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October 2003

Utada to Take On US
It was announced today that singer Utada Hikaru (20) is to make her global debut under the name "Utada," with an all-English album due out next spring. There has been a lot of anticipation about her entry into the US market over the last couple of years. It will actually be a 're-entry,' as she released several singles in the US - where she was born and raised - as Cubic-U before returning to Japan with her family. She made a huge splash here at the age of 16 with her debut album First Love. In addition to becoming one of Japan's biggest selling artists since then, she is attending Columbia University and last year she got married and signed with Island/Def Jam Records. October 31, 2003

Tokyo Godfathers
The animated movie Tokyo Godfathers may be the next Japanese feature to gain an Oscar nomination. With this aim in mind, the Kon Satoshi-directed feature is due to go on general release in the US in December, shortly after its release here next month. The movie tells of three homeless people who find an abandoned baby and embark on a search for her parents. Sony Pictures will be hoping for some good publicity and a decent box office return, as recent dud releases have been partly responsible for the parent company being on the skids. Kon previously directed such works as Perfect Blue (1997) and Sennen Joyu (2002), which is another possible Oscar contender.
Tokyo Godfathers site (Japanese) October 30, 2003

NTV Disgraced
Nippon TV Chairman and CEO Ujiie Seiichiro (77) has stepped down from his post in an industry self-regulatory body following a scandal that has hit his station. An unnamed "Nitere" producer was found to have bribed viewers in order to manipulate TV ratings. The 41-year old producer found out the identities of several households used by Video Research Ltd. He was able to abuse this information because it is the only TV ratings company in the country. He paid a research company ¥100,000 for information on each household and then money to the viewers to watch specific programs over a period of more than a year. The amount is said to have been ¥5-10,000 per program in the form of gift certificates. October 29, 2003

NHK For Senichi?
He may not have managed to take the Hanshin Tigers all the way to the Japan Series title, but manager Hoshino Senichi (56) is still in big demand. He formally announced today that he is stepping down as manager due to health reasons, though he helped the Tigers achieve their greatest glory in 18 years in only two seasons at the helm. He expressed his thanks to his players and the fanatical Hanshin fans, to whom he will always be a hero dispite falling short at the final hurdle. It is widely believed that he will return to being an announcer for NHK, where he has spent two 4-year stints in the past. Another strong possibility is for him to make a lot of money from TV commercials. October 28, 2003

Tatu To-do
Controversial Russian pop duo Tatu are back in Japan, this time to promote a concert in December at Tokyo Dome. As expected, there was lots of tabloid press waiting for them at Narita Airport, and of course a few publicity-generating scuffles between paparazzi and the large staff of minders surrounding the two teenage girls. The duo caused a big fuss back in June when they refused to go on air during the live TV Asahi show Music Station. They arrived on time yesterday, however, for a performance at the school festival of Bunkyo Gakuin University in Tokyo. Students were treated to the usual girl-on-girl passion that started all the fuss about the duo. October 27, 2003

Living Up to Aniki
Kimura Shunsaku (photo, 24), younger brother of SMAP's Kimura Takuya (30), has opened his own clothes store in Tokyo's youth mecca of Shibuya. In keeping with the Japanese tendency to turn English into something unintelligible, the store is named 'Shuip Sympathy'. Shunsaku is well known in his own right - he made the national American football team - but is always in the shadow of his 'aniki.' • The Japan Series is down to the wire. The series stands at three games apiece, with all games going with home advantage. Which maybe gives the Daiei Hawks the advantage for tomorrow's game over sentimental favorites the Hanshin Tigers. October 26, 2003

Fans or Sponsors?
Osaka's ABC TV came under fire from Hanshin Tigers fans after they cut to commercials during the victory speech being given by manager Hoshino Senichi (photo, 56) on both Wednesday and Thursday nights. Having come to their hallowed ground of Koshien Stadium 2-0 down in the Japan Series and evening up the series at home, Tigers fans might have been expected to be a bit more tolerant. But they're not known as Japan's most fanatical supporters for nothing and inundated ABC with hundreds of irate telephone calls. Hoshino has said he'll retire after the series for health reasons. Hanshin haven't won a Japan Series since 1985.
Japanese baseball October 25, 2003

World Class Crystal
Singer Crystal Kay (photo, 17) is to make her 'world debut.' The ten tracks on her upcoming eponymous album are all in English. It will go on sale in Asia next month and later in the US and Europe. The teenager, who has an American father and Korean mother, was born in Yokohama and is currently attending the American International School in Tokyo. She is scheduled to sing the US national anthem at the NBA game to be held at the Saitama Arena on November 1. • Kurosawa Yuu (21), grand-daughter of the late Kurosawa Akira, has given birth to her second child. She is married to Sophia vocalist Matsuoka Mitsuru (32). Her parents, movie producer Kurosawa Hisao (57) and TV personality Hayashi Hiroko (44), divorced in July. October 24, 2003

Norika's New Flame
Actress Fujiwara Norika (32) has a new love in her life. She broke up with actor Kato Masaya (40) earlier this year and is now seeing Skoop On Somebody vocalist Take (34). The two have been friends since the mid-1990s but their relationship changed after Take divorced at the beginning of this year. Norika and Kato split up this spring after four years, reportedly due to Kato working long-term in Los Angeles. Take has a lot in common with his predecessor, being tall, handsome and, like Norika, a native of the Kansai region. October 23, 2003

The Return of Sonny
Chiba Shinichi (64), better known as action star Sonny Chiba, is enjoying something of a revival in his home country. He appears in the new Quentin Tarrantino film "Kill Bill" and has been busy doing TV appearances to promote the movie. The director and star Uma Thurman have also been in town. Chiba is a relative unknown for younger Japanese, though he was a peer of Bruce Lee and a pioneer in Hollywood martial arts movies way before Jet Lee or even Jackie Chan. Tarantino has called him "the greatest actor to ever work in martial arts films!" Sanada Hiroyuki, one of Japan's most talented movie stars, got his start as a protege of Chiba. October 22, 2003

Having a Blast!
That was the headline of today's Daily Yomiuri photo featuring Japanese sports stars enjoying success in the US yesterday. New York Yankees slugger Matsui Hideki (29) hit a game-winning home run to tie the World Series with the Florida Marlins at a game apiece. It was the first World Series home run by a Japanese player. The only other player to appear in the series was Shinjo Tsuyoshi last year for the SF Giants. Meanwhile golfer Maruyama Shigeki (photo, 34) won the Chrysler Classic at Greensboro. It was the Smilin' Assassin's third USPGA victory and he is one of only four players to have a win in each of the last three seasons. October 21, 2003

Best Kitchenist?!
A wedding date has been announced for kabuki actor Ichikawa Somegoro (photo, 30). He will marry Seki Sonoko (31), the daughter of a wealthy family, in Tokyo on November 26. 800 people have been invited to the hotel reception. Ichikawa is the son of actor Matsumoto Koshiro (61) and brother of actress Matsu Takako. • Poet Tawara Machi (40) was recently photographed by a gossip magazine attending a maternity clinic. The unmarried Tawara has refused to comment on whether she is pregnant. • The inaugral "Best Kitchenist" award has been given to former Morning Musume member Ishiguro Aya (25). The latest in a long line of ridiculous awards goes to to the personality who looks best in the kitchen! Ishiguro quit MM in 2000 to mary former Luna Sea drummer Shinya (33). Holding up the men's side was TV personality Gutch Yuzo (51). October 20, 2003

More Asian Stardom for Kimutaku
SMAP and perennial No.1 heart throb Kimura Takuya (30) slipped out of the country Friday on his way to the Shanghai set of the movie "2046." Directed by the acclaimed Wong Kar Wai, it features Kimutaku alongside other top Asian stars Tony Leung (41) and Faye Wong (25). Production of the movie started back in 1999 but Kimura hasn't been involved since then as the project has been beset with scheduling problems. October 19, 2003

Porn to be an Actress
Popular AV (porn) star Takagi Maria (photo, 22) is to make her regular TV debut in the Fuji TV drama series "Anata no Tonari no Dareka Iru." She plays the other woman of a married father 'salaryman' played by Yusuke Santamaria, a TV personality known for his loudmouth, lecherous character. Takagi says she has no intention of giving up her more established career. She is sometimes referred to as the "Matsuura Aya" of the porn business. • ABC TV presenters Takeda Wakako (25) and Ogata Yusuke (32) announced yesterday that they got married a week ago. Both are baseball reporters, Takeda for the Hanshin Tigers and Ogata for the Kintestsu Buffaloes. Both teams are based in the Kansai region. They plan to have a ceremony next January. October 18, 2003

Sound Advice
Kikukawa Rei (photo, 25), a graduate of the prestigious Tokyo University, has advised actress Hirosue Ryoko (23) to stick with her studies. Hirosue ruffled a few feathers by using her fame to get into the almost as prestigious Waseda University in 1999. She made things worse by skipping classes to pursue her modelling and acting career. She finally dropped out this month. Kikukawa started her showbiz career while a junior at Todai and has since gone on to become one of the country's most popular young stars and the reigning CM queen. October 17, 2003

Older Women
The rumors of a romance between kabuki actor Ichikawa Shinnosuke (25) and actress Yonekura Ryoko (photo, 28) continue as the stars wrapped up shooting of their NHK 'taiga' drama "Musashi." The pair embraced warmly after Yonekura presented her co-star with a bunch of flowers after the final "cut." • It was revealed yesterday that actress Akimoto Nahomi (40) married actor Harada Atsushi last Friday. Harada, at 25, is fifteen years younger than his new wife. It's the second marriage for Akimoto, who met her new flame on the set three years ago. Harada is still something of a bit player, but has ben getting better roles. October 16, 2003

Seiko and Akina Together At Last
Eternal rivals, Matsuda Seiko (41) and Nakamori Akina (38) are to appear on the same album for the first time. The 16-track album "Tears - Miss You" was compiled by music critic Tomisawa Isssei and includes one track each from the former idols. Both stars are well past their 1980s heyday but still have a loyal fanbase and an unquenchable thirst for the spotlight. The two divas share a reputation for bitchiness and vanity - think Diana Ross on a bad day. • Popular rock group Mr. Children are to release their first new single in almost a year. It will be their first double-A side: "Te no Hira," a ballad and "Kurumi," a straight rock number. The group took a hiatus since last summer following the hospitalization of vocalist Sakurai Kazutoshi (33), who has since fully recovered. They are now recording an album and plan to take up touring, where they suddenly left off last year. October 15, 2003

Ei-chan For Kohaku?
Popular rock singer Yazawa Eikichi (53) is a strong contender for this year's Kohaku Utagassen (Red-White Song Contest), NHK's annual New Year's Eve spectacular. Last year, Nakajima Miyuki made her belated debut on the show and pulled in a massive 53% viewer rating and NHK had hoped to have her back. But she has a prior commitment, so now the focus is on "Ei-chan," who has a broad fan base. If you don't know him, he's considered something like a Japanese Mick Jagger. • A memorial service was held on Sunday for the late music critic Fukuda Ichiro, who died last month at the age of 78. The service was attended by 18 current and former members of Morning Musume. The group and their producer Tsunku had looked up to Fukuda as a father figure and the basic system of member changes and new groups was Fukuda's idea. Messages of condolence were also received from such artists as Elton John and Jon Bon Jovi. October 14, 2003

Broken Corokke (Nat'l Holiday: Sports Day)
Impersonator Corokke (43) and his wife Mariko (40) are said to be close to divorce after 15 years of marriage. They have four children. They are currently living apart, and Corokke is said to only visit their home when he needs money. He has been connected with a former "gravure idol" (pin-up girl) with whom he appeared in a drama series. It would be his second divorce. October 13, 2003

BoA the Cultural Ambassador
Popular singer BoA (photo, 16) will release her new single "Double" on the same day in Japan and her home country of Korea. It is the first time for an original Japanese song to be released in both countries at the same time, and reflects the recent opening of Korean society to Japanese pop culture. The Japan-based singer is scheduled to release a full album next January, which will mark another milestone for J-pop in the Korean market. • Takahashi Maasa (22) daughter of veteran actor Takahashi Hideki (59) will make her debut as a presenter on Fuji TV next spring. She is currently a senior at Tokyo Women's University. Meanwhile, Dad takes over this month from Bando Eiji as presenter of the Monday evening TV Asahi show "TV no Chikara - SOS." October 12, 2003

Okamura, Ishii Split
Singer-songwriter Okamura Takako (41) and former baseball star Ishii Hiro (39) have recently divorced. They have been separated since December of last year. Okamura, who will have custody of their 6-year old daughter, is scheduled to restart her musical career with a tour in December. She complained in the past that her husband had no interest in family life. During a 14-year playing career, Ishii was known as a man's man and was a clean-up hitter for several teams including the Kintetsu Buffaloes, Yomiuri Giants, and Yokohama Bay Stars. He became Japan's third ¥100 million player in 1993. He is currently a baseball commentator and is slated to become second-base coach for the Seibu Lions next season. October 11, 2003

What's That BGM?
When a song was played as BGM in the Fuji TV Tuesday drama series "Anata no Tonari ni Dareka Iru," the station was inundated with calls wanting to know who was singing it. It turns out to have been B'z vocalist Inaba Koji (38). Produced by the other half of Japan's biggest rock duo, Matsumoto Tak (42), "Kate ni Shiyagare" is the first single from a cover album by artists on B'z label. The album is set to be released next month. B'z will depart this weekend for a 7-date tour of North America before starting a domestic "dome" tour. October 10, 2003

In the Family Way
TV personality and former Olympic marathon runner Matsuno Akemi (35), who for several years tried unsuccessfully to have a child, is now pregnant with her second in two years. her husband and manager Maeda Shinji (35) announced that they are expecting the baby in January. They had a son in October of last year. • And speaking of pregnant women, it seems they can't get enough of the song "Warabigami." When she performed her song on the radio, Natsukawa Rimi (29) was inundated by calls from "nimpu." The song was written by Koja Misako, vocalist of the legendary Okinawan group Nenes. She wrote it when her daughter, whom she felt she had failed as a mother, gave birth to her own child. October 09, 2003

Waseda Dropout
Actress Hirosue Ryoko (23) has formally become a Waseda University dropout. Just a few days after announcing that she was taking a sabbatical in her fifth year at the prestigious Tokyo college, her agency made it clear that she would be focusing solely on her acting career. • Actor Kubozuka Yosuke (24) has admitted kicking a photographer last week outside the hospital where his wife had just given birth to their child. He apologized for the incident and the assault case looks likely to be dropped, but the women's magazine that employs the photographer may seek damages from Kubozuka's agency. October 08, 2003

Broken-Hearted Rie?
Actress Miyazawa Rie (30) claims that her new super-short haircut is not a sign of a broken heart, though that is often what it signifies in Japan. She appeared with the new hairstyle at an event to promote her new movie "Tony Taniai" alongside co-star Issei Ogata (51). She said that as she's now turned 30, she's starting a new stage in her life and so decided to cut her hair short. When asked about whether she had a significant other, she said she is in a serious relationship at the moment. The lucky guy is said to be an accessory designer. "Tony Taniai" is based on a short story by renowned novelist Murakami Haruki. October 07, 2003

Kubosuka Papa
Actor Kubozuka Yosuke (24) and his wife of five months, dancer "Non-chan" (21) are the proud parents of a bouncing baby boy, who they had already named "Airu" before knowing the sex of the baby. Kubozuka was typically vague and obscure in his replies to questions from the media hordes waiting for him outside the Yokosuka hospital. He got into a scuffle with a photographer and the matter is being looked into by prefectural police. • Fuji TV's Saturday evening music show "Music Fair" is celebrating its 40th birthday this month. Since 1964 the show has featured 4,700 artists including top names from abroad (Madonna, Abba, Janet Jackson etc) as well as local legends like Misora Hibari and Yamaguchi Momoe. The show is currently hosted by actress Suzuki Anju and comedian Megumi Toshiaki. October 06, 2003

Office Love
TBS presenter Akisawa Junko (36) plans to marry Kotani Kazuhiko (40), a producer on the early morning show "Asagake Watch", on which she is an "announcer." They plan to register their marriage tomorrow and have a ceremony within the year. It will be Kotani's second marriage. Akisawa last grabbed headlines back in 1999, when she was alleged to be having an affair with a young entrepreneur. October 03, 2003

Actress Hirosue Ryoko (23) has officially taken a "sabbatical" from Waseda University. She caused quite a stir in 1999 when she became the first big-name star to enter the prestigious school since Yoshinaga Sayuri. There were also a lot of people upset that she used her fame to bypass the academic entrance requirements. Her agency says that it is not in her interests to be half-hearted in both her work and her studies. • Sportscaster Kobayashi Shigeru (50), formerly a pitcher with both the Yomiuri Giants and the Hanshin Tigers, recently filed for bankruptcy. As is often the case, the cause is said to be a failed restaurant business. He is said to have unpayable debts of ¥400 million. October 02, 2003

Best Jeanists
SMAP member Kusanagi Tsuyoshi (29) was announced today as a five-time winner of the "Best Jeanist" award. This puts him alongside fellow SMAP-er Kimura Takuya (31) in terms of wins and he will no longer be eligible for the award. Taking home the award in the women's section, for the third year in a row, was pop diva Hamasaki Ayumi (photo, 24). October 01, 2003


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