Monthly Archives: April 2010

Despite Cancer, Hazama Vows to Finish Earth Marathon

Hazama Kampei, Earth Marathon

Talento Hazama Kampei (60) is taking a medical break from his mammoth Earth Marathon, it was announced yesterday. Since December 2008, he has been running and sailing almost non-stop in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Having crossed the Pacific, North America, the Atlantic and Europe, in January he was discovered to have prostate cancer. After much discussion and deliberation, he decided to keep running while his medical team administered hormonal treatment. He got as far as Turkmenistan yesterday, crossing the border from Turkey on Day 484. But because the country lacks sufficient medical services, it was decided that Hazama would travel to the U.S. tomorrow and spend the next two months undergoing treatment there under a Japanese doctor. He is scheduled to visit the cancer center at the University of California in San Fransisco.

Hazama was quick to reassure his fans and supporters, “My condition hasn’t suddenly got worse, so please don’t worry. I made this ecision so that I will be able to complete the Earth Marathon. And I also made this decision for myself.” But there are concerns about the effect of a 2-month layoff. Even if he starts running again at the end of June as planned, he still has some 4,000km to go.

Earlier stories:
Even Cancer Can’t Stop Kampei’s Earth Marathon (Jan. 14, 2010)

Takeshi Bringing Outrage to Cannes

Kitano Takeshi, Shiina Kippei, Outrage

The latest movie from Kitano Takeshi (63, photo left) has been selected to compete at this year’s 63rd Cannes International Film Festival. Kitano is one of Japan’s most successful filmmakers on the international circuit and enjoys huge popularity in Europe. He was recently presented with France’s top honor for the arts and currently has an art exhibition at the Fondation Cartier in Paris. But this is only the second time he’s had a competitive entry at Cannes. The first was “Kikujiro no Natsu” back in 1999.

The Cannes appearance will certainly add to the hype for “Outrage,” which marks Kitano’s return to the action and violence genre that established him as a top moviemaker. 2003’s “Zatoichi” was his last R-15 rating, and that mixed music and dance numbers with a classic samurai tale. “Outrage” is a full-on yakuza flick, with lots of betrayal, mind games, and bloody violence. Kitano said, “It’s my first violent movie in a while, so I think there’s a lot of expectation. I’m looking forward to the audience reaction.” As well as Kitano himself, the strong cast includes Shiina Kippei (photo right), Kase Ryo, and Miura Tomokazu.

The movie is scheduled to open in Japanese theaters on June 12 but the Cannes audience will get to see it a month sooner as the festival runs May 12-23. It will be up against such entries as “Another Year” (Mike Leigh), Poetry (Lee Chang-dong), and “Burnt by the Sun 2” (Nikita Mikhalkov). President of the jury this year is director Tim Burton.
Earlier stories:
Kitano Takeshi Receives Top French Honor (Mar. 11, 2010)

Yoshitaka Dumps Tamaki for Flumpool Bassist?

Yoshitaka Yuriko, Flumpool

It seems that actress Yoshitaka Yuriko (21, photo left) has split with actor Tamaki Hiroshi (30) and has already moved on. A source close to Tamaki told the Sankei Sports newspaper that the pair split up about a month ago. Meanwhile, today’s issue of the “Josei Seven” weekly magazine includes shots of Yoshitaka on a recent date with Amakawa Genki (25, photo bottom left), bassist with the rock band Flumpool. After enjoying the cherry blossoms and dinner at a local izakaya restaurant, they returned to Amakawa’s apartment. Asked to comment on the relationship, management for Yoshitaka said the pair are just good friends and had stayed up late playing video games!

Yoshitaka and Tamaki started dating after they worked together on the 2009 TBS drama “Love Shuffle.” But their mutually busy TV and movie schedules, and Tamaki’s music career, kept them apart for long periods. In an Oricon poll last year of the most promising actresses for 2010, Yoshitaka was ranked No.1.

Stylist Lashes Out at Yamamoto Taro & His Mother
A former stylist for actor Yamamoto Taro (35) has claimed that she was swindled and physically abused by his mother. An interview in today’s issue of the weekly magazine “Shukan Bunshun,” includes the claim that the woman was ripped off to the tune of ¥18 million in salary deductions and fines. Management for Yamamoto say the claims are false and they are preparing a libel case against the woman, who they say was incompetent.

Kato Noriko on the Verge of Divorce
Talento Kato Noriko (37) and creative director Wakatsuki Kiyoshio (48) are said to be negotiating the terms of their divorce. The couple tied the knot on New Year’s Day 2006 after a romance of just a few months. They have no children, though at the time of their marriage Kato said she wanted to start a family.

Kato started out as a teen aidoru in 1991 and made her solo music debut the following year. She landed her first TV drama starring role in 1997. In her late 20s she spent a few years studying in France before returning to work full-time in Japanese showbiz in 2002.

UPDATE: In a fax sent to the media this afternoon, Kato acknowledged that she and Wakatsuki have formally filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences in their values and lifestyles.

Radiohead Pitch In for New Matsu Takako Movie


In a first for a Japanese production, alternative Brit rockers Radiohead are contributing the theme song for the Matsu Takako movie “Kokuhaku.” The 2009 Grammy Award winners have agreed for the song “Last Flowers,” to be used as the movie’s theme. A live version of the song was included as a bonus track on overseas editions of the band’s 2007 album “In Rainbows” but it has never been released in Japan.


“Kokuhaku” (Confession) is adapted from the 2009 bestselling mystery novel by Minato Kanae, which won the 2009 Honya Taisho award. If the movie lives up to its trailer, Matsu (35), who was chosen as the Best Actress at this year’s Japan Academy Awards, will have enhanced her solid reputation yet again. She plays a junior high school teacher who, after her infant daughter is found dead, seeks revenge against the two students that she believes carried out the murder. The plot evolves through a series of confessions and the movie also addresses some heavy social themes such as HIV, “ijime” (bullying) and “hikikomori” (social withdrawal). With Nakashima Tetsuya directing, the movie looks to have the visual flair of his other films, which include “Kamikaze Girls” and “Memories of Matsuko.” The movie is scheduled for release on June 5.

Watch the trailer for Kokuhaku on YouTube.

Lady Gaga Loves Her Little Japanese Monsters

Lady Gaga

American singer-songwriter Lady Gaga (24) touched down at Narita International Airport yesterday with a very visible message for all her fans in Japan. In addition to her usual tattoos, her left arm displayed a hand-written message in Japanese: “I love little monsters,” a reference to her pet name for her fans. A closer look at the katakana reveals that it was likely written by a Japanese person rather than the star herself. Similar messages (“I love small monsters” and “Tokyo love”) were written in black pen on her extremely expensive Hermes “Birkin” bag. Renowned for her outlandish fashion sense, she wore an outfit that seemed inspired by both kabuki stage wear and the tobi style worn by Japanese construction workers.

The singer headed to Kobe for the first of five shows in Japan. After three nights at Kobe World, she will play Yokohama Arena on Saturday and Sunday.

Wedding Bells and Babies

Yanagiya Karoku, Uchida Kyoko, Sawamura Ikki

Rakugo-ka Yanagiya Karoku (38, photo left) announced yesterday that he got married on Sunday. Speaking with reporters after a memorial service in Tokyo for the late shikaisha Tamaoki Hiroshi, he said that his new bride (42) was an ippanjin who was originally a fan. “She is very good at looking after my eight apprentices. She’s well suited to being the wife of a rakugo-ka.” The couple started dating last summer, just a few months after Yanagiya ended his 7-year marriage to fellow rakugo-ka Hayashiya Kikuhime (39). He is the grandson of Yanagiya Kosan (1915-2002), the first rakugo-ka to be named as a Living National Treasure.

Babies for Ucchi, Sawamura
Popular former Fuji TV announcer Uchida Kyoko (33, photo center) posted on her blog last night that she gave birth to a baby boy yesterday morning. Popularly known by the nickname Ucchi, she married a Yoshimoto Kogyo employee (36) in July, 2006.

Meanwhile, actor Sawamura Ikki (42, photo right) revealed in today’s issue of the “Josei Jishin” weekly magazine that his wife is expecting their third child at the end of this month. Dad’s on the small screen from this Friday starring in the catchily-titled new TV Asahi detective series “Keishichou Shissoka – Takashiro Kengo.”

Inoue Hisashi Dies at 75

Inoue Hisashi, Hokuyo

Inoue Hisashi (photo left), one of the major figures in modern Japanese literature, died of lung cancer last Friday night. He was 75. A playwright, screenwriter and novelist, he was best known for his comic fiction. His most famous works include the 1981 novel “Kirikirijin” (The People of Kirikiri) and the classic 1960s NHK puppet show “Hyokkori Hyoutanjima.” His beginnings were a little more colorful though – his father died when he was four and he was brought up in a Christain children’s home. While a student at Sophia University in Tokyo, he made his literary debut writing scripts for the famous France-za strip club in downtown Asakusa.

Inoue started collecting awards early on and they included the top Naoki Prize in 1972 for his novel “Tegusari Shinju” (Handcuffed Double Suicide). “Kirikirijin” earned him the Yomiuri Literary Prize, the Japan Science Fiction Award and the Seiun Award. He served as president of the Japan P.E.N. Club from 2003 to 2007.

According to his family, he was diagnosed with lung cancer last October and started undergoing treatment the following month. He made enough of a recovery to be back at work in February and his own theater group, Komatsu-za, was planning to put on a new play in August.

Happy Days for Hokuyo Duo
Just days after her comedy partner got engaged on a TV show, Ito Saori (35, photo right) has gone one better. On last Wednesday’s edition of the “Haneru no Tobira” comedy show, Abukawa Mihoko (35, photo center) proposed to her chef boyfriend and he said yes. But Ito and Toray Arrows captain Shinoda Ayumu (30) are expected to actually tie the knot as early as today. The 193cm Shinoda spoke to reporters yesterday after Toray played in this season’s 3rd-place playoff. He said they made the decision to get hitched after Toray won the Japanese Volleyball Premier League last year. Ito is likely to reveal her feelings on this week’s edition of “Haneru…” She and Abukawa make up the popular duo Hokuyo.
Earlier story:
Abu-chan’s Wacky Wedding Ring (Apr. 8, 2010)

Delico Kumi Ties the Knot
Also newly married is Kumi (33) vocalist of the pop band Love Psychedelico. She announced on her blog at the weekend that she and her hubby, who she describes only as a 43-year-old “ippanjin” (someone not in showbiz), tied the knot on March 9. Management for Kumi said the couple were dating for about a year and have no plans for a formal wedding or reception. Love Psychedelico are scheduled to start a nationwide tour on June 26 in Fukuoka, their first since 2007.

NHK Keeps Yoda in the Game

Yoda Tsuyoshi

At his regular press conference yesterday, NHK chairman Fukuchi Shigeo (75) said that the public network had no plans to fire sports announcer Yoda Tsuyoshi (44, photo). A weekly gossip magazine recently revealed that the married Yoda was having an affair with a flight attendant, and that she had aborted a pregnancy. Yoda appeared as usual on the “Sunday Sports” show last weekend, after the story was published.

Yoda joined the Chunichi Dragons baseball team as a No.1 draft pick pitcher in 1989 and had a hugely successful first season in 1990. He set a Japan Pro Baseball record with a 157km/h pitch in August of that year, recorded 31 saves, a record for a rookie, and made the All Star game. He was recognized with Rookie of the Year and Best Relief Pitcher awards. But the physical strain of pitching relief took its toll and Yoda never saw the same level of success again. From 1996, he bounced around between several teams until retiring in 2000. He married former TBS announcer Kiba Hiroko (45) in 1992.

Komuro Tetsuya Back in the Studio

Komuro Tetsuya, AAA

Producer Komuro Tetsuya (51, photo center, profile) is continuing his gradual comeback to the music scene. Serving a suspended prison sentence last May, when he was found guilty of fraud, he got back to work in February, performing a solo concert. Yesterday he announced his first releases as a producer since his wife Keiko’s solo album “O-Crazy Luv” in 2008. The two songs are by the 7-member group AAA (Triple A). “Aitai Riyu” is released as a download today, while “Dream After Dream/Yume Kara Sameta Yume” comes out on April 14. The tracks will be released as a the double-A side single on May 5. “Aitai…” is a medium-tempo ballad with lyrics by Kyasu Morizuki, best known as a writer for Do As Infinity; the dance pop number “Dream…” is a collaboration with Kenn Kato, who has worked with Exile since their 2001 debut.

Komuro has written some 60 songs over the last six or seven months and the Avex label asked him to work with AAA in order to help them “move up a notch.”
Earlier stories:
Komuro Gets Off With Suspended Sentence (May 1, 2009)

Abu-chan’s Wacky Wedding Ring
Comedienne Abukawa Mihoko (35) made one of the strangest marriage proposals on last night’s edition of the “Haneru no Tobira” comedy show. After surviving three rounds in the ring with boxer Stephanie Dobbs (29), ranked No.5 WBC light flyweight in the world, she earned the chance to propose to her boyfriend of two years. Masuya Shuichiro (37), owner-chef of the Osteria Lucca Italian restaurant in Tokyo, was seated ringside with another 400 people, but knew nothing of the plan. Abukawa said, “Please make me your wife!” and the unsuspecting Masuya immediately said, “If you’ll have me, I’d be honored.” “Abu-chan” is one half of the comedy duo Hokuyo, along with Ito Saori (35).

Japan Loses Two Veteran Directors

Izu no Odoriko, Ninjagari

The Japanese movie industry lost a pair of its veteran directors in the last week.

Nishikawa Katsumi died at a Tokyo hospital of pneumonia on the morning of April 6. He was 91. Nishikawa joined Shochiku’s studios in Ofuna in 1939 and spent 13 years working as an assistant director before landing his first directorial job. He moved to Nikkatsu in 1954 and in the following years he helped shape the career of a young Yoshinaga Sayuri (65) and Takahashi Hideki (66) in movies like 1963’s “Aoi Sanmyaku” and “Izu no Odoriko” (poster left) and the late Ishihara Yujiro (1934-87) in “Wakai Hito” (1962). In the 1970s, he directed the golden couple of Yamaguchi Momoe (51) and Miura Tomokazu (58), who would later marry, in movies such as “Shiosai” (1975) and “Shunkinsho” (1976). In 2001, his hometown in Tottori Prefecture built a memorial hall in his honor.

Director and screenwriter Yamanouchi Tetsuya died of heart failure at his home in Hiroshima Prefecture on March 3, it was revealed yesterday. He was 75. After graduating university in 1957, Yamanouchi joined the Toei studio, and made his directorial debut with “Ninjagari” (poster right) in 1964. He is best known for turning out “jidaigeki” or period dramas for the big and small screen, though he often spiced things up with elements of horror and science fiction. He worked on the popular “Mito Komon” and “Oh-oka Echizen” TV series.