Monthly Archives: October 2010

Arts Luminaries Light Up Tokyo

Sophia Loren receives Praemium Imperiale

Tokyo yesterday played host to the five laureates of the “22nd Praemium Imperiale” arts award, with a heavy leaning toward the Italians. This year’s recipients – Italian actress Sophia Loren (76), German sculptor Rebecca Horn (66), Italian pianist Maurizio Pollini (68), Japanese architect Toyo Ito (69) and Italian painter Enrico Castellani (80) – received a medal from Prince Hitachinomiya, younger brother of Emperor Akihito. They also received a certificate of appreciation and ¥15 million in cash. The ceremony and a cocktail reception were held at the Meiji Kinenkan in Akasaka in central Tokyo.

“This prize beautifully summarizes my whole work,” a dazzling Loren later told a news conference. The Sankei Shimbun quoted Horn as saying, “I’m truly honored. I come to Japan almost every year, and I get a lot of inspiration every time.”

The prestigious culture prize recognizes significant lifetime achievement in areas of international arts and culture not covered by the Nobel Prizes, according to the Japan Art Association, who established the award in 1988. In Japanese it is known as the “Takamatsunomiya-kaden Kinen Sekai Bunkasho,” which translates as Prince Takamatsunomiya Memorial World Culture Award.

One Bad Husband Plays Another

Yoi ga Sametara, Uchi ni Kaerou

Actor Asano Tadahiro (36, photo right) and actress Nagasaku Hiromi (39, photo left) appeared at a PR event in Tokyo yesterday for their latest movie collaboration. “Yoi ga Sametara, Uchi ni Kaerou” (When We Sober Up, Let’s Go Home) is an adaptation of the autobiography (right) of the late freelance journalist and war photographer Kamoshida Yutaka (1964-2007). From his exposure to the atrocities by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia through many years of facing death and the weapons of child soldiers, Kamoshida developed a reliance on alcohol that would lead to his death of kidney cancer at the age of 42. In 1996, he met manga-ka Saibara Rieko (45) on location in Thailand. He agreed to be the photographer for her planned cable TV show to be filmed in the Amazon. On their flight back to Asia, he proposed and soon made his first return to Japan in 9 years to get married. He was the inspiration for a regular character in Saibara’s “Mainichi Kaasan” comic strip in the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.

The couple had two children but Kamoshida’s drinking took a heavy toll and he was in and out of the mental ward. The two remained close even after their marriage ended in 2003. His autobiography was published in 2006, in which he first revealed his battle with cancer and the couple reunited while remaining unmarried.

Asano, who had a very public divorce from singer Chara (42) last year, said, “I got to play a bad husband, and as I was one myself, I guess I did a good job.” Nagasaku, on the other hand, was making her first public appearance since having a baby in May. She said of playing Saibara, “I thought it was a very demanding role, but now I’m glad I did it.” Directed by Higashi Youichi, the movie opens on December 4.

Ikebe Ryo Dies at 92

Ikebe Ryo

The Japanese movie industry said “sayonara” to one of its veteran supporting actors a few days ago. Management for Ikebe Ryo said the actor died from septicemia at a Tokyo hospital on October 8. He was 92. Boyishly handsome and 175cm tall, Ikebe was encouraged to appear on screen rather than work behind the camera when he joined the Toho movie studio in 1941. He made his debut almost straight away in “Betta” (Fighting Fish). In 1965, and with three dozen movies already to his credit, he and Takakura Ken (79, profile) co-starred in the first of the famous “Showa Zankyoden” series of yakuza movies that ran until 1972.

So it was somewhat ironic that Ikebe was a representative director of the Japan Movie Actor’s Association when a major scandal broke out in 1965 that centered around connections between actors and the criminal underworld. And it was Ikebe himself who had the backbone to make a public statement saying all such ties would be broken (though a complete break has never happened).

Ikebe had health problems for the last few years and had been cutting back on cigarettes and alcohol. But he continued working up until the end, and his last appearance was in this month’s issue of the magazine “Ginza Hyakuten.”

Hirosue Ryoko No Longer a Single Mother

Hirosue Ryoko, Candle June

Actress Hirosue Ryoko (30, photo left) has re-married, she announced on her official site on Saturday. She and candle artist Candle June (photo far right) tied the knot after a relationship of several months. Hirosue divorced model-designer Okazawa Takahiro (35) in March 2008 and they have a child together.

Hirosue and her new hubby met at a benefit event in March for survivors of the Haiti earthquake. They were spotted out on a date by a weekly gossip magazine in August. He is a bit of a mystery and has not publicly revealed his age but is thought to be in his mid30s. He organizes candle-based peace events throughout Japan and the world.

Sayonara Oyabun

Osawa Keiji, Osawa Akane, Gekidan Hitori

Former baseball star and manager Osawa Keiji died Thursday from cancer of the gall bladder at a Tokyo hospital. He was 78. His 10-year playing career was pent mainly with the Nankai Hawks (now the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks) – where he won the Japan Series in 1959 and 1964 – and the final year was with the Tokyo Orions (now the Chiba Lotte Marines). After retirement he coached and managed at Lotte before two stints as manager of the Nippon Ham Fighters, with whom he won just one Pacific League pennant.

While his playing and managing career stats were hardly stellar, he was outspoken and widely respected, earning him the nickname “oyabun” (boss). This image (usually of a yakuza boss) was enhanced by the fact that for his TV appearances he usually dressed in a kimono. The TBS network said his final appearance was on September 19. On October 3, his “Sunday Morning” co-host Sekiguchi Hiroshi read out a letter from Osawa apologizing for his failure to appear due to poor health. He also applauded his old team the Hawks for their recent Pacific League championship. His grand-daughter, talento Osawa Akane (25) and comedian Gekidan Hitori (33, photo right) presented him with his first great-grandchild on September 3.

Is It Over Between Amuro, Atsushi?

Amuro Namie, Tamura Atsushi

It has been speculated this week that the romance between J-pop star Amuro Namie (33) and comedian Tamura Atsushi (36) may have come to an end. Management for the two refused to make a comment on the media speculation, saying simply that they are in charge of their own private lives. The couple were seen traveling together to Sedona in Arizona in the New Year, and Tamura went so far as to hold a press conference on his return to Japan to acknowledge their relationship. Amuro is a divorcee and has a 12-year-old son from her marriage to TRF dancer Sam (48), while Tamura – one half of the Yoshimoto manzaiduo London Boots #1 #2 – has long been regarded as a playboy.
Related stories:
Tamura Acknowledges Romance With Amuro (Jan. 8, 2010)

Ueto, Hiro the Latest Power Couple?

Ueto Aya, Hiro of Exile

They make a slightly unusual couple, but it seems that actress Ueto Aya (25) and Hiro (41), leader of the pop/dance group Exile, are serious. The two have known each other since Ueto was 12 years old, when Hiro’s management agency were in charge of her dance choreography. It seems their teacher-student relationship changed into something more romantic around the beginning of the summer.

It was reported in August that Ueto and Morita Gou (31) of the Johnny’s Jimusho aidoru group V6 had split up in May after an 8-year relationship. There hadn’t been any romantic rumors about Hiro since he broke up with actress Sada Mayumi (33) in March 2008. Management for the two stars said they hadn’t heard anything about the romance, acknowledging only that Ueto was a fan of Exile and good friends with all the group members.

Second Divorce for Yoko Zetterlund

Yoko Zetterlund

Barcelona medal-winning spiker Yoko Zetterlund (41) has divorced for the second time, according to today’s issue of the weekly magazine “Shuukan Bunshun.” A member of the U.S. bronze-medal-winning volleyball team at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Zetterlund has played a wide variety of roles in the Japanese sports industry since the mid-1990s. Her hectic work schedule is said to have led freelance announcer Kusano Hiroshi (41), son of talento Kusano Hitoshi (66), to file for divorce, ending their 4-year marriage in August. Zetterlund divorced her first husband, an American, in 1999.

Born in San Francisco, Zetterlund moved to her mother’s home country of Japan at the age of 6. She began playing volleyball while a junior high student and helped her school win the national championship. With her mother as head coach, her high school team also won a national event, and Zetterlund went on to represent Japan at the junior level. But even after continued success at the college level, fierce competition made it difficult for her to make the national team and she decided to choose American rather than Japanese citizenship. She went to the U.S., where she successfully tried out for the national team, shortly before graduating university in 1991. After graduation she joined the Fuji TV network but soon returned to the U.S. to train for the Olympics. She also participated in the 1996 Atlanta games before coming back to Japan. She led the Daiei Orange Attackers, Japan’s first pro team, to two championships. She retired in 1999.

In addition to her role as a sports commentator, she’s also a writer, public speaker and is on the national administration board for the volleyball, basketball and soccer leagues.

Nishina Masaki, Takigawa Hanako

Second Generation Showbiz Marriage
Happier news for two offspring from established showbiz families who are planning to tie the knot. Nishina Masaki (28) is the eldest son of actor Matsukata Hiroki (68) and actress Nishina Akiko (57), while Takigawa Hanako (22) is the daughter of the late actor Achiha Shinsuke (1940-2007) and actress Takigawa Yumi (59). The younger couple’s relationship was first reported in January when they traveled to Guam, and they will hold their wedding ceremony there next January.

Hamasaki Ayumi Sets Record with Single No.50

Hamasaki Ayumi, L

J-pop queen Hamasaki Ayumi (32, profile) has set a new record for consecutive No.1 hits on the Oricon chart. Her latest and 50th single release “L” has topped the Oricon weekly chart, making it her 25th No.1 in a row, and breaking Matsuda Seiko’s 22-year-old record. Ayu now holds sales records in seven different categories as a female artist (Rockers B’z top many categories as a group). She has the most consecutive chart toppers and the most Top 10 by any solo artist, and her other records include:

  • Most No.1 singles – 37
  • Most Top 10 singles – 48
  • Most consecutive years with a No.1 single – 12
  • Most million-selling singles – 5
  • Most singles sold – 21.38 million
  • Most singles/albums sold – 49.19 million

Hamasaki is currently in the middle of a seven-day concert run at the Yoyogi National Gynmasium. Commenting on the new record, she said, “It’s a surprise and a huge honor. And it’s all thanks to my fans. I want to thank all the songwriters, arrangers and all the staff who have worked with me.” In the case of “L” her collaborator was Komuro Tetsuya (51). Currently rebuilding his career after a fraud trial, he has a strong track record and is the second-best-selling songwriter ever in Japanese music.

Oshio Manabu Out on Bail

Oshio Manabu

Legal experts were stunned by yesterday’s news that former actor Oshio Manabu (32) has been allowed out on bail. The Tokyo District Court recently handed him a two-and-a-half year prison sentence for four offenses related to his involvement in the August 2009 death of Ginza hostess Tanaka Kaori, a decision Oshio’s lawyers have appealed. Nine separate applications for bail were previously turned down by the district court, but the Tokyo High Court finally ruled in Oshio’s favor. As the public prosecutors didn’t object to the decision, Oshio was released yesterday evening after paying ¥10million (about $120,000).

It was his first taste of freedom after 301 days in detention. With his hair down to his shoulders, and wearing a black jacket, white shirt, jeans and sneakers, he bowed briefly to the 200 reporters gathered outside the detention center before speeding away in a waiting taxi. He is believed to have spent the night at a hotel in Shinjuku and is heading home to his Tama City apartment on the outskirts of the capital today. His lawyer said that Oshio wants to pay his respects at Tanaka’s grave and explain himself to her parents. They declined to make a comment to the media after hearing the news.

Lawyer and former public prosecutor Osawa Takayuki (65) said, “No matter what the crime, when a prison sentence has been given, there is the risk of flight or a repeat offense, so it is customary not to award bail. In this case, prosecutors did not appeal the length of the sentence, and in the appeals court the main charge has been reduced from fatal abandonment to simply abandonment, so the seriousness of the crime has been reduced.”

Nihon University law professor Itakura Hiroshi (76) said, “I can see no reason to award bail. But as it has been given, ¥10 million seems the right amount.”