Major talent management agency Sun Music won a minor legal dispute at the Tokyo District Court yesterday. The agency sued Osaka-based movie production company Be Wild Co. Ltd. for ¥6.4 million in performance and management fees owed to Sun Music, actor Tsukamoto Takashi (27, photo left) and talento Cunning Takayama (38, photo right). The two filmed supporting roles in the movie “Nakumonka” in February of last year, for which Tsukamoto was due to be paid ¥5.46 million and Takayama ¥315,000. The movie played in theaters nationwide last November. Set in downtown Tokyo, the story about two brothers separated at an early age, was based on a screenplay by multiple award winner Kudo Kankuro (39).
At yesterday’s first oral proceedings, lawyers for Be Wild acknowledged the plaintiff’s debt claim and formally signed documents to that effect, bringing the case to a close.
Celebs Need Driving Crash Course?
Tegoshi Yuya (22), a member of popular Johnny’s Jimusho idol group NEWS, recently caused a minor traffic accident, Tokyo police revealed yesterday. Tegoshi was driving his car out of a parking lot when he hit the rear of a taxi. Neither driver was injured. Tegoshi is currently a distance learning student of human science at Waseda University.
And actress Hirosue Ryoko (29) was on her way to her son’s kindergarten when she collided with another car yesterday morning, according to Tokyo police. There were no injuries.
Well, here’s an interesting way to hype a rock concert. Gackt (36) announced yesterday that his show at Club Citta in Kawasaki on Sunday will be a guys-only affair. That means no female crew or staff and no female members of the audience. Organizers have reportedly set up an examination room to deal with any suspicious ticket holders. Gackt says the move is his attempt to reverse the recent trend among Japanese guys to shun traditional male stereotypes and get in touch with their feminine side. The trend is encapsulated in the phrase “soushokukei danshi, nikushokukei joshi” which translates as “grass-eating guys, meat-eating girls,” and with his origins being in the visual-kei rock scene, Gackt himself has been a style leader for that scene.
Saotome Embarks on New Road
In his own way, popular young actor Saotome Taichi (18, photo left) is another example of gender bending in Japan. Not only does he perform dressed as a kimono-clad female (photo right), but he is so totally convincing that his onnagata dance has won him legions of female fans. Now it seems that he is leaving behind the woman who helped make him a star. Saito Chieko (84), chairwoman of the Asakusa Rock-za theater, said yesterday that Otome has refused to renew his contract with her management agency, which expires at the end of this month, and has already found new representation. A spokesperson for the Meiji-za theater in Tokyo said they knew nothing of the matter and that Saotome would perform there as scheduled from April 1.
AKB48 Fan Meet is Canceled
An event where fans would have a chance to meet members of the popular idol group AKB48 was canceled after ticket fraud was discovered. Fans were to meet the five members of spinoff group “Watarirouka Hashiritai” at an “akushukai” (shake hands meeting) in Nagoya on Wednesday. The event, to promote their new single, was called off due to what organizers described as the “theft of used tickets and the use of forged tickets.”
Actress Yada Akiko (31) has finally spoken about the multiple arrests of her ex-husband, former actor Oshio Manabu (31), first on drug charges and later in relation to the death of a Ginza bar hostess. Speaking to the Sports Hochi newspaper, she said, “I didn’t even have suspicions about (Oshio’s drug use). I blame myself for being blind to that.” Oshio was arrested last August and received a suspended prison sentence for the drug charges. Yada divorced him just days after his arrest, though they had already been separated for some time. Oshio was re-arrested at the end of the year once the Tokyo police had built a case against him regarding the death of Tanaka Kaori. That trial is ongoing.
After an absence from the screen of about a year, Yada is finally making a comeback in an upcoming TV drama. “The fact that I have my son is what helps me carry on,” she said. “Being a mother makes you strong.” She and Oshio met in 2005 on the set of the movie “Yume de Aimashou” and married at the end of 2006. They had a son, Liamu, a year later.
Futaba Yuriko Announces Retirement
Enka singer Futaba Yuriko (78) has announced an end to her 75-year career. She held a press conference in Tokyo yesterday and said she will retire from the end of this month. She insisted that the decision is not because of health reasons and is something she first considered around 1994. “I want to retire while I still have my voice and my vitality.” Futaba started her career at the age of three, but is best known for her 1972 hit “Ganpei no Haha,” which sold over 2.5 million 123movies.
Suzanne and the Baseball Star
Talento Suzannu (23) is dating baseball player Saito Kazumi (32), according to this week’s issue of the magazine “Friday.” The pair were photographed on a date earlier this month in the beach resort of Shonan. Suzannu’s management agency has acknowledged the romance, while the Softbank Fukuoka Hawks have said their former star pitcher is focused on making a comeback for the upcoming season. Saito was the best pitcher in the Pacific League in 2003 and 2006 but has missed the last two seasons following shoulder surgery.
Actress Sawajiri Erika (23) made her much anticipated return to the public spotlight yesterday, but still on her terms. She appeared at a press conference for the beauty clinic chain Takano Yuri, for whom she will be pitching product. It’s been two and a half years since she last worked, after her refusal to play the public relations game changed her image from hugely promising actress to spoiled showbiz drama queen. And she was fired by Stardust Promotion last autumn, with the company saying only that she had been in serious breach of her contractual obligations. In between, she married a man twice her age and spent most of her time overseas. As Japan Zone reported, she has recently set up an office in Spain and acquired agents in various countries. So at yesterday’s event, reporters were more interested in her career direction than beauty products.
Asked if she would retract the recently announced legal requirement for media people to sign a six-point agreement before getting access to her press releases, Sawajiri said no. She said she has been surprised by the media backlash against her requiring that reporters respect her privacy and public image. But she was clearly also trying to get back on their good side, bowing and expressing her apology several times. She often choked up and took long pauses as she thanked those who have supported her.
Showbiz Bad Boys (and Girls) on the Comeback Trail (Mar. 4, 2010)
Misaki to be a Mama
Management for Itoh Misaki (32) announced this week that the popular actress is pregnant and expecting a baby in the summer. In a hand-written statement faxed to the media, she said she is six months pregnant and won’t be taking on more new work this year. But she hinted that she plans to continue her career after becoming a mother. Her final pre-maternity gig was to film TV commercials for the Shiseido skin whitening brand “Haku.” The CM will air from early April.
After playing the role of a mother of four in the 2007 movie “Life – Tengokude Kimini Aetara,” Itoh said, “If I get married, I’d like to have lots of kids.” She married Enomoto Yoshinori (42), CEO of major pachinko company Kyoraku Sangyo, last November after a one-year romance, and they held a church wedding and reception in Hawaii.
Popular singer-songwriter Yamazaki Masayoshi (38, photo left) recently got married, it was revealed earlier this month. He is known for keeping his personal life private, and no details are known about his new bride other than she is not in show business. Currently celebrating the 15th anniversary of his debut, Yamazaki has not been the subject a single romantic rumor until now. Among his many hits are “One More Time, One More Chance” and “Serori,” which he wrote for super idol group SMAP. He has also appeared in several movies and TV dramas, and earlier this year co-starred in “Bungo – Nihon Bungaku Drama” on TBS.
TV Asahi announcer Uemiya Nanako (28, photo right) said this morning that she is engaged to a Tokyo-based company employee (30). She made the announcement during a regular appearance on the “Super Morning” show. The couple, who have been dating for about six years, plan to hold a wedding ceremony and reception on April 24. As seems to be the norm, Uemiya made a point of saying she isn’t pregnant and plans to continue her TV career.
X Japan leader Yoshiki (photo left) has spoken publicly for the first time about his ongoing lawsuit against Nexstar Corporation. On March 10, he sued the Tokyo music production company through the Tokyo District Court seeking ¥375 million (about $4 million) in damages. Over the three-year period since X Japan made their comeback, the company is believed to owe at least ¥600 million ($6.7 million) in unpaid contractual fees and royalties, as well as ¥300 million ($3.3 million) for tickets and merchandise from 10 concerts. Speaking from his base in Los Angeles, where he is currently recording, Yoshiki said, “Our relationship of trust has been completely trodden on.”
Nexstar already have a similar unresolved case with Glay, another rock band with a history of legal problems. That lawsuit was filed in 2005 and the failure to resolve it was also behind Yoshiki’s decision to go after the company in court. The case is just the latest legal and financial problem to hit the band. Vocalist Toshi recently divorced, after almost a decade of seeing his money siphoned off by his wife and the scam artist she was living with.
X Japan’s Toshi Breaks Away (Feb. 25, 2010)
Glay Win the Day (Oct. 23, 2009)
The multi-talented Kitano Takeshi (63, profile) was given the highest honor by the French government on Tuesday for his film and artistic works. French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand (photo right) presented the Commander of the Order of the Arts and Letters award at the Fondation Cartier museum in Paris, which is showing Kitano’s artworks to the public from Thursday through Sept. 12. His films will also be screened at the Centre Pompidou museum in Paris for the next three months. Mitterrand lauded the Japanese filmmaker’s extraordinary creativity and saying his work is full of spontaneity and teaches us about the multi-faceted nature of people.
“I have long had a fondness for Paris, which is at the heart of culture. This is like an illusion, a dream,” Kitano said. “I’m not so sure I deserve this honor, but I will do my best to be worthy of it.”
Kitano, still best known at home by his comedian stage name Beat Takeshi, made a dramatic entrance into the world of film directing in 1989 with “Violent Cop.” He went on to make a series of films in which explosive violence is balanced against human drama and artistic sensibilities, including 1997’s “Hana-bi,” which won the Golden Lion for best movie at the Venice Film Festival. His work has regularly been hailed in Europe, event the recent avant garde movies that left most Japanese audiences scratching their heads.
Already regarded as one of the most talented young vocalists in Japanese music, Hirahara Ayaka (25) has been given the nod by none other than Andrew Lloyd Webber (61) in what the local media is calling her “world debut.” The man behind such smash hits as “Cats” and “Evita” opened “Love Never Dies,” his sequel to “Phantom of the Opera,” on London’s West End this week. And it was revealed yesterday that he chose Hirahara to sing the title song on the musical’s album version. She recorded the song in a Tokyo studio in February and Webber was impressed enough to invite her to London for the premiere. “Love Never Dies” is due for release here on March 24.
A couple of numbers from the musical have been publicly performed and released in various forms over the last six months, and the title song has been recorded by Sierra Boggess, who is playing the heroine role of Christine DaaÃ©, and Katherine Jenkins. The Welsh singer was originally invited to provide the album version, but it was decided her mezzo-soprano vocal range didn’t quite fit the bill.
“Love Never Dies” is set 10 years after the original story. In his guise as an anonymous impresario, the Phantom invites Christine to perform at Phantasma, a new attraction in Coney Island. With her husband and son, she travels to Brooklyn…The musical has received mostly scathing reviews, from critics as well as fans of the original.
A couple of bizarre musical groups with a common connection are in the news today. FANTA is a rock quintet with a pretty unusual lineup: former sumo yokozuna (grand champion) Akebono Taro (40) is a Tower of Power on drums; former Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman (47), who’s long since defected to the commercial dark side of J-pop; The Alfee guitarist Takamizawa Toshihiko (55), who leads the band and always looks like he’s stuck in the 1970s; J-pop singer Tanimura Nana (22) adds not just vocals but beauty and considerable cleavage; and on bass is Kishiden frontman Ayanokoji Sho (age unknown).
As the name suggests, the group was created first and foremost to promote a certain soft drink, though the TV commercials currently airing didn’t reveal the band members. Ayanokoji said he hopes the band do well enough that NHK let him back in the “Kohaku Uta Gassen” lineup on New Year’s Eve. A couple of years ago in his guise as DJ Ozma, he was banned from the public network after he and his dancers appeared in bodysuits that fooled TV audiences into thinking they were naked.
Ayanokoji also provides the common link with another outlandish group, Yajima Biyoshitsu (Yazima Beauty Salon). He and comedy duo Tunnels have enjoyed a string of hits since October 2008, performing as a trio of Vegas showgirls who happen to be a mother and her daughters with the names Margaret (Kinashi Noritake, 48), Strawberry (Ishibashi Takaaki, 48) and Naomi (Ayanokoji). They’ve earned enough commercial success that there is now an album out and a movie spinoff due for release April 29, with none other than Matsuda Seiko (48) singing the theme song. The song “Aidoru Mitaini Utawasete” (Let Me Sing Like an Idol), which harkens back to her heyday as Japan’s top idol singer in the 1980s, will be out as a single on April 21.
Rock vocalist Nakamura Kouichi (59, photo center) is the latest celebrity to be arrested for drug possession. According to the Azabu branch of the Tokyo Metropolitan police, Nakamura was found in possession of a very small amount of “kakuseizai” or stimulant drugs in a parked car in Nishi Azabu in the early hours of Tuesday morning. It’s not the first time for the Jaywalk frontman, who has admitted to the charges, to get into trouble with the police. In 2007 he had a case sent to the public prosecutor’s office for having an army knife in his car, in violation of the Firearm Control Law.
One of Japan’s premier rock bands, Jaywalk debuted in 1981 and had their first major hit with “Nanimo Ienai – Natsu” in 1991. That single sold 1.8 million copies, earning the band an appearance on NHK’s annual “Kohaku Uta Gassen” New Year’s Eve concert. They have remained active over the last two decades and released their latest single, “Sora to Kumo noyouni,” in February.
Update: It was revealed today that police found quantities of marijuana and cocaine and drug paraphernalia when they searched Nakamura’s home. They sent the case to the public prosecutor’s office today.