NHK came close to losing one of its top stars for tonight’s “Kohaku Uta Gassen.” Wada Akiko (60), a regular performer on the annual New Year’s Eve song contest for more than three decades, was injured in a traffic accident on her way to rehearsals at the NHK studios in Shibuya on Wednesday. She suffered injuries to her neck and back but soldiered through much of the rehearsals nonetheless before being taken to a nearby hospital by ambulance. She is said to have suffered cervical and lumbar sprains and requires about 10 days rest to recover. A consummate pro, Wada plans to fulfill her commitment to the live broadcast. But as leader of the Kohaku female red team, she would normally be on stage a lot even when not singing. NHK say they will consider her role in the show depending on her condition.
The accident happened on Wednesday afternoon as the Mercedes in which Wada was riding in the back seat was hit from behind while waiting at a signal to enter the NHK car park. The driver of the other car, a man in his 30s, said he mistook the accelerator for the brake. Wada was involved in a traffic accident in February 2000, in which she suffered a broken leg.
Actress Kichise Michiko (35) announced on her blog today that she got married on Christmas Day. She said she met her husband, a 45-year-old entrepreneur who works both in Japan and overseas, about five years ago when she was considering a career change from modeling to acting. Standing 167cm tall, Kichise was scouted by a modeling agency while working at a cafe in her hometown of Asakura in Fukuoka Prefecture. She moved to Tokyo at the age of 20, where she landed regular work for fashion magazines and in TV commercials. The last few years have seen her win accolades for her TV appearances in such dramas as “Liar Game” (2007) and “Bloody Monday” (2008). She landed her first leading role in the NTV drama “Mousou Shimai” in early 2009.
Yesterday APF Tsushin president Yamaji Toru (49) spoke publicly for the first time about his convoluted relationships with talentos Omomo Miyoko (45) and Asagi Kuniko (46). He acknowledged that he and Asagi were married shortly after his 2006 divorce from Omomo, and that they had been having an affair for a couple of years before that. He and Asagi divorced about a month ago, and the whole tangle of their various relationships became public when Omomo posted about it on her Twitter account last week.
Asagi and Yamaji began working together on TV more than a decade ago. Asagi was married to musician Matsumoto Akihiko (47), with whom she has a 16-year-old daughter, from 1994 to 2006, while Yamaji and Omomo were married between 2003 and 2006 (Yamaji also has a child from a previous marriage). So their relationship was an extra-marital affair for both parties. From her public statements, Omom clearly still holds a grudge against Asagi and the various parties will probably need some time to come to any kind of mutual understanding, let alone be able to appear together on TV.
Asagi Named as the “Other Woman” on Twitter (Dec. 21, 2010)
Last night, manzai duo Waraimeshi were finally crowned as M-1 champions. The pair – Nishida Koji (36) and Nakanishi Tetsuo (36) – have entered the nationwide comedy knockout competition every year since it started in 2001. They made the finals for the last nine years running and were runners-up three times. This year they came out on top of 4,835 acts from across the country. Waraimeshi received not only ¥10 million in prize money but also an elevated status in the comedy hierarchy.
The annual contest is organized by the major Yoshimoto Kogyo talent management agency and held at the TV Asahi studios in Tokyo. It was announced that it will come to an end this year, but Waraimeshi vowed to see M-1 continued at Yoshimoto’s Nanba Grand Kagetsu theater in Osaka. The show enjoys strong TV audience ratings, though last night’s broadcast got less than 20% as it was up against a live figure-skating broadcast on Fuji TV.
Talento Asagi Kuniko (46, photo left) is at the center of perhaps the first Japanese celebrity scandal to break out on Twitter. Late Sunday night a post on the Twitter account of talento Omomo Miyoko (45, photo right) named Asagi as having had an affair with her ex-husband (49). Omomo and her husband divorced in November 2009 but the reasons were never discussed publicly. Omomo’s management have declined to comment on the report, telling the media that she is currently resting overseas and not expected back in Japan until early next week. Asagi is scheduled to make a regular appearance on the TBS morning show “Hiruobi” tomorrow, so the media will be watching for any mention of the story.
The first tweet that drew attention to the story was on Sunday night when Omomo said that her happy event of 2010 was joining Twitter and connecting with new people. But the shocking event was when she learned of Asagi’s affair with her ex, a director at a TV production company. The couple married in 2003, thanks largely to Omomo’s relentless pursuit and marriage proposal. Asagi is also a divorcee. She married musician and old friend Matsumoto Akihiko (47) in 1994 and they had a daughter soon after. But differences between the two led to divorce in March 2006.
Johnny’s Jimusho aidoru group Arashi are still the country’s biggest selling pop artists. For the second year running they have topped Oricon’s rankings of the best-sellers of combined music and video content, based on sales from almost 40,000 stores across the country. The group had combined sales of almost ¥17.2 billion, an increase of ¥2.5 billion from last year’s total. They are the first Johnny’s act to top the rankings in two consecutive years, and the first artist to do so since Inoue Yosui (62) did it in 1974-75. Arashi also ranked top in a record seven different categories.
2010 was a big year for Arashi in many different ways. In September they became the first act to play 4 consecutive nights at the Yoyogi National Gymnasium in central Tokyo; their ongoing national tour is their biggest yet, with 16 shows for 860,000 fans; members of the group have been active in a wide variety of TV shows, commercials and movies; their CD “Boku no Miteiru Fuukei” is the only album to sell more than a million copies this year; their concert DVD “Arashi Anniversary Tour 5 x 10” had a record-breaking first run of 477,000 copies; all six of their singles released during 2010 made the annual sales ranking Top 10. And to top it all off, the group will be emcee for the first time for NHK’s annual “Kohaku Uta Gassen” concert on New Year’s Eve.
Aidorugroup AKB48 are everywhere these days. Yesterday they were named as the new “image characters” for major travel agency HIS. Wearing colorful cabin attendant-style uniforms, they perform a variation on their hit single “Aitakatta” in a new series of TV commercials that promote overseas travel. The first CM will air from December 27. The New Year is one of the busiest seasons for Japanese to travel outside the country, particularly to resort destinations such as Hawaii, Guam and Saipan.
AKB48 were also the most successful female artists this year in terms of sales. They took the top two spots – and four in the Top 10 – in Oricon’s rankings of the best-selling singles of 2010, based on sales from almost 40,000 stores across the country. The October release “Beginner” was the top seller at over 950,000 copies, while Setember’s “Heavy Rotation” was at No.2 with 713,000 sold. They are the first female artists to take the top two spots since Princess Princess in 1989 and the first aidoru group since Pink Lady in 1978.
Meanwhile AKB48 member Sakano Yumi (19, photo right) has been chosen as one of the celebrities who looks best in a wedding dress. At an event in the capital yesterday, she wore a dress and accessories valued at ¥700 million for the first “Japan Wedding Best Dresser Awards.” Sakano, who was chosen in the “aidoru” category, said she hopes to marry by the age of 30 and would love to have her wedding in Hawaii. Marie (23) was selected to represent Japan’s models, while Minami Akina (21) was chosen in the talento category.
Studio Ghibli this week announced the first details of its next anime feature. Producer Suzuki Toshio (62) held a press conference at the Tokyo headquarters of the Toho movie studio on Wednesday. He said the movie, scheduled for a summer 2011 release, will be based on Takahashi Chizuru and Sayama Tetsuro’s manga “Kokurikozaka Kara” (photo, left). The project is being overseen by Miyazaki Hayao (69), who also drew the official poster (photo, right), but will be directed by his son Goro (43). It will be just the second project undertaken by the younger Miyazaki, who got mixed reviews for “Gedo Senki” (Tales from Earthsea) in 2006. The theme song for that movie was performed by Teshima Aoi (23), who has been signed up again for the new project.
The original “Kokurikozaka Kara” manga, which appeared in the girl’s magazine “Nakayoshi,” was set in a fictional location in the 1980s, but the movie will take place in a Yokohama high school in 1963. It was the year before the Tokyo Olympics and a period of rapid economic growth in Japan. It was also the year singer Sakamoto Kyu had a huge hit with the song “Ue wo Aruite Arukou” (Sukiyaki), and that optimistic title (literally, “Let’s walk with our heads held high”) was chosen as the catch copy for the new movie.
Pop duo Kobukuro (photo left) and musician couple Imai Miki (47, right) and Hotei Tomoyasu (48, center) have made a cash donation of more than ¥10 million to Miyazaki Prefecture, it was announced yesterday. The artists collaborated on the song “Taiyo no Melody” and donated earnings to support people in the prefecture who suffered financial damage due to this year’s outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the local cattle population. Imai, a former idol singer who is married to former Boowy guitarist Hotei, is a native of the Miyazaki town of Takanabe, while Kobukuro’s Kobuchi Kentaro (33) hails from Miyazaki City.
April’s foot-and-mouth outbreak, the worst the country has ever seen, made national headlines and was a major blow for Miyazaki’s meat industry and the economy of the region. The prefecture’s popular governor Higashikokubaru Hideo declared a state of emergency, asking people living in the affected and surrounding areas to refrain from going out unless absolutely necessary. Hundreds of thousands of livestock were killed by the disease or slaughtered in containing it.
Some bookstores opened extra early this morning to deal with demand for the debut novel by actor Mizushima Hiro (26). Written using the pen name Saito Tomohiro, his real name, the award-winning “Kagerou” is a guaranteed best seller and thought likely to even outsell the third installment of “1Q84,” this year’s hugely anticipated release from Murakami Haruki. Publisher Poplar said that pre-release orders for the novel had been huge after it won the ‘taisho’ (top prize) winner in their 5th annual awards and the identity of the author was revealed for the first time. They have distributed a first run of some 430,000 copies, a rare feat for a first printing. One commuter who picked up the book at a Tokyo bookstore this morning said, “The novel has been a popular topic on TV and I was curious to read it for myself.”
The novel tells the story of a former company employee who, unemployed and broke, decides to commit suicide. But involvement with an underground group that deals in the sale of human organs leads him to a renewed realization of the value of life. The story is a far cry from the many successes that Mizushima has enjoyed in a relatively brief career. He married singer Ayaka in 2009 but earlier this year announced his decision to quit acting to focus on writing and his private life.
Mizushima Hiro Gets Award for Debut Novel (Nov. 1, 2010)
Mizushima Hiro Quits Acting to Write (Sep. 22, 2010)
Mizushima Hiro, Ayaka Married (Apr. 4, 2009)