Monday, 29 June 2009

NHK and Johnny's reportedly feuding

Clothing-averse pop star Tsuyoshi Kusanagi might be back on the celebrity circuit again, but his lightning-fast rehabilitation hasn’t come without the odd hitch. Weekly magazine Shunkan Bunshun reported in its June 11 edition on a feud between NHK and Johnny’s, the imperious talent agency behind Kusanagi’s supergroup, SMAP.

In an article rich in sensationalism and low on specifics, the magazine claimed that NHK had incurred the wrath of Johnny’s after it defied a request from the agency not to transmit a live broadcast of the press conference held with Kusanagi after his arrest.

As a result, it seems that the broadcaster wasn’t even invited to the soft-focus conference held with Kusanagi on May 28, prior to his TV comeback.

Does this mean that SMAP won’t be appearing on NHK’s end-of-year extravaganza, “Kohaku Uta Gassen?” Your guess is as good as ours. (Metropolis)

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Fast fashion boom heating up Tokyo's Harajuku area

U.S. and European shops offering stylish but inexpensive clothing have created a ‘‘fast fashion’’ boom in Tokyo’s trend-setting Harajuku district.An outlet of Forever 21 from Los Angeles, which opened in May, has become so popular that shoppers, mostly teenage girls and women in their 20s and 30s, sometimes have to line up for half an hour on weekends.Vocational school student Mayuko Yamada, 20, said after buying a blue stole and a skirt for 3,500 yen in the shop, ‘‘These are cheap and ‘kawaii’ (cute).’’Many foreign clothing stores including H&M (Hennes & Mauritz) from Sweden, Gap from the United States and Zara from Spain are located nearby.The stores try to attract to young people by putting new low-priced products on sale immediately and changing lineups frequently, sometimes every day, according to Takahiro Yamamura, a professor at Bunka Fashion Graduate University in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward.Masayuki Kusunose, editor-in-chief of popular monthly ‘‘Fashion Hambai’’ (Sale), said many women are drawn to the shops as they allow customers to enjoy seasonal fashions without spending much amid the economic slump.‘‘As consumers are seeking inexpensive things, Forever 21 made inroads in Japan at a very good time. That made headlines and the outlet has become something like a tourism spot,’’ Kusunose said.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Arashi celebrates 10 years with best album, tour

Arashi has announced the release of a new best album titled "All the BEST! 1999-2009." As the title indicates, the collection will cover their entire ten-year career, and will consist of the title tracks from all of their singles to date.

The tracklist begins with their 1999 debut "A-RA-SHI" and includes 31 songs (26 singles plus their double A-sides), plus an additional track written by Arashi to thank their fans. According to the listing on CDJapan, the two-disc album does not contain Satoshi Ohno's solo song "Kumori Nochi, Kaisei." In addition, it is reported that the first press edition of the album will come with a bonus CD containing 10 more songs selected by the members of Arashi.

Arashi has also scheduled an upcoming tour, which will include three consecutive shows at the National Stadium on August 28-30. Last year, Arashi became just the third artist to do a solo concert there (after SMAP and Dreams Come True). Now, they will be the first ever to play at the stadium for three straight days.

The tour, which finishes on January 17, 2010, will also include the five major domes in Japan. The group expects a total attendance of roughly 760,000 fans over the course of the tour.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Kota Yabu to star in musical "She Loves Me"

Hey!Say! JUMP's Kota Yabu (19) will usher in the new year by headlining a Japanese production of the Broadway musical "She Loves Me." This will be his first time in a solo starring role.

Originally performed on Broadway in 1963, "She Loves Me" tells the love story of Georg (Yabu), an employee at a perfume shop, and his co-worker Amalia (Sayaka Kanda). The two constantly argue at work, but they don't realize that they are each other's anonymous pen pal.

Yabu will also be receiving assistance from two of his Johnny's Jimusho senpais, both members of Shonentai. Kazukiyo Nishikiori will be producing the musical, while Katsuhide Uekusa has a supporting role.

"She Loves Me" will be performed at the Theatre Creation in Hibiya, Tokyo. 56 performances are scheduled between opening day on December 12 and the final show on January 31, which happens to be Yabu's 20th birthday.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Teeth of tyrannosaurus ancestor dating back 140 mil years found in Hyogo

The fossilized teeth of a carnivorous dinosaur that is believed be an ancestor of the greatest of its kind, tyrannosaurus, were found in Tamba, Hyogo Prefecture, museum officials said Saturday. The dinosaur, whose teeth were exhumed from strata dating back 140 million years ago in the city, is estimated to have been about 5 meters long, said the Museum of Nature and Human Activities, Hyogo.

The size is much larger than other 1- to 3-meter-long dinosaurs found in similarly old stratum at home and abroad, the museum said. Since the era of the strata is tens of millions of years earlier than the age of the over 10-meter-long tyrannosaurus, the creature was in the course of evolution to tyrannosaurus, it added. Haruo Saegusa, a curator at the museum, said, ‘‘If the dinosaur belongs to the same era of the strata, the tyrannosaurus could have started to grow larger much earlier than previously thought.’’

The teeth, about 1.8 centimeters long and 0.6 cm wide, were found by museum staff as they were cleaning a fossil of a herbivorous dinosaur.

Friday, 19 June 2009

B'z does "Buzzer Beat" song

Rock band B'z is providing the theme to the Fuji TV drama series "Buzzer Beat," starring Tomohisa Yamashita and Keiko Kitagawa. For B'z, this is their first time in four years writing a tune for a television drama, and their first time ever for Fuji TV's "Getsu 9" time slot.

The song, titled "Ichibu to Zenbu," is being released as their 46th single on August 5. B'z recorded the song with support from drummer Chad Smith (of Red Hot Chili Peppers) and bassist Juan Alderete (of The Mars Volta).

B'z fans will get to hear the song on TV when "Buzzer Beat" premieres on July 13.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Teen arrested for stealing cell phone from HSJ's Morimoto

Ryutaro Morimoto, currently the youngest member of Hey! Say! JUMP at 14 years old, recently had his mobile phone stolen. The suspect, a 17-year-old boy, was arrested on Wednesday by Kanagawa police. The boy has reportedly denied the charges.

The phone was stolen at around 11:45pm on Tuesday night. The boy, a fan of Morimoto, had followed him around on multiple occasions in the past. Last December, Morimoto's family consulted police about the problem.

On Tuesday at about 10:00pm, Morimoto went to a restaurant near his house, meeting the boy in person to ask him to stop his behavior. The boy then apparently threatened Morimoto by saying that he had a knife. When Morimoto attempted to call his family from outside the restaurant, the boy grabbed the phone and ran away. He was later found after police traced a call to another cell phone owned by Morimoto.

Morimoto's management has not yet issued an official statement on the matter.

oh poor Ryutarou...

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

"20th Century Boys" finale shrouded in secrecy

The third and final installment in the live-action "20th Century Boys" movie trilogy is set to premiere on August 29. It has now been announced that in order to keep the ending a secret, the final 10 minutes of the two-and-a-half-hour film will not be shown in any previews before the release date.

Approximately 40 advance screenings for the press are scheduled to start in late July, but all of them will screen a shortened version of the film without the last ten minutes. The ending is said to be different from the ending in the original manga, and will reveal the true nature of the "Friend" organization. The final scenes will also feature the introduction of key characters whose cast members have not yet been revealed.

In order to maintain as much secrecy as possible, two versions of the film's manuscript were prepared, one with the ending and one without. The complete script was given only to the actors appearing in the final scenes. One producer further stated that the scenes would be significantly modified after filming, reducing the number of people with knowledge of the full story to only about 10 people.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Takahisa Masuda's first starring stage role

Takahisa Masuda(22) of NEWS has landed his first starring role in a play this November, titled "Ame no Hi no Mori no Naka." Masuda has performed in stage shows before, but this will be his first time taking the stage in a true acting role.

The play is written and produced by Masafumi Nishida, who was one of the screenwriters for the hit drama series "Maou." The story is an original slapstick comedy about a college student (Masuda) whose car runs out of gas, stranding him and a friend (Mitsuki Tanimura) in the woods on a rainy day. They eventually end up at an old boarding house, but it seems suspicious. As it turns out, Masuda's character gets frightened very easily by the incidents that occur, while Tanimura plays the much more strong-willed character.

Performances are scheduled for November 4-23 at The Globe Tokyo, followed by a run at Osaka's Theater Drama City on November 26-30.

Friday, 12 June 2009

'Kawaii ambassadors' head overseas to promote Japanese pop culture

Three female ‘‘pop culture addressers’’ popularly called ‘‘Kawaii (pretty) ambassadors’’ appointed by the Foreign Ministry have started traveling abroad to introduce Japanese pop culture to young people in other countries.

Shizuka Fujioka, an entertainer called a ‘‘magician clothing coordinator’’ because of her high school uniform-like fashion, took part in an event in Thailand in March, and two other girls will go to Paris in July.

Fujioka, clad in a school uniform, appeared in the ‘‘Japan Festival’’ held in Bangkok and advised local girls on dressing. A young Thai woman who visited the festival told her, ‘‘You look very pretty in the uniform. I would like to go to Japan.’’

In Thailand, school uniforms are in vogue thanks to a Japanese animated cartoon about a school campus. In front of the festival site, photographers sat on front seats, showing the mass media’s strong interest.

Misako Aoki, a Lolita-affiliated fashion model emphasizing tastes of a little girl, and vocalist Yu Kimura, known as a dresser of several layers of old clothing, will be sent to Paris to promote the ‘‘Japan Expo’’ from July 2 to 5.

In France, many young people are fascinated with Japanese animated cartoons and dress-up. Visitors to the event are expected to top last year’s total of more than 100,000.

To help familiarize foreigners with Japan, the Foreign Ministry has been promoting exchange projects through traditional Japanese culture and art such as kabuki and noh plays.

The ministry has also focused its attention on the fact that Japanese pop culture, such as comics and animated cartoons, are catching the fancy of people across the world. It thought it important to target young people and chose the three women as ‘‘flag people’’ in February.

When Prime Minister Taro Aso, a self-styled ‘‘cartoon freak,’’ was foreign minister, he promoted ‘‘pop culture diplomacy’’ by creating an international cartoon prize.

But some people are raising eyebrows over the new attempt using ‘‘kawaii’’ as a test word. Kaori Maruya, a New Komeito party member of the House of Representatives, said at a meeting of the house’s Foreign Affairs Committee on April 24, ‘‘I’d like you to be careful about unwarranted criticism against overseas tours by ‘pretty ambassadors’ wearing very short skirts.’’

Kenjiro Monji, head of the Public Diplomacy Department at the Foreign Ministry, replied, ‘‘It’s important to be accepted by host countries. We’ll try to effectively carry out the project by taking the local situations into account.’’

Fujioka said, ‘‘I think it will be in Japan’s national interest if there is at least one person in the host country who thinks I’m pretty.’’

Thursday, 11 June 2009

State of 'goldfish bowl' on cell phone alerts user to stress levels

Tokai University in Kanagawa Prefecture and a Tokyo company have jointly developed a system to alert people to their own stress levels by representing their answers to a checklist of questions with visual imagery on their cell phones and personal computers. The so-called ‘‘Fish Bowl Index’’ of mental health, devised to help prevent suicides, uses images of red and black goldfish, a bowl and a cat to illustrate a person’s mood.

For example, the red goldfish represents users themselves and gets more and more injured depending on the level of physical stress a user reports. The black goldfish becomes more and more aggressive depending on the level of stress the user reports in relationships with others. The cat indicates social stress and tries to eat the goldfish if its levels rise while the bowl shows stress at home and cracks if stress levels increase. If the system judges the user is experiencing mental health problems, it indicates where to go for consultations.

The mental health checker was developed as an early detection system two years ago by Tokai University for patients suffering from depression. Its partner the Tokyo-based Sakurai Co began selling the system mainly to corporate health insurance societies in February.

‘‘We are worried that the number of suicides may increase further as the severe economic situation is continuing,’’ a Sakurai official said. ‘‘We’d like people to use the system as a thermometer for the mind.’’

The number of suicides topped 30,000 for the 11th consecutive year in 2008 and the central government earmarked about 10 billion yen in the fiscal 2009 supplementary budget to support measures by local governments to prevent suicides.

Several municipalities in the Tokyo metropolitan areas are now considering introducing the health check system.