Pop group AAA, also known as Attack All Around, were chosen Wednesday to take part in this year’s 61st annual “Kohaku Uta Gassen” (Red and White Song Contest), the New Year’s Eve music program on NHK. It will be the group’s first appearance on the popular program.
Traditionally, the red team or “akagumi,” is composed of all female artists (or groups with female vocals), while the white team or “shirogumi” is all male (or groups with male vocals). The girls’ team will be led by Nao Matsushita, 25, while five-member band Arashi captain the white team.
AAA, which is managed by the Avex Artist Academy, consists of seven former dancers for Ayumi Hamasaki and Ami Suzuki. They made their debut five years ago. Band lead Naoya Urata, 28, said, “I’m pleased our song will be one of the few played on the last night of the year.” Vocalist Misako Uno, 24, said, “I think it’s the first time a girl will get to sing for the white team, so I feel privileged to have been granted that opportunity.”
The band’s producer, Tetsuya Komuro, 51, was arrested for fraud in 2008 and received a suspended sentence in 2009. His first comeback release after the scandal was AAA’s double A-side single “Aitai Riyū/Dream After Dream (Yume Kara Sameta Yume).” The single was released on May 5 this year, and went straight to the top of the Oricon charts. Komuro is also expected to make a “surprise” appearance on the show.
Other participants in this year’s contest include for the red team: Sayuri Ishikawa (33rd appearance), AKB48 (3rd time), Kumi Koda (6th), Ayumi Hamasaki (12th), Perfume (3rd), Akiko Wada (34th), Angela Aki (5th), Dreams Come True (14th), and three first-timers—Kana Uemura, Kumiko and Kana Nishino.
Participants for the white team include Hiroshi Itsuki (40th time), Exile (6th), Saburo Kitajima (47th), Hiromi Go (23rd), SMAP (18th), Kiyoshi Hikawa (11th), Shinichi Mori (43rd) and L’Arc～en～Ciel (4th).
The show will be broadcast on NHK from 7:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve
The Daily Sports newspaper claims that actress Karina (26) and actor Kei Tanaka (26) are currently in a romantic relationship. The two have recently been seen on frequent dates at various restaurants.
According to the newspaper, Karina and Tanaka became friends when they first acted together in the 2006 drama series "Boku no Aruku Michi." They also worked together in the 2007 series "Ushi ni Negai wo: Love & Farm." Then this year, they played a couple in the film "Love Come" (released in September), and that resulted in their friendship turning into romance. It is said that the two began dating during the summer.
However, NTV reports that Karina's agency has denied the rumor, saying that it is "100% not true."
Actress Masami Nagasawa (23) has been cast in her first stage play, scheduled to be performed next summer. The play is a new work by author and playwright Yukiko Motoya (31), who wrote the original novels behind the movies "Ranbou to Taiki" and "Funuke Domo, Kanashimi no Ai wo Misero."
Nagasawa has been in show business since she won the Toho Cinderella Audition in 2000, though she got her big break in 2004 when she played the heroine in the movie "Sekai no Chuushin de, Ai wo Sakebu." She has never performed in a stage production before this.
Motoya has won and been nominated for several awards with her previous plays and novels. Her new work is still being written, so the title and plot details have not yet been finalized. However, the story will be based on some of Motoya's own personal experiences. The main character, played by Nagasawa, is a writer who has only managed to release one successful book.
The play will be performed at the PARCO Theater in Shibuya in August 2011, with performances in other cities scheduled to follow in September.
Ryoko Hirosue's agency announced on Monday that the actress is pregnant. According to the company's statement, Hirosue had not been feeling well, so she visited a hospital at the start of this month, where it was confirmed that she is in her 16th week of pregnancy.
Hirosue unexpectedly got married to candle artist Candle JUNE in early October, after dating for only seven months. It was widely suspected at the time that she might be pregnant, though nothing was officially announced until now. Hirosue already has a son from her previous marriage to designer Takahiro Okazawa, which ended in 2008.
Hirosue reportedly plans to continue working after the new child is born.
Actress Mikako Tabe (21) has been chosen to star in the live-action "Deka Wanko" drama series, which was first announced at the end of August. This will be Tabe's first lead role in a series on a commercial broadcaster.
"Deka Wanko" is originally a manga by "Gokusen" creator Kozueko Morimoto. The comedic series revolves around a rookie detective named Ichiko Hanamori (played by Tabe), whose exceptional dog-like sense of smell is used to solve difficult cases, in addition to earning her the nickname of "Deka Wanko."
One of the highlights of the show will be Tabe's various costumes, which include the Gothic Lolita dress seen in a promotional poster for the show.
Ikki Sawamura (43) plays an older detective, and NEWS member Yuya Tegoshi (23) plays another detective on the force. NTV will broadcast the series on Saturdays at 9:00pm, beginning in January.
°C-ute and Buono! member Airi Suzuki (16) will take on her first starring role in the straight-to-DVD horror drama series "Keitai Kanojo." The series will also feature Gravure Japan 2010 winner Seika Taketomi (15), acting for the first time.
"Keitai Kanojo" is based on the popular mobile phone novel of the same name. It is the sequel to "Keitai Kareshi," which was turned into a movie last year starring 9nine's Umika Kawashima (16).
In "Keitai Kanojo," Suzuki plays a high school student investigating the mystery behind a mobile phone dating simulation game. Taketomi plays a girl who appears within the game, somehow killing the male players one by one.
Geneon Universal will release the drama in April 2011.
Actress Saki Fukuda (20) has been chosen to lead a drama series on TBS and MBS titled "Quartet." The drama is based on a hardboiled crime/action story by author Arimasa Osawa, who wrote the popular "Shinjuku Shark" novel series.
Fukuda will be taking on a role unlike her previous characters. She plays the part of Shun, a descendant of a "zanryu-koji" (a Japanese orphan left behind in China at the end of World War II). Now living as an illegal resident in the fictional city of Midori, she is one of three young people helping police in undercover investigations. Fukuda will be wearing a full-body tattoo for this serious action drama, which includes heavy topics such as bootlegs drugs being tested on people, and people treating others as slaves. Fukuda is also learning some Chinese for the part.
Fukuda's co-star is singer and actor Yuya Matsushita (20), who will play the rough and reckless Takeru. Although he has acted in a few films and stage productions, this is his first appearance in a television drama. He has also been tapped to provide the show's theme song "paradise," which involves producer Kiyoshi Matsuo and songwriter Jin Nakamura.
TBS and MBS will broadcast "Quartet" in a late-night time slot, starting in January.
Inexplicably popular talento Ogura Yuuko (27) is engaged to be married, according to the Sankei Sports newspaper. She and "charisma hair stylist" Kikuchi Isao (40) have been dating for about two years and are already living together in Tokyo. They are said to have told friends about their engagement at the end of October and are planning to have their wedding ceremony in Hawaii next February. The couple's relationship was revealed in January when they posted the same photo of the first sunrise of the year on their respective blogs.
Though Ogura, popularly known by her nickname Yuukorin, made her name as one of TV's "obaka kyara" or celebrities famous for being dim-witted. To add a bit of individuality, Ogura claims to be an alien who hails from the planet Korinsei. Even when she shows talents other than appearing stupid, such as when she launched her own brand of wedding fashion last year, she can't resist playing up her image. When asked about her marriage hopes at the time, she said, "I want to marry by the age of 28. I want a prince to come from the planet Korinsei in his strawberry carriage." Meanwhile, Kikuchi includes among his regular clients actor Tsutsumi Shinichi (46) and the members of Japan's premier heart-throb band, SMAP. He's also the owner of the hair salon "ing" in the trendy Tokyo district of Minami Aoyama. Described as thin and boyishly handsome, he is a divorcee.
Nao Matsushita (25) will star in a new drama series on Fuji TV this winter, which will be her first lead role on one of the commercial networks. The series is not yet titled, but it will have her playing the part of a police detective.
Matsushita has had a few starring roles in dramas on the public network NHK, including the recent "Gegege no Nyoubou." That series tremendously boosted her popularity, to the point that she was chosen as one of the hosts for this year's Kohaku Uta Gassen.
In her new drama, she will play a quick-acting detective, who forms a strange combination with a level-headed but eccentric psychology professor, played by Naohito Fujiki (38). His skills at behavioral analysis are the key to successfully solving the cases and tracking down the criminals. Kanjani8's Yu Yokoyama (29) will play another detective who helps Matsushita, though he also has feelings for her that he is unable to confess.
Fuji TV will air the series on Tuesdays at 10:00pm, starting in January.
Keiko Kitagawa (24) is set to star in a new drama series on TBS, which will be her first time as the sole lead in a prime time show. The drama is tentatively titled "LADY ~Saigo no Profiling~" and will feature Kitagawa as a former FBI agent.
"LADY" focuses on a team of profilers in the CPS, a fictional police division that deals with analyzing criminal behavior. Kitagawa plays the part of Shoko, a gifted profiler who returns to Japan after working with the FBI in the United States. Her character is described as a "crime maniac," as she is overly knowledgeable about past crimes, while also being unskilled in matters of romance.
Tae Kimura (39) will play the chief profiler in the CPS, and other profilers will be played by Yuta Hiraoka (26), Jun Kaname (29), and Risa Sudo (34). Yusuke Santamaria (39) has been cast as a police detective, while Yukiyoshi Ozawa (36) plays another detective who is always at odds with the CPS.
As this is a new kind of role for Kitagawa, she has reportedly been preparing by watching the American drama "Criminal Minds" and reading books on profiling.
Each episode is said to be one complete case. The show will air on Fridays at 10:00pm, starting in January 2011.
It was recently revealed that actress Tsugumi (34) has decided to debut as an AV actress. Her first DVD is titled "Joyuu Tsugumi" will be released under the label MUTEKI on December 1.
Tsugumi has appeared in many movies - including "Exte," "Freesia," and "Noriko no Shokutaku" - and has even won multiple awards for her performances. In 2007, she left her agency and took a break from show business, taking up a regular job. But a couple months ago, she opened up a new official blog and a Twitter account.
On November 2, Tsugumi wrote an entry in her blog. Although it did not explicitly mention that she was entering AV, she acknowledged that the fans who have supported her and the people she has previously worked with would be surprised at the news. Tsugumi also explained that the decision was her own, and she asked for her fans' support. Meanwhile, MUTEKI updated its own website, adding her DVD to its release schedule and featuring it on the front page.
This week's issue of Josei Seven reports that Nippon Ham Fighters' ace pitcher Yu Darvish (24) and actress Saeko (23) are on the verge of getting divorced. Sankei Sports has apparently confirmed this with a person close to the couple, though the reason for the breakup is disputed.
The couple married in November 2007 after it was learned that Saeko was pregnant. She gave birth to their first son in March 2008, and in order to raise the child, she has been traveling frequently between Sapporo, where the Fighters are based, and the couple's home in Miyazaki, which is close to Saeko's family.
Meanwhile, Josei Seven alleges that Darvish has been paying visits to Susukino, a red-light district in Sapporo. Saeko eventually learned about his infidelity, apparently before she gave birth to their second son in February of this year. When she approached him about the matter in September, he reportedly told her, "If you don't like it, let's break up."
Both Darvish and Saeko are currently signed to Avex's management office. When reached for comment, the company said that it has not heard anything from the couple regarding divorce.
However, Sankei Sports states that it spoke with someone who knows the couple well. That person denied Josei Seven's rumors about Darvish's infidelity, but confirmed that the couple is headed for divorce. According to the person, the reason for the breakup is simply that the two spend a lot of time apart, and that has strained their relationship beyond repair. The person also mentioned that lawyers for both sides have already begun correspondence in preparation for divorce negotiations.
Daily Sports is reporting a rumor that comedian Shingo Fujimori (27) of Oriental Radio is dating actress and model Natsuki Kato (25). The two met when they both appeared on the same variety show, and they started seriously going out during this summer, multiple sources say.
Back in 2006, Fujimori was said to be in a relationship with actress Juri Ueno (24), but since then there have been no other romance rumors involving him.
Kato, who recently appeared in the "Moyashimon" drama series and has a part in the upcoming "Paradise Kiss" movie, ended a messy relationship with her former manager last year after taking the case to civil court.
It was reported yesterday that actress Erika Toda (22) was recently seen on a date with actor Go Ayano (28), reinforcing rumors of their relationship that first surfaced in July. The latest issue of the magazine Josei Seven published photos of the two together that were taken a few days ago.
According to the magazine, Toda and Ayano attended a show for a fashion brand at an event hall in Tokyo during late October. The pair were seen occasionally holding hands, and one witness stated that when Ayano met with the fashion brand's president (whom he has known for a long time), he introduced Toda as his girlfriend. After the show, they both returned to Toda's apartment.
Toda was previously said to be dating Kanjani8 member Shingo Murakami (28), until this past July when Josei Seven reported that they had broken up. The magazine said that around that time, Toda was at a high-class sushi restaurant with Perfume's Ayaka Nishiwaki (21) and another friend when she was overheard talking about her love life. She apparently told them that she had a new boyfriend, and it was widely speculated that the man was Ayano.
Ayano made his acting debut in 2003 in "Kamen Rider 555" and has since then appeared in several television dramas, but the majority of his acting work is in movies. Two of his most recent roles are in "SP THE MOTION PICTURE" and "GANTZ."
Romance has blossomed for actress Tanaka Rena (30) and actor Sato Yuuki (26), according to today's issue of weekly magazine "Friday." The couple, who worked together last year on an NHK drama, were recently spotted riding Sato's motorcycle and leaving his Tokyo apartment hand in hand. But both actors will have a hard time finding time for romance in their mutually busy schedules.
Tanaka is currently in Kyoto filming the movie "Genji Monogatari" while fitting in her regular job as presenter on the NHK show "Top Runner." She first made a breakthrough in 1998, appearing in TV commercials for the soft drink Natchan, and won a best newcomer Japan Academy Award the same year for her first starring role in "Gambatte Ikimashoi." She won the best actress award for "Hatsukoi" in 2000. Meanwhile, Sato is currently working on two TV dramas to be aired next month, Fuji TV's "Strawberry Night" and NTV's "Face-Maker." He made his acting debut in the 2005 season of the drama "Gokusen." His fan base grew the following year when he landed a supporting role in the TV Asahi action hero show "Kamen Rider Kabuto." In 2008 he got his first starring role in Fuji TV's "Shiro to Kuro" under the new stage name of Sato Tomohito. This year he changed to a new management agency and went back to using his real name.
Actress Kie Kitano (19) is starring in and singing the theme song for a mobile phone drama called "Niji no Mukou e" (subtitled "Seven colors of youth"). The series will begin on November 1 on BeeTV, though a "drama version" of the music video for Kitano's song "Todokanai" already began distribution on Wednesday.
In "Niji no Mukou e," Kitano plays the role of Nanami, a high schooler who has lost contact with the upperclassman she has fallen for. Hoping to see him again, she decides to attend the same college that he went to, leading her to move to Tokyo, where she grows into adulthood.
This drama is the first time that Kitano is singing a theme song. She made her singing debut early this year and has so far released two singles.
One of the drama's cast members is Kazuma Sano (21), who had a brief relationship with Kitano before it was discovered this past summer. That relationship started when they worked together on this drama, which was filmed in the spring.
Other cast members include Yoshihiko Hosoda, Yumi Sugimoto, Fujiko Kojima, Nako Mizusawa, Shogo Sakamoto, and Suguru Matsuzawa. A total of 15 weekly episodes are planned, each about 10 minutes in length.
Another relationship rumor involving actress Kyoko Fukada (27) has surfaced, this time in the latest issue of Josei Jishin. The magazine reports that her new boyfriend may be actor Maasa Igarashi (25).
According to the magazine, Igarashi has been seen entering and leaving Fukada's apartment building multiple times. The two have also been separately seen using the same bicycle. However, the photographs in the article do not show the two together.
Igarashi got his start in show business in 2008 and has appeared in a few works up until now. One of his current projects is a supporting role in the upcoming "Paradise Kiss" movie, scheduled for release next spring. (He should not be confused with Shunji Igarashi, who also appears in that movie as a main cast member.)
Previous romance rumors have linked Fukada to many other celebrities, including actor Ryotaro Shimizu (22), with whom she is said to have broken up last month. Although her management office has usually denied such rumors, this time her office declined to comment because it is a private matter.