While we’re enjoying unseasonably warm weather here in south London, heavy snow and extreme cold has been disrupting life in Japan and the U.S., particularly in the northeast. We are advised that due to winter storm Jonas, delivery delays are being experienced across the east coast of the U.S. All USPS plants have reopened and some delivery services have been resumed but deliveries will be limited by local road conditions.
In Japan we are seeing some minor disruptions to deliveries but as yet nothing too severe. We will keep you posted about any delays to your order as and when they arise.
Studio Ghibli have done it again! For the third year in a row, Japan’s most famous anime studio has got a best animated film Academy Award nomination, this time for Omoide no Marnie (When Marnie Was There). This year’s nominations were announced in Beverly Hills last week and the awards ceremony will take place on Feb. 28.
Based on a 1967 children’s book by British writer Joan G. Robinson, it tells the story of 12-year-old orphan Anna (voiced by Takatsuki Sara), who lives unhappily in Sapporo with her foster parents. While visiting a coastal resort to recover from an asthma attack, she meets Marnie (Arimura Kasumi), a mysterious, blonde-haired girl who Anna had seen in her dreams. “Marnie…” will be up against Anomalisa, Boy and the World, Pixar’s Inside Out, and Aardman’s Shaun the Sheep Movie.
The English-dubbed version features such Hollywood talent as John C. Reilly, Kathy Bates, Ellen Burstyn and Vanessa Williams.
Directed by Yonebayashi Hiromasa and Nishimura Yoshiaki, it was released in Japan in the summer of 2014. It is the fifth Japanese animated film to be nominated for the award, all of which came from Studio Ghibli. But so far only the first, Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away) in 2002, has come away with the Oscar.
See the English-dubbed trailer on YouTube
After sending the Japanese entertainment world into a flurry last week with reports that they were to split, the five members of boy band/supergroup SMAP appeared together live last night on the Fuji TV SMAPxSMAP show to apologize. Contrary to last week’s reports, they said they planned to continue with the Johnny’s Jimusho agency that has managed them over their almost 30-year career. But while each member issued a separate brief, formal apology to fans and sponsors, there was no clear statement that they would continue as SMAP. Dozens of reporters and scores of fans waited outside the Fuji TV studios late last night hoping for some clarification, but the confusion continues.
One woman in her 30s, a fan since her teens, said, “I wanted to see the show, convinced that they would definitely not split up. I came to Fuji TV hoping I might get a chance to meet them in person. I’m happy that they are not going to split just yet.”
It has been reported today in the Japanese media that SMAP may have come to the end of the road. Members Nakai Masahiro (43), Inagaki Goro (42), Kusanagi Tsuyoshi (41) and Katori Shingo (38) are said to be leaving Johnny’s Jimusho, the agency that launched them nearly 30 years ago, with only Kimura Takuya (43) planning to stay. No date has been announced but the decision is reported to have come after the chief manager who oversaw the group at Johnny’s decided she was to quit the agency. The group made their debut in the late 1980s and have remained among Japan’s most popular cultural icons for more than two decades.
SMAP (only in Japan can you find a group named Sports Music Assemble People!) was formed as a group of teenage backing dancers to other established boy bands and went through several lineup changes before their “official” launch in 1988. That 6-man lineup included Mori Katsuyuki, who left in 1996 to become a racing driver. In spite of an admitted inability to actually sing, the remaining members went on to have a series of million-selling singles, sell out dome concerts, and appear in countless TV dramas and variety shows. Their endorsements of a multitude of commercial products made sure that their faces were everywhere to be seen across Japan. Kimura was perennially voted the country’s most popular male star, even after his marriage to pop star Kudo Shizuka. No doubt all five will remain familiar faces across the spectrum of entertainment media.
Read Japan Zone’s profile of SMAP.
We at Japan Zone would like to wish all our visitors a very happy and healthy Year of the Monkey in 2016!
Read the Japan Zone guide to the 12 animals of the traditional Chinese zodiac.