Monthly Archives: May 2010

Kabuki Stars on the Hakata River

Kabuki stars on the Hakata River

Thousands of residents of Fukuoka turned out yesterday to watch some veteran kabuki stars take to the Hakata River in what has become an annual ritual. Sakata Toujuro IV (78) and other cast members of the upcoming production at the Hakata-za theater were fortunate enough to have beautiful spring weather as they sailed down the river in 10 small boats. Some 40,000 fans ans passersby cheered from the banks and bridges across the river, which runs through Fukuoka. The kabuki production starts from June 2.

Stardust Revue Make Guinness Book
The rock band Stardust Revue have been recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records. In 2001, the band performed 101 songs at a folk festival in Tsumagoi, Shizuoka Prefecture, in sweltering summer heat. That total has been recognized as the most ever by an artist in a 24-hour period. Vocalist Nemoto Kaname (53) announced the news yesterday on the last night of the band’s latest concert tour. They celebrate 30 years in the business next year.

Aika Mire Fighting Fit
Former top Takarazuka star Aika Mire (45) was looking healthy yesterday as she promoted an autobiography detailing her battle with cancer. Appearing at the Book 1st store in Nishi-Shinjuku, Tokyo, she talked about how she has fought to regain her health after being diagnosed with malignant lymphoma in March 2008. The disease is a type of cancer involving cells of the immune system, but Aika underwent chemotherapy that allowed her to return to work by August 2008. She currently goes for testing once every three months, but she insists she’s feeling great. “I hope this book will be a source of strength for people with the same condition.” She added, “When I had to step down from a theater production because of illness, it was a huge shock. But it also reminded me how much I love this job.” Aika retired from Takarazuka in 2001 and has since worked on stage and TV. She and her husband (36) married on New Year’s Day of 2009.

MatsuJun Steps Into Spotlight

Matsumoto Jun, Takeuchi Yuko

Matsumoto Jun (26, photo left) may be stepping out of the shadow of Kimura Takuya (37). Both are members of Johnny’ Jimusho idol groups, of which KimuTaku’s SMAP are the still hugely popular veterans, while MatsuJun and Arashi are being carefully groomed as the next dominant force. One indication of this is yesterday’s announcement that Matsumoto has landed the lead role in a Monday night drama series on Fuji TV, making him the first Arashi member to do so.

The 9pm time slot is considered the most prestigious of all, and it was in that time slot that Kimura achieved audience ratings among the highest of modern times with shows like “Beautiful Life” (TBS, 2000) and “Hero” (Fuji, 2001). This spring, Fuji put Kimura in the spotlight with “Tsuki no Koibito” but as with his other recent dramas, ratings have been good rather than spectacular. So, attention will shift to how Matsumoto does in the romantic “Natsu no Koi ha Nijiiro ni Kagayaku.” His love interest will be provided by always solid Takeuchi Yuko (30, photo right).

Matsumoto said, “I’ve been watching Monday night dramas on Fuji TV since I was a kid. So it’s a great honor but also a lot of pressure. I will do my best to live up to it.” The story is an original from Ohmori Mika (38), who wrote last year’s basketball drama “Buzzer Beat.” Matsumoto will play a struggling actor trying to get out of the shadow of his famous actor father.

Babies and Wedding Bells

Nagasaku Hiromi, Tsuji Nozomi

Some happy news for celebrities this week. Management for actress Nagasaku Hiromi (39, photo left) announced yesterday that she gave birth to her first child on May 18. They said that she and her baby boy have already left the Tokyo hospital. Nagasaku is taking some maternity leave but plans to return to her career. She and filmmaker Naito Maro (40) met in 2005 when he directed her in a TV commercial and they got married last year.

Talento and former Morning Musume member Tsuji Nozomi (22, photo right) is expecting her second child, her management announced yesterday. She and actor Sugiura Taiyo (29) have been married since June 2007 and had a baby girl the following November. Tsuji posted on her blog recently that she was feeling unwell and thought she had a cold, but it turned out to be good news. Since becoming a young mother, she has used that image on TV, in producing baby goods, and writing essays and a cooking book. In a survey last year that asked junior and senior high school girls to name their ideal mother, Tsuji ranked No.1.

And there’s what’s described as a “wedding rush” over at TV Asahi. World Cup commentator Kakuzawa Teruji (39) is engaged to marry an ippanjin on June 11, just before the big soccer event kicks off. Meanwhile, Nogami Shinpei (25) and joshiana Yagi Masako (24), both presenters on the network’s “Super J Channel” show, are to tie the knot as well. Three other TV Asahi announcers have revealed wedding plans in the last couple of months.

Tipsy Tamaki Comes Home Alone

Tamaki Koji

The media have been speculating on why rock star Tamaki Koji (51) came back to Japan alone yesterday. He and his new girlfriend, talento and former pin-up girl Aota Noriko (42), made no attempt to hide their romance as they flew to Hong Kong together at the weekend. Tamaki was scheduled to do PR there for the upcoming Asian concert tour by his band Anzen Chitai. But he arrived at Narita Airport solo yesterday, clearly the worse for drink and not too happy with reporters’ constant questioning about his relationship. There has been speculation that Tamaki is trying to persuade Aota to quit the Oscar Promotion management agency, who were angry about his recent explicit statements on their relationship.

“I told you, I’m Anzen Chitai! I’m not Aota” he repeated time and again. “I’m not a geinojin, I’m a singer!” And to prove his point he grabbed a microphone and sang a few bars before piling into a waiting car.

TV Asahi’s Takeuchi-ana Engaged
TV Asahi joshiana Takeuchi Emi (33) is engaged to be married, it was revealed yesterday. her fiance is described as a 33-year-old ippanjin who works in the sports industry. They are said to have met through work five years ago and romance began last year. They plan to hold a wedding ceremony next winter. Takeuchi is currently working as the sports presenter on the “Houdou Station” nightly news show.

Mori Masako Out of Hospital

Mori Masako

Singer Mori Masako (51) underwent surgery earlier this month to have her womb removed, it was announced yesterday. She had been suffering severe menopausal disorders for the last few years and was diagnosed with uterine myoma and adenomyosis. After the operation, she suffered from internal bleeding and had to undergo further surgery. After a period of rehabilitation, she was released from the Tokyo hospital yesterday. She said through a spokesperson, “I hope I can be a source of strength to other people who are suffering from the same condition.”

She will get back to work on June 1, when she is due to record the TV Tokyo music show “Nihon Zenkoku kayo Data Show.” She will perform two songs, “Kanashimi Honsen Nihonkai” and “Kodomo-tachi no Sakura.” A week later, she will appear on a live NHK music show.

Kitano Suffers Outrageous Fortune at Cannes

Kitano Takeshi, Outrage

Though he is a widely respected film director, especially in France, the critics there came out in force against the latest offering from Kitano Takeshi. “Outrage” marks his return to the violent yakuza theme of his earlier successes and it had a good enough reputation to be entered for competition at the 63rd Cannes International Film Festival. But yesterday’s big announcement of the first ever Thai winner of the Palm D’Or was accompanied by terrible reviews for Kitano’s flick in the French newspapers.

Le Monde called it “his worst ever film,” and said the “depiction of excessive violence was grotesque,” while Figaro couldn’t understand why it had even been entered in the competition in the first place.

Cannes ended on a happier note for director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who became the first Thai winner of the top prize with “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.”

Kekkon Ka! Toshi Ties the Knot
Taka and Toshi

Comedian Toshi (33, photo right) recently married his high school sweetheart, it was announced yesterday. He and his new bride have been living together since they moved down to Tokyo from Hokkaido in 2002, and they finally tied the knot on May 7. Described as a 33-year-old ippanjin, she is said to have worked in the apparel business to support Toshi’s dream of making it in showbiz. He did that as one half of the duo Taka and Toshi, who are now regulars on the variety TV circuit.

A Busy Weekend for Erika
Sawajiri Erika, Yamada Yuu

Actress Sawajiri Erika (24) had two big events over the weekend. On Saturday, she went for the sexy look (photo left) as she appeared at the “GirlsAward2010” music and fashion event, her first performance in almost 3 years. She also gave fans their first listen to her new song “Treasure.” On Sunday she toned it down just a bit for her brother’s wedding and reception in Tokyo (photo center). Sawajiri’s estranged husband, Takashiro Tsuyoshi (45) was nowhere to be seen.

Big Drama Role for Yamada Yuu
Model-turned-actress Yamada Yuu (25, photo right) has landed her first leading role in a TV drama series. She will star in TV Asahi’s summer series “Gakepucchi no Elie.” The series is based on the turbulent early career of popular manga-ka Saibara Rieko (45).

Tamaki, Aota Love on Parade
Rock star Tamaki Koji (51) and former pin-up idol Aota Noriko (42) are not being shy about their relationship. They were spotted together in public for the first time at Narita Airport yesterday as they headed for Hong Kong, where Tamaki was to appear at a press conference to announce the upcoming Asia concert tour by his band Anzen Chitai. Asked about their wedding plans, Tamaki said they didn’t have any yet, but said “We’re living together. We’re having sex.”

The couple are living in a newly-built luxury skyrise apartment complex in the Tokyo district of Nishi-Shinjuku. Their home is described as a 2LDK (2-bedroom) place with rent of about ¥800,000 ($9000) a month, though that is less than a third the cost of the building’s penthouse.

Actresses Put the Past Behind Them

Yada Akiko, Sakaguchi Kenji

A couple of popular actresses are putting messy marriages behind them and focusing on their careers. Yada Akiko (31, photo left) and actor Sakaguchi Kenji (34, photo right) were at the Fuji TV studios in Odaiba, Tokyo yesterday to promote their upcoming detective drama special. “Keiji, Narusawa – Tokyo Tero Shijosaiyaku no 24-jikan” features the pair as detectives who have 24 hours to save 13 million Tokyo residents from a terrorist bomb threat. Sakaguchi said he studied Bruce Willis in the “Die Hard” series for hints on how to portray a tough but injured detective realistically. The drama will air on May 29.

Yada’s public appearance was her first in four years, during which time she married, had a son with, and then divorced actor Oshio Manabu (32). She also watched as he was arrested on drug charges and in connection with the death of a Ginza hostess.
Earlier stories:
Yada Akiko Back to Work, Talks About Ex (Mar. 18, 2010)
Yada Akiko Divorces Oshio Manabu (Aug. 8, 2009)

Erika Gets Back to Work
Actress Sawajiri Erika (24) will perform her new song “Treasure” on Saturday, as she also makes a formal return to work. In her first professional engagement since the recent media attention around her divorce plans, she will appear at the “GirlsAward2010” fashion event in Tokyo. “Treasure,” a dance track produced by Japanese house production duo Studio Apartment, has English lyrics and is dedicated to Sawajiri’s brother, who is getting married on Sunday. It will be available for free download from her official website between May 22-31.

Sawajiri has had a rough couple of years in terms of her career, and after her marriage to hypermedia creator Takashiro Tsuyoshi (45) at the end of 2008, she seemed to be focused elsewhere. But the last couple of months have seen her announce a comeback to the Japanese showbiz scene and her intention to divorce Takashiro.
Earlier stories:
Sawajiri Erika Confirms Divorce Rumor (Apr. 28, 2010)

Yasuoka Rikiya Back on His Feet

Yasuoka Rikiya, Yoshioka Osamu, Ishikawa Sayuri

Actor Yasuoka Rikiya (62, photo left) has made a tentative return to work after a four-year struggle with illness. Yesterday he appeared on the TV Asahi talk show “Tetsuko no Heya” and spoke about his with Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder affecting the peripheral nervous system.

He first noticed signs of a problem four years ago. “One day, when I tried to stand up, I collapsed like a jellyfish,” he said. He found he had no strength in the arms and legs and was diagnosed with the condition days later. “My body was numb and I felt like I was being compressed. It was scary.” He was also found to have a respiratory problem and was put on an artificial respirator. He spent the best part of two years confined to bed looking “like a dog’s breakfast,” a condition he was too embarrassed to let anyone but his family see. He has yet to make a full recovery but can hold a cup with both hands and can walk with the aid of a hydraulic harness and a cane.

Lyricist Yoshioka Osamu Dies at 76
Lyricist Yoshioka Osamu (photo right) died yesterday afternoon in Tokyo, a week after he was hospitalized with thyroiditis. He was 76. He had been in good health, and was a candidate to become chairman of the Japanese Lyricists Association. One of the singers closest to Yoshioka, enka star Ishikawa Sayuri (52, photo right) said she was too shocked by the news to make a comment. Among her hits penned by Yoshioka was “Amagigoe” (1986), which also became a theme song for MLB superstar Ichiro in the 2008 season. The 1982 single “Sazankano Yado” was a million-seller for Ohkawa Eisaku (61).

Mitamura Kunihiko Another Late Bloomer

Mitamura Kunihiko, Yoshiki

Actor Mitamura Kunihiko (56, photo left) is the latest celebrity in his 50s to show that romance can bloom late in showbiz life. He announced yesterday that he and a 30-year-old ippanjin from Kyoto registered their marriage on Saturday after a five-year relationship. She formerly worked for a TV production company in Osaka but now lives with Mitamura in Tokyo. Without wanting to sound cynical, the marriage announcement was timed to coincide with Mitamura’s recording of his first new single in 16 years. He married actress Nakayama Mari (62) in 1979 after they had appeared together in his movie debut. But they separated in 1996 following his affair with actress Takahashi Kaori (34) in 1996, and divorced in 1999.

Mitamura follows in the footsteps of actor Ishida Junichi (56) and talento Moto Fuyuki (59) who got married recently. Singer Tamaki Koji (51) also announced a romance with a former pin-up girl last week.

X Japan’s Yoshiki at Chicago Anime Fest
X Japan leader Yoshiki was a surprise guest at the Anime Central in Chicago 2010 event yesterday (photo right). He spoke about the rock band’s upcoming shows in Yokohama and their eagerly awaited appearance at Lollapalooza in August. The band are scheduled to play on August 8, the last day of the festival, two acts before headliners Soundgarden. Their setlist includes the first performance of the new song “Born to Be Free.” A week later, they’ll head home to play two shows for 150,000 fans at the Nissan Stadium in Yokohama.

Jaywalk Singer Gets Suspended Drug Sentence


Jaywalk vocalist Nakamura Kouichi (59, photo foreground) was handed a 2-year prison sentence, suspended for four years at the Tokyo District Court yesterday. The singer was arrested last month when Tokyo Metropolitan police found a small amount of “kakuseizai,” or stimulant drugs, in his parked car in Nishi Azabu. They later found quantities of marijuana and cocaine and drug paraphernalia when they searched his home. In handing down his sentence yesterday, the judge said, “You continued your drug use in spite of the growing social condemnation of the drug problem in the entertainment business. I want you to ensure that you never again betray the people who have found solace and courage in your music.” Nakamura replied simply, “I understand” and bowed deeply.

He later spoke briefly with reporters and offered an apology to his supporters and fans. “For the sake of the band and my dear family, I will do my utmost to be able to sing once again in front of those who have loved Jaywalk.” he plans to enter rehabilitation for a couple of months before living in Nagoya with his common-law wife, talento Yano Kiyomi (48).

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. Nakamura was previously arrested in 2007 for having an army knife in his car, in violation of the Firearm Control Law.

You the Rock Imprisoned
Meanwhile, musician You the Rock was given an 8-month prison sentence at the Yokohama District Court yesterday. He was arrested for marijuana possession in February. As he previously received a suspended sentence in 2005, the judge decided that prison time was called for. During the hearing, he said he planned to quit showbiz and was undergoing ascetic practice at a Buddhist temple in Nagano City.
Earlier story:
You The Rock Busted (Feb. 12 , 2010)