Morning Musume Goes International

Call it a new era in Japan-China relations. The man behind Morning Musume has decided to give the group a more international look, and producer Tsunku (38) announced yesterday that the latest addition to the lineup will be two Chinese teenagers. The first audition was held in Beijing last year and included those who failed to qualify for the local “Super Girl” auditions. Chosen from that group was Li Chun (19, photo left), known as “Jun Jun”. 16-year-old Qian Lin (photo right) has been appearing on Chinese TV since she was in elementary school and was introduced to Tsunku through a friend. She has already appeared as a backing dancer on the Hello! Project national tour in January and is nicknamed “Lin Lin”. Both girls need to take dance, vocal and Japanese language lessons, but judging from their photos, they will blend easily among the Japanese members. They will make their first appearance on the “Hello! Morning” show on TV Tokyo on March 18. Officially part of the 8th version of the lineup, which also includes the recently added Mitsui Aika (14), they will perform in front of fans for the first time at the May 6 concert which will mark the “graduation” of leader Yoshizawa Hitomi (21).

• Academy Award nominated actress Kikuchi Rinko (26) is living with a handsome Argentine talento, according to the latest issue of weekly magazine “Friday”. Her agency refused to comment on the story, but it was confirmed by the management of Aletta Federico (26), who also said he accompanied Kikuchi to last month’s Oscar ceremony. The two are said to be sharing an apartment in central Tokyo. Kikuchi, who received widespread praise for her role in “Babel”, is currently in Europe filming her next project. Aletta speaks Japanese, English and Italian as well as his native Spanish.

• Actress Hara Fumina (25) and former J-League soccer player Nakanishi Tetsuo (37) are to get married next week. Their management agencies made the announcement yesterday, in Hara’s case including a mention of the fact that she is not pregnant and that she plans to continue working. The couple met in 2002 on a soccer program but didn’t start dating until January of last year, and Nakanishi proposed last Christmas. Hara made a name for herself in last summer’s TBS drama series “Taiyou no Uta”, while Nakanishi is now a soccer commentator. He started his J-League career with his hometown team of Nagoya Grampus Eight, later moving to Kawasaki Frontale. While on the bench for a Grampus game, he had the dubious distinction of being the first J-League player to receive a red card without even setting foot on the pitch. He retired in 2000.