Up and coming actress Maki Yoko (26) announced yesterday that she got married last week. Her husband is described simply as 26 years old and not in show business. The two tied the knot on November 11, an auspicious “taian” day on the traditional calendar. Maki also revealed that she’s pregnant and expecting the baby in the early summer of next year. She said she plans to continue working as long as her condition allows and resume her career after the baby is born. Considered a very versatile actress, she was inspired to take up the craft after watching the Adachi Yumi vehicle “Rex” as an elementary school student. She started acting on the stage in 1999 and made her big screen debut in “Drug” (2001). She had supporting roles in such hits as “Battle Royale II” (2003), “Pacchigi!” (2005), “Juon” (2005), and “The Fast and the Furious 3 – Tokyo Drift” (2006), before making her breakthrough in last year’s Fuji TV drama “SP.” A movie version of the drama is scheduled for release next year. Despite Maki’s impressive resume, media reports never fail to mention her 92cm chest and she has never been shy about showing it.
• Talento and former Morning Musume member Kago Ai (20) revealed on her blog at the weekend that she is suffering from Meniere’s disease. The condition is an inner ear disorder that can affect both hearing and balance, and can cause vertigo and hearing loss.
• Actress Shingyoji Kimie (49) attended a PR event yesterday for the publication of her new memoir, “Mezame” (Wake Up). No doubt she hopes sales of the book will help her troubled financial situation. She married musician Oguchi Hiroshi (57) in 1993, but his failed business led to divorce in 2005 and Shingyoji filed for bankruptcy in 2006. “I used to think I was the most unfortunate person in the world,” she said. “But writing this book has helped me wake up and start a new life.”
• Johnny’s Jimusho idol group Arashi finished their Asia concert tour with two shows in Shanghai over the weekend. It was the first show by a Johnny’s group in China, where their CDs are not on sale. But thanks to the Internet (and more than 1,000 visiting Japanese fans) the two 11,000-seat shows were sold out. The tour, which marks the group’s 10th anniversary, also took in Tokyo, Taipei and Seoul.
Popular actor Toyokawa Etsushi (46, profile) was recently rushed to hospital after suffering an allergic reaction to a seafood stew. Though he was released the next day, he is said to have been shocked by the incident, something he had never experienced before. ToyoEtsu had been enjoying a “yosenabe” party at his Tokyo home with several friends late on Monday night. Shortly after he began eating the stew, which contained oysters, he got the shakes and began to itch all over his body. He was rushed by ambulance to the Tokyo Emergency Room, Hiroo at around midnight and doctors diagnosed an acute allergic reaction. His management denied reports that he had experienced the potentially fatal anaphylactic shock, adding that he was back at work yesterday. They said that he had been tired recently from the filming of the movie “20th Century Boys” and all the PR work that came with it. Now if only the seafood hadn’t been cooked, we’d have jokes about Toyokawa Ate Sushi…(sorry :P).
• British rock legend Rod Stewart (63) is to perform in Japan for the first time in 13 years, it was announced yesterday. The father of seven kids with four women will bring the “Rocks His Greatest Hits” tour to Japan next March. Though hardly in his prime, Stewart married for the third time in 2007 to model Penny Lancaster (37), with whom he has a 2-year-old son. An import version of the appropriately named hits album “Some Guys Have All the Luck” goes on sale here on November 18, while the Japan version is due for release on January 28.
• Yoshimoto comedian Kendo Kobayashi (36) and pin-up idol Aoshima Akina (21) were spotted on a date recently, according to today’s issue of weekly magazine “Friday.” The pair were seen leaving an Okinawan restaurant in the capital and headed back to KenKoba’s apartment. As usual, management for both celebs say they are just friends.
An emaciated and exhausted looking Keiko (36) attended a memorial service for her late father in her hometown of Usuki City yesterday. It was the singer’s first public appearance since the arrest of her husband, music producer Komuro Tetsuya (49), on charges of copyright fraud. She bowed repeatedly in apology to reporters but refused to make any public statement. She and family members attended the Buddhist memorial service to mark the first anniversary of her father’s death, after which the media pursued them from the temple to their home. Keiko’s management agency made a point of releasing a statement yesterday, insisting that the couple had neither divorced nor considered doing so, an attempt to finally squash rumors that have circulated since the arrest.
Komuro Tetsuya Faces Arrest For Fraud
More Details on Komuro Arrest
• Racing jockey Ikezoe Kenichi (29) and Osaka-based talento Hori Akari (22) announced yesterday that they have tied the knot. They said they registered their marriage at a municipal office in Shiga Prefecture on Tuesday. Hori, currently in her senior year at Ritsumeikan University, is a sports presenter in the Kansai region. The pair started dating in April and Hori attended her first ever horse race at the Japanese Oaks in Tokyo in May, a race won by Ikezoe on Tall Poppy. Ikezoe has won over 500 races on the JRA circuit and nine G1 events. Hori is three months pregnant and the couple plan to hold a wedding ceremony in February.
• Singer Misono (24) has denied rumors that she is having an affair with married comedian Shibata Hidetsugu (33) of the duo Untouchable. The two were spotted at an izakaya by the weekly women’s magazine “Josei Seven.” Misono, younger sister of pop star Koda Kumi, insists that they are just friends.
A former member of the vocal group Toshi Itou and Happy & Blue held a press conference yesterday to announce that he had undergone a sex change operation. Takeshita Kousuke (36) worked as a host for about a year before joining the group from 1995 to 2004, and the event was held at a popular host club in the Kabukicho entertainment district of Tokyo. Since quitting the group, Takeshita lost touch with the other members as he underwent surgery and ongoing hormone treatment, and only contacted group leader Toshi (68) at the end of October. Toshi said he had been surprised by the news but insisted that he would helping Takeshita launch a solo singing career next year with the stage name Katharine. Last year, singer Nakamura Ataru (23) became the first artist with gender identity disorder to perform on NHK’s annual “Kohaku Uta Gassen.” With reportedly Toshi still heavily in debt (in the late 90s his debts were around ¥1.3 billion), he would no doubt welcome a chance to make a comeback with his group. Their biggest hits were in the mid to late 1970s.
• Enka singer Jounouchi Sanae (40) faces prosecution for a recent traffic accident, it was revealed yesterday. Real name Kimura Sanae, she is a former member of the hugely popular 80s idol group O-Nyanko Club. She was exiting an alleyway next to the Russian embassy in central Tokyo on the evening of November 6 went she hit a bicycle ridden by a 55-year-old American woman. The woman, described as professor at a public university, is still hospitalized with a broken collarbone.
• Fuji TV announcer Sasaki Kyoko (35) got remarried yesterday. She and her new husband, a securities company employee and a graduate of Osaka University, visited their local municipal office in Tokyo after work and registered their marriage. For Sasaki’s second marriage, they chose the auspicious November 11 (11/11) which is also a “taian” day on the traditional calendar. She announced her marriage plans and pregnancy at the end of October. The couple, who were introduced by friends in March, are already living together in Tokyo. They are planning to hold a wedding ceremony in the spring and are looking forward to the arrival of their first child next May.
Japan lost a couple of stars from a bygone age in the last few days. Dave Hirao, vocalist of the group The Golden Cups, died yesterday of esophageal cancer. He was 63. The Golden Cups were one of the biggest acts of the “group sounds” scene of the late 1960s. They are best known for such hits as “Nagai Kami no Shojo” and “Aisuru Kimi Ni.” They were heavily influenced by western music and most band members took on western names, though only guitarist Kenneth Ito had any foreign blood. Keyboard player Mickey Yoshino went on to form the hugely successful Godiego. The band reformed for an NHK special and some concerts in 2004.
Meanwhile, comedian Maeda Takechiyo of the comedy group Chambara Trio died on Sunday night of stomach cancer. He was 55. Real name Miyakawa Sadanori, he was a company employee before taking to the stage as one half of a comedy duo in 1980. He joined Chambara Trio, which has been going since the early 1960s, in 1994. As the name suggests, the group’s comedy is based on chambara, the sword-fighting samurai style of action movies.
• The daughter of one of Japan’s top comedians is making her debut as an actress in an upcoming joint U.S.-Japanese movie. “The Harimaya Bridge” stars Bennet Guillory, Danny Glover (who’s also executive producer) and Takaoka Saki. It’s the story of an African American man who travels to rural Kochi prefecture to claim some family items after the sudden death of his estranged son. Honoka (19), the daughter of Ishibashi Takaaki (47) of the comedy duo Tunnels (profile), plays a key supporting role. Directed and written by Aaron Woolfolk, it’s due for release next summer.
• American pop legend Carole King (66) gave her first solo concert in Japan in 18 years yesterday. She played at the Orchard Hall in Shibuya, Tokyo and will make a guest appearance on the “SMAPxSMAP” Fuji TV variety show on November 17.
• Talento Sakashita Chiriko (32) announced to the media by fax yesterday that she had her first baby in her hometown of Kyoto earlier this month. She and her TV cameraman husband (29) married in January. She says she plans to resume her career in the spring.
• Singer Kato Miliyah (20) has made the top of the Oricon album chart for the first time. Her new hits album “Best Destiny” entered the chart at No.1. On top of the singles chart are Johnny’s idol group Arashi with “Beautiful Days.”
Congratulations to the Seibu Lions, who clinched the Japan Series for the first time in four years last night against the Yomiuri Giants. The win completed a comeback from 3-2 down in the series and came at the Giants home ground of Tokyo Dome. After the game, the team gave the traditional “do-age” to portly manager Watanabe Hisanobu, though they clearly had less trouble with young pitcher Kishi Takayuki (photo), who won two games and was chosen as series MVP. Among the celebrity Lions fans joining the celebrations were actress Yoshinaga Sayuri (63), who attended game 3 of the series, and singer Matsuzaki Shigeru (58), who sang the team’s theme song for this season.
One of the most famous and popular faces of Japanese journalism has passed away. Chikushi Tetsuya died today of lung cancer at a Tokyo hospital. He was 73. His battle with cancer became a very public affair in May 2007 when he revealed that he was stepping down after almost 20 years as the main presenter of the “News23” TBS late night news show. He made occasional appearances on the show when there were major news developments, but he looked gaunt and wore a wig in place of his once flamboyant hairstyle. A native of Oita Prefecture, he attended high school in Tokyo and graduated from the prestigious Waseda University, where he would later become a guest professor. He became a journalist for the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in 1959 before becoming editor of the Asahi Journal magazine in 1984. He started his own long-running news show on TBS in 1989.
Enka singer Mori Shinichi may yet be able to sing “Ofukuro-san” once again. The song was his signature tune for many years, but a dispute with the man who penned it changed all that last year. Kawauchi Kouhan severely criticized Mori for making changes to the lyrics of the song without his permission. And when Mori reacted as if it was no big deal, the aging Kawauchi had a fit and insisted that Mori would never sing any of his tunes again, asking the JASRAC copyright association to make it legal. Once he realized the corner he was in, Mori tried repeatedly to apologize to Kawauchi, but the writer refused all approaches right up until his death in April. Some seven months later, it seems the dust may have settled. Mori is to give a press conference today, and he is expected to announce that he has persuaded Kawauchi’s family to allow him to sing the song once more. There are still those who insist the old man’s wishes be respected, but it now seems likely that Mori and NHK will milk the situation with his performance at the “Kohaku Uta Gassen” on New Year’s Eve. At least he should stick with the version originally penned by Kawauchi.
Kawauchi Kouhan Dies at 88
Singer, Songwriter Fall Out
• In the ongoing saga and downfall of music producer Komuro Tetsuya (49), it seems that at least his wife Keiko (36) is sticking with him. There were rumors of a divorce between the two following his arrest on Tuesday, with Komuro said to want to protect her as much as possible from legal or financial responsibilities. But in her first public statement, sent to the media by fax, she apologized for the incident and said, “The road ahead of us is very steep, but we are committed to walk it together.” She signed the statement “Komuro Keiko,” a denial of reports that she had filed divorce papers earlier this week.
• Fuji TV and 20th Century Fox are teaming up on a Japanese remake of the Oscar-winning movie “Sideways” (2004). The comedy drama set in California’s wine country was nominated for four Oscars and won the screenplay award. Kohinata Fumiyo (54) will take on the lead role originally played by Paul Giamatti (41), but he and Namase Katsuhisa (48), Suzuki Kyoka (40) and Oscar nominee Kikuchi Rinko (27) are the only Japanese cast members. The movie marks the directorial debut of Cellin Gluck, who has bridged the U.S.-Japan divide for many years in marketing and TV commercials. Shot in California, it is scheduled for release in the autumn of 2009.
More details continue to emerge following the arrest of music producer Komuro Tetsuya (49) yesterday by the special investigation department of Osaka District Court. It seems that Komuro tried repeatedly to sell the copyrights to more than 800 songs and was looking for ¥1.8 billion. He was turned down by several potential buyers, including a major advertising firm, before agreeing to a deal for ¥1 billion with an individual investor. Having already handed over half the money, the investor realized it was a scam as Komuro had already transferred the rights to the Avex Entertainment record label. It was revealed yesterday that Komuro had used ¥300 million of the money to repay loan sharks. The investor won a ¥600-million court settlement against Komuro, whose failure to pay up ultimately led to his arrest. Also arrested were Kimura Takashi (56) and Hirane Akihiko (45), both executives from Komuro’s company Tribal Kicks. The company sponsors the Oita Trinita J-League soccer team, but has had trouble paying its annual ¥70 million sponsorship money since 2005. And it was revealed that Komuro and his wife, Globe vocalist Keiko (36), have been living separately for the last several months. She had increasingly been spending time at her family home in Oita Prefecture. Her mother runs the upscale Ryotei Yamadaya restaurant in Usuki city, while her sister is the owner of the Usuki Fugu Yamadaya restaurant in Tokyo.
In a related development, a spokesman for the music production and concert planning company eMusic said that they were considering a lawsuit against Komuro for a similar scam. The company signed a one-year contract with him for original recordings in August 2007, but he made a deal for ¥30 million for the same recordings with another company in January. The three met in February and Komuro agreed to repay the ¥30 million, though essentially the money came from eMusic. The eMusic spokesman said the deal had lost the company more than ¥10 million a month in total.
Meanwhile, Avex announced that they have canceled the release of two new Globe singles this year. “Get Wild” and “Self Control” are covers of hits by TM Network, the trio with which Komuro launched his career in the early 1990s. And Sony Music Entertainment has also canceled plans to release an album of TM Network singles, which was to go on sale later this month.
• Freelance announcer Tsushima Ayuko (32) wrote on her blog yesterday that she and a 34-year-old company employee tied the knot on Monday. She said they first met last December and had already decided back in March to get married. Tsushima is a presenter on the TBS “Sunday Morning” show.
It seems that one of the wealthiest people in the Japanese pop industry just got too greedy. Producer and musician Komuro Tetsuya (49, profile)
was facing arrest this morning in a case involving ¥500 million in fraud. Komuro was taken to the Osaka District Court for questioning last night in the case filed by a Hyogo Prefecture investor (48). In August 2006 the man was approached by Komuro, who said he would sell him the rights to the 806 songs he had written over his hugely successful career for a total of ¥1 billion. Claiming that one of his ex-wives was pressing him for ¥700 million in alimony, Komuro asked for ¥500 million up front. The investor handed over the money, only to discover later that the rights to many of the songs were actually the property of the Avex Entertainment record label. He won a civil case against Komuro, who was ordered to pay the man a settlement of ¥600 million. After he failed to do so by the deadline, the man took the case to the district court.
Komuro looked pale but relaxed as he was taken into custody this morning (photo), though he could be facing up to ten years in prison. Quite a change in lifestyle for the man who was the Golden Child of J-pop in the 1990s. The constant string of hits turned out by Komuro’s group globe and acts he produced, such as Amuro Namie (profile)
and Kahara Tomomi, made him hugely wealthy and helped make Avex a major player in the industry. At the peak of his career, Komuro was said to be making about ¥2 billion a year and his total earnings are estimated to be over ¥10 billion. He had plush homes in Los Angeles and Hawaii, a garage full of sports cars, and was known to book all the first class seats when he flew. Attempts to expand his business empire across Asia in the late 90s were a dismal failure and left him heavily in debt. His lavish, playboy lifestyle also cost him two failed marriages, with the second to singer Yoshida Asami (33) in 2001 lasting just a year and ending with a ¥1-billion alimony settlement. In spite of his financial burdens, he wasted no time splashing out ¥500 million on an extravagant third wedding, to globe vocalist Keiko in 2002.