Monthly Archives: August 2010

Total Comedy Pays Well

Total Tenbosch

We hear a lot on TV about how young comedians struggle financially before establishing their careers. But duo Total Tenbosch have a very lucrative winning streak going. The pair were announced yesterday as the winners for the fifth time in a row of the “S1 Grand Battle, Round 2”, a funny video contest sponsored by Softbank Mobile and voted on by the network’s mobile phone subscribers. The win landed the duo prize money of ¥10 million, bringing their total from the contest to ¥30 million, and entry to the “S1 Grand Champion” round next March.

The afro-haired tsukomi half of the duo, Fujita Kensuke (34) said he would use his share of the winnings to bring up his son to be a pro baseball player. Then again, the baby’s not due to be born until October. The name Total Tenbosch is a mix of two ideas, the sci-fi movie “Total Recall” (Fujita is a fan) and the Dutch theme park Huis Ten Bosch in Kyushu, which was the suggestion of his comic partner Omura Tomohiro (35).

Shimizu Kentaro Arrested for 6th Time

Shimizu Kentaro

Actor Shimizu Kentaro (57) has been arrested yet again. The organized crime department of the Metropolitan Police announced yesterday that they had arrested the actor on suspicion of the use of “kakuseizai” (stimulant drugs). It is the sixth arrest for Shimizu, who was previously held on drug and reckless driving charges. His criminal record has probably only boosted his image as an on-screen gang boss, in a career that blurs the lines between fiction and reality.

Real name Sonoda Iwao, he was involved in a fatal traffic accident in 1973 and was fined for professional negligence resulting in death. His handsome looks brought him popularity on the youth TV show “Ginza Now” which led to a major hit with his debut single “Shitsuren Restaurant” in 1976. He had several more hits the following year, earning him a best newcomer award and a slot of the NHK “Kohaku Uta Gassen” New Year’s Eve concert. But his career had peaked by the time he was arrested in 1983 for marijuana possession. Marriage to an American model in 1985 was followed by another drug arrest and a career move to the “V Cinema” (straight-to-video) movie business. His marriage ended in 1991 and a third drug arrest in 1994 led to an 18-month prison sentence. The following years saw another return to movies, earning him the nickname “The Emperor of V Cinema,” and brief marriage to a woman 22 years younger and another spell in prison for drug use. His most recent brush with the law was in 2008 when he was arrested for an hit and run incident and received a 7-month prison sentence.

Julia Roberts Finally Lands in Japan

Julia Roberts lands in Tokyo

Julia Roberts (42, photo) has been a Hollywood star for two decades, so it came as a surprise to many that when she landed at Narita Airport yesterday, it was her very first time in Japan. She flew in by private jet with her husband, photographer Daniel Moder (41, photo right), and was welcomed at the airport by about 300 fans. She’s in Tokyo to promote her highly anticipated new movie, “Eat, Pray, Love.” Roberts will attend a press conference today and the Japan premiere of the movie at the Roppongi Hills Arena tomorrow night. She is expected to stay in Japan for a few days after that. Directed by Ryan Murphy, the movie opens in Japanese theaters on September 17.

Roberts is said to be the last of the major Hollywood stars to visit Japan, and that led to rumors that she had a dislike for the country. A spokesperson said yesterday, “It was just a matter of the timing never being right. This time, her children are a little bigger and she is the star of the movie, so everything fell into place.” Roberts and Moder have three children, 5-year-old twins and a son (3).

Macchan Gets Back to Work
Comedian Matsumoto Hitoshi (46) is returning to work today after his recent surgery, according to his management at Yoshimoto Creative Agency. One half of the veteran duo Downtown (profile), he has been on medical leave since the end of June and underwent surgery on his left hip joint in late July. Today, he will film an episode of the comedy show “Downtown no Gakinotsukaiya Arahende!!!” that will air on August 22. For the time being, as he is still undergoing rehabilitation, Matsumoto will not do any location shooting or indeed be on his feet for very long.

Yamamoto Mona Finally Settles Down

Yamamoto Mona, Nagayama Yoko

Has talento Yamamoto Mona (34, photo left) finally put her history of romantic scandals behind her? She and the owner of a real estate investment company got married in Tokyo yesterday. According to her management agency, she and her fiance went together to a municipal office and registered their marriage. They don’t currently have plans for a wedding ceremony and Yamamoto is reportedly not pregnant. She attended the Japan premiere of “The A Team” in Tokyo last night but gave no hint of her new marital status.

The couple tied the knot after a relationship of two years and three months, which means there was some overlap with a high-profile scandal that temporarily derailed her showbiz career. In July 2008 Yamamoto was photographed with married Yomiuri Giants baseball star Nioka Tomohiro (34) after leaving a Tokyo gay bar and heading for a love hotel. Though she denied any sexual relationship, she lost all her commercial contracts and was forced to lie low for several months. The media was all the more harsh on Yamamoto because in October 2006 she had been involved in a similar scandal with married national Diet member Hosono Goshi, which led to her being dropped by TBS from the “News 23” show.

Nagayama Yoko an “Arafo Mama”
Enka singer Nagayama Yoko (42, photo right) announced on her blog this morning that she became a mother for the first time yesterday. She and American entrepreneur Mark Smith (41) are the proud parents of a bouncing baby girl. Smith is the president and CEO of temp staffing company Skillhouse Staffing Solutions. Arafo is the Japanese abbreviation of “around forty” and has been popular in the last couple of years when referring to those who marry or have children after reaching that landmark age.

X Japan – The New and the Old


For the first time in the long history of X Japan, the country’s premier rock band performed a solo show outdoors and they did it with “seven members.” Of course, one of those members was the late guitarist Hide, who died in 1998 but is still given honorary band membership. But during their shows at the weekend the five current members were joined for the encore by bassist Taiji, who last played with the band 18 years ago.

The two shows at the Nissan Yokohama Stadium drew 130,000 fans, who were treated to a 12-minute drum solo by band leader Yoshiki. It was the first time for him to perform the hyper-speed solo (he is said to play at 800 beats per minute) since he underwent surgery for a hernia last year. So it was made all the more dramatic by the 10m-high revolving drum stage and the neck brace he wears since the surgery. With the song “Tears” playing in the background, Yoshiki tearfully thanked his fans, saying, “Each and every one of you is the wind beneath our wings.”

X Japan Taiji, Heath

The band performed 11 songs, including the new track “Jade.” And as they got ready to play “X” for an encore, vocalist Toshi called an old friend onto the stage to join them. Taiji (photo left) was a member of the band for its first three albums and was the man behind the extravagant stage costumes and hairstyles that largely defined the visual kei rock image. he left the band in 1992 due to “musical differences” and went on to perform with Loudness and D.T.R.

The stadium shows, which cost an estimated ¥1 billion, were the Japan leg of a world tour that hits North America on September 25 and is said to be heading to Europe early in 2011.

Sato B-saku Steps Down from Stage Role

Sato B-saku

Actor Sato B-saku (61) is the latest celebrity to announce that cancer has forced him to put his career on hold. The rumors began yesterday after it was revealed that he was stepping down from his role in an ongoing production at the Mitsukoshi Gekijo theater in Tokyo for health reasons. As he underwent surgery for stomach cancer in May 2008, the media speculated that a recurrence of the same condition was the most likely explanation. Today he acknowledged that a growth had been found in his stomach, though as yet it is not known if it is malignant or

Sato will continue to perform until August 19, after which Matsumura Yuki (46), who was already appearing in the play, will take over his role for the last three shows of the Tokyo run and carry on in the role during a nationwide tour until the end of September.

NHK Leans on Mao-chan to Revive Morning Drama

Inoue Mao, Okada Yoshikazu

In an effort to boost the sagging audience rankings of its morning drama slot, NHK took everyone by surprise by naming established actress Inoue Mao (23, photo left) as the star of next year’s 50th anniversary series. “Ohisama” will air at 8am on Mondays through Saturdays from March 28, 2011. It is set in the Nagano Prefecture towns of Matsumoto and Azumino, and tells the story of a teacher who becomes a maker of soba (buckwheat noodles). The original script is by Okada Yoshikazu (51, photo right), who also wrote one of the more popular morning dramas, “Churasan,” in 2001.

At a press conference yesterday, the media were visibly taken by surprise when the leading actress’s name was announced. But Inoue herself admitted to having been bowled over by her choice for a morning drama role, something she had dreamed of since she was a girl. “It’s seen as a gateway to stardom for young actors and the auditions are very competitive. I had half given up that my name would ever be called, so I was very surprised,” she said. She added that she had watched the 2007 series “Chiritotechin” without missing a single episode. “I thought it seemed like a tough job. Portraying the life of one person for such a long time, it must need both physical and mental strength.”

The NHK morning drama slot is usually reserved as a vehicle to launch the career of a promising young actress, such as Tanaka Miri and Konishi Miho. During the 1960s to 80s, the morning drama slot enjoyed solid audience ratings of 30-40%, but that has fallen to around 10% in recent years. The current series, “Gegegeg no Nyobo” had the worst ever ratings for an opening episode, and though it has since been doing reasonably well, it rarely breaks the 20% barrier.

The Latest Korean Pop Invasion

Kara in Shibuya

A surprise appearance yesterday in central Shibuya by South Korean pop newcomers Kara drew an unexpectedly big crowd. With schools on summer break, the Tokyo shopping district was even more overflowing than usual with young people. So when the female pop quintet were announced on a stage in front of the iconic 109 building, a crowd quickly began to form. The group were making their major label debut in Japan and performed their debut single “Mister,” which made it to No.5 on the Oricon daily chart rankings.

They were scheduled to appear for 30 minutes, including interviews and a photo shoot, but as the crowd built to an estimated 3,000 people and started spilling out onto the roads, it was decided to cut the event short after just the one song. Disappointed fans will have a chance to meet the group at an event in Shin Kiba on August 14.

Tomosaka Rie, Suneohair to Wed

Suneohair, Tomosaka Rie

Popular actress Tomosaka Rie (30, photo right) and singer Suneohair (39, photo center) are planning to get married within the year, it was revealed yesterday. The couple have already told friends about their plans, less than a year after they started dating. It would be the second marriage for Tomosaka, who divorced from theatrical producer Kawahara Masahiko (41) at the beginning of 2008 and since has custody of their son (5). Suneohair has previously been married twice to the same woman, with whom he has two children.

Tomosaka made her showbiz debut in a TV commercial for Toyota in 1992. She has gone on to become a regular in TV and movie roles, and won a Golden Arrow best newcomer award for a stage role in 2000. Given name Watanabe Kenji, Suneohair was an independent musician until 2002, when he made his major label debut. He had some stage experience from his college days and first worked on the big screen in 2003. He landed his first starring role in the movie “Aburakusasu no Matsuri,” in which he and Tomosaka played a husband and wife and also performed a duet for the ending theme. Filming started last November and the movie is scheduled to open in the late autumn. Suneohair is also known for contributing the ending theme for the anime adaptation of the popular shojo manga “Honey & Clover.”

Utada Hikaru to Take Indefinite Break

Utada Hikaru

Singer-songwriter Utada Hikaru (27, profile) shocked her fans yesterday by announcing that she will be taking an indefinite break from music. In a blog update yesterday she didn’t give many details but said that she will complete her scheduled activities for the rest of this year, including the release of a second singles collection in the autumn. The album will also include 4 or 5 five new songs. She will then concentrate on other aspects of her life, “It could be two years, it could be five, I don’t know.”

Though still in her mid-20s, Utada already has a 12-year career under her belt, as well as an unfinished university course,a brush with cancer and a failed marriage. But she acknowledges that in some ways she has yet to grow up and says she needs to do so as a “person” rather than as a “musician.” She thanked fans and the staff at the EMI label for their ongoing support and asked for their patience and understanding.