“Galileo”, the new Fuji TV Monday night drama series, is off to a good start. With a couple of top names – Fukuyama Masaharu (38), in his first starring role in four years, and Shibasaki Kou (26) – the audience ranking for the opening episode was a very respectable 24.7% in the Kanto region, according to Video Research. The series is based on a popular novel by Higashino Keigo, and Fukuyama plays the physics genius Yukawa Manabu, while Shibasaki plays rookie detective Utsumi Kaoru. Each week features a guest villain, with Karasawa Toshiaki (44) taking on the role in the first episode. SMAP member Katori Shingo (30) will make a guest appearance in the fourth episode. In a radical change from his recent TV and movie role as the Monkey god Songoku in “Saiyuki”, he will play a cunning serial killer.
Actress Miyazawa Rie (34) may be back together with kabuki playboy Ichikawa Ebizo (29), according to the latest issue of women’s weekly “Shuukan Josei”. The owner of an izakaya restaurant that Ichikawa frequents says the actor introduced her on a recent visit, saying, “We’re dating now.” The two were first rumored to be dating back in 1997 by the same magazine, and romance was rekindled when they starred together in a theatrical production last month. Both have had eventful love lives, to say the least. Miyazawa’s most famous romance was with sumo wrestler Takanohana back in the early 1990s. They were both huge stars at the time and their engagement and Miyazawa’s reported change of heart received massive media attention. More recently, she had been dating accessory designer Mikita Takashi (37) since 2002, but the pair split up in the spring. Ichikawa’s past romances include actresses Yonekura Ryoko (32), Sato Eriko (25) and Takaoka Saki (34). Asked about the latest rumors after a performance yesterday in Nagoya, he had no comment.
• In Tokyo yesterday Miss Mexico, 24-year-old newscaster Priscila Pelares, was chosen as Miss International 2007. Japan’s representative, Shirata Hisako (25), didn’t get any further than the last 12.
An estimated one and a quarter million people turned out in Osaka yesterday for the annual parade to commemorate the 1937 opening of the city’s main Midousuji street. The highlight of the parade was a float carrying veteran actors Fukita Makoto (74) and Shiraki Minoru (73). The pair starred in the hugely popular 1960’s comedy series “Tenamonya Sandogasa”, which was made by Osaka’s ABC TV and sponsored by local confectioner Maeda Seika. To the delight of residents, they held up packets of Maeda’s famous crackers and shouted out the famous catchphrase, “Ore ga konna ni tsuyoi nomo, atari Maeda no kurakkaa”. The show was also closely tied to the local Yoshimoto Kogyo comedy talent agency, to which the diminutive Shiraki belonged. In the 25 years since it started in 1983, the event has occasionally been used as the victory parade when a local baseball team has won the Japan Series, though it’s only happened three times: the Nakai Hawks in 1959 and the Hanshin Tigers in 2003 and 2005.
• Some 300 fans turned out at Haneda Airport to greet popular Korean actress Choi Ji Woo (32). She’s in Tokyo to promote the drama series “Air City”, which airs on Wowow from October 26. The suspense drama is set in Seoul Airport and is Choi’s first starring role in four years.
• Also in Tokyo over the weekend was Oscar winner Jamie Foxx (39), here to promote his latest movie “Kingdom”, which opened at Roppongi Hills on Saturday. It was his second visit to Japan as an actor, the first being to promote “Any Given Sunday” in 2000. But he revealed that he had been in Japan before that, performing stand up comedy on U.S. military bases in Okinawa about nine years ago.
• KAT-TUN member Akanishi Jin (22) has his first drama starring role in the upcoming “Yuukan Kurabbu” (The Leisure Club). Based on the long-running girl’s manga, it tells of six high schoolers who get caught up in various adventures. The show’s theme tune, “Keep the Faith”, was written by former Boowy vocalist Himuro Kyosuke and is performed by KAT-TUN. Akanishi, one of the more popular young Johnny’s Jimusho stars, is making his first drama appearance in almost two and a half years, a period during which he took off to the U.S. to study for six months.
• Rakugo performer Motoya Izumi (33) continues to deny rumors of a split with his wife, former actress Hano Aki (39). She and their two children are said to have moved in with her mother since last month. Motoya, his two sisters, and his overbearing mother have been through a series of scandals over the last few years.
Former rakugoka Sanyutei Enraku (74) is to undergo treatment for cancer, it was revealed yesterday. During a medical checkup at the beginning of the month, an endoscopy discovered a cancer tumor in his stomach. He is currently undergoing further tests at the Keio Hospital to decide if surgery is required. After a career of more than 50 years, Enraku announced his retirement from the stage due to poor health back in February. Best known as the host of popular and long-running NHK show “Shoten”, he was hospitalized with a brain hemorrhage in October 2005 and made his comeback to the stage a year later. He has also been undergoing dialysis treatment for nine years and his combined health problems forced him to pass on the baton at “Shoten” last year after 40 years as a performer and host on the traditional comedy show.
• Thursday’s broadcast of the WBC Flyweight title bout between Kameda Daiki (18) and champion Naito Daisuke (33) drew an impressive audience rating of 28% in the Kanto region. In Kansai, home of the Kameda boxing brothers, the rating was higher still at 32.3%, reaching a peak of over 40% as the judges’ announced their decision: 3-0 for Naito, who won the title in July. The first-ever loss leaves Kameda, middle of three brothers, with a record of 10-1-0 (7 KOs). TBS said that they had over 1,000 complaints after the bout, mostly complaining that the buildup to the fight was too long and that the commentators were too focused on Kameda. But such is the huge hype surrounding the brothers, none of whom have yet to win outside Japan. Eldest brother Koki (20) has a 16-0 record and is scheduled to fight on October 25, though no opponent has yet been named. Youngest brother Tomoki (16) aims to turn pro next summer.
The latest big sports-showbiz couple are Yomiuri Giants pitcher Hayashi Masanori (24) and TV Tokyo announcer Kamei Kyoko (25), who announced yesterday that they plan to marry before the end of the year. The couple have been dating for about 15 months. The Giants recently clinched their first Central League pennant in five years. Hayashi said he wanted to make the announcement before the Giants get into final preparations to face the winner of the 2nd-3rd place playoff in the Climax Series from October 18. Hayashi was a starter in his second season in 2002, but was switched to middle relief the following year. Kamei joined TV Tokyo in 2005.
• Actress Mihara Junko (43) revealed yesterday that she and talento Happy Happy (38) have finally divorced. Though the couple appeared regularly on TV as an ideal couple after their 1999 marriage, rumors of a split had been circulating for several years. Mihara says her husband’s affairs had been their undoing and that despite their efforts to patch things up, they finally filed for divorce on October 6. The revelation was made on the TBS variety show “Kin-Sma”, hosted by SMAP leader Nakai Masahiro, and will be broadcast tonight.
• Another revelation to be broadcast tonight is that actress Hamada Noriko (42) has been married for the last six years. She is scheduled to make a live appearance on the NTV show “Rajikaru”. She made her debut in 1984 as one of four girls selected to star in the hugely hyped movie “The Audition” and spin-off group Saint Four. The group split in 1988 and Hamada became an obscure stage and B-movie actress. She released a book of nude photos in 2000.
• Dance unit TRF have postponed two dates in the 15th anniversary tour as member Etsu (43) has been hospitalized with bronchitis. The shows in Fukuoka and Osaka have been rescheduled for December.
• Comedy duo Cream Stew revealed yesterday that they recently made their U.S. TV debut. The pair appeared for all of 4.4 seconds in an August episode of the popular drama series “4400”. In episode 43 of season four, titled “Ghost in the Machine”, they played a pair of National Security Agency staff members, but had no lines. The series won’t be available for rental in Japan until next year. The duo claim they are aiming to have speaking parts in season five.
• Japan-based American pin-up girl/singer Leah Dizon (21) has her first “scandal”. Today’s issue of weekly gossip magazine “Friday” says she is seeing the handsome 26-year-old son of her management agency’s president. Still a university student, he is also a director of the company and has worked on Dizon’s promo video production. He has been seen several times picking up Dizon in his car and taking her to his apartment. The agency denies that there’s any romance, with the limp explanation that she “is visiting her cat at his apartment, as she’s not allowed to keep pets at her own home.” A likely story!
Though he’s one of Japan’s most established rock stars, Yazawa Eikichi (58) has never performed on the country’s most established music show. NHK’s annual Kohaku Uta Gassen song contest has been a New Year’s Eve institution for almost six decades. But recent years have seen NHK trying different approaches to reverse steadily declining audience figures. This year, the man with the plan is producer Samizo Takashi, who is behind the network’s successful Wednesday night show “Songs”. It was through that show and his respect for true musicianship that Samizo established a strong working relationship with “Ei-chan” and Sano Motoharu (51), another major star who has never appeared on Kohaku. With NHK planning to have a segment of the show centered around singers who have been featured on “Songs”, it should bode well for audience ratings – among the middle-aged bracket at least. NHK has a 3-year plan leading up to the 60th edition of Kohaku in 2009, with the theme of “utajikara”, the “power of music”.
• Talento Toyooka Masumi (24) announced yesterday that she is engaged to be married. She and her businessman fiance plan to register their marriage and hold a ceremony on November 3. He is 10 years older and 31cm taller than the tiny 147cm (4’10”) Toyooka. She debuted in 1999 as a member of the idol trio P-Chicks, all of whom were under 150cm. Her fanatical interest in railways has earned her the nickname “Tetsuko” and ensures her a steady otaku fan base.
• Talento Enari Kazuki (22) settled his lawsuit against a magazine publisher at the Tokyo District Court yesterday. “Nikkan Gendai” published a story that suggested Enari was a regular customer of the sex industry, a claim in total contrast to his clean image, and he sued for ¥11 million in damages. The magazine published an apology in last Saturday’s issue.
• Management for former Morning Musume member Ishiguro Aya (29) and Luna Sea drummer Shinya (37) have denied reports that the two are discussing a divorce. The story, printed in several newspapers today, claimed they are already separated and have only to decide custody and maintenance of their three children. But their agencies say that the separate apartments are simply to allow Shinya to work on his music, a claim he made several weeks ago on TV.
• Comedian Kajiwara Yuuta (27) became a father on Tuesday. A member of the comedy duo King Kong, he and former model Mikiko married in June.
• The latest in this year’s silly awards is the Megane Best Dresser, given to celebrities who look best in glasses. Among yesterday’s recipients of the award, now in its 20th year, were talento Manabe Kaori (26), actor Takenaka Naoto (51), model Mori Izumi (24) and Miyazaki governor Higashikokubaru Hideo (50).
Yesterday, comedian Wakki (photo right) was put on the spot during a live variety show and admitted that he is engaged to be married. The news came during the live 3-hour “London Hearts” special on TV Asahi last night, when the show’s hosts, duo London Boots, and Wakki’s comic partner Nakagawa “Hide” Hideki (36, photo left), who got hitched in July, made an unannounced visit to his home. His fiancee Ayumi, a 33-year-old Tokyo resident, was interviewed but only through a frosted glass window. The couple met eight years ago when Ayumi was working as the emcee for an event in Yokohama. They plan to register their marriage on October 13 but have no immediate plans for a wedding ceremony or reception. One half of the popular Yoshimoto comedy duo Penalty, Wakki (35, real name Wakita Yasuhito) met his partner Hide when they played soccer together for the powerhouse Funabashi High School, with whom they won a national championship. Predictably the entertainment headlines are full of references to his having scored a “goal”.
• The new TBS drama series “Utahime” is to use Eric Clapton’s 1996 hit “Change the World” as background music. It’s the first time that Clapton has allowed his music to be used in a Japanese show, and he is said to given his approval after having enjoyed the script. Naturally there is an angle to the story: Clapton is due to release an album of hits, “Lifetime Best”, in December.
Talento Kanda Uno (32) had her long-awaited wedding in Tokyo yesterday. She married pachinko mogul Nishimura Takuro (37) in a traditional shinto ceremony at Meiji Jingu shrine. The ceremony was followed by a hugely extravagant reception downtown at the Hotel New Otani. A lucky 777 friends and fellow celebrity guests were invited to the reception and bridal fashion show that is said to have cost ¥600 million (771 actually turned up). Kanda wore a 105-carat diamond and platinum tiara, necklace and earring set that arrived just days before from Antwerp and cost some ¥300 million. Kanda’s friend Ohguro Maki (37) performed a ballad she had composed specially for the occasion, leaving both the bride and groom in tears. The couple have not yet registered their marriage and plan to do so on October 13, an auspicious taian day on the traditional calendar. The daughter of a bureaucrat, Kanda entered the world of showbiz in 1992. After many years as a regular on the variety show circuit, recently she has been working more as a fashion designer. Yesterday’s reception featured dozens of her bridal designs. She has never made a secret of her taste for the high life and there was never any doubt that she would marry into money. Nishimura is the founder of the major Nittaku chain of pachinko parlors, with annual sales of ¥200 billion.
• Newscaster Chikushi Tetsuya (72) returned to the studio 147 days after taking a leave of absence to undergo cancer treatment. He revealed on the “News 23” show back in mid-May that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. He made occasional telephone appearances on the show during the summer, such as for the July national election, as he underwent chemotherapy. He admitted that he had actually put on some weight, and even managed to talk cheerfully about having lost some 20% of his hair. But he acknowledged that his battle with cancer was ongoing and that he would not be able to return to the studio full-time.
• Former Morning Musume member Abe Natsumi (26) is to be prosecuted after causing a traffic accident on Sunday. According to police, she was making a right turn out of a car park on Sunday evening when she hit a motorbike. Abe was unhurt but the rider suffered minor injuries to his elbow and back. Abe has had her driving license for less than a year and still has a learner’s sticker on her car.
• Rock duo B’z have extended their amazing sales records once again. With “Super Love Song” on top of the latest Oricon singles chart, they have now had 40 No.1’s in a row. Their 41 consecutive Top 10 entries lifts them above SMAP and The Alfee.
• Veteran idol duo Pink Lady have sued a magazine publisher for use of their image without permission. A February issue of women’s magazine “Josei Jishin” featured photos of Mii (49) and Masuda Keiko (50) performing their famous dance moves as part of a feature on dieting through dance. The duo have sued publisher Kobunsha for ¥3.12 million in compensation.
Popular young Johnny’s Jimusho group News gave their first ever overseas “solo” performances in Taipei yesterday. The afternoon and evening shows at the Taipei Arena had been postponed by a day due to the largest typhoon seen in the Taiwanese capital in many years. 26,000 fans forgot any disappointment as the 6-member group descended in a gondola from the 43m high ceiling of the arena. The show also included high-flying wire stunts that got the performers close to the stands, despite the fact that power blackouts had prevented all but the briefest of rehearsals the previous day. Tegoshi Yuya (19) jumped too soon for one stunt and ended up in the seats. He was surprised to be greeted with a chorus of “Daijobu?” (Are you okay?), an indication that many young Taiwanese fans are learning Japanese. During the 2-hour 20-minute show they sang 23 songs including the first performance of their upcoming single “Weeeek”, due for release on November 7. The trip has clearly been a financial success, with the group’s album “Touch” and singles all reaching the top of the local sales charts.
• American pop diva Fergie (32) and acclaimed British newcomers the Pipettes have provided two songs for the TBS romantic comedy series “Hatachi no Koibito. The series stars comedian Akashiya Sanma (52) and Nagasawa Masami (20). The Pipettes’ “Because It’s Not Love”, from their debut album, is the show’s theme tune, and Fergie says she wrote “Pick It Up” especially for her Japanese fans. “Hatachi…” airs on Sunday nights from October 14.
“Heroes” star Masi Oka (32) joined the Japanese director and cast of “Midnight Eagle” for yesterday’s world premiere in Hollywood. Stars Osawa Takao (39) and Takeuchi Yuko (27) said the event was all the more thrilling because it was held at the famous Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre, the site of Hollywood’s first-ever premiere in 1922. Also on stage were director Narushima Izuru (46) and actors Tamaki Hiroshi (27) and Fuji Tatsuya (66). Scheduled for release in Japan on November 23 and in the U.S. in early December, “Midnight Eagle” will be the first Japanese movie to open (almost) simultaneously in Japan and the U.S. following a tie up between Shochiku and Universal Pictures. It will also be the opening movie at the upcoming Tokyo International Film Festival. The plot revolves around a US stealth bomber that has gone down in Japan’s Northern Alps.
• Mickie Yoshino (55), leader of the legendary band Godiego, has married a 36-year-old artist. Yoshino and long-time Godiego fan Ouchi Sachie were married by the band’s bassist Steve Fox (54), who is also a Christian minister. The couple had been dating since the start of the year. Godiego had limited success overseas but achieved legendary status in Japan following their 1978 single “Monkey Magic”, the theme tune for the hugely popular TV drama “Saiyuki”.
• Distribution of this week’s issue of the weekly gossip magazine “Friday” was canceled at the last minute, the first time this has happened in the magazine’s 23-year history. The official explanation was simply that a serious error had been found in a major news story. Sources say that an editor found errors related to the photographs used in the article and that the story in question was about the death of a 17-year-old sumo trainee at the Tokitsukaze stable in June. The incident has led to a police investigation and possible criminal charges against stablemaster Tokitsukaze and several older wrestlers. There has also been strong criticism of the Japan Sumo Association’s handling of the matter. Friday, published by Kodansha, has a circulation of about 415,000.