Daily Archives: January 4, 2011

Kohaku Boosted by the Kuwata Factor

Kuwata Keisuke

NHK executives must be feeling very thankful to singer Kuwata Keisuke (54, photo). He is being given much of the credit for the decent TV audience ratings announced for “Kohaku Uta Gassen” on New Year’s Eve. The show managed an average rating of 42.5% for the second half, the third year in a row that it has stayed above the 40% mark. In 2009, the main attractions were rare appearances from Susan Boyle (49) and Yazawa Eikichi (61), while this time around it was recent developments in Kuwata’s personal life that drew many viewers. The show was his first public appearance in almost six months, during which time he has been in a battle with cancer. His performance of two songs, including his latest release, “Sore Ike Baby!!” drew even higher ratings in some parts of the country, 48.1% in Nagoya and 49.6% in Niigata. NHK also announced that they had a 40% increase in votes from viewers on the song contest.

Other attractions on the show were a live hookup with the Yokohama Stadium, where actor/singer Fukuyama Masaharu (41) had his ponytail ceremonially cut off. He grew his hair for the lead role in last year’s NHK taiga drama series “Ryomaden.” And there was the 34th appearance by veteran Wada Akiko (60), despite the fact that she suffered neck and back injuries in a car crash during final rehearsals for the show.

Hamasaki Ayumi Marries Her “Last Angel”

Hamasaki Ayumi

The big surprise news of the New Year was Hamasaki Ayumi’s Las Vegas wedding. Ayu (32) and Los Angeles-based Austrian actor Manuel Schwarz (30) tied the knot on New Year’s Day in a small chapel in the Nevada city. The couple met last August in L.A. when he was cast as her bridegroom in a promotional film for her song “Virgin Road.” Ayu wore a wedding dress when she performed the song on NHK’s “Kohaku Uta Gassen” on New Year’s Eve (photo left). She was less formally attired in a surprisingly candid shot released this week (photo right).

On New Year’s Day, the pair were spotted by reporters at Narita Airport on their way to the U.S. It wasn’t until the next day, Japan time, that Hamasaki’s fans learned of the Las Vegas chapel wedding via her online “Team Ayu” fan club. She referred to ‘Manny’ as her “Last Angel,” a reference to another of her songs.