Monthly Archives: January 2011

Rookies Actor Gets Hitched

Kawamura Yosuke

Actor Kawamura Yosuke (27) announced on his blog yesterday that he got married at the weekend. He and a former middle school classmate (26) tied the knot on Saturday, and she is expecting a baby in June. The couple, who were reunited at a school reunion, are already living together in Tokyo but have set no date for a wedding ceremony or reception. They chose Saturday to register their marriage as it was the fifth anniversary of the death from cancer of Kawamura’s mother.

Kawamura has been a professional actor since 2001 but got his big breakthrough in 2008 in the hugely popular TBS baseball drama series “Rookies.” A movie adaptation of the series was a major hit the following year. Kawamura has landed roles in two drama series this year: Fuji TV’s “Tokyo Control,” hyped as the world’s first 3D TV drama, started last week; and “Nankyoku Tairiku,” on the TBS network and starring Kimura Takuya (38), will air in the autumn.

Erika-sama Firm on Divorce
Actress Sawajiri Erika (24) was mobbed by reporters at Narita Airport yesterday on her return from what was described as a brief vacation in Malaysia. Quizzed about her ongoing divorce negotiations with “hypermedia creator” Takashiro Tsuyoshi (46) she said, “The documents are in safe keeping in Spain. We have to wait until a certain date, and then I will file them.” The couple spent much of their brief married life in Spain after tying the knot in Japan in January 2009. Sawajiri was accompanied on her latest trip by Takano Yuri (63), owner of a nationwide chain of beauty clinics, who has been her most visible supporter and professional sponsor over the last year.

Japanese Movies Online Via Japan Flix

Tomie vs. Tomie

New York/Tokyo based production company TK Digital today launches Japan Flix, a new digital distribution venture that makes never-before-released Japanese films available for the first time in the United States. “There are so many great films made each year in Japan, that never get a chance to find an audience abroad. Our goal is to provide a new platform to introduce these films to an audience who otherwise would not have access to them,” says Takayama Teru, founder and president of TK Digital/Japan Flix.

Partnering with various Japanese distribution companies, Japan Flix offers a highly convenient distribution method for these otherwise hidden gems, as each of their releases will be available to download through the iTunes Store (in HD when available.) Online, viewers can browse an easy-to-navigate catalog that includes information and trailers for each film, and from there select a film to view. There are links to the iTunes store, where you can choose to either purchase or rent the film. Japan Flix has launched with an initial wave of titles, which includes the hit horror film “Teke Teke,” which stars AKB48’s Oshima Yuko, and the latest installment of the horrific and popular Tomie franchise, “Tomie vs. Tomie” (photo). There will be subsequent new releases every month in a wide range of genres – drama, horror, action, romance comedy, cult, yakuza, and more.

Japan Flix website

X Japan to Release First Single in 13 Years

X Japan

X Japan drummer and band leader Yoshiki announced yesterday the the rock group are releasing the single “Jade” in the U.S. on March 15. The track will be their “single debut” in North America, following their long-awaited first concert tour there last year, and the first release based on the 3-year contract they signed with EMI last November. The band are said to be in negotiations for the single to be concurrently released throughout Asia and Europe. It is their first single since “The Last Song” in 1998, a title that for almost a decade seemed to be sadly appropriate.

“Jade” is a rock number that pays tribute to the band’s late guitarist Hide, and was recorded with the help of arranger David Campbell (62). He has worked on over 450 gold and platinum albums, including releases by Michael Jackson, Metallica and his son, Beck. The jacket for the CD single is to be shot in Japan today, but will not feature the band members. The promo video will come in two versions and feature live footage shot at shows in the U.S. last year.

The approach of debuting in the U.S. with the release of a single rather than an album is not common, and (with the typical pomp reserved here for X Japan) is being compared with how the Beatles first entered the U.S. music scene in January 1964. There are plans to release two more singles (“IV” and “Born Free”) before putting out an album in the summer. Yoshiki said he has a lot of confidence in the album, which is about 50/50 new and old songs.

2010 a Bumper Year for Movies

Avatar Japan premiere

Revenue figures released this week show that the movie industry had a record year in 2010. The annual report from the Motion Picture Producers Association of Japan, commonly known by the Japanese abbreviation of Eiren, said that the box office total for the year was ¥220.7 billion, up 7.1% from 2009. Thanks largely to the increased revenue and publicity generated by such 3D hits as “Avatar,” the total was the highest ever, beating the previous record of ¥210.9 billion in 2004. The total number of moviegoers was 174 million, the highest figure since 1975.

Though the number of domestic movies was down by almost 10% from 2009, local productions had another strong year, grossing more than imports for the third year running. But it was the Hollywood 3D blockbusters and their higher ticket prices that had the highest individual box office traction, with “Avatar” grossing ¥15.6 billion, “Alice in Wonderland” at ¥11.8 billion, and “Toy Story 3” with ¥10.8 billion. The biggest homegrown box office success was, once again, a Studio Ghibli anime feature. “Karigurashi no Arrietty” (The Borrower Arrietty) grossed ¥9.25 billion.

Arashi Aim for Guinness Book


Johnny’s Jimusho aidoru group Arashi already hold plenty of music-related records, but now they reckon they deserve to be in the Guinness Book. The five-member group have filmed a total of 60 versions of their new TV commercial for the new “Android au” smartphone from the KDDI mobile network. Their management have applied to be included in the Guinness Book of World Records under three different categories: the most versions of a TV commercial shown on terrestrial channels within a 24-hour period; the most shown on a paid channel in an 8-hour period; and the most shown during a single 30-minute TV show.

Noripi’s Ex Questioned by Police
Takaso Yuichi (42), the ex-husband of former aidoru star Sakai Noriko (39) was recently questioned by police after being reportedly drunk and sleeping rough, according to the Sports Hochi newspaper. Quoting a statement from Tokyo police, they say a drunk man was reportedly seen sleeping on the street in the entertainment district late on Tuesday night. When they realized it was Takaso, who along with his ex-wife was arrested and tried last year on drug charges, they checked his belongings and gave him a urine test. The test was negative and he was allowed to go home the same day.

Director Ikeda in Apparent Suicide

Ikeda Toshiharu, Akifukaki

The body of a man believed to be movie director Ikeda Toshiharu (59, photo right) was found in the Pacific Ocean at the end of last year, it was revealed yesterday. Mie Prefectural police have reported that the body, a short man in his 50s or 60s, was found floating near a lighthouse on the southern Shima Peninsula on December 26. The body was naked apart from a par of black sneakers and the man was believed to have drowned one or two days earlier. The area is remote, although its beaches are popular in summer.

Police are not assuming foul play and think it likely that the man jumped, or fell, from the 20m cliffs near the lighthouse. An associate of Ikeda who lives in the nearby small city of Shima heard about the death and suggested a possible identity to police. They are currently carrying out DNA testing, but the body has already been cremated.

Ikeda became an assistant director for Ishihara Promotions while studying at Waseda University and joined the Nikkatsu movie studio after graduation. He joined at the same time as Negishi Kichitaro (60), with whom he left Nikkatsu in 1984 to set up Director’s Company. Their first project was “Ningyo Densetsu,” and their approach of giving directors full creative control over movie projects shook up the industry. Ikeda left the company in 1991. His recent films include “Hasami Otoko” (2005) and “Akifukaki” (2008, photo).

A Rough Start to the Year

Lasar Ishii, Hatori Shinichi

It’s been a bad start to the year for talento Lasar Ishii (55, photo left). Management for the star have acknowledged media reports that he and his wife of 32 years have divorced. He and his ex-wife are said to have been living apart for the last 15 years. And according to today’s issue of the “Josei Jishin” weekly magazine, around the same time that the couple got formally divorced at the beginning of this month, Lasar was dumped by his 20-something girlfriend. Adding to the upheaval, Lasar was named as a last-minute replacement for ailing kabuki actor Nakamura Kanzaburo (55) for a stage production starting next month. He posted to Twitter, “What happened to my New Year?! Three surprises in a row!”

The magazine report says that Lasar and his now reportedly ex-girlfriend were spotted out at dinner on Christmas Eve, looking very happy. He was even seen presenting her with a ring, but it seems the happiness wasn’t to last.

Lasar formed the comedy trio Conto Akashingo with Watanabe Masayuki (56) and Komiya Takayasu (54) in 1977 and they got their break on the hugely popular and influential TV comedy show “Oretachi Hyokinzoku.” Lasar dropped out of Waseda University to join the Teatro Echo theatrical troupe, and it was there that he met his future wife, with whom he has two daughters. His image of having a solid career and happy family life was damaged in 1997 when an affair with an actress 12 years younger was made public.

NTV Loses Two Announcers
At a regular press conference yesterday, Nippon Terebi chairman Hosokawa Noritada (70) formally announced the departure of two of the network’s popular announcers. He said he was sad to lose “Zoom In! Super” presenter Hatori Shinichi (39, photo right), who will become a freelancer at the end of March, but seemed less upset regarding Natsume Miku (26). A presenter on the quiz show “Ichiokunin Daishitsumon” she will quit NTV at the end of this month. It has been reported that she will go freelance, but when asked Hosokawa simply said, “I have no idea.”

Lavigne Fans Get Sneak Peek in Tokyo

Avril Lavigne, Goodbye Lullaby

Canadian rock star Avril Lavigne (26) was in Tokyo yesterday to give some of her Japanese fans the world’s first glimpse of her upcoming album. “Goodbye Lullaby” will be released in Japan before anywhere else on March 2. So in order to keep the album master tape secure – and no doubt partly as a publicity stunt – yesterday’s “listening party” was held at the central Tokyo offices of security company Secom. 50 lucky fans were selected by lottery to attend the event, Lavigne’s first appearance in Japan in more than two years. In addition to hearing five tracks from the album (“Push”, “Everybody Hurts”, “Goodbye”, “Smile”, and “Wish You Were Here”), they got the first look at the promo video for the first single release, “What the Hell.”

Lavigne has sold more than five million albums in this country, a good chunk of her global 40 million in sales. Among her Twitter posts about her her latest visit were, “On my way now to my album listening party….so excited to see all my Japanese fans tonight!!!!” and “Nothing like a traditional cup of green tea in Japan to help with the jet lag. Yummy too.” She said she’ll be back in Japan for the album release in March.

Manzai Pioneer Itoshi Dies

Itoshi - Koishi

The world of manzai comedy has lost one of its pioneers. Kimi Koishi died yesterday of lung cancer. He was 83. According to his management agency, he became ill in January 2010 and spent the last year in and out of hospital, from where he appeared by satellite link on an NHK show last December.

Real name Shinohara Isao, he was just 12 when he formed a “young manzai” comedy duo with his elder brother in 1940. As they matured, and calling themselves Yumeji Itoshi – Kimi Koishi, they went on to become the role models for just about every manzai artist since, in particular the “kamigata manzai” of Osaka and the surrounding region. From 1963-75, they hosted a popular game show on what would later become the TV Asahi network. In 1993, they became the first manzai act to be awarded the Medal with Purple Ribbon, given by the government for contributions to culture and the arts. The elder brother passed away in 2003, and apart from a one-off collaboration with Nishikawa Kiyoshi (64), Itoshi never performed manzai again.

Hayashiya Sanpei, Kokubu Sachiko Engaged

Hayashiya Sanpei, Kokubu Sachiko

Popular rakugo-ka Hayashiya Sanpei (40) and actress Kokubu Sachiko (34) held a joint press conference yesterday to announce their engagement. The traditional comic storyteller said he first met Kokubu just last November in Kyoto when she appeared as a special guest on the TBS historical drama series “Mito Komon.” He went straight into pursuit, calling her up until she agreed to go out with him. They held their formal engagement ceremony at a Tokyo hotel on Friday, will register their marriage in March, and plan to hold a wedding ceremony in October.

Though she will take on a particular set of duties and expectations as the wife of a traditional performer, Kokubu plans to also continue her acting career. Hayashiya’s mother, essayist Ebina Kayoko (77) gave her seal of approval yesterday, describing her future daughter-in-law as “very kind-hearted.” She also made the predictable request that Kokubu ensure that there will be a second and third generation heirs to the family line.

Real name Ebina Taisuke, Hayashiya entered the world of rakugo as a university student using the stage name Ippei. The the youngest son of a renowned rakugo-ka, he succeeded to his late father’s stage name in March 2009. Kokubu was scouted as a model for the fashion magazine “CanCam” at the age of 18. She joined the crew of the TBS variety show “Wonderful” in 1998. The show is still running and it was presenter Azuma Mikihisa (41) who set up the first dinner date between her and Hayashiya.