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.