Monthly Archives: March 2012

Sakamoto Ryuichi Says No to Nukes

Sakamoto Ryuichi, Goto Masafumi, No Nukes

Sakamoto Ryuichi (60, photo left) is the latest high-profile celebrity to take up the cause of ridding Japan of nuclear power. The Yellow Magic Orchestra veteran and Academy Award winner announced yesterday that he would be participating in the No Nukes 2012 music festival at Makuhari Messe conference center in Chiba Prefecture on July 7-8. So far the event lineup has 18 artists including YMO, Asian Kung-Fu Generation, Brahman, and singer-songwriters Hajime Chitose and Saito Kazuyoshi. All profits from the event will go to an organization that aims to collect 10 million signatures to the “Sayonara Genpatsu” petition to end nuclear power in Japan. Currently only one of over 50 nuclear plants is in operation, though the government wants to restart many of them after maintenance and safety checks.

Sakamoto has attended many meetings and events since the natural disasters of March 11, 2012 led to the nuclear nightmare situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Almost 80% of respondents to a recent Tokyo Shimbun poll said they were in favor of or leaned toward the country ending its reliance on nuclear power.

Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo along with Asian Kung-Fu Generation member Goto Masafumi (35, photo right) yesterday Sakamoto said, “I hope we can use music to get people to think and care about the issues. We want to express our feelings about not just nuclear power but also nuclear weapons.”

No Nukes 2012 official website

Dreams Do Come True

Dreams Come True, Juon

Deserved happy news for Dreams Come True vocalist Yoshida Miwa (46, photo left) who recently got married, it was revealed yesterday. And not only has she found true love but her new husband is a full 19 years younger than her! Okinawa native Juon (27, photo right) is the vocalist and guitarist of the trio Fuzzy Control. The two are said to have registered their marriage on March 8. The date was auspicious because not only can it be read in Japanese as “miwa” but it is also Juon’s birthday. The couple don’t have plans for a wedding ceremony or reception, but the new DCT single is appropriately titled “Time to Shine.”

Fuzzy Control made their debut in 2003 and first collaborated with DCT on the February 2009 single “Goodbye My Schooldays”. They have since performed as their backing band and written songs together. Fuzzy Control have released a dozen singles and five albums to date, with moderate success. They are scheduled to perform in Tokyo on March 25, while DCT’s next scheduled live appearance is on May 23. They are currently recording in New York.

We say that Yoshida’s happiness is deserved because in 2007 she lost her common-law husband, visual director Sueda Ken, to a brain tumor. He was just 33. The couple married in May 2004 but never registered their marriage. Yoshida’s musical partner in DCT, Nakamura Masato (53), married former High and Mighty Color vocalist Maaky in June 2008 and they have a 2-year-old daughter.
Related stories:
DCT’s Yoshida Miwa Loses Husband (Oct. 1, 2007)

No More Speeding for this Astro Boy

Kimura Takuya, Toyota

Japan’s leading heartthrob Kimura Takuya (39) seems to have gotten a little too into his TV role as a race driver. The SMAP member and star of the 2005 Fuji TV drama series “Engine” (photo left) has been fined twice in recent months for speeding, it was revealed in today’s issue of the weekly “Shuukan Bunshun” magazine.

The article says highway police in Chiba prefecture caught him doing 120 kilometers an hour in an 80 kph road last September. He and his wife, singer Kudo Shizuka, were on their way to do a bit of surfing in their Chevrolet Astro. Kimura was nabbed again in Tokyo in January, this time on a Tokyo street, and his license was suspended for a second offense. Management at Johnny’s Jumusho have been forced to come clean on the matter, publishing a statement in local newspapers. They said, “As a member of society, Kimura is deeply ashamed of his actions and has promised not to let it happen again.”

Kimura has a long history of commercial tie-ups with Toyota, most recently appearing in their Corolla Fielder ads since last October (photo right), and for a lesser star those ads would be off the air faster than a speed camera could catch. But KimuTaku is such a player that the car maker has decided to continue showing the ads. Under the slogan “Fun to Drive, Again,” the ads also feature veteran comedian/director Kitano “Beat” Takeshi (65). A Toyota spokesperson said today, “(Kimura) has been warned from our side to obey traffic rules. We will enforce this strictly.”

The Latest Big Showbiz Couple

Yamada Yu, Oguri Shun

White Day may be an entirely commercial holiday, but it’s romantic enough for one young showbiz couple. Actor Oguri Shun (29) and actress Yamada Yu (27) sent out a handwritten fax to the media last night announcing that they would be tying the knot on March 14. The day, which is an auspicious “taian” on the traditional calendar, also marks the fourth anniversary of when the pair started dating. Sources close to the couple say they are already living together but have no plans for a wedding ceremony, reception or honeymoon. They also answered the first question asked when marriage is announced – Yamada is not pregnant. It was rumored that they would get married last July, but the Great Eastern Japan quake and tsunami in March would have forced them to postpone plans.

The two stars, both rightly considered among the best looking in showbiz, worked together as voice actors on the animated film “Surf’s Up” in 2007 (photo). They are said to have become close after working together on the 2008 NTV drama “Binbou Danshi – Bonbimen,” which featured Oguri’s first leading role in a drama series. Their relationship was revealed in May of 2008 and, unlike many showbiz couples, they have been open about it since. In New Year of 2010 they traveled together to Hawaii, but soon after their romance was said to be on the rocks several times due to Oguri’s womanizing.

Both are enjoying success in their careers – Oguri is currently in China filming a movie (so the marriage registration will not be the most romantic occasion), while “Uchuu Kyodai,” in which he co-stars with Okada Masaki (22), is due to be on screens in May. Yamada recently received very positive reviews for her theatrical debut in last November’s “Villa Grande Aoyama.”

Aidorus for Tohoku


Yesterday was a day of commemorative events across the country as Japan marked the first anniversary of the triple disaster that hit Tohoku at 2:46pm on March 11, 2011. Among the many celebrities helping to mark the occasion and raise funds for the tens of thousands of displaced and the devastated region were Johnny’s Jimusho stable of male aidorus and AKB48 and their assorted sister groups.

SMAP were among the top billers of the 180 or so Johnny’s stars who took the stage at Tokyo Dome for the 12-hour “Marching J” event. The lineup included youngsters of Johnny’s Jr., who have yet to make their debut, to veterans like Higashiyama Noriyuki (45) and Kondo Masahiko (47). The event was attended by an estimated 170,000 fans. Johnny’s has raised about ¥826 million over the last year, and the money is to be donated to Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima, the three prefectures worst hit by last year’s earthquake and tsunami. One of the more outlandish plans supported by the funds is the transfer of a panda from China to Yagiyama Zoo in Sendai.

Meanwhile, a total of 282 young female starlets joined together behind the lead of AKB48 to perform at several venues across the country. AKB48 appeared at their home base in Tokyo’s Akihabara, and were joined by SKE48 (Sakae, Nagoya), NMB48 (Namba, Osaka) and HKT48 (Hakata, Fukuoka). Needless to say there were lots of tears, with AKB48 member Maeda Atsuko (20, photo center) carried off stage at one point, but the emphasis was definitely on the upbeat and happy sound of J-pop.

RIP Yamaguchi Mie

Yamaguchi Mie

Talento Yamaguchi Mie died suddenly yesterday of heart failure at the age of 51, according to her management agency. They said Yamaguchi had been having dizzy spells since early February and had been seeking medical treatment. She gave a magazine interview on February 28 but her condition had worsened in recent days. A relative found her collapsed at her home in Yokohama yesterday afternoon.

A graduate of Saint Maur International School in Yokohama, the trilingual Yamaguchi was a rarity when she made her debut as the presenter of “CNN Headline” on the TV Asahi network in 1987. She became a popular TV personality and is remembered for a TV commercial for the food brand Fujicco and the catch phrase “Shibazuke Tabetai.” In 1996 she retired from show business to become an entrepreneur, opening a small import shop in Yokohama Chinatown. She closed the store last year. In 2008 she published a book on her experiences caring for her senile father, a topic on which she often gave talks.

Love Actually, Love Maybe, and Love Lost

Uehara Takako, Nanao, Tanaka Ritsuko

Speed member Uehara Takako (29, photo left) and a member of the hip hop unit ET-King are getting hitched, according to the Sankei Sports newspaper. The pair are expected to make an announcement about their marriage plans today. A foursome from Okinawa, Speed became one of the biggest acts in J-pop in the late 1990s, selling some 20 million albums before splitting up in 2000. They have pursued solo careers but appeared together several times over the years before formally reuniting at the end of 2008. Most recently, they played a Tohoku benefit concert in June of last year. Though she had previously appeared on the big screen with Speed, Uehara got her first movie leading role in last year’s “La Vallee de l’Amour.” ET-King made their major label debut with “Donuts/Natsu Omori” in 2006. They are scheduled to release a new single, “Mother,” on April 11.

Meanwhile, model and race queen Nanao (23, photo center) hinted yesterday that she and musician Nishikawa Takanori (41) might be tying the knot before the end of the year. Appearing at a PR event to promote Australian tourism, she was asked about their relationship and said, “We are talking about possibly going in that direction in the future.” Asked if that meant possible marriage within the year, she said, “Maybe.” One factor may be that several members of her Platinum Production management agency – Wakatsuki Chinatsu (27), Kinoshita Yukina (24) and Ogura Yuko (28) – are expecting babies this year.

Not so good news this week for actress Tanaka Ritsuko (40, photo right) who posted on her blog yesterday that she and her photographer husband Sugimoto Manabu (45) are divorced. The couple are said to have filed for divorce at the beginning of February, ending a 15-year marriage that started in 1997 with Tanaka aleady four months pregnant. In a magazine article a year ago, Tanaka spoke about how she and her husband had very different interests – she is into scuba diving, triathlons and other outdoor activities, while he is a stay at home type.

Kato Cha Reveals Young Bride

Kato Cha

No, that isn’t the father of the bride kissing his daughter, that’s the groom! Veteran comedian Kato Cha (69) has revealed his bride Ayana for the first time, and no doubt he chose yesterday to do so as it was his 69th birthday, making her exactly one third of his age! The two actually tied the knot last June but waited until yesterday to hold a lavish wedding ceremony and reception for 230 guests at the BelleVie Gaza Hall in Koshigaya, north of Tokyo. Kato wore a pink tuxedo jacket while Ayana (23) wore a wedding dress designed by talento Kanda Uno.

A member of the legendary comedy group The Drifters, Kato is on his second marriage. Fellow members Takagi Boo (79) and Nakamoto Koji (70) were at yesterday’s celebration, and Nakamoto hinted that he and his enka singer girlfriend Midai Junka might also get married within the year. Midai’s age is not published in the media but she is said to be in her 30s. Shimura Ken (62) was the only surviving member not in attendance as his TV schedule kept him away. He recorded a message of congratulations on video that was shown at the reception.

Sayonara, Tokyo Jihen

Tokyo Jihen

Rock band Tokyo Jihen have called it a day. The five-member band, fronted by vocalist Shiina Ringo (33), performed their final concert at the Nippon Budokan in central Tokyo last night. They played two encores to round off a 29-song set that finished with the 2006 song “Toumei Ningen” (Invisible Man). The show brought to a close their short farewell tour and followed the release of an original mini album, live album and DVD last month.

Shiina was already an established solo star when she turned her touring band into Tokyo Jihen – the name translates as “Tokyo Incidents” – in 2004. The band released one album before undergoing a major lineup change and the release of “Adult” in 2006, which became their first Oricon chart topper.

Band drummer Hata Toshiki was arrested last year for a drunken assault on a police officer.
Related stories:
Fallout from Tokyo Jihen Drummer Arrest (Feb. 16, 2011)