Most people outside Japan know Matsuyama Kenichi as the enigmatic genius L is the “Death Note” movies. Well, prepare for a whole new “MatsuKen”! The 22-year-old actor will take on the role of vocalist in a death metal band in the movie adaptation of gag manga “Detroit Metal City”. Written by Wakasugi Kiminori, it has run in the comic “Young Animal” since 2005. Matsuyama will play Negishi Souichi, who leaves his family’s farm in Oita Prefecture for the bright lights of Tokyo. There he swaps his taste in Swedish pop for the totally out-of-character death metal, taking on the role of vocalist in the trio Death Metal City and adopting the name Johannes Krauser II. The story arc leads up to a climactic showdown with the hell-raising American kings of black metal, Jack ill Dark (whose signature tune is “Fuckingham Palace”!). Matsuyama is currently learning the guitar and “death voice” stylings to pull off the performance. Filming is scheduled to start at the end of February. The movie is expected to feature cameos from prominent musicians, though no names have been announced.
• Who are Japan’s most popular celebrity bloggers? Well, according to CyberAgent’s free Ameba service, which hosts thousands of blogs, the No.1 spot continues to belong to talento Wakatsuki Chinatsu (23). But young actress/singer Aragaki Yui (19) has stormed up to No.2 just a week after starting her site. Actress Tomosaka Rie (28) says she’s somewhat embarrassed to be ranked 3rd.
• The multi-talented Kitano “Beat” Takeshi (60) has his actor hat on again, playing his first TV drama leading role in five years. He will star as a 1950s detective in “Ten to Sen”, the third time he has appeared in an adaptation of a novel by Matsumoto Seichou (1909-1992). The novel, published in 1958, tells of a murder case in the city of Hakata in Kyushu. This meant Takeshi having to master the region’s distinctive dialect for the role. The two-part drama will air on November 24-25 and is part of TV Asahi’s 50th anniversary. Takeshi’s veteran cop is supported by the always solid Takahashi Katsunori (42) and the cast also includes Uchiyama Rina (26) and Yanagiba Toshirou (46).
• Actress Kawashima Naomi (47) is getting married. She has yet to make a formal announcement, but is expected to get engaged to patissier Yoroizuka Toshihiko (42) before the end of the year. The pair met on a TV show about two years ago and have been dating for the last six months.
Karina (23) is the latest popular fashion model to establish herself as an actress. She has landed the lead role in next year’s TBS drama “Daisuki!!” It is based on the girl’s manga “Be-Love”, by Aimoto Mizuho, which runs in the comic of the same name. Karina’s role sounds a lot more challenging than the usual comic fluff that glamorous actresses are given. She will play Fukuhara Yuzu, a resident at a home for the mentally disabled, who though she only has a mental age of eight, falls in love with another resident and becomes pregnant. He later dies in a traffic accident, but she has their baby and decides to raise the child herself. The drama will air on Thursday nights from January 17.
• A lot is being read into the return to work of talento Hano Aki (39) after a gap of seven years. She took part in the recording of a variety show yesterday and called it “good rehabilitation.” She put her career on hold when she married kyogen performer Izumi Motoya (33) in 2002. She was six months pregnant at the time and they now have two children. But she moved back to her family’s home in September, taking the children. Izumi, his domineering mother Setsuko, and his two sisters have maintained the line that Hano has been simply nursing her sick mother for the last few weeks. But when a married female talento returns to work, it’s usually seen as a sign of marital or financial trouble. A divorce announcement is now seen as the next step, but Setsuko won’t be happy about Izumi not having an heir to carry on the family tradition.
Rakugoka Shunpuutei Koasa (52) and his wife of 20 years, talento Yasuha (46), held an unusual press conference at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo yesterday. The purpose was to tell the media that they had decided to divorce, but the usually celebratory gold screen behind them and the fact that they sat flanked by Yasuha’s two younger brothers had reporters scratching their heads. Shunpuutei joked, saying the divorce registration paper was “a love letter. We’ve just changed from being a married couple to ‘enjoukousai’ (compensated dating).” The couple first talked of divorce in September, with Yasuha saying the pressure of being married to a rakugo master was too much for her. Shunpuutei seemed surprised when she said she had never felt there was love between them, that it was more like a professional relationship. Her brothers, Hayashiya Shouzou (44) and Ippei (36) are both established rakugoka. Their late father, Hayashiya Sanpei, was one of the pillars of the traditional storytelling world. Though she had a brief career as a pop singer, Yasuha gave it up when she got married. When Shouzou succeeded to the stage name in 2005, he various official events were produced by his sister and brother-in-law. This return to work sparked something in Yasuha and she and screenwriter Tabuchi Kumiko (48) set up an entertainment business in January. Another sign of her recent change of heart could be seen in the fact that she has been making TV appearances this year.
Not so happy news for former teen idol Higashiyama Noriyuki (41) and actress Uchiyama Rina (26), whose relationship of two and a half years has ended. Their romance began after they appeared together in a drama in 2005. Despite the 15-year age difference, their relationship was said to be serious and wasn’t made public until January of this year. The decision to split up, which they made in early October, was due to their mutually hectic work schedules. Higashiyama is a member of the Johnny’s Jimusho trio Shonentai, whose heyday was in the early 1980s, though now he works mostly on stage and the variety show circuit. Uchiyama made her TV drama debut in 1998, and has had several leading roles since 2005’s period drama “Ooku – Hana no Ran”. She will make her stage debut in Shakespeare’s “King Lear”, directed by Ninagawa Yukio, next year.
• Better news for another Rina, half-Russian model/actress Ohta Rina (19). She is dating actor Matsuda Ryuhei (24), eldest son of the late screen legend Matsuda Yusaku. In today’s issue of weekly magazine “Flash”, Matsuda says they have been dating for a few weeks. Romance has also bloomed between actor Moriyama Mirai (23) and actress Asami Rei (24). The pair appeared together in the stage show “Chi no Konrei” (Blood Wedding) in May and started dating during the summer.
• Comedian Hosshan (36) revealed yesterday that he got married in unusual style over the weekend. He made the announcement during a performance at the Yoshimoto Hall in Tokyo. He and his 31-year-old bride first met 13 years ago in Osaka and lived together for 10 years. They split up in 2005 and only got back together again this year. They had planned to register their marriage on November 18, but Hosshan said he got an email from her on Saturday night saying, “I’ve changed my name!”
• NHK has decided to make this year’s Kohaku a boy’s affair. For the first time in 51 years, both the red and white teams on the New Yaer’s Eve “song battle” will have a male leader. Heading the red team for the fourth time is SMAP member Nakai Masahiro (35), while rakugoka Shoufukutei Tsurube (55) makes his debut as white team leader. The pair have teamed up before, co-hosting a private network talk show. But Tsurube also has a more embarrassing incident to make up for: Fuji TV’s 27-hour telethon in 2003, a live broadcast during which he appeared drunk and exposed himself.
• Talento Asada Yoshimi (28) blogged yesterday’s birth of her first child, a baby boy. The former member of pin-up duo Pirates updated her blog as her waters broke and then again an hour after the baby was born but while she was still on the delivery table. In the late 1990s Pirates – Asada and Nishimoto Haruka (29) – were best known for making full use of their cleavage and the catchphrase “dacchyuno!”
The Tora-san Museum in Tokyo dedicated to the late actor Atsumi Kiyoshi (1928-1996) celebrated its 10th anniversary Saturday. Atsumi starred as the itinerant peddler Torajiro Kuruma or “Tora-san” in the popular and long-running movie series “Otoko wa Tsurai yo” (It’s Tough Being a Man), making him one of the most recognizable faces of postwar Japan. The museum in the Shibamata, Katsushika district of Tokyo, where Tora-san had his home and to which he always returned from his travels around the country. Almost all the 48 movies in the Tora-san series were directed by Yamada Yoji (76), who is honorary head of the museum. Speaking to locals and visiting movie fans on Saturday, he said, “I always feel like making more Tora-san movies. I have maybe 10 or 20 story ideas…if only Atsumi-san were still here.” Also attending the weekend’s anniversary event was actress Baisho Chieko (66), who played Tora-san’s sister Sakura in every movie. She spoke of how difficult it had been for her to return to Shibamata for several years after her “brother” had died. But she said “It’s a nice town. You almost feel as if you might meet Tora-san or Sakura around every corner.”
• Pop trio w-inds made their third visit to Taiwan, playing for 8,000 fans at the Taipei Arena on Sunday. The group’s single “Beautiful Life” also entered the local chart at No.1, an indication of their popularity on the island. They will perform in a concert at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 29, the final show in a series marking the 35th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and China.
• Puffy and several other artists are in the lineup for an environmental charity concert in Tokyo early next year. Also on the bill for “Green Power Live 2008” are Ayaka, mihimaruGT, and J to S. The concert, at Zepp Tokyo on February 19, is being sponsored by the Japan Association of Music Enterprises and radio station J-Wave. Profits will go to a Tokyo citizen’s group that promotes the use of wind energy.
Silly Award Update: Chosen for their good-looking teeth this year were actress Nagasawa Masami (20) and actor Fujiki Naohito (35), who were named as “Best Smile of the Year” at a ceremony at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. The award is given every November 8 (11/8 can be read as “ii-ha,” or “good teeth”) by the Japan Dentists Federation. Comedian Ota Hikari (45) was one of eight famous people chosen for this year’s “Mannenhitsu Best Coordinate” award, given to people who look best with a fountain pen! Actor Tanihara Shousuke (35) and actress Igawa Haruka (31) are this year’s winners of the “Best Formalist” award, for looking good in formal wear. Tanihara used the event to announce that he became a father last month, when his wife Emi (29) had a baby girl. The couple, who married in March, also have a son from Emi’s first marriage to actor Ishida Issei (32). Igawa denied rumors that she and designer Matsumoto Atou, who married last November, are expecting a baby.
• Someone who did have a baby was Fuji TV announcer Nishiyama Kikue (38), who gave birth to her first child, a girl, at a Tokyo hospital yesterday. She has been married to a fellow Fuji TV employee since 1997.
• Moving up in the popularity stakes are teen techno pop trio Perfume. On Wednesday night they played a show for 1,000 fans, their biggest audience yet, at the Liquid Room in Tokyo’s Ebisu. The show was named “Seventh Heaven, Iikibun”, a play on the 7-Eleven chainstore’s catchphrase. The large turnout had member Aa-chan (18) in tears of happiness (and a runny nose!). The group’s catchy single “Polyrhythm” entered the Oricon weekly chart at No.7. They’ve been featured on the ‘serious’ NHK show “Music Japan” and are considered candidates for an appearance on “Kohaku Uta Gassen” on New Year’s Eve.
• I’ve never been a fan of actress Fukada Kyoko (25) but she does have staying power. She’s been chosen to play the lead in next year’s TV Asahi comedy “Mirai Kyoshi Meguru”, making it 12 years in a row that she’s appeared in a private network drama series. Starting with NTV’s “FiVE” in 1995, she’s appeared in a steady stream of TV series and movies, despite having the acting ability of a wooden plank. In the upcoming comedy series, she plays cram school English teacher Yoshida Meguru who, on a full stomach, can see the people around her as they’ll be twenty years into the future.
• Suzuki Emi (22), a popular model in the teen fashion magazine world, is said to be two-timing. Today’s issue of weekly gossip magazine “Friday” says he is seeing both young actor Shibuya Kento (19) and a 33-year-old entrepreneur. A nervous Suzuki dodged questions about her love life at a PR event yesterday.
As predicted here back in January, Leah Dizon’s career in Japan is steamrolling ahead. The 21-year-old American pin-up girl/singer performed her first solo concert last night at O-East in Shibuya, one of the most popular districts for Tokyo’s youth. The 90-minute set included 16 songs, several sexy outfits and minimal chat, though her Japanese skills have noticeably improved over the last year. Cosplay is a big part of her act, and yesterday’s concert ended with her wearing the yellow cap, pleated miniskirt and backpack of a typical Japanese elementary school student. She only came to Japan for the first time in 2006 but already had a fan base here, largely from the cosplay photos she posted on her blog. 2006 saw the release of a best-selling photo book and Dizon’s self-promotion included a home-made video of her singing an Amuro Namie hit. The whole thing went so smoothly that some started to ask whether she was really a Japanese after all. The half French-American, half Chinese-Philippina was born in Las Vegas and raised in Los Angeles. She made her official recording debut in February and has released three singles and an album. Sources say she has a good chance of being invited to appear on NHK’s “Kohaku Uta Gassen” on New Year’s Eve and maybe even being named Best Newcomer at the Japan Record Awards. Named after the Star Wars character Princess Leah, she is often referred to as the “gravurekai no kurofune” or “Black Ship of the Pin-up World”, a reference to the Black Ships of Admiral William Perry that helped end Japan’s centuries of isolation in the mid-1850s.
A couple of celebrity pregnancies were revealed yesterday. Popular actress Shinohara Ryoko (34, photo left) and her husband, stage actor Ichimura Masachika (58), are expecting their first child next spring. They’ve been married since December 2005. Shinohara said at a PR event back in early September that she had put on weight, in an effort to head off any questions about a possible pregnancy. As she was wearing high heels at the time, the media fell for her ruse. She has been in a couple of hits this year: the movie “Unfair” and the NTV drama series “Haken no Hinkaku”.
Meanwhile, TV Asahi announcer Ishii Kiwa (29, photo right) is also four months pregnant. She married Shimada Toru, president of the Rakuten Eagles baseball team, in July and they held a wedding ceremony last month. Ishii quit her regular post on the “Yajiuma Plus” morning show in September and has since been making occasional appearances on other news shows. She says she plans to continue working after becoming a mother. Shimada is once-divorced and has a daughter from his first marriage.
• Fuji TV is making a drama version of the popular girl’s manga “Hachimitsu to Kurobaa” (Honey and Clover). Already adapted as a hit anime and movie and known by the nickname “hachikuro”, the series will air on Tuesday nights from January 8. The beautiful 15-year-old Narumi Riko has been selected to play the lead role of an art college freshman, while her love interest will be played by Johnny’s Jr. member Ikuta Toma (23).
• Silly Award Update: talento Mika Mifune (25) was named the winner of this year’s Best Hair Award yesterday. The prize, given by the All Japan Beauty Shop Owner’s Federation, is awarded to the celebrity judged to have…well, the best hair. Mifune turned up for the award ceremony sporting the rockabilly, or “regent” hairstyle that her musician husband, Takahashi Joji (49), is famous for. She is the daughter of the late screen legend Mifune Toshiro.
• Comedian Hayakawa Nobuyuki (27), better known as Nobu of the comedy duo Chidori, is engaged to be married next spring. His fiancee is a 27-year-old Osaka resident and apparel company employee. The couple have been dating since they were in high school.
Singer and actor Gackt is to release a full album of songs from the hugely popular “Kidou Senshi Gundam” (Mobile Suit Gundam) anime series. He chose yesterday to make the announcement in honor of the 66th birthday of Gundam director Tomino Yoshiyuki. A longtime fan of the series (he’s even said to have memorized most of the lines by the main characters), Gackt has recorded songs for the trilogy of “Kidou Senshi Z Gundam” movies released over the last couple of years. In addition to those five tracks, the album “0079-0088” will include three covers of tunes from the original 1981-82 “Kidou Senshi Gundam” movie series (“Suna no Jujika”, “Ai Senshi”, and “Meguriai”). The album is scheduled to go on sale December 19 and a DVD box set of the original series will be released on December 21, and are sure to be big sellers over Christmas. Fans who can’t wait can get a sneak preview of Gackt’s version of “Ai Senshi” on Fuji TV’s “Hey! Hey! Hey!” music show on November 12.
• Dreams Come True member Nakamura Masato (49) announced on his blog yesterday that their new album will be released a week later than planned. “And I Love You” was scheduled for an early-December release but everything was put on hold following the September 26 death of Sueda Ken, common-law husband of vocalist Yoshida Miwa (42). The new release date is December 12. The album includes the song “Moshimo Kumo Nara”, for which Sueda filmed the duo’s promo video in New York last year. DCT were scheduled to make TV appearances in support of the album, but the timing of Yoshida’s return to work is still undecided.
• Talento Shimizu Kuniaki is a father for the fourth time at the age of 57. He married his manager, Keiko (34), in January and she gave birth to a son on Sunday. Shimizu was married to talento Shimizu Kuuko from 1976 to 1982 (she died in 1991) and to a woman 14 years his junior from 1984 to 2003, with whom he had three daughters. He and Keiko plan to hold a wedding ceremony near their Lake Kawaguchi home on December 1.
• Fans of Carole King (65) had to wait 17 years to get a second chance to see her perform in Japan. She headlined the first show by “Three Great American Voices”, along with Mary J. Blige (36) and Fergie (32), at the Osaka Castle Hall last night. 8,000 fans of all ages were treated to a 3-hour show of hits old and new. The trio play the same venue tonight before heading to Saitama Super Arena on the 10th and Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on the 12-13th.
Young actor Watanabe Dai (23) seems to be making a name for himself in movies set in and around WWII. The son of Hollywood actor Watanabe Ken (48), who starred in Clint Eastwood’s gritty WWII movie “Letters From Iwo Jima,” he has his second movie leading role in “Saigo no Soukeisen”, a college baseball movie set in 1943. It tells of a final send-off game between students of Waseda and Keio Universities before they head off to war. The project, directed by Kouyama Seijirou started filming in Nagano Prefecture last month and will being distributed by the independent Cine Qua Non, the company behind recent hits “Hula Girl”, “Pacchigi!” and “Nobody Knows”. Watanabe made his acting debut in 2002 and had his first leading role just last July in Miyazaka Takeshi’s “Kikoku no Senjo” (poster above), set in postwar Hiroshima. has also appeared in the 2005 blockbuster “Otoko no Yamato”, about Japan’s most famous WWII battleship, and this summer’s “Ora wa, Kimi no Tame ni Koso Shini ni Iku”, about young kamikaze pilots and written by Tokyo governor Ishihara Shintaro.