Monthly Archives: December 2010

Ebizo Bar Brawl Update

Ichikawa Ebizo, Itoh Rion

If you’ve already learned more than you ever wanted to know about Ichikawa Ebizo’s bar brawl, stop reading now. Otherwise, here’s an update.

Metropolitan Police arrested Tokyo resident Itoh Rion (26, photo right) on December 10 for last month’s assault on kabuki star Ichikawa (33, left). But conflicting reports continue to emerge about what actually happened in the early hours of November 25. Itoh – a former “bosozoku” (street gang) leader – has admitted punching Ebizo in the face at a bar in Tokyo’s Nishiazabu district. He is accused of repeatedly punching and kicking Ichikawa in the face and head, leaving him with severe injuries including a broken cheek bone, which are expected to take six weeks to heal. But while the actor has insisted he never threw any punches or provoked the violence, police are investigating claims to the contrary by witnesses. And at his recent press conference, the actor looked in considerably better condition than reports had led people to believe.

After a night of socializing with kabuki colleagues, Ebizo ended up in a 6th floor bar after 4am, where he was seen drinking with a 29-year-old former gang leader. The man was heavily drunk at the time and Ebizo is said to have been physically rough with him. Itoh and two colleagues arrived and were engaged in conversation by the actor, before all five moved to another bar on the building’s 11th floor. It was there that Itoh says that Ebizo’s behavior angered him to the point of violence. “I got furious at him and punched him at the bar. I wasn’t very drunk,” he is said to have told investigators. “I was the only one who punched him. But it was not me who picked a fight.” Meanwhile, the 29-year-old former gang leader is said to be considering suing Ebizo for assault and possibly holding a press conference this week.
Related stories:
Ebizo Denies All at Press Conference (Dec. 8, 2010)
Ebizo was “Looking for a Fight” (Dec. 1, 2010)
Warrant Issued for Ebizo Assault (Nov. 30, 2010)
Ebizo Hospitalized with Head Wound (Nov. 25, 2010)

The Wolf’s Daughter to Make Drama Debut

Shibuhara Girls

To promote the new MTV Japan reality show “Shibuhara Girls” the focus is on the fact that it marks the ‘acting’ debut of model Akimoto Kozue (23). Which is significant mainly because she is the daughter of sumo legend Chiyonofuji (55), now a sumo elder and known as Kokonoe “oyakata” (stablemaster). In his heyday as the most dominant sportsman of his generation, he was known as “The Wolf.”

The new MTV show will air late Saturday nights from January 8, and the network has already agreed to show it in 16 countries and regions across Asia. Modeled on “The Hills” and billed as a “reality drama,” it focuses on the daily work and private lives of Akimoto, local singers Ishikawa Marie and Miyawaki Shion, and Chinese model Sun Wei. All of whom, of course, are very pleasant on the eye. The name is an amalgamation of the neighboring Shibuya and Harajuku districts of Tokyo that are a fashion and cultural mecca for the youth of the capital.

Ebizo Denies All at Press Conference

Ichikawa Ebizo

Kabuki star Ichikawa Ebizo (32) held a press conference at a Tokyo hotel yesterday evening to give his side of the story of his recent assault. About 500 reporters and cameramen gathered at the Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa for a chance to ask questions about the November 25 incident. Ichikawa, dressed in a simple black suit and tie, bowed deeply and often in apology and repeatedly expressed his remorse to kabuki fans, his theater colleagues and, though not directly, his commercial sponsors. Though his left eye was clearly bloodshot and his face did appear a little swollen, he didn’t look as beaten up as the media have been painting him. He is said to have undergone “major” surgery on his facial injuries, but there were no signs of scars or other after effects. But during the course of the press conference, which ran about 30 minutes over the planned one hour, he painted himself as an innocent, if drunken, victim. He said he had feared for his life and repeatedly denied all of the accusations that have been made against him.

Associates of the former “bosozoku” gang leader for whom an arrest warrant has been issued have insisted that Ichikawa gave as good as he got in the early-morning fight at a karaoke bar in the central Tokyo district of Minami Aoyama. A doctor who recently treated the 26-year-old man said yesterday that he claimed the actor hit him in the face with an ashtray. The man is said to have been angered at the aggressive treatment Ichikawa dished out to another, more senior former gang boss, including forcing him to drink tequila from an ashtray, pulling him by his hair, and throwing alcohol in his face. Ichikawa has denied all those claims and insists he was simply trying to look after the man, who was too drunk to stand.

It remains to be seen whether yesterday’s appearance and statements will turn out to be true and whether Ichikawa will be able to fully recover from the damage that has been done to his personal and professional reputation. Meanwhile his wife, freelance newscaster Kobayashi Mao (28) is to return to work. Since she and Ichikawa married in March she has been supporting her husband’s career and has spent the last two weeks in hospital with him. But she will soon return to the Fuji TV studios to record a pair of episodes of the show “Kiseki Taiken! Unbelievable.”

Related stories:
Ebizo was “Looking for a Fight” (Dec. 1, 2010)
Warrant Issued for Ebizo Assault (Nov. 30, 2010)
Ebizo Hospitalized with Head Wound (Nov. 25, 2010)

Hazama Nears Finish Line

Hazama Kanpei

Talento Hazama Kanpei (61) is scheduled to finish his earth Marathon on January 21, it was announced yesterday. The Yoshimoto Kogyo comedian has spent the last three years running and sailing around the world, continuing even when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer along the way.

Now on Day 720, he has covered about 38,600 km so far and is currently running across China. He will sail from Qingdao to Fukuoka, where he is expected to set foot on Japanese soil on January 4. He will then run the remaining 650km or so to the Osaka Castle Hall, where he will cross the finish line in a special event. Tickets for the event are free and will be distributed from tomorrow morning by the Yoshimoto ticket agency.
Related stories:
Despite Cancer, Hazama Vows to Finish Earth Marathon (Apr. 16, 2010)
Related stories:
Even Cancer Can’t Stop Kampei’s Earth Marathon (Jan. 14, 2010)

Hasegawa Finds New Father Figure

Hasegawa Rie, Kanda Masaki

Talento Hasegawa Rie (37) has stayed true to form in her latest romance, going for a guy who is old enough to be her father. She and actor Ishida Junichi (56) had an on-again, off-again romance for more than eight years. But he ended up marrying someone even younger, pro golfer Higashio Riko (34). And now the latest issue of woman’s weekly “Josei Seven” has reported that Hasegawa’s new beau is none other than actor Kanda Masaki (59). The couple have been seen in and around Tokyo and coming in and out of Kanda’s apartment building in the capital. Management for both stars have acknowledged the relationship, though in Kanda’s case they commented that marriage was unlikely.

The pair’s romance is said to have started back in June, shortly after Hasegawa was a guest on the TBS morning show “Asada! Nama Desu Tabi Salada,” which is hosted by Kanda. These days Hasegawa’s TV appearances are mostly in her capacity as a “vegetable sommelier” and the show featured her doing a food report from southern Italy. She is also an accomplished marathon runner.

Kanda was of course previously one half of the biggest couple in Japanese showbiz. He married super idol singer Matsuda Seiko (48, profile) in 1985, and they had one child, talento Kanda Sayaka (24). But the marriage ended in divorce in 1997. As a divorcee, Kanda was linked with actress Ikegami Kimiko (51) and a Ginza hostess bar “mama-san.”

B’z Matsumoto Gets 9 Grammy Nods

Tak Matsumoto, Take Your Pick

Matsumoto Takahiro (49) has been nominated for a whole bunch of Grammys. Well, he has to share them. The B’z guitarist, billed as Tak Matsumoto, collaborated with Larry Carlton (62) on the successful album “Take Your Pick,” which has been nominated in no less than nine Grammy categories: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Best Pop Instrumental Album, Best Pop Instrumental Performance, Best Rock Instrumental Performance, Best Instrumental Composition, Best Instrumental Arrangement, Best Engineered Album, Producer of the Year – Non-Classical. Carlton already has 18 Grammy nominations and three awards under his belt for his jazz guitar releases. His main style is fusion, but he’s also happy to play rock or pop, and he’s known for his session work with Steely Dan, Michael Jackson and others. The Grammy awards ceremony will be held in Los Angeles on February 13.

Thanks largely to the huge and loyal B’z fan base, the “Take Your Pick” Japan tour sold out 18 shows in just 20 minutes. The tour culminated in a spectacular headlining performance at the world famous Tokyo Jazz Festival in early September. The 12-track album, recorded last year and released worldwide in June, entered the Oricon charts at No. 2, a rare feat for an instrumental recording.

The Grammy nods are not the first recognition that Matsumoto has received in the U.S. In November 2007, B’z became the first Asian artists to be inducted into the Hollywood Rock Walk.
Related stories:
B’z Inducted into Hollywood Rock Walk (Nov. 20, 2007)

The Price of a Fiery Temper

Ichikawa Ebizo

More updates on the Ichikawa Ebizo (32, photo) assault case. The latest details on the half-Japanese, half-American man for whom an arrest warrant has been issued include a report in the Sankei Shimbun newspaper that he was possibly the victim of the incident. The 26-year-old man, who has a wife and twin children has told friends that he didn’t throw the first punch. He also suffered injuries in the fight with Ebizo, and has a doctor’s letter saying he will need about two weeks to recover from his injuries. He says he has no intention of going on the run but has not turned himself in to Tokyo police because the media reports on the incident have been “unfair.”

If the claims that Ebizo was not simply a victim of assault but actually started the fight prove to be true and he is prosecuted, it would have serious repercussions for his career. In addition to any legal penalties, probably no more than a few hundred thousand yen, he would be expected to go through a self-imposed period of penitence. He would not be able to appear in a stage production scheduled for January. If the show is cancelled the losses would be several hundred million yen, and even if Ebizo were replaced by another actor, ticket cancellations would be likely as he is the star of the show. He would also lose several lucrative commercial contracts, with the cost of losing his three major contracts believed to be about ¥500 million.
Related stories:
Ebizo was “Looking for a Fight” (Dec. 1, 2010)
Related stories:
Warrant Issued for Ebizo Assault (Nov. 30, 2010)

Kato Koji on the Mend
Talento Kato Koji (41) made a telephone appearance yesterday on the NTV morning show he regularly presents. He spoke about the 2-hour surgery he underwent on November 29 to repair the fracture dislocation to his right ankle that he suffered playing futsal. He expressed his surprise after the surgery that he had 5 bolts inserted in his ankle. He is expected to be out of the hospital in about a week and will return to work after a period of rehabilitation.

Luna Sea to Play Free Xmas Show

Luna Sea

Rockers Luna Sea announced yesterday that they will be playing the first ever free show at Tokyo Dome this Christmas. The band, currently on a comeback after a 3-year hiatus, will perform regular paid shows on December 23 & 24, but have added a free show on Christmas Day. The only condition for the “Lunacy Kurofukugentei Gig” is that fans must wear black, an idea the band used a couple of times in their indie days. A lottery for the 50,000 tickets opens on the band’s official site today.

Luna Sea are currently on their 20th anniversary “Reboot” world tour, which they kicked off with a concert in Germany on November 27. Their first tour in ten years, it will end with the Tokyo shows. The band reunited back in May, launching Facebook and Twitter accounts, and have released a new song and video on the date of every full moon since. They have moved to the Avex record label as of today and are recording an album of covers of their own songs. “Luna Sea” is scheduled for release on March 16, 2011.

Ebizo was “Looking for a Fight”

Ichikawa Ebizo

More details are emerging about last week’s assault on kabuki star Ichikawa Ebizo (32). It has been reported that he was not exactly the innocent victim he has claimed to be. His provocative behavior included hair pulling and forcing his drinking partner to drink tequila from an ashtray. Police have confirmed a DNA match between Ebizo and the blood found spattered in and near the Minami Aoyama bar where the assault took place.

Meanwhile, the man for whom an arrest warrant has been issued is described as a 26-year-old, half-Japanese, half-American who was a promising soccer player in his youth. A talented but unmotivated striker for the Tokyo Verdy junior youth team, he was thought to have a future in the J-League. But after graduating junior high school, he was increasingly in trouble with the police and ended up as leader of a “bosozoku” street gang. His current whereabouts are still unknown and police are trying to get him to turn himself in.

The kabuki production in Kyoto in which Ebizo was to appear started its scheduled run at the Minamiza theater yesterday. Ebizo’s role was performed by Kataoka Nizaemon (66), and the packed house didn’t seem to mind the change in the lineup. It means that Kataoka and Bando Tamazaburo (60), two of the leading stars of Kabuki, are teamed up again as they were last year. The decision to go ahead with the production was a given, as tickets for the first two weeks were sold out. Tickets for the closing fortnight, which went on sale Monday, have also been selling well.

The situation with another production scheduled for January is less clear. Ebizo is expected to need about 2 months to make a full recovery following reconstructive surgery on his face. But due to the large number of shows on around the country during the festive New Year season there is a shortage of actors who can take his place for the January 3-25 run at Le Theatre Ginza in central Tokyo. So it is thought likely that he will try to take to the stage earlier than his doctors would like, which of course would delight fans and go some way towards making up for the trouble he’s caused the kabuki world.