Monthly Archives: February 2009

Tamaki Koji, Ishihara Mariko Together At Last

Tamaki Koji, Ishihara Mariko

Singer Tamaki Koji (50) and actress Ishihara Mariko (45) have entered the latest stage of their long and bizarre relationship. They registered their marriage yesterday at the municipal office in the Denenchofu suburb of Tokyo, some 24 years after their relationship began. Back in the early 1980s, Tamaki was married but became besotted with the young Ishihara, sending her a set of red underwear as a sign of his love. Their affair was exposed in the media in 1985, and Tamaki divorced the following year but the couple broke up soon afterwards. Over the years, Ishihara had relationships with a host of celebrities, but largely disappeared from Japanese show business. She was back in the limelight in 2006, when in her autobiography she broke a showbiz taboo by naming many of those celebrities. About a fifth of the book was about her relationship with Tamaki, and she went into great detail about how she contemplated suicide when their affair was exposed. She also revealed that in February 1986 she was hospitalized for more than a month with a broken vertebra after he had beaten her. The book was later made into a movie. One of Japan’s most recognizable music stars, Tamaki formed the rock band Anzen Chitai in 1973, though it wasn’t until the early 80s that they had their major record label debut and achieved stardom.

• Former pin-up idol Komukai Minako has been found guilty on charges of drug possession and use. She admitted to the charges, allowing the judge to issue a speedy verdict at the Tokyo District Court today. She received an 18-month sentence, suspended for three years, and was in tears as she spoke briefly to reporters outside the courthouse.

Death Can Bring Happiness

Hirosue RyokoThe local media is still buzzing with Japan’s double Oscar win on Monday. And even the author of the book which inspired the movie, but who refused to lend his name to the project, has been enjoying the limelight. Aoki Shinmon wrote “Noukanfu Nikki” in 1996, based on his ten years working as a noukanshi (literally, “encoffining master”). A noukanshi’s job is not disposal of the dead. Rather it is putting the dead at ease for the journey to the next world,” he said in an interview this week. Actor Motoki Masahiro was so inspired by the book that he visited Aoki to ask if he could adapt it for the big screen. Aoki originally agreed to the project but was unhappy when the final script changed the story’s location from his native Toyama Prefecture to the northern Yamagata. He refused to allow his name or book title to be used, which led to the movie’s change of name. But Aoki and others in his profession have been particularly impressed with Motoki’s performance, which critics have said is his best ever. After the Oscar win, publishers Bungeishunju announced that they would be printing an extra 40,000 copies of Aoki’s book. But following the intense media attention that followed the Oscar, they quickly increased that by an additional 50,000.

Meanwhile, Motoki’s co-star Hirosue Ryoko (28) was all smiles as dozens of reporters greeted her arrival at Narita Airport yesterday. She shared a flight from Los Angeles with actor Hugh Jackman (40), who hosted the Oscar ceremony and is in Japan to promote his blockbuster “Australia.”

Takita Yojiro Enjoys Oscar Limelight

Okuribito, Oscar ceremony

The Japanese show business industry has been basking in the glory of the country’s two wins at the Academy Awards, which we announced here yesterday. Japanese productions won two Oscars, both for the first time in their category. The first to be announced was the animated short “Tsumiki no Ie.” But the bigger prize was taken by “Okuribito” (Departures), chosen as best foreign language film. Director Takita Yojiro (53) has come a long way since his 1981 debut as a director of soft porn. “Chikan Onna Sensei” (Pervert Lady Teacher) was the first in a series of more than a dozen he made. In recent years, he’s had more mainstream success with films like “Onmyoji” (2001) and “Battery” (2007), but has reached a peak with his 43rd movie. He was emotional after the awards ceremony and tearfully thanked the cast and dozens of crew members who paid their own way to accompany him to Los Angeles. As often happens in Japan, it was only when Okuribito started gaining a reputation at film festivals overseas late last year that it got any media attention at home. Stars Motoki Masahiro (43) and Hirosue Ryoko (32) are already well established names, so the Oscar is mainly Takita’s chance to enjoy the full limelight.

• Actor Nishimura Kazuhiko (42) is a father again. He announced on his blog yesterday that his wife, shodo (calligraphy) artist Kunishige Tomomi (30) gave birth to their second child last weekend. They married in 2006 and had a son the following year. Nishimura was previously married to actress Tachihara Mai (39). Meanwhile, actor Tanihara Shousuke (36) is to be father for the third time, according to today’s issue of weekly magazine “Shuukan Josei.” He and his wife Emi (32) have two children, their elder son being from her previous marriage to actor Ishida Issei (34). She was already pregnant when she and Tanihara married in March 2007. They had a daughter the following October.

• With an 11-year career behind her, J-pop star aiko (33) finally has her first No.1 single. She’s had 5 chart-topping albums but the best she’s ever managed until now on the Oricon singles rankings was No.2. That has now changed with the success of “Milk/Nageki no Kiss,” which entered the latest chart at No.1. On top of the album chart are rock band Unicorn, who recently reformed 15 years after they split. ”Shamble” is their 7th original album. They split up in 1993 and members pursued solo careers until they decided to revive the band in the spring of last year. The band is fronted by Okuda Tamio, who has had by far the most successful solo career over the last decade.

And the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film Goes to…


“Okuribito” (Departures) has been named as this year’s best foreign language film at the 81st Academy Awards. Widely considered the second-favorite for the award, behind Israeli film “War With Bashir,” the movie continued on its strong performance at festivals around the world over the last few months. Joined on stage by stars Motoki Masahiro (43) Hirosue Ryoko (28), Hirosue Ryoko (28) and Yo Kimiko (52), director Takita Yoji (53) gave a brief acceptance speech in very broken English. The award meant that Japan was two for two on the night. “Tsumiki no Ie,” an animated short by Kato Kunio (31), took Japan’s first ever Oscar in that category and the the country’s first in six years. Okuribito is a moving and often humorous drama of human dignity and family bonds. Motoki plays an out-of-work cellist who leaves Tokyo to return to his hometown to become an undertaker, ritually cleansing and placing the deceased into coffins at funeral ceremonies.

All’s Well With Shaku Yumiko

Shaku Yumiko

Actress Shaku Yumiko (30) announced online yesterday that she had an autoimmune disease disease, but later deleted the entry from her blog. She wrote that she had been diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome, which was causing the mild paralysis she had been experiencing in her arms and legs. But when he read the details of the blog entry, her doctor contacted her to clarify that she was suffering from a milder condition affecting her peripheral nervous system. Fans had been expressing concern for the popular actress and it to simply delete the original entry. She wrote a new entry that didn’t mention the syndrome and reassured fans that she was fine and well on the road to recovery. Shaku wrote on the blog last week that she had come down with a severe cold and high fever. When she felt unable to move her limbs on Saturday she decided to see a doctor and received what she thought was the stark-sounding diagnosis, though she was assured she should recover fully with a week’s rest. Shaku is currently starring in the Fuji TV drama series “B-gata Onna ga Kekkon Suru Houhou.”

• “Tsumiki no Ie,” an animated short by Kato Kunio (31), has taken Japan’s first ever Oscar in that category and the the country’s first in six years. Though the movie’s title translates as House of Blocks, Kato chose to use the French “La Maison en Petits Cubes” for its international release. It is the story of an elderly man living on top of a brick building surrounded by encroaching floodwaters. The man continues to painstakingly add bricks to the top of his dwelling to avoid being swallowed up. One day, he accidentally drops his pipe into one of the underwater rooms. He follows it as it sinks downward. Each new floor brings back an old memory, such as time he spent with his deceased wife and their daughter.

The Koda Sisters Together At Last

Misono, Koda Kumi

The J-pop sisters Koda Kumi (26, photo right) and Misono (24, photo left) are teaming up for the first time. They are scheduled to release a joint single, “It’s All Love” by chaku-uta download on February 25 and on CD in March and will be appearing on the music show circuit together. Though the younger of the two, it was Misono who first achieved popularity from her debut in 2002 until 2005 as vocalist with the group Day After Tomorrow. One reason for the breakup of the group was said to be Misono’s considerable weight gain, and she was then completely eclipsed by the success of her big sister. Kumi, who debuted in 2000 and had limited success in the club music scene, almost overnight became J-pop’s biggest seller in 2005 and again in 2006 with her upbeat dance numbers, regular TV appearances and “ero-kakkoii” (sexy cool) image. Misono started getting her career back on track in 2006, but more on the TV variety circuit than in music and she is now a regular on such shows as “Quiz! Hexagon.” Both sisters, who hail from Kyoto, clearly enjoy the limelight, share a raucous sense of humor and are said to be close. But they have only ever appeared on TV together once, on “Hey! Hey! Hey! Music Champ” last December, and have performed together only in private.

• Up and coming comedians are always glad to get a bit of extra publicity. So it’s no surprise that Kasuga Toshiaki (30) of the duo Audrey is making the most of a story in today’s issue of weekly gossip magazine “Friday.” The story includes photos of Kasuga and a young woman leaving his shabby Tokyo apartment, describing her as small and a bit chubby but beautiful. Kasuga insisted at a hastily arranged press conference late last night that they are still in the early stages of a relationship, which he fears may have been jeopardized by the magazine story. Audrey, made up of Kasuga and Wakabayashi Masayasu (30), made their breakthrough at the end of last year but are still living the life of struggling artists. In their skits, Kasuga has joked about living in an old wooden apartment building, in a single 6-tatami mat room with no bath. He says he washes using baby’s diaper wipes.

Not So Happy End for Suzuki Shigeru

Suzuki Shigeru

One of Japan’s most famous veteran rock guitarists has been arrested for marijuana possession. Police stopped to question Suzuki Shigeru (57) on Tuesday afternoon when his car was spotted illegally parked in a warehouse district near Fuji TV’s Tokyo Bay studio. Thinking his behavior seemed suspicious, officers searched the car and found about 1g of marijuana in a tupperware container. Suzuki admitted ownership of the drugs and was arrested on the spot. It’s his first arrest, but police decided to also search his home for other drug-related items. Suzuki formed his first band in 1968 and was invited by Hosono Haruomi (61, later of YMO) to join Happii Endo (Happy End) the following year. The band were pioneers of the Japanese rock scene. In the years following the breakup of the band in 1974, Suzuki teamed up with Hosono, Matsutoya Masataka (57) and other big names to form such bands as Caramel Mama, Tin Pan Alley and Hucklebuck. Suzuki recorded his first solo album in Los Angeles in 1975. He has played as a support musician for a host of artists over the years and has taken part in several charity recordings.

• Movie director Danny Boyle (52) was in Tokyo to promote his latest Oscar-nominated film. Helping him promote “Slumdog Millionaire” was talento Mino Monta (64, profile), host of the Japanese version of the global quiz show that is central to the movie. The pair dined on a lunch of katsu curry, with the katsu (pork cutlet) being a pun on the Japanese word for “win.” If Slumdog does take the best picture Oscar later this month, it will be the first movie made outside the U.S. to do so since “The Last Emperor” in 1987.

A Baby for Ucchan

Uchimura Teruyoshi

One of Japan’s top comedians is soon to be father for the first time. Uchimura Teruyoshi (44) of the duo Ucchan Nanchan announced on Monday that his wife, former TBS announcer Tokunaga Yumi (33), is expecting their first child in June. Romance between the couple was first reported in April 2003 after Tokunaga had appeared on the TV Asahi variety show “Uchimura Produce,” though she was already married at the time. That marriage ended the following September and she married Uchimura in April 2005. His comedy partner Nanbara Kiyotaka, married since 1993, missed their wedding following an accident during the recording of a show two days before.

• Former pin-up idol Komukai Minako (23) has been released on bail. Arrested on January 22 for possession of stimulant drugs, she was formally charged on February 12. She posted bail of ¥1.5 million on Monday.

Gekidan Hitori, Ohsawa Akane Wed

Gekidan Hitori, Ohsawa Akane

Another big showbiz wedding was announced yesterday. Following actress Miyazawa Rie’s good news at the weekend, it was the turn of comedian Gekidan Hitori (32) and talento Ohsawa Akane (23). The couple have been quite public about the relationship for some time and the news that they tied the knot on February 16 came as no surprise. They are scheduled to make a formal announcement at a hotel press conference in Tokyo this afternoon. Ohsawa, the grand-daughter of charismatic former baseball player and manager Ohsawa Keiji (76), has been in the limelight since becoming a model at the age of three. A few years ago she switched to TV, helped mainly her by relationship with a popular comedian who got caught up in a rape scandal (story). She played the story for laughs and the wave of publicity helped her gain a foothold in the TV variety circuit. She hinted at the marriage earlier this month during a launch event for her autobiography, while her new husband is already an accomplished writer. Real name Kawashima Shougo, he is the son of a JAL pilot and flight attendant and spent several years of his youth in Alaska. He began his comedy career while in high school and was in a manzai duo for several years. He went solo in 200 and developed a growing reputation both as a “pin geinin” (solo comedian), actor and writer. He published the novel “Kagehinata ni Saku” in 2006, which was made into a movie last year. His debut as a song lyricist will appear on the upcoming album by J-pop duo Chemistry.

Miyazawa Rie Engaged, Expecting

Miyazawa Rie

The big news over the weekend was the announcement by actress Miyazawa Rie (35, profile) that she is expecting a baby and engaged to be married. Six months pregnant, she plans to continue in her current role in a theatrical production until it ends its run on February 28. She is appearing in the play “Piper” at the Bunkamura Theater Cocoon in Shibuya, Tokyo. The play is being produced by Noda Hideki (53) and Miyazawa faxed her announcement to the media via Noda’s production company. The fax didn’t give her fiance’s name but he is said to be a business entrepreneur who she first met in 2007. Miyazawa has been romantically connected with many celebrities over the years, including retired soccer star Nakata Hidetoshi (32, profile) and kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo (31). Most recently, she was in a serious relationship with jewelry designer Mikita Takashi (37), though last September she was photographed in a clinch with British director David Leveaux, who directed her in a Tokyo production of Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House.” But her most famous relationship was her engagement at the age of 19, and the peak of her popularity, to rising sumo star Takahanada (now Takanohana Oyakata, 36). That engagement sent the media into a frenzy, which was only worsened when the marriage was called off. Miyazawa’s career went off the rails for a few years, but she has since built a solid career as a stage and movie actress. She has won awards for her roles in such movies as “Tasogare Seibei” (Twilight Samurai, 2002).