Monthly Archives: June 2008

The Who to Tour Japan

The Who to play JapanOn the verge of qualifying for their state pensions, The Who are finally to play their first solo concerts in Japan. 43 years after their debut, the legendary British rockers will play four cities in November. Of course, the band lost drummer Keith Moon back in 1978, and more recently bassist John Entwistle in 2002. With Moon replaced by Zack Starkey (42), vocalist Roger Daltrey (64) and guitarist Pete Townshend (63) did play Japan once, at the Rock Odyssey festival in Osaka and Yokohama in 2004, and they hinted last year that a tour to Japan and Australia was on the cards. Touring with the same lineup, they are scheduled to play Osaka Castle Hall on November 13, Yokohama Arena on the 14th, and Saitama Super Arena on the 16th. The premium event has to be the final show at the venerable Nippon Budokan on November 17, but the 40,000 or so tickets for the tour are likely to be like gold.

Yakusho Koji Makes Directorial Debut

Japanese actor Yakusho KojiActor Yakusho Koji (52) is working both sides of the camera for a change. One of Japan’s most accomplished actors, he is making his directorial debut in “Gama no Abura,” in which he also plays the lead role. The movie, described as a “fantasy drama,” tells the story of a day trader and his wife (Kobayashi Satomi, 43) as they breathe new life into their relationship. Describing his first experience behind the camera, Yakusho said, “It’s terrible! I hate giving the okay to a scene I’ve just performed, but it’s hard for me to say to do it again.” But he was full of praise for his young co-star Eita (25), who plays his son. “He doesn’t do the over the top acting that’s so popular with youngsters today. I have a lot of faith in him.” The movie is filming until the end of this month and is due for release next year. Distributors Phantom Film said, “Yakusho’s an internationally recognized actor, and we’re hoping to have the film shown at Cannes next year.”

• Former Morning Musume member Goto Maki (22) has joined the major Avex record label, the company announced yesterday. Goto quit the Hello! Project and Up Front Agency last year following the arrest on robbery and assault charges of her younger brother Yuuki (21). There were doubts as to whether she would be able to continue her career but she insisted, even as Yuuki was given a five-and-a-half year prison sentence in May, that she would not give up her music. The tenth anniversary of her debut is coming up in August and she will probably be back performing by then.

• Actress Kuroki Meisa (20) has made her official singing debut. She released the single “Like This” for download on Wednesday and attended a PR event for Toshiba’s latest model for the KDDI/au mobile phone service yesterday. The song is to be used in Toshiba’s TV commercials, on air from tomorrow. Kuroki did perform a number for the soundtrack of the movie “Crows Zero” but the new single is the first using her own name.

• Already having a breakthrough year, comedienne Edo Harumi has been handed one of the best – and toughest – PR jobs on TV. She was named yesterday as the marathon runner on this year’s NTV 24-hour charity telethon. She’s the fifth female runner, and the first since Sugita Kaoru in 2004. The physically and mentally demanding run is usually over 100km and the spectacle of a celebrity in pain, not to mention the inevitable tension as to whether they’ll actually reach the Tokyo studio before the show finishes, helps draw in large donations every summer. Edo, whose manic “gu, gu, guu!” routine has made her hugely popular this year, has been running 10km a day to get in shape for the August 30-31 show.

Leads Announced for Koizora Drama

Mizusawa Erena, Seto KojiTwo young actors have been chosen for the lead roles in this summer’s TBS drama adaptation of “Koizora.” The story that started out as a “keitai shosetsu,” or novel writen for mobile phones, became a million-selling paperback novel and was made into one of the hit movies of last year. Starring Aragaki Yui (20) and Miura Haruma (18), the high school romance tinged with serious themes like pregnancy and miscarriage made ¥3.9 billion at the box office. Over 500 people auditioned for the TV drama lead roles, with Mizusawa Erena (16) and Seto Koji (20) being the lucky ones. Mizusawa, a native of Aichi Prefecture who is half Korean, started out as a model in teen magazines and has appeared in dramas and TV commercials for the last couple of years. Seto made his acting debut in 2005 and this year has been playing the lead role of the tokusatsu masked rider hero “Kamen Rider Kiva.”

• NHK announcer Shudo Nachiko (28) got married in the spring, it was revealed yesterday. She and her husband, who works for a major movie studio, met while both were university students. Shudo joined NHK in 2003 and worked at the branch in her hometown of Matsuyama. Three years later, she moved to Tokyo and is now a presenter on the weekday morning news show “Ohayo Nippon.”

• Yesterday, veteran singer Suizenji Kiyoko (62) performed her first concert since undergoing throat surgery. In her first ever acoustic show, the singer known by the nickname “Cheetah” said she was fully recovered from the February surgery to remove a polyp. She performed a song written for her by top lyricist Kawauchi Kouhan shortly before his death in April. She said, “I regret that we never had a chance to meet. We said we’d wait until after I recovered from my surgery.”

X Japan Formally Announce Tour Postponement

Japanese starThe three “healthy” members of rock band X Japan held a brief press conference in Tokyo yesterday to formally announce the postponement of their world tour. We reported that news here on Japan Zone more than a week ago and there were no new revelations yesterday. Vocalist Toshi, guitarist Pata and bass player Heath talked to the press at the Park Hyatt hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo, acknowledging that drummer and band leader Yoshiki is currently undergoing medical treatment at his home in Los Angeles. His doctors have forbidden him from performing or traveling long distances. This means that planned shows in Paris, New York and Taipei have been postponed and also that Yoshiki is unlikely to be able to fulfill his wish to visit the Japan Expo in Paris in early July. Toshi said, “I spoke to him on the phone and the regret was clear in his voice and words.” But, he added, “Once everything is ready to go, we’re going to start the assault again.”

• Actress Hamada Maha (33) got married a couple of months ago, her management revealed yesterday. They say she and her husband tied the knot in Hawaii in April. The couple met at the wedding reception of a friend in 2001. Hamada says she knew within a week that she wanted to marry the 31-year-old company employee, who she described as resembling rocker Yazawa Eikichi. As for the timing of the announcement, it turns out that Hamada is currently six months pregnant and expecting in November.

• Actress Hirosue Ryoko (27) has won a libel case against a weekly magazine. “Josei Seven” published an article in March 2007 that included a photo of her riding on the back of a motorcycle ridden by an actor, and suggested they were having an affair. Hirosue sought ¥23 million in libel damages at the Tokyo District Court, and yesterday was awarded ¥1.2 million. Hirosue and her designer husband divorced in March of this year, though the same weekly magazine predicted the split as early as November 2006.

Standing Ovation for YMO in London

Yellow Magic OrchestraJapan’s techno pioneers Yellow Magic Orchestra performed in London yesterday. The show at the Royal Festival Hall was their first in the U.K. in 28 years. The long-awaited return was the idea of popular local band Massive Attack. Hosono Haruomi (60), Takahashi Yukihiro (56) and Sakamoto Ryuichi (56) received a standing ovation from the 3,000-strong audience, which was about 20% Japanese. Among them was the London-based video director Takashiro Tsuyoshi (43), though there was no sign of his girlfriend, actress Sawajiri Erika (22). YMO played their first ever overseas gig in Los Angeles, but London was where they started their first world tour in October 1979. They were better received in Europe than at home, and are often grouped with German techno band Kraftwerk. Recently they have been active again in Japan, using the name HASYMO, though they used their original moniker for the London show. They performed 18 songs, including the 2007 reworking of classic track “Rydeen” and their latest tune “Tokyo Town Pages.”

• A Japanese animated short has won the top award at the recently finished Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France. The Annecy Cristal went to “Tsumiki no Ie” (House of Blocks) directed by Kato Kunio (31). It tells the story of an old widower who lives in a house of blocks and reflects on memories of his life and family. The 12-minute film also won the Junior Jury Award award in the short film category. Yamamura Koji, whose quirky “Atamayama” (Mountain Head) won in 2003, was the only previous Japanese winner. The Annecy festival is referred to as the “Cannes of Animation.”

Othello’s Matsushima to Wed Marsas Sound Machine Singer

OthelloComedienne Matsushima Nahomi (36, photo right) and musician Hisada Toshihiro revealed at the weekend that they are engaged to be married this morning. In a written statement to the media, Matsushima said she would give a press conference after her late-night TV Tokyo live variety show “Kirakira Afro” tonight. By that time, the couple will be married, with a ceremony for family and close friends planned for today. Today was chosen as it’s an auspicious “taian” on the traditional Japanese calendar. Matsushima is one half of the popular duo Othello, while Hisada is the vocalist of the band Marsas Sound Machine. The couple are both natives of Osaka and met when they were both with the same management agency. Hisada was a member of the comedy combi Noize, while in 2005 Matsushima formed the rock band Killers.

• Popular Johnny’s Jimusho band Arashi are to be just the third artists to play a solo show at the National Stadium. The September 5 concert will be the band’s first outdoor show and kicks off their 4-city Asian tour, which will also include Taipei, Seoul and the first Johnny’s concert in Shanghai. The news was announced last night at Tokyo Dome, where the band played for 55,000 fans in their ongoing tour of five dome shows. Fellow Johnny’s stars SMAP played the National Stadium in 2005 and 2006, and last year it was the turn of Dreams Come True. This autumns see the 10th anniversary of Arashi’s debut.

• In their 20th anniversary year, rock band Glay are to perform in the U.S. for the first time. Leader Takuro (37) and vocalist Teru (37) announced on a live radio show at the weekend that they will play three shows, in San Fransisco (August 12) and Los Angeles (August 15 & 16). In their first venture overseas since a show in Beijing in 2002, each show will be held at a medium-sized venue that can hold about 1,200 people. That pales in comparison to the 200,000 they played to at Makuhari, Chiba Prefecture in 1999. But Takuro hinted that next year, which marks 15 years since their recording debut, may see a return to the U.S. The band also recently landed the job of providing the theme tune for an upcoming Korean action movie.

• Movie director Nakata Hideo (46) recently got married, it was revealed last Friday. His bride is described as working in the TV industry. Nakata is the man behind such modern horror hits as “Ringu” and “Kaidan” and the “Death Note” spinoff “L: Change the World.”

• Japanese stars Osawa Takao (40) and Momoi Kaori (56) are in China for the 11th Shanghai International Film Festival. Momoi is on the festival jury, while Osawa attended Saturday’s opening ceremony as the star of “Tsukiji Uogashi Sandaime,” which has been entered in the main competition.

• Kimura Takuya (35) doesn’t seem to have brought his magic touch to the Fuji TV drama series “Change.” Though KimuTaku’s popularity has put many of his dramas at the top of the record books, the latest series is struggling. Last Monday’s episode got a 19.5% rating, the second week in a row that the lightweight political drama was below the key 20% level. Fuji’s “Last Friends,” which airs on Thursday nights and deals with such issues as domestic violence and sexual identity, got a rating of 20.7% last week and is sure to beat that with this week’s final episode. The most successful drama of the season is NTV’s third season of “Gokusen,” which opened with a rating of 26.4%.

Kitano Takeshi to be Recognized at Moscow Festival

Kitano TakeshiDirector Kitano Takeshi (61) is to receive a special award at the upcoming 30th Moscow International Film Festival. Although he’s in the middle of making his latest feature film, he plans to attend the festival’s opening event on June 19, where he will be presented with a “life-time achievement award for the outstanding contribution to film arts.” Six of his films are to be screened over the nine-day festival. Though a regular at festivals such as Cannes and Venice, it will be his first time to take part in Moscow. “I had heard rumors (of my reputation in Russia) such as that “Dolls” ran for over two years in Moscow, but to be invited to receive a major award like this is very gratifying. I look forward to seeing with my own eyes how Russian audiences react to my films.” Kitano’s latest work is “Akiresu to kame” (Achilles and the Tortoise). Also receiving an invitational screening at Moscow will be “Hana wa Chiredomo,” the latest film from veteran director Shindo Kaneto (96), which opens here in September.

• A song by young singer_songwriter Ayaka (20) has been chosen as the theme tune for the latest feature from top anime director Oshii Mamoru (56). “Konya mo Hoshi ni Dakarete” was used in the trailer for “The Sky Crawlers” but, in a rare move, Oshii liked the song so much he decided to redo the ending credit sequence to incorporate the song as the main theme. Though Oshii is on record as saying he doesn’t like to use pre-recorded songs in his features for fear of “destroying the movie’s image,” he said “This song adds a new kind of strength to the movie.” The song is the final track on Ayaka’s upcoming album “Sing to the Sky,” to be released on June 25. The Sky Crawlers opens on August 2.

Movie Critic Mizuno Dies

Siberian ExpressJapan’s movie world yesterday paid tribute to one of its most renowned critics. Mizuno Haruo died of liver failure on Tuesday afternoon at a Tokyo hospital. He was 76. Born in Okayama Prefecture, he spent his early years in Manchuria, then a Japanese colony. He returned to Japan after WWII and first got into the movie business in 1956, doing movie promotional work for 20th Century Fox. He became a household name as presenter of the NTV weekly Wednesday Roadshow, which showcased western movies. The show later moved to Friday nights with Mizuno at the helm for 25 years. He made an unsuccessful attempt to run for national politics in 1983. In 1996, using the name Mike Mizuno he tried his hand at directing himself in “Siberian Express,” which became a series of movies that is still ongoing. He played the character General Yamashita Tomoyuki in the movies, reflecting his own real name of Yamashita Tomohiro. Actress Mita Yoshiko (66), who was to play his wife in the eighth and final movie in the series, expressed her sadness that Mizuno couldn’t see his life project to the end. Mizuno was the first critic to predict her future success when she debuted back in 1960. Kabuki actor Nakamura Fukusuke (47), who appeared in two of the movies, heard the news while performing at the Kabukiza theater when he heard the news. He said it was huge loss, not only to the world of cinema but also personally.

• With X Japan once again forced to take a hiatus, vocalist Toshi (42) announced a new band project yesterday. The full lineup has yet to be named, but “Toshi with T-Earth” will include guitarists Toya and Jun and will be produced by Masaya, the man often described as a cult leader and responsible for Toshi leaving X Japan in 1997. The two collaborated extensively on a mix of new age and rock music during the decade up to X Japan’s recent reunion. With the group’s world tour plans on hold, the new “eco hard rock” band will perform shows in Japan. They will play eight shows in six cities, starting at Zepp Nagoya on August 12 and ending at Zepp Tokyo on September 3 & 4.

Amuro Namie to Perform for Avex Shareholders

Amuro NamieJ-pop princess Amuro Namie (30) is to perform at the upcoming concert for shareholders of major record label Avex. The June 22 show at the Saitama Super Arena is described as the biggest ever by the company, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary. In fact, with Sony’s event being attended by about 7,300 people, the 20,000-seat arena show is probably the biggest by any music company. Held each year after the annual shareholder’s meeting, the event was held at the Tokyo International Forum for the last seven years. It usually features the label’s top stars, such as Hamasaki Ayumi (29), Koda Kumi (25), and Otsuka Ai (25). But Koda has had a bit of a difficult year and Hamasaki has the Osaka show of her national tour on the same night. So Amuro has stepped in to headline the show. It’s her first appearance in eight years and she is long past the heyday of her popularity when she was the first singer to be dubbed a “pop princess” in her teens. But she had some success with a recent single, has a greatest hits album coming out on July 30, and a 15-arena tour starting on October 25.

• A stuntman was killed on the set of Chinese blockbuster “Red Cliff” on Monday, local media reported yesterday. The John Woo-directed historical action drama is based on a famous battle during the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China. CNN reports that the scene – supervised by a second-unit director – featured a small boat set aflame, which was meant to collide safely with a larger warship fitted as the day’s set. After the collision the fire burned out of control on both ships. A 23-year-old stuntman died and six others were injured. Production has been halted temporarily. The $80-million production is said to be the most expensive in Asian movie history. Starring Tony Leung Chiu Wai, the cast also includes Japanese actors Kaneshiro Takeshi and Nakamura Shido.

• X Japan vocalist Toshi spoke on a radio show yesterday about the recent postponement of the band’s world tour. As we reported here yesterday, the cause is said to be the worsening medical condition of drummer and leader Yoshiki. But Toshi said that the problems were really not something to worry about and had been maybe a bit exaggerated. He said he plans to give a more formal announcement today, including details of a personal project.

• Doctor/talento Nishikawa Ayako (37) was all over visiting Hollywood actor Casper Van Dien yesterday. The star of “Starship Troopers 3” rejected her come-ons, insisting he was very happily married to actress and former Yugoslavian princess Catherine Oxenberg. A former Miss Japan, Nishikawa’s image as a TV quack was further enhanced when it was revealed that she failed to submit her details on time for a Health Ministry national registry of doctors.

X Japan World Tour Postponed

X Japan drummer YoshikiX Japan have indefinitely postponed their much-awaited world tour. Following the weekend announcement that leader and drummer Yoshiki had canceled a planned Asia trip, it was revealed yesterday that the reason is his worsening medical problems, and doctors have ordered him to take a complete rest. He had a previously diagnosed hernia of a intervertebral disc and tendonitis and for several years has been forced to wear a corset while playing the drums. But when the group performed their first concerts in 10 years in March, he refused to wear the corset and even did a dive onto his drum set (photo) and played what is considered one of rock’s most intense drum pieces, “Art of Life,” on the opening night. In addition to worsening his existing medical problems, the drum kit dive caused damage to both knees. But after the March shows, X Japan announced concerts in Paris on July 5, Taipei on August 2 and New York on September 13, and they were back on stage in early May for memorial concerts to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of guitarist Hide. Sources say that Yoshiki is currently at his home in Los Angeles undergoing both western and Asian medical treatment. He is wearing neck brace and is prohibited from any strenuous travel. X Japan has taken hiatuses in the past due to Yoshiki’s physical over-exertion, for six months back in 1990 and again for nine months in 1996. But the extent of the problems are thought to be more serious this time.

• Actress Kitagawa Keiko (20) and actor Kimura Ryou (19) were spotted on a recent karaoke date, according to today’s issue of the weekly magazine “Flash.” The magazine published photos of the two at a karaoke box and video rental store in May. They spent the night at Kitagawa’s Tokyo apartment. In January, Kitagawa was voted No.1 in a poll of the most promising actresses for this year. She appeared in the 2006 Hollywood movie “The Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift.”