Daily Archives: January 15, 2010

Get Your Yamaguchi Momoe Fix Online

Yamaguchi Momoe

Thirty years after she shocked Japan with her retirement, the legendary Yamaguchi Momoe (50) is finally entering the world of digital downloads. It was announced yesterday that the 12 major digital distributors have reached an agreement to sell the 274 songs she released – 32 singles and 242 album tracks – together with videos of live performances. The files will be released over a period of four weeks from January 17, her 51st birthday. This year is also the 50th anniversary of Hori Pro, the top management agency that represented her. They reached an agreement with the likes of Dwango, NTT Communications and Sony Music to make the files available at prices from ¥105 for mobile phone ringtones to ¥525 for videos.

Even three decades after she retired to marry actor Miura Tomokazu (57 – they appeared together in 14 of her 17 movies), Yamaguchi’s legend is powerful enough to rake in the Yen. To date, six greatest hits albums have been released to commemorate anniversaries of her 1973 debut or 1980 retirement. Last month, a DVD box set featuring her many appearances on the “Best Ten” music show entered the Oricon charts at No.2. In her heyday, she was one of three pop starlets referred to as the “Hana no Naka 3 Trio.” Songs by the other two, Mori Mitsuko (51) and Sakurada Junko (51), are already available online, and Yamaguchi is believed to be the last of the Showa Era legends to go fully digital. Ironically, during her 7-year career, she never had a No.1 album and only four No.1 singles on the Oricon charts. But in 1978 she was popular enough to become the first – and still the only – teenager to be given the “tori” (headliner) position in NHK’s annual “Kohaku Uta Gassen” concert.

Yagira Yuya, Ellie Toyota Wed

Yagira Yuya, Ellie Toyota

Acclaimed young actor Yagira Yuya (19) and actress Ellie Toyota (21) are hitched. They filed their marriage registration forms yesterday, Toyota’s birthday, and will hold their wedding ceremony in Tokyo today. The couple, who are both with the same Stardust Promotions management agency, announced their engagement at the beginning of December. Toyota plans to continue her career, though she has a much lower profile than Yagira. In 2004 he became the youngest ever, and the first Japanese, winner of the Best Actor award at the Cannes International Film Festival. His role in the Koreeda Hirokazu movie “Daremo Shiranai” (Nobody Knows) launched a movie career that seemed destined for great heights. After a drug overdose in August 2008 that derailed his career it seemed that success may have come too early, but Yagira got things back on track and even found time to write his first novel. Last year, he starred in “The Shock Labyrinth,” the first feature-length 3D movie made in Japan. His most recent work is the movie “Subete wa Umi ni Naru,” which co-stars Sato Eriko and opens on January 23. Toyota, whose father is British, got her showbiz start in the idol group Snappeas. She made her big screen debut in the 2006 movie “Youkina Gang ga Chikyu wo Mawasu.”

• Actor Okumura Koen died last month, it was revealed yesterday. He was 79. Known for playing a corpse in the movie “O-Soshiki” (Funeral), a role for which he trained himself to hold his breath for several minutes, he ironically died of respiratory failure at a Tokyo hospital on December 24. He was an acclaimed supporting actor on the big screen, perhaps most notably in the movies of director Itami Juzo, in TV dramas and in the theater.