Monthly Archives: April 2008

The Sushi Prince Does New York

Sushi PrinceAs one half of the hugely successful Johnny’s Jimusho duo Kinki Kids, Domoto Koichi (29) may be something of a prince of J-pop. But in New York he’s now better known as the “Sushi Prince.” He was in the Big Apple yesterday for the U.S. premiere of the movie “The Sushi Prince Does New York,” which was held at the Walter Reade Theater in the Lincoln Center. Somewhat surprisingly given his status in Japan, it’s Domoto’s first movie in 13 years and his first starring role. The action comedy, a mix of sushi and martial arts, was first conceived by director Tsutsumi Yukihiko when filming another movie in New York in 2003. He and his staff tried to come up with an idea that would be a hit in the U.S., but the payoff so far is not encouraging. Last year’s not very successful TV Asahi drama series (average audience rating only 7.5%) was actually developed more as a prequel to the movie. The cast also includes fellow Johnny’s singer Nakamaru Yuichi (KAT-TUN), Ihara Tsuyoshi (“Letters from Iwo Jima”) and Shaku Yumiko. You may notice that the casting of Nakamaru and the movie’s catchphrase, “nigitte yaru,” are also in keeping with the N.Y. theme. The movie opened in Japan on April 19.

• It was announced yesterday that popular group Morning Musume are to perform their first ever concert in Shanghai on June 28. They have been invited as the first Japanese artists to take part in the promotional buildup for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. The nine-member group, which added two Chinese to the lineup last year, are already scheduled to perform in Taiwan on May 24 and in South Korea on June 1.

• Up and coming comedienne Torii Miyuki (27) revealed at a PR event yesterday that she got married last year. Seemingly her marriage last spring to an older man not involved in show business was a surprise even to her management agency. Torii has recently making a name for herself on comedy shows such as “Enta no Kami-sama” with her white nightgown and eccentric style.

Matsumoto Jun Visits USC

Hidden FortressMatsumoto Jun (24) got a rapturous welcome from fans and students at USC yesterday. He was at the University of Southern California for a special screening of his latest movie, a remake of the Kurosawa Akira classic “Kakushitoride no Sanakunin.” The venue was chosen for its connection between Kurosawa’s original and USC alumnus George Lucas’s “Star Wars.” Among the audience were future filmmakers and actor Anthony Daniels (62), who played the role of C3PO. At a discussion following the screening, the 300 attendees gave it a big thumbs up. “MatsuJun” said of his role as Takezo, “I put a bit of Spiderman, a bit of Captain Jack Sparrow, of all sorts of Hollywood heroes into the part. I wanted to capture the essence of Hollywood.” A member of the idol group Arashi, who are somewhere in the middle of the Johnny’s Jimusho hierarchy, he’s probably better known in the U.S. as an actor, especially since a subtitled version of his 2005 TBS drama series “Hanayori Dango” was aired here. But among those welcoming him yesterday were 36 members of the Arashi Secret Agency fan club. The movie opens in Japan on May 10.

• Former members of 80s idol group Hikaru Genji seem to be getting a lot of press these days. Morohoshi Kazumi (37) donned his roller skates for the first time in 13 years yesterday when he took part in a preview of the “Voyage/Tabidachi” stage show at the Shibuya Muscle Theater. he said he’s been practicing seven hours a day to get back the skills that once were the hallmark of his group. Another member, Ohsawa Mikio (39), got married to a former model at the weekend, while Akasaka Akira (34) was arrested on drug charges in October of last year.

• Restaurateur and former comedian Ohshima Naoya (36) and former talento Takeda Kayoko (30) are engaged after a relationship of two years. The couple plan to hold a wedding reception at a Tokyo hotel on May 18. Ohshima was a member of the now defunct comedy group Dronz, who made their name in 1997 on the variety show “Susume! Denpa Shonen” but broke up in 2003. He now works as an actor and runs a nabe restaurant in the Ebisu district of Tokyo. Takeda is the great-great-granddaughter of Yoshihara Shigetoshi, the first ever governor of the Bank of Japan.

• Korean vocal unit Touhoushinki have entered the latest Oricon singles chart at No.1 with “Beautiful You/Sennen Koiuta.” It is the 23rd single release from the five-member group in the three years since they debuted in Japan.

• Rock trio C-C-B played their first concert in 18 years in Tokyo yesterday. The band, who broke up in 1990 and are best known for the hit “Romantic ga Tomaranai,” started a nationwide tour at the Omotesando FAB venue.

• A couple of celebrities announced new arrivals yesterday. Brazilian-born bossa nova singer Ono Lisa (45) said on her blog that she recently gae birth to her third child. Meanwhile comedian Tanaka Naoki (37) of the duo Cocorico is a father for the second time. He announced by fax that his wife, talento Kohinata Shie (28), had another baby boy on April 24.

Former Hikaru Genji Star Remarries

Ohsawa Mikio

Actor and former idol singer Ohsawa Mikio (39) and former model Sayaka (24) registered their marriage on Saturday, just four months after they first met. Ohsawa, a former member of 1980s Johnny’s Jimusho idol group Hikaru Genji, later gave a solo press conference. He told reporters that he proposed in mid-February while they were on a trip to Macao, saying before doing the world’s highest bungee jump (233m), “If I jump, will you marry me?” Ohsawa was married to actress Kitajima Mai (35) from 1996 to 2005 and he has since been raising their son (11). The 172cm-tall Sayaka worked as a model in Italy and is qualified as a power yoga instructor. Ohsawa said she advised him on the development of his new fashion brand Street Star, which he will launch in June. He wore one of his self-designed t-shirts on Saturday.

• TV Asahi announcer Dou Mariko (26) and her Sony Records employee husband held their wedding reception at a Tokyo hotel on Saturday. About 100 guests attended the event, while musician Hyde of the band L’Arc En Ciel and comedian Tamori passed on their wishes to the newlyweds via video appearances. Dou and Tamori are co-presenters of the long-running “Music Station.” Dou and her husband tied the knot in December 2007.

• The reason Hyde couldn’t be present at that event was that he and L’Arc En Ciel are touring overseas. They played in Taipei on Saturday, following their show in Shanghai a week before. And they announced at the weekend that their upcoming show in Paris will be broadcast live in cinema complexes here in Japan. The May 9 concert at the Le Zenith Arena will be shown at cinemas in five major cities, including Tokyo and Osaka, from 3am, May 10 local time. It’s believed to be the first time for an overseas concert to be broadcast live.

• Actor-singer Terao Akira (60) and actress Momoi Kaori (57) were among the hundreds recognized by the government yesterday for their contributions. They received the Medal with Purple Ribbon, while actor Sugi Ryotaro (63) was awarded the Medal with Green Ribbon, both awards being for contributions to the arts and academia. A total of 738 individuals and 17 organizations were recognized. In receiving his award, Terao followed in the footsteps of his late father, actor Uno Juukichi (1914-88), who was recognized in 1981.

• Musician Tsugaki Hiromichi (53) is the latest celebrity to be arrested for stimulant drug use. He failed a urine test after he was questioned by police in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo late Friday night. Admitting the charges, he offered up the usual line, “I bought the drugs from a foreigner in Roppongi a few days ago. I had some personal troubles.” Tsugaki has performed as a session musician for such big names as Ono Lisa and Nakamori Akina and wrote songs for Moritaka Chisato.

• Ohyama Nobuyo (71), who for many years was the voice of anime cat Doraemon, was hospitalized last week following a mild heart attack. She was working at the Institute of Sound Arts in Tokyo, where she is the principal, when she felt short of breath. She took a taxi to a nearby hospital and was admitted for tests.

• Techno trio Perfume are on a roll. Their second album “Game” is on top of the Oricon charts and tickets for their concert tour sold out in minutes. They kicked off the 10-city tour with a show for 2,200 fans at Zepp Osaka yesterday. They performed 18 songs including their two major hits so far, “Polyrhythm” and “Baby Cruising Love.” It was also announced that they will play at the venerable Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on November 6 & 7.

Kimura Yuichi, Henmi Emiri Split

Kimura Yuichi, Henmi EmiriThe brief marriage between Yoshimoto Kogyo comedian Kimura Yuichi (45) and actress Henmi Emiri (31) has come to an end. They announced by fax via their management agencies that they had registered their divorce yesterday. There had been rumors of a split surrounding the two, especially as “Kimuni”, as Kimura is popularly known, was said to be playing around. The two took the showbiz world by surprise when they married in January 2006, and they held their wedding ceremony and reception in Kyoto the following April. It was Kimura’s third marriage and Henmi’s first. She is the daughter of actor Saigo Teruhiko and singer/talento Henmi Mari, who divorced when she was a child. Her mother ended her second marriage at the end of 2005, shortly before Emiri got hitched. She said on her blog yesterday that she had wanted children, but Kimura was less keen as he already has a child from a previous marriage.

Higashikokubaru Still Monkeying Around

Higashikokubaru HideoMiyazaki Prefecture governor and former comedian Higashikokubaru Hideo (50) has admitted that he paid a former girlfriend hush money, as reported in yesterday’s issue of the weekly magazine “Shukan Shinchou.” When confronted by reporters at Miyazaki Airport, he said “I do know the woman, but when I contacted her (before the story was published) she said she simply wanted to be left in peace.” The magazine described the women as a beautiful office worker in her late 20s. They started dating in May of last year but she says that the popular politician told her that if she got pregnant, she would have to have an abortion. They split in October, and Higashikokubaru paid ¥1.5 million into her bank account. Once a member of the so-called Takeshi Gundan using the stage name Sonomanma Higashi, he has a long history of playing the field. First married to a TV announcer from 1985-89, he married actress Kato Kazuko (50) in 1990 only to split in 2006 as he began his move to a political career. While married to Kato, he was caught having affairs at least twice.

• American rock band Cheap Trick performed yesterday at the Nippon Budokan, the venue where they recorded their career-defining live album 30 years ago. Vocalist Robin Zander (55) again wore a white suit as the band performed the same 11-song set as they did in April, 1978.

• Former Morning Musume member Kago Ai (20) announced on her blog yesterday that she is getting back to work. She says she’s landed a part in a Hong Kong movie and will give more details later. She was suspended from the Hello! Project back in 2006 for underage smoking, and then fired by the Up-Front Agency in 2007 for a repeat offense. She recently started moving back into the media spotlight when she said she was publishing an autobiography. She is now under new management.

• Saitama Prefecture will finally have its day. Tokyo’s northern neighbor has long lived in the shadow of the capital, and carries the demeaning moniker Dasaitama, “dasai” being the Japanese word for uncool. But yesterday NHK announced that it will be the setting for the first of its morning drama series for 2009. Saitama is the only one of the country’s 47 prefectures never to have been used as a location.

• TV Tokyo president Shimada Masayuki announced yesterday that the network is to broadcast the first afternoon drama series in its 44-year history. He said that the modern drama slot will start from the autumn season in October, adding that the move is designed to improve weekday ratings. The network has traditionally shown reruns of samurai dramas or western movies during the afternoons.

Domo-kun Goes Global

Domo-kunNHK’s lovable Domo-kun character is to become a worldwide star. The public network announced yesterday that a 26-episode series of the stop-motion animation is to be broadcast in 101 countries and territories around the globe, including the U.S. and the U.K. That far exceeds the 64 countries that broadcast the NHK morning drama series “Oshin,” which originally aired in Japan in 1983-84. The full Domo-kun series will be shown at a four-day “Shibuya De Domo” event during the Golden Week holidays in early May. Domo-kun first appeared in 1999 to promote the 10th anniversary of NHK’s BS satellite channels. The popularity of the brief spots meant that Domo-kun survived that initial one-year run and became an image character for all of NHK.

• Actor Sato B-saku (59) is to undergo surgery for stomach cancer, his management agency revealed yesterday. They said the cancer was discovered during a regular checkup last December and was at an early stage. He is currently appearing in a stage production in Tokyo with his wife, actress Ameku Michiko (44). He will undergo surgery on May 1 and has stepped down from a stage show in Nagoya in June.

• Two women were slightly injured when a car driven by actress Shirakawa Yumi (71) was hit at an intersection last weekend. Police said yesterday that they will prosecute the male driver of the other car, which hit Shirakawa’s car as she was waiting to make a right turn in the Chuo-cho, Meguro district of Tokyo.

• Spanish singing couple Carlos Marin (39), of the group Il Divo, and Geraldine Larossa (aka Innocence) performed a “secret” concert in Tokyo yesterday. They are in Japan to promote her first album in Japan, “The Show Must Go On” and performed a rare duet of the song “Live Forever” for the Fuji TV early morning show “Mezamashi Terebi.”

• “Tokyo Sonata,” the latest movie starring Koizumi Kyoko (44), is to be entered at this year’s Cannes International Film Festival and will compete for the “Un Certain Regard” prize. Directed by Kurosawa Kiyoshi, the movie is described as a “heart-warming story about family ties,” with Koizumi casting off her usual stylish image to play a depressed housewife, and her husband played by Kagawa Teruyuki (42). Also heading for Cannes will be Tokio member Yamaguchi Tatsuya (36). He will join actors from the U.S. and around the world who provided voices for international editions of the animated feature “Kung Fu Panda.” In his first stint as a voice actor, he provides the Japanese voice for the lead role of Po the Panda (Jack Black).

• On the verge of becoming a forgotten star of the 1990s, Nakayama Miho (38) is to make her return to acting. Living in Paris since 2002 with her husband, Akutagawa Prize-winning novelist Tsuji Jinsei (48), and three children, she is currently in Korea planning her lead role in a movie adaptation of his novel “Sayonara Itsuka.” To be directed by Korean John H. Lee, the movie is due for release in the spring of 2009. Filming starts in Bangkok next month and will also take place in Japan and Korea. Nakayama is scheduled to appear on a live radio show today, her first live appearance since moving to Paris.

Tiger, World’s Youngest Jazz Drummer

Jazz drummer Onitsuka TigerThe young jazz drummer Onitsuka Taiga makes his recording debut today with the release of the album “Tiger!” He’s probably making history too as he’s still in the 4th grade! An application has been made to have him listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “the youngest CD debut by a pro jazz drummer.” To commemorate the event he held a mini-concert for 150 people at the Tsutenkaku Theater in Osaka yesterday, performing four songs with his band Tiger & The Silverbacks. As always he wore a red hat and clothes provided by his sponsor Asics, who sell his “Onitsuka Tiger” brand. Though a native of Kyoto, Taiga (9) was named after his father’s favorite baseball team, the Hanshin Tigers. He received his first drum kit from his parents on his fifth birthday and picked up the instrument so quickly and developed to such a degree that he has been featured on TV for the last couple of years. He performed in New York in 2005 at the age of 7. Asked what his dream is, he said “I want to perform at Koshien (the Hanshin Tigers stadium). And I want to be the best drummer in the universe.” His album is released on Columbia Music Entertainment’s Savoy label.

• Actor and former member of 1980s idol group Hikaru Genji Ohsawa Mikio (39) is getting re-married. According to his management agency, he and his 24-year-old fiancee Sayaka plan to tie the knot this Saturday and that will be followed by a formal announcement. Ohsawa was married to actress Kitajima Mai (35) from 1996 to 2005 and they have one son. Kitajima married a publishing company employee last July and had a baby girl in January.

• Could TV Asahi actually stop broadcasting Yomiuri Giants baseball games live? With audience ratings continuing to plumb new lows, the network’s president Kimiwada Masao (66) addressed the issue at a regular press conference yesterday. But rather than worry only about ratings dropping to a certain percentage figure, he said “the reality of the situation is that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to attract sponsors. We have to consider any possibility.” Ratings for the Giants night games shown over the opening month of the season hit a record low of 10.5%. The team started the season with a record losing streak, but have since improved somewhat and currently stand in fourth place in the Central League.

• Talento Ohigashi Megumi (36) yesterday made her first TV appearance since she was hit by a minibus on March 11. She was hospitalized with a broken leg and was expected to need three months to recover, but she left the hospital on March 31. Ohigashi had a brief and unremarkable career as an unsuccessful idol singer in the late 1980s and switched to the TV variety show circuit. She married baseball player Ohkubo Hideaki (38) in 1998 and now works as an occasional reporter and commentator.

Another Massive Year for B’z

B'z BurnAs Japan’s best-selling rock artists, B’z have no shortage of hits to choose from for a pair of compilation albums to mark their 20th anniversary. And their new single “Burn” has added to the list, entering the Oricon charts at No.1 this week. That extends their double record of 41 consecutive No.1 releases over 19 consecutive years. In this memorial year, they started a 17-city arena tour at the weekend, which will be followed by a 3-city stadium tour in September. And yesterday they announced a follow up to their 1998 release of a pair of hits albums – “Pleasure” and “Treasure” between them sold more than 9 million copies. “B’z The Best – Ultra Pleasure,” which goes on sale June 18, includes no less than 12 million sellers and the 27 singles on the album have between them sold over 25 million copies. The album will come with a bonus mini album containing “Itsuka no Merry Christmas” and reworked versions of “Bad Communication” and “Pleasure.” The first issue of the album will also include a 10-track live DVD that includes footage of the legendary Chiba Marine Stadium show in 2000, when they band performed outdoors during a thunder storm. The second album, “B’z The Best – Ultra Treasure,” will be released in September and, like the 1998 version, will be made up of tracks requested by fans.

• Today’s issue of women’s weekly “Shuukan Josei” reveals that actor Kaname Jun (27) is dating a 23-year-old dental assistant. He is said to have met the Inamori Izumi lookalike through a friend and they’ve been dating for about six months, a relationship that both he and his agency have acknowledged. The tall and handsome Kaname made his acting debut as “Kamen Rider Agito” in 2001, but this is the first report of romance.

• Masi Oka (33), the Japanese actor who made a breakthrough on the U.S. drama series “Heroes,” arrived back in Japan yesterday. A big comedy fan, he said he’s excited about appearing with such major names as Tamori (“Waratte Iitomo, today) and Downtown (“Downtown DX,” May 8) as he did the news and variety show circuit for the first time.

• Perfume, the pop trio of female university students, have seen their second album, “Game,” enter the Oricon charts at No.1. They are just the second techno group to top the chart, following Yellow Magic Orchestra’s “Uwakina Bokura” in 1983.

• British singer James Blunt (31) opened his brief Japan tour with a concert last night at the NHK Hall in Tokyo. He performed 17 songs including his 2005 breakthrough smash “You’re Beautiful” and “Carry You Home,” the theme for the Fuji TV drama “Aiba Monogatari.”

• The latest series of “Gokusen” got off to a strong start on Saturday. Again starring Nakama Yukie (28) as the kick-ass high school teacher, the opening episode got an audience ranking of 26.4% in the Kanto region, according to Video Research.

Wedding Bells

Masato and Yazawa ShinMartial arts fighter Masato (29, photo left) and actress Yazawa Shin (27, right) held a lavish wedding reception at a Tokyo hotel yesterday. The couple actually got married in February 2007 after a 6-year relationship. Sunday’s event was attended by about 200 celebrities, including actress Koike Eiko and her husband, wrestler Sakata Wataru. Masato, the first Japanese to be K-1 World Max champion, said he had left the reception arrangements entirely to his wife as he was in training for a recent fight. He won the April 9 bout by KO over South African Virgil Kalakoda.

Other marriage news at the weekend came from NYV announcer Suzuki Takashi (33), who revealed yesterday that he and a 31-year-old flight attendant tied the knot last Friday. he is expected to make a more formal announcement on TV tonight. With an Australian mother and having spent several years in Germany, the “News Zero” and “AnaPara” regular is trilingual. A common face on NTV’s live sports broadcasts, Suzuki is popularly known as Ralph, his Christian name. His new bride is also fluent in English and works for a non-Japanese airline.

• Singer T. M Revolution (aka T.M.R., aka Nishikawa Takanori) made a guest appearance at the 3rd annual New York Comic Con on Saturday. He performed 14 songs in about an hour and a half, including his next single. He announced that the “Resonance” CD will be the world’s first to go on sale with a complimentary BluRay disc. In his third stage show in the U.S. following appearances at anime conventions in 2003 and 2004, the singer known to anime fans for his Gundam theme song “Invoke” was in unusually hyper mode. He spoke to the 4,000 fans in English, ending with “I’ll be back!” He was also in huge demand for autographs and T.M.R. goods flew off the shelves at a special booth.

• Kawabata Kaname (29) of the pop duo Chemistry revealed on Friday that he and his wife, model Takahashi Miki, are expecting their first child. He announced the news during a concert in Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture. The duo are currently on the nationwide “Face to Face” concert tour. Kawabata and Takahashi got married on March 7.

• Talento Manabe Kaori (27) has all but acknowledged her relationship with comedian Kawashima Akira (29), one half of the duo Kirin. In the recently published autobiography “Joshi!? Gokoro” she says she is enjoying a very relaxed romantic life. Kirin have been increasingly popular in the last year, thanks partly to Kawashima’s good looks and deep voice and partner Tamura Hiroshi (28) publishing a million-selling book about his days as a homeless schoolboy.

• American enka singer Jero (26) announced at the weekend that he’s to release an album of covers. Simply named “Covers”, it will include six or seven classics such as “Kimi Koishi”, “Hisame” and “Pusankoue Kaere”, originally a Korean song. The album goes on sale June 25.

Hidden Fortress Remake Premieres

The Hidden FortressAt yesterday’s premiere of “Kakushi Toride no Sanakunin – The Last Princess” in Tokyo, it was announced that the movie will be screened in the U.S. later this month. A remake of the 1958 Kurosawa Akira classic, known internationally as “The Hidden Fortress,” it was a major influence on George Lucas when he was making “Star Wars.” So the new version is to be shown at the Norris Theater at the University of Southern California, the director’s alma mater, on April 27. After yesterday’s premiere at the JCB Hall, star Matsumoto Jun (24) said he was very excited about attending the event in California along with director Higuchi Shinji. “This movie is a mix that includes some of the best elements of the past 50 years of western cinema. I think it’s turned out great and should be well received in America.” With a cast that also includes Nagasawa Masami, Abe Hiroshi, and Shiina Kippei and a poster designed by famous manga-ka Inoue Takehiko, the movie opens at theaters in Japan on May 10.

Hajime Chitose (29) is to provide the theme song for the big movie of the summer, “Climber’s High”. The song “Hotaru” was written for her by Sukima Switch member Tokita Shintaro (30) after he watched a preview of the movie. Hajime said of the song, “It will melt in your heart, especially if you listen to it in the evening. I hope it will encourage people to think about their families and the important things in life.” The movie, based on a best-seller by Yokoyama Hideo about journalists covering the fatal JAL airliner crash of 1985, stars Tsutsumi Shinichi (43) and is set to be one of the major movies of the summer. It is scheduled to open on July 5, while Hotaru goes on sale July 2.

• A segment of the TBS anime series “Code Geass” was mistakenly leaked on the Web this week. About five minutes of episode three of “Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion R2”, due to air on Sunday, was accidentally uploaded to a video sharing site by an employee of Bandai Channel on Tuesday. The company is in charge of online distribution of the anime. Ironically, the employee is said to have been checking for illegal video postings at the time.