Monthly Archives: May 2011

Saturday Night (Finally) Live in Japan

Saturday Night Live Japan

Japan will finally, and formally, have its own version of “Saturday Night Live.” Starting June 4, Fuji TV will air a show using the same live format as the legendary late-night NBC comedy show that launched the careers of so many top comedy stars. It will air once a month in the 11:10pm time slot. The regular lineup will be led by top comedians Akashiya Sanma (55, profile) and Imada Koji (45), the inaugural host will be Okamura Takashi (40) of the comedy duo Ninety Nine (profile), and the first musical guest will be crooner Hirai Ken (39).

SNL has been a breeding ground for comedy talent since it first aired in 1975. It has launched the careers of such names as John Belushi, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers and Will Ferrell. It has been aired in over 130 countries, and in Japan it is said to have inspired the legendary show “Oretachi Hyokinzoku.” That show in turn made household names of Sanma and Kitano “Beat” Takeshi (64).

Sayonara, Nagato Hiroyuki

Nagato Hiroyuki

Many veterans of the Japanese entertainment world turned out yesterday for the funeral of actor Nagato Hiroyuki, who was 77 when he passed away Saturday. The funeral was held at the Azabuyama hall of the Zenpukuji temple in Moto-Azabu, central Tokyo. The “moshu” (chief mourner) was his younger brother, actor Tsugawa Masahiko (71), who revealed that he himself had been at death’s door on the same day. Having suffered a suspected heart attack, he was undergoing tests at the intensive care unit of a Tokyo hospital when he learned that his brother was being treated nearby for a gastrointestinal hemorrhage. Due to his condition, doctors refused to allow him to see his brother before he died.

Nagato never quite recovered following the October 2009 death of his wife, actress Minamida Yoko. He cared for her during her final few years as she battled with dementia. The two were among the “royalty” of the Japanese movie world, huge stars in the 1950s and 60’s.
Related stories:
Wake Held for Minamida Yoko (Oct. 30, 2009)

End of the Road for Mitani, Kobayashi

Mitani Kouki, Kobayashi SatomiTop screenwriter Mitani Kouki (49) and popular actress Kobayashi Satomi (46) took the entertainment world by surprise with today’s announcement of their divorce. In a statement faxed to the media, they said they filed for divorce yesterday, ending 15 years of marriage. They said that many minor differences in opinion and values had accumulated over the years. No doubt their mutually busy showbiz careers also put a strain on their relationship. Sources close to the couple confirmed that they had grown apart in recent years and their lack of children had also played a part.

Mitani has penned many hit movies, TV dramas and even the first Japanese musical to play off-Broadway, and to mark his 50th year he has seven major projects in the works this year. Kobayashi is an established and naturally talented actress who regularly appears in TV commercials and dramatic roles. This week she starts filming the movie “Tokyo Oasis.” She met Mitani when she starred in one of his shows, the 1989 Fuji TV comedy series “Yappari Neko ga Suki.”

The Highs and Lows of Marriage

Nakamura Masaya, Yaguchi Mari

Even in 15cm-high heels, former Morning Musume member Yaguchi Mari (28) is dwarfed by her new husband, actor Nakamura Masaya (25). One of the shortest celebrities around, she is a touch less than 145cm (4’9″) tall, while he is a towering 1.92cm (6’4″). The two held a press conference in Tokyo yesterday to announce that they had tied the knot the night before. After Yaguchi returned from a Dream Morning Musume show in Hiroshima, the couple went to a municipal office around midnight to register their marriage.

The two have been living together since Nakamura proposed on January 20, Yaguchi’s birthday, about a year after they started dating. They originally planned to marry in March but postponed following the Tohoku earthquake. Nakamura has visited the region as a volunteer to help with relief work.

Apart from the obvious physical difference, there is also quite a gap between the two in terms of wealth. Managed by Watanabe Entertainment, Nakamura is one of the original members of the agency’s D-Boys group of actors, but only has a few supporting TV drama and movie roles under his belt. Yaguchi joined Morning Musume in 1998 as a member of the its second lineup and at the peak of their popularity. She became the group’s third leader in 2005 but had to leave just a few months later after a weekly gossip magazine published photos of her with actor Oguri Shun (28). She remained a member of the Hello! Project until 2009. She and 9 other former MoMus members formed Dream Morning Musume in January. Her bubbly personality has kept her a regular on the TV variety show circuit.

Rock n Roll Never Dies

Uchida Yuya

Aging rocker Uchida Yuya (71) has been arrested by Tokyo Metropolitan Police for stalking a middle-aged woman who wanted to break up with him. He has acknowledged charges of writing intimidating letters and having spare keys made to her home, but denies that he was trying to threaten her. The pair had been dating since about December 2009 but the woman (50) says she had suffered violent attacks since March of last year. In a letter found in her mailbox on April 2, Uchida wrote, “I have contacted your employer. I told them one of their employees is involved with a criminal gang and doing drugs. I haven’t given them your name yet! You have a week to think it over and call me! There is still time!”

A veteran rock musician who dropped out of high school in order to emulate his idol Elvis Presley, joining a rockabilly group at the age of 17. He switched between bands several times in the late 1950s and early 1960s before starting a movie career. He was one of the members of a special band put together to open for the Beatles in June 1966. Uchida has also insinuated himself into political life. He ran in the Tokyo gubernatorial election in 1991 and last year attended public review and prioritization meetings of government programs. His trademark is to append the phrase “rock ‘n’ roll” to every statement he makes. Reports on his arrest didn’t mention f he took that same attitude into police custody. Uchida has been married for almost 40 years years to top actress Kiki Kirin (68), with whom he has a daughter, actress Uchida Yayako (35), but they have been separated for all but the first two years. He is also the father-in-law of popular actor Motoki Masahiro (45).

Uehara Miyu in Apparent Suicide

Uehara Miyu

Tokyo Metropolitan Police are treating as a probable suicide the death of talento Uehara Miyu. She was 24. Her body was found last night hanging by the neck in her apartment in the Meguro district of the capital after an emergency call from a man about 2am. She was rushed to a nearby hospital, where she was confirmed dead.

Real name Uehara Mutsumi, she was born the youngest of 10 siblings raised on the small island of Tanenoshima in the southern prefecture of Kagoshima, known mainly as the site of Japan’s space rocket launches. Born into a poor working class family, she became popular due to a TV boom in two things – large families and celebrities living on or below the breadline. She often related the story of how she was born in the parking lot of a pachinko parlor, where her mother’s waters broke as she hit the jackpot. As a teenager, she moved to live with her sister in Kagoshima City, where she worked to pay her own way through school. After an assault by two boys she was kicked out of school and joined a girl’s gang. She later moved to live with another sister in Tokyo, where she was accepted by a talent agency. After a failed romance, she made a failed attempt to commit suicide with an overdose of sleeping pills.

A few career changes followed before her background became her main selling point and she started to make appearances on the variety show circuit. It was only when she published an autobiography in 2009 that her parents first learned of many of the experiences she had been through. Her mother died of a heart attack in March 2010.