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.