Monthly Archives: October 2011

X Japan Asia Tour

X Japan Asia Tour

Rockers X Japan kicked off their first ever Asian tour on Friday, playing to 10,000 fans at the Seoul Olympic Gymnasium in South Korea. The venue was to host the band in March 2009, but that show had to be called off due to their legal battle with management. Band leader Yoshiki said, “It has been our dream to come here for a long time. (The late) Hide and Taiji also shared that dream.” The 10-song set included recent releases such as “Jade” and “Born to be Free” as well as standards like “Endless Rain.” As usual Yoshiki knew how to give fans that extra thrill, performing the folk song “Arirang,” sometimes considered the unofficial Korean national anthem, and dressing up in a pink traditional chima chogori.

Famous for their history of calamities and ruined plans, X Japan have already seen their share on this latest tour. A show scheduled for November 2 in Beijing was cancelled due to technical and production problems. And Yoshiki also managed to add a bit of unplanned drama to the Seoul show by badly injuring his finger on a cymbal. Nonetheless the tour headed to Shanghai on Sunday for its first concert on Chinese soil. This time around, Yoshiki played a Chinese folk tune, donned a red China doll dress and brought a stuffed panda on stage. Next up is Asia World-Expo in Hong Kong on November 4, followed by shows the same week in Taiwan and Thailand.

French Win at TIFF


The 24th Tokyo International Film Festival came to a close last night. The big winner was the French film “Untouchables” which was awarded the Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix and $50,000. The film also saw its two male stars, Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy, share the Best Actor award. The film is based on a true tale of an aristocrat paralyzed after an accident, and the young black ex-convict employed as his care-giver. Another French winner was “When Pigs Have Wings,” which took the Audience Award. Director Sylvain Estibal said, “It is truly a great honor for us because this is our first time in Japan, our first movie, first film festival, and first award.”

Other people recognized were Ruben Oestlund, who was named Best Director for “Play”, and Glenn Close, who nabbed the Best Actress prize for her cross-dressing performance in “Albert Nobbs.” Local comedy “Kitsutsuki to Ame” (The Woodsman and the Rain), directed by Okita Shunichi and starring Yakusho Koji and Oguri Shun, was given the Special Jury Prize and S20,000. The Japanese Eyes award for local independent filmmakers went to Kobayashi Keiichi’s “Momo Iro Sora O” (About the Pink Sky). Jeffrey Jeturian was the first Philippino to win the Best Asian-Middle Eastern Film with “Trespassers.”

“Themes related to issues of immigration featured strongly in the films of the competitions, including Untouchables, Play and Pigs Have Wings,” pointed out jury president Edward R. Pressman at the closing ceremony at the Roppongi Hills complex in central Tokyo.

Kimpachi Sensei Under the Knife

Takeda Tetsuya as Kimpachi Sensei

Popular actor Takeda Tetsuya (62) recently underwent heart surgery, his management revealed yesterday. The actor, best known for his long-running role as the philosophizing high school teacher Kimpachi Sensei, was hospitalized on October 13 and went under the knife on the 21st. He is expected to make a full recovery and leave the hospital early next month. He was diagnosed with arrhythmia (irregular pulse) about ten years ago and has been closely monitored since. His heart problem – aortic valve stenosis – resulted from a hereditary condition known as bicuspid aortic valve. It is caused when two of the three valves in the heart become fused together and it affects only about 1-2% of the population. Hollywood star and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also had surgery for the condition.

A medical expert said, “(The condition) is rarely noticed while a patient is young. But as they get older and become less able to handle physical strain, they develop symptoms such as respiratory failure and hardening of the arteries and they become susceptible to heart attack.” Regarding Takeda’s treatment, he added “It is likely that they replaced the non-functioning aortic valve before his condition became too serious. It’s a big operation but is usually completed in 4 or 5 hours so I’m sure there is no cause for concern.”

Takeda played the title role in “3-nen B-gumi Kimpachi Sensei” on TBS for 32 years from 1979 until finally retiring the role earlier this year.

Model Gets Suspended Sentence

Takahashi Ayumi

Former popular model and talento Takahashi Ayumi (26) has been found guilty on drug possession charges. At the Tachikawa branch of the Tokyo District Court today the judge handed down a two-year prison sentence, suspended for three years as is the norm for a first offense. Takahashi was arrested for possession of stimulant drugs on August 27, the same day her boyfriend (32) was arrested for his involvement in a traffic accident earlier in the year. He has been described as having ties to a criminal organization. Two days later police also found less than a gram of marijuana in Takahashi’s apartment in the Itabashi district of Tokyo. She said at the time that she had been using drugs for about a year.

In giving her judgement today, the judge said, “You fell under the influence of drugs. But now you are working steadily, so I will give you a chance to start over.” Takahashi has been a regular for such popular fashion magazines as “Popteen” and “Tokyo Street News” and appeared in TV commercials for several famous brands. She also had a role in the recent live action adaptation of the “Yatterman” anime. She quit her management agency about a year ago and started working as a club DJ.

Yoshimoto, Shinsuke Fight Back

Shimada Shinsuke, Shuukan Gendai

Earlier this week the Yoshimoto Kogyo talent agency and former star Shimada Shinsuke (55) filed a libel suit against the Kodansha publishing company and one of its editors. The lawsuit seeks a wide range of public apologies and ¥165 million in damages from the company and the editor of its “Shuukan Gendai” magazine. The weekly broke the story of Shimada’s underworld connections that led to his sudden retirement in August, despite his position as one of the most popular and highly paid stars of the Japanese TV world. At a press conference to announce his retirement, Shimada repeated several times that he would sue any weekly that published lies about him. In its October 3 issue, Shukan Gendai ran another story, this time with headlines like “Shinsuke, anta wa yakuzada” (Shinsuke, you’re a yakuza), referring to the star as “kyokudo no sekai no ichiin” (a member of the underworld) and claiming that he was involved in land deals with the major Yamaguchigumi criminal organization.

In addition to the financial damages, Yoshimoto say they have asked for printed apologies in newspapers and magazines as well as on the advertisements hung from the ceilings of train carriages. The company and Shimada have amassed a team of eight lawyers to fight the case. A Yoshimoto spokesperson said, “(Shimada was) a talento who really made a contribution. But it’s also true that he was disgraced.” Meanwhile, a Kodansha spokesperson retorted, “We have confidence in the content of our article. And we will continue to investigate the relationship between organized crime and Shimada.”

One question being raised now is why Yoshimoto are continuing to be connected with Shimada despite having severed contactual ties with him, in spite of his admitted yakuza connections, and particularly as the police have been cracking down on organized crime in recent months. The magazine article claimed that Yoshimoto were aware of Shimada’s shady connections when they made a contract with him, and if that turns out to be true, it totally undermines the company’s stated policy of being strictly against such relationships and could raise doubts about other top stars contracted to the agency. But the fact is that Shimada is a very connected person both in showbiz and beyond, with several side businesses, and he undoubtedly played a significant role in Yoshimoto’s ever-expanding business scope.

Keiko Hospitalized After Stroke


Singer Keiko (39, photo center), wife of producer Komuro Tetsuya (52, photo left), has been admitted to hospital following a brain hemorrhage, according to Avex Management. She is said to have suddenly collapsed in their Tokyo home on the evening of October 24 and was rushed to a nearby hospital. She underwent five hours of surgery but her condition is not thought to be critical. She is expected to be hospitalized for about a month.

Keiko, real name Yamada Keiko and the daughter of a wealthy Oita Prefecture family, made her debut as the vocalist of Komuro’s group Globe in 1995 and the two married in 2002. At the height of his fame and earning power, Komuro was one of the wealthiest people in the business. But he was caught up in a very high profile arrest and court case in 2008 and was convicted of fraud the following spring. The intense media spotlight on the case clearly put pressure on the couple’s relationship and divorce was widely anticipated. But Keiko has been visibly supportive of her husband since his return to performing last year. She herself has been performing under the stage name KCO since 2008. Last week the couple both posted on Twitter about how busy they were with their careers, but there have been no updates since last Friday.

Uno Bambino For Uno
Happier news for talento Kanda Uno (36), who gave birth to a baby girl on October 22. It was also revealed today that she recently did a nude photo shoot, in all her pregnant glory at the end of September, for the women’s magazine “anan.” She previously did a nude spread for the magazine back in 1999.

4th Time a Charm?
Actor Rokkaku Seiji (49) is married for the fourth time, according to today’s issue of the weekly magazine “Josei Jishin.” The article says he got back together with his second wife, to whom he was married in the late 1990s. He has been divorced from his third wife, 20 years his junior, since 2005. Rokkaku is best known for his role as a forensics expert in the popular detective drama series “Aibo.”

Furuya Ikko Fighting Cancer

Furuya Ikko

Management for Furuya Ikko (67) revealed today that the veteran actor has been diagnosed with lung cancer. They said that though he had a malignant tumor, it had been discovered early and Furuya says that with treatment and a period of recuperation he hopes to make a full recovery. The condition was discovered during a scheduled checkup at the end of September. Furuya has already decided to drop out of a theater musical production scheduled for December.

Furuya was a late bloomer, finding stardom in his 30s. He started out on stage but went on to establish a career in movies and on TV. The father of Dragon Ash frontman Furuya Kenji (32), he is best known for his long-running portrayal of detective Kindaichi Kousuke. He first took on the role in a 1977 drama series and has portrayed the character as recently as 2005. Kindaichi is the creation of novelist Yokomizo Seishi (1902-81) who said that, of the many actors who have played his famous sleuth, Furuya was the best. The actor’s other signature role is that of detective Sakon Taro in a TV Asahi murder mystery series, teaming up with actress Kinomi Nana (65) for 25 years. “Konyoku Rotenburo Renzokusatsujin” (Mixed Bathing Open-air Bath Serial Murders) was famous for always featuring a scene with a topless actress, and Furuya got caught up in an extra-marital affair scandal with one of them, porn star Asai Rie (41).

L’Arc en Ciel to Play MSG

L'Arc en Ciel

Rock band L’Arc en Ciel announced yesterday the first details of their upcoming world tour. It will be the band’s second such overseas venture, the last being in 2007. This time around they will start off in Hong Kong on March 3 and travel to seven countries and regions. In addition to shows scheduled for Bangkok, London and New York, they have received offers to visit Russia, Brazil and Chile. They will become the first Japanese artists to perform solo at the “mecca” of live venues in the U.S., Madison Square Garden. Fellow rockers X Japan have previously been scheduled to perform at the venue but those plans fell through. L’Arc last performed in the U.S. at an event in Baltimore in 2004.

The four-member L’Arc are currently celebrating their 20th anniversary year with a tour of five cities nationwide. They first mentioned plans for a world tour during the May show at the Ajinomoto Stadium in Tokyo.

Second Time Round for Arthur
Actor Kuroda Arthur (50) held a press conference in Tokyo yesterday to announce that he is married for the second time. His bride is described as a 33-year-old nail artist who runs her own beauty business. The couple plan to hold a wedding ceremony on the Pacific island of Saipan on December 4, register their marriage in Japan after that, and hold a reception at a Tokyo hotel next February.

Kuroda’s most famous romantic entanglement was his 3-year relationship with actress Adachi Yumi (30). The two were rumored to be close to marriage but split up in the spring of 2005. Within months, a pregnant Adachi married comedian Itoda Jun (38), but their marriage ended in divorce in 2009. Meanwhile, Kuroda married a woman 23 years his junior in Hawaii in 2007. But that marriage lasted barely a year and a half.

Kabuki Loses a National Treasure

Nakamura Shikan VII

Kabuki star and National Living Treasure Nakamura Shikan VII died of lung failure at a Tokyo hospital on Monday. He was 83. On his deathbed he was surrounded by many of the “royalty” of kabuki, including his son Fukusuke (50), his son-in-law Kanzaburo (56) ad several grandchildren. Other veterans of the entertainment world who came to pay their respects after he passed away included movie director Yamada Yoji (80) and actress Nakamura Tamao (72). His funeral will be held at the Aoyama Crematorium on October 27 and will be led by Otani Nobuyoshi, chairman of Shochiku, Japan’s leading film and theater company

Shikan was the most famed onnagata of his generation, an actor who impersonates women in kabuki. He made his stage debut in 1933 at the age of 5 under the stage name Nakamura Kotaro IV and just months after the death of his father. In 1940, following the death of his grandfather – the famed onnagata Nakamura Utaemon V – he became a pupil of Onoe Kikugoro and the following year succeeded to the stage name Nakamura Fukusuke, which had previously been held by his father. He made his final name change in 1967. After receiving an award from the Japan Art Academy and the government’s Medal with Purple Ribbon, he was recognized as a Living National Treasure in 1996, and as a Person of Cultural Merit in 2006. In 2008 he was appointed as chairman of the Japan Actor’s Association. He made his final stage appearance as recently as September 1 at the Shimbashi Enbujo theater in Tokyo, but his poor health prevented him from appearing after that date.

Yasu, Azumax to Wed?

Yasu Megumi, Azuma Takahiro

The latest showbiz wedding buzz is about talento Yasu Megumi (29) and comedian Azuma Takahiro (41), popularly known by the nickname Azumax. The couple, who are said to be planning to tie the knot before Yasu’s 30th birthday on December 22, first met some 12 years ago when she auditioned for a local TV network show. Still a high school student, she caught Azuma’s eye and he convinced his colleagues to hire her. But romance between the two didn’t come until they worked together again in 2007. Yasu had been chosen the year before as the female celebrity people wanted most to marry.

Azuma established himself as one of the comedy duo Take2 and is the son of late comedian Azuma Hachiro, who died when he was just 18. Yasu lost her mother in the spring of 2010, so any plans to get married had to wait at least until after the traditional year of mourning.