Monthly Archives: October 2008

NTV’s Autumn Laugh Fest

Sanma, Tamori, TakeshiJapan’s top three comedians are to host three nights of comedy specials on NTV in late November. The three two-and-a-half hour shows, hosted by Akashiya Sanma (53, profile), Tamori (63, profile), and Kitano “Beat” Takeshi (61, profile) on November 28-30, are part of NTV’s 55th anniversary celebrations. Sanma will go solo in a studio filled with 30 TV monitors on which people will ask questions they’ve always wanted to put to him. He will have no idea what questions are coming and the show will be totally ad lib. In Tamori’s first appearance on NTV in nine years he will host a show that looks into various mysteries and unanswered questions, such as why people get fired up when they hear the theme to “Rocky.” The final night is perhaps the most unpredictable, given Takeshi’s quirky and often manic style, and will at least be something very different.

• TV Asahi staff have been reprimanded for an incident that took place during filming of the drama series “Salaryman Kintaro.” While filming in the car park of an apartment building in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward, staff put false number plates on three parked cars belonging to residents. But they failed to get permission from one of the owners, which led to the police getting involved. TV Asahi president Kimiwada Masao (67) apologized for the incident in his regularly scheduled press conference on Wednesday.

• Talento Oshikiri Moe (28) was slightly injured in a traffic accident on Wednesday evening. She was riding in the back seat of a taxi in Minami Aoyama, central Tokyo. As the taxi waited to turn left at a signal, it was hit from behind by another taxi. Oshikiri suffered minor bruising to her neck.

• Police say the Tokyo home of SMAP member Kimura Takuya (35) was probably the target of a recent burglary attempt. The house’s security system went off on the night of October 19 and company personnel found evidence of an attempted break-in on an upper floor window. Nothing was stolen and no report was filed with police. The house is in the same posh Meguro district as the home of comedian Matsumoto Hitoshi, which was targeted back in May.

Young Love for Ayaka, Mizushima Hiro

Ayaka, Mizushima HiroPopular actor Mizushima Hiro (24) and singer Ayaka (20) are madly in love, according to today’s issue of weekly magazine “Friday.” The mag includes a photo of the two sharing an umbrella in the rain, a common symbol of romance in Japan (similar to a heart pierced by cupid’s arrow). They were spotted in Tokyo’s trendy Azabu Juban district, where they enjoyed dinner together before disappearing into a luxury apartment building. The couple are both with the Ken-On management agency, who refused to comment on the story, saying only “they’re both adults…” The son of a former pro soccer player, Mizushima spent his youth in Switzerland and played the sport until his university days. He graduated from the prestigious Keio University and made his acting debut in the popular NTV drama series “Gokusen” in 2005. He landed the lead role the 2006 tokusatsu action hero series “Kamen Rider Kabuto.” He’s appeared in a handful of movies, including the big screen version of “Kabuto” and voiced the part of Bruce Banner for the Japanese dub of “The Incredible Hulk” earlier this year. Ayaka was the first female singer-songwriter to reach the Oricon chart top 3 with her debut release “I Believe” in February 2006. The following September, her 4th single “Mikazuki” became her first No.1 and she went on to win multiple awards in her freshman year.

• In a recent edition of the “Mecha Mecha Iketeru” comedy show, comedian Hamaguchi Masaru (36) admitted that he had broken up with his girlfriend – he and ditzy talento Ogura Yuko (24) had been widely rumored to be dating for the last couple of years. But he’s obviously very much in demand, as the latest issue of weekly magazine “Josei Seven” includes a story about his latest romantic conquest. Earlier this week he picked up the young woman, described as a beauty in her early 20s, by car in central Tokyo at around 9pm. The two spent several hours enjoying the Odaiba skyline before heading back to Hamaguchi’s apartment. Hamaguchi is the tsukkomi half of comedy duo Yoiko, along with Arino Shinya.

Akanishi Jin Lands Movie Lead

Akanishi JinJohnny’s Jimusho (profile) idol Akanishi Jin (24) has landed his first movie starring role. The KAT-TUN member will play an early 1990s band vocalist in “Bandage,” which starts filming on November 3 and is scheduled for release sometime in 2010. The project will be the first time for top music producer Kobayashi Takeshi (49) to direct a feature film, his previous experience being on the Mr. Children documentary “es.” It reunites him with director Iwai Shunji (45), who created the project and is scriptwriter this time around. He decided to hand the directorial and musical controls to Kobayashi, who wrote the music for his 1996 movie “Swallowtail.” Akanishi said of the movie, “I’m looking forward to working in a way that I can’t experience with KAT-TUN. I think this is going to be a whole new type of Japanese movie.”

• Singer Hirose Kohmi (42) has remarried, this time to a 43-year-old American employee of a computer company. In her travels between Tokyo and Los Angeles, where she’s had a home for about ten years, Hirose met her new husband through a mutual friend about a year ago. She revealed on her website yesterday that they tied the knot in his hometown of San Francisco on October 12. They are looking for a new home together in California, though Hirose is now back in Japan preparing for a new album release and a concert tour. She was previously married to actor Ohsawa Takao from 1999 to 2006.

Return of the Bubblegum Brothers

Bubblegum BrothersThe comic/soul duo The Bubblegum Brothers are making a comeback. The pair best known for their 1991 mega-hit “Won’t Be Long,” one of the anthems of the economic bubble years, appeared together yesterday for the first time in years. Brother Tom (52, photo back right), Brother Korn (52, photo back left) and impersonator Antokino Inoki (35) attended a PR event for the Hollywood movie “Death Race.” Brother Korn – real name Kondo Nobuaki – revealed for the first time that he underwent transplant surgery three years ago, receiving a kidney from his wife. The following year Brother Tom was hospitalized following a stroke and both men have been working a lot less since their time in hospital. They say their new single is dedicated to other men who may be facing similar struggles that come with middle age. “Daddy’s Party Night” is scheduled for release on December 3. Both men’s early careers were a mix of music and comedy and they were a natural fit when they teamed up in 1983, releasing their debut single in 1985. But they only put out a handful of singles over the course of a decade, the last one being “Get Good Get God,” the Japanese theme song for the 1994 soccer World Cup. They split up as a duo in 1996 and in recent years have appeared mainly as minor TV celebrities. Tom (Koyanagi Tomu, or Thomas Akiona Akima Jr.) was born on a U.S. military base to a Hawaiian father and Japanese mother. “Death Race,” a Paul WS Anderson-directed remake of the 1975 classic “Death Race 2000,” opens in Japan on November 29.

• Top art director Kimura Takeo has been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records for his debut as a full-length feature film director at the ripe old age of 90. Kimura wrote and directed “Yume no Manimani,” which is currently in theaters. Kimura joined Nikkatsu Studios in 1941 and has served as art director on over two hundred films, including such modern classics as “Tampopo” (Itami Juzo, 1986) and “Pistol Opera” (Suzuki Seijun, 2001)

TIFF Draws to a Close

Tulpan, School Days With a PigThe 21st Tokyo International Film Festival came to an end yesterday, with the big winner being the international production “Tulpan” (photo top). The movie, a comedy about a sailor turned shepherd and filmed on the wild steppes of Kazakhstan, was awarded the Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix. Jury chairman Jon Voight saying the choice had been unanimous, “We the jurors live in highly complicated and sophisticated worlds, but in this story, this struggling nomad family made us discover our hearts and our identities,” Voight said. The Grand Prix brings with it a $100,000 cash award, and the movie also earned the best director prize for Sergei Dvortsevoy in his feature film debut. The awards for best actor and actress went to Vincent Cassel (“Public Enemy No.1”) and Felicite Wouassi (“With a Little Help From Myself”). The audience award went to Maeda Tetsu’s “Buta ga Itta Kyoshitsu” (School Days With a Pig, photo bottom), which stars Tsumabuki Satoshi (27). The movie also won the jury award of the newly created Toyota Earth Grand Prix, a prize that emphasizes the event’s new green theme, while the main award went to “Ashes From the Sky,” a Spanish eco-comedy. “Buy a Suit,” directed by the recently deceased Ichikawa Jun, was recognized in the Japanese Eyes section.

• The feud between rakugoka Shunputei Koasa (53) and talento Yasuha (47) keeps getting nastier. The pair divorced last year but just last week Tasuha unleashed a torrent of insults on her blog, called her ex a “kinpatsu buta yarou!” The phrase translates as “blonde pig” but is much worse in Japanese! When the media ran the story the blog was overwhelmed with traffic and the server crashed. The blog was then officially closed down. But after Yasuha suddenly pulled out of an event yesterday, she sent a fax to the media blaming her ex for threatening to sue her for defamation. She herself is a member of a prominent rakugo family, with her younger brothers being the popular Hayashiya Shozo (45) and Ippei (37). Ippei is to succeed to his late father’s stage name Sanpei next spring. Yasuha enthusiastically volunteered to produce the series of events that commemorate such a succession, but has clearly yet to recover from the shock of the job being given to Koasa.

Hasekyo Marries Porno Guitarist

Hasegawa Kyoko, Shindo HaruichiAnother big showbiz couple is born – actress Hasegawa Kyoko (30) and Porno Graffitti guitarist Shindo Haruichi (34) announced late last night on their official websites that they got married yesterday. The couple first met in the spring and only started dating in July so management were quick to clarify that “Hasekyo” is not pregnant and plans to continue her acting career. The actress made her announcement in a video, dressed in white and with an all-white room as a background. She spoke of how she and her new husband have stimulated each other artistically and described their meeting as a “miracle.” Haruichi proposed earlier this month but the couple made sure to visit each other’s parents before taking the big step. They are both still living in their own homes in Tokyo and Haruichi went by himself yesterday to register their marriage at his local municipal office. They have yet to announce their plans for a formal wedding ceremony.

Hasegawa was a pioneer in the sense that she was one of the first fashion magazine models to achieve widespread popularity, and made her TV debut as a presenter on a Fuji TV mixed martial arts show in 1999. Her first acting role was on the same network in 2000. She switched from modeling to acting full time in 2002. Two years later she was the official queen of the TV commercial world, touting products for ten different companies. She had her first starring role in a drama series in TBS’s “Oishii Propose” in 2006.

Porno Graffitti are one of Japan’s most popular rock bands, made the major label debut as a trio – Shindo, vocalist Okano Akihito and former bassist Tama – in 1999, though their roots go back to their high school days in Hiroshima in the early 90s. They are now, like other “bands” B’z and Love Psychedelico, a two-piece unit who work with support musicians. They had their first of several million-sellers with their fourth single “Saudade” in 2000 and have sold over 12 million singles and albums.

• Veteran comedian Regal Shusai died earlier this month of heart failure at his Tokyo home, it was announced yesterday. He was 81. Real name Takahashi Akira, he started his comedy career in the 1940s and formed the duo Regal Tensai-Shusai in 1952. The duo were one of the more popular acts of the 50s and 60s. Feeling the broadcast media didn’t give entertainers enough respect, they announced in 1970 that they would perform only on stage, a decision they reversed ten years later. Regal Tensai (real name Soga Chuichi) died in 2004 and Shusai continued as a solo performer until his health deteriorated at the beginning of this year.

Kuwata Keisuke’s Sister Dies

Iwamoto ErikoIwamoto Eriko, the elder sister of Southern All Stars vocalist Kuwata Keisuke (52), died of cancer at a Kanagawa Prefecture hospital last week, it was revealed yesterday. She was 56. Kuwata and his sister were very close – their busy parents ran a cinema and restaurant in their hometown of and Iwamoto helped raise her younger brother. She was a big musical influence on him and though she was never a member of the band, she was well known to fans. The famous hit “Itoshi no Eri” is dedicated to Kuwata’s wife and SAS keyboard player Hara Yuko, but is also known to fans as a farewell song to his sister as she left to live overseas. After marriage in 1975, Iwamoto lived for many years in California before returning to Chigasaki with her husband and three children in 1996. Her command of English allowed her to help her brother in his songwriting on such hits as “Naminori Johnny” and “Tasogare Summer Holiday.” She first battled breast cancer in 1995 but a recurrence at the beginning of this year was diagnosed as terminal. Last year, some Chigasaki residents tried to get Iwamoto to run for mayor in the seaside town, where she had successful led a campaign against the construction of a high-rise apartment block. Though it was never mentioned in connection with Iwamoto’s health, Southern All Stars announced several months ago that they will be taking an indefinite break from performing and recording from the end of this year.

• Actor Mizutani Yutaka (56) announced yesterday that he plans to embark on his first nationwide concert tour in 23 years. Following the May release of his first album in 22 years, fans have been calling for him to tour. That wish is to be granted next summer, while those who can’t wait can look forward to the release of a live DVD on December 24. Mizutani had a short but successful singing career in the mid-1980s. This summer he had his first movie role in ten years, co-starring in the hit “Aibo,” a big-screen spinoff of the TV Asahi detective series that has run since 2002.

Toei’s Big Year Hit by Falling Stocks

Gake no Ue no PonyoDespite having had the major box office hit of the year, the decimated stock market has caused Toei studios to revise its expected increase in annual profits. Miyazaki Hayao’s anime feature “Gake no Ue no Ponyo” has made around ¥15 billion, making it the fourth most successful Toei movie of all time. And with other hits such as “Hana yori Danshi Final,” boosting earnings to more than ¥207 billion, it was shaping up to be a great year. But the global financial crisis has taken its toll on Toei’s stock and net profits are to be revised downward by about ¥1 billion to ¥6.7 billion, a decrease from last year.

• Folk singer Matsuyama Chiharu (52) last night returned to the stage, three months after illness forced him to cut short a concert tour. The singer was diagnosed with angina in June, and yesterday’s show in his hometown of Ashorocho, Hokkaido was originally scheduled for July 8. In front of an audience of 1,500 he declared himself fully fit and performed a set of 14 songs.

• Freelance announcer Yamamoto Mona (32) is making a subdued return to work. Kind of. She has been on forced leave since an extra marital affair with baseball star Nioka Tomoharu (32) caused a scandal in July, and hasn’t been seen in public since. Yesterday the Bunka Housou radio network said that they plan to re-broadcast an award-winning show next month that features Yamamoto as narrator. The documentary about the WWII battleship Yamato was originally broadcast in January.

• Comedienne Ohshima Miyuki (28) and her husband are to finally hold a traditional shinto wedding ceremony at the revered Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture this weekend. Ohshima and TV writer Suzuki Osamu (36) got married in October 2002.

Izumi Motoya in Trouble With Law Again

Izumi MotoyaKyogen-shi Izumi Motoya (34) just seems to be a magnet for bad publicity. He recently had another brush with the law, as revealed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police today. Motoya was nabbed for ignoring a traffic signal in the center of the capital in the late afternoon of October 14 and received a ticket. He turned left while the signal was green only for through traffic, and when he was stopped by a motorcycle cop he explained that he was on his way to pick up his children. Motoya was previously arrested and fined in 2005 for failing to pay a parking ticket for more than two years. He’s also been in trouble with the tax authorities and has had several run ins with the elders who administer his traditional form of theater. His relationship with his mother, Setsuko, and his shotgun marriage to actress Hano Aki has constantly been a favorite target of the gossip magazines.

• Singer Takeuchi Mariya (53) is the first artist in their 50s or older to stay atop the Oricon album chart for three weeks. Her triple hits album “Expressions” was produced by her husband, singer Yamashita Tatsuro (55), with whom she duets on the track “Let It Be Me.” meanwhile Korean stars hold the top two spots on the singles chart. Five-member group Tohoshinki are at No.1 with “Jumon – Mirotic,” while Lee Byung Hun (38) is in the second spot with his Japanese song “Itsuka.”

• Rockers Motley Crue gave a press conference in Tokyo yesterday ahead of their first Japan tour in three years. The band will play Zepp Fukuoka tonight, then head to Hiroshima (Oct. 22), Nagoya (Oct. 23), Osaka (Oct. 25), and finish off at Saitama Super Arena on Oct. 26.

Actress Sakai Miki Ties the Knot

Sakai MikiActress Sakai Miki (30) looked radiant as she and her doctor husband (34) tied the knot at the Hotel New Otani in central Tokyo yesterday. She wore the traditional shinto wedding kimono and headgear before changing into a white wedding gown, set off by a diamond ring, necklace and tiara. About 260 guests, including actor Ishizaka Koji (67) and actress Daichi Mao (52), attended the wedding reception, which was presided over by freelance announcer Tokumitsu Kazuo (67). Sakai’s new hubby is a doctor at a university hospital in Tokyo. His medical colleagues played a comical slide show during the reception describing how he had battled a disease that prevented him from developing an interest in the opposite sex. That is, until he was administered a new breakthrough drug in the form of Sakai. The two met four years ago, when Sakai was doing volunteer work helping organ transplant recipients. They started dating after they met again last summer and got engaged in January. Sakai said at a press conference after the reception that they had registered their marriage yesterday morning at a local municipal office. She added that she wants to have two or three children. Several years ago, Sakai was romantically linked to New York Yankees star Matsui Hideki (profile).

• Also tying the knot at the weekend were Olympic judo gold medalist Inoue Kosei (30) and talento Higashihara Aki (25). Two registered their marriage back in January, but held their ceremony and reception at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo on Saturday. Inoue announced that his wife is three months pregnant, and that the baby may well be born overseas as he plans to head to the U.K. early next year and spend two years studying there.

• In a less celebratory mood was singer Wada Akiko (58, profile), who had a dig at the recent shotgun wedding of singer Leah Dizon (22). On her TBS show “Akko ni Omakase” she said, “She’s been studying hard in Japan, but so are lots of other youngsters. She needs to study a bit more about her lower body!” And on the comment by stylist Bun (29) about his new bride being very smart, Akko said, “If she’s so smart, she should have been able to date him without getting knocked up!” She also took a swipe at Dizon’s management, who refused to let reporters ask her any questions at the press conference where she announced the marriage. “If you’re not going to let her talk, there’s no point. Don’t have a press conference. Newspaper and TV are about the readers and viewers.” And she finished off with, “Asked what it was that her husband likes about her, she said ‘My Big Peach.’ What an idiot!” The comment was a lame pun on the Japanese word momo, which means “peach” and “bottom.”

• The 21st Tokyo International Film Festival kicked off on Saturday with the screening of John Woo’s Chinese historical epic “Red Cliff, Part 1.” Walking the green carpet (in line with TIFF’s ecological theme) along with Woo were cast members including Kaneshiro Takashi (35), Tony Leung Chiu-Wai (46), Hollywood star Julianne Moore (47) and a host of local celebrities. Newly elected prime minister Aso Taro (68) lived up to his populist image by being the first premier to walk the TIFF carpet. The biggest movie ever made in Asia, “Red Cliff” is to open on 551 screens across Japan on November 1, beating the record for a historical picture set by “Last Samurai”.

• 22 members of Hello! Project are to “graduate” next spring and move to a new management agency. The singers, such as Matsuura Aya (22), Satoda Mai (24) and Abe Natsumi (27), are all veterans of the various groups during the project’s 10-year history and they will pursue mostly solo careers as members of “Elder Club.” Morning Musume, Berryz Kobo and other groups will continue, and presumably recruit a new wave of young performers.