Traditional storyteller Hayashiya Shouzou (44) has been nabbed for tax evasion. The popular rakugoka gave a press conference at the NHK studios in Tokyo yesterday to apologize for the case, which involved some ¥120 million in undeclared earnings. He gave no details of the tax bureau’s investigation other than that it was settled last year, and told reporters to direct further questions to his tax accountant. When asked how he would “explain” the matter to his late father, legendary rakugoka Hayashiya Sanpei, he replied, “Well of course he’ll be furious.” For many years a regular on the variety show circuit and a noted jazz fan and critic, he became the 9th-generation Hayashiya Shouzou when he succeeded to the name in March of 2005 (his previous stage name was Kobuhei). He has been more focused on rakugo since his succession, a major event in the traditional entertainment world marked by a parade in Ueno attended by 140,000 people and a series of some 60 events across the country. At the time, he received a huge volume of monetary gifts from fans, fellow performers and politicians. When money is given as a gift, it is placed in special envelopes known as “shuugibukuro”, and it was these empty envelopes that the tax authorities discovered in the basement of his home last summer. An investigation found further irregularities in his tax returns for previous years and the authorities sought some ¥40 million in taxes and penalties.
Be a smackdown queen or a cradle snatcher, that’s what it takes to make a marriage work. Or at least so you might think looking at the two couples chosen as this year’s “Nice Couple” award winners, announced at an event in Tokyo yesterday. In the blue corner we have semi-retired pro wrestler Jaguar Yokota (45) and her mousy husband, Kinoshita Hirokatsu (39). They married in 2004 when Kinoshita was working as a ringside doctor on the Smack Girl circuit. They have been regulars on the variety show circuit for the last couple of years and received huge media attention when Yokota had a baby in Hawaii at the end of last year. Just three months later, she was back in the ring for an event to mark the 30th anniversary of her debut.
The other award winning couple are musician Takahashi Joji (48, photo) and Mifune Mika (24, photo). The rockabilly singer kicked up a media storm when he married the daughter of screen legend Mifune Toshiro at the tender age of 16. Mifune shed tears as she remembered the early days of their marriage, when media pundits gave them no chance of staying together. But Takahashi is always ready to profess his love for his wife on variety shows, something not many Japanese men his age feel comfortable doing. He said yesterday they’d like to take their young daughter to Hawaii before she becomes fare-paying age, and maybe get started on a younger sibling for her while they’re there.
Comedian Udo Suzuki (37) wrote off his car in a traffic accident in Tokyo yesterday. He collided head on with a car turning right at an intersection in front of the Fuji TV headquarters in central Tokyo shortly after 1pm. The 54-year-old female driver of the other car suffered some bruising and was taken to hospital by ambulance, but returned later in the afternoon to assist with the police investigation into the cause of the crash. Udo was characteristically humble and apologetic, though he says he was driving under the speed limit and had the right of way. The woman, on the other hand, claims he ignored a red light. Udo was unharmed in the accident, which came the day after his first wedding anniversary, and left the scene to attend an event planning meeting at Fuji TV. One half of the comedy duo Kyain, he has been a regular face on the variety show circuit for many years. He’s easily recognizable from his dyed blonde, semi-mohican hairstyle.
Actor Hosoka Naoki (39) has entered the priesthood. Yesterday, he underwent the initiation ceremony to become a monk with the major Shingon sect of Buddhism. Wearing a pure white kimono, he took part in a series of rituals over the course of several hours at the Rokusuiin temple in Kumamoto Prefecture. He took on the new name Shouyou, given to him by the temple’s head priestess Shimo Yoshiko, whom he first met on a variety show a year ago. Hosaka said yesterday he wants to re-start his life. However, unlike many new monks, he didn’t shave his head and received only the slightest of haircuts. He plans to continue his showbiz career and hopes to be someone that other celebrities can come to with their troubles. The twice-divorced Hosaka has led the kind of romantically adventurous life typical of many handsome actors. In 1990, along with Hagiwara Masato (35) and Fukuyama Masaharu (38), he was referred to as one of the “pretty boy trio of the Heisei Era”. Soon caught up in an affair with married Ginza hostess and former talento Kashimoto Tomoko, the two were briefly married. Hosoka then had a widely publicized relationship with actress Matsuyuki Yasuko (34) before marrying again in 1996 to actress Takaoka Saki (34). They were often portrayed in the media as an ideal couple, but extra-marital affairs led to divorce in 2004. After the split they revealed that they had only stayed together as long as they did for the sake of their two children. Hosaka said he wanted to spare his children the kind of childhood trauma he suffered as a result of his own parents’ suicide. He didn’t say whether it was a coincidence that yesterday was the 33rd anniversary of their death.
• Actor Maeda Koyo (38) and comedienne Unabara Tomoko (35) have had their first child. Unabara, one half of manzai duo “Unabara Yasuyo Tomoko” with her younger sister, gave birth to a baby girl at an Osaka hospital yesterday. The couple married in August of last year when Unabara was already two months pregnant. Both she and Maeda, a former member of the Johnny’s pop idol group Otokogumi, are in their second marriage. Unabara Yasuyo (31) is married to Orix Buffaloes pitcher Miyamoto Daisuke.
• It didn’t take Oshio Manabu (28) long to go astray, according to today’s issue of weekly gossip magazine “Friday”. The actor and singer got married to popular actress Yada Akiko (28) just last November, but last week a reporter spotted him entering the Tokyo apartment of a single 25-year-old “OL” (office lady). The magazine speculates that as the lights were soon turned off, Oshio must have spent the night. His management insist the woman is the girlfriend of a friend of Oshio’s and all three were in the apartment.
Actress Fujiwara Norika (35) and Yoshimoto comedian Jinnai Tomonori (33) got the VIP treatment when they went to register their marriage yesterday. The couple held a very high-profile traditional wedding ceremony at the Ikuta Jinja shrine in Kobe on February 17. There were no ceremonial kimonos to be seen at the Kakogawa City municipal office yesterday but Jinnai’s hometown officials put aside a separate room for the couple and kept out the inevitable media entourage. According to their management, the date had no particular significance and was one of the few days when both had some free time from their busy showbiz schedules.
Talk about romantic musical chairs! The latest romantic interest for kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo (29) seems to be actress Takaoka Saki (34), according to the latest issue of weekly women’s magazine “Josei Jishin”. The pair were spotted last week taking a romantic evening walk hand in hand under the blooming cherry blossoms along the Meguro River in Tokyo. Ebizo had just returned the day before from a kabuki performance in Paris, which was attended by ex-girlfriend Yonekura Ryoko (31). Arriving back in Japan separately, both denied that there was any rekindling of the flame between them. Ebizo broke up just recently split with his girlfriend of three months, actress Sato Eriko (25), a breakup that she clearly took badly. He also has a history with actress Miyazawa Rie (34) and in 2003 fathered a child with a former pop singer. Takaoka is no romantic slouch either. One reason for her 2004 divorce from actor Hosaka Naoki (39) was said to be her extra-marital affairs. And the split was followed by a fling with married kabuki actor Nakamura Shido (34), which led to his divorce from actress Takeuchi Yuko (27).
• 200 fans turned out to greet American R&B singer Beyonce (28) at Narita Airport yesterday. She’s in town to kick off her first solo world tour with a show at the Tokyo Dome tonight. That’s followed by two nights at the Osaka Dome (April 11-12) and a final show at the Aichi Prefecture Gymnasium in Nagoya on April 14.
• U.S. movie fans will want to watch for the name NorA (yes, that’s how it’s spelled). The 22-year-old actress makes her debut this week in “LoveDeath”, directed by Kitamura Ryuhei and due to open here in Japan on April 12. But she already has her first Hollywood movie lined up. “Midnight Meat Train”, which is also Kitamura’s first U.S. project, starts filming in a week and is scheduled for U.S. release in the autumn.
Tokyo governor Ishihara Shintaro (74) won a third term yesterday, with the victory coming much more easily than most pundits expected. His re-election was confirmed as early as 8pm, and he looked clearly relieved after a hard-fought campaign that had forced him to show his rarely-seen vulnerable side. More accustomed to dismissing or ignoring criticism, he made uncharacteristic concessions that public concerns over his excessively lavish travel budget and claims of nepotism should be addressed. Rival candidates also tried capitalize on the feeling that the money to fund his plans to bring the 2016 Olympics to the capital could be better spent on other projects. But even his strongest challenger, former governor of Miyagi Prefecture Asano Shiro (69), failed to come through with much more than an anti-Ishihara campaign and the winning margin was well over a million votes.
Japanese baseball fans had to be up at 3am if they wanted to watch the Major League debut of Matsuzaka Daisuke (26). But it was worth the loss of sleep as Japan’s ace lived up to the massive hype that has surrounded him since he joined the Boston Red Sox five months ago. Starting away from home against the Kansas City Royals, he took the mound in almost freezing conditions, a rare experience during the Japanese baseball season. But “Dice-K” brought his own heat, delivering pitches up to 153km/h (95mph), striking out 10 batters in seven solid innings and becoming just the 10th winning debutant for the Sox. The only run he gave up was a sixth-inning homer, and that was all the Royals could put up on the scoreboard as the Red Sox took it 4-1. After the game, Matsuzaka said he was less than satisfied with his performance, but he had trouble hiding his smile as he got his first big hurdle out of the way. Next up for fans is a much anticipated duel with Ichiro and the Seattle Mariners.
• Talento and former idol singer Aida Shoko (37) has landed herself quite a catch, according to today’s issue of weekly gossip magazine “Friday”. The man in question is Aizawa Hiromitsu (37), a doctor and the third son of former politician Aizawa Hideyuki and actress Tsukasa Yoko. The couple were spotted last year shopping for furniture together but at the time denied any romance. The younger Aizawa, who until recently worked as an anethesiologist at JR Tokyo General Hospital, is said to be preparing to follow in his father’s political footsteps. Though he and Aida are said to be considering tying the knot within the year, she has yet to meet his parents, who are currently in Tottori Prefecture laying the foundations for him to run for the Diet seat lost by his father four years ago. Aida made her showbiz debut in 1988 with Suzuki Sachiko (38) as the idol duo Wink. Their title of their debut single, “Sugar Baby Love”, gives an idea of their brand of pop, but they became one of the major J-pop acts of the early 90s. They broke up in 1996 and Aida has been most visible since as a reporter and co-host of the TBS travel variety show “Sekai Ururun Taizaiki”.
• Also in today’s issue of “Friday”, popular young actor Oguri Shun (24) was recently spotted on a date with fashion model Tanaka Miho (24). They are said to have been dating since last year, when Oguri split with former Morning Musume member Yaguchi Mari, ending the relationship that forced her to quit the group.
The gossip magazines finally have something to print about actor Enari Kazuki (22). According to today’s issue of weekly magazine “Josei Seven”, he and flautist Yumi (23) were recently spotted on a date. Though he is a veteran of sixteen years in TV dramas and variety shows, this is the first time he has been romantically linked. He became a child star at the age of six on the still-running TBS drama “Wataru Seken wa Oni Bakari”. He and Yumi met last year when she was a regular panelist on the NHK show “Quiz Nihon no Kao”, hosted by Enari. Yumi is a graduate of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, while Enari is currently a senior in the Arts department of Seijo University.
• Popular newscaster Komiya Etsuko (48) has divorced for the second time. Her management agency revealed yesterday that she and her husband, TV production company director Kawashima Shouzaburo (38), split in mid-March. They had been married since 1994, but separated for some time since his extra-marital affair was exposed by a weekly magazine in 2001. Komiya shares her ¥200 million Tokyo home with her mother. She joined TV Asahi in 1981 and gained fame in 1985 as the first assistant newscaster to Kume Hiroshi on the popular “News Station”. She was married to a trading company employee from 1983 to 1989. One of the most popular newscasters among the middle-aged set, she is known as Etchan.
It’s being billed as Japan’s version of “We Are the World”. 44 of the country’s top celebrities and sports stars have given their time to a charity music project organized by top producer Suhou Shougo (31). They appear in the promo video for “end of the world”, a track on the maxi single “egg one” by indie trio “Sunny-side up”, and all profits will go to the Save the Children Japan NGO. Suhou put together the group with vocalists Tanabe Mai (23) and Takahashi Aimi (19). Among the many famous names appearing in the video are Wada Akiko, Koizumi Kyoko, Fujiwara Norika, Go Hiromi, Takahashi Katsunori, and Nanbara Kiyotaka. Also included in talento Kazami Shingo, who lost his 11-year-old daughter in a traffic accident just months ago. Each person simply holds up their own handwritten message to the children of the world. The project is exceptional in having such an impressive lineup of stars working free of charge with an indie group. The single is available from iTunes and other online music sites. The message cards are being put up for sale on Rakuten’s auction site.
• Kansai TV president Chiba Soichiro (63) has finally decided to bite the bullet. Three months after a scandal rocked his company, Chiba announced at a press conference in Osaka yesterday that he would demote himself to the level of non-representative company director. He will be replaced by Kataoka Masashi (64). The decision was made at an emergency board meeting earlier in the day. All board members will also lose their bonuses and several senior executives will have a 3-month pay cut. Chiba said, “We are carrying out our corporate responsibility following a rebuke from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and our broadcast of a program investigating the issue.” The scandal started when it was discovered that several elements of a January episode of the popular and long-running show “Hakkutsu! Aru Aru Daijiten II” had been faked. Further investigation turned up similar abuses on earlier episodes, the show lost its sponsor and was canceled.
• Talento Mieharu (40) yesterday married a 30-year-old company employee, named only as Yukiko. Real name Fujimoto Masanori, Mieharu is a member of the “Kin-chan Family”, celebrities under the tutelage of comedian Hagimoto Kinichi (66). His agency said they knew of his marriage plans but had not known the date.
• Tokio member Kokubun Taichi (32) spoke for the first time yesterday about his rumored split with singer aiko (31). “What you read is true,” he said about the revelation in February that the couple had split as long ago as last summer. “The reason? It just wasn’t meant to be. But I think we’re both cool with it.”
• Former “Shape Up Girls” member Kajiwara Mayumi (40) gave birth to twin boys yesterday. The babies were born by caesarean section. Kajiwara married a golf business entrepreneur in 2004. She was a member of one of several “sexy units” that were popular on TV until the mid 1990s.