Monthly Archives: November 2011

Former Talento in Drug Arrest

Tanaka Chizuru, Aso Kumiko


Former talento Tanaka Chizuru (33, photo left) is the latest celebrity to be arrested on drug charges. According to a statement yesterday from the Tachikawa police station in western Tokyo, the former member of aidoru group Tokyo Performance Doll was arrested on November 25 for use of stimulant drugs at the end of the summer. No further details were provided of Tanaka’s arrest or the supply route, but sources say she tested positive for the drugs in a urine test after being picked up by police at her apartment in Tokyo’s Shibuya district. Tanaka’s blog was updated on the 25th with an entry saying she had been admitted to hospital. The blog was closed down yesterday.

Tanaka entered the spotlight in 1992 when she was a prizewinner at the 6th Kokuminteki Bishojo Contesuto, an annual beauty pageant that has launched many showbiz careers. She had a moderately successful career before briefly quitting showbiz between 2004-06. Earlier this year she set up her own talent management agency.

Aso Kumiko to be a Mom
Happier news for another 33-year-old. Actress Aso Kumiko (photo right) is five months pregnant with her first child, her management revealed yesterday. She and stylist Iga Daisuke (34) married in December 2007. Aso plans to continue working into the New Year and take maternity leave until next autumn.

Aso got her start in showbiz in a similar way to Tanaka, winning a nationwide schoolgirl uniform pageant in 1995. She debuted in the movie “Bad Guy Beach” the same year. 1998 saw her not only filming her first nude scene in “Kanzou Sensei” but also winning Japan Academy Awards as best newcomer and best supporting actress. She had her first starring role in 2000’s “Himawari” and she is now one of Japan’s most prolific young actresses, with over a dozen awards and almost 60 movies to her name.


Cancer Claims Rakugo Maverick

Tatekawa Danshi


Rakugo master Tatekawa Danshi died on Monday at the age of 75 after a long battle with larynx cancer. His son and daughter gave a press conference yesterday to announce the news (photo right). The cause of death came as no surprise given their father’s image as a heavy smoker and drinker and history with the disease. The larynx cancer which was first diagnosed three years ago reappeared last November and he was advised to undergo a tracheotomy. But, insisting that his voice was his way of life, he refused surgery until after he gave his final stage performance on March 6 of this year. Following the surgery he was in and out of hospital and at the end of October went into a coma from which he never awoke.

Real name Matsuoka Katsuyoshi, he entered the world of rakugo at 16 as an apprentice to Yanagiya Kosan V using the stage name Yanagiya Koyoshi. He rose to the rank of shinuchi in 1963. Between 1966-69 he was the first emcee of the NHK rakugo weekly show “Shoten,” which airs to this day. Known as the “fuunji” (soldier of fortune) of the rakugo world he was outspoken and controversial figure. He was known for his sharp-tongued style, trademark raspy voice and bandana. In the early 1980s, following a disagreement with his own “kyoshi” (master) Kosan, he broke away from the rakugo establishment and set up his own Tatekawa-ryu school. Among his apprentices were comedian-turned-director Kitano “Beat” Takeshi (64) and broadcast writer Takada Fumio (63).

In his second attempt to run for public office Danshi was elected to the upper house of parliament in 1971, and a few years later served briefly as a vice minister in charge of Okinawa development. His first serious health problem came in 1997 when he was diagnosed with esophagus cancer.


We’re the Broken Bones

Kawamoto Makoto, Ei Rokusuke


A couple of celebrities have been hospitalized with broken bones this week. Singer-songwriter Kawamoto Makoto (37) was involved in a traffic accident on Wednesday night, according to a post on her Twitter account by her colleagues. The post said, “Fortunately she is making good progress but she has suffered broken bones and bruising and is in no condition to perform.” Kawamoto was scheduled to play at a music festival in Tottori Prefecture this weekend.

Meanwhile veteran broadcast writer and talento Ei Rokusuke (78) is in the hospital yet again. He is expected to be admitted for about a month after breaking his hip in a fall at his Tokyo home on Wednesday. He is due to undergo surgery today and will need about a month of rehabilitation before being able to return to work, although his management said that they will wait to see the results of his surgery before deciding if he can host his regular live TBS radio show tomorrow. A concert scheduled for next week has been postponed until February. Ei suffered a broken toe in a fall in 2006 and needed six months before he could walk normally again without a stick. He revealed in October of last year that he is battling Parkinson’s Disease. And last November he was riding in a taxi that was involved in a traffic accident, and suffered some minor injuries.


More Wedding Bells and Babies

Kobayashi Sachiko, Itoh Yuko


At the risk of turning Japan Zone into some kind of weddings and births registry, here are some more updates from the showbiz world.

Enka star Kobayashi Sachiko (57, photo left) held a press conference yesterday shortly after she got married to Hayashi Akio (49), CEO of regenerative medicine company TES Holdings. Sacchan, as she is popularly known, said that yesterday was not only an auspicious taian day on the traditional calendar but also the sixth anniversary of the day she and her future hubby first met. The couple’s engagement was announced back in August. After tying the knot at the Minato-ku municipal office in Tokyo, Kobayashi (she plans to continue using here maiden name) spoke with reporters and proudly showed off the chunky wedding ring that Hayashi bought for her two years ago while traveling overseas. The newlyweds are not planning to hold a wedding ceremony or reception but will be taking a honeymoon next February in Vienna, where Hayashi runs a business.

Kobayashi debuted way back in 1964 and has had such massive hits as 1979’s “Omoidezake.” Her incredibly flamboyant costumes have been a key feature of the “Kohaku Uta Gassen” show on NHK every New Year’s Eve for the last 32 years.

Meanwhile actress Itoh Yuko (37, photo right) announced on her blog last night that she is now married and is currently six months pregnant. She didn’t give any further details but it is thought that she and her ippanjingroom tied the knot yesterday. Itoh, who debuted in the 1997 Fuji TV drama series “Hitotsu no Yane no Shita 2,” has been a feature of 2-hour drama specials for several years. She was romantically tied to comedian Watabe Ken (39) of the duo Unjash from 2004. The pair were expected to get hitched but broke up in 2008.

Also tying the knot is pinup girl Tachibana Ayano (23), who blogged yesterday that she and soccer player Kukino Satoshi (24) are planning to get married early next year. Tachibana is said not be pregnant and plans to continue her showbiz career, which is already heading into its second decade. Kukino, who is a striker with the J1 team Kawasaki Frontale, also announced the news on his blog.


In the Family Way

Nakanishi Mona, Shinohara Ryoko


Nakanishi Mona (35, photo left), formerly a talento when she used her maiden name of Yamamoto, announced yesterday that she is finally pregnant. As she had previously done with the announcement that she was undergoing infertility treatment, she posted the news on her blog saying that she hoped it would encourage other women hoping to get pregnant in their mid 30s or later. Nakanishi quit show business at the end of June and started her blog in September.

The former TV announcer of mixed Norwegian/Japanese heritage was a popular talento but plagued by several bad choices on the romantic front. Her career was derailed twice by affairs with men who were not only married but also in the public eye. The first was politician Hosono Goshi (41) in 2006, and then in 2008 it was baseball star Nioka Tomohiro (35). She finally settled down when she and her husband (34), the owner of a real estate investment company, got married in August 2010.

Also in the family way is actress Shinohara Ryoko (38, photo right), who is five months pregnant with her second child. She attended an event last night at the Mohri Garden in central Tokyo, which will be lit up until Christmas Day. Shinohara, who is married to actor Ichimura Masachika (62), has been busy during her pregnancy, including a modeling appearance for jewelery brand Tiffany in September.


Brangelina and Family in Tokyo

Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie in Tokyo


Hollywood stars Brad Pitt (47) and Angelina Jolie (36) arrived in Japan yesterday with their six children in tow. The family arrived at Haneda Airport near central Tokyo in their private jet and were welcomed by about 500 fans. Pitt is making his eighth visit to Japan, and the first in two years, to promote the new movie “Moneyball,” of which he is both star and producer. The local media is referring to the couple as the first Hollywood stars to come to Japan with their children since the earthquake and tsunami disaster of March 11. The movie, directed by Bennett Miller, opens here on November 11.

Chilli Peppers x Elgrand
The latest single release from American rockers Red Hot Chilli Peppers is to be used in a Japanese TV commercial, a first for the band. During their 28-year career they have previously allowed the use of material for movie soundtracks but “Monarchy of Roses” will be the first to be used in a commercial. From tomorrow, it will feature in CMs for Nissan’s Elgrand line of luxury MPVs. The song will be released here as a CD single on December 14.


Good News and Bad

Kimura Yoshino, Ohtsuka Norikazu


Super showbiz couple Higashiyama Hiroyuki (45) and Kimura Yoshino (35, photo left) are the proud parents of a baby girl, it was announced on Saturday. Higashiyama went straight from a studio recording to be by his wife’s side at the Tokyo hospital where she had what was said to be an easy delivery. The couple started dating after they worked on a stage production in 2008 and they tied the knot in October 2010.

Higashiyama became a star as a member of Johnny’s Jimusho idol group Shonentai, and he remains one of the most influential stars in that agency. He regularly performs on stage and in TV dramas and today he is scheduled to meet fans for a preview screening of his latest movie, “Genji Monogatari” (The Tale of Genji). The London-born Kimura made her drama debut in 1996 and is now one of Japan’s top actresses with two dozen movies under her belt. She made her Hollywood debut in the 2007 “Masters of Horror” series, and appeared in the 2008 international production “Blindness.”

Happy news also for Fuji TV announcer Nakamura Hitomi (32) and comedian Ohtake Kazuki (43), who got married in March and held their wedding ceremony and reception yesterday at the Grand Hiatt Tokyo. Towards the end of the reception, a video about the couple’s 8 years together was screened with a surprise at the end for the 250 family members and celebrity guests – an ultrasound video revealing that Nakamura is five months pregnant.

Mezamashi Host Hospitalized
Less happy news for another Fuji TV employee, as Ohtsuka Norikazu (63, photo right) has been hospitalized with acute lymphocytic leukemia. The network said the “Mezamashi Terebi” morning show presenter had been off work since last Wednesday and was currently undergoing chemotherapy treatment. In a released statement, he said, “After the sudden and totally unexpected discovery of my illness, I am taking a break. I am determined to vigorously endure this difficult treatment and promise to return to my 5:25am post with a smile in a few months.”


CM Queens

CM Queen


One of the showbiz rankings that comes around at the end of the year is for the so-called “CM Queen,” the female celebrity with the most commercial contracts. Currently top of the ranking this year is actress Ueto Aya (26) with 14 top brands to her name. She’s followed by child star Ashida Mana (7, photo left), who debuted in 2009 and won a best newcomer award for a TV drama role last year. This year she became the youngest actress to have a starring role in a primetime TV drama series, in Fuji TV’s “Marumo no Okite.” And the catchy single “Maru Maru Mori Mori!”, which she recorded as one half of a duo with Suzuki Fuku (7), has been the smash hit of the year among the pre-teen crowd. Just last week she released her debut solo CD, and she has had 12 CM contracts so far this year.

Also making her breakthrough this year is actress Takei Emi (17, photo right). Yesterday it was announced that she is the new “image character” for top suit retailer Yofuku no Aoyama, bringing her current total to 9 commercial contracts and 11 in total for the year. Takei is with the same management agency as Ueto and, as is expected, talks about her ambitions in terms of showing due respect to her sempai. “I hope I can be like my sempai someday.”