Monthly Archives: July 2007

King Kazu – Once a Player, Always a Player

It looks like J-Leaguer “King Kazu” just can’t stick to playing on the pitch. Today’s issue of the “Shuukan Josei” women’s weekly reports that at the beginning of July, Yokohama FC striker Miura Kazuyoshi (40) was spotted taking a week-long holiday in Los Angeles with a 31-year-old TV Asahi employee named only as “A-ko-san”. The daughter of a lawyer and a graduate of Sophia University and Tokyo University graduate school, she is also the ex-girlfriend of another renowned playboy, kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo (29). Kazu is married to actress and former model Risako (39) and they have two children. He is said to have met his new “bit on the side” through veteran idol singer Tahara Toshihiko (46) at a goukon party in June. As a member of Tokyo Verdy, Kazu was the biggest star on the biggest team of the J-League’s heyday in the early 1990s. He and other rampant egos like Ruy Ramos and Takeda Nobuhiro helped glamorize soccer in Japan but set a bad precedent that players have been following ever since.

• Due to popular demand, Johnny’s Jimusho boy band Arashi have added four dome dates to their ongoing nationwide tour. With 380,000 fans unable to get tickets for shows at Osaka Dome and Tokyo, two more concerts have been added at each venue in September and October. After yesterday’s show at Yokohama Arena, member Ninomiya Kazuya (24) apologized to fans saying, “If we had been given bigger venues to begin with, so many fans wouldn’t have been left out. But we’re not highly regarded at Johnny’s. I guess we rank about 8th!” The modesty may have been tongue in cheek, but the group do share a stable with the likes of SMAP, Tokio, Kinki Kids and V6.

• Okinawan rock band Orange Range have seen their two greatest hits albums enter the latest Oricon chart at No.1 and 2. Titled “Orange” and “Range”, the albums’ sales have pushed the group’s all-time earnings over ¥30 billion. On the singles chart, Otsuka Ai has her first No.1 in almost two years with “Peach/Heart”.

A Magical Return by Princess Tenko

Illusionist Hikita Princess Tenko has made a “miraculous” recovery from the injuries she suffered recently. Wearing a Phantom of the Opera-style mask to hide her facial scars, she took to the stage at the Misonoza theater in Nagoya yesterday, just a week after “The Spikes of Death” trick went wrong. Though not life-threatening, the cuts, bruises and broken bones inflicted were initially said to require a month to heal. But, with a tear rolling down from behind her mask, Hikita said she never thought about canceling the Nagoya show. In a very rare talk with the audience, she said, “I didn’t have time to escape, and I thought I was going to die. One of the blades stopped just 1cm from blinding me.” Asked if she still felt any fear, she replied, “No, I’m fine. I rarely get a chance to rest for a week, so I was delighted.” She was released from hospital last Tuesday, two days after the accident, with her ribs taped up and is only able to perform thanks to painkillers. At yesterday’s two-part show, she performed her usual full routine of 12 illusions.

• Rock singer Mineda Kazunobu (29) has been dropping his pants again. This time the Ginnan Boyz vocalist is in trouble with the police in Taiwan, after he worked the crowd into a frenzy at a show in Taipei on Saturday night. After Mineda exposed himself, members of the audience stormed the stage. Though the singer says he didn’t mean to cause trouble, police say they are looking into prosecuting him for immoral behavior. Mineda was arrested in 2005 after going naked at an outdoor concert in Ibaraki Prefecture.

• Hollywood star George Clooney (46) was greeted by about 200 screaming fans when he flew into Narita Airport from Milan by private jet yesterday. He’s in Tokyo to promote “Ocean’s 13”, which has its Japan premiere on August 1.

Romance for Rosa and Jin?

Actress Kato Rosa (22) and Johnny’s Jimusho star Akanishi Jin (23) have the hots for each other, according to today’s issue of weekly gossip magazine “Friday”. The pair were spotted having dinner together with friends in mid-May, after which Akanishi drove Kato back to her Tokyo apartment and spent the next 17 hours there. He then became a regular visitor, leading reporters to assume that Kato has ended her relationship with actor Tamaki Hiroshi (27) and taken up with the young idol singer. Akanishi is a member of KAT-TUN, and has appeared in several popular drama series such as “Gokusen” and “Anego”. He shocked fans last October when he took a break to study English in the U.S., leading many to speculate that he had quit showbiz, but he returned to performing in Japan in the spring. Kato is one of the most closely watched of today’s young actresses. With an Italian father, she’s also one of the growing number of “halfs”, who seem to be almost taking over in music and TV. She is currently starring in her first drama lead role as an ambitious young bar hostess in “Jotei” on TV Asahi. In standard practice, her agency has denied her relationship with either Tamaki or Akanishi.

• Miike Takashi’s latest movie is to be entered in competition at the Venice Film Festival (August 29 – September 8). “Sukiyaki Western Django” stars Itoh Hideaki (31) and is a Japanese take on the classic spaghetti westerns. Miike, the man behind such acclaimed movies as “Audition” and “Ichi the Killer”, was chosen by Time magazine as one of the Top Ten directors of the 21st century. He will be aiming to be the first Japanese to take the festival’s Golden Lion award since Kitano Takeshi (60) in 1997.

• Nigerian-born talento Bobby Ologun (44) is now a Japanese. He appeared on the “Mezamashi Terebi” show yesterday and revealed that he had changed his nationality after returning from Nigeria. He’s taken his wife’s family name of Konda, and so is now officially Konda Bobby.

Hotei’s Version of Street Fighting Man?

It was revealed yesterday that a couple of veteran rockers recently got down to some bare-knuckle fisticuffs. Last month, Maeda Kou (45, photo left) filed a complaint with Chiba Prefecture police after he was beaten by 6-foot-3 legendary guitarist Hotei Tomoyasu (45, photo right). His blog has vague references to the incident from June 14 onwards, mentioning that he was visiting the hospital every day and saying how he wanted to “destroy that lying S.O.B.” It seems the two were driving back to Tokyo from Hotei’s villa in Chiba when they got into a fight that left Maeda with nasty injuries. The two have been friends for many years, with Maeda sometimes writing lyrics for Hotei and taking part in a collaboration album last year. Maeda has also found considerable success as a writer, winning several top literary prizes including the Akutagawa Prize in 2000 for the novel “Kiregire.” Hotei was lead guitarist for the top 1980s rock band Boowy and his famous track “Battle Without Honor or Humanity” is used in Michael Bay’s recent movie adaptation of “Transformers.” His management agency sent a fax to the media today saying that the incident wasn’t as one-sided as Maeda suggests and that the police report and 3rd party witnesses will confirm that.

• Veteran singer Koyanagi Rumiko (55) has offially denied the rumor that she plans to marry her 28-year-old boyfriend, actor Ishibashi Masataka. As reported here a couple of days ago, the two were rumored to be planning to marry at the end of the year. Koyanagi had a very high-profile divorce from her former husband and backing dancer Osumi Kenya (42) in 2000.

• Of all the TV network announcers, the ladies at Fuji TV seem to be the most popular among fellow celebrities. The latest to find romance is Honda Tomoko (23), who is dating Urawa Reds midfielder Hasebe Makoto (23). Honda only joined Fuji last year but is already the announce on the “Suporto” show on Saturdays and Sundays. The former Miss Rikkyo University met Hasebe when she was a reporter for the show as a student.

Yaji-san, Kita-san in New York City

The stars of “Yaji-Kita Douchu Teresuko” were in New York on Monday for the movie’s world premiere. Kabuki actor Nakamura Kanzaburo (52), Emoto Akira (58) and former idol singer Koizumi Kyoko (41) braved the pouring rain and walked the streets of Manhattan in their period costumes. The historical comic-drama, directed by Hirayama Hideyuki, was shown at the Walter Reed Theater in the Lincoln Center with the English title “Three for the Road”. It’s the latest of many adaptations of a road movie theme that dates back to the first “Yaji-Kita” film in 1927. The two main characters have even been played by women, with the legendary Misora Hibari and Eri Chiemi taking on the roles in 1962. For Nakamura, it’s the first movie starring role in 46 years, the last being when he was a child actor in “Acchan no Baby Gang” in 1961. He and Hirayama had been planning the latest “Yaji-Kita” revival for ten years, though in the meantime Nakamura’s eldest son Kantaro (25) worked with the director on the movie “Turn” in 2001, and younger son Shichinosuke (24) starred in “Mayonaka no Yaji-san, Kita-san” in 2005. “(My son) beat me to it, so we re-wrote the script. We made a movie that’s like soaking in the tub at an onsen.”

Princess Tenko Takes One in the Ribs

Magician Hikita “Princess” Tenko suffered serious injuries on Sunday when a trick went wrong, according to her official blog. The accident was caused by mechanical trouble during an afternoon performance at the culture hall in Sabae City, Fukui Prefecture. In a variation on the sword box, the veteran illusionist was inside a large 2m-high metal box when 20 knives were passed through it in a trick called “The Spikes of Death”. Hikita was supposed to emerge unscathed from the box in a different costume. But she was unable to get out and was cut by several of the knives, suffering injuries to her head, chest and back. She had at least one broken rib, and one of the knives stopped just 1cm from taking her eye out. As she has never had to call off a show, Hikita is said to have insisted on continuing, until organizers stopped it after about 30 minutes. She was rushed to a local hospital before being moved to Tokyo, where her condition is not critical but she is expected to spend a month recovering.

• What is he thinking?! It seems that actor Ishibashi Masataka (28) has gone and proposed to divorcee singer Koyonagi Rumiko (55). As reported on Japan Zone back in June of last year, the relationship between the pair was generally regarding as simply good publicity, particularly for the largely unknown Ishibashi. But Koyanagi, who split with dancer Osumi Kenya (42) in 2000, still seems to need the security of a ring. Sources say she got one last December and the pair, who are already shacked up, are looking to get hitched at the end of the year.

Hamasaki Ayumi (29) has matched Nakamori Akina (42) for the most consecutive years with a No.1 single for a female artist. “Glitter/Fated” is top of the latest Oricon chart rankings, meaning she’s had a chart topper every year since 1998, tying Nakamori’s 1982-91 run. Hamasaki already has the most No.1’s, the most Top 10 hits, the most overall sales and the most million sellers. Meanwhile, Kinki Kids saw their latest release “39” enter the album chart at No.1.

• Haga Kenji has been dropped by his management agency. After the talento was arrested last month on charges of extortion, Tokyo Six Production insisted on his innocence and criticized the police’s handling of the case. They say they still believe he will be vindicated in court, but as his prosecution began on Saturday they decided to sever official ties. The company represents such artists as actresses Takaoka Saki and Kitajima Mai, so they presumably didn’t want too much mud sticking to them.

A Record Weekend for Kinki Kids

Pop duo Kinki Kids held two events at Tokyo Dome over the weekend to celebrate ten years at the top of the J-Pop world. On Saturday, Domoto Tsuyoshi (28) and Domoto Koichi (28), who are unrelated, were officially recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for an amazing accomplishment. Since their debut single release (Garasu no Shonen) in July 1997, every one of their 25 singles has entered the Oricon chart at No.1, the latest chart topper being “Brand New Song” in April. The feat earned them a place in this year’s Japanese-language edition of the record book, and Guinness World Records’ COO Alistair Richards paid a rare visit to Japan to pay tribute to the duo, “In the highly competitive Japanese music world, to remain at the top for ten years is a remarkable achievement.” On Sunday, they played a 10th anniversary concert at the Dome. The stage was designed to be as small as possible to make room for 67,000 fans, the largest concert audience ever at the venue. It was their 28th show at the Dome, also a record. Along with stable-mates SMAP, Kinki Kids have been flag bearers for of the Johnny’s Jimusho empire for even more than a decade. Even before their heavily hyped 1997 debut, the duo had played concerts to a combined audience of 2 million fans and they were the first artists promoted by the then newly-formed “Johnny’s Entertainment” company.

• Kitano “Beat” Takeshi’s latest project is doubly difficult. In his first TV drama starring role in five years, he not only has to memorize a lot of lines for his role as a detective, he also has to recite them in the distinctive Hakata dialect. Takeshi (60) was on location in Kanagawa prefecture over the weekend filming “Ten to Sen” (Points and Lines), which will air on TV Asahi over two nights in the autumn. He said he lost 5 kilos for the role. The drama, which co-stars Uchiyama Rina (26), is based on the detective novel by the famous Matsumoto Seicho (1909-1992) that sold over 3 million copies.

Utada Hikaru Most Popular Artist

Singer Utada Hikaru has reclaimed her top spot in the hearts of Japanese music fans. For the fourth time, and the first since 2004, she has topped the Oricon annual ranking of the country’s favorite artists. She took the No.1 spot back from Aiko (31), who held it the last two years. She’s had an eventful year, releasing the No.1 single “Flavor of Life” in February and announcing her divorce from filmmaker Kiriya Kazuaki (39) in March. At No.2 were the duo Kobukuro, who grabbed their first chart-topping single in April, followed by veteran rock band Mr. Children. The ranking is based on a survey of 20,000 readers of the “Oricon Style” magazine.

• ANA has withdrawn its commercials featuring talento Hayami Mokomichi (22). The problem is not with the popular young star but with the filming location of the ads, which were being aired on TV screens on Tokyo commuter trains and the airline’s website. Featuring a tiger park that is a popular tourist destination in Guilin, China, they were shown on Yamanote and Chuo line trains from the end of May. But following an international outcry caused by videos of the similar parks that circulated on the Internet, ANA received an increasing number of complaints about their ads.

Kano Mika’s Bunny Girl Look

Always ready to show off her expensive cleavage, Kano Mika (39), youngest of the “Gorgeous Kano Sisters“, dressed up as a bunny girl for a PR event yesterday. She was promoting director David Lynch’s latest quirky movie “Inland Empire”, which opens here on July 21. When asked about the movie, Lynch described it simply as being “about a woman in trouble, and it’s a mystery, and that’s all I want to say about it.” Kano has had trouble of her own, with “middle sister” Harue absconding with some ¥300 million of the family jewels back in January. Kano said only that the criminal investigation and civil court case are continuing and that she would reveal more at a press conference in the near future.

• Talento and impersonator Hori (30) was involved in a minor traffic accident on Tuesday. He was in stuck in a traffic jam on a Tokyo expressway when the taxi he was riding was hit from behind. Hori was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital but suffered no serious injuries and was back at work yesterday.

Comedian Arrested for Molesting Schoolgirl

Comedian Takahashi Kenichi (photo left, 36) has been arrested for molesting a high school girl on a train. One half of the manzai duo King of Comedy, Takahashi was detained for molesting the girl on a packed Chiyoda Line subway train during the morning rush hour on July 11. Though he is denying the charges, his management agency have already imposed “jishuku”, the Japanese custom of apology followed by reclusion when caught doing something, and that he was under house arrest. As they almost always work as a pair, his partner Konno Hiroki (photo right, 28) will likely have to reconsider his career options. A recently recorded NHK show, due to be aired in August, will have the duo’s segment edited out.