the matter to police on February 7.

• Popular fashion model Oshikiri Moe (27) and “ikemen” (handsome) NHK announcer Aoi Minoru (26) are to take on the challenge of studying English on the public network’s late-night “Eigo de Shaberanaito”. The pair will take over from actress Shaku Yumiko (28) and announcer Matsumoto Kazuya (39), who are leaving the show in April. Along with comedian Patrick Harlan, the presenters talk with Japanese stars about their experiences with English and interview visiting foreign celebrities. For Oshikiri it’s a chance to make up for a less-than-great job she did on the show last year as a guest interviewer with stylist Patricia Field. She also had the experience of not being able to communicate in English while in New York two years ago for the fashion magazine CanCam. She has been studyng at a conversation school since but still considers herself a beginner. The six-foot-two Aoi is very popular among young feamle viewers.

• Golden Globe winner Jennifer Hudson (25) is in Japan for the first time to promote the movie “Dreamgirls”. Already the winner of 25 awards for her role as singer Effie White, she is a strong candidate to take the best supporting actress Oscar. Her main rival is thought to be Japanese actress Kikuchi Rinko (25), with whom she shared an earlier newcomer’s award. Hudson recently made history when she was announced as the first African American singer to grace the cover of U.S. fashion magazine Vogue. Dreamgirls opens in Japan on February 17.

• Gravel-voiced J-Wave DJ Chris Peppler (49) and talento Kimishima Yukari (27) have been married for several months, it was revealed yesterday. Appearing on a live NHK show, Peppler admitted to presenter Arudo Yumiko that they tied the knot in October of last year.

Masato Wins Yazawa’s Heart

K-1 fighter Masato (27) and actress Yazawa Shin (25) announced yesterday that they got married on Sunday. They made the announcement in front of about 150 reporters and 20 TV cameras. Though they had been dating for six years to the day, it was the first time they had been photographed together. They chose to register their marriage in February after consulting with several fortune tellers, and Sunday in particular as it was an auspicious “tai-an” day in the shinto calendar. Masato’s next fight is in the April final qualifiers for the World Max tournament. The middleweight, who has a 43-5-2 record, said, “If I lose, people will say it’s because I got married. So I have to win!” He was the first Japanese to take the world crown in 2003. His good looks have also earned him movie and TV roles. Yazawa, whose given name Shin means “heart”, made her acting debut in 1997’s hit movie “Bounce Ko Gals”. The couple will wait until after the World Max finals in September before having a wedding ceremony.

• Mangaka Sugi Emiko died on Friday of stomach cancer at a Yokohama hospital. She was 47. She made her debut in 1977 and was known for such works as “Gettchu” and “Adam & Eve no Houteishiki”. According to the publisher Shogakkan, her manga sold over 18 million copies.

Go! Go! Go! to Nagatacho

From Goldfinger 99 to Diet member?! Go Hiromi (51) may be an idol singer well past his prime, but he could have one more surprise up his sleeve. Sources within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) say that Go is considered a prime candidate to help revive the party’s slumping popularity in July’s Upper House election. One of the biggest pop stars of the 1980s, he is seen as drawing votes from middle-aged women, a weak area for the LDP. If he runs, it will be under the proportional representation system. Go has expressed interest in politics in the past, but so far has stuck to mainly supporting the campaigns of showbiz friends. But now that he’s in his 50’s, he has more chance of being seen as a serious candidate. No doubt the LDP are heeding the lesson of the recent gubernatorial election in Miyazaki Prefecture, where comedian Sonomanma Higashi (47) won as an independent. Go has been married twice, to actress Nitani Yurie from 1989 to 1998 and to Nami, the daughter of a New York entrepreneur, from 2000 to 2005. But it was the marriage that never happened, to fellow idol Matsuda Seiko, that many consider his greatest romance. Among his recent endorsements is cosmetic surgeon Takasu Clinic, which helps explain his youthful appearance and why he can still get away with his “Go! Go! Go!” catchphrase. He splits his time between Japan and a home in New York.

High-Security Wedding

No chances are being taken with the security for this weekend’s super showbiz wedding between actress Fujiwara Norika (35) and Yoshimoto comedian Jinnai Tomonori (32). There have been concerns that the original number of 200 security personnel may not be enough, given the huge public and media interest in the event. There’s also the fact that the venue – Ikuta Jinja shrine in Kobe – is in the middle of a commercial district and normally gets a lot of visitors. Yesterday was an auspicious “tai-an” day in the Shinto calendar and over 100 people turned out to watch a regular, non-showbiz couple walk the red carpet from Sakuramon gate to the “honden” or main shrine. So event organizers and police are to sit down again on Tuesday to go over security details. Fujiwara has already said on her official site that the wedding will not be open to the public and the couple won’t be making an appearance.

Norika’s Last Fling

Yesterday, actress Fujiwara Norika (35) gave fans one last glimpse of that fabulous body before she gets married. Appearing at a PR event at the Shin Takanawa Prince Hotel in Tokyo for new pachinko machines that feature her likeness, she showed up wearing a sexy dominatrix outfit that started an instant buzz among reporters. She wore the shortest of miniskirts, a top that revealed her midriff, and knee-length stiletto boots. It’s been some time since she went for the sexy look, and the timing was clearly chosen to generate maximum publicity. The former Miss Japan is set to marry Yoshimoto comedian Jinnai Tomonori (32) on February 17 at the Ikuta Jinja shrine in their native Kobe. Meanwhile, Jinnai is dealing with a hectic pre-wedding work schedule. He leaves his Tokyo hotel before dawn every morning to catch the first shinkansen to Osaka, where he hosts the Yomiuri TV morning variety show “Narutomo!”. Then he heads back to the capital where he is appearing in Yoshimoto theatrical events and other variety shows.

Kumiko Re-Married to Ex

At 52, actress Akiyoshi Kumiko can still get her man, or should that be boy. The actress famous for her off-the-wall comments revealed yesterday that she re-married her second ex-husband last year. At 26, the Japanese-American graphic creator, named only as A-san, is a year younger than her son from her first marriage. Their marriage at the end of 2004 lasted less than a year. But at a PR event for her latest theatrical production yesterday, Akiyoshi told reporters that they got hitched again a year ago. She admitted that the whole thing was a bit embarrassing for her and she had hoped to keep it secret. She said their first marriage had been based on “passion and instinct”. But when she discovered soon afterwards that her mother had cancer, her priorities changed drastically. A-san supported her even after their split and they decided to get back together shortly before Akiyoshi’s mother died in February 2006. One of the more eccentric characters in Japanese showbiz, Akiyoshi was pregnant when she married for the first time, in 1979 to composer Iwaku Shigeru (57), making her a showbiz pioneer of the term “dekichatta-kon” (shotgun wedding). They had one son but divorced in 1989. In her 34-year career Akiyoshi has appeared in dozens of movies and over 100 TV dramas. She published a book of nude photos in 1991.

• Romance has bloomed between popular singer Kimura Kaera (22) and Rip Slyme MC Su (33), according to the latest issue of weekly magazine “Josei Seven”. They are said to live in separate apartments in the same building. The magazine says they started dating in the autumn of 2005. Apart from music they also share an interest in surfing. Su was married once in 2000 but the couple are not said to be thinking of marriage yet.

New Movie From Kitano Takeshi

The multi-talented Kitano Takeshi (60) has his movie director’s hat on again. Having given up the ultra-violent genre that brought him fame on the world stage, he is getting back to his variety show roots with his latest movie project, titled “Kantoku Banzai”. It is said to include a wide range of styles, ranging from homage to Ozu Yasujiro to horror, romance to science fiction. Producer Mori Masayuki said, “Movies these days are all based on a bestseller or topical story. Kitano’s movies are different. He does his own thing. He’s opening up new frontiers.” It’s Kitano’s 13th movie and the first since the oddball “Takeshis'” in 2005. Mori said that “If that movie was like the moon, this one is the sun. He really enjoyed making it and it will make you laugh out loud.” The film was recently completed and is scheduled to appear in theaters in June.

• Veteran Yoshimoto comedian Miyagawa Daisuke (56) was hospitalized late Monday night following a cerebral hemorrhage. He had experienced numbness in his left arm and leg and will need to be hospitalized for a month. A further couple of months of rehabilitation is expected, but the condition is not thought to be life-threatening. He had been recording a variety show in Osaka on Monday alog with his wife and comic partner Hanako (51) and their daughter Sayumi (28), also a comedienne. The three walked to a local hospital after the filming.

• Actress Sudo Risa (30) recently gave birth to her first child, a baby girl. She married Kawashima Michiyuki (37), vocalist and guitarist of the popular techno-rock duo Boom Boom Satellites, last November. Sudo plans to continue her acting career.

Wedding Bells for a Cat

Diminuitive funny man Neko Hiroshi (29) is engaged to be married. During a press conference at his management agency last night the 147cm-tall comedian told reporters his new fiancee is the same age but 12cm taller. He said she works in social welfare. Real name Takizaki Kuniaki, he started out in comedy in 2001 using the name Tarantula. He went through dozens of name changes before settling on Neko (Cat) Hiroshi, despite the fact that he is allergic to cats. Needless to say, given his comedy image as a hyperactive feline, he described his fiancee as looking like a”Siamese cat”, and he proposed to her last autumn by asking her to “Please be my owner.” Her family were said to be unhappy about the fact that he performed topless and the pair even split up as a result. But he changed to wearing a t-shirt, they got back together, and now plan to get hitched within the year. Though the announcement only came yesterday, the couple actually got engaged on December 10, the same day as actress Fujiwara Norika (35) and comedian Jinnai Tomonori (32).

• Police have issued prosecution documents on singer Matsuzaki Shigeru (57) for causing a traffic accident while driving without a license. The perennially-tanned singer passed his driving test in the U.S. in 1989 and had been using an international license ever since. But due to a change in the law made in 2002, he was no longer legally entitled to do so. The accident happened last November, when he opened his car door only to knock a passing motorcyclist off his bike.

• Kansai TV has lost its 9pm Sunday slot on national TV following the recent scandal about faked data on its popular “Hakkutsu ! Aru Aru Daijiten” show. The slot, which earned the network about ¥3 billion in annual ad revenue, will be taken over by the Fuji network Systems production company.

NTV’s Ohsugi in Suicide Jump

NTV announcer Ohsugi Kimie jumped to her death from the balcony of her 8-storey Tokyo apartment on Friday, less than four months after becoming a mother. Married twice, the first time from 1996 to 2001 and again in 2002, she became the oldest TV announcer to have a baby at the age of 43 and had been on maternity leave. Her second husband, ten years younger, is an employee of a major advertising firm. Ohsugi was said to be suffering from fibromyalgia – a chronic painful condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue – since having her baby boy. The condition had been worsening to the point where she often couldn’t write or hold a telephone, though she did leave a suicide note. She had a hospital appointment on the morning of her suicide and had earlier expressed her intention to return to work in the spring.

• Celebrities were out in force over the weekend to help celebrate setsubun, the annual ceremony that marks the coming of spring. In the “mamemaki” ritual, people throw roasted soybeans to expel demons and welcome in good luck for the coming year. Most of the country’s major shrines held events, with many inviting famous names to help draw the crowds.

Suo Seeking Justice in Japan

Director Suo Masayuki (50) expressed his anger at the Japanese legal system to the foreign media this week. Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club in downtown Tokyo, the man best known for the 1995 hit romantic comedy “Shall We Dance?” talked about his first movie in 11 years, “Soredemo Boku Wa Yattenai” (I Just Didn’t Do It). Starring Kase Ryo (32), who was also at the luncheon event, it’s a far more serious movie, telling the story of a young man, Kaneko Teppei, who is arrested and tried for groping a schoolgirl on a crowded train. A common story in recent years, the catch is that Kaneko is innocent. This fact is lost in the standard police procedure of coercing a detainee to sign a written confession in return for leniency, a process supported by not a few Japanese judges. Kaneko refuses and becomes a victim of a legal system where over 90% of cases result in a guilty verdict. As Suo has said before on the media, the number is an anomaly by international standards. He said: “Normally the ideas for my films come to me as wonderful discoveries of life; things that take me by surprise, that delight and inspire. This time, what I discovered was a sense of outrage within myself. What resulted is not so much a movie I wanted to make as a movie I simply had to make.”