Yesterday musicians including U2 frontman Bono and local star Misia braved the rain to take part in an event in Yokohama to raise awareness of poverty in Africa. The “One For All” event was held at the city’s waterfront Yamashita Park, and also featured saxophonist Watanabe Sadao, Colombian rock musician Juanes, and African singer Youssou N’Dour. They and some 1,500 local residents donned white t-shirts with the simple kanji “hito” (person), designed by artist Antony Gormley. In what was described as an artistic installation, the British sculptor directed the crowd in forming a human figure. Also yesterday, Bono addressed the Tokyo International Conference on African Development IV meeting of Japan and African nations, and met with Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo for about 40 minutes to discuss Japan’s aid program to Africa and environmental issues. His attendance at the TICAD meeting, appearances on TV and in various events this week have greatly increased public and media interest in the issues. On Tuesday, Bono received an honorary doctorate from Keio University.
• SMAP‘s Nakai Masahiro (35) and J-pop queen Koda Kumi (25) were recently spotted at an exclusive onsen resort. The couple were seen leaving a high-class ryokan at the Yugawara onsen this week and the photos appear in today’s issue of weekly magazine “Friday.” Rumors of their romance caused a huge media buzz late last year but they have continued to refuse to acknowledge their relationship. Following a scandal in January that side-tracked her career, Koda is due to make her first TV appearance in several months on TV Asahi’s “Music Station” tonight.
• R&B star Beyonce (26) is showing some love to her many Japanese fans. It was announced yesterday that a compilation album featuring Destiny’s Child hits and solo recordings by former members and Beyonce’s kid sister Solange (21) will be released in Japan next month. The album will also include a Beyonce cover version of Billy Joel’s 1978 hit “Honesty,” which has always been a popular song in Japan. The song will be released as a download for mobile phones on June 4, while the album “Love: Destiny” (also the title of a 2001 EP) goes on sale June 25. Beyonce is due to release a new album in November, while the other two former “DesuCha” members Kelly Rowland (27) and Michelle Williams (28) have albums due out in the summer.
Singer-songwriter Nakamura Ataru (22) is to provide the theme tune for the upcoming “Gegege no Kitaro” movie. The ballad “Kaze Tachinu” will be released on July 9, three days before the movie opens in theaters. The song is Nakamura’s second movie theme, after “Kaze ni Naru” was used for the movie “Sakebi” in 2006. A talented songwriter, singer and pianist, Nakamura initially received a lot of media attention as one of Japan’s few transsexual artists. But an appearance on NHK’s “Kohaku Uta Gassen” last New Year’s Eve confirmed her status as a popular musician. “Kaze Tachinu” is an original composition, though it was also the title of a 1981 hit for Matsuda Seiko and the Japanese title of the 1979 Christopher Cross hit “Ride Like the Wind.” “Gegege no Kitaro – Sennen Noroi Uta” is the second live action adaptation of the popular manga/anime, following last year’s hit that made ¥2.3 billion at the box office. Wentz Eiji (22) again stars as Kitaro and is supported by an all-star cast.
” After a half century of hosting some of Japan’s biggest stars, the Shinjuku Koma Theater is to close. Located in the heart of the Kabukicho entertainment district, the theater named after its circular stage opened in 1956. It played host to such legendary names as Misora Hibari, Kitajima Saburo and Yashiro Aki and at it’s peak in the 1970s the 2,088-seat venue welcomed a million visitors a year. But that number has dropped recently, even with big productions like the show that launched Matsudaira Ken’s “MatsuKen Samba II” or the Queen tribute “We Will Rock You.” The last regular production will feature a cast of former top Takarazuka stars and run until December 22. The theater’s swan song will be a New Year’s Eve concert to be broadcast live on TV Tokyo. The closure also means the end for the smaller Theater Apple, the Shinjuku Koma Toei cinema, a bowling alley and restaurants. Management company Koma Stadium say they will work with the Toei movie studio, who own the land, the develop a new site from next year.
• Actress Kyono Kotomi (29) got married last weekend, it was revealed yesterday. She and her new hubbie, described only as 30-year-old theater staffer “A-san,” registered their marriage at a Tokyo city office on Saturday. They currently have no plans for a wedding or reception.
• Tokio member Kokubun Taichi (33) has a new love in his life, according to today’s issue of weekly magazine “Shuukan Bunshun.” His partner is described as a beauty in her early 20s and the couple are said to be sharing Kokubun’s Tokyo apartment. As usual, Johnny’s Jimusho have denied that the two are anything more than friends. It’s the first such rumor about Kokubun since he and singer Aiko (32) split up in August 2006 after an 8-year relationship.
You can now call him “Dr. Bono.” The U2 frontman is in Japan this week to participate in the TICAD (Tokyo International Conference on African Development) IV meeting of Japan and African nations, which is being held in Yokohama from May 28-30. But yesterday he was at the prestigious Keio University to receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree for his humanitarian work. In a lecture to 900 students, he said, “I believe in this country. The world needs your involvement.” He urged Japan to double its aid to Africa by 2012 and recapture its position as the global leader in overseas development. The country was the biggest provider of overseas aid in the early 1990s but has since lost much of that generosity. “The world is watching Japan as the G8 (summit) approaches, and it’s not good news.” Keio freshman Watanabe Michitake, who admitted he isn’t a U2 fan, said Bono’s words opened his eyes to issues he had never considered. “He’s an amazing person. It’s really incredible that he doesn’t seem to be confined by traditional frameworks like race or religion.”
• Some big names have been announced to the cast of Miyazaki Hayao‘s latest anime feature. “Gake no Ue no Ponyo” will feature Amami Yuki (40) and Tokoro Joji (53) as the parents of the fish Ponyo who longs to be human. Yamaguchi Tomoko (43) and Nagashima Kazushige (42) will provide the voices of the parents of Sousuke, the boy she falls in love with. The lead roles will be played by youngsters Nara Yurina (8) and Doi Hiroki (8). Both kids already have several years of TV, stage and commercial experience but this is the first movie for both.
Early yesterday morning, popular TV announcer Kawada Ako was found dead in her car just a few hundred meters from her Tokyo apartment. Police are treating it as a suicide. She was 29. Along with a suicide note, a gas stove and charcoal were found in the Mercedes sports car, indicating a common form of suicide from carbon monoxide fumes. She recently indicated on her blog that she was struggling with some kind of problem, but didn’t specify what it was. Her management agency expressed their shock at the news yesterday, saying they had been aware of some problem but that Kawada had been working as usual and had reassured them that she’d be fine. She appeared as usual on the “Saturday Scramble” show on Saturday. Talento Dave Spector said she had seemed even perkier than usual, but speculated that she had been compensating for some deeper anxieties. Announcer Torigoe Shuntarou (68), with whom she co-hosted a BS Asahi satellite show since April, said he felt like he had lost a daughter. He said Kawada emailed him on Saturday and thanked him for his encouragement and support. He added that he had considered emailing her back on Sunday, but that it might have seemed too forward. A doctor commenting on the case said that one symptom Kawada had mentioned on her blog suggested she may have been suffering side effects from sleeping pills. A native of Ishikawa Prefecture, Kawada joined TBS in 2002 and went freelance in 2007.
• Talento Ogura Yuko (24) is dating the 34-year-old president of an estate agency company, according to today’s issue of weekly magazine “Flash.” The two were spotted at a recent Yomiuri Giants-Hiroshima Carp baseball game at Tokyo Dome, after which they ate at a yakiniku restaurant and hung out with players including Giants ace closer Marc Kroon. Ogura has confirmed the relationship, something she refused to do with her rumored romance last year with comedian Hamaguchi Masaru (36).
Newlyweds Mariah Carey (38) and Nick Cannon (27) arrived in Tokyo yesterday to promote her latest album. It’s Cannon’s first time in Japan, while his wife was last here in October 2006. Carey greeted the 400 fans who turned out to welcome them at Narita Airport with the Japanese phrase “Tadaima!” (I’m home!). Asked how she was enjoying married life, she said simply “Very nice.” The couple will be in Japan until June 3, and Carey will throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Giants-Golden Eagles game at Tokyo Dome tomorrow night.
Model Joshua has died suddenly, though details of how or when have yet to be announced. He was 25. His management agency have confirmed his death, but said details would be revealed this week. The ex-husband of popular actress-singer Tsuchiya Anna (24), he was born and raised in the U.S. to a Japanese father and Brazilian mother. His elder sister is talento Friedia Niimura (28), who was born in Germany and formerly used the stage name Kozue Rin. The family moved to Japan when Joshua was 11. He was scouted as a fashion model while working in a Harajuku cafe as a high school student, and appeared in magazines such as “Smart.” In June 2004, he married Tsuchiya, who he had known from his teens. They had a baby boy the following November but the marriage ended in July 2006. Joshua appeared in just one movie, the ominously titled “Jisatsu Saakuru” (The Suicide Circle, 2002). The Niimura family have maintained their international lifestyle, with Friedia often traveling overseas and being partly based in Los Angeles. She was romantically linked with Good Charlotte frontman Benji Madden in 2005.
• “Tokyo Sonata,” the Kurosawa Kiyoshi-directed feature, has won an award at the Cannes International Film Festival. Considered one of the event’s most unexpected surprises, on Saturday it became the first Japanese movie to be awarded the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard category that focuses on singular, original films. The main award in the category went to “Tulpan” by Kazakh director Sergey Dvortsevoy. “Tokyo Sonata” is a portrait of an unemployed middle-aged man and his seemingly ordinary but slowly disintegrating family, it stars actor Kagawa Teruyuki (42) and Koizumi Kyoko (42). Kurosawa learned of the win by email while traveling by shinkansen to his home in Kobe. The first person he told was his hospitalized wife, who suffered a mild stroke two weeks ago. The movie opens in Japan in the autumn.
Top British actor Gary Oldman (50) has been in Tokyo for the last few days filming location scenes for the movie “Rain Fall.” A Japanese adaptation of the first book in the John Rain series by thriller writer Barry Eisler, the movie stars Shiina Kippei (43) in the title role of the Japanese-American assassin. At a pre-production event at the Toei Studio in Higashi Oizumi yesterday, Shiina said he could hardly believe he was working alongside an actor that he admired so much. They talked about scenes they shot in city locations such as Ginza and Shinjuku as Oldman’s character, CIA nemesis William Holtzer, pursues Rain through the capital. Also attending yesterday’s event were actress Hasegawa Kyoko (29), actor Emoto Akira (59) and director Max Mannix. The movie is scheduled to open during Golden Week next year.
Singer Saiji Hideki (53) found himself drowned out by the noise of Shibuya yesterday. On a rooftop in the popular Center-gai shopping street, he was taking part in a publicity stunt for online dating site Match.com. Due to the 20m height of the roof and the usual high noise level, only a few passersby even noticed that someone was “shouting out love” from the rooftops, and almost no one realized it was one of Japan’s top stars (yes, he is in the photo!). The gathered TV cameras and reporters were enough to cause a crowd to form, blocking the street. But the “guerilla” stunt didn’t have police approval and the authorities moved in and issued a stern warning to Media Concierge, the company that staged the event. Saying that he’d had a bad feeling about the event from the start, Saijo referred to a similar stunt in Shibuya by Go Hiromi back in 1999 that led to six people being prosecuted. He added that his fear of heights had made yesterday’s experience even worse. He never even got past the intro of his famous hit, a cover of the disco classic “YMCA.”
• Young actress Kuroki Meisa (19) has been romantically linked with handsome musician Ken, according to today’s issue of weekly magazine “Friday.” The two are said to have got together in New York, where Ken is based and he was recently spotted spending the night at Kuroki’s Tokyo apartment. He and his American musical partner perform as the unit 2Soul and have created hits for artists such as Hirahara Ayaka (24) and Ai (26).
Former idol singer Goto Yuuki (21) was sentenced to time in prison by the Tokyo District Court yesterday. The judge handed down a sentence of five and a half years – prosecutors had sought eight years – for robbery and assault. Goto and two teenage associates were arrested last autumn after robbing construction materials from a Tokyo site on several occasions last year. In announcing the verdict, the judge said, “As the accused committed repeated crimes for fun and financial gain, motivated by selfishness and greed, there is no room for lenience.” He added that Goto was “the ringleader, central to both the planning and the execution of the crimes.” In one case a security guard was beaten and suffered a broken nose. Goto was charged with that assault, though he insisted that one of his accomplices did it. In addressing this, the judge said, “The accused’s attitude is one of avoiding responsibility and as such he can’t be said to have sufficiently repented.” The younger brother of former Morning Musume member Goto Maki (22), Yuuki was briefly a member of the pop duo EE Jump back in 2001 but was suspended when caught drinking while underage. He later married – his wife was pregnant at the time – and they are expecting their third child in July. She was in the courtroom gallery with Goto’s mother yesterday and he gave them a smile after judgment was handed down.
• Actress Miyazaki Masumi (40) has been divorced since last November, she reveals in today’s issue of women’s magazine “Fujin Kouron.” She and her TV cameraman husband (54) married in Las Vegas in 1994 and, with their two children, lived in Los Angeles and Hawaii until Miyazaki returned to work in Japan in 2005. That led to tensions in the marriage and later that year she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Miyazaki debuted in 1983 and appeared in the popular “Bebop High School” movie series from 1985-88. Her career has also included soft porn movies and nude photo books.
• Avex held a party at the Cannes International Film Festival yesterday to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The company has recently been expanding beyond its usual music base into movies, and actress Takaoka Saki (34) was on hand for the announcement that she is to appear in a movie produced by Hollywood star Danny Glover. “The hariyama Bridge” is a joint U.S.-Japan production and is to be premiered at Cannes next year. The party also featured, among others, actor Oshio Manabu (30) and singer Suzuki Ami (26), and performances from Kyoto geisha Katsuno and shodo (calligraphy) artist Kaneda Sekijo.
Comedian and talento Shimada Yoshichi (58) is to direct the latest movie adaptation of his best-selling autobiography “Saga no Gabai Baachan.” He announced at a pre-production event yesterday that he has lined up a pair of top stars to appear in his directorial debut: talento Shimada Shinsuke (52) as his inspirational school teacher, and Miyazaki prefectural governor Higashikokubaru Hideo (50) as a post office worker. Both are close friends since the early 80s when they were among the pioneers of the manzai (stand up comedy) boom. In his heyday as one half of the manzai duo B&B, Yoshichi was said to earn over ¥100 million a month. But he never lost touch with his impoverished roots, growing up in postwar Hiroshima. He lost his father to radiation sickness and spent his youth with his grandmother in Saga Prefecture, a period that became the basis of not just one but a series of books. The stories have previously been adapted to the manga, stage play, TV drama and movie formats.
• Actor Hosaka Naoki (40) is to appear on a live afternoon show today with the new love of his life. Hosaka, who was married to a Ginza hostess and later to actress Takaoka Saki (36), is now dating former talento Ishikawa Kanoko (29) and they will appear together on the NTV show “Houdou Miyaneya.” Hosaka revealed last year that he lost both parents to suicide when he was just seven years old.
• TBS announced yesterday that they are to air a TV drama adaptation of last autumn’s hit movie “Koizora.” They are currently auditioning for the lead roles played by Aragaki Yui (19) and Miura Haruma (18), whose careers got a huge boost from the movie’s success. It made over ¥3.9 billion at the box office. The story was originally created as a “keitai shosetsu”, or a novel written on a mobile phone. The new drama will air in the Saturday night slot currently occupied by the baseball drama “Rookies.”
Popular “charisma” model Oshikiri Moe (28) has been dating Yomiuri Giants star Nomaguchi Takahiko (24) for the last three years, it was revealed yesterday. They first met in the autumn of 2004, when the right-handed pitcher joined the Giants as a free agent from the Shidax corporate league team, and started dating about a year later. They’ve been through one break-up in the meantime but getting their relationship back on course helped Nomaguchi get back into the Giants’ starting rotation last autumn. Known as a “charisma” model, Oshikiri has been the cover girl for fashion magazines “CanCam” and “AneCan” for several years and is also one of several fashion models who have become regulars on variety shows and TV commercials.
• Actor Mizutani Yutaka (55) has a Top 10 album for the first time in more than 30 years. As we reported here yesterday, he recently released “Time Capsule,” an album of self-covers of songs he released back in the late-1970s to late-80s. The album entered the latest Oricon chart at No. 2, Mizutani’s highest-ever ranking. The gap of 30 years and 8 months since his eponymous album entered the Top 10 is a new record, beating the 27-year, 8-month gap for the group Carol. meanwhile, one spot above him at No.1 is “Superfly” from the group of the same name. And Johnny’s Jimusho idol group KAT-TUN are on top of the singles chart with “Don’t U Ever Stop.”
• Actress Tanaka Minako (40) gave birth to her first child last week, she announced yesterday. The baby girl was born by Caesarean and a month early, to coincide with the birthday of her father, actor Okada Taro (34). Tanaka plans to return to work in the summer.
• The guitar-playing brothers Hirakawachi Ichoume are splitting up. The duo, made up of Hayashi Ryunosuke (20) and his younger brother Naojiro (17), announced that they will break up after their upcoming concert tour in August as Naojiro plans to enter university. The pair from Sado Island made a big splash with their debut single “Tokyo” in 2003. They only this week revealed for the first time why they became professional musicians – it was in an effort to find their mother, who had disappeared with their youngest brother. Ryunosuke says he plans to take time to think about his future, while Naojiro will continue his acting career, and is appearing alongside Koizumi Kyoko in the movie “GuuGuu Datte Neko de Aru,” set for release in September.
One of the country’s most popular and successful pop bands are taking an extended break. Though they have a series of big events lined up to commemorate their 30th anniversary this year, Southern All Stars will be on a sabbatical of unspecified length from next year. The members all have their own solo projects, with vocalist Kuwata Keisuke as usual being the most visible. But the band plan to release a new single in August, play a series of four shows at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama and otherwise keep fans happy for the rest of this year. The band debuted in 1978 with “Katte ni Sinbad” and have had dozens of hits over the years. They took their first extended break in 1985 and have alternated between band and solo projects ever since. They were reduced from six members to five in 2001 with the departure of guitarist Ohmori Takashi, ironically after having a best-ever year that included their historic 2000 live shows in Kuwata’s hometown of Chigasaki and the release of J-pop’s biggest-ever single “Tsunami,” which sold almost 3 million copies.
• Restaurateur and former comedian Ohshima Naoya (36) and former talento Takeda Kayoko (30) held their wedding ceremony and reception in Tokyo yesterday. Ohshima and Ishimoto Takeshi(34) made up the now defunct comedy group Dronz, who made their name in 1997 on the variety show “Susume! Denpa Shonen” but broke up in 2003. Ohshima now works as an actor and runs a nabe restuarant in the Ebisu district of Tokyo. Takeda is the great-great-granddaughter of Yoshihara Shigetoshi, the first ever governor of the Bank of Japan.
• Actress Suzuki An (21) has returned from her two-month English study trip to New York. Though she says she was reluctant to leave the Big Apple, she is looking forward to her next job. She will begin rehearsals for the stage production “Sisters,” starring Matsu Takako (30), which runs for a month in Tokyo from July 5.
• “20th Century,” the spinoff group from popular Johnny’s Jimusho idol band V6, finished their nationwide tour at the Tokyo International Forum last night. They announced that V6 will go on tour later in the year, starting at Osaka Castle Hall on August 1. They also announced that the new V6 song “Light in Your Heart” is to be the theme tune for the upcoming movie “Daikessen Cho-Ultra 8-Kyodai.” The movie, the latest in the long-running Ultraman superhero series, stars member Nagano Hiroshi (35) and opens in mid-September.
• Actor Mizutani Yutaka (55) is reviving his long-dormant singing career. A familiar face in detective dramas for several decades, he had a string of more than a dozen singles from the late 1970s but hasn’t released an original album since “Simple Man” in 1986. He gave a mini concert at a shopping mall in Kawasaki yesterday to promote “Time Capsule,” a new album of self-covers that was released last week. At one time married to American actress Miki MacKenzie, he is currently married to actress Ito Ran, a former member of the 1970’s idol group Candies. They have one daughter.