Monthly Archives: February 2011

Komukai Minako Arrested on Return

Komukai Minako

For a relatively minor celebrity, talento Komukai Minako (25) is getting quite a bit of media attention. She finally returned from the Philippines to Narita International Airport on February 25, where police were waiting with an arrest warrant issued earlier this month. Komukai is accused of buying stimulant drugs last May, while still on a suspended prison sentence for a previous drug-related charge. She has denied the charges, insisting that the Iranian man who says he arranged the drug deal was simply a confidant.

Reporters went out to Narita twice during this month only to learn that Komukai had not used her ticket and was still in Manila. About 100 reporters finally got the photos they wanted as she arrived on Friday night wearing a revealing white t-shirt under a black jacket. She was quickly whisked away by officers from the organized crime squad, who took her to the Musashino police station.

Happy News for Mao, Ebizo

Ichikawa Ebizo

It was revealed yesterday that freelance announcer Kobayashi Mao (28) is five months pregnant. The good news must come as a welcome change for her husband, kabuki star Ichikawa Ebizo (33, photo), who is still reeling from the drunken assault scandal that derailed his career less than three months ago. Ebizo declined to speak with reporters who camped outside his Tokyo home yesterday, but he and his wife’s management agencies announced the news to the media by fax. Meanwhile his father, kabuki veteran Ichikawa Danjuro (64), speaking to reporters after a performance at the Misonoza theater in Nagoya, thanked them for their congratulations and said he was delighted to become a grandfather.

The trial of former gang member Ito Rion (27), who is accused of inflicting serious injuries on Ichikawa last November, is currently underway at the Tokyo District Court. So although those injuries now appear to be fully healed, the actor is continuing to maintain a low profile. During his court testimony, Ito said that he was provoked in part by a head butt that the drunken Ichikawa inflicted on his gang boss, though the actor has so far not faced any criminal charges in the case.

Stellar Cast for Yamada Yoji’s New Project

Yamada Yoji

Yamada Yoji (79, profile) is perhaps Japan’s greatest living movie director, and certainly one of its most accomplished. This year sees the 50th anniversary of his directing career and yesterday the first details of his upcoming movie project were announced. “Tokyo Kazoku” (Tokyo Family) is to be in part an homage to one of the most revered Japanese movies of all time, Ozu Yasujiro‘s 1953 classic “Tokyo Monogatari” (Tokyo Story) and it has a very strong ensemble cast. Set for a 2012 release, it will star Sugawara Bunta (77) and Ichihara Etsuko (75) as a couple who travel to Tokyo from a small island in the Seto Inland Sea to visit their children but don’t find the welcome and attention they expected. Though the premise is the same as in Ozu’s movie, Yamada will add such modern theme as Japan’s aging population and the increase in old people living and dying alone.

Commenting on the casting, Yamada said, “Sugawara-san’s has a much tougher image than Ryu-san (Ryu Chishu, the star of Ozu’s film) but I think that toughness adds tension to the ordeal of dying alone in one’s old age.” Regarding Ichihara, he said, “She has played common folk since she was a young actress and is one of the few who can really play an elderly country woman. She also has a rare sense of humor.” The main difference with Ozu’s film is that the couple’s younger son, played by Tsumabuki Satoshi (30), is still alive and living with his girlfriend, Aoi Yu (25), and their roles get almost equal billing. Tsumabuki won as best actor at last year’s Blue Ribbon Awards for his role in the critically acclaimed “Akunin,” while Aoi won for her supporting role in Yamada’s “Otouto.” The strong cast continues through the family – elder son will be played by Nishimura Masahiko (50), his wife by Natsukawa Yui (42), the daughter by Muroi Shigeru (52) and her browbeaten husband by rakugo-ka Hayashiya Shozo (48).

Leah Dizon a Single Mom in US

Leah Dizon

Talento and singer Leah Dizon (24) has headed back home to the U.S. as a single mother. It was reported yesterday by her management agency that she and her Japanese stylist husband divorced at the end of last year. Dizon returned home with their infant daughter and is said to be studying acting in the hope of returning to work in Japan.

The half French-American, half Chinese-Philippina Dizon was born in Las Vegas and raised in Los Angeles but long harbored a dream of becoming a star in Japan. She started by blogging with photos of herself in cosplay outfits, which caught the attention of agencies in Japan. Through the release here of photo books she built up enough of a fan base that when she made her official recording debut in February 2007, it was a smash hit. Singles and an album followed and Dizon seemed to be gaining a real foothold in the Japanese market. But a shotgun wedding in October 2008 and the birth of a baby girl six months later put her career on hold and she never regained that momentum.

Named after the Star Wars character Princess Leah, she was touted as a U.S. import into the talento world. She was often referred to as the “gravurekai no kurofune” or “Black Ship of the Pin-up World,” a reference to the so-called black ships of Admiral William Perry that helped end Japan’s centuries of isolation in the mid-1850s.

Eita, Family in Mourning


Actor Eita (28) has been in a state of shock since the suicide last week of his father (55). He returned from a movie location in Yamagata Prefecture late Friday night to attend the funeral, which was held in Tokyo on Saturday. He was accompanied by his wife, singer Kimura Kaela (26) and their baby son. His father’s suicide note apologetically named Eita as the chief mourner or host of the funeral, though it has been reported that he asked his two brothers to support him in that role. Elder brother, Nagayama Ryoya, is a model and former actor, while younger brother Kento (21) is still in the business.

Their father ran a yakiniku (Korean barbeque) restaurant named Edoya, a name that took one character from the name of each son.

Heaven’s Story Wins Critics Award in Berlin

Heaven's Story

“Heaven’s Story,” a movie by Japanese director Zeze Takahisa won a prestigious critics award at the 2011 Berlin International Film Festival on Friday. The movie appeared in the festival’s Forum category for avant-garde and experimental films. The award was given by the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI), a group that is not actually part of the film festival’s organization. Japanese films have now taken the award for the last three years running. Yukisada Isao’s “Parade” won last year and “Love Exposure” by director Sono Shion was the winner in 2009. Zeze, who is currently filming in Japan, released a statement expressing his gratitude that his work was appreciated by an international audience.

An epic film in nine parts, with a challenging running time of four hours and 38 minutes, “Heaven’s Story” has multiple characters and is based around the story of a woman out to revenge the murder of her parents and sister. The strong cast includes Watanabe Makiko, Sugata Shun, Emoto Akira, Murakami Jun, Sato Koichi and the young Tsuruoka Moeki. Zeze, a native of Oita Prefecture, began making films while studying at Kyoto University. He has a distinguished career as a “pink” (softcore porn) film-maker.

Surf’s Up for Mori Izumi

Mori Izumi

Model/talento Mori Izumi (28) has been caught having an affair with a much older – and married – pro surfer, according to today’s issue of weekly magazine “Friday.” The grand-daughter of leading fashion designer Hanae Mori (85), Izumi has been a regular on the variety show circuit for the last few years. With her mixed-race looks, wealth and family background, she would have to considered a good catch. So why get involved with a married man old enough to be her father? Well, her management told the magazine that Mori claims she didn’t know he was married and that the affair has already ended.

The man in question is Koshizoe Ken (57), an advisor to the Japan Pro Surfing Association. He is married to former actress Kotegawa Nobuko (48), sister of actress Kotegawa Yuko (51). He has a history of two-timing as he was already married with a child when he got involved with Kotegawa. He met Mori about three years ago when she visited a Tokyo surfing shop that he manages. The pair were photographed at Mori’s Tokyo apartment and at her holiday home in Chiba Prefecture.

Ainosuke’s Little Secret

Kataoka Ainosuke

Kabuki actor Kataoka Ainosuke (38) has a secret family, according to today’s issue of weekly magazine “Josei Seven.” The magazine reports that Kataoka and a 43-year-old bar hostess he has known since the early 90s have a son who is currently in the 5th grade. Mother and son are said to be living in Kyoto but have been spotted going in and out of Kataoka’s high rise apartment in Osaka.

Kataoka was thrown into the spotlight at the end of last year when he was named as a last-minute replacement for actor Ichikawa Ebizo (33), who abruptly dropped out of a scheduled role following a drunken assault scandal in late November. With all the major names fully booked during the busy new schedule the pressure was on the little-known Kataoka, but he received good reviews for his performances at the Minamiza theater in Kyoto (photo). Unusually for an actor in the traditional theater world, Kataoka was born into a family with no kabuki connections. He became a child actor at the age of 5 and became a student of Kataoka Nizaemon XIII at the age of 9, taking the stage name of Chiyomaru. He succeeded to the name Ainosuke VI in 1992, as his mentor Kataoka Hidetaro (69) had no sons. The Josei Seven article says that around the time his own son was born Ainosuke was still a struggling actor whose career would likely have ended if he had revealed that he had a wife and child.

Fallout from Tokyo Jihen Drummer Arrest

Tokyo Jihen

The repercussions continue following the arrest of musician Hata Toshiki (34, photo front left). Drummer for Shiina Ringo’s band Tokyo Jihen, he was arrested in the western Tokyo suburb of Mitaka on February 10 for interference with a public servant in the execution of his or her duties, the formal description of his drunken assault of a police officer. Confectionery maker Ezaki Glico have changed the song in their currently running TV commercials for the “Watering Kiss Mint Gum” product, dropping the original Tokyo Jihen track “Sora ga Natteru”…for a version without Hata’s drumming! The CM also has a different credit title, attributing the song to Shiina rather than her band. Major cosmetics maker Shiseido, who also use one of the band’s songs in its TV commercials, say they are “studying the situation.” The song was due to be released as a single next week, but that has now been postponed indefinitely. Two scheduled appearances by Tokyo Jihen on the TV Asahi show “Music Station” have also been canceled.

Hata’s arrest came on Thursday night when a neighbor called the police to say someone had broken her bathroom window. When a policemen showed up, he was promptly taken down by a “rugby tackle” from Hata. He woke up the next morning in police custody and said he had no recollection of the incident.

Takahashi Katsumi Ties the Knot
Actor Takahashi Katsumi (49) announced today that he got married last month. In a fax sent to the media, he said he and his ippanjin bride tied the knot in mid-January. The announcement came as Takahashi finished his appearance in a recent theater production, which ended its run yesterday.

Wakki, Marie in Tokyo Car Trouble
Comedian Wakki (38) had his car broken into last night, according to media reports released today. A bag that included cash and his driver’s license was stolen from the car, which was in a car park in the Shinagawa district of Tokyo. Wakki, real name Wakita Yasuhito, is one half of the popular comedy duo Penalty.

It was reported by Tokyo police this evening that talento Marie (23) caused a (presumably) minor traffic accident in the capital today. She was driving through an intersection in Meguro when she hit a minicar. There was no mention of any injuries.

Kara Members Sue Over Slave Wages


Popular South Korean girl group Kara headed home yesterday after 11 days here to do some filming for a TV Tokyo drama series. The group have been plagued by rumors of a split and threats of lawsuits, but during their visit they put on a united front. That was exposed as a sham today as it was revealed that three of the five members are currently embroiled in a legal dispute over earnings. Despite the group’s success here and at home, Korean media reports that members Han Seung-yeon (22), Jung Nicole (19) and Kang Jiyoung (17) claim that during the first six months of last year, while their album “Lupin” was riding high in the charts, they were only receiving about 140,000 Won (¥10,000) a month as an allowance. They are suing their management agency, DSP Media, to have their contract annulled. The lawsuit claims that of the 410 million Won made from the album, DSP put their expenses at 390 million Won. Security was tight as the tight-lipped group headed home yesterday from Tokyo’s Narita International Airport.