Miyazaki Hayao’s Ocean Tale

Gake no Ue no PonyoMaster animator Miyazaki Hayao (67) spoke this week for the first time about his latest movie “Gake no Ue no Ponyo” (Ponyo on the Cliff), due for release in July. He described the story as “Hans Christian Anderson’s tale of the Little Mermaid, transposed to modern Japan. Without the Christian subtext, it’s a story of young children’s love and adventure.” Ponyo, the heroine of the title, is a fish child with a stubborn wish to live with the 5-year-old human boy Sosuke. Inspiration for the movie came in 2004, when Miyazaki took his Studio Ghibli staff on a company holiday to a small town on the shores of the Seto Inland Sea. Captivated by the ocean and the town, he later spent two months there alone researching and sketching. The name Sosuke came from a Natsume Soseki novel he read during that time. Visually, he described the “small seaside town and the house on the cliff; just a few people; the ocean, like a living creature; a world where magic appears naturally.” Sousuke’s nursery is located next to an old people’s home, and producer Suzuki Toshio (59) described the movie as appealing to both the young and the elderly. “It’s a movie that can help us face these times of neurosis and anxiety.” The animation is in a freehand style, without the computer graphics of Miyazaki’s recent works.

• Chemistry member Kawabata Kaname (29) announced on his website that he and popular model Takahashi Miki registered their marriage in Tokyo yesterday. The couple started dating last June after Takahashi appeared in the promo video for the single “This Night.” They currently have no plans for a wedding or reception. Kawabata ended a 6-year relationship with talento Anzai Hiroko at the beginning of 2007, saying he wanted to focus on his music career. But he has admitted to being envious of the married life and fatherhood of his Chemistry partner Douchin Yoshikuni (29). His recently revealed on a talk show that he hasn’t seen his own father since he disappeared ten years ago. Takahashi, who works mostly in fashion magazines and TV commercials, is said to be in her late 20s.

• Former talento Haga Kenji (46) was on the witness stand yesterday at the Osaka District Court. He was questioned in court for the first time in his ongoing trial for fraud and attempted blackmail. “I regret it,” he said. “I thought what I was doing was right.” As his lawyer asked, “While you’ve been in custody, your jewelry business has gone bankrupt, hasn’t it? And you are unable to return to your career in showbusiness, aren’t you?” a tearful Haga simply nodded his head.

• In today’s issue of weekly magazine “Friday,” comedian Gekidan Hitori (31) speaks publicly for the first time about his relationship with talento Osawa Akane (22). He says that he’s hoping they’ll be able to tie the knot soon, but can’t yet say when that might be. The two started dating last spring and have since been regularly spotted together around Tokyo. Osawa Keiji (75), Akane’s grandfather and the former manager of the Nippon Ham Fighters baseball team, refused to comment to reporters on their wedding plans.

• Legendary Italian actress Sophia Loren (73) is in Japan for the first time in 33 years. She was in Ginza, central Tokyo yesterday for the opening of a new store by Italian jewelry maker Damiani.