Monthly Archives: January 2008

Dreams Come True for Sergio Mendes

Sergio Mendes, Yoshida MiwaDreams Come True vocalist Yoshida Miwa (42) represents Japan on the latest album from the legendary Brazilian musician Sergio Mendes (66). “Morning in Rio” is a follow up to 2006’s “Timeless”, a collaboration with various neo-soul and alternative hip hop guest artists, in particular of The Black Eyed Peas. The new album is described as a celebration of 50 years since the birth of Bosa Nova. It features 13 guest artists from five countries, with Yoshida providing Japanese vocals for the track “Lugar Comum”. The track will be released as a single worldwide except for North America. The album goes on sale worldwide in April, but has an advance release in Japan February 27. DCT recently released the single “Mata ne”, the theme tune for the latest “One Piece” anime feature. It’s good to see one of J-pop’s finest artists fully back at work again following the death of her husband last October.

• Oscar-nominated actress Kikuchi Rinko (27) has dropped out of the cast of an upcoming movie. She is said to have torn muscles in both thighs in mid-December while preparing for her role in “Kamui Gaiden”, due for release in 2009. The movie is being directed by Sai Youichi (58), Japan’s most established film director of Korean descent, and filmed on location in Okinawa. Though shooting has already started, Kikuchi’s wasn’t due to start working until February. But it was decided that she wouldn’t be able to be ready for the movie’s demanding action scenes. Star Matsuyama Kenichi (22) has also suffered minor injuries during filming. Kikuchi recently appeared at the Japan premiere of Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution” and is not said to be suffering any ongoing physical problems.

• Also injured is top Takarazuka star Hizuka Hana, who has dropped out of an upcoming production after breaking her ankle. She is the female lead in the Soragumi (Sky Troupe) and was due to appear in “Reimei no Kaze” at the Grand Theater in Takarazuka City from February 9. In her absence, her role will be played by Kazune Miou. The all-female theatrical revue is made up of five troupes, each with a top star for both male and female roles.

• Actor Kawakubo Takuji (26) was recently spotted staying at the home of former Morning Musume member Yaguchi Mari (25), according to today’s issue of weekly magazine “Josei Seven”. The two are said to have met at a party last summer and Yaguchi pursued Kawakubo relentlessly. He was seen entering her home, where she lives with her parents, after midnight and leaving the following morning.

• J-pop trio Globe have closed their fan club “house of globe”. Made up of Komuro Tetsuya (49) his wife Keiko (37) on vocals, and Marc Panther (35), the group has been largely absent from the charts since the late 1990s. They announced on their official website yesterday that the fan club is being temporarily shut down and membership fees will be returned.

Meet the New Boss

NHK chairmanFormer NHK announcer Imai Yoshinori (63, photo right) has been named as the network’s new vice chairman. He held a press conference yesterday with the new chairman, Fukuchi Shigeo (73, photo left). Imai, who officially takes on his new 3-year post from today, said he was as nervous as when he first started as a newscaster. He joined NHK as a journalist straight from Keio University in 1968, and later spent three years working at the Washington DC office. He started his TV career on “NHK News Wide” in 1986 and became a household name over the following decade. Fukuchi, the first NHK outsider to take on the top post in 20 years, began his term last Friday. The new management take over just when NHK has become embroiled in yet more financial scandals, and their main job will be to restore public trust in the network.

• “Kaabee” (Kabei – Our Mother), the latest movie from Yamada Yoji and starring Yoshinaga Sayuri (62), is the current box office hit. Over its opening three days, it was watched by more than 208,000 people across the country. The movie has been entered for the Golden Bear at the upcoming Berlin International Film Festival, which Yamada and Yoshinaga plan to attend.

• Singer-actress Shibasaki Kou (26) is releasing her first greatest hits album. “Single Best” will go on sale March 12. It includes all her 15 singles, which have combined sales of over 4 million. Also included is “The Back Best”, a second CD of selected album tracks.

• At No.1 on the latest Oricon album chart is “Zard Request Best – Beautiful Memory”. Zard, as vocalist Sakai Izumi came to be known when she was the only remaining member of the band, died in a fall at a Tokyo hospital last May. She tops the chart for the 11th time, putting her in joint first place for the most No.1’s by a female vocal group with Dreams Come True. Meanwhile, at No.1 on the singles chart are rock band Radwimps with “Ordermade”.

TV Lawyer Wins Osaka Election

Hashimoto ToruFamily lawyer and TV personality Hashimoto Toru (38, photo left) became Japan’s youngest-ever governor when he won a landslide victory in Osaka on Sunday. Supported by the governing – but troubled – Liberal Democratic Party, he campaigned with the message that he wanted to bring the smiles back to the faces of Japan’s second city. Like fellow celebrity turned Miyazaki prefectural governor Higashikokubaru Hideo (50, photo right), who stumped for him on Saturday, he will no doubt make the most of his non-political background and try to shine a spotlight on slush funds and other financial problems. After the results were in, he was in practical mode, saying that his major challenge is to eliminate debt issues by the prefectural government. Hashimoto, the father of seven children, has been a regular face on the variety show circuit in the last couple of years.

• Singer Takahashi Yuya (28) was handed an 18-month prison sentence at the Tokyo District Court yesterday. He will however be allowed to continue hospital treatment for depression and drug addiction, after having paid ¥6 million in bail. The son of top actress Mita Yoshiko (66), he was arrested back in November for drug possession and use, his third such arrest.

• Rock legend Jimmy Page (64) attended a PR event in Tokyo yesterday for the new Led Zeppelin hits album “Mothership” and a re-release of the live album “The Song Remains the Same”. Asked to comment on speculation of an upcoming world tour following last year’s hugely successful reunion concert in London, Page said, “Robert Plant also had a parallel project running and he’s really busy with that project, certainly until September, so I can’t give you any news.” When asked what he thought of actress Sawajiri Erika, a Zeppelin fan who flew to London for the concert, he simply said “Unfortunately, I don’t know her.” But his reply was interpreted as “Betsu ni…”, echoing Sawajiri’s famous grumpy line and drawing roars of laughter from the assembled fans and media. A bemused Page said, “Judging from this reaction, maybe I should have met the lady!”

• Actress Kawakami Maiko (41) is romantically involved with younger actor Takasugi Mizuho (29), according to today’s issue of women’s magazine “Josei Jishin”. A somewhat drunken Kawakami was spotted bringing Takasugi back to her Tokyo apartment after a New Year’s party earlier in the month.

Miyazaki Gov. in Fuji Drama Special

Higashikokubaru Hideo, Tsukaji MugaMiyazaki Prefecture governor Higashikokubaru Hideo (50, photo left) really is a one-man publicity machine. The former comedian didn’t even have to leave his new workplace to film his part in an upcoming Fuji TV drama special. Comedian Tsukaji Muga (36, photo right) of the duo Drunk Dragon visited the prefectural office at the weekend to film scenes for “Hadaka no Taisho” (The Naked General), in which the governor plays himself. Ironically, three people were arrested just last week for shooting nude photos in front of the building, just the kind of stunt the politician might have been involved in during his days as Sonomanma Higashi. But his first year in politics has seen him plugging Miyazaki products left, right and center, making countless TV appearances, and he continues to enjoy unwavering popularity among his constituents. In the Fuji drama, Tsukaji revives last year’s role as the late artist Yamashita Kiyoshi (1922-71).

• Former Johnny’s Jimusho idol Okamoto Kenichi (38) has been divorced since last year, according to the latest issue of “Shuukan Gendai” magazine. The former rhythm guitarist of the group Otokogumi married model Yoshie in 1992. Their son Keito was born the following year, and he followed in his dad’s footsteps, becoming a member of the Johnny’s group Hey! Say! Jump! last year.

• Actor Karato Ryou (38) spoke yesterday for the first time about his battle with cancer. Appearing at a PR event in Osaka for the movie “Koneko no Namida”, he revealed that he was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx eight years ago, shortly after getting his license as a pro kick boxer. He spent the next two and a half years in hospital, undergoing surgery five times, and his vocal cords were repaired using fat from his stomach. He was able to return to his acting carer in 2004 but kept his medical history a secret. He decided to open up about it yesterday as the film is set in his home town of Osaka and tells the story of boxer Morioka Eiji, who won a bronze medal at the 1968 Mexico Olmpics and died of cancer in 2004. The movie stars Takeda Shinji (35) and is directed by Morioka’s nephew Morioka Toshiyuki.

• Popular magician Magii Shinji (34) and talento Yoshida Yuki (28) became parents for the first time on Saturday. Magii, known mainly for his corny party tricks, announced the arrival of their baby girl on his blog on Sunday. The couple got married in August 2006.

3rd Time Lucky for Mihara Junko?

Mihara JunkoRecently divorced actress Mihara Junko (43, photo right) just got back from a trip to Australia with a former band-mate of her ex-husband, according to today’s issue of weekly magazine “Friday”. The article published photos of the two at Narita Airport on their arrival back from Cairns, and speculated that they are planning to get married. A former top idol singer, Mihara married a racing driver in 1990, but they split in mid-1999. Within six months, she was married to comedian Koala (38, photo left), who later followed the advice of fortune teller Hosoki Kazuko and changed his stage name to Happy Happy. That marriage ended last year, and both parties insisted on telling their side of the story on TV variety shows. In both her marriages, Mihara got pregnant but suffered miscarriages. Her newest partner is musician Satoshi (32), who was in the band Edo Fish with Koala in 2003. Mihara’s agency say he is just one of several boyfriends she’s had since her divorce.

• Actor Nishimura Kazuhiko (31) and calligrapher Kunishige Tomomi (29) became parents for the first time yesterday. Nishimura announced the arrival of his baby boy on his blog.

• British actor Jude Law (35) was in central Tokyo yesterday for a party to commemorate the recent opening of an Alfred Dunhill store. Also at the party was kabuki star Nakamura Shido (34), who refused to answer questions about his ongoing divorce from popular actress Takeuchi Yuko (27).

• Just out of hospital after surgery for a compression fracture to a lumbar vertebrae, veteran actor Ogata Ken returned to work yesterday. He took part in the Japanese dubbing of the Hollywood movie “The Golden Compass”, in which he took on Ian McKellen’s role as the voice of Lorek the Ice Bear. Other cast members include newcomer Nishiuchi Mariya (14), Narumi Riko (15) and Yamaguchi Tomoko (43).

• A joint concert tour by U.S. bands Chicago and Huey Lewis & the News was announced yesterday. Chicago will be making their 11th visit and the first since 2003, while Lewis hasn’t played in Japan since 1998. Both artists of course had their heydays well before that, with most hits dating back over 20 years. Between April 14 and 22 they will roll back the years with shows in Hiroshima, Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo and Yokohama. Tickets go on sale February 16 from Udo Music.

Tamuken Attacked by Passerby

Tamura KenjiYoshimoto comedian Tamura Kenji (34) was involved in a minor scuffle while filming in Osaka on Tuesday. TamuKen, as he is known to fans, and a crew of four were filming an interview in a shopping street when a 64-year-old male passerby got into an argument with one of the staff members. Tamura stepped in and got a kick for his trouble. After the police got involved, the man apologized to Tamura and no charges were pressed. With his trademark hairstyle, sunglasses, loincloth and shishimai lion, Tamura is one of the more visible comedians to have made a breakthrough in the last couple of years. He also owns a pair of successful yakiniku restaurants in Osaka and often talks of giving up showbiz to run the business full time.

• Another Yoshimoto comedian, Downtown‘s Matsumoto Hitoshi (44), is back at work after taking time off to recover from illness. He came down with a fever and lung infection earlier this month and missed the January 13 recording of an episode of Fuji TV’s “Hey! Hey! Hey! Music Champ”. But he was back on his feet yesterday to record an episode of the long-running “Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!”

• Talento Yamada Mariya (27) admitted on her blog that she and stage actor Kusano Touru (40) are planning to get married next month. The two started dating after they appeared together in a theatrical production, and their romance was first reported last August.

Was it Just an Impulse for Tokita?

Tokita Reiko, ImpulseIt seems the dream is over for Yoshimoto comedian Tsutsumishita Atsushi (30). When we reported last year on his romance with fashion model Tokita Reiko (23), they were referred to as Beauty and the Beast! But it seems that a fairy tale ending just wasn’t to be: Tokita revealed on her blog this week that they have split up after having grown apart. The couple met on the Akashiya Sanma-hosted show, “Odoru! Sanma Goten” variety show in October 2006, with Tokita telling the chubby Impulse member on air that she was a big fan. Sanma got them to exchange telephone numbers and an unlikely romance was born. Impulse, with Itakura Shunsuke as the boke, made their debut in 1998. Tokita made her debut in the teen magazine “Cawaii!” while she was in high school and is a regular cover girl for “JJ”.

• Winners of the annual Blue Ribbon Awards were announced yesterday. Second only to the Japan Academy Awards, the winners are chosen by film journalists from the country’s major newspapers. This year’s winners are:

  • Best Film: “Kisaragi”
  • Best Actor: Kase Ryo (33, Soredemo Boku wa Yattenai)
  • Best Actress: Asou Kumiko (29, Yuunagi no Machi, Sakura no Kuni)
  • Best Director: Suo Masayuki (51, Soredemo Boku wa Yattenai)
  • Best New Artist: Aragaki Yui (19)
  • Special Award: Ueki Hitoshi (1926-97)

• On the international front, “Mongol”, directed by Sergei Bodrov and starring the versatile Asano Tadanobu (34), has been nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar. It’s being reported as the first Academy Award nomination for Kazakhstan, though the countries behind the production also include Russia, China and Mongolia. The movie is based on the early days of the great Mongolian warrior Genghis Khan, played by “Ichi the Killer” star Asano.

Prosecutors Seek 2-Year Term for Singer

Takahashi YuyaThe case against singer Takahashi Yuya (28) on drug charges began yesterday at the Tokyo District Court. The second son of actress Mita Yoshiko (66), he was arrested in the capital in mid-November. After getting high in a convenience store toilet, he was found with 0.1g of amphetamines in his possession when stopped by police. It is his third drug arrest and he has confessed to the charges, so it is likely that this time he will receive a prison sentence along the lines of the two years that prosecutors are seeking. After his first two arrests, the first dating back to when he was 18, Mita took responsibility and gave up work and lucrative commercial contracts. But she says she has now reached the limit of what she can do as a parent and has left the responsibility to his father.

• Bad news yet again for NHK. A day after the public broadcaster’s chairman offered to resign, another minor scandal hit the news. A film crew replaced the number plates on several parked cars on Sunday while filming a drama in Chiba Prefecture. The Okayama Prefecture plates were used to create authenticity for the the drama’s location. But when the crew went to remove the plates, they found one of the cars had been driven away. Driving with the wrong plates is a traffic offense. Meanwhile, just days before his term as chairman was due to end, Hashimoto Genichi offered to resign on Monday along with two managing directors over a case involving employee insider trading. The scandal erupted last week when it was revealed that three NHK employees bought shares in a restaurant operator minutes before the network ran a story about the company. At the weekend, NHK promised an investigation involving thousands of employees with access to the information.

• Oda Kazumasa’s “Jiko Besuto” is the first album ever to stay on the Oricon charts for 300 consecutive weeks. Oda (60), who holds several records for the oldest artist on the charts, released the greatest hits compilation in April 2002 and it entered the chart at No.1. It currently sits at No.28. Meanwhile on top of the singles chart is five-member Korean vocal group Dong Bang Shin Gi (known in Japan as Touhou Shinki) with “Purple Line”. They are the first non-Japanese Asian artists to top the chart.

• Former top idol singer Hori Chiemi (40) said on her blog yesterday that she broke a rib last week in a fall at her home.

• Aromatherapist and former Fuji TV announcer Ohashi Maki (31) revealed on her blog yesterday that she gave birth to a baby girl on January 13. Ohashi quit Fuji in 2001 and married an employee of major advertising firm Dentsu in 2002.

X Japan Announce Concert Details

X JapanFans of the legendary X Japan got more details of the rock band’s long-awaited comeback yesterday. The four surviving members of the band attended two events in Tokyo, with a visibly jet-lagged Yoshiki (42) having flown in Saturday from his home in L.A. “This is an important announcement and I wanted to make it in person,” he said. The first event was a press conference at the Apple Store. Their new single “I.V.”, which appears on the soundtrack of the horror movie “Saw4” and features the late guitarist hide (1964-98), will be released worldwide on iTunes on January 23.

But the big news that fans were waiting for was about their upcoming concerts. The band announced two shows on March 28 & 30 at Tokyo Dome, the venue for their farewell concert at the end of 1997, and an extra show at Ajinomoto Stadium on May 3. May 2 marks ten years since hide’s death and the band plan to have his guitar on stage for the shows. There is also a plan for Luna Sea’s guitarist Sugizo to play hide’s parts, as the band was discovered by the X Japan axeman. The Dome concerts are titled “Kougeki Saikai 2008 I.V. – Hametsu ni Mukatte”, which roughly translates as “Resume Attack 2008 I.V. – Facing Destruction”. The first show will be called “Hakai no Yoru” (Destruction Night), and the second “Souzou no Yoru” (Creation Night). Yoshiki said, “Though I say it myself, the return of X Japan is a miracle, something I never thought would happen. But I don’t want it to be like a school reunion. I want to play a tense and dangerous concert.”

During the evening event, held at Shibuya’s Tower Records, they recorded a radio show to be broadcast on FM Fuji on February 11. Yoshiki and vocalist Toshi (42) talked about going to karaoke together, perhaps in an effort to dispel rumors of animosity between them.

• Japan’s candidate for a best foreign movie Academy Award failed to make the short list for a nomination. “Soredemo Boku wa Yattenai”, Suo Masayuki’s attack on his country’s legal system and his first feature in 11 years, was aiming to be just the second Japanese film nominated in the category in the last ten years. Yamada Yoji‘s “Tasogare Seibei” (Twilight Samurai) got the nod in 2004.

Amuro Namie Goes Back in Time for New Look

Amuro Namie90s pop darling Amuro Namie (30) is trawling through hits of the past for her new CD. She is covering or sampling one song each from the 1960s, 70s and 80s for the as yet untitled release. She performed two of the songs yesterday at a PR event for a top hair care brand: “New Look” is a cover of the Supremes hit “Baby Love” from 1964; and “Rock Steady” is a dance number that samples Aretha Franklin’s 1971 hit. The third song, “What a Feeling”, is still in production and is based on Irene Cara’s hit from the 1983 hit movie “Flashdance”. Amuro worked with top stylists Patricia Field (The Devil Wears Prada, Sex & the City) and Orlando Pita (Madonna, Julia Roberts) in making the promo video for the “Premium Vidal Sassoon” brand. Though past her heyday as an industry trend-setter, Amuro has kept her career on an even keel through a decade of marriage, motherhood and divorce. She is on a 64-show national concert tour until February 27 and the new CD is due for release on March 12.

• Popular former Fuji TV announcer Chino Shio (30) revealed yesterday that she is four months pregnant and expecting twins. Known by her nickname “Chinopan”, she worked for Fuji TV from 2000 till the end of 2005. She married the grandson of former prime minister Fukuda Takeo (1905-95) in April 2006 and now works as a freelance announcer and talento.