Monthly Archives: December 2007

Cocorico Endo, Chiaki Divorce

Endo Shouzou ChiakiAnother showbiz divorce was announced this weekend, with comedian Endo Shouzou (36) and talento Chiaki (36) ending their less than six-year marriage. The main reason is thought to be Chiaki’s running out of patience with her husband’s philandering. One half of the popular duo Cocorico, Endo took part in a trip to Hawaii in January of last year with a group of fellow comedians and young beauties. And in March this year, he was photographed at a party with a group of race queens. The couple, both die-hard fans of the Hanshin Tigers baseball team, married in July 2002 and had a baby daughter in May 2003. All three were photographed together at a Tigers game at Koshien and were often referred to as an ideal showbiz family.

• Once upon a time, it was as if the whole nation would tune in to NHK’s “Kohaku Uta Gassen” every New Year’s Eve. Ratings have dropped dramatically over the last few years but the show has had the right kind of publicity to draw an audience this year. The biggest suspense is whether SMAP leader Nakai Masahiro (35) and current J-Pop queen Koda Kumi (25) will finally make their romance official. Then there is U.S. import Leah Dizon (21) who was in tears at rehearsals when she couldn’t remember the lyrics to the closing song, where all participants are led by enka veteran Kitajima Saburo. She originally had the highly visible spot right behind “Sabu-chan” but has since been moved to the back row. Then there is the sad story of Dreams Come True vocalist Yoshida Miwa (42), whose common-law husband passed away a few months ago. She and veteran Wada Akiko (57) were both in tears as they embraced during rehearsals. All in all, it’s sure to be an emotional show.

• At the Record Taisho awards, the main award went to folk duo Kobukuro. The newcomer award went to 7-member idol group C-ute, part of the same Hello! Project that brought you Morning Musume. As the members are under 18, they were not allowed to appear on stage after 9pm and had to accept their award via video hookup to the dressing room. Exile took the award for best vocal group.

Matsu Takako Married

Japanese starThe year-end wedding rush continues, with the latest announcement coming from actress Matsu Takako (30). She and musician Sahashi Yoshiyuki (46) chose yesterday, an auspicious “taian” day on the traditional calendar, to tie the knot on a relationship of six years. Messages of congratulation came from Matsu’s father, actor Matsumoto Koshiro (65), and brother, kabuki actor Ichikawa Somegoro (36) as well as a host of other celebrities. The couple first started going out when Sahashi took part in Matsu’s nationwide concert tour in 2001. He also participated in the recording of her latest album, “Cherish You”, which was released in April. Matsu told the president of her management agency of their wedding plans at the end of September. Yesterday’s announcement was sent to the media by fax and the couple have no plans to hold a press conference, wedding ceremony or reception. It is the second marriage for Sahashi, who divorced in 1998.

• Less happy news for retired baseball star Shinjo Tsuyoshi (35). He announced on his official website yesterday that he and his wife, talento Ohkouchi Shiho (36), divorced on December 16.

• Nakamura Kouichi (56), vocalist of the rock band Jaywalk is to be prosecuted for having an army knife in his car. The knife was spotted by police on the back seat of his car when he was stopped for a routine check in June. He said he had used it on a camping trip about a year earlier and had left it in the car.

Odagiri Jo, Kashii Yuu to Wed

Odagiri Jo Kashii YuuThe media was caught off guard by yesterday evening’s press conference by top actor Odagiri Jo (31) and young actress Kashii Yuu (20). The two announced that after a relationship of two years they are planning to get married in the New Year. As well known for his radical fashion sense as for his various critically acclaimed movie appearances, a clearly nervous Odagiri sported his recent “late-period John Lennon” look. By giving a formal press conference rather than announcing the news by fax, and such revelations as Kashii’s strictly enforced 10pm curfew, the image of a young couple in love seemed to override the 11-year age difference between them. The media are referring to them using such terms as “seijitsu” (sincere, honest) and “junai” (pure and innocent love), a reaction perhaps to the many shotgun weddings and short-lived marriages that are common in the showbiz world. When asked about her ideal husband, Kashii said she’d like to marry someone like her own father, who she described as “very strict and stubborn”. Odagiri, who was raised by his mother, echoed his fiancee by saying he hoped to live up to that image. He added that he has seen Kashii as a future marriage partner since they started dating. Asked about the timing of the announcement, he said that he will be filming overseas at the beginning of next year and wanted Kashii to feel at ease while he is away. The two, who met on the set of the 2005 movie “The Pavillion Salamandre”, share the same birthday, February 16. That seems as likely a date for their wedding as any.

Odagiri got his break on TV in the title role of “Kamen Rider Uga” in 2000. He won a Japan Academy Award as best newcomer for the 2003 movie “Azumi”. He was romantically linked with actress Mizuno Miki (33), but they split in 2005. Kashii, whose grandfather is American, spent her elementary school years in Singapore. She started out as a fashion model before making her TV debut in Fuji TV’s hugely popular series “Waterboys” in 2003. She appeared in the first “Death Note” movie in 2006.

• Another wedding announcement came today from actress Aso Kumiko (29). Her management agency sent a fax to the media saying that she and stylist Iga Daisuke (30) tied the knot in Tokyo this morning.

• Finally getting a chance to take a honeymoon are actress Fujiwara Norika (36) and comedian Jinnai Tomonori (33), who tied the knot in February. The couple recently announced that they will both appear as judges on NHK’s “Kohaku Uta Gassen” on New Year’s Eve, and will head off for Mauritius shortly after.

• The latest trouble to hit the Gorgeous Kano Sisters is the arrest of the father of Kano Kyoko (45). Oyama Teruo (72) was arrested on the night of December 25 for threatening the two “sisters” with an umbrella in the basement of their central Tokyo apartment building. Oyama is said to have been looking for money, and no injuries were reported. The Kano Sisters are famous for their flamboyant displays of extravagant wealth.

Glay vocalist Teru (36) and his wife, Puffy member Ohnuki Ami (34), were involved in a minor traffic accident earlier this month, it was revealed yesterday. Teru was making a right turn in Tokyo’s Aobadai area when he collided with a young woman on a bicycle. Police are planning to prosecute him for accidental infliction of injury.

• It looks like actor and renowned playboy Ishida Junichi (53) has patched things up with ex-girlfriend, talento Hasegawa Rie (34). They were first reported to be a couple in 1996 and they started living together in Tokyo in 2004. But a split at the end of that year brought them a lot of publicity, which both have used to good effect on the variety show circuit. Sources say that Ishida has acknowledged the rekindled relationship.

Fujiwara Tatsuya to Take On Matsuda Yusaku Role

Fujiwara TatsuyaPopular young actor Fujiwara Tatsuya (25) is to take on the persona of a Japanese movie legend. In the ‘hard boiled’ thriller “Chameleon” the star of the “Battle Royale” and “Death Note” movies will play a role originally written for the late Matsuda Yusaku (1950-89) in 1978. The project has finally been realized by the original scriptwriter Maruyama Shouichi (59), who worked with Matsuda on several projects, and producer Kurosawa Mitsuru, the man who shaped Matsuda’s career and is executive producer for the movie. Directed by Sakamoto Junji (50), the movie started filming at the end of November. Fujiwara impressed the director with his forthright acting style and willingness to take physical risks. In one scene, he barreled down a flight of steps on a motorbike and completed filming covered in bruises. The movie is scheduled to open in theaters next summer, and distributor Toei is planning on turning the movie into a series.

• Kyogen actor Shigeyama Motohiko (32) got married on Christmas Eve, it was revealed yesterday. He and his 31-year-old wife are already living together. Shigeyama comes from a kyogen family and made his stage debut at the age of four. He is currently appearing in NHK’s morning drama series “Chiritotechin”, whose plot centers around the traditional comic storytelling of rakugo in Osaka.

• Talento Nitta Junichi (44) announced on his blog yesterday that he is married for the second time. He gave no mention of when he got remarried, but said that his new wife is the hair stylist for popular enka singer Yashiro Aki (57). He was previously married to former singer Hiroe Jun (40), with whom he had two children.

• Talento Suzanne (21) has been romantically linked with actor Yamamoto Koji (31). Today’s issue of weekly gossip magazine “Friday” includes photos of Suzanne leaving Yamamoto’s Tokyo apartment very early one morning in late November. True to her “o-baka” (stupid) image, she insists that Yamamoto was simply helping her study geography and history, while her management agency insists the two are just friends.

• Comedian Masuda Hidehiko (37) of the duo Masuda Okada revealed yesterday that became a father for the second time last week. At the time the baby was born, he was filming a special program to mark the 25th anniversary of the debut by former idol singer Hori Chiemi.

• International fashion model Anne (21) is to appear in the latest promo video from hip hop unit Home Made Kazoku. The video for “Oboeteru” was shot last week in popular date spots around Tokyo, including Omotesando and O-daiba. The daughter of Hollywood-based actor Watanabe Ken (48), Anne is one of the few Japanese fashion models to have established themselves on the world catwalk scene.

Takahashi Yuya Out on Bail

Takahashi YuyaSinger Takahashi Yuya (28) was released on bail yesterday after 40 days in police detention. The second son of actress Mita Yoshiko (66), he was arrested in mid-November for possession and use of amphetamines. He was released by the Tokyo District Court on ¥5 million bail and on the condition that he immediately check into a rehabilitation center for treatment of his drug addiction and depression. He will remain there until his first court hearing scheduled for January 28. He had nothing to say to the media as he was driven away from the courthouse yesterday afternoon. This is his third arrest on drug charges: he first fell foul of the law in 1998, and again in 2000, when he received a two-year prison sentence suspended for five years.

• Oh Rie (37) held a press conference yesterday to talk about her postponed wedding plans. The daughter of baseball legend Oh Sadaharu (67) and psychiatrist Honda Masaki (37) had been scheduled to register their marriage – Oh’s third and Honda’s second – on January 1. Both that and a wedding ceremony planned for later in January have been postponed indefinitely. Some have speculated that Oh may want to focus on next year’s baseball season, said to be her father’s last as manager of the Softbank Hawks. Another factor is no doubt a recent magazine report that Honda had been sued for sexual harassment. Oh said yesterday that wasn’t the specific reason for the change of heart but admitted that she told Honda she wanted to postpone the marriage immediately after reading the article on the airplane as they returned from a recent holiday. She added that, in spite of some “small things” that needed to be fixed, she and Honda still have an ongoing relationship.

• Someone else not having a happy Christmas was comedian Taka (31) of the duo Taka and Toshi. He called in to a live late-night Fuji TV variety show hosted by Akashiya Sanma (52) on Christmas Eve to say that he had been dumped by his girlfriend of eight years. He ironically won a trip for two to Paris and said that he wanted to get back together and use the prize as a honeymoon. A big reason for the split is no doubt the photos that were published in a weekly magazine back in August of Taka and reporter Suzuki Natsuko (30) at a hotel.

• Fukuchi Shigeo (73), a consultant and former CEO at Asahi Beer, has been chosen as the next chairman of NHK. It’s the first time since 1989 that someone has been chosen from outside the national public broadcast network. Ten of the twelve members of the management committee chose Fukuchi, while two echoed the opposition voiced by some NHK employees and other business executives. Fukuchi will start his 3-year term from January 25.

It’s True: Nakai-kun and Koda Kumi Are a Couple

Japanese starRomance rumors that circulated during the summer about SMAP leader Nakai Masahiro (35) and “ero-kakkoii” pop singer Koda Kumi (25) are true after all. Today’s issue of the weekly women’s magazine “Josei Seven” includes photos of the couple at Nakai’s plush Tokyo apartment, which he moved into just in October. The photos were taken on December 5, after the couple had both appeared on a Fuji TV music show. Koda was a guest on the Fuji show “Utaban”, co-hosted by Nakai and comedian Ishibashi Takaaki, in late September and they both tried to laugh off the rumors. But with SMAP being the kings of the J-pop world and Koda being the top-selling artist of the last few years, the media are now referring to them as a “chou biggu kappuru” (super big couple). And with Nakai in the role as emcee for the female Red Team at this year’s Kohaku Uta Gassen on New Year’s Eve, he will have to introduce his own girlfriend on stage for the most widely viewed show of the year. And she’s scheduled to perform the song “Ai no Uta” (Song of Love). That’s just the kind of publicity that NHK have been praying for as the show has seen a slump in ratings over the recent years.

Goto Maki Not on Leave of Absence

Goto Maki YuukiManagement for idol singer Goto Maki (22) have denied that she is taking a sabbatical during her brother’s ongoing trial. The former Morning Musume member was reported to be refusing leave her home or take on work until a verdict is reached in the trial of Goto Yuuki (21) on robbery and assault charges. With the next hearing scheduled for late January, the trial is likely to continue for several months. “Gomaki”, as she is known to fans, quit the Hello! Project ensemble at the end of October when the case came to light and has insisted that the decision was because she wants to pursue her own musical goals. Two of Yuuki’s accomplices, both junior high school friends, were arrested yesterday for the September robbery. Yuuki, who himself had a brief pop career and is married with a child, has said he got into crime because of financial problems.

• Internationally renowned jazz pianist Ozone Makoto (46) is to provide the background music for a Fuji TV drama series. “Ashita no Kita Yoshio”, which airs from January 8, will be Ozone’s first attempt at TV music, and it is very rare for such a project to be undertaken by a jazz musician. He will also make a cameo appearance in the series, which stars Kohinata Fumiyo (53), Matsuda Ryuhei (24) and Konishi Manami (29). Ozone was the first Japanese artist to sign with the Columbia Records label, and he has since been nominated for two Grammy Awards.

• At the Tokyo District Court yesterday, singer Kye Eun Sook (46) was given an 18-month sentence, suspended for three years, for drug possession. The Japan-based Korean singer was arrested by Tokyo police at the end of November for possession of amphetamines.

• TV Asahi announcer Dou Mariko (26) is getting married. She and her company employee fiance, said to be in his 30s, plan to tie the knot next April. Dou says she will continue her career. After joining the network in 2004, she immediately became a hit and landed the post of assistant to host Tamori on the popular “Music Station” show.

• Australian pop queen Kylie Minogue (40) is in Japan for the first time in ten years. She attended a PR event for her album “X” and the documentary DVD “White Diamond”. She promised local fans that she will come back to perform in Japan as soon as she can.

• Just two days after turning 20, singer/songwriter Ayaka performed her first solo concert at the Nippon Budokan in central Tokyo. She started off the show with an acappella version of her hit “I Believe” and also gave the 12,000 fans a preview of her next single “Te wo Tsunagou”, due for release next spring.

Manga Poster for Kurosawa Remake

Hidden Fortress Poster

Popular manga-ka Inoue Takehiko (40) has created his first ever movie poster. Known for such hit manga series as “Slam Dunk” and “Vagabond”, he got the job of designing the poster for the upcoming movie “Kakushi Toride no Sanakunin”. Starring Arashi member Matsumoto Jun (24), the movie is a remake of the 1958 Kurosawa Akira classic. That film, known internationally as “The Hidden Fortress”, was a major influence on George Lucas when making the first “Star Wars” movie. Matsumoto said, “Inoue-sensei is a hero to my generation. I’m delighted to be connected with him through this movie.” The poster features Matsumoto’s character, Miyamoto Takezou (who did not feature in the original), staring out of his prison cell. The cast also includes Nagasawa Masami as Princess Yuki, Abe Hiroshi in the original hero role of General Makabe Rokurota (played by the legendary Mifune Toshiro), and Shiina Kippei as Takayama Gyoubu, the incarnation of evil. Directed by Higuchi Shinji, the movie is due for theatrical release on May 10.

“Sen no Kaze…” Best Seller in 2007

Akikawa MasafumiThe song “Sen no Kaze ni Natte”, which made opera tenor Akikawa Masafumi (39) a household name, was named yesterday as the best-selling single of the year. It was the first classical recording to reach No.1 on Oricon’s singles chart and Akikawa became Japan’s first classical artist to have a million-selling release. With over 1.1 million copies sold, it brought in ¥1.12 billion for Teichiku Entertainment. The song is based on an English poem by an unknown author called “Do not Stand at my Grave and Weep” and Akikawa’s version was released in May 2006. After he sang it on NHK’s “Kohaku Utagassen” last New Year’s Eve, sales started to really pick up and Akikawa started popping up all over the place on TV. He has performed more than 120 concerts this year and estimates that he has sung the song about 160 times.

Meanwhile, the best-selling artist of the year was Koda Kumi (25), who had combined sales of ¥7.35 billion. Her album “Black Cherry” alone brought in ¥4.3 billion, though in terms of copies sold the year’s best-selling album was Mr. Children’s “Home” at 1.18 million.

• Talento Oh Rie (37) and psychiatrist Honda Masaki (37) have postponed their wedding plans, it was revealed yesterday. Oh is to give an official explanation at a press conference on December 25. Sources say that the couple had originally planned to marry at the end of next year’s baseball season, when Oh’s father and Softbank Hawks manager Oh Sadaharu (67) plans to retire. The schedule was moved forward after the media got hold of the story, with the marriage registry planned for New Year’s Day and a wedding and reception later in January.

• Actress/singer Sawajiri Erika (21) is in trouble again. The moody star, who drew media fire for her grumpy behavior at a movie behavior in November, caused a minor traffic accident on Monday night. She was turning right at a signal in the Aobadai area of Tokyo when she collided with a motorcycle. Nobody was injured but the young male motorcyclist reported the accident to police. Sawajiri recently returned from London, where she and her rumored boyfriend, media creator Takashiro Tsuyoshi (43), attended the Led Zeppelin concert.

• The contenders for the major Japan Academy Awards were announced yesterday: “Tokyo Tower, Okan to Boku to, Tokidoki, Oton” has 13 nominations; “Always, Zoku: Sanchome no Yuhi” (12); and “Soredemo Boku wa Yattenai” (11). The awards ceremony will be held at the Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa in Tokyo on February 15.

David Caruso Kano Sisters“CSI: Miami” star David Caruso (51) was in Tokyo yesterday to promote the upcoming release on DVD of season 3 of the popular crime show. At the PR event he was flanked by the always publicity-hungry Gorgeous Kano Sisters.

Fuurinkazan Fails to Excite

FuurinkazanNHK’s taiga (historical drama) series “Fuurinkazan” finished its year-long run on Sunday with a disappointing audience rating. According to the firm Video Research, the series had an average rating for the year of 18.7%, peaking at 22.9% for the fifth episode back in early February. Sunday’s climactic episode only managed 18%. The numbers are in line with NHK’s audience trend of the last few years – 2005’s “Koumyo ga Tsuji” managed 20.9%, while last year’s “Yoshitsune” dropped to 19.5%. The decline is ascribed to factors such as a lack of interest among young viewers, despite the leading roles in both series being played by top young stars (Nakama Yukie in 2005 and Takizawa Hideaki in 2006). Fuurinkazan starred relatively minor stage actor Uchino Masaaki (39) as medieval warrior Yamamoto Kansuke, but also featured popular rock star Gackt in the major role of warlord Uesugi Kenshin (1530-78). The title of the series is an expression that translates as “as fast as the wind, as quiet as the forest, as daring as fire, and immovable as the mountain”.

• A classic late-night music show of the late 1980s is to make a one-night comeback. Talento Aihara Yuu (40), one of the original presenters of TBS’s late-night show “IkaTen”, returned from her home in New York, to record the special with Miyake Yuuji (56). The special will air on December 30. With the full title of “Miyake Yuuji no Ikasu Bando Tengoku”, the show featured a contest between 10 amateur bands every week, with the winner being named “IkaTen King”. Any band that won for five weeks running was promised a major-label contract. The show launched the careers of such bands as Flying Kids, Begin, Tama, and Blankey Jet City. IkaTen aired from early 1989 but despite its popularity it ran only until the end of 1990. During that time, two program staff were arrested for marijuana possession and there were claims of major labels trying to sign up bands behind the scenes.