The lavish ¥500 million wedding reception for actress Fujiwara Norika (35) and Yoshimoto comedian Jinnai Tomonori (33) was broadcast live on national TV last night. According to the NTV network, it was among the most expensive receptions ever televised. The event was held in the Heian no Ma reception room at the Hotel Okura Kobe and was attended by about 600 guests. As always there was no irony intended as Norika’s father walked her in a white dress with an 8m-long veil down the “virgin road”. Seeing the dress for the first time, Jinnai said, “She’s more beautiful than I ever imagined. 100 times! She looks like something out of this world!” There were videotaped messages from stars including Hollywood actress Cameron Diaz (34), Miyazaki Prefecture governor and former comedian Higashikokubaru Hideo (49) and top Yoshimoto comedy duo Downtown. Singer Go Hiromi (51) had 14 backing dancers for his performance of “Oyome Samba”, a popular choice for wedding receptions. Finally, Jinnai surprised his bride with a version of her favorite Kobukuro song, “Eien ni Tomo ni”, accompanying himself on the piano. Not a musician, he spent three months secretly learning to play the song. The couple held their wedding ceremony on February 17 at the Ikuta Jinja shrine, also in their hometown of Kobe.
Thousands of fans have flocked to the offices of the late singer-songwriter Sakai Izumi to pay their respects and leave flowers. Sakai, who performed solo using the name of her former band Zard, died after a fall at the Keio University hospital at the weekend. Her body was taken yesterday to a funeral hall near her home in the western Tokyo suburb of Machida. Yesterday, more than 1,200 fans came and said their tearful farewells at the Roppongi office of Being, Sakai’s management agency, and hundreds more turned up at the Osaka office. They opened from 7:30am to allow office workers to pay their respects on their way to work. Sakai was the most successful female artist of the 1990s and her fans are mostly young adults. This week they cleaned record stores out of copies of the most recent Zard album, a 15th anniversary greatest hits collection released last October. It had dropped out of the Oricon Top 100, but immediately shot back to No.6 on the daily rankings. It was announced yesterday that “Sakai Izumi-san o Shinobukai”, a remembrance event, will be held for fans and fellow artists on June 27 at the Aoyama Sougijo funeral hall. Zard hits will be played throughout the event. Her songs, which have inspired and encouraged a generation of young Japanese, will provide a suitably uplifting sendoff.
• Actress Okina Megumi (27) is to retire from show business, according to “Sports Hochi”. According to sources, she is simply tired of it and her management agency have admitted that she will quit at the end of this month. Real name Mimasu Takae, the Hiroshima native was scouted while still an elementary school student. She made her TV debut in 1992 at the age of 13 and her first drama leading role four years later won her a best newcomer award. She married an IT entrepreneur in 2004 only to divorce a year later.
20-year-old ballet dancer Mori Riyo is the first Japanese to be named as Miss Universe in 48 years. She was selected from 77 contestants at the annual competition in Mexico on Monday. The runners up were from Brazil and Venezuela. Mori is from Shizuoka Prefecture, where she currently works as a jazz instructor at a dance school run by her mother. She has studied dance since she was four, including time studying ballet in Canada. In an indication that the world has fallen for Asian Beauty – a common theme in Japanese advertising these days – Miss Korea Honey Lee was also chosen among the final five contestants. The win by a Japanese entrant is all the more notable since the runner-up in last year’s contest was Naha City native Chibana Kurara (25), who has capitalized on her instant fame and now works as a TV news reporter among other things.
Tragedy hit the J-pop world last weekend when Zard vocalist Sakai Izumi died in a bizarre accident at a hospital where she was undergoing cancer treatment. She was 40. She was first diagnosed with cancer of the womb last year and underwent surgery. She was recently readmitted to the Keio University hospital in Tokyo as the cancer had spread to her lungs. Early on Saturday morning she was returning from a walk in the hospital grounds when she fell from the landing of an external staircase and suffered a severe blow to her head. She received treatment but died of a cerebral contusion on Sunday afternoon. Real name Kamachi Sachiko, the singer, song writer and former race queen formed Zard in 1991 along with fellow members Machida Fumito (guitar), Hoshi Hiroyasu (bass), Michikura Kosuke (drums) and Ikezawa Kimitaka (keyboards). After their debut single, “Goodbye My Loneliness”, the band had their breakthrough hit with “Makenaide” in 1993, which was used as the theme tune for the spring high school invitational tournament that year. Though the band dwindled in number until it was just Sakai as a solo artist, she kept the band name and continued to have hits during the 90s, including “Mou Waserenai” and “In My Arms Tonight”. She was planning to release a new album this autumn and follow it up with just her second ever concert tour and the first in three years. A prolific artist with over 40 singles released, Zard was the No.1 best-selling female artist of the 90s and third overall.
• TBS revealed today that announcer Toyoda Ayano (30) recently married and is expecting a baby in December. She and her husband, a 38-year-old producer with the network, registered their marriage on May 20. Toyoda, a graduate of Sophia University, is a presenter on the “Evening Five” show.
Kawase Naomi (37) is the first Japanese in 17 years to take the Grand Prix at Cannes. “Mogari no Mori” (The Mourning Forest) was announced as the runner-up at the 60th Cannes Film Festival on Sunday. “Making film is so tough and resembles life,” said a tearful Kawase at the awards ceremony. “There are many difficulties in life. Invisible things, the memory of the deceased… we can stand alone when we find ourselves to be supported by such things. Thank you very much for appreciating the movie.” Her latest film is about a man with dementia (Uda Shigeki) living in a small retirement home and a female caregiver (Ono Machiko) who lost her child. Together they wander in a forest seeking his wife’s grave. The film was shot in a small town and the mountains near Kawase’s hometown of Nara and captures some of the surviving natural beauty of Japan. The festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or, went to the pre-announcement favorite, Romanian film “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”. Kawase has won at Cannes before – she was the youngest ever director to win the Camera d’Or award for best debut film with “Moe no Suzaku” in 1997. The last Japanese film to win the Grand Prix was Oguri Kouhei’s “Shi no Toge” in 1990.
• Veteran comedian Hagimoto Kinichi is to be the oldest ever celebrity to do the 100km run for NTV’s annual charity telethon. Having just turned 66, he will be seven years older than lawyer Maruyama Kazuya was when he completed the run in 2005. He told fellow comedian Shimada Shinsuke on a live variety show, “I told them I can’t run, but I’d do it anyway. I’ll just grit my teeth and run.” “Kin-chan”, as he is affectionately known, was the first ever emcee for the telethon 30 years ago. These days he is most often seen in his role as manager of the Ibaraki Golden Golds amateur baseball team.
The first reported romance for new Morning Musume leader Fujimoto Miki (22) is none other than comedian Shoji Tomoharu (31). “Mikiti” has been spotted several times spending the night at Shoji’s Tokyo apartment by weekly gossip magazine “Friday”, who published the photos in today’s issue. Friends say they have been dating since at least last autumn. Apart from being a top idol, Fujimoto is also something of an athlete and the “ace striker” for the Hello! Project’s futsal team. Shoji (photo right) is one half of the popular comedy duo Shinagawa Shoji, regulars on the variety show circuit, and is the one who is always ready to remove his t-shirt and show off his muscular physique. This latest match up between a comedian and a popular female beauty reinforces the image of a romantic boom for Japan’s funny men.
• The Tokyo District Court has dropped the indictments against comedian Udo Suzuki (37) and actor Miwa Akihiro (72). Both were involved in separate traffic accidents in the last couple of months. But in both cases, there were only minor injuries and they have been settled by the respective insurance companies.
Movie director Kumai Kei died yesterday at a Tokyo hospital after suffering a brain hemorrhage. He was 76. As reported here on Monday, Kumai was taken to the hospital last Friday after a newspaper delivery man discovered him unconscious outside his Tokyo home. He was best known for tackling social issues in movies such as the hugely successful “Kurobe no Taiyo” (Tunnel to the Sun, 1968), about the construction of the famous Kurobe Dam, and “Umi to Dokuyaku” (The Sea and Poison, 1986), which won the Silver Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Johnny Depp (43), Orlando Bloom (30) and other members of the cast and crew of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” landed in Japan yesterday. Hundreds of fans crowded the arrivals lobby at Narita Airport from early morning, divided into two main groups depending on their loyalty to one star or the other. They numbered in their thousands by the time Bloom arrived at 6:15pm. Depp showed up in his private jet three hours later. Both stars took their time passing through the lobby allowing fans, some in tears, to give presents and take photos. The third episode of the hugely successful movie trilogy opens worldwide on May 25, though it has its Asia premiere tonight at the Nippon Budokan in central Tokyo.
The wife of actor/talento Kishibe Shiro (57) died last month of sudden heart failure, it was revealed yesterday. She was just 43. Kishibe awoke on the morning of April 6 and hurt himself getting out of bed. He went downstairs where his wife Saori told him to go back to bed and lie down for a while. When he awoke an hour later he went downstairs only to discover his wife collapsed on the floor. He tried to resuscitate her as he waited for an ambulance but she was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. In the last year she had complained several times of difficulty breathing but had refused to see a doctor. Kishibe is said to be wasting away at his Yokohama home in a state of shock and unable to speak. The couple had been married since 1994. Kishibe rose to fame as a member of the 60s group The Tigers and later playing the water sprite in the popular 70s TV series “Saiyuki” (shown abroad as “Monkey”, and Kishibe’s character was known as Sandy). He first married in 1971 and had two children. Poor financial decisions led him to declare bankruptcy in the late 90s, but it was this image that became his gimmick after his return to showbiz a few years later.
• Police recently nabbed talento Uehara Sakura (30) for speeding and driving with an expired license, it was revealed yesterday. She was given a speeding ticket late on the night of May 15 when police stopped her for driving over 80km/h in a 60km/h zone on a bypass in Tokyo. She said she hadn’t realized that her license expired at the end of April. She has already renewed her license and paid the fines. In typical fashion, TV Asahi will either cut scenes including Uehara from today’s edition of “Ai no Apron” or include a subtitle to say the show was filmed before the incident.
• Actress and former idol singer Minamino Yoko (39) has a new love in her life. She and creative director Yanai Michihiko (43) first met last September while he was directing the video for Nagasawa Masami’s debut single, the theme tune for a TV drama reprisal of a popular 80s movie. Minamino became a star back in the mid-80s due to her role in a similar drama series, “Sukeban Deka II”. Yanai is a musician and has been the creative force behind such TV ad campaigns as Tower Records’ “No Music, No Life”, Fuji TV’s “Kikkake wa, Fuji Terebi” and Shiseido’s “Uno”.
Some of Japan’s biggest stars are at Cannes this week. Kitano “Beat” Takeshi (60) is there as one of the 35 directors who took part in a compilation movie to celebrate the Film Festival’s 60th anniversary. Takeshi’s 3-minute comedy segment, the second in “To Each His Own Cinema”, was well received. The short will be shown with Takeshi’s upcoming new feature, “Kantoku Banzai”, set to open on June 2. True to form, he turned up at the red carpet event wearing a traditional hakama and a silly “chonmage” wig. “In 60 years probably no one has done anything as stupid as that. Next I’d like wear a hakama to the Oscars, and when my name is called take it off and show my arse! If I get an honorary Oscar at the age of 90, I’ll probably soil myself and cause real mayhem.” Fellow comedian Matsumoto Hitoshi was visibly nervous at the first ever screening of “Dai Nipponjin”, his debut as a movie director. But the unique comedy got a standing ovation on Saturday night from the audience of 800, and it has already had distribution offers from ten countries. Also on Saturday night, two members of pop group SMAP were giving a party to promote their respective movies. Kimura Takuya (34) is plugging “Hero”, the latest spinoff from a hugely successful Fuji TV drama series. Bandmate Katori Shingo (30) is promoting the movie adaptation of his recent TV version of “Saiyuki” (Journey to the West, also known as Monkey). The party drew about 800 guests from some 12 countries.
• Top kabuki star Nakamura Kanzaburo (51) has been penalized by the Tokyo tax authorities for failure to declare some ¥70 million in income. The undeclared income was from a period of three years up to 2005 and was received during the course of parties and other events to commemorate his succession to his current stage name. His sons, Kantaro (25) and Shichinosuke (24) have also been investigated as their fictional expenses were allegedly used as tax write offs. Including penalties, Kanzaburo has been hit with a tax bill of about ¥30 million. He has disputed the audit results, adding that the official statements are defamatory. But he does have a history of run-ins with the tax man, the last dating to late 1999. At the time he fessed up and handed over some ¥6 million in taxes and penalties.