Former Hello! Pro Egg member Yuu Kikkawa (18) has officially scheduled her anticipated debut solo single. She will release "Kikkake wa YOU!" under the Universal J label on March 30, with her name romanized as You Kikkawa.
In addition to the single, Kikkawa will star in a movie, also titled "Kikkake wa YOU!" The movie is scheduled to open in early May during Golden Week.
Kikkawa has also been chosen to serve as an opening act for Universal Studios Japan's special event "UNIVERSAL DREAM LIVE 2011," which was revealed a few weeks ago. She will perform on March 19, the first day of the three-day event. BEAST and SDN48 are already scheduled to perform on that day as well.
Kikkawa first gained attention in 2006 when she was a finalist in Morning Musume's 8th generation audition. She became an Egg the following year, and she was later placed in the 3-member group Milky Way, tied in with the anime series "Kirarin Revolution."
Her official website is now open.
Morning Musume's Ai Takahashi (24) is set to appear in a new production of the musical "Dance of the Vampires" ("Tanz der Vampire"), being performed this coming fall. The musical is Takahashi's first work that has been scheduled for after her graduation from Morning Musume later this year.
The musical, based on the Roman Polanski film "The Fearless Vampire Killers," had its first Japanese production performed in 2006. It appears that Yuichiro Yamaguchi (54) and Kenji Urai (29) are returning in their roles as Graf Von Krolock and Alfred. The heroine Sarah will again be double cast, this time by Takahashi and actress Rina Chinen (29).
"Dance of the Vampires" will be the last production of the year at the Imperial Garden Theater, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary. The curtain will go up on November 27, and performances will run until December 24.
Actress Erika Sawajiri (24) held her press conference at the Takano Yuri Beauty Clinic event on Sunday, though she did not take any questions from the press. During the event, she tearfully announced that she and her husband, media creator Tsuyoshi Takashiro (46) have mutually agreed to get a divorce.
According to Sawajiri, the divorce procedures are already in the final stages. There have been rumors since last year that the two would likely split up, though a couple months ago it appeared that they might be getting back together. However, it seems that her meetings with Takashiro were primarily to settle the divorce.
Last March, Sawajiri became the president of the management agency that she and Takashiro had established in Spain, but she revealed that she resigned from that position in December and became the president of a brand new agency that she founded on her own. It is still unknown whether she will be able to continue negotiations with Avex for a management contract in Japan.
Sawajiri stated that she currently has no work scheduled, though she affirmed that she strongly wants to return to acting. However, a commercial contract is in the works, with more details expected to be announced at another press conference on February 28.
On Thursday, Morning Musume leader Ai Takahashi (24) attended a press conference for a new drama that she will star in. As this was her first time in front of the press since announcing her decision to graduate from Morning Musume, she also spoke about her plans for the future.
Takahashi's drama is part of a project called "Koi Choco," a collaboration between BS-TBS and candy company Morinaga Seika's Carre de Chocolat brand. The project will make use of an "augmented reality" application available on Android phones. When users take a photo of a package of the chocolate, a video clip from the drama will play.
The chocolate comes in four different flavors, and each of the four packages will be linked to a different video. There are two stories, titled "Bittersweet Angel" and "Amadan."
In "Bittersweet Angel," Takahashi will play Ayana, a cafe worker who is clumsy in love, while Dori Sakurada (19) will co-star as a young man named Anju who appears before her, calling himself an angel. The same story will be told from each of their perspectives, with "Ayana no Baai" lasting about 13 minutes in length and "Anju no Baai" lasting about 14 minutes in length.
The two parts of "Bittersweet Angel" will also be broadcast by BS-TBS on Valentine's Day (February 14) at 7:30pm. The drama and a making-of will be included on a DVD to be released on March 30.
"Bittersweet Angel" already became available on Thursday through the Android augmented reality application, along with the two parts of "Amadan," titled "Melodrama-hen" and "Seibugeki-hen." Details about "Amadan" have not been reported.
During the press conference, Takahashi stated that after taking on several acting roles, she has developed an interest in acting and wants to try taking on a variety of roles in the future. She also revealed that she is interested in going overseas, so she also hopes to do some language studies.
Rock singer Ringo Shiina (32) will model in a cosmetics commercial for the first time, it has been learned. She will appear in a new advertisement for Shiseido's Maquillage brand, scheduled to begin airing on February 20.
Shiina will also provide the theme song, titled "Onna no Ko wa Daredemo." She wrote the song specifically for the commercial, and it was arranged by well-known musician Takayuki Hattori.
Shiina announced at the end of last year that she would release a new single on February 23. It is now known that it will be a double A-side, featuring "Onna no Ko wa Daredemo" and another song written by Shiina and composed by Seiji Kameda, the bassist of Shiina's band Tokyo Jihen.
SPEED member Takako Uehara (28) has been given her first starring role in a movie. She will headline the cast of "Koitanibashi: La Vallee de l'amour," directed by Koichi Goto, set for release this summer.
As an actress, Uehara won a Japan Academy Prize Rookie of the Year award for her role in the 1999 movie "Dream Maker." She has appeared in several other films since then, with her last one being the 2008 movie "Yume no Manimani."
In "Koitanibashi," Uehara plays Tomoko, a young woman who had headed to Tokyo to pursue her dreams but returns in frustration to her hometown. There, she becomes an okami (proprietress) at a hot spring inn and turns her life around. The story is based on "Ame no Naka no Hatsukoi: First Love in the Rain," a script that won the 1st Super Scenario Grand Prix.
Producers chose the Tottori prefecture for filming, which took place in November and December of last year.
Uehara's supporting cast includes Kensei Mikami, Miyuki Matsuda, Ichiro Ogura, Yuko Nakazawa, Hassei Takano, Mayuko Iwasa, Daijiro Kawaoka, Anna Tsuchiya, Shingo Katsurayama, Renji Ishibashi, Kazuko Yoshiyuki, and Hiroki Matsukata.
Maki Horikita (22) has been chosen to star in an upcoming Fuji TV drama special, tentatively titled "Kakashi." The drama is based on the 1977 song of the same name by Masashi Sada.
This is the third time in recent years that one of Sada's works has been adapted to television. In 2008, his novel "Bizan" was made into a drama starring Takako Tokiwa (after already being made into a movie with Nanako Matsushima). In 2009, his song "Oyaji no Ichiban Nagai Hi" also became a drama, starring Masami Nagasawa.
The original song "Kakashi" tells of a family whose daughter has left home to live far away in the city. For the drama, producers decided to model the characters after a family of udon makers from the Goto Islands, who were the subject of a documentary program that previously aired on Fuji TV.
Horikita plays the role of Chizuru Saeki, the second daughter of the family. After graduating from high school, she leaves the family's home in the Goto Islands to pursue a career as a photographer in Tokyo. While working as an assistant, she ends up involved in some trouble, and after becoming tired of life in Tokyo she returns home after three years.
The parents of the family will be played by Ken Matsudaira and Jun Fubuki. Sousuke Takaoka and Shuga Nakamura will play Chizuru's brothers, while Noriko Nakagoshi and Karen Miyama will play her sisters. Sada himself will make a guest appearance as the manager of a small bookshop.
"Kakashi" was filmed in early October last year. Fuji TV plans to broadcast the special sometime this March.
It was learned on Thursday that actress Erika Sawajiri (24) is back in Japan, having quietly returned from Spain on Wednesday night. She was hounded by reporters outside her home, though she remained silent to all questions. However, multiple sources are reporting that she will hold a press conference on January 23.
Sawajiri's last appearance before the press was on September 5 of last year. She was scheduled to appear at an event on September 21, but she suddenly canceled the day before and went missing, triggering various rumors. It was learned that she later went back to Spain, where her current management office is based. It is also believed that she is again living there with her husband Tsuyoshi Takashiro (46), even though it previously appeared that they would likely divorce.
According to Sports Hochi, Sawajiri met yesterday with a representative for the Takano Yuri Beauty Clinic, which Sawajiri had been doing commercials for. The company is holding a big event on January 23, and it is expected that the actress will be in attendance. If she does indeed hold a press conference there, she will likely comment on the status of her marriage with Takashiro.
Sawajiri had previously planned to sign a management contract with Avex, but it is said that one of the conditions was that she had to divorce Takashiro. Avex has continued to not respond to questions regarding Sawajiri.
Sports Hochi also reports that there have been rumors of Sawajiri appearing in a Hollywood movie, though nothing has been confirmed yet. The newspaper notes that building her career overseas may be an alternative to trying to regain her foothold in Japan.
Katsumi Takahashi (49) and Masami Nagasawa (23) will co-star as father and daughter in a Fuji TV drama special this April. The show is tentatively titled "Tare Yori mo Kimi wo Aisu."
Set in Shizuoka, the show is a comedy about the owner of an unagi shop (Takahashi) whose daughter (Nagasawa) comes back home with her child, and their attempt to rebuild their bond as family. The screenplay was written by Yuki Fujimoto ("Chiritotechin"), based on a classic rakugo story.
Takahashi and Nagasawa have actually played father and daughter before in commercials, but this will be their first time doing so in a drama. Their supporting cast includes Shota Shunputei (51), a rakugo storyteller from Shizuoka.
Members of idol group AKB48 are going to star in a short television miniseries titled "Sakura Kara no Tegami ~AKB48 Sorezore no Sotsugyou Monogatari~." The show will consist of 17 episodes aired on 9 consecutive nights, from February 26 to March 6.
AKB48 will be playing themselves as 3rd-year high school students getting ready to graduate. One day, their homeroom teacher, played by Takaya Kamikawa (45), suddenly announces that he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and only has three months left to live. As the students each begin reflecting on how to change their own lives, they come to understand the significance of "graduation."
Each of the episodes will be its own story, building up to the climactic final episode. The main cast will consist of Yuko Oshima, Atsuko Maeda, and the rest of the "media senbatsu" team (decided at last year's senbatsu), while the "under girls" and other AKB48 members will also appear as supporting cast. It is reported that all of the AKB48 members will make an appearance.
The drama's main theme song will be "Sakura no Ki ni Narou," whichb AKB48 will release as their next single on February 16.
The first episode will be 30 minutes long, and the last episode will be 60 minutes long, but the 15 episodes in between will each be 10 minutes long. In total, the drama has a running time of 4 hours. According to Mantan Web, the broadcast schedule will be:
* Episode 1 - February 26, 11:55pm
* Episode 2-4 - February 27, 11:55pm
* Episode 5-7 - February 28, 11:58pm
* Episode 8-10 - March 1, 11:58pm
* Episode 11-13 - March 2, 11:58pm
* Episode 14 - March 3, 12:38am
* Episode 15 - March 4, 1:28am
* Episode 16 - March 5, 12:50am
* Episode 17 - March 6, 10:30pm
The band Aqua Timez has just scheduled their first concert at Nippon Budokan, it has been learned. The concert will be held on August 24, the anniversary of their 2005 indies debut mini-album "Sora Ippai ni Kanaderu Inori" that launched them to fame.
Aqua Timez also announced that they will be releasing their 4th full album, "Carpe Diem," on February 16, almost two years since their last one. The album includes the song "Mayonaka no Orchestra," which is being released as a single on January 26.
After the album's release, the band will go on a nationwide tour, which will end with the show at Nippon Budokan. Details for the tour have not yet been announced.
Aoi Miyazaki (25) and Masato Sakai (37) will co-star in a movie version of "Tsure ga Utsu ni Narimashite," directed by Kiyoshi Sasabe. The two will play a married couple, bringing them together on screen for the first time since the 2008 taiga drama "Atsuhime," where they also played husband and wife.
"Tsure ga Utsu ni Narimashite" is based on a manga series by Tenten Hosokawa (41) that has sold over 600,000 copies. The story humorously retells Hosokawa's own experiences with her husband, who suddenly fell into depression. The couple battled the illness for a year and a half before the husband recovered. In 2009, NHK adapted it as a 3-part miniseries, starring Norika Fujiwara and comedian Taizo Harada.
In the movie version, Miyazaki plays the lead as manga artist Haruko Takazaki, modeled after Hosokawa. Sakai plays the husband Mikio, who fights the depression over the span of three years, helped by a pet iguana. Haruko's parents will be played by Kimiko Yo (54) and Ren Osugi (59).
Filming started on January 9 and is expected to finish in early February. The theatrical release is planned for fall of this year.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the debut of the beloved pop group ZARD, so naturally several projects are in the works to honor the occasion. One of those is another set of memorial concerts for vocalist Izumi Sakai, who passed away in 2007 at the age of 40.
Although ZARD began as a five-member group in 1991, ZARD was essentially Sakai's solo project. During her career, she released 11 original albums and dozens of singles, with several of those releases becoming million sellers. After being diagnosed with cancer in 2006, she had been hospitalized for nearly a year before her accidental death in May 2007.
Several memorial concerts for ZARD were held in 2007 after her death, with so many fans attending that the concerts went on tour. Additional memorial concerts were held in 2008 and 2009. This year, a concert will be held on May 27 (Sakai's death anniversary) at Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, followed by another on May 29 at the Osaka International Convention Center.
Like the previous shows, these will incorporate large screens displaying footage of Sakai singing (some of it previously unreleased), accompanied live by a group of guest musicians. One representative from ZARD's agency says that they are thinking of making this 20th anniversary concert the last one.
There will also be a few ZARD releases in the upcoming months: a 6-CD box set containing 99 songs (February 10), four separate photobooks (also on February 10), and three separate DVDs of the past memorial concerts (April).
A special exhibit about Sakai's 20-year career featuring photos, videos, and possessions will be doing a 4-city tour, starting in February. The Tokyo exhibit will take place on May 25-30 at the Takashimaya building in Shinjuku.
It has also been announced that a special 20th anniversary website will be launched on January 15.
Actor Tsumabuki Satoshi (30) appeared at a press conference yesterday for his upcoming stage play 'Minami he'. Actress Aoi Yu (25), who co-stars with him in the stage play was also in attendance. Tsumabuki describes working with Aoi for the first time: "It was quite a good feeling. We were very compatible during practice. She's easy to get along with and takes her work seriously. She has a very pure heart." Aoi in turn praises Tsumabuki for having a lot of patience.
Written by Noda Hideki, 'Minami he' will be performed at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Space in West Ikebukuro from February 10 to March 31.
Tsumabuki Satoshi at Press Conference for 'Minami he'
Translated by: sparkles_n15 @ asianfanatics.net
Singer-songwriter Kana Uemura recently made her first appearance on NHK's year-end music show Kouhaku Uta Gassen. Her latest song, "Toilet no Kamisama," has been receiving a lot of attention since then. Due to the so-called "Kouhaku effect," the song not only reached #1 on the download charts, but it sold 11,000 copies this past week to achieve #1 on Oricon's single sales rankings, marking Uemura's first time ever at the top of the charts.
"Toilet no Kamisama" was first released as part of Uemura's mini-album "Watashi no Kakeratachi" in March 2010. The song became popular as a digital download later that year, and she released it as her 10th CD single on November 24. However, the song debuted at #12 and never broke the Top 10 before this past week.
The last time that a single rose to #1 from a spot outside the Top 10 in the preceding week was in 2004, when Kanjani8's "Naniwa Iroha Bushi" started out as a Kansai-only release and then began selling nationwide.
Also thanks to the Kouhaku effect, idol group AKB48 saw their singles climb the rankings to place four of them in the Top 10. "Chance no Junban" and "Heavy Rotation" were already in the Top 10 in the previous week but rose to #2 and #3 (from #3 and #8), while "Beginner" and "Ponytail to Chou-chou" jumped to #5 and #9 (from #11 and #25). This is the first time that a female group has had four singles rank in the weekly Top 10. Including female solo artists, they are only the second to achieve that, tying with Hikaru Utada's record from 1999.
Many other artists' singles benefited from appearances on Kouhaku or other music shows at the end of the year. These included SNSD's "Gee" (#13 to #6), EXILE's "I Wish For You" (#20 to #7), Ikimono Gakari's "Arigatou" (#40 to #15), KARA's "Mister" (#33 to #18), and Fuyumi Sakamoto's "Mata Kimi ni Koishiteru" (#48 to #29).
On the album charts, AKB48 sub-unit No Sleeves (no3b) achieved their first #1 album. The self-titled "no3b," released on January 1, sold 59,000 copies to top the rankings. Like Uemura, this is their first number-one release.
The last sub-unit of a female music group to have a #1 album was Morning Musume's Petitmoni in 2002.
Meanwhile, Ikimono Gakari's best album "Ikimono Bakari ~Members BEST Selection~" officially reached 1 million in actual sales, after nine weeks on store shelves. The album has now sold a total of 1.04 million copies. This is the first million-selling album by a group with female vocals since Russian duo t.A.T.u. in 2003.
Talento and gravure idol Meguru Ishii (23) announced in her blog on December 31 that she is retiring from show business. At the same time, she revealed that she is getting married to a man not in show business, who is three years older than her.
Ishii made her debut as a gravure idol in 2004. She also began acting in minor roles in television, film, and theater in 2005. However, she has had very little work since 2008, and during the past two years she decided to leave show business.
Ishii is the older sister of Koune Nakazawa (21), another gravure idol managed by the same agency.
Back in October, news outlets began reporting that actress Aya Ueto (25) and EXILE member HIRO (41) had started dating. In this week's issue of FRIDAY, it is now being claimed that Ueto has moved into an apartment in the same building as HIRO's, but on a different floor.
FRIDAY reports that Ueto has been frequently in and out of the apartment building where HIRO lives. According to the magazine, she recently became a tenant in that building, though she is still living separately from HIRO.
Sankei Sports followed up with Ueto's agency, Oscar Promotion, which said that the news is not exactly true. The company explained that the apartment is actually leased by Oscar Promotion and is not Ueto's private residence. The agency also said that other talents besides Ueto use the apartment. When asked about Ueto and HIRO's relationship, the company simply restated that it is leaving her private life alone.
However, Sankei Sports also contacted HIRO's management, whose comments suggest that the relationship is progressing. "Both of them are supported by many people, and they have a social responsibility in their position. When conditions are ready for a solid announcement to be made, it will be announced then, so until that time please warmly watch over them."
Based on that quote, it appears that the two could be headed for marriage, and that arrangements are perhaps already being made to prepare for such an announcement.
Singer Ayumi Hamasaki (32) has announced that she will soon get married. According to statements she made on her Twitter account and on her fan club website just after the start of the new year, she will be tying the knot with Austrian actor Manuel Schwarz (30).
Hamasaki met Schwarz in August of last year. At that time, Schwarz (who is also known as Mannie) played her husband in the music video for her song "Virgin Road." Then in October, he appeared in two more of her music videos, for the songs "Love Song" and "Last angel." Within those two months, the two became very close, frequently exchanging e-mails and phone calls.
On December 31, Hamasaki performed "Virgin Road" as the opening act of NHK's Kouhaku Uta Gassen, wearing a white wedding dress. After that, she headed to Yoyogi National Gymnasium for her own countdown concert. However, she decided to wait until after those performances before announcing the news of her marriage online.
Hamasaki's management has acknowledged her announcement. Although she does not have any upcoming work in her schedule at the moment, it is said that she does not plan on retiring. It is also reported that she is not pregnant.
On the sales charts this week, singer Ayumi Hamasaki accomplished a fairly rare feat: she was at #1 on both the album and single rankings. Her new album "Love songs" sold more than 180,000 copies, while her collaborative single with AAA's Naoya Urata, "Dream ON" sold over 40,000 copies.
This is only the 11th time that an artist has simultaneously topped the album and single charts. Hamasaki did it twice before in October 2000 and October 2001. The last artist to do it was NEWS in November 2007.
Because this week's rankings are actually counted as the charts for January 3, 2011, Hamasaki has now had a #1 album in 13 consecutive years, from 1999 to 2011. This extends her record of "most consecutive years with a number-one album starting with a first album"; the second most is Akina Nakamori, who achieved a streak of 8 years from 1982 to 1989.
At #2 on the album charts this week was Korean group SNSD (Shoujo Jidai), selling close to 61,000 copies of their Korean-language mini-album "HOOT." Although their recent single "Gee" was also ranked #2, this is the group's first album to make the top ten.
The only other new release in the top ten was a Vocaloid album by mothy (also known as Akuno-P).
As already mentioned, Naoya Urata's "Dream ON" led the single charts. A few other new singles entered the top ten: Daisuke Ono (#5), THE RICECOOKERS (#6), GIRL NEXT DOOR (#7), and ZE:A (#9).
On the overall DVD charts, NEWS took the top spot with 126,000 units sold of their "NEWS DOME PARTY 2010 LIVE! LIVE! LIVE! DVD!" This is their 5th consecutive release to reach #1 in just the music DVD category.
Meanwhile, Nana Mizuki secured the #1 and #2 spots in the music category of the Blu-ray sales rankings. Her "NANA MIZUKI LIVE GAMES x ACADEMY-BLUE-" and "NANA MIZUKI LIVE GAMES x ACADEMY-RED-" sold 16,000 and 15,000 copies, respectively.