American singer Alicia Keys (26) had Tokyo’s office workers buzzing when she gave a free mini-concert in Marunouchi yesterday. Performing on a piano in the lobby of the Maru Building, a glittering symbol of the rebirth of Tokyo’s business district, she shared the stage with an 8m Christmas tree whose illuminations were changed to champagne pink for the event. She described the show as “an early Christmas present for all the hard working ladies”, and the aisles on the first to sixth floors facing the lobby were packed with an estimated 2,500 people, mostly “office ladies”. The 9-time Grammy Award winner performed three songs, including “No One”, the U.S. chart-topping first single from her latest album “As I Am.”
• Popular actress Matsu Takako (30) is reportedly engaged to marry guitarist and producer Sahashi Yoshiyuki (46), the Sports Houchi newspaper revealed today. The couple first met in 2001, had an on-and-off relationship from 2004, and started dating seriously again last year. They are said to be planning to tie the knot next spring.
Edit: Matsu’s management agency released a statement on November 30 she and Sahashi were dating but denying they have any plans to marry.
• A private funeral was held yesterday for talent agency boss Oguchi Kenji. He was 59. Details of his death were not announced but he was known to have suffered from diabetes, which led to loss of weight and other health problems. As president of the From First Productions agency, he nurtured the careers of such top actors as Takenaka Naoto (51) and Motoki Masahiro (41). Earlier in his career he managed Go Hiromi (52) while he was with the Johnny’s Jimusho agency. He was also president of Tokyo Six Productions, the company that represented disgraced former star Haga Kenji (46), who was arrested on extortion charges this summer.
Anyone who was in Japan in the 1990s can’t have missed the bountiful cleavage of Hosokawa Fumie (36). Known as the “ganso” or originator of that decade’s trend to use busty women for a wide variety of PR purposes, “Fuumin” and her wide-eyed ingenue image were all over the media and the variety show circuit. Well past her heyday and long-since replaced by a long line of younger bathing-suited girls, she has decided to call it a day. Recently married, she has announced that her upcoming photo book release will be her showbiz swan song. “Saipan Truth”, a return to her bathing suit roots, was shot on the Pacific island, where she and former real estate company owner Endoh Hisato (44) held a wedding ceremony back in April. The ceremony was said to be staged just for the book, particularly since Endoh was still married to his first wife at the time, but Hosokawa is said to have taken it “very seriously”. Endoh’s marriage finally ended in divorce in September, and he and Hosokawa registered their marriage in Tokyo on November 1. They are living together in the capital and Hosokawa is expecting a baby in January, but Endoh is currently on trial in Saipan. He is accused of kidnapping and assaulting a Japanese businessman back in August. With a first run of 20,000 copies, “Saipan Truth” goes on sale December 10. We can only hope that next year will bring some true happiness for Fuumin.
• Popular voice actor Yamadera Koichi (46) has been divorced since the spring of 2006, it was revealed yesterday. “Yama-chan”, best known for the role of Ryoga Hibiki in the anime “Ranma 1/2”, and voice actress Kanai Mika (43) had been married since 1994. Yamadera has also worked on several Disney projects and has dubbed for such Hollywood stars as Jim Carrey and Eddie Murphy. He became a household name in 2000 as host of the TV Tokyo kid’s show “Oha-Suta”. Kanai made her acting debut in 1989 and has also released eight albums as a singer. She and Yamadera worked together voicing characters on the Anpanman kid’s anime. She is said to have kept their 4-storey house, while Yamadera lives in an apartment in Tokyo.
• A picture book is the latest spinoff in the “Zo no Senaka” boom. Translated as “The Elephant’s Back”, the 2006 novel by Akimoto Satoshi has been adapted into a hit movie, starring Yakusho Koji and Imai Miki, and an anime DVD. It tells of the final months of a middle-aged salaryman dying of lung cancer. The new book goes on sale December 5 and comes with a CD of tracks featuring whistler Kuchibue Tarou (41). Whistling is also enjoying something of a boom in Japan, since a Japanese university student won the Whistling World Championships in the U.S. in May. Next year’s event will be held in Japan.
Japan-based Korean singer Kye Eun Sook (46) was arrested by Tokyo police on Monday evening for drug possession. According to reports, 0.6g of amphetamines, with a street value of about ¥15,000, and two glass pipes were found in the bedroom of the Minato Ward apartment she shares with her 85-year-old mother. She has admitted to regularly buying and using the drugs. Police had been investigating her for about three months following a tip off. Kye was born in Seoul and was a model before becoming a singer. She first came to Japan in 1984 and worked with songwriter Hama Keisuke (61), making her recording debut the following year. She had a series of hits and, starting in 1988, appeared on NHK’s “Kohaku Uta Gassen” for seven straight years. She won the top prize at the Japan Record Awards in 1994. But she has had a string of troubles over the years. A keen gambler, she went in and out of debt several times, at one point amassing debts of more than ¥400 million. In 2001, the situation led her manager to commit suicide and Kye was out of work for long periods. In April 2006, she settled a court battle with her former management agency, and had been playing concerts across the country from this spring.
• For her tenth single, singer Ito Yuna (24) has recorded a duet with none other than Celine Dion (39). The pair recorded “Anata ga Iru Kagiri/A World to Believe In” and filmed a promo video last month in Las Vegas, where the Canadian diva now lives. The project came about after Ito took part in a tribute album to Dion which was released in September. Born in Los Angeles, raised in Hawaii, and with a Japanese father and Korean-American mother, Ito sings in English and Japanese but the latter is not her mother tongue. This and her strong ballad style are points she has in common with Dion, who suggested the collaboration. A mix of Japanese and English, the ballad will be released in Japan on January 16. Dion is scheduled to tour Japan in March.
• Popular young actress Aragaki Yui (19) has denied media reports that she is to take a 3-month break due to overwork. Some media sources had reported that she was taking the first three months of 2008 off to recover from exhaustion. But on her blog yesterday, she said she had no such plans. Though busy, the Okinawa native says her schedule is less than hectic and she is able to get enough rest. While she is regarded as one of Japan’s most promising young actresses, she says that she may be working more on her music career in the future. Her debut album is due for release next week.
Popular talento Wakatsuki Chinatsu (23) has taken a time out from her website, Japan’s most popular celebrity blog. Prone to revealing more than her management would like, such as how she was penalized for taking off on a backpacking trip to Thailand in May without telling anyone, or the drunken birthday celebrations of her friend, model Higashibara Aki (25), she says her head is a bit messed up right now and she can’t write. Her “Maaboudoufu wa Nomimono Desu” blog is the most popular on the major Ameba hosting service. Yesterday’s entry received over 1,000 comments from worried fans. Wakatsuki has a history of stress-related health problems and had to take two months off work at the end of last year.
• The latest single from Johnny’s group KAT-TUN has come storming out of the gate. With initial sales of 350,000, “Keep the Faith” is the fastest selling single of the year, and naturally shot to No.1 on the Oricon chart. The group has seen all of its first five singles break the 300,000 mark on release, making them only the second group to pull it off. Fellow Johnny’s group Kinki Kids reached that mark almost nine years ago.
• Former Morning Musume member Tsuji Nozomi (20) is now a mother. Husband Sugiura Taiyo (26) was by her side as she gave birth to a baby girl at a Tokyo hospital yesterday. Taking a kanji from Tsuji’s given name, they named the baby Noa. Tsuji is the first active member of the Hello! Project ensemble to become a mother (others have married and had babies after leaving the group) but no plans for her return to work have been announced. Producer Tsunku (39) congratulated Tsuji on his blog, adding that as it’s a baby girl, she’s already earmarked as a future MoMusu cadet. Sugiura, an actor, and Tsuji were criticized in the media for the timing of their wedding and pregnancy announcements earlier in the year.
• Expecting a second child next March is comedian Tamura Ryo (35), the blonde half of duo London Boots. He announced the news on a live NTV variety show last night. He and his wife Arisa married in June 2003 and had a baby boy the following September.
Sakurai Sho (25) of the Johnny’s Jimusho group Arashi is to star in the planned live action movie version of “Yatterman”. In his sixth starring role, the popular singer will play Takada Gan, also known as Yatterman No.1. For the role he will need to master the traditional kendama (cup and ball) toy that the character uses to fell the bad guys. Further casting, including the heroine Yatterman No.2 and villains such as Doronjo, Boyacky and Tonzler, is to be decided in December and January. The buildup to the movie’s release, scheduled for the spring of 2009, begins soon after. The popular anime, which first aired on Saturday evenings from 1977-79, is to be re-shown on NTV from January 14. Nikkatsu Corporation have chosen prolific director Miike Takashi (47) to handle the movie adaptation. His resume ranges from the gory manga adaptation “Ichi the Killer” to this year’s eclectic “Sukiyaki Western Django”.
• Singer Sawada Kenji (59) is to be prosecuted for causing a traffic accident in central Tokyo last week. Sawada was parking his car in Shibuya on Friday evening when he reversed into a passing scooter. The scooter careened off and hit a nearby parked police car. The young female rider suffered minor injuries to her leg.
The trial of former teen idol singer Akasaka Akira (34) began and ended yesterday at the Tokyo District Court. The former member of popular 1980s Johnny’s Jimusho group Hikaru Genji was given the 18-month prison sentence sought by prosecutors, though as is usual in such cases it was suspended for three years. A tearful Akasaka, dressed in a black suit, said he would not return to show business and would work part-time jobs to pay child support to his ex-wife. The couple divorced in March and she has custody of their 5-year-old son. Akasaka spoke of his loneliness at not being able to see his son and how he had turned to sleeping pills and then amphetamines to “ease his pain”. he was arrested in Tokyo on October 28 when police found 0.6g of the drug in his possession.
• Young actress Hoshino Natsuko (20) has been suspended from working for one year following a recent entry on her blog. Her management agency removed the entry and had her write an apology for what they described as an “inappropriate” comment about the case of a Kagawa Prefecture woman and her two young granddaughters who have been missing since last Thursday. Hoshino recently appeared in the hit movie “1 Litteru no Namida” (1 Litre of Tears).
• Actress Yada Akiko (28) gave birth to her first child on Monday, it was revealed yesterday. She and actor-turned-singer Oshio Manabu (29) married in November of last year. Yada has decided to be a full-time mother to her new son but plans to return to her acting career at some point.
Sorry ladies, but one of Japan’s most eligible celebrity bachelors is now off the market. Actor Abe Hiroshi (43) held a press conference at TV Asahi in Tokyo yesterday to announce his engagement. His fiancee is 15 years younger and not in show business. They first met about five years ago but only started going out in the spring of 2006. They’ve been living together for about the last month in the capital and plan to register their marriage in the near future. They have plans for a wedding ceremony next spring. Ironically one of Abe’s most popular leading roles was in last year’s Fuji TV comedy drama “Kekkon Dekinai Otoko”, in which he played a 40-something man who was unable to get married. Abe became a fashion magazine model while studying at Chuo University. He made his movie debut in 1987 and had his first TV drama leading role in 1990. His hits include the dramas “Trick” and “Dragon Zakura” and movies in the “Hokuto no Ken” (Fist of the North Star) series. At 1.89m he is quite a bit taller than the average Japanese guy.
• Sakai Kaoruko (29), the wife of Globe member Marc Panther (37), was sentenced for drug use yesterday. At the Tokyo District Court she was given a 14-month prison sentence, suspended for three years, for use of ecstasy at her Tokyo home in early September. In handing down the sentence, the judge said Sakai showed a lack of awareness regarding drugs and could be likely to repeat the offense.
• Veteran actor Chiba Shinichi (68), better know abroad as martial arts star Sonny Chiba, revealed this week that he plans to start directing movies. He will direct under the name of Wachinaga Rindo, while he’ll change his acting name to JJ Sonny, the nickname he has in the U.S.
Rock giants B’z yesterday became the first Asian artists to be inducted into the Hollywood Rock Walk. Inaba Koshi (43) and Matsumoto Takahiro (46) were at the Guitar Center in Los Angeles for the induction ceremony, though the event drew only about 100 fans. Speaking in English, Matsumoto said how when they started out they had never dreamed of ending up in such a place, and the pair thanked their fans for their success. Inaugurated in 1985, the Rock Walk includes all the major names of U.S. rock history. B’z earned their place with combined sales of well over 70 million albums and singles.
• Rock impersonator Yazawa Eisaku (46) has been arrested on assault charges again. Real name Mita Masami, he performs on stage and on variety shows as rock legend Yazawa Eikichi. He was arrested late last night for assaulting the manager of the restaurant he runs in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture. Seemingly he returned drunk from a show in Gifu Prefecture and was unhappy about the restaurant’s poor sales. He threw over a table before the physical assault, though according to reports all he actually did was grab the man by his jacket lapels and threaten him. The manager had only recently left hospital following a traffic accident in August. Mita was arrested in July when he got into a drunken argument with fellow impersonators at an apartment in Utsunomiya. He chewed up the earlobe of Tsuntsuku (Tanaka Kenji, 43), a lookalike of Morning Musume guru Tsunku, leaving a wound that took several weeks to heal.
• Reggae singer Minmi (32) became a mother for the first time yesterday. She updated her blog last night that she and Wakadanna (31), a member or reggae unit Shonan no Kaze, were proud parents of a bouncing baby boy. The couple are not married.
• Yamashita Tatsuro’s 1983 hit “Christmas Eve” is a staple on the airwaves at this time of year, and has been used for years by JR Tokai in their winter ad campaigns. This winter the English version of the song, first released on Yamashita’s 1993 album “Season’s Greetings,” is to be used in a TV commercial for the first time. Car maker Suzuki will feature the song and model Mori Izumi (25) in a romantic short story format in ads for the Chevrolet MW.
• Young Johnny’s Jimusho idol group Hey! Say! Jump have seen their debut single, “Ultra Music Power,” enter the Oricon chart at No.1. It’s the 13th time the feat has been achieved and the first since KAT-TUN did it last year with “Real Face”. Naturally enough, they are also a Johnny’s unit. On top of the latest Oricon album chart is…you guessed it, another Johnny’s duo: Kinki Kids have their 12th chart-topping album with “U”. All of this sales success has to be tempered by the commonly held belief that the country’s leading boy band agency is “in bed” with the country’s main sales chart company.
• Comedian Yamazaki Housei (39) has been in hospital since last week with pneumonia, according to his Yoshimoto Kogyo agency. He was found to be in danger of developing peritonitis and was hospitalized last Tuesday.
L’Arc en Ciel Bassist and leader Tetsu (38) is engaged to marry talento Sakai Ayana (22). According to sources, the couple started dating last September after being introduced by a mutual friend. Both sets of parents met during the summer, usually a sign that a couple are seriously considering marriage. No definite plans for a wedding ceremony or reception have been announced, but a press conference is likely soon. Like several other celebrities, Sakai is also a wedding dress designer under the brand Aya Na Ture, and is likely to wear one of her own designs on her big day. When that day is may depend on L’Arc en Ciel’s upcoming concert schedule. They will be touring from December 22 to February 17. In the usual media reporting style, Sakai is said not to be pregnant.
Singer Takahashi Yuya (27) has been arrested again for drug possession. The second son of actress Mita Yoshiko (66, photo), he was detained by police on Thursday evening in Shiba, central Tokyo, after he was found in possession of 0.2g of amphetamines. A convenience store employee has reported his suspicious behavior to the police. It is his third arrest on drug-related charges, the last having been in 2000. A tearful Mita gave a press conference last night and read a joint statement from herself and her husband, former NHK director Takahashi Yasuo. She said that she had persuaded her son to enter hospital in February to undergo treatment for serious depression. Just this last week, the depression had worsened again and they were planning to have him re-hospitalized when he was arrested.
• The Kitano “Beat” Takeshi-hosted Fuji TV variety show “Takeshi no Comaneci Dauigaku Suugakuka” (Comaneci University Mathematics) has been nominated for an International Emmy award. The show airs at 1:15am on Thursday nights. If the show wins, it’ll be a first for Japanese TV. Already widely acclaimed internationally as an actor and movie director, Takeshi (60) plans to attend the November 20 awards show in New York. He said of the show, “I wanted to convey that there is no art form more abundant in creative power than mathematics.”