Actor Watanabe Ken (50) was joined by his new BFF, Hollywood superstar Leonardo Dicaprio (35), in Tokyo yesterday at the local premiere of Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi blockbuster “Inception.” About 2,00 fans turned out for the event, held at the Roppongi Hills Arena in the center of the capital. It’s only been a few months since “Leo-sama” was here promoting “Shutter Island,” and the climax of Inception was filmed here last year.
As he has been doing at all events for the latest movie, Dicaprio referred to Watanabe as a Japanese “treasure.” The local boy demured, saying, “It’s not just me. This movie is like the World Cup, with treasures from many different countries.” The movie, which has a diverse international cast, opens in theaters here on July 23.
Johnny’s Jimusho (profile) aidoru group KAT-TUN were minus one member as they kicked off their Asia concert tour (boldly titled “World Tour 2010”) last weekend. Kamenashi Kazuya (24, photo 3rd from right) apologized to fans before the show at Tokyo Dome for the absence of Akanishi Jin (26, photo 3rd from left), who has decided to leave the group and focus on his solo career in the U.S. He said he hadn’t heard anything from his band mate and didn’t even know if he was currently in Japan. The five remaining members performed 34 songs, including their new release, “Going.” The group will perform their first ever overseas concerts in Seoul, South Korea and Taipei, Taiwan, next month.
Akanishi later posted a message on the Johnny’s members website, saying that the main reason he left the group was a “strong difference in musical direction,” rather than any personal problems with the other members.
Director Edagawa Dies at 93
Movie director Edagawa Hiromu died last week at a Tokyo hospital, it was announced on Tuesday. He was 93. He was best known for his comedy movies of the 1950s and 60s, such as “Koi to Kane” and “Salaryman Dontobushi.”
Rock singer Tamaki Koji (51) and talento Aota Noriko (42) got married last Friday. The couple registered their marriage on Friday in Tamaki’s hometown of Asahikawa in Hokkaido. The following day they flew back to Tokyo, where they are living in a plush high-rise apartment building in the Nishi-Shinjuku district.
It’s just two months since their relationship first grabbed the headlines, though it was later revealed that they had dated as long ago as 1989. They broke up shortly before Aota had her showbiz breakthrough as a member of the pin-up group C.C. Girls. The marriage is Aota’s second, while it’s the fifth time around for Tamaki if you include his bizarre relationship and brief marriage with actress Ishihara Mari (46).
Tamaki is currently on tour of Japan and Asia with his band Anzen Chitai. Though Aota’s management has been against the relationship, and especially Tamaki’s frank talk to the media about their sex life, she has put her own career on hold and has been traveling with him on tour. They arrived here in Nagoya yesterday for two shows, and when asked about their plans for children (he has none), Tamaki said, “During the tour, we’ll get right to it!” The tour ends at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on October 6.
Tamaki Koji, Ishihara Mariko Together At Last (Feb. 26, 2009)
Japan Fans Say Sayonara to Korean Star
In a rare case for an overseas celebrity, over 14,000 fans of the late South Korean star Park Yong Ha turned out for a memorial service in Tokyo yesterday. The actor and singer committed suicide at his Seoul home at the end of June. The event was held at the Tokyo International Forum in the center of the capital, the same day and venue where Park had been scheduled to perform in concert. Park’s mother, sister and brother-in-law were in attendance as fans, many of them in tears, brought bouquets of flowers.
Korean Star Park in Apparent Suicide (Jun. 30, 2010)
Visual-kei rock musician Daisuke was found dead yesterday at his Tokyo home, the Sankei Sports newspaper reported today. He was 31. Police from the Yoyogi station are investigating the cause of death. A source revealed that Daisuke attended a meeting the night before and complained that he was unable to sleep.
In 1999 Daisuke was a founding member and vocalist of the rock band Kagerou (photo left), who had a minor hit in 2005 with their catchily-titled 12th single, “Kusatta Umide Oborekaketeru Boku wo Sukutekureta Kimi.” The single was used as the theme for the NTV show “Music Fighter” and topped the Oricon indies chart. The band broke up in 2007 and the singer was recently pursuing a solo project with the band Daisuke to Kurono Injatachi (Daisuke and the Black Hermits). Their second single is due for release edmeds24.com.
99’s Okamura Takes Extended Break
Popular comedian Okamura Takashi (40, photo right) is taking an indefinite leave of absence, according to his management at Yoshimoto Creative Agency. The extended break is said to be for as yet unspecified health reasons. His comedy partner Yabe Hiroyuki (38) will carry on working solo for the time being.
One half of the duo Ninety Nine, the diminutive Okamura is one of those celebrities who seems to always be on TV. His health problem is said to have started in mid-May and a one-man theatrical show scheduled for June and July was postponed. He continued doing some TV work but it was decided that he needed a complete break. He has been undergoing tests at a hospital since July 12. A Yoshimoto spokesperson said, “We are waiting to hear more about what exactly his condition is. He seems fine but is suffering from fatigue.” Okamura’s last appearance was on the “All Night Nippon” radio show on July 8.
Leonardo Dicaprio reckons that his “Inception” co-star Watanabe Ken should be made a national treasure in his homeland. The words of praise were among many thrown around as the latest Christopher Nolan-directed blockbuster premiered yesterday in Los Angeles. Dicaprio (35, photo right) and Watanabe (50, photo center) do not play friends in the dreams-meet-reality world of the science fiction movie, but off-screen the camaraderie between them, Nolan and the other cast members was clear to see. Leo said of his Japanese co-star, “He’s an unbelievably talented actor. He should be a national treasure in Japan.” Also at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood was Watanabe’s wife, actress Minami Kaho (46), and international cast members including Canadian actress Ellen Page (photo center), French actress Marion Cotillard, and Irishman Cillian Murphy. The movie’s soundtrack was written by Hans Zimmer, who gave a dramatic 25-minute performance of music from the film with musicians including guitarist Johnny Marr. The movie is scheduled to open in Japanese theaters on July 23, though Watanabe will be back home to greet audiences at previews this weekend.
Inception Hijacks Japan (Jul. 8, 2010)
New Poster Featuring Leo, Ken (Jun. 21, 2010)
Apologies for a Public Kiss
Actress Kitano Kii (19) has apologized on her blog for the recently published magazine story about her hotel stay with actor Sano Kazuma (21). She wrote, “I apologize sincerely for doing such a frivolous thing.” She added that she was sorry for “surprising and hurting” her fans and that she would focus seriously on her work from now on. The two were photographed kissing on the street and going to a hotel in Tokyo.
Romance for Kitano Kii, Sano Kazuma (Jul. 9, 2010)
In a marketing coup, producers of the movie adaptation of Murakami Haruki’s “Noruwei no Mori” have obtained permission to use the Beatles song from which it takes its name as its closing theme. It is just the second Japanese production to have been granted the honor (the other was Shinoda Masahiro’s “Akuryoto” in 1981), and only the fourth in all. The decision is said to have come after extended negotiations with Apple Records and Sony Music. It is the first time for Murakami’s legendary 1987 novel to be filmed. It has sold over 10 million copies in Japan alone and has been translated into 36 languages.
The story follows businessman Watanabe Toru’s nostalgic recollections of the late 60s, memories revived when he hears the Beatles’ song “Norwegian Wood” while on a flight to Germany. It stars the highly regarded young actors Matsuyama Kenichi (24) and Oscar nominee Kikuchi Rinko (28). Jonny Greenwood of the British rock band Radiohead, who won a Grammy for his soundtrack to the Oscar-winning “There Will Be Blood,” has written the music. With Vietnamese-born French director Tran Anh Hung at the helm, filming took place early last year and the movie is due to be released in Japan on December 11.
Murakami is famously protective of his work and has previously only allowed one to be put on celluloid, a 2004 movie version of the short story “Tony Takitani.”
Matsuken, Rinko Land Choice Roles (May 15, 2009)
Producer Oshima Eiko Dies at 73
Movie producer Oshima Eiko, sister of influential director Oshima Nagisa (78, profile), died of lung cancer at a Tokyo hospital on July 8, it was reported today. She was 73. Eiko was a producer of several of her brother’s movies, including “Natsu no Imoto” (Dear Summer Sister, 1972) and “Gohatto” (Taboo, 1999). She also worked with him as an actress, appearing in “Shiiku” (The Catch, 1961).
Tamaru Misuzu to Step Down at TBS
Newsreader Tamaru Misuzu (58, photo right) is to step down as presenter of the TBS show “Joho Tokushu.” The network has decided to overhaul the show and reached an agreement with Tamaru, who has been caring for her sick mother for several years. She has been the face of the show for 16 years, but from the end of September she will be replaced by TBS America general bureau director Kanehira Shigenori (56).
Voice actor Imamura Norio (56) has been arrested for posting lewd photos of himself on his blog. Best known as the voice of transvestite “queen” Emporio Ivankov on the popular anime series “One Piece,” Imamura posted photos of his full-body tattoos on his blog in early April. According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police report, a complaint was filed by someone described as a male company employee (37) from Tokyo, and Imamura was arrested yesterday. Police also said that Imamura has spent several million yen over the last ten years getting his entire body covered in tattoos, and that he runs a bar in the Shinjuku 2-chome gay district of Tokyo, where tattooed bar staff wear only fundoshi (loin cloth).
Like many of the cartoon creations that populate the anime world of “One Piece,” the Emporio character is over the top, and no doubt influenced by the Dr. Frank-N-Furter character from the 1975 cult movie “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
Tsuka Kohei, one of Japan’s most important modern playwrights, died on Saturday of lung cancer at a Chiba Prefecture hospital. He was 62. As reported on Japan Zone, Tsuka entered hospital to undergo treatment in January. But from his hospital bed he used videotapes and the telephone to direct a production of one of his most famous plays, “Hiryuden 2010 – Last Princess,” with up-and-coming actress Kuroki Meisa in the lead role. Tsuka had a reputation for turning popular female aidoru stars, such as Uchida Yuki (34, photo right, in a scene from Shin-Hiryuden in 2001), Ishihara Satomi (23) and Hirosue Ryoko (29), into real actresses.
Among Tsuka’s other well-known works are “Atami Satsujin Jiken,” which won top award in 1973, and “Kamata Koshinkyoku” in 1980. Tsuka became a household name when a Fukasaku Kinji-directed movie adaptation of “Kamata…” was a massive hit in 1982. A new stage version is currently scheduled to open on August 12.
An ethnic Korean whose given name was Kim Bon Un, Tsuka was born in Fukuoka Prefecture. He became involved in the theater while a student at Keio University. In 1980 he married actress Kumagai Mami (50) after she had appeared in his production, “Salome,” but the marriage ended in 1982. The following year he married Ikoma Naoko (48), a former member of his theatrical troupe. Tsuka used all kana characters for his pen-name, an idea he said was inspired by manga-ka Chiba Tetsuya. A famously heavy smoker, his medical condition forced him to quit the habit.
Tsuka Kohei Battles Cancer (Jan. 26, 2010)
X Japan leader Yoshiki (photo left) and vocalist Toshi held a press conference and mini concert in Tokyo yesterday. The occasion was the announcement of the band’s first ever concert tour of North America, which will follow the previously announced appearance at the Lollapalooza Festival (August 8) in Chicago and two shows at Yokohama Stadium (August 14-15). Yoshiki will no doubt be hoping that it’ll be third time lucky. The band held a press conference in New York in 1992 to announce plans for their U.S. debut, but those plans fell through and the band split in 1997. After their reunion two years ago, they announced shows at Madison Square Garden, but again those plans were shelved when Yoshiki suffered from a herniated disc.
The Yokohama shows will be the first outdoor solo concerts by the band and they will play to 150,000 fans over the two days. The show will then head across the Pacific for a tour that will take in ten cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Vancouver, New York and Boston. The shows will be held at 2,000-6,000-seat venues. “It’s going to be an intense show!” said Yoshiki. Toshi added, “It’s a new start for us in many ways. We’re going to give it everything and leave no regrets.”
And fans have something perhaps even bigger to look forward to – the first original X Japan album in 14 years. Yoshiki said, “It’s more than 90% complete. We expect to deliver the goods next week.” The album includes the new song “Jade,” which will be the first single for U.S. release, and English versions of “tears,” “Rusty Nail” and “Kurenai.”
Romance for Kitano Kii, Sano Kazuma
Actress and singer Kitano Kii (19, photo right) has a new love in her life, according to today’s issue of weekly magazine “Friday.” She was photographed smooching with ikemen (handsome) actor Sano Kazuma (21) earler this month, and they spent the night together at a Tokyo hotel. Management for Kitano said only that the two are “good friends.”
Kitano was previously linked with actor Hayashi Kento (19), with whom she appeared in the movie “Love Fight” earlier this year. She made her breakthrough in 2007 with starring roles in the movie “Kofukuna Shokutaku” and the Fuji TV drama series “Life.” She is also known as the commercial face of KitKat. Sano made a name for himself in last year’s Fuji drama series “Otomen” and has a regular role in the upcoming series “Hammer Session” on TBS.
Movie director Suo Masayuki (53) has teamed up with his wife, actress and former top ballerina Kusakari Tamiyo (45, photo left), to make a dance film about Charlie Chaplin. It will be the first big screen collaboration between the two since “Shall We Dance?” the hit 1995 film that first brought them together. Adapted from a ballet created by French choreographer Roland Petit (86), “Dancing Chaplin” is expected to have a spring 2011 theatrical release. The film will be in two parts, one dealing with the production process, the other focusing on the ballet itself.
Kusakari, formally retired from ballet in April 2009 and her last public performance included an excerpt from the Chaplin ballet. She performed with Italian ballet dancer Luigi Bonino (60), who co-stars in the movie version. The dance sequences were filmed at a Tokyo studio in July of last year. Suo says that his wife’s experience and advice was invaluable to him in understanding the physical limits of dancers and how best to film them.
Inception Hijacks Japan
The team behind Hollywood movie “Inception” pulled off a very clever PR stunt across Japan yesterday. On Jul 7, at 7:07pm, a promo video was played on 136 big screens on street corners across the country and about 20,000 monitors in trains on major commuter routes. The streets of Tokyo alone saw the video played in 48 different locations. It also played on about 2,000 TV screens on display in Yamada Denki electrical stores across the country.
The movie is directed by Christopher Nolan (39) and stars Leonardo Dicaprio (35) and Watanabe Ken (50). Following an announcement of a “special message from Hollywood” the three appeared on screen and addressed the Japanese public. The 75-second video brought commuter crowds to a standstill, such as about 2,000 office workers in the SL Square in front of Shimbashi station in central Tokyo (photo right). Inception is scheduled for release here on July 23.