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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Haru announced to be the heroine in NTV Spring 2016 drama "Sekai ichi muzukashii koi"

Haru was announced to be the heroine in the upcoming NTV Spring 2016 drama "Sekai ichi muzukashii koi" during the 30 January broadcast of NTV's variety programme "Arashi ni Shiyagare". The drama features Arashi's leader Ohno Satoshi as the heir of a traditional ryokan who excels at doing business but is clueless about love and Haru will be his love interest.

Ohno and Haru met for the first time during the location shooting for the segment "Ohno Satoshi no Tsukutte miyou" (Ohno Satoshi's Let's try making it) and commented that his impression of his co-star before meeting her was that she is demure and does things at her own pace. Upon meeting her, he discovered that she is a very lively person and commented that they seemed to be having an omiai with the presence of a camera recording the process. While making okonomiyaki together, Haru asked Ohno how he thought of himself which he paused for a while before commenting that he thinks he is a weirdo. In addition, he revealed that his agency boss Johnny-san had said before that he gave off a gloomy feeling. At the end of the segment, the two of them commented about each other being the same as they appear onscreen and pledged to work hard together for the drama with a firm handshake.

Source: The Television / My Navi News

Completion screening event of new WOWOW drama "Kinbika"

The completion screening event of new WOWOW drama "Kinbika" was held on 27 Januiary which was attended by the cast members Nakai Kiichi, Yusuke Santa Maria and Pierre Taki. The drama which begins its run from 13 February in the Saturdays 10pm timeslot and is based on the novel by Naoki Award winner Asada Jiro, features Nakai as a former gangster who had served a 13-year sentence in jail but finds himself being abandoned by his gang. Yusuke Santa Maria is a former secretary to a politician who used him as a scapegoat when news of his bribery case came to light thus leading to him losing his marriage and family while Taki is a former Self Defence Forces officer who staged a rebellion against the government. Through the introduction of a former police officer, the three of them come together to form an unlikely alliance in order to survive in the harsh times.

As the 2011 WOWOW drama "Shitamachi Rocket" became a huge hit last year when it was remade by TBS, Yusuke Santa Maria was asked who he would like to have to play the three leads if "Kinbika" is to be remade by a private network. He joked that he would prefer for the cast to remain unchanged but if he really had to choose someone else, he would like to have Cocorico's Tanaka Naoki do it. Upon hearing that, Taki also joked that he wanted Shoei to play his character. While suppressing his laughter, Nakai said that although he was initially glad about the choice of his co-stars, it seemed like they didn't feel the same way. As such, he jokingly suggested that his close friend Sato Koichi can play his character if there is a remake in future.

Source: Sponichi

Kitagawa Keiko & Mukai Osamu team up again in TV Asahi drama SP "Kuroi Jukai"

Kitagawa Keiko will be starring in the new TV Asahi drama SP "Kuroi Jukai" (The Black Sea of Trees) which will be shown this spring. This is her first drama appearance since she got married to DAIGO on 11 January and her first attempt at a Matsumoto Seicho novel's drama adaptation. "Kuroi Jukai" which was published in 1960, was last adapted 11 years ago and had 5 prior drama/movie versions to date. In this current version, the time setting was changed to the current era. Filming began at various locations such as Omachi City in Nagano Prefecture, around the same time when Kitagawa got married.

Kitagawa plays the lead character Kasahara Shoko who suspects that her elder sister's death was not an accident and tries to find out the truth by working as a contract worker in the news agency where the latter had worked at prior to her death. While investigating her sister's case, people who had a part to play in it are found dead one after another. She will be working together with Mukai Osamu who will be playing Yoshii, a mysterious news reporter who helps her with the investigation. Kitagawa and Mukai last worked together in the 2011 movie "Paradise Kiss" when they were still both single but Kitagawa is married now while Mukai is already a father of one after marrying Kuninaka Ryoko in 2014. They revealed that it was fun to catch up with each other after all these years and they both felt that they wouldn't have expected their lives to have changed so much in a couple of years at that time when they first worked together.

Co-stars also include Sawamura Ikki who is a pediatrician suspected to be involved in Shoko's elder sister's death, Koike Eiko and Asou Yumi.

Source: Sanspo / Yomiuri Hochi

Friday, January 29, 2016

The 2nd Confidence Award - Dramas (Autumn 2015)

Best Drama: Shitamachi Rocket

Best Leading Actor: Hamada Gaku (Tsuribaka Nisshi Shinnyuu Shain  Hamasaki Densuke)

Best Leading Actress: Aragaki Yui (Okitegami Kyoko no Biboroku)

Best Supporting Actor: Takito Kenichi (Haretsu)

Best Supporting Actress: Nanao (Siren Keiji x Kanojo x Kanzen Akujo)

Best Script: Ishii Yuya & Toyone Yuichi (Okashi no Ie)

Best Newcomer: Hamabe Minami (Mutsu ~ Mieru Me ~)

The 1st Confidence Award - Dramas (Summer 2015)

Best Drama: Tamiou

Best Leading Actor: Endo Kenichi & Suda Masaki (Tamiou)

Best Leading Actress: Kitagawa Keiko (Tantei no Tantei)

Best Supporting Actor: Takahashi Issei (Tamiou)

Best Supporting Actress: Mitsushima Hikari (Do Konjo Gaeru)

Best Script: Nishiogi Yumie (Tamiou)

Best Newcomer: Yoshine Kyoko (Omotesando Koukou Gasshobu)

Source: Confidence Award

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Ohno Satoshi to star in a love comedy for the first time through NTV's Spring 2016 drama "Sekai Ichi Muzukashii Koi"

Arashi's leader Ohno Satoshi will be starring in a love comedy for the first time as he takes on the leading role in the NTV Spring 2016 drama "Sekai Ichi Muzukashii Koi" (The most difficult romance in the world) beginning its run from April in the Wednesdays 10pm timeslot. He plays Samejima Reiji, the heir to a traditional ryokan who has developed his business and is making inroads into the hotel industry. Although he is great at making his customers satisfied and is nicknamed the darling of the hotel industry, he is haughty, childish, unable to observe his surroundings when interacting with people and has no talent in pleasing the opposite sex. As he doesn't realise his own faults and why he is unpopular with women, Samejima has a tough time when he falls in love for the first time and tries to overcome his handicap in romance. The drama will be an original story written by Kaneko Shigeki who had been responsible for works such as "Propoosu Daisakusen" and "Kyou wa Kaisha yasumimasu".

Ohno commented that he had his reservations about starring in a romance drama but felt more assured as this is a love comedy rather than a pure romance story. If it had been a true-blue love story, he wouldn't have been able to take it on as he feels embarrassed about it. As he has to speak lines which he has never said in real life, he feels that this will show a different image of him. Ohno also revealed that although he was quite interested in the title of being a CEO and had dreamed of having a namecard with the CEO title, he wasn't as keen in the work that a CEO does so he's glad to be able to try being a CEO in this drama without actually having to work as one.

Filming begins at the end of February and the rest of the cast will be announced at a later date.

Source: Nikkansports / Sanspo / Yomiuri Hochi / Sponichi

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Winners of the 58th Blue Ribbon Awards (2015)

Best Movie: Nihon no Ichiban Nagai Hi

Best Director: Hashiguchi Ryosuke (Koibitotachi)

Best Leading Actor: Ooizumi Yo (Kakekomi Onna to Kakedashi Otoko)

Best Leading Actress: Arimura Kasumi (Strobe Edge / Biri Gal)

Best Supporting Actor: Motoki Masahiro (Nihon no Ichiban Nagai Hi / Tenku no Hachi)

Best Supporting Actress: Yoshida Yo (Biri Gal / Nounai Poison Berry / Ai wo tsutsumu hito)

Best Newcomer: Ishii Anna (Girls Step / Solomon no Gishou)

Best Foreign Movie: Mad Max Fury Road

Source: Cinema Today

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Winners of the Mainichi Movie Awards 2015

Grand Prize - Japanese Movie: Koibitotachi

Outstanding Prize - Japanese Movie: Kishibe no tabi

Best Director: Tsukamoto Shinya (Nobi)

Best Leading Actor: Tsukamoto Shinya (Nobi)

Best Leading Actress: Ayase Haruka (Umimachi diary)

Tanaka Kinuyo Award: Momoi Kaori

Best Foreign Movie: Birdman

Best Script: Harada Masato (Kakekomi Onna to Kakedashi Otoko)

Best Supporting Actor: Kato Kenichi (Haha to kuraseba)

Best Supporting Actress: Nagasawa Masami (Umimachi diary)

Sponichi Grand Prix Newcomer Award: Noda Yojiro (Toire no Pieta) & Fujino Ryoko (Solomon no Gishou Zenpen Jiken & Kouhen Saiban)

Best Photography: Fujisawa Junichi (Solomon no Gishou Zenpen Jiken & Kouhen Saiban)

Best Art: Harada Tetsuo (Nihon no Ichiban Nagai Hi)

Best Music: Sakamoto Ryuichi (Haha to kuraseba)

Best Sound: Ogawa Takeshi (Koibitotachi)

Best Documentary Movie: Okinawa Urizun no Ame

Best Animation Movie: Sarusuberi ~ Miss HOKUSAI ~

Ofuji Noburo Award: Suijun Genten

TSUTAYA Movie Fan Award - Japanese Movie: Maku ga agaru

TSUTAYA Movie Fan Award - Foreign Movie: Mission Impossible Rouge Nation

Special Award: Kushigeta Kazunori (Manager of Cinemarine) & Hashimoto Shinobu (Scriptwriter)

Source: Mainichi Movie Awards

Utada Hikaru to make her comeback with the theme song for NHK morning drama "Toto Nee-chan"

Utada Hikaru who has been taking a break from her music career since December 2010, will be making her comeback with the theme song for NHK morning drama "Toto Nee-chan" starring Takahata Mitsuki which begins its run from 4 April. This will be the first theme song which Utada is writing for a NHK drama and the title of the song is undecided yet. With the release of this song, Utada's record company said that this will mark her return to singing.

Utada suspended her music activities since December 2010 and got married to an Italian in 2014 before giving birth to their first son last July. The producer of the drama revealed that it took a bit of courage to approach Utada for this offer but he was glad that she agreed to take it on after some consideration.

Source: Nikkansports / Sanspo

Production press conference of FujiTV Winter 2016 drama "Otousan to yobasete"

The production press conference of FujiTV Winter 2016 drama "Otousan to yobasete" was held on 17 January which was attended by cast members Endo Kenichi, Watabe Atsuro, Wakui Emi, Renbutsu Misako, Shinkawa Yua, Nakamura Tomoya and Nakamura An. The drama which began its run from 19 January in the Tuesdays 10pm timeslot, features Endo as a 51-year-old single man who wants to marry his girlfriend 28 years his junior (Renbutsu) and faces strong opposition from her father (Watabe) who is of the same age as him.

Endo revealed that this was the first time he had to say "aishiteru" in a drama especially considering that he was never required to do so in his 30-odd year career. Even when he married his wife, he did not say this to her so he found it quite amusing since he tends to say rather "violent lines" often like "bukkoroshiteyaru" (I will kill you) when acting. He also revealed that there will be a scene where he dances naked and he recalled that while filming the scene, he became quite self-conscious about it when the make-up artist and Watabe teased him but overall, it was a fun scene to do. As for Renbutsu, she said that it has been an enjoyable filming so far and she feels that she can understand her character very well since she also likes older men in real life. In real life, Endo and Renbutsu have a 30-year age gap but both remarked that they can hardly feel it and praised each other for being cute and easy to work with.

When asked about their views on May-November relationships, Watabe commented that from his viewpoint as a 47-year-old man, he can't say for sure if such relationships will work in real life but thinks that he can't help but be conscious of the age difference despite the fact that there should be no restrictions in love. He doesn't think that a relationship like what is depicted in the drama is likely to happen in real life.

Watabe and Endo last worked together in the movie "Gaiji Keisatsu" in 2012 and have been in many dramas and movies together so far. Endo commented that Watabe has natural masculine charm and has good points which he doesn't thus making him a very interesting person to be with. Watabe also praised his co-star who he had been working together with for a long time and expressed his joy about their collaboration this time.

Source: Nikkansports / Sanspo / Sponichi 1 / Sponichi 2

"TOO YOUNG TO DIE!" to be postponed for release due to bus accident in Karuizawa

Asmik Ace and Toho announced that the movie "TOO YOUNG TO DIE!" which had been scheduled to be screened in cinemas from 6 February, will be postponed for release due to the bus accident in Karuizawa-machi, Nagano which resulted in the deaths of 15 people. The movie which is directed by Kudo Kankuro and features Kamiki Ryunosuke and Nagase Tomoya as the leads, talks about how a senior high school student Daisuke (Kamiki) dies during a bus accident while on a school trip and ends up in hell. He meets Kira K (Nagase) the vocalist and guitarist of the band "Hells" from the Hell Agricultural Senior High School who tries to help Daisuke come back to life so that he can reunite with his classmate who he had been holding a torch for. As the movie contains scenes about a bus accident which is likely to make people think of the recent Karuizawa bus accident, the movie companies decided to shelve the release of the movie for the time being. In relation to this move, the screening event and the talk event "Meet the Filmmaker" featuring Kudo on 22 January at Tokyo Apple Store Ginza will be cancelled. The new release date of the movie has not been decided.

Source: Sanspo / Yomiuri Hochi / Oricon

Prayer and offering of thanks ceremony for TV Tokyo Winter 2016 drama "Tokyo Sentimental"

The prayer and offering of thanks ceremony for TV Tokyo Winter 2016 drama "Tokyo Sentimental" was held recently at Atago Shrine in Tokyo which was attended by the lead Yoshida Kotaro. The drama which began its run from 15 January in the Fridays 12.12am timeslot, features Yoshida as the lead character who is a thrice-divorced wagashi master looking for love. Yoshida commented that he hopes his prayer for high ratings will be answered and everyone in the cast and crew will work hard to make a drama which will be loved by viewers. As Yoshida announced his marriage to his wife on New Year's Day, he also commented that although he is done with seeking freedom in love now, his character will continue the journey to do so in the drama.

Source: Nikkansports

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tanaka Kei to play Ueno Juri's ex-husband in TBS Winter 2016 drama "Kazoku no Katachi"

Tanaka Kei will be playing Ueno Juri's ex-husband in the TBS Winter 2016 drama "Kazoku no Katachi" which started its run from 17 January. The drama features Katori Shingo as the lead character Daisuke who is a 39-year-old man who's not keen on marriage and Ueno who plays a divorced OL. Tanaka's character will be trying to seek a reconciliation with his ex-wife as he has yet to get over her after their divorce. He will be appearing from episode 2 which is to be shown on 24 January.

Source: Sanspo

Yonekura Ryoko to make her return in the drama SP of "Doctor X" this year

Yonekura Ryoko will be reprising her role as a freelance surgeon in a new drama SP of the hit TV Asahi drama series "Doctor X ~ Gekkai Daimon Michiko ~ SP" this year. This will be the first drama SP so far even though there have been three full drama series to date. Filming is due to begin at the end of this month in Kanazawa and describes the battle between the surgical and internal medicine departments. Co-stars include Uchida Yuki, Kishibe Ittoku, Endo Kenichi, Katsumura Masanobu, Suzuki Kosuke and Nishida Toshiyuki.

Even though Yonekura had intended to end the series by season 3 which was shown in autumn 2014, she decided to take on the drama SP again after reading the script and feeling the anticipation from the people around her.

Source: Nikkansports

Fukushi Souta & Komatsu Nana to play lovers in new movie "Boku wa ashita, kinou no kimi to deeto suru"

Fukushi Souta and Komatsu Nana will be working together for the first time to play lovers in the movie adaptation of Nanatsuki Takafumi's novel "Boku wa ashita, kinou no kimi to deeto suru" (I will go on a date tomorrow with yesterday's you) which will be shown in cinemas in December 2016. The movie which is directed by Miki Takahiro, is based on the same-titled novel published in August 2014 and had sold more than 600,000 copies by December last year. It was also selected as the most-read novel by women in their teens and 20s last year according to a survey conducted by Nippan.

Fukushi plays Minamiyama Takahisa, a 20-year-old student at an arts university in Kyoto, who meets Fukuju Emi (Komatsu) who's of the same age while on a train to school. They fall in love and begin dating but Minamiya is later told about a big secret which his girlfriend is hiding.

Fukushi commented that when he read the novel, he was so sad that he couldn't help crying and he was glad that he was at home when that happened. He praised his co-star for being a perfect fit for the role of Emi and having a strong screen presence. On the other hand, Komatsu commented that although she initially found the story a bit complicated, she also cried while reading the story and hopes to produce a good movie by joining forces with Fukushi. Fukushi also revealed that he had received a handwritten letter from the director asking him to help in making this movie one which viewers can still feel the happiness when they return home. As such, he hopes to be able to repay this expectation with more love and make the film a success.

Miki who is known as an expert in making romance movies, calls this new film as the No.1 movie in 2016 which will make people cry. He commented that everyone would have experienced the moment of falling in love and that feeling changing over time so they would be able to understand and feel for the couple who experiences love in an unique way.

Filming begins in the middle of this month in Kyoto.

Source: Oricon / Sanspo

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

SMAP pledges to stay together as a group on tonight's broadcast of SMAPxSMAP

SMAP members appeared "live" on tonight's broadcast of SMAPxSMAP (18th January) where they spoke for the first time on the controversy of their reported independence movement with their chief manager Iijima and apologised to everyone for causing them to worry. The members also pledged to stay together no matter what happens which is seen as a confirmation that the group will be staying put in their current agency Johnny's Jimusho.

At the beginning of the programme, their hit single "Sekai ni hitotsu dake no hana" was played in the background along with past footage of the members and an introduction to messages sent by fans to the TV station. After this segment, the members appeared in black suits and ties and stood in one line facing the camera. Kimura Takuya stood in the middle while his fellow members stood beside him in the order of Nakai Masahiro, Kusanagi Tsuyoshi, Kimura, Inagaki Goro and Katori Shingo. The five of them had their hands in front of them and were visibly tense on screen.

Kimura was the first to speak:
Today is 18th January 2016.
Last week, we SMAP have caused trouble to everyone with our own matter. As such, we have caused many people to be worried and inconvenienced by us. Under such circumstances and if left unresolved, SMAP might have disintegrated in mid-air. In view of this, the five of us have decided to come together and report to everyone what is going on since this is very important. We know that it is selfish for us to do this but we are glad to have been given this time to speak.

Inagaki followed up with his comments:
We are very sorry for the trouble caused to everyone this time. From now on, we will work very hard to let everyone see and support us thus we seek your continued support.

Katori was the next to speak:
We are very sorry for causing everyone to be worried and uneasy this time. (pauses for a moment). We will work together again to bring lots of smiles to everyone and we hope for your continued support.

Nakai then commented with the following:
With regard to this matter, we have come to realise very strongly just how much support SMAP has been getting so far. We are very sorry. (sigh) Please continue to support us from now on.

Kusanagi followed up next:
We discovered a lot of things through everyone's words and are very thankful. This time, we are able to stand here because Kimura-kun helped us to create the opportunity to apologise to Johnny-san. It is assuring that the five of us can be together here.

Kimura ended the segment by saying:
Lastly, we will just think of looking ahead and going forward regardless of what happens. Everyone, please support us.

Source: Oricon / Huffington Post Japan

Monday, January 18, 2016

Winners of the 39th Nihon Academy Awards (2015)

Outstanding Movies
- Umimachi diary
- Kainan 1890
- Nihon no Ichiban Nagai Hi
- Haha to kuraseba
- Hyakuen no Koi

Outstanding Animation Movies
- Kokoro ga sakebitagatterun da
- Sarusuberi ~ Miss HOKUSAI ~
- Dragon Ball Z Fukkatsu no F
- Bakemono no Ko
- Love Live! The school idol Movie

Oustanding Directors
- Ohne Hitoshi (Bakuman)
- Koreeda Hirokazu (Umimachi diary)
- Take Masaharu (Hyakuen no Koi)
- Tanaka Mitsutoshi (Kainan 1890)
- Harada Masato (Nihon no Ichiban Nagai Hi)

Outstanding Leading Actors
- Uchino Seiyo (Kainan 1890)
- Ooizumi Yo (Kakekomi Onna to Kakedashi Otoko)
- Sato Koichi (Terminal)
- Ninomiya Kazunari (Haha to kuraseba)
- Yakusho Koji (Nihon no Ichiban Nagai Hi)

Outstanding Leading Actresses
- Ayase Haruka (Umimachi diary)
- Arimura Kasumi (Biri Gal)
- Ando Sakura (Hyakuen no Koi)
- Kiki Kirin (An)
- Yoshinaga Sayuri (Haha to kuraseba)

Outstanding Supporting Actors
- Asano Tadanobu (Haha to kuraseba)
- Arai Hirofumi (Hyakuen no Koi)
- Ito Atsushi (Biri Gal)
- Sometani Shota (Bakuman)
- Motoki Masahiro (Tenkuu no Hachi / Nihon no Ichiban Nagai Hi)

Outstanding Supporting Actresses
- Kaho (Umimachi diary)
- Kuroki Haru (Haha to kuraseba)
- Nagasawa Masami (Umimachi diary)
- Mitsushima Hikari (Kakekomi Onna to Kakedashi Otoko)
- Yoshida Yo (Biri Gal)

Newcomer Award
- Arimura Kasumi (Biri Gal)
- Tsuchiya Tao (orange)
- Hirose Suzu (Umimachi diary)
- Fujino Ryoko (Solomon no Gishou Zenpen Jiken / Kohen Saiban)
- Shinohara Atsushi (Koibitotachi)
- Noda Yojiro (Toire no Pieta)
- Yamazaki Kento (orange)
- Yamada Ryosuke (Ansatsu Kyoushitsu)

Source: Oricon

SMAP to speak on the breakup saga for the first time via tonight's "SMAPxSMAP"

SMAP will finally speak on the breakup saga facing them for the first time on tonight's broadcast of "SMAPxSMAP" at 10pm as part of the programme will feature a live segment where the members are expected to apologise for the controversy and explain what is going on. It is believed that the group should have averted the breakup crisis thus are ready to talk about it now.

Despite initial reports last week about the group facing a possible breakup due to Nakai, Inagaki, Kusanagi and Katori wanting to follow their manager Iijima after she leaves Johnny's Jimusho while Kimura chooses to stay put, it was said that Nakai and Kimura had met up on 6th January during the filming of "SMAPxSMAP" when they talked about the issue and decided that the group would not break up. Subsequently, they also met up with Iijima where they finally ironed out their differences over the independence movement.

Source: Sponichi Annex

Day 6 recap on the SMAP saga - 18 January 2016

Here is a summary of the reports on developments in the SMAP saga over the last few days. As usual, nothing official from the group members themselves or the agency yet but it does seem like both sides are heading towards the path of reconciliation which hopefully will result in a win-win situation at the end. Fans will be happy to see that outcome if it materialises.

Now that the cat is out the bag, the media is happy to jump onto the "telltale signs" before the saga broke. A lot of the so-called weird things which happened during the end of the year start to make sense by now e.g. Kimura being obviously in a bad mood or him seemingly alienated from the rest. Then again, since nothing is confirmed by the members themselves, please don't get too upset or affected by these observations by the media since these are merely conjectures on their part.

On a related note, Nikkansports seems to have a lot of these insider details on what is going on behind the scenes as the saga unfolds. Seems like they probably had information directly from the agency or people in the know or else why would they know things like Julie going to Kyoto to meet Kimura yesterday? However, you can't deny too that their reporting seems to be slightly skewed towards showing the breakaway members in a slightly weaker/less favourable light as the issue develops over time which should be due to the observation that the members may have to go back on their initial decision to leave in order to return to the group and agency. 

The "disappearance" of Iijima Michi is also not helping them because she is heavily involved in their work and partners such as the TV stations are unhappy about the delay in their work arrangements due to her absence. Much as I sympathise with her seemingly being treated badly in the company, she really should clear up the mess left by her independence movement and ensure that the SMAP members who pledged allegiance to her won't be left to fend for themselves.

- Kusanagi Tsuyoshi and Katori Shingo who are the hosts in the bay fm radio show "SMAP POWER SPLASH", did not mention anything about the breakup saga during the broadcast on 17 January. It is believed that the programme was recorded in advance though.
The theme of this particular episode was a prediction on what's to come in 2016. At the beginning of the show, they talked about their respective Winter 2016 dramas i.e. "Specialist 4" on TV Asahi and "Kazoku no Katachi" on TBS. Katori expressed his anticipation about his drama starting soon while Kusanagi commented that it's almost time for the drama to start.
Then, the two of them talked about the things they wanted to challenge themselves in the new year and the overseas cities they would like to visit. There was also a segment where Kusanagi made a song on the spot based on lyrics contributed by a listener and Katori sang it.
Sources: Nikkansports / Sanspo

- Inagaki Goro participated in the rehearsal for his upcoming stage play "Koi to Ongaku FINAL ~ Jikan Gekijou no Kiseki ~" on 16 January. When he left the venue at 7.30pm, he was dressed entirely in black and did not respond to questions about the saga from the media who had gathered while heading towards the car that was waiting for him outside.
Source: Yomiuri Hochi

- Nakai Masahiro appeared in his radio show "Nakai Masahiro no Some girl SMAP" via Nippon Housou on 16 January. According to insiders, this particular episode was recorded at the end of December which was before news of SMAP's possible broke this month.
The theme of the show was "kindness" where Nakai commented that he had been thinking what exactly kindness is and that he finds it impossible to show this in front of others because it feels fake. For example, during a meal, he can't do something like take plates for his fellow members and pass them along. He would be able to do it out of courtesy if he's with a senior but when it comes to his peers, he won't be able to do it. However, if it's a one-to-one situation, he will be able to do such a thing for someone. He also finds it a stressful thing to be on the receiving end of superficial kindness from others. Although he emphasized that this is probably due to his character, he denied that disliking people who are good at interpersonal relationships and there was no reference to anyone in particular with regard to his remark.
In the segment where he answered questions from the listeners, Nakai was asked if he had confidence in himself but he replied No. Although he was not confident about his speaking skills and dancing, he didn't care how people thought of him so it doesn't bother him so much.
During the show, he also played SMAP's latest single "Otherside"released last September twice.
Nakai ended the show by hoping for a year when he can work hard but without being too hurried.
Sources: Sanspo 1 / Sanspo 2 / Yomiuri Hochi 1 / Yomiuri Hochi 2

- Katori Shingo appeared on a number of TBS programmes on 16 January to promote his new drama "Kazoku no Katachi".
In the interview programme "Sawako no Asa", Katori mentioned that the first three years since SMAP made their debut in 1988 was especially tough because none of their 12 singles released during this period made it to the Oricon weekly single No.1 position. In addition, during their concerts, the number of fans was so few that they were really discouraged then. Considering that the group before their debut i.e. Hikaru GENJI was so popular, SMAP had initially thought that they would be off to a flourishing start like their direct seniors. When asked by the host Agawa Sawako if the group was in danger of being disbanded during those three years, Katori joked that if he had been part of the management then, he would probably make the group disband since they were so unprofitable.
Since Katori joined the agency at the age of 10, he has spent more time with his members than his family. Reflecting on the 28 years he has spent as a SMAP member, he said that the tough start in their careers was a struggle because they were scolded before by people in the agency for being so unpopular. As to why they probably did not make it big in the beginning, Katori jokingly attributed it to the fact that the group had not received any singing lessons before their debut.
Their subsequent move to variety programmes was a key factor in their later success. However, the idea of wearing wigs and skirts and everyone having to behave in such an exaggerated manner for the shows was very unsettling for them. While coping with self doubt and the urgency to overcome their tough circumstances, they started to become more popular. To date, this sense of crisis is still very much felt by them so they don't get complacent just because they became more profitable than before.
Katori admits to having few friends within the entertainment circle and doesn't like to tell other people his contact details but likes writing letters and sending them to people. As for his most memorable experience to date, he cites the time when Michael Jackson appeared on SMAPxSMAP and each member got to take a signed photo with him. To date, Katori still displays this photo in his home.
Towards the end of the show, Katori was asked about Nakai and he commented that the latter is a very kind person who is considerate of everyone around him until the point when the latter himself falls sick at times.
In another programme "Ousama no Brunch", Katori appeared in the "live" show to talk about the drama but did not mention anything about the saga. When asked by the host Tanihara Shosuke about his feelings now, Katori said that he was excited about the start of his drama and revealed that while filming this drama, he started to think more about the meaning of marriage. After his appearance on the show, Katori returned to the set for his drama's filming.
Source: Sanspo / Yomiuri Hochi 1 / Yomiuri Hochi 2

- SMAP members are expected to meet up for the first time on 20 January for the filming of "SMAPxSMAP". The last time they met was on 11 January when they appeared as guests on NHK's "NHK Nodo Jiman Champion Taikai 2016". FujiTV said that they are in preparations for the filming to take place as scheduled but the final confirmation hasn't been made yet.
It is said that the key to the group's reconciliation lies with Kimura who had decided right from the start to stay while his fellow members wanted to leave. However, Kimura intends to step in between both sides in a bid to resolve this issue amicably. As such, the group's meeting on the 20th is said to be a key factor to deciding the course of the negotiation going forward.
The recording for the 18 January episode of "SMAPxSMAP" was already completed so if the TV station decides to use pre-recorded content for the upcoming 25 January episode, the group might not meet up on the 20th as planned. This is because Iijima has been uncontactable since the news broke on the 13th. Due to the fact that she is the person to make the final decision on the content of the programme, this may cause problems in subsequent episodes of the programme. For now, the TV station will just proceed based on what has been decided so far.
Source: Yomiuri Hochi

- The bigwigs of showbiz have spoken on the issue as some of them reveal that they already knew of the problem months ago.
Downtown's Matsumoto Hitoshi who is a close friend of Nakai, talked about the issue in the FujiTV programme "Wide na Show" on 17 January. He revealed that he had met Nakai the previous day for drinks when the latter called him during a drinking session. Matsumoto told Nakai that they should not head for a breakup. If it had been that the entire group leaves the agency to start afresh elsewhere, that would still be OK but they should aim not to go their separate ways and remain together in the agency. Matsumoto also commented that Nakai values SMAP more than anything else thus the latter wouldn't want to do anything to hurt the group. Since last year, there have been rumours about SMAP. Even though the issue does not concern him directly, Matsumoto revealed that he feels saddened at the notion of SMAP breaking up.
Source: Nikkansports / Sanspo

- Akashiya Sanma who is on close terms with SMAP especially Kimura, said in the Osaka MBS radio show "Young Town Doyoubi" on 16 January that he had known about the saga about 2 months before the news broke. It was then when he and SMAP was recording the NTV Christmas SP for "Sanma & SMAP Bijo to Yaju no Christmas"which they had been doing since 1995 that he realised that the atmosphere between the members was not right. He noticed that it was difficult to get them to interact well and the content of the programme seemed to have been adjusted so as not to make this too apparent so Sanma wondered if the producers already knew of the problem then. After the end of the filming, Sanma said "see you next year" but Kimura had replied that he wasn't sure if there would a next year which made Sanma quite alarmed. As such, Sanma was secretly wondering if there might be a surprise announcement from the group during the Kouhaku. Later on, when they did the recording for FujiTV's "Santaku", it was the same situation so Sanma tried to be more considerate of the members' feelings during the filming despite the members hardly ever interacting as usual.
With regard to the issue, Sanma said that both sides had their own reasons and it was difficult to say who is right or wrong. He recounted having bumped into Mary at an Italian restaurant at the end of last year where she just settled the bill for him quietly and revealed that he had known Johnny-san for a long time so his relationship with the agency goes a long way back. However, he cannot take sides in this case since he believes that both sides have their own valid arguments.

Source: Sanspo / Yomiuri Hochi

- Kimura is said to have called each of his SMAP members personally and confirmed that they want to continue staying in the agency before he called Mary about it. This is seen as a positive step in helping the group reconcile with the agency. Previously, it was observed that there was a rift between Kimura and the breakaway members because he had decided to stay instead of following Iijima. However, with the news of the impending breakup hogging the headlines from the 13th, the four members started to have a change of mind. Especially for Nakai who was initially still insistent about leaving, he was convinced to think otherwise after hearing views from fans and discussing with showbiz bigwigs. Kimura also called Johnny-san on the 15th to ask if they could allow some plans to be made for the group which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
At the same time, Iijima may leave the agency earlier than expected in a bid to take responsibility for the saga. She is said to be leaving at the end of this month instead of mid February.
Source: Nikkansports / Sponichi

- It seems that there were initially plans made for SMAP's 25th anniversary since there was a 5-domes concert tour scheduled to take place from the end of August to November. However, due to the saga, the booking for the domes was cancelled in the middle of December. Under normal circumstances, booking of the domes for the concerts are to be done at least a year in advance. It was believed that the four breakaway members made their decisions known in November while Kimura expressed his wish to stay in December thus resulting in the cancellation last month.
According to event management insiders, it will be difficult to restore the bookings once they have been cancelled because there is usually a waiting list for other events to take up the free slots. However, there is still a likelihood of last-minute cancellations during the baseball climax series from October where baseball teams may open up their respective domes as late as two weeks before the dates.
Source: Sanspo

- During the press conference on 10 November last year where SMAP was named as a supporter of the Paralympics Support Centre, it was observed that Kimura seemed to be angry for no reason as he stood at the far left away from his members. As the press conference was attended by a lot of sports reporters who are not so familiar with entertainment-related press conferences, they were puzzled by Kimura's behaviour and thought that he was putting on airs. However, with the revelation of the impending breakup, it was believed that the rift between Kimura and his fellow members had already appeared as early as in November.
The Paralympics Support Centre aims to attract many people to support the athletes as per what happened during the 2012 London Olympics where spectators gathered even for events that did not feature British athletes. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, although a similar situation appeared, it was believed that the spectators did not come out of their own accord but rather due to the mobilisation by the central government. As such, it is hoped that with SMAP being the promotional supporters, it will create more awareness and hype for the Paralympic Games and in turn, attract more spectators to support the athletes. Despite the fact that SMAP did not actually sign a contract with the Support Centre and was taking on the role as a volunteer, they might not be able to continue being the supporters if the group does indeed break up.
Source: Sponichi

- Kimura was said to have met up with Fujishima Julie, the vice president and niece of Johnny-san, in Kyoto yesterday in a bid to discuss how to keep the remaining SMAP members in the agency. Kimura had been in Kyoto for the filming of his movie "Mugen no Junin" and yesterday marked the day when he was finally done with it. As such, there was a wrap-up party held at 5.30pm which he attended till 8.30pm and headed back to Tokyo via the Shinkansen at 9pm where about 50 fans had gathered at the platform to greet him.
It was said that Julie met Kimura in the afternoon but what they discussed was not known. Although it is not rare for a manager to be at a wrap-up event, for Julie to appear at Kimura's workplace was unheard of. The fact that Kimura had to rush back to Kyoto on the same evening also suggested that there was something he had to attend to quickly.
Source: Nikkansports

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Screening event of FujiTV Winter 2016 drama "Itsuka kono koi wo omoi dashite kitto naite shimau"

The screening event of FujiTV Winter 2016 drama "Itsuka kono koi wo omoi dashite kitto naite shimau" was held on 13 January which was attended by the cast Arimura Kasumi, Koura Kengo, Takahata Mitsuki, Nishijima Takahiro, Morikawa Aoi and Sakaguchi Kentaro. The drama which begins its run from 18 January in the Mondays 9pm timeslot, is a love story written by Sakamoto Yuji involving six young people as they fall in love and try to find hope in living.

As the filming already started from 13 November last year, the cast and crew are almost done with the 5th episode's filming at the time of the screening event. When asked about Sakamoto's unique lines in the script, Arimura revealed that while she was reading the fourth episode's script, she was so saddened by it that she cried so much and wanted to give up on the filming. As this is her first leading role in a private network drama, she is especially determined to do her best for this drama. Likewise for Koura who is also starring as the lead in a private network drama, he views the participation in a Gekku drama as a challenge for him and is very happy that the teamwork has been good so far and that acting as Ren has been a stimulating experience. Takahata who is taking on the role of a woman with a lot of sexy feminine charm, admitted that she has been worried since the filming started as her character is one who speaks opposite to what she thinks. She feels that her character this time will be very different from her other roles so far.

Teshima Aoi, the singer of the drama's theme song "Ashita e no Tegami" was also present at the event as a surprise guest to perform the song.

Source: Oricon

The impact of the mass buying of SMAP's CDs on the music charts

Following an online campaign to call upon people to buy SMAP's signature single "Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana" in a bid to show their support for the group and stop them from disbanding, the single which had been ranked outside the top 100, rose to No.9 on the Oricon daily chart on the 15th. Other SMAP singles such as their latest release "Otherside / Ai ga tomaru made wa" which was ranked No.32 on the previous day, jumped up to No.4. In the top 100 chart on the 15th, there were 8 singles which belonged to the group.

Similarly, the online streaming chart's single daily ranking listed "Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana" as the most downloaded song on the 14th while No.8 was "Orange", No.9 was "Yozora no Mukou" and No.11 was "Lion Heart".

Source: Nikkansports

Most Anticipated Winter 2016 drama ranking (Confidence)

This survey was done via the Internet and involved 1,364 respondents nationwide. The total scores in brackets are tabulated based on anticipation levels in four areas i.e. ratings, the leads, the supporting cast and the story. Dramas with original novels/manga are indicated in blue. If you would like to see the breakdown of the scores, please visit here which are presented in the same order as I outlined above. There are two categories i.e. the primetime and late night dramas.

Interestingly, although "Watashi wo Hanasanai de" and "Specialist 4" are tied for 1st place in terms of total score, the latter scored lower for the ratings, leads and supporting cast aspects but got a better score for the story despite the fact that the former has a bestselling novel to back it up. Seems like the viewers are quite confident about the story in the "Specialist" series.

As for the late night dramas, Kiritani Mirei's "Sumi ka Sumire" got the top spot. It was mentioned in the article that this drama got a higher proportion of men looking forward to this drama compared to the others and cited the expectation of wanting to see if Kiritani can pull off the role of a woman who becomes 45 years younger than her actual age as a key factor.

Primetime dramas (from 8pm to before 11pm)
1) Watashi wo Hanasanai de - TBS / Specialist 4 - TV Asahi (65)
3) Itsuka kono koi wo omoi dashite kitto naite shimau - FujiTV (58)
4) Fragile - FujiTV (50)
5) Higanbana ~ Keishicho Sousa Nanaka ~ - NTV / Rinshou Hanzai Gakusha  Himura Hideo no Suiri - NTV (49)
7) Kazoku no Katachi - TBS / Otousan to yobasete - FujiTV / Naomi to Kanako - FujiTV (47)
10) Kaitou Yamaneko - NTV (46)
11) Keishicho Zero Kakari ~ Seikatsu Anzenka Nandemo Soudanshitsu ~ - TV Tokyo (36)
12) Dame na watashi ni  koishite kudasai - TBS (34)
13) Chikaemon - NHK (26)
14) Nigeru Onna - NHK (23)
15) Itooshikute - NHK (20)

Late night dramas (from 11pm onwards)
1) Sumi ka Sumire - TV Asahi (46)
2) Akutotachi wa Senri wo hashiru - TBS (39)
3) Tokyo Sentimental - TV Tokyo (34)
4) Kasa wo motanai aritachi - FujiTV (25)
5) Money no Tenshi - NTV (10)

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Kawakita Mayuko to be the lead in the new drama and movie adaptations of "Shiratori Reiko de gozaimasu!"

Kawakita Mayuko will be the lead in the new drama and movie adaptations of "Shiratori Reiko de gozaimasu" which will be shown from January 2016 and the middle of 2016 respectively. She is the third actress to play this role after Suzuki Honami and Matsuyuki Yasuko. In the new adaptations made from Suzuki Yumiko's manga for the first time since 1995, Kawakita who was raised in New York, will take on the role of Shiratori Reiko. When she received the offer, Kawakita said that she was very happy and even prepared different versions of how to say her character's signature line to be used in various situations. Her co-star Mizuno Masaru who is the leader of BOYS AND MEN, will be playing the role of Akimoto Tetsuya who Reiko is holding a torch for. His fellow members will also be appearing in the drama and/or movie while the group will be singing the theme song and ending theme.

Source: Oricon

The 19th Nikkansports Drama Grand Prix (Autumn 2015)

Numbers indicate the number of votes received by the drama/actor/actress:

Best Drama
1) 5-ji kara 9-ji made (FujiTV) - 640
2) Shitamachi Rocket (TBS) - 307
3) Asa ga kita (NHK) - 201
4) Siren (FujiTV) - 95
5) Aibou (TV Asahi) - 91

Best Leading Actor
1) Abe Hiroshi - Shitamachi Rocket (TBS) - 467
2) Ayano Go - Kounodori (TBS) - 255
3) Tamaki Hiroshi - Asa ga kita (NHK) - 251
4) Kamikawa Takaya - Angel Heart (NTV) & Matsuzaka Toori - Siren (FujiTV) - 138

Best Leading Actress
1) Ishihara Satomi - 5-ji kara 9-ji made (FujiTV) - 721
2) Haru - Asa ga kita (NHK) - 366
3) Aragaki Yui - Okitegami Kyoko no Biboroku (NTV) - 275
4) Inoue Mao - Hana Moyu (NHK) - 172
5) Sawaguchi Yasuko - Kasouken no Onna (TV Asahi) - 134

Best Supporting Actor
1) Yamashita Tomohisa - 5-ji kara 9-ji made (FujiTV) - 649
2) Kikkawa Koji - Shitamachi Rocket (TBS) - 106
3) Sorimachi Takashi - Aibou (TV Asahi) - 99
4) Osawa Takao - Hana Moyu (NHK) - 97
5) Kamiki Ryunosuke - Samurai Sensei (TV Asahi) - 82

Best Supporting Actress
1) Takanashi Rin - 5-ji kara 9-ji made (FujiTV) - 232
2) Nanao - Siren (FujiTV) - 201
3) Tomochika - Asa ga kita (NHK) - 159
4) Toda Keiko - 5-ji kara 9-ji made (FujiTV) 106
5) Kaga Mariko - 5-ji kara 9-ji made (FujiTV) 89

Source: Nikkansports

Kimura Takuya talks about the SMAP breakup saga for the first time on his radio show

 Amid speculation since the revelation of SMAP facing a possible disband due to the departure of their chief manager from Johnny's Jimusho, Kimura Takuya finally broke his silence by speaking on the issue on his radio show. During the 15th January broadcast of "What's Kaizokudan Kimura Takuya no What's UP SMAP!" on TOKYO FM, Kimura started the show by saying that there has been a lot of news coverage this week on the topic. Although he is not in a position now to reveal anything specific, he hopes to use his own words and share his thoughts through this channel as soon as he is able to do so. As such, he called upon the listeners and fans to believe in him and continue showing their support. In the midst of the programme, SMAP's song "Original Smile" was played and Kimura had specially introduced the song as "from us SMAP".

Source: Asahi Shimbun

Tsuchiya Tao to star in the real-life movie adaptation of "Aozora Yell"

Tsuchiya Tao will be starring in the real-life movie adaptation of "Aozora Yell" which is due to be screened nationwide in August. The movie which is based on the same-titled manga serialised in "Bessatsu Margaret" between 2008 and October 2015, sold more than 3 million copies to date. Tsuchiya will be playing the lead character Ono Tsubasa, a student at a senior high school famous for its band. Despite having no experience in playing musical instruments, Tsubasa starts to learn how to play the trumpet and aims to be able to perform on the stands of the Koshien so as to support their school's baseball team. During the process, she meets Yamada Daisuke, a classmate cum member of the baseball team where they support each other towards achieving their goals. This will be the first time that Tsuchiya is playing a trumpet in a movie.

As for the role of Daisuke, he will be played by Takeuchi Ryoma who was seen in last September's TV Asahi drama "Kamen Rider Drive". This will be the second time that he is working with Tsuchiya since last autumn's TBS drama "Shitamachi Rocket". Although Takeuchi earned a special referral to enter university with his soccer skills, this will be his first attempt at baseball and he will cut his hair short for the filming. In addition, Tsubasa's buddy in the band Mizushima Aki will be played by Hayama Shono who played Tsuchiya's younger brother in the NHK morning drama "Mare".

Filming for the movie begins in April and the director will be Miki Takahiro.

Source: Oricon

Friday, January 15, 2016

BoA to sing the theme song for FujiTV drama SP "Ooku"

BoA who is celebrating her 15th anniversary since her debut, will be singing the theme song for FujiTV drama SP "Ooku" featuring Sawajiri Erika. The drama SPs which will be shown on 22nd and 29th January, will be the first in the "Ooku" series to have a theme song with English lyrics. BoA commented that the song titled "Make Me Complete" which is due to be released via streaming websites from 22 January, will be an unique combination with the traditional beauty of "Ooku" and is honoured to be singing the theme song for the drama SPs. When she received the offer to sing the song, it was specifically mentioned that an English song was needed. Although she has sung in English many times below, this is the first English sentimental ballad she is singing so she views this as a new challenge for her 15th anniversary.

The last time BoA had sung a drama theme song was for the 2008 TV Asahi drama "Shichinin no Onna Bengoshi".

Source: Oricon / Sanspo

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Higashide Masahiro & An expecting twins this summer


Higashide Masahiro and An who got married on New Year's Day last year, are expecting twins to be born this coming summer. According to their agencies, due to the fact that An is pregnant with twins, there needs to be extra care taken so for the time being. Their agencies called upon the media and public to give the couple space and support during this period. According to the 14th January issue of "Josei Seven", An was seen buying maternity shorts at a maternity lingerie shop in Shinjuku in the middle of last month thus fueling speculation that she is pregnant.


Source: Oricon

Ongoing campaign by SMAP fans to buy "Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana" CD to stop SMAP from breaking up

In response to news of SMAP's impending break up on 13 January, there is a campaign going on in a bid to stop that from happening. Some SMAP fans have initiated the move to purchase SMAP's bestselling single to date i.e. "Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana" and push total sales to "triple million" so as to show the group that the fans want them to remain together and how much they support them. To date, the single has sold around 2.6 million copies so to hit the 3 million mark, another 400,000 copies or so need to be sold. The campaign hashtag is currently one of the top 10 trending Twitter topics now with tweets sharing information on how to buy the CD and getting the people around them to do the same. Based on checks done this morning, the CD is already sold out on various online sites such as Amazon Japan, Yodobashi.com, HMV and Tower Records.

Source: Livedoor News

Day 2 of the SMAP saga continues...

As Day 2 of the SMAP saga continues, more pieces of the puzzle are gradually revealed to give a slightly clearer picture on what happened behind the scenes. However, the members have yet to break their silence which shows that the negotiations of whether to stay or go are still going on thus that's probably why they can't or won't speak unless there's an outcome. We'll just have to wait till the final resolution is out.

- Nikkansports which broke the news first yesterday, has a series of follow-up reports today. In this article and another, they talked about how Johnny's Jimusho does not try to retain people who have indicated that they want to leave the agency and jump ship elsewhere. Past examples include Go Hiromi, Tahara Toshihiko and members of Hikaru GENJI. Note that there have been exceptions like Sakamoto Masayuki from V6 who quit once before the group's debut and came back but his situation was different in that he did not move to another agency and had actually quit to work in an office job as he was unsure about his future as an artiste then. However, there has never been a past instance where someone wants to leave the agency and go elsewhere and yet can return afterwards.

In view of the fact that the four members had indicated that they wanted to leave, the agency is seen as unlikely to make an exception in trying to stop them. When you consider the fact that in the past, the agency had done a lot to help them restore their images when some of them got into trouble i.e. Inagaki and Kusanagi, their actions now were seen as a betrayal thus further reducing the agency's willingness to go all out to keep them.

- Although the news reports had been very specific in naming the four members who wants to leave, it seems like the final verdict is not out because they have somewhat changed their minds about the decision.

In the beginning, Kimura was very clear about his intention to stay while the others decided to go. It was said that Kimura had sought advice from his fellow celebrity friends before he decided and a key factor was his wife Kudo Shizuka persuading him to stay. In this Sankei Sports article, it was mentioned that Kudo felt that they shouldn't betray Mary who had helped them when they got married in 2000. There was a lot of media attention on the couple then and Mary had helped to suppress excessive coverage on them during that period. In addition, they also have their two daughters aged 14 and 12 to think of. In the end, Kimura decided to stay on.

On the other hand, in this Sports Hochi article, it was said that Nakai reacted especially strongly to the criticism by Mary in the interview last January that SMAP cannot dance. No doubt Nakai may not be so good at singing, his dancing is viewed one of the best within Johnny's, if not the best in SMAP. As such, that remark by Mary was a huge blow to his ego thus making him very insistent about leaving.

However, with rumours now swirling around that Iijima Michi may not jump ship to another agency and that she may be leaving showbiz altogether, this is certainly not good news for the four who made their intentions known early. Without the backing of Johnny's Jimusho nor their longtime mentor, the four members will face a difficult path ahead. It is believed that even if they are to go back on their word and say that they wish to stay on, the agency might not be willing to take them back.

Before the coup actually took place from August, it was said that Iijima had tried to convince the members that they could still work as usual even after leaving the agency. It was believed that SMAP's appearances on NHK's long-running music show "Nodo Jiman" which celebrated its 70th anniversary last year was part of the plan to ensure that SMAP could work freely on NHK shows. As compared to the private networks which may be intimidated by Mary's influence, NHK as a national broadcaster was less vulnerable to such pressure. In addition, Iijima's secret plan to let SMAP be the hosts of last year's Kouhaku without getting the approval of Johnny-san, Mary and Julie was seen as the final blow which soured their relationship. As seen from the fact that Iijima allowed SMAP to take on the supporter role for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games despite the uncertain future facing them due to the coup, she was seemingly very confident about her plans even though the Games which is an international event are a good four years away.

Another version of why Iijima Michi cannot bring the four members to another agency or set up an agency on her own was mentioned in this Sponichi Annex article. It was said that the relationship between both sides was so bad that they needed to get lawyers to be present during the negotiation last September. Iijima had the intention to bring the artistes to a new agency but this was a big taboo in showbiz. Although it was rumoured that she had struck a deal with another big-name agency K-DASH which manages artistes such as Watanabe Ken, Takahashi Katsunori and Sakaguchi Kenji, this was said to have fallen through in the end. As such, nobody wanted to support her in this move thus resulting in her failed coup.

Although it was mentioned previously that Iijima had quit from J Dream earlier on her own accord, the background story was that there should have been a J Dream shareholders meeting held on 12 January which SMAP also had to attend as shareholders. It was then that they would have announced the firing of Iijima from her director's post. However, due to her failed coup, she had to submit her resignation thus there was no need to proceed with the meeting in the end. In an attempt to end the saga, Iijima was said to have promised to leave showbiz after her resignation but even so, it might not help the four members who supported her in staying in the agency.

- As to why the members may not have spoken yesterday when the news broke, it looks like they were mostly off work on that day. Normally, the five of them will be filming for SMAPxSMAP on Wednesdays but this week's Wednesday happened to be their off-day.
Kimura was said to be in the outskirts of Kyoto filming his movie "Mugen no Junin". Katori is expected to be back on set for the filming of his new drama "Kazoku no Katachi" from 16 January while Inagaki is the midst of rehearsals for his stage play. Nakai is expected to be back in the studio for the filming of his variety show on 15 January. Kusanagi was the first to appear in public among his members this morning when he appeared in TV Asahi's morning programmes "Good! Morning" and "Hattori Shinichi Morning Show" to promote his new drama "Specialist 4". However, he didn't talk anything about the SMAP saga and simply bowed twice towards the camera at the end of his appearance on "Good! Morning".

A rollercoaster start to 2016

2016 has barely begun and we are not even halfway through January but it feels like a rollercoaster ride in the Japanese entertainment world.

The first big scandal of the year was Becky's alleged affair with Kawatani Enon, the vocalist of Gesu no Kiwami Otome. Much as she denied during her press conference that they were dating which was largely mocked by the media as a show just to placate the sponsors (apparently didn't work), the damning reports with lots of evidence such as the LINE messages between the two of them talking about pushing Kawatani's wife to sign the divorce application and using the nickname of "thesis" in jest to represent the divorce papers, photos of them taken in a hotel room, controversial actions such as meeting his parents despite the fact that he is still married just suggests that the two of them are lying through their teeth.

For a start, I am not a fan of either of them. Besides, their private lives have nothing to do with their careers as some may argue. However, what's causing this to linger on in the headlines are the subsequent revelations about how the two of them had schemed to get Kawatani's wife to agree to the divorce and how they had behaved in such a manner that totally disregards Kawatani's marital status as a married man. As each sordid detail is shared in the media, it's hard not to feel disgusted by how this scandal has evolved.

Finally, Kawatani's wife has spoken. Her exclusive interview was published on 13 January in Shukan Bunshun which broke the scandal first. In the interview, she revealed that she started dating Kawatani in the spring of 2012 and got married in July last year. The fact that he is a married man was never made known until the scandal broke. Just two days prior to Becky's press conference on 6 January, the two of them were confronted by the reporters of Shukan Bunshun and he was still denying that he is married and said that his wife is just a friend. When asked about the trip to Kawatani's hometown in Nagasaki during the New Year holidays, Kawatani's wife revealed that she was most shocked about them doing this behind her back. She couldn't fathom what Kawatani was thinking when he introduced Becky to his family and what kind of intention Becky had when she went to meet his parents. In addition, she revealed that since the following day after Becky's press conference, Kawatani had been pressing his wife via phone calls and emails to "submit the thesis" i.e. submit the divorce application. Since the scandal broke, his wife has been unwell and said to be lying in bed most of the time. According to an music industry insider, although Becky and Kawatani promised that they will not meet again, it was said to be a ruse to hide the fact that they are still in touch and they tried to encourage each other to bear with this for the time being until he gets divorced.

Looks like this won't die down anytime soon.

For a brief moment, the negative mood brought about by the affair scandal seemed to have been swept away by DAIGO and Kitagawa Keiko's marriage announcement. In recent years, many celebrity couples merely issued statements and didn't hold weddings or held secret ones. As such, for DAIGO and Kitagawa to be so open about it and take the effort to hold a press conference where they answered lots of questions about their relationship was widely praised by the media. I guess for the media, they are generally happy to report on positive things like these but often, they don't have the chance to do so. I can understand the celebrities' wish to maintain their privacy and avoid drawing too much attention to their relationships or marriages or divorce which may overshadow their work achievements. On the other hand, if it's a happy occasion, there is really no harm in sharing the joy with the public.

However, whatever happiness or positive energy experienced on Monday was really short-lived. Just one day later, the news of SMAP facing the prospect of breaking up are all over the place, not just in Japan but also in overseas media outlets.

To sum up what is the problem, here are the key points as reported from various news sources:

- There are three main factions within Johnny's Jimusho headed by the president Kitagawa Johnny himself, Fujishima Julie Keiko who is one of the vice-presidents and the niece of Johnny-san and Iijima Michi who is at the centre of the SMAP controversy. In the Julie faction, she manages TOKIO, ARASHI, NEWS, Kanjani 8, KAT-TUN, Hey! Say! JUMP and Johnny's WEST. On Iijima's side, she has been taking care of SMAP since their debut and is also responsible for Yamashita Tomohisa, Kis-My-Ft2, Sexy Zone and ABC-Z. KinKi Kids, V6 and Takki & Tsubasa are managed directly under Johnny-san.

- The Julie and Iijima factions are said to be at loggerheads thus making it almost impossible for artistes from one side to appear in the same TV programme or event with people from the other side. Truth be told, the problem is said to be actually between the managers rather than the artistes themselves. As to why they are at odds, it is said to be due to the fight for the president's post in future.
The other vice-president in the company i.e. Kitagawa Mary is the sister of Johnny-san and is a strong supporter for her daughter Julie to take over the reins in future. Despite the fact that she used to be a mentor to Iijima and their relationship was said to be quite close in the past, her support for her own daughter seems to have caused a rift between her and Iijima. Can't fault Mary for doing that though. However, the simmering tensions finally exploded when Mary was interviewed by a magazine last year and asked about the factions' fighting, She denied strongly that there was no infighting but what happened next seemed to be what caused the fallout. She criticised SMAP for being poor at dancing and was said to have called Iijima to issue a thinly-veiled threat that if there is any fighting, she would not hesitate to issue marching orders to the latter and that Iijima can just leave anytime. This was said to be why Iijima had been planning at least for the last six months to leave.

- So why is SMAP being drawn into this? Apparently, Iijima was merely an ordinary staff member in the company a long time ago. She was made SMAP's manager in a somewhat forced fashion because the group had not performed that well since their debut. It was said then that SMAP suffered due to the reduction of music programmes on TV at that time and a not-so-conducive environment for idols so they failed to make an impact initially. With Iijima's hard work and being present all the time for the group which finally rose to stardom later, the members and her had built a strong relationship over the past 30 years or so especially when it was felt at a time that the agency had sort of given up on them.
Well, if you want to talk about giving up on a group, I thought TOKIO suffered a worse time than SMAP when their CD sales could never match up to V6 or KinKi Kids and constantly got ridiculed for the weakest link in J-Friends. It was only until they jumped ship to Universal Music that they finally showed a lot of improvement in sales. I surely don't remember SMAP's early days being worse than what TOKIO experienced. Anyway, if Iijima had truly be the only one who supported SMAP through those tough times, no wonder they are willing to risk their careers just to go with her.
Since Iijima is leaving the company, reports say that the four who seem to have decided to leave with her are doing it as a form of support for her. As for Kimura Takuya, the general feel you get from media reports is that they least expected him to stay on but he is proving them wrong. Back in 1997, it was already rumoured that Kimura had threatened to leave due to low pay and speculation over him leaving or going solo had been popping up from time to time. However, this time round, the circumstances are different because his popularity is no longer the same as before and he has a family with two children as compared to his members who are all single. As such, the common belief is that he probably chose to stay on for a more secure career path which might lead to an executive position like what Higashiyama Noriyuki and Kondo Masahiko are said to have now. Besides, leaving Johnny's Jimusho is bound to make his future more uncertain with the clout the agency has over the industry and based on past examples where most of those who left slipped into oblivion, there is too much risk to take. At present, nothing is concrete yet since the members themselves have not spoken at all so there is still a chance that the group can stay intact. Regardless of who is staying or leaving and the reasons behind the decision, I don't think anyone can be faulted especially if it's a choice after careful thought.
Rumours have it that TV station authorities are trying hard to persuade Nakai Masahiro to stay on because if he does leave, it will leave a void in many TV stations' variety programmes as they may not wish to antagonise Johnny's and will be forced to drop him as the host. It is also said that if Nakai does stay, the rest of the members can be persuaded to do the same. Not sure how true this is but I can see why the TV stations are so worried because Nakai is indeed very important to their variety shows.

- There were telltale signs of trouble before the news broke. For example, the fact that there were no plans announced for SMAP's 25th anniversary this year was rather suspicious. When ARASHI celebrated their 15th anniversary in 2014 and V6 celebrated 20 years last year, there were various activities and CD releases throughout the entire year. In addition, Kimura was said to be in a foul mood during the Kouhaku rehearsals on 30 Dec last year and when asked about SMAP's overseas activities in 2016, he simply said that instead of asking what they can do next year, he doesn't even know what will happen then. On hindsight, this is said to be a hint that the future of SMAP was uncertain at that point in time.

To be honest, this whole saga looks like something which we can easily see in a company outside of the entertainment world. A manager schemes to leave the company and wants to bring his/her subordinates along to the competitor. Of course, there are people who stay and people who go. Either way, they have their own reasons. The theme of infighting between managers is also not new in companies elsewhere. However, when put into the context of an entertainment company, it becomes fodder for gossip.

Movement of people in and out of a company is natural so I can't blame Iijima for wanting to leave if she sees no hope of moving upwards and is subjected to the taunts and insults (if they are indeed true). Whether or not she instigated the members to go with her is one thing. At present, it looks like she didn't and they are doing it out of their own free will. However, I just find that it's a pity that the group may split up because of this. Considering that they went through various problems in the past like the departure of Mori Katsuyuki, Inagaki Goro's brush with the law and Kusanagi Tsuyoshi's drunk scandal in the park, it is sad to see that they are breaking up over issues not related to themselves but due to their management.

I surely don't expect that idol groups and bands can stay together forever. Much as fans may want them to do so, people grow up and have different priorities in life which may lead them to go their separate ways one fine day. If that really happens and the decision is made collectively to end the group, I think most fans can accept that. Personally, I think that's easier to accept than if members leave the group one by one which is extremely difficult to those who remain. However, in this case, if SMAP indeed breaks up due to this management issue, it will be quite a pity since their 25-year legacy in this business cannot live on.

I think it's time the members speak to let the fans know what they are thinking. The longer this uncertainty drags, the more undesirable the impact on them.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

SMAP's imminent breakup due to the departure of their manager from Johnny's Jimusho?

SMAP is said to be headed towards a breakup after their chief manager is set to leave their agency Johnny's Jimusho. As four of the members i.e. Nakai Masahiro, Inagaki Goro, Kusanagi Tsuyoshi and Katori Shingo are said to resign for the sake of following their chief manager who had been working with them for many years while Kimura Takuya is set to remain behind in Johnny's Jimusho, the group looks set to disband as it will be difficult for them to operate as SMAP under different management companies. Moreover, the breakaway members are expected to be unable to use the name "SMAP" anymore in their solo careers.

Although there is no concrete date on the breakup or when the members are leaving the company nor any official statement from the members themselves, the legal advisor of Johnny's Jimusho confirmed the news that SMAP's chief manager has resigned as a director of Johnny's Jimusho affiliate company "J Dream" which is managing SMAP. She is said to be leaving the company soon.

According to reports, discussions over the group's future lasted more than half a year and the decision was only made towards the end of last year. Despite the fact that the backing of their agency was a huge factor in SMAP's success, the chief manager who had been working with the group all this while was credited for "raising" the group to its status today especially since they did not do very well initially in their music careers. With the development of each member in their niche fields, SMAP slowly moved up the ranks to become a national idol group. In order to follow their manager, the four members are said to have decided to leave with her while Kimura who feels grateful to the president Johnny Kitagawa for choosing them to form the group, decided to stay behind after deliberating on the issue for a long time.

The first sign of internal conflict between the chief manager and the agency's management was hinted at early last year when an executive was interviewed and she had hinted that there was no room for infighting within the company and that there was a possibility that SMAP's chief manager may leave. In addition, despite the fact that this year is SMAP's 25th CD debut anniversary, there were no plans announced for a commemorative CD release or national concert tour which seemed to suggest that this was due to this issue.

SMAP was formed in 1988 comprising of six members including Mori Katsuyuki who left the group in 1996 to become a racer. The group released their first single in September 1991 and had two million-seller singles i.e. 1998's "Yozora no Mukou" and 2000's "Lion Heart". Their bestselling single was "Sekai ni Hitotsu dake no Hana" in 2003 which sold more than 2.5 million copies.

With the news of SMAP's impending breakup, the impact is far-reaching as the group's activities stretch across various fields. For example, their signature variety programme "SMAPxSMAP" on FujiTV which started in 1996, is set to celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. If the group indeed breaks up, the programme is likely to end its run. In terms of individual variety programmes, Nakai has 5 under his belt while Katori has 3, Kusanagi 2 and Inagaki 1. Nakai is more active in the TV variety scene while the rest of his members are more into acting. Kimura is in the midst of filming Miike Takashi's "Mugen no Junin" which is to be shown next year, Kusanagi and Katori both have dramas beginning this season i.e. "Specialist" and "Kazoku no Katachi" while Inagaki is due to begin his stage play "Koi to Ongaku FINAL ~ Jikan Gekijou no Kiseki~" from 6 February.

According to their official website, SMAP has two group CM deals with Seven & I Holdings and Universal Studios Japan which means that they will be affected if the group ceases to be. As for individual CM deals, Katori has 5, Kimura 4, Nakai and Kusanagi both have 3 each while Inagaki has 1. The group is also the supporter for the Paralympic Support Centre and tasked to promote awareness for the organisation.

Source: Nikkansports 1 / Nikkansports 2 / Nikkansports 3

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Press conference and special screening event of "Watashi wo hanasanai de"

The press conference and special screening event of TBS Winter 2016 drama "Watashi wo hanasanai de" was held on 11 January which was attended by the cast members Ayase Haruka, Miura Haruma and Mizukawa Asami. The drama which is based on Kazuo Ishiguro's novel "Never Let Me Go", will be set in Japan where the three of them will play young adults raised in a welfare facility named Youkou Gakuen isolated from the rest of the world for a designated purpose. When they come to realise what their fates are, they try to find the meaning of what is to live.

During the press conference, the host asked the cast who among them does things at his/her own pace and they all cited Ayase even though she herself didn't seem to realise this. Mizukawa commented that even when they are all busy filming, whenever Ayase appears on the set, she makes the whole atmosphere more enjoyable and less tense. Miura also praised Ayase for having a good effect on the mood on set. When the producer commented that Ayase has done a lot as the lead to pull everyone along, she commented innocently that she doesn't feel that she has done anything to which Mizukawa said smilingly that their lead's charm is that because she doesn't do things knowingly or on purpose.

Source: Oricon

DAIGO & Kitagawa Keiko's marriage announcement press conference

DAIGO and Kitagawa Keiko who registered their marriage today on 11 January, held a press conference to make the announcement on the same afternoon which was attended by 210 members of the media. The couple met on the set of "LADY ~ Saigo no Hanzai Profile ~" in 2011 and were first romantically linked in 2014.

Rumours were rampant that DAIGO was going to propose to Kitagawa last August after he finished the 100km charity marathon for NTV's "24 Jikan Terebi". In response to that, DAIGO admitted that he was quite flustered when the media reported details of his plan as he actually did propose to Kitagawa after finishing the race. Although Kitagawa was concerned if he could finish the race and worried about his condition, he simply told her to wait for him backstage. DAIGO then passed her a box containing a ring and merely said the letters "KSK" to her which left her baffled because she didn't know what they stood for. (DAIGO's trademark is to use acronyms for his lines) Usually, she would be able to guess what his acronyms stood for but on that day, she was too stunned to realise what it meant. Although she could tell that the box should contain a ring, she was still taken aback when she saw that it was a very expensive Harry Winston ring with a 2-carat diamond and actually returned it to DAIGO because she couldn't accept it. It was only when he explained that KSK stood for "kekkon shite kudasai" (please marry me) before she accepted the ring. Kitagawa commented that she didn't actually think that he would go ahead with the proposal despite the rumours swirling around then so she was very surprised.

When asked about their wedding plans, they said that they are still planning it so there are no concrete plans for now.

As it is increasingly rare that a celebrity couple would hold a marriage announcement press conference like them, they were asked why they decided to meet the media. DAIGO explained that they wanted to share the happy news first-hand with people who had been supportive of them all this while i.e. the fans, the people who work with them and the media. After discussing this together, they decided that this was the best way to show their sincerity. Kitagawa also commented that since she left home to come to Tokyo for her career, she has always hoped to be able to do this one day when she gets married. As for why they chose this day to get married, this was when they reunited three years after the drama's filming that they met again for the filming of a variety show "Kayoubi Surprise" on 11 January 2014. At that time, Kitagawa appeared on the show to promote her movie and after the filming, they made plans to go for a meal together which led to the development of their relationship. As she also likes the number 1, they deliberately chose to submit their marriage application at 11.11am on 11 January so as to signify a new start in their lives and for good luck. DAIGO also joked that they would probably have chosen 11 November because there are more 1s but they couldn't wait that long and chose today instead.

When asked about the reactions of their families, DAIGO said that his family are very receptive of Kitagawa and are happy that she has joined their family. Kitagawa's parents also expressed support for the couple when told of the news.

DAIGO revealed that at the start of their relationship, they already had marriage in mind which goes to show how serious they were about each other. He praised his wife for being very nice, pretty, a joy to be with, loves his music and would laugh at his jokes which gave him a lot of confidence. As such, he felt that she was too good for him. There were many reasons which led to him deciding to go ahead for the proposal and it would take him a good 24 hours to list them. Kitagawa said that when DAIGO asked her to be his girlfriend with the aim of marriage in mind, she had the same intention but there was no timeline when that would be. She cited the three-month preparation period for the charity marathon as a catalyst leading to their marriage when she supported him through the training.

As for how they address each other, DAIGO said that they would call their first names where he uses "Keiko-chan" while she calls him "DAIGO-san" in front of others but uses "DAIGO-kun" or "DAI-chan" in private. DAIGO also stressed that he would prefer to keep the other nicknames he has for his wife for future appearances on TV.

When asked if DAIGO had reported his marriage to his grandfather i.e. the late former prime minister Takeshita Noboru, he said that as his grandfather's grave is in Shimane Prefecture, they haven't had the time to visit there personally but will go there soon to let him know the good news.

Source: Oricon