Monthly Archives: April 2007

Nakata’s Yakuza Ties Get Him in Trouble

Yoshimoto comedian Nakata Kausu (57) is paying the price for his yakuza connections. NHK has shelved two episodes of a variety show and Yoshimoto have replaced him as an emcee for the final day of “Live Stand ’07” a major comedy event that finishes today. Given the current climate following a series of incidents involving members of major crime syndicates, including last week’s murder of the mayor of Nagasaki, a recent magazine article on Nakata’s friendship with a gang boss has seriously damaged his reputation. The always conservative NHK is wary of attracting any negative publicity and is unlikely to invite him to appear on any more shows. At least not shows like “Variety Seikatsu Shouhyakka”, that takes a comic look at everyday legal issues. Nakata made his debut in 1969 as one half of the manzai duo Nakata Kausu-Botan. Though a lot more popular in the Kansai region than in Tokyo, they are an established act and have won several comedy awards over the years.

• A former host of the above variety show is veteran comedian Nishikawa Kiyoshi (60), who is now a grandfather for the fifth time. His daughter Kanako (32), also a TV talento, recently gave birth to her first child. Kiyoshi, his wife Helen (60) and their daughter introduced the baby to the press for the first time yesterday. Kanako is married to pastry chef Hayashi Shigekazu (53).

• Newscaster Kotani Maoko (42) has remarried, to the president of auctioneer Sotheby’s Japan. The former JAL flight attendant became popular as a newscaster on the TV Asahi show “News Station” in the 90’s. Since 1998 she has been the main newscaster on TV Tokyo’s “World Business Satellite”. She was previously married from 1993 to 2001.

Big Korean Welcome for Kimura Takuya

Over 1,000 fans turned out at Pusan airport in South Korea yesterday to welcome SMAP heart throb Kimura Takuya (34, photo left). Though it’s this third visit to Korea, he is in Pusan for the first time to film scenes for the movie adaptation of his mega-hit TV drama series “Hero”. He held a press conference alongside co-star Lee Byung Hun (36, photo right), who is also hugely popular in Japan. “Hero” was the most successful drama series ever for Fuji TV. It achieved an phenomenal audience rating of over 30% for each of its 11 episodes in 2001, a feat probably only Kimutaku has enough appeal to pull off. A special episode was shown last summer and was again a big hit. Directed by Suzuki Masayuki, the movie is scheduled to open on September 8. The cast also includes the father and daughter combination of kabuki actor Matsumoto Koshiro (64) and actress Matsu Takako (29), as well as comedian Morita “Tamori” Kazuki (61).

• Just two days after we reported on the new musical direction for Tsuji Nozomi (19) she has been laid low by an acute stomach ulcer. The former Morning Musume member has been ordered to take at least 10 days rest and has had to step down from her role in a theatrical production due to open on May 4. Her role will be covered alternately by Momus graduate Ishikawa Rika (22) and current group leader Yoshizawa Hitomi (22), who is due to leave the group on May 6. The perky Tsuji has clearly been under a lot of stress recently. She has been in rehearsals not only for the stage musical but also to lead the recently launched pop trio Gyaruru. That group came about after Kago Ai (19), her partner in the duo W, was fired from the Hello! Project for repeated underage smoking.

• Canadian singer Avril Lavigne (22) has released a Japanese version of her hit “Girlfriend”, No.1 on the latest U.S. chart. Currently touring in Japan, she held a PR event yesterday to promote her new album, “Best Damn Thing”. She revealed that the Japanese version is available from today as a “chaku-uta”, for download to mobile phones. The event was followed by a “secret” live performance.

TV is Dangerous Work

Talento Eguchi Tomomi (39) suffered a nasty accident while filming a TBS variety show yesterday. She was riding a 125cc buggy bike at the Nasu Buggy Park in Tochigi Prefecture when she took a spill, suffering a blow to her lower back and damaging her kidney. She was taken by ambulance to a local hospital where she underwent surgery. She has been told to take two weeks complete bed rest. Eguchi is married to talento Tsumami Edamame (49).

Also yesterday, actor Ichinose Hidekazu (32) broke his right leg while filming a drama series for NHK. The accident happened as he was shooting a scene where he jumped from a six-foot high wall. He has a supporting role in all episodes of “Natsu Kumo Agare”, due to air from June 8. But as he has already completed most of his scenes, production is unlikely to be affected.

• Popular actress Fukada Kyoko (24) has been romantically linked with actor Sainei Ryuji (25), according to the latest issue of weekly magazine “Friday”. The pair were spotted holding hands while reading magazines in a Tokyo convenience store earlier this month. Sainei plays the Deka Red character on the popular action hero series “Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger” and appeared with Fukada on her TV Asahi detective drama series “Fugoh Keiji”.

• Actress and former pro wrestler Noumi Kayo (30) has married a member of dance unit PaniCrew. She and Horiuchi Kazuyoshi (32), known as Hori, announced yesterday that they tied the knot on April 15, an auspicious “taian” day in the Shinto calendar. They bare planning a wedding and reception in the autumn. They had been dating for about five years, according to a mutual friend. But as relationships are basically taboo for active wrestlers, they had to keep it under wraps until Noumi retired from the sport in April 2004. With her slender build and good looks, she was a big draw in the wrestling circuit. She has still to make much of a name for herself as an actress as she has appeared mostly in theatrical productions.

• Visual-kei rock band Shazna have made their comeback after seven years. Led by the no longer cross-dressing Izam (34), they performed their new single “Kokoro” at an event in Tokyo yesterday. Izam also talked about his new son, born on April 17. He is married to talento Yoshioka Miho (27).

New Look for Tsuji

Former Morning Musume Member Tsuji Nozomi (19, photo left) has a new image. She is now a member of the female trio “Gyaruru”, who played their debut show in Ibaraki Prefecture yesterday. The trio have taken on the “gyaru” (gal) look that is for some reason still popular among today’s teens. With “ganguro” makeup and an extreme fashion sense, these kind of girls can be seen walking the streets of any center of youth culture, such as Tokyo’s Shibuya or Harajuku shopping districts. One of their fashion leaders is Gyaru Sone (21, center), who joins Tsuji and singer Tokito Ami (19, right) in the new trio. Despite her petite figure, Sone is known for her incredible appetite and has won several speed eating contests. Yesterday was her debut as a singer. Tsuji left “Momus” along with Kago Ai (19) in August 2004 to form the duo W. But after being caught smoking underage not once but twice, Kago was finally fired last month. Like Momus, W and many other groups, Gyaruru is the brainchild of producer Tsunku (38), who has them perform the “parapara” style of dancing to their Eurobeat sound. Their debut single, “Boom Boom Mecha Macho” is due for release on June 20.

KAT-TUN Back to Six, Top of Chart

KAT-TUN member Akanishi Jin (22, photo second from left) has returned to the Johnny’s fold. Having shocked fans in October of last year by announcing he was going to study English in Los Angeles, he took them by surprise again at the weekend when he appeared on stage with the rest of the group. He returned to Japan on April 19 and made his first concert appearance in almost a year at the show in Miyagi Prefecture. The group’s second album, “Cartoon, KAT-TUN II You”, entered the Oricon chart this week at No.1. Including singles and DVDs, this is the 10th straight release since their 2001 formation to enter at the top of the charts, an Oricon first. Akanishi is due to make his full return to the lineup for their concert at the Tokyo Dome in June.

• Pop duo Le Couple will probably have to change their stage name. Fujita Ryuji (43) and Emi (43) revealed on their official website this week that they divorced in February after 17 years of marriage. They are best known for the 1997 smash hit “Hidamari no Uta”, which was the theme for a popular TV drama series.

• Actress Mizuno Miki (32) and actor Kitamura Yukiya (32) have split up, according to the latest issue of weekly magazine “Shuukan Asahi”. Their romance started last summer and was made public when bedroom photos of the couple were found on a mobile phone lost by Kitamura. And it may have been that revelation that led to the split. Because although the media portrayed them as a serious couple with possible wedding plans, it turns out that they broke up about six months ago. Mizuno, who in the past has had relationships with Ito Hideaki (31) and Odagiri Jo (31), has other things on her plate these days. She stars in the upcoming movie “Kuchisake Onna” and next year’s Hong Kong flick “Sasori”.

Harry Potter to Premiere in Tokyo

First Spiderman, now Harry Potter is coming to Tokyo. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”, the fifth installment of the hugely popular movie series, is the latest Hollywood blockbuster to have its world premiere in Tokyo this year. The event will be held at the Roppongi Hills Toho Cinemas complex on June 28. Star Daniel Radcliffe (17) has long been keen to make his second visit to Japan, and he’ll be here from June 27 to 30 to promote the movie in Tokyo and Osaka. The series is the only one in which each movie has grossed over ¥10 billion in Japan, but box office totals have been dropping since the first movie made over ¥20 billion in 2001. Warner Brothers is aiming to clear over ¥100 billion in Japan for the entire 7-episode series and creating maximum hype for the latest movie is seen as the key. It’s the first time for a Harry Potter movie to premiere outside the U.K. and tickets for the events will be like gold dust. Promoters say that only 900 lucky fans will be chosen by lottery for entry to an event, separate to the movie screening, in the Roppongi Hills Arena. “Order of the Phoenix” is scheduled for theatrical release on July 21.

• Talento Hosokawa Fumie (35) may (or may not) have had a tropical wedding earlier this month…to a married man, according to the weekly gossip magazine “Flash”. After a six-year relationship with an American street performer ended in 2005, Hosokawa said she had a new boyfriend. Flash reported that she and 44-year-old “A-san”, owner of a real estate company, held a wedding ceremony on the island of Saipan on April 7. But it turns out that he already has a wife. In response to inquiries from a reporter, he said the event had not been a wedding (though Hosokawa wore a wedding dress), while she reportedly called her parents in Japan to tell them she’d just got married.

• The 17-year wait is over for fans of “visual kei” rock band D’Erlanger. The group performed an open-air concert for over 3,000 fans last night at Hibiya Park in central Tokyo.

Wakamura Mayumi’s Husband Dies

Actress Wakamura Mayumi (40) has lost her husband after less than four years of marriage. It was revealed yesterday that Ono Kanehiro died at their Tokyo home of sudden liver failure on Wednesday. He was 54. Wakamura returned from filming to find her husband on death’s door. He had been in poor condition since February but his sudden death came as a huge shock. “It’s just so out of the blue that it hasn’t sunk in yet”, she said in a fax sent to the media. Ono was the chairman of Syakusonkai, a fringe Buddhist religious organization. With his background – and huge physical girth – her fame and beauty, and the 14-year age difference, they had the media buzzing in early 2004 when they announced that they had married the previous September.

Funeral of the North Star

Celebrities were among the thousands who attended a funeral for one of Japan’s great fighters yesterday. The event, held at a temple in downtown Tokyo and attended by 3,000 people, was to offer up the soul of Raoh, a leading character in the hugely popular manga “Hokuto no Ken” (Fist of the North Star). It is part of the PR campaign for the latest in a series of anime movie adaptations, “The Legend of Raoh II: Fierce Fighting Arc”, which opens in theaters on April 28. But the ceremony – at a cost of several tens of million yen – was performed in all seriousness, with Buddhist sutra chants, telegrams of condolence, and the burning of incense. Singer Tanimura Shinji (58), a long-time fan of the manga, presided over the event. Also in attendance was actor Ukaji Takashi (44), who provides the voice of Raoh. The original manga was a hit in the mid-1980s and has led to many anime and live-action spin offs.

• Young singer Ayaka (19) is the first female artist in several years to have a million-selling debut album. Released last November and with 1.2 million copies shipped, “First Message” finally broke the 1 million barrier in the latest Oricon sales rankings yesterday. She said, “Wow! This has given me a lot of confidence and energy to make my own way.” She is scheduled to release her next single, “Jewelry Day”, on July 4. The only other album to sell a million copies so far this year is Mr. Children’s “Home”. The last female artist to achieve it with her debut release was Nakashima Mika with “True” almost four and a half years ago.

Comic Heroes in Golden Week Showdown

It’s a battle between American and Japanese comic heroes in the upcoming Golden Week holiday period. The two most anticipated movies set to open during GW are Hollywood blockbuster “Spiderman 3” and local manga adaptation “Gegege no Kitaro” and both are expected to do very well at the box office. Sony Pictures hosted a press conference in Tokyo yesterday for the visiting director and cast of the latest Spidey flick, which had its world premiere in the capital on Sunday. Sony are aiming to beat the ¥7.5 billion box office of the first Spiderman movie (the first sequel drew ¥6.5 billion), and have pulled out all the stops and spared no expense for this week’s PR. Yesterday’s event drew 450 reporters, 40 TV cameras and 1,000 photographers, thought he movie doesn’t open until May 1. Meanwhile, the latest live-action adaptation of “Gegege…” will have a bit of a head start, at it’s scheduled to open on April 28 at 350 theaters nationwide. This beats the 320 screens that started showing “Tokyo Tower” a week ago, and that movie is on course to make over ¥4 billion. Based one of Japan’s most popular mangas, “Gegege…” is a fantasy tale of spirits and monsters from Japanese folklore and stars Wentz Eiji (21) as Kitaro, Inoue Mao (20) in the heroine role, Tanaka Reina (26) as Neko Musume, Oizumi Yo (34) as Nezumi Otoko, Hazama Kampei (57) as Konaki Jijii, and Muroi Shigeru (46) as Sunakake Babaa.

• Comedian Tanaka Yuji (43) hit the jackpot yesterday. A horse racing fan for some 20 years, he won just shy of a whopping ¥8 million on the major Satsukisho, the first leg of Japanese racing’s triple crown. He said he plans to share his winnings with comic partner Ota Hikari (41) and the two dozen staff of his management agency. One half of the comedy duo Bakusho Mondai, he is a host of several regular weekly shows, including “Sunday Japon”.

Spiderman 3 World Premiere

The stars of “Spiderman 3” were in Tokyo yesterday for the movie’s world premiere. Tobey Maguire (31), Kirsten Dunst (24), James Franco (28) and director Sam Raimi (47) walked the red carpet at the Roppongi Hills complex and greeted some 700 fans who were lucky enough to attend the event. Thousands more fans braved the rain to catch a glimpse of the stars and superhero. The event included a performance by a spider-suited stuntman on a 20m high rope and is said to have cost in the region of ¥300 million. Maguire said that if a fourth sequel is made, he hopes to see Spiderman flying through the skies of Tokyo, describing the capital as “the perfect city” to premiere the movie. Spiderman 3 is due for theatrical release on May 1, though fans can get a taste of Spidey’s world now at an exhibition of mannequins and movie paraphernalia at Roppongi Hills until May 20.