Monthly Archives: September 2010

Watch Out for Layla Lane

Layla Lane

You may not have heard of the rock duo Layla Lane, but you may have heard their music. Shizuoka native Heday (29) on guitar and Valerie (27) from Los Angeles on piano and vocals have caused a buzz in Japan with their song “Happy Lane.” The song has been used in an ongoing Coca Cola commercial campaign since April, and the company has received over 1,000 inquiries asking who is performing it. The growing buzz in Japan over the summer was heightened when the duo came to do a short tour. Now it’s been decided to give the duo their break and they will release their major label debut single on October 13. The duo describe their music on their website as combining “exquisite arrangements and clever harmonies for a style that is equal parts 1960’s pop, gypsy swing, and good old-fashioned rock n’ roll.”

Heday (real name Ikumo Hidehito) first headed to the U.S. at the age of 19 to study music at UCLA, where he graduated in 2007. He caught the eye of drummer and Beatles collaborator Jim Keltner (68), and found himself doing session work with Ringo Starr (67) and the Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh (62). The former Beatle was very impressed by his songwriting, guitar, bass and arrangement skills. Heday teamed up with Valerie Stern based largely on their shared interest in the Beatles’ music. Last year, a collaboration with director Ken Ochiai produced an award-winning video for the song “No More,” which also featured in the summer Katherine Heigl-Ashton Kutcher movie “Killers.”

Tom and Cameron Wow Tokyo

Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz

Hollywood stars Tom Cruise (48) and Cameron Diaz (38) were in Tokyo yesterday to promote their latest movie collaboration. The pair, who last worked together about a decade ago on “Vanilla Sky,” were at the Roppongi Hills Arena in the center of the capital for the Japan premiere of “Knight and Day.” They signed autographs and posed for photos with some of the 800 or so fans.

Asashoryu and Cameron Diaz

Also in attendance was Mongolian former sumo grand champion Asashoryu (30). He says he is a big Cruise fan but seemed more excited about getting a photo with Diaz (above). But the Hollywood star was only in town for 14 hours as he is currently filming “Mission Impossible IV,” which is scheduled for release next May. Meanwhile “Knight and Day,” a less than huge critical success in the U.S., is due to open here on October 9.

Win Tickets to See Puffy AmiYumi in NYC

Puffy AmiYumi

J-pop duo Puffy AmiYumi is heading to New York City as part of the New York Comic Con & New York Anime Festival. They will be performing at Irving Plaza on October 10 along with Boom Boom Satellites, Zazen Boys and Echostream. And Japan Zone has a pair of tickets to give away for the show.

To enter and – as we don’t do giveaways very often – have a pretty good chance of winning, all you have to do is drop an email to and answer this one simple question – what are Ami and Yumi’s family names? Don’t forget to include your name, and a phone number and postal address would probably be a good idea, too.

Rocky Vs. Chiyonofuji?

Chiyonofuji Meets Rocky

Over the weekend, Rocky star Sylvester Stallone (64) was in Japan for the first time in more than two decades to promote his latest action flick “The Expendables.” He hooked up with an old friend from his last trip, former yokozuna (grand champion) Chinofuji (55), now known as Kokonoe oyakata (stable master).

The pair last met in 1988 (photo above), when Chiyonofuji – known as The Wolf – was at the peak of his dominance and Stallone was promoting “Rocky 3.” “The last time I saw him he took me to his house. He was in training. I do action in the movies but he does it for real. He’s a real superstar,” said Stallone. He added, “He looks younger now than he did then. He should be in the movies!”

Hakuho Lifts Sylvester StalloneHe also got to watch live sumo for the first time, watching the second-to-last day at of the tournament at Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo, and met current yokozuna Hakuho (25). The Mongolian sumo star lifted up the Hollywood star for the cameras. “He was heavy. I have no arm strength,” Hakuho said. Yesterday he went on to win his fourth tournament in a row and is now on a 62-bout winning streak. During this tournament he passed the 53-win mark of Chiyonofuji, and he will have Futabayama’s 71-year-old record of 69 in his sights at the next tournament in November.

With sumo’s recent troubles and scandals, a bit of Hollywood glitz and PR was very welcome. Stallone was more than happy to oblige, saying he was very impressed by the simplicity of Japan’s national sport. “It’s so fantastic about the fury of the sport,” he said. “It’s so easy to follow. The rules are simple. It’s why people love it. It’s man versus man.” The Expendables opens in Japanese theaters on October 16.

X Japan Tour Starts in L.A.

X Japan Los Angeles Concert

Rock band X Japan finally kicked off their first ever North American concert tour, performing for about 2,300 fans at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles on Saturday. After the support act Vampires Everywhere!, X Japan took the stage at 9pm. Representatives of the band’s late guitarist Hide made it known the same day that they didn’t want the band to use his image onstage as they usually do. That led to some last-minute setlist changes, But the band were in good form, but they still played 14 songs, including recent additions “Jade” and “Born to be Free.” There was even a bit of stage diving by vocalist Toshi. The tour will take in seven cities and finish in New York on October 10. The band are due to tour Europe in the New Year.

Meanwhile it was announced that X Japan have signed a contract with the William Morris entertainment agency, the biggest in the world. A global version of their “Blue Blood” online fan club is on the way and radio promotion of the band’s first original album in 14 years is due to start in the U.S. on October 1.

UA’s House Burns Down

UA House Fire

The Sagamihara home of singer-songwriter UA (38) was completely destroyed in a fire on Saturday. The fire in the 300-sq.m. two-storey wooden house is believed to have started about 1:40am on Saturday morning. UA, real name Hasegawa Kaori, her husband (28) and their 3-year-old son were sleeping downstairs and they evacuated the house along with their elder son (13) and two school friends who were sleeping upstairs.

After the long hot summer, the weather in Japan has turned a lot cooler and the family used their wood-burning stove for the first time in months. According to local police the stove is thought to have been the cause of the fire. One of the firemen who helped put out the blaze said, “The fire burned trees more than 20m from the house. If it hadn’t been raining so hard, we probably would have had a forest fire on our hands.”

According to a neighbor, the house was built about 25 years ago by a soprano singer at a cost of about ¥50 million. It has an octagonal room that was used for small concerts. UA and her family have been renting it since she re-married in 2008. They work a neighboring field, where they also keep two goats. UA’s latest album, released in June, was recorded in a studio at the house. UA was married to actor Murakami Jun (37) from 1996 to 2006.

The New Kings of Comedy

King of Comedy

Manzai duo King of Comedy are living up to their name. The pair won the final round of the annual “King of Conto 2010” comedy battle on TBS last night. They took home ¥10 million in prize money, though they jokingly complained that their management agency will be taking 40%. Asked how he would use his share, Takahashi Kenichi (39) said he would help pay off his father’s debts. “But we need to win this another eight times…” Takahashi is the tsukkomi of the duo, and his boke partner is Konno Hiroshi (31).

The competition, one of several that have become popular over the last couple of years, had 3009 acts vying for the prize money and the exposure that can help an up-and-coming act make a breakthrough. King of Comedy are already pretty established and in the 10th year of their career. They followed the example of sempai duo Untouchable in borrowing their stage name from the title of a Robert De Niro movie. Takahashi was arrested in 2007 for allegedly groping a female passenger on a Tokyo subway train, though the case was never taken to court.

The Japanese word “conto” comes from the French “conte” and is used to describe a comedy skit or routine.

Shinsuke Ordered to Pay for Assault

Shimada Shinsuke

Popular TV host Shimada Shinsuke (54) has been ordered to pay a major sum in compensation for an assault that almost ended his career several years ago. A Tokyo District Court judge yesterday decided that Shimada and the Yoshimoto Kogyo talent agency were liable for ¥10 million in damages for the injuries and humiliation suffered by a female Yoshimoto employee in 2004. The plaintiff had sought ten times that amount.

The incident happened backstage at an Osaka TV studio in June 2004. Shimada was angered by the words and attitude of the woman, 40 at the time and the manager of commentator Katsuya Masahiko. He is said to have taken her to another room to lecture her on manners and became infuriated when she talked back. He allegedly pulled her hair, hit her face against a wall and spat on her. When the case blew up in the media, he gave a tearfully apologetic press conference and stepped down from several regular TV slots. A few months later, an Osaka court ordered Shimada to pay a ¥300,000 fine. The woman was put on extended leave by Yoshimoto for more than 18 months, during which time she underwent treatment for stress-related problems. After the leave finished in June 2006, she claimed, she was fired.

But for a star of Shimada’s stature, the media has a short memory and he eventually returned to being one of the busiest and best-paid celebrities on TV. He is sometimes mentioned as a potentially strong political candidate. The latest court decision will make only the tiniest dent in his substantial wealth, but the case will forever hang over any plans to run for public office.
Related stories:
Shinsuke Fined, May Quit (Dec 11, 2004)
Shinsuke’s Troubles Not Over (Aug 4, 2006)

Paris Hilton Stopped at Narita

Nicky and Paris Hilton

US socialite Paris Hilton was stopped by immigration officials at Tokyo’s Narita airport as she flew in from Las Vegas yesterday, a day after pleading guilty to cocaine charges, media reports said. The 29-year-old hotel heiress arrived at Narita by a chartered flight and the officials were interviewing her and considering refusing her entry because of a suspended sentence she received for the charges, Jiji news agency said. She spent the night at an airport hotel (the Hilton?) before facing further questioning today.

A court in Las Vegas on Monday gave her two six-month suspended jail terms for possessing cocaine and lying about it, but said she would be jailed for a year if she was arrested again. The sentence also included a $2,000 fine, completion of a substance abuse program and 200 hours of community service.

Hilton arrived in Tokyo at about 5:30pm, the Asahi Shimbun reported on its online edition. The Narita branch of the Tokyo immigration control office told Jiji that a person on a suspended jail term was not allowed to enter Japan except for “special reasons.”

Hilton had been scheduled to attend an event with her sister Nicky, 26, in Tokyo on Wednesday to promote her original brand for handbags and accessories. But the event has been canceled, Jiji said. (AFP)

Mizushima Hiro Quits Acting to Write

Mizushima Hiro, Ayaka

Popular young actor Mizushima Hiro (26) is giving it all up to be a writer, according to the Sankei Sports newspaper. Mizushima’s former management at Kenon Group acknowledged the report, saying that he had quit the agency. They said his interest in novels and other forms of writing was something he had made known for some time. Mizushima started working as a model while a student at the prestigious Keio University in Tokyo. His breakthrough as an actor came when he landed the lead role in the action hero TV series “Kamen Rider Kabuto.” He most recently worked on the manga adaptation movie “Beck,” which is scheduled for release this month.

Kenon also represents Mizushima’s wife, singer Ayaka (22). Though she is on an extended sabbatical as she battles with Graves’ disease, her husband’s decision doesn’t affect her existing contract. The couple tied the knot in February of 2009.
Related stories:
Mizushima Hiro, Ayaka Married (Apr 4, 2009)