Some happy news on this, our last entertainment news update of 2009. Actor Kane Kosugi (35, photo left) revealed yesterday that he got married last month. In a fax sent to the media via his management agency, Kosugi said that he married a Hong Kong beauty (32) on November 21. The two met in 2006 when Kosugi was working overseas. Kane and his father, Hollywood ninja actor Sho Kosugi (61), were reportedly on bad terms in recent years but were reunited in Hong Kong for the wedding. Kane, who has been based in Japan for the last decade, is currently working on a joint US/Japanese/Hong Kong/Korean movie project. He was previously romantically connected from 2002-05 with pro golfer Higashio Riko (34), who is currently engaged to actor Ishida Junichi (55).
• And happy news for 14-member J-pop group Exile, who finished off another successful year by becoming the first male vocal group to defend the top prize at the Nihon Record Taisho music awards. Their song “Someday” took he top prize at last night’s 51st annual awards show, the group’s 16th music award of the year. The Best Newcomer award went to dance-vocal quintet BigBang, the first Korean artists to take the award since 1990. The group were to tour Japan in August, but that was re-scheduled to next February after member D-Lite (20) was injured in a car crash. Other award winners included GReeeeN, whose million seller “Shio, Kosho” was chosen as Best Album.
Former Hikaru Genji member Akasaka Akira (36) has been arrested again on drug charges. Police arrested a man in his 70s for use of amphetamines on December 26. When they investigated the business hotel in Shinjuku, Tokyo where the man had been staying, they found Akasaka and a woman in her 30s. Urine analysis results were positive and Akasaka was arrested yesterday at the Kabukicho karaoke bar he operates. The former Johnny’s Jimusho roller-skating idol was previously arrested in October 2007 and was serving an 18-month prison sentence suspended for three years.
Former Idol Singer in Drug Bust (Oct. 31, 2007)
Akasaka Akira Gets Suspended Drug Sentence (Nov. 22, 2007)
• YouTube singing sensation Susan Boyle (48) threw down a few dance moves on her arrival at Narita Airport yesterday. She’s in Tokyo for an appearance on NHK’s annual New Year’s Eve concert and having her name on the bill may give the 60th edition of “Kohaku Uta Gassen” a much-needed audience rating boost. The Scottish singer, whose appearance earlier this year on the “Britain’s Got Talent” show brought her overnight fame, is scheduled to perform “I Dreamed a Dream.” Her rendition of the musical number in April became one of the most popular YouTube videos of all time. Her debut album, released in November, has reached No.1 on charts around the world and sold over 8 million copies.
At Narita, travelers and a few dozen reporters gathered to welcome her on her first trip to Japan. She declined invitations to break into song, telling people they’d have to tune in to Kohaku, but blew some kisses and did a few dance steps on the moving walkway. From the airport, she headed downtown to the Hikawajinja shrine in Akasaka to pray for a good performance tomorrow night. She has no other engagements lined up for the trip and said she hopes to enjoy some good sushi.
Actress Sakurai Sachiko (36) has surprised the media by announcing her retirement within the year. She said on her management agency’s website that the reason was neither marriage nor illness, but a “new outlook on life” that she has been considering for several years. She said her decision was influenced by having worked many times on location in other countries and having studied overseas several times. Sakurai hasn’t worked in the last few months but just this month helped promote her latest movie “Ururu no Mori no Monogatari.” Sakurai’s first TV break came in an NHK morning drama series in 1992, but she really made a name for herself the following year. She played a high school student involved in a relationship with her teacher (Sanada Hiroyuki) in the TBS drama series “Koukou Kyoshi” (photo). This year she had the starring role in the NHK series “Konkatsu, Rikatsu.” In her private life, she married a music producer in December 2003, but that ended in divorce in April 2006. She spent the last decade of her 20-year career with Sun Music, the same management agency that represents Sakai Noriko, whose arrest earlier this year on drug charges shocked the nation.
• Yoshimoto comedian Kuroda Tamotsu (39) has admitted to charges of assaulting a bar manager. One half of the manzai duo Messenger, Kuroda was arrested on December 26 but initially denied the charges. he said at the time that he had intervened in a fight and had not hit anyone. But he later admitted that he had thrown an ashtray, grabbed the manager’s hair and punched and kicked him. Kuroda and a friend, who was also arrested, started the fight after they were presented with a bill for ¥255,000 at a “girly bar” in Osaka. The bar manager (23) suffered serious injuries including broken bones. Yoshimoto have withdrawn Kuroda’s name from an Osaka show scheduled for early January and may ask his comic partner Aihara (40) to perform solo.
• Popular Fuji TV announcer Nakano Minako (30) revealed on a live TV show that she is engaged to marry a handsome doctor. She said during her regular slot on the “Tokudane” morning show that she and her fiance (34) will tie the knot in March. She had denied a rumor of impending marriage earlier in the month.
TBS can lay claim to the title of most popular TV network for 2009, though NHK might have a thing or two to say about it. NHK’s year-long historical taiga series “Tenchijin” reached its peak with a 26% audience rating for the fifth episode back at the end of January. That was the highest figure for a drama this year. On TBS, “Jin” aired during the autumn season and Sunday’s finale grabbed a rating of 25.3% – the highest of the year for a private network – in the Kanto region, 18.3% in Kansai. The tale of a doctor (Osawa Takao) transported back to the Edo Era, it was the first drama to break the 20% barrier this season and the average for the series fell just below that number.
But the seriously high audience ratings were for two sporting events broadcast on TBS. The high for the year was the 43.1% rating for the World Baseball Classic game against South Korea back on March 20. And last month’s highly anticipated pro boxing bout, which saw Kameda Koki take away Naito Daisuke’s WBS world flyweight championship belt, was No.2 with a rating of 40.1%.
On the funny front, the annual M-1 comedy contest got its second highest ever rating with 30.3% in Kansai, 20.6% in Kanto (note the reverse in popularity compared to more serious dramatic content). M-1 is a showcase for Yoshimoto Kogyo talent and the fact that the company is from Osaka and has almost singlehandedly made Kansai dialect cool largely accounts for its high ratings, which peaked at a massive 39.9% in the region. You may not have heard of comic duo Punk Boo Boo until now, but the M-1 title is a sure-fire shortcut to nationwide fame for the pair of Kyushu natives.
Yesterday was a big day for Japanese fans of Korea’s top male stars. Four of those stars were in town and appearing together on stage for the first time at the Tokyo Dome. The “Four of a Kind” event was billed as a “miracle” and something close to that was needed to get Lee Byung Hun (39) to town. The actor has been caught up in a scandal at home involving an old girlfriend. The first of two shows yesterday was delayed by half an hour as Lee, who had been filming a drama series, arrived in Japan late due to airplane engine trouble. He didn’t make any comments about the scandal specifically but acknowledged that he’s been under a lot of stress and hasn’t been sleeping. He thanked fans for giving him a new burst of energy. The rest of the foursome was made up of actors Jang Dong Gun (37), Song Seung Heon (33) and Won Bin (32). Among the crowd pleasers, they performed “Seoul Station,” an original recital written by lyricist and AKB48 producer Akimoto Yasushi (53), and an original song written for the event.
• It’s not unusual to see the five members of SMAP together, as they all appear on their weekly show “SMAPxSMAP.” But when they got together yesterday at Akasaka Sacas in central Tokyo for a Softbank Mobile PR event, it was their first collective press conference since promoting a concert tour in 1999. And it was their first sponsor promotion event as a group in 20 years. SMAP have been helping Softbank hock their phones and services in a series of commercials this year. And the latest television CM was filmed last month in New York, where member Katori Shingo was performing in the first ever original Japanese theatrical production to debut off-Broadway.
Akasaka Sacas is an entertainment complex that includes the TBS studios, Blitz live house, ACT Theater, a skating rink, restaurants and stores. For a limited run from today it also includes the SMAP Shop09.
Just as we announced that the third “Odoru Daisosasen” movie was an early favorite to be the biggest hit of next year, the Toho studio yesterday gave the first glimpse of what is likely to be its biggest rival. Studio Ghibli producer Suzuki Toshio (62) said at a press conference that the company’s latest anime feature film, “Karigurashi no Arrietty,” is scheduled for a summer release so it’ll be going head to head against Oduru 3. Though he has worked on the screenplay, Miyazaki Hayao (68) has handed the directorial reins for the first time to Yonebayashi Hiromasa (36), who was animation director on “Gedo Senki” and key animator on other features including last year’s “Gake no Ue no Ponyo.”
“Karigurashi…” is based on Mary Norton’s award-winning fantasy novel “The Borrowers,” which won the Carnegie Medal in 1952. The novel is set in England during the same period, but Ghibli have updated it to modern Japan. It is about 14-year old Arrietty and her family of 10cm-tall little people who live under the floorboards of a house and get by on items borrowed from the humans above. Miyazaki has wanted to adapt the book since he read it more than 40 years ago. The movie’s theme, “Arriety’s Song,” co-written and performed by French musician Cecile Corbel, will have its digital release in Japan on December 19.
• Avex Management and an advertising firm have been informally indicted at the Tokyo District Court over an event held back in April. The guerrilla event was held on the afternoon of April 7 to promote the launch of a book by J-pop queen Hamasaki Ayumi (31). The venue was in front of the Shibuya 109 store in the center of one of Tokyo’s most popular shopping districts, and though Hamasaki didn’t perform she soon drew a crowd of almost 3,000 people. This led to traffic disruptions as organizers had not sought the cooperation of police or even filed for permission to hold the event. In August police filed papers with the prosecutors office against 11 people from Avex, ad firm Ozone Network and Shibuya 109. Charges against five people, including those from 109, were dropped before yesterday’s indictment.
A release date has been set for what will probably be the biggest Japanese movie of 2010. The third installment in the “Odoru Daisosasen” (Bayside Shakedown) series will open on July 3. Once again, Oda Yuji (42, profile) will star as detective Aoshima Shunsaku – now promoted to section chief – who finds his head spinning as he tackles eight crimes at once. Also returning is director Motoyuki Katsuhiro, and he and the cast are gearing up for filming, which is due to start in the new year. The 2004 death of actor Ikariya Chosuke, who played the character of Waku Heihachiro in the previous movies, will be acknowledged in the new sequel. The series was born in 1998 from a popular Fuji TV drama series starring Oda. Though the first movie was a huge success, the 2003 sequel was even more massive and holds the record for the biggest box office earnings of any Japanese live-action movie with ¥17.5 billion. There have also been a couple of successful spinoffs featuring side characters.
• Meanwhile, the latest big screen adaptation of the popular “One Piece” manga has had the strongest opening weekend at the box office in the last six months. “One Piece Film Strong World” broke the ¥1-billion barrier on just 188 screens, something which “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” narrowly failed to do during the summer despite showing on 844 screens. That blockbuster went on to make ¥8 billion. The strong weekend opening of “One Piece” at ¥1.038 billion is better than that of last year’s No.1 box office success, the Miyazaki Hayao anime feature “Gake no Ue no Ponyo.” It opened with ¥1.025 billion and went on to rake in ¥15.5 billion. Toei realize that “One Piece” doesn’t have Ponyo’s broad appeal and have set their box office target at ¥5 billion.
The four-girl pop unit Shanadoo are something of a reverse import. Made up of four Japanese girls – C’k, Jun, Rose and Marina – the group debuted in June 2006 in Germany and are only now making their move on the Japanese market. The four were in Tokyo over the weekend to take part in a series of events. They included a Christmas event at the German Cultural Center on Saturday; the Shibuya Collection fashion show on Sunday; and they are scheduled to join the Shibuya Peace Matsuri 2009 on December 19, an event organized by students of Tokyo’s 13 universities. Shanadoo have been featured in a Newsweek special on 100 people Japan can be proud of and are regarded in Europe as a prime example of “Japanese Cool.” But only with the release last month of the album “Launch Party” have they taken aim at their home market. The group have been doing well on the digital download rankings and are attracting increasing media attention.
Former Johnny’s Jimusho rock idol Narita Shoji (41) is the latest celebrity to receive a suspended prison sentence for drug possession. Yesterday at the Tokyo District Court the judge handed him a 6-month sentence, suspended for three years, for possession of marijuana, saying that he had an addiction and was liable to re-offend. According to the charges, police found 1.689g of marijuana at Narita’s home on September 27. His arrest came in the midst of a nationwide promotional tour of music stores in support of the live album “Parallel World.”
Narita was the guitarist of popular Johnny’s rock unit Otokogumi from the mid-1980s. The group launched their recording career in 1988 with the single “Daybreak” and went on to win a Best Newcomer award that same year. They had an even bigger hit the following year with “Time Zone.” In a rare case for an active Johnny’s artist, Narita married his junior high school sweetheart in 1992. They had a daughter in 1993 and Otokogumi split up the same year. Of the four members, only Okamoto Kenichi is still with the Johnny’s management agency. Narita continued his solo career, playing small live houses in Tokyo and across the country.
Hollywood star Johnny Depp is back in Tokyo this week to promote his latest movie. His sixth visit to Japan, and first in two years, is to promote today’s Japan premiere of “Public Enemies,” though it’s doubtful he’ll actually watch it. Depp (46) said Wednesday he was drawn to the movie because of his childhood interest in John Dillinger, the bank robber who in Depression-era America was declared public enemy No. 1 by federal authorities. Depp, on the other hand, was named 2009’s “Sexiest Man Alive” by People magazine, said he did not believe he had any enemies. “The scariest enemy is within, allowing yourself to conform to what is expected of you.” He acknowledged another connection to Dillinger in that his own grandfather was engaged in moonshining, the illegal liquor business, in Kentucky during the Depression.
The movie opened in the U.S. in July but Depp, as is his practice, hasn’t seen it yet as he generally avoids watching himself on screen. “But I hear great things about it,” he said at a press conference at a Tokyo hotel. He’ll attend the red carpet event before tonight’s premiere and speak to fans at the movie theater. The Michael Mann-directed feature opens here on December 12.