Two big J-pop names are to provide the theme tunes to anime features this summer. “Beautiful World”, the upcoming single from Utada Hikaru (24), will be the signature tune for the latest “Evangelion” movie adaptation. Director Anno Hideaki (47) is a big Hikki fan, and he approached the singer directly about taking part in the project. The single is due for release on August 29 and the movie opens on September 1. Meanwhile, “Naruto” fan DJ Ozma jumped at the chance to lay down a track for “Naruto – Shippuden”, the latest movie version of the popular TV Tokyo anime series. “Lie, Lie, Lie” will be in stores on August 1, and the movie opens on August 4.
• A wake was held at a branch of the Anrakuji temple in Tokyo last night for actor-comedian Tani Kanichi, who died of a brain aneurism on June 25. He was 74. Real name Nishimura Masaaki, as an actor he was best known for the late-1950s TV superhero series “Gekko Kamen”. He was also the only surviving member of Three Pockets, a vaudeville comedy trio that also included legendary “Tora-san” actor Atsumi Kiyoshi (1928-1996) and Seki Keiroku (1928-2006). A funeral is being held this morning.
• It’s been a while since we reported on any J-Leaguers here. But now we have a reason, as national team defender Nakata Koji (27) is romantically involved with actress Kato Ai (24). Though Nakata played French team Marseilles in 2005 and transferred to Basel in the Swiss league in 2006, the couple have been dating for three years. Currently in the off season, he was recently spotted with Kato on a dinner date in Tokyo. Their management agencies refused to comment on the story.
Young British actor Daniel Radcliffe (17) was welcomed by screaming fans at Narita Airport yesterday as he made his second trip to Japan. This time he’s here to promote the fifth in the Harry Potter movie series, his first visit in December 2002 being to plug “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”. The world premiere of “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” will be held tonight at the Roppongi Hills complex in central Tokyo and a press event will be held tomorrow. The movie will be in theaters from July 20. 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 are creating maximum hype for the latest movie. It’s the first time for a Harry Potter movie to premiere outside the U.K.
• A couple of showbiz divorces were revealed this week, although both actually took place last year. It turns out that actor Takasugi Kou (42) and actress Takada Shoko (39) have been divorced since April 2006. The couple met while working together on the 1998 NHK drama series “Yanchakure” and married in December 2003. Takasugi tends to play mainly police and soldier supporting roles, such as in the “Odoru Daisosen” (Bayside Shakedown) movie series. Takada works mainly in theater. Also split are actress Toda Keiko (49) and actor Inoue Junichi (48), who also met through their work. The pair divorced last December after more than 16 years of marriage. Toda is a supporting actress best known for her role in the popular Fuji TV comedy drama series “Shomuni”. It is her second divorce.
• Former Morning Musume member Tsuji Nozomi (20) recently tied the knot with actor Sugiura Taiyo (26). A representative submitted their marriage registration documents on their behalf at a Tokyo municipal office. They chose the first taian, the most auspicious day on the Shinto calendar, after Tsuji’s 20th birthday. She is about four months pregnant, a development that forced her to pull out of several showbiz commitments. The couple plan to hold a small wedding ceremony in July, but have no plans for a big reception.
• Also several months pregnant are actress Yada Akiko (28) and singers Sakaki Izumi (38) and Minmi (32). Yada married actor-singer Oshio Manabu (29) in November of last year. She is due to have her baby in late autumn in Los Angeles, where the couple are currently based. Sakaki, who married actor Sakaki Hideo (37) in December 2005, is expecting twins in November. She will take maternity leave after a concert in Tokyo scheduled for July 8. Minmi, a singer with the group Japanese Reggae, announced this week that she’s expecting her first baby in December. The father is Wakadanna (31), a member of popular reggae group Shonan no Kaze. The couple met in 2001 when he was living in Kingston, Jamaica. They have announced no plans to marry but may tie the knot after the baby is born.
Singer/actress Tsuchiya Anna is the latest Japanese star aiming to go global. Her upcoming international tour is being touted as the “first world tour by a Japanese female singer”. Starting June 30 in Los Angeles, the 12-show tour will take in Korea, Taiwan and finish in Tokyo on September 1. By my count, that’s only four countries. And she isn’t even really going it alone, as she’ll be appearing during festivals and events such as the “Anime Expo Ax 2007” in L.A. and Summer Sonic at home. A bit more impressive is the fact that a CD/DVD release of her greatest hits album will go on sale in 42 mostly European countries, a record for a Japanese artist. It will be in stores from July 4. Her popularity in Europe comes mainly from her theme song to the anime series “Nana” and an appearance at an anime expo in Paris last July. In France, she is called the “Japanese Madonna”. Her next single, a double-A-side “Bubble Trip/Sweet Sweet Song” (jacket above) is due for release on August 1.
It turns out the media speculation was right. At a press conference yesterday held at a central Tokyo hotel by comedian Yabe Hiroyuki (35, photo left), he announced that his 15-year relationship with a former model he refers to as Hitomi-chan (31) was over. He said he had proposed to her over dinner last month, but she had turned him down. Providing emotional support – and plenty of digs – at yesterday’s event was Okamura Takashi (36, photo right) his partner in the comedy duo Ninety Nine and the rest of the regulars from the Fuji TV variety show “Mecha Mecha Iketeru”. The show has a history of announcing major personal stories, such as marriages, breakups and babies, of its cast members. Asked the reason for the split, Yabe said that he had taken the relationship too lightly. “If I had been ready to get married sooner, this wouldn’t have happened.” Though many views yesterday’s event as little more than a successful publicity stunt, and there were plenty of jokes, Yabe’s heartbreak was clearly visible and genuine.
• Someone who did manage to get married recently is actress Miyazaki Aoi (21). She and actor Takaoka Sousuke (25) tied the knot after a 7-year relationship that began when she was still a junior high student. But at the time, she was already an established model and child actress, visiting the Cannes Film Festival following her acclaimed role in the 2000 movie “Eureka”. She starred in the 2006 NHK morning drama series “Junjo Kirari” and the movie “Nana”, while Takaoka starred in the successful 2004 movie “Pacchigi!”
• American pop singer Christina Aguilera (26) performed for 10,000 fans at the venerable Nippon Budokan in Tokyo yesterday. With a stage show that included 20 backing dancers, a circus troupe and a carousel, she went through a dozen costume changes. She finishes off her brief Japan tour with another show at the venue tonight.
The media are speculating about the meaning of today’s planned press conference by comedian Yabe Hiroyuki (35, photo left). All the tabloids put the story on their front pages, as the straight man of popular comedy duo Ninety Nine revealed he had some news to announce about his private life. He has often referred to his long-term relationship with a former model he calls Hitomi-chan. So the media’s first assumption was that it would be a wedding announcement. But this morning, most are speculating that it’s more likely the couple have split up. We’ll have to wait and see what he has to say to reporters during today’s recording of the show “Mecha Mecha Iketeru”. All of the show’s regular cast members, including Yabe’s comedy partner Okamura Takashi (36, photo right), are said to be taking part in the press conference.
• One comedian who is definitely married to a former model is Kajiwara Yuuta (26) of the duo King Kong. He and the 21-year-old recently tied the knot, and they are both to make an appearance on tonight’s edition of the Fuji TV show “Haneru no Tobira”. Kajiwara was briefly married in 2003-04 to a woman who nursed him through an illness that forced him put his comedy career on hold.
• Public broadcaster NHK has been hit by yet another scandal. This time it is the arrest of an employee under the law related to child prostitution and pornography. Emoto Eigen (34) was arrested May 31 and fined ¥500,000 by the Tokyo Summary Court for corrupting a minor after he was found to have paid a 16-year-old high school girl for sex last October. NHK announced that he was to be officially dismissed as of June 26. Emoto joined the network in 1998 as a director, and worked on such shows as “Salaryman Neo”. He switched to the network’s educational channel last summer.
• Talento Yamaguchi Moe (30) announced on her blog yesterday that she gave birth to her first child at a Tokyo hospital on Monday. She and IT company president Ozeki Shigeo (32) married in November 2005.
Former Morning Musume member Konno Asami (20) is rejoining the Hello! Project fold. She quit Momus in July of last year to pursue her dream of studying at Keio University. Last December she passed the entrance exam for the Environment and Information Studies department of the prestigious school and started studying at the Fujisawa campus in April. But she announced yesterday that she is to rejoin the Gatas Brilhantes H.P. futsal team as goalkeeper and will take part in the upcoming CD debut by ten of its members. Including other former Momus members such as Yoshizawa Hitomi (22) and Ishikawa Rika (22), the group will release “Narihajimeta Koi no Bell” on August 22. The single is also the theme tune for Cirque du Soleil’s circus show “Dralion”. The combination of pop idols and futsal may seem a strange one, but it has been a marketing success and Gatas is one of the strongest teams. Though she says her priority is her college studies, Konno wants to enjoy both worlds as much as possible. She will also join the Hello! Project nationwide tour starting in Nagoya on July 15.
• An armed man forced his way into the Akasaka management office of Kawashima Naomi (46) on June 13 demanding to see the popular actress. The man, described as 46 years old and unemployed, wielded a box cutter and threatened agency staff. But he was soon taken into police custody and no one was injured. Kawashima was not in the office at the time.
Members of popular Johnny’s Jimusho boy band NEWS announced yesterday that the group are scheduled to perform their first overseas concerts. They will play two shows at the Taipei Arena in Taiwan on October 6-7. The announcement came from two members of the group, the “TegoMasu” duo of Tegoshi Yuya (19) and Masuda Takuhisa (20), who were presenters on Taiwan’s biggest music awards show and played a surprise 3-song show yesterday at the Taipei youth mecca of Ximending. About 1,000 fans turned out to meet the pop duo at the airport last Friday, an indication of their solid fan base on the island. NEWS reached No.1 on the Taiwanese chart with their album “Touch” in 2005, and in April they topped the charts again with their single “Hoshi wo Mezashite”.
• Yesterday an NTV production director was arrested for drug use. Saegusa Mikinao (33) was detained at the weekend at the Shibuya police station on suspicion of using amphetamines. He was caught shoplifting on Saturday evening and a urine test turned up traces of the drug. As always seems to be reported in these cases, the news included a statement from the suspect saying “I bought the drugs from a foreigner.” It is the third criminal case this year involving an NTV employee.
• Murakami Tetsuya (36), the sunglass-wearing leader of the 5-member vocal group Gospellers, revealed on their official website yesterday that he is married. He said he and his wife held a wedding ceremony at the Asakusa Jinja shrine on June 15.
• TBS announcer Aoki Yuko (24) admitted on the live “Sunday Japon” yesterday that she is dating a former assistant director on the show. The two were photographed by one of the weekly gossip magazines, and the show’s emcees, comedy duo Bakusho Mondai, were quite happy to put her on the spot.
TV Asahi announcer Ishii Kiwa (29) is engaged to marry the owner of a pro baseball team. She and Rakuten Golden Eagles president Shimada Toru (42) announced yesterday that they will register their marriage on the auspicious date of July 7 (07/07/07) and hold a wedding ceremony in October. TV Asahi and the Rakuten headquarters are both located in the Roppongi Hills complex in central Tokyo. The couple were introduced last year through a mutual friend. Ishii joined “TeleAsa” in 2000 after graduating from Ferris University, and is currently a presenter on the early morning show “Yajiuma Plus”. Shimada, a graduate of Tokai University, has worked for companies such as Recruit and became a director of major IT company Rakuten in 2004. A divorcee, he has a daughter in elementary school.
• It was revealed yesterday that R&B singer Ueda Masaki (57) and his saxophone player wife Asa Chika (47) have been divorced since last year. The two married in December 1988 and often collaborated on musical projects. But they separated last summer and were officially divorced in October. The cause is thought to be related to Ueda’s religious beliefs. The news came out (coincidentally?) just as he is releasing a new album.
Singer Matsuda Seiko (45) is to make her first TV drama appearance in two years. Matsuda took part in filming of the Fuji TV drama “Hanazakari no Kimitachi e” in a Tokyo suburban location yesterday. Based on a hugely popular girl’s manga of the same name about a boarding school for handsome boys, the drama will air on Tuesday nights from July 3. Matsuda plays the school principal, while the main roles are students Sano Izumi (played by Oguri Shun,22), Ashiya Mizuki (Horikita Maki, 18) and Nakatsu Shuuichi (Ikuta Touma, 22). Mizuki is a student returnee from the U.S. who falls for Sano and dresses as a boy to be close to him, while Nakatsu falls for Mizuki without realizing she is a girl (it all sounds a bit like that Blur song “Girls & Boys”!). The story ran in the “Hana to Yume” manga from 1996 to 2004, and as a separate 23-volume series it sold over 13 million copies. A TV drama adaptation became the biggest Mandarin-language hit of 2006 in Taiwan.
Talento Kanda Uno (32) announced yesterday the date for her wedding with pachinko mogul Nishimura Takuro (37). The couple will hold a wedding ceremony at Meiji Jingu shrine followed by a reception at the Hotel New Otani in Tokyo on October 8. The date is a taian day, the most auspicious day for weddings in the traditional Shinto calendar. True to her recent image as a fashion designer, Uno said the wedding will also be a fashion show featuring her own “Scena D’uno” brand of wedding dresses. Because of the need for a catwalk, she has had to reduce the number of invited guests from 1,000 to around 720. She said she had done all the research and planning for the event herself, from the food to the table decorations. Her good friend, singer Mikawa Kenichi (61), will perform the ballad “Ai no Sanka” (A Hymn to Love). According to a hotel spokesperson, even a regular wedding in the massive “Tsuru-no-Ma” banquet room would cost no less than ¥5 million. But Kanda has never been one to settle for less than the most expensive of anything. So she’ll be reaching well into Nishimura’s deep pockets for this event of a lifetime.
• Less happy news for actress Mihara Junko (42). She and talento Happy Happy (38), who formerly went by the name Koala, have for several years been the stereotypical “madly in love” showbiz couple. But now it seems their marriage is on the rocks and they are talking about divorce. It seems the main reason is his extra-marital affairs earlier this year while she was away from home on long theatrical runs. The two married in November 2001, just months after Mihara divorced a racing driver. A former top idol singer, Mihara herself was a racer from 1987 to 1999.
• Actor Enari Kazuki (22), famous for his cleaner than clean image, has sued two newspaper for publishing articles suggesting he frequented sex parlors. The “Nikkan Gendai” and “Naigai Times” published the stories in early April. Enari’s management agency sued them for libel and claimed ¥22 million in compensation, saying there was no truth in the stories and they seriously damaged his image.