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Mar 13 2014
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Mar 12 2014
I will be getting married soon.
There has been much talk of Italy, and Apulia especially, in the Japanese press lately. Utada Hikaru, one of Japan’s most famous and beloved pop stars is getting married to an Italian bartender, Francesco Calliano, a native of Fasano, a small town near Brindisi. The two have met in London at the hotel where Calliano works. They will get married in Polignano a Mare, hometown of singer Domenico Modugno (of the famous Volare song), on May 23. “It’s sudden and it makes me chuckle – I’m getting married -
I was thinking of announcing this quietly after the wedding ceremony, but it seems that there are already some rumors circulating so I thought of announcing it now.
I even find it funny how unexpected this is of me, but my partner is Italian. He’s a “regular person”, and I would like to sincerely ask everyone to please refrain from reporting his real name in order to protect his and his family’s safety and his rights to his privacy.
Thank you all for your warm support. And I would like to apologize for making everyone worry so much. He is an honest and sincere man who is loved by many friends. He comes from a large and happy family that seems like it jumped straight out of a manga. I myself am not getting any younger, so I would greatly appreciate it if you could silently look after us.
And… Since I’m still in mourning, I was thinking if I should postpone my marriage. But when I last talked to my mother, I remember her sounding really happy which made me think, “Wow, how many years has it been since I heard my mother sound this happy”. I believe that my mother also gives her support to this marriage, which will make us proceed with the plans according to schedule.
31-year-old singer-songwriter Hikaru Utada announced on Monday that she will “very soon” marry an Italian man. She acknowledged that even she laughed a little in surprise over this.
In her blog entry to both fans and the mass media, Utada said that her husband-to-be is a “fine young man sincerely loved by many friends.” He has a “large, cheerful, and bustling family, like one straight out of a manga.” Since her fiancé is not in the entertainment industry, she asked her fans and the media to view her personal life from a respectful distance for privacy’s sake.
Since Utada is still in a mourning period for her late mother Keiko Fuji, she said that she was uncertain whether to delay the upcoming marriage. However, she recalled that when she talked about her fiancé in her last conversation with her mother, her mother’s voice sounded happier than she can remember in years. With that in mind, she believes that she has her mother’s support and decided to go ahead with her marriage as scheduled.
Utada was previously married to Kazuaki Kiriya from 2002 to 2007. Kiriya directed several of her early music videos, as well as the live-action Casshern film which used a track by Utada as its theme song.
Utada is an internationally known, bestselling pop artist born in New York City and raised in Japan and the United States. Her debut album, 1999′s First Love, is still Japan’s bestselling album ever with about 8 million copies sold. Bandai Visual used Utada’s “Kiss & Cry” and “This is Love” songs for the Freedom anime project. Besides the theme song for the live-action Casshern movie remake, Utada also contributed to the live-action Hana Yori Dango 2 television adaptation.
More recently, she provided a 2007 remix of her 2000 cover of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon (In Other Words)” for the trailer to Evangelion: 1.0 You Are [Not] Alone (Evangelion Shin Gekijōban: Jo), as well as her “Beautiful World” song for the anime film itself. She also contributed the “Beautiful World -PLANiTb Acoustica Mix-” for the second film, Evangelion: 2.0 You Can [Not] Advance (Evangelion Shin Gekijōban: Ha). In addition to her singing career, she played the heroine Pinoko in the 2001-2002 Black Jack net anime series. She toured the United States and the United Kingdom in 2009.
Utada had been on hiatus from the entertainment business since the beginning of 2011, although she returned to host a monthly radio program called Kuma Power Hour with Utada Hikaru on the InterFM station last April. (She did not host last month’s program on January 21 due to health reasons.) She did contribute the song “Sakura Nagashi” as the ending theme for 2012′s Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (Evangelion Shin Gekijō-ban: Q), but her management emphasized that the song did not represent a full-fledged return from her hiatus.
Singer-songwriter Hikaru Utada, 31, revealed on her blog Monday that she plans to marry her 23-year-old Italian fiance on May 23.
In a message to her fans and the media, Utada, whose 1999 multi-million-selling debut record, “First Love,” is one of Japan’s biggest-ever hits, said they are planning to have their wedding ceremony in a church by the sea near Fasano in south Italy.
She said: “I’m getting married soon… This is unexpected even for me and makes me chuckle a bit but my partner is an Italian man. My partner is a sincere, nice man loved by many friends.”
Sports Nippon reported that Utada’s fiance is a bartender working in a hotel in London and the two got to know each other when Utada was staying there. Last summer, he introduced her to his family who live in Fasano.
A local magazine in Fasano, reporting the news, said it was like a fairytale that a Japanese superstar and a normal boy will marry, and predicted that the town will become internationally famous, according to Sports Nippon.
Utada said she decided to go ahead with the wedding despite her mother Keiko Fuji’s death last year in a fall from her 13th-floor Tokyo apartment.
“When I talked about my fiance in my last conversation with my mother, she was so glad, that I thought ‘I’ve not seen my mother this cheerful in many years,’” Utada said.
It will be Utada’s second marriage. She was previously married to photographer Kazuaki Kiriya, 45, in 2002. They divorced in 2007, with the couple citing differences in future vision and communication problems.
Feb 14 2014
TOKYO (Kyodo) — The government is considering relaxing requirements for highly skilled foreigners to obtain permanent residency status in Japan as it expects them to help enhance the nation’s international competitiveness, according to government sources.
The government plans to submit a bill to revise the immigration control law to the ordinary Diet session, which convenes Friday, enabling corporate managers as well as highly skilled researchers and professionals to obtain permanent resident visas after three years of residency in Japan instead of the current five years, the sources said.
Under the current system, foreign nationals need more than 10 years of residency in Japan to get permanent residency, but foreigners with high skills need only five years for the status.
The government plans to shorten the required period from five years to three years for researchers studying advanced information technologies and cutting-edge medical technologies, people involved in the development of new materials and top managers of global companies, the sources said.
Around 2.03 million foreign nationals were staying in Japan as of the end of 2012, including about 620,000 permanent residents, according to the Justice Ministry.
Dec 16 2013
Norika Fujiwara has broken an unwritten rule of the television business: sharing her political views. The popular model and actress has come out against a bill that stiffens penalties against civil servants who leak classified information.
Writing on her website, Fujiwara, 42, said passing such a law would adversely affect citizens and encouraged her fans to pressure the government to kill the bill, which the Diet will take up in an extraordinary session scheduled to open Oct. 15.
In a message posted on Friday, Fujiwara accused the government of covering up the truth about the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant, and spreading misinformation about radiation and leaks of radioactive water there.
“As a citizen I am really concerned about it,” Fujiwara wrote in another message. “Our nation has a right to know.”
Fujiwara joins the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association in opposing the bill as a violation of the right to freedom of speech that will undermine Japan’s democracy.
“Once the bill is signed, the people who will write the truth on the Internet (or through other means) will be punished,” she stressed. “When I think of all the consequences that it will lead to, it really bothers me.”
In a message posted soon after the International Olympic Committee picked Tokyo to host the 2020 Games, Fujiwara said she was hopeful the duty would prompt the government to tackle the radiation crisis head-on.
Fujiwara revealed that she had also used the government’s public comment system to voice her opinion to the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office.
However, she complained that the public comment system only gives citizens two weeks to provide their opinions on implementing the law.
Fujiwara also provided detailed information on her website on how to contact the government, and encouraged her fans to send in their own opinions by Internet, fax or mail.
Fujiwara, who has been involved in charity activities in Japan and elsewhere as the PR ambassador for the Japanese Red Cross Society, recently made her eight visit to areas damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
In May, the actress received a special award at the Nikkei Social Initiative Awards ceremony, held by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, for her contributions to society.
However, she is not the first TV celebrity to expose herself to criticism by expressing her opinions.
After speaking out against nuclear power in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, actor and activist Taro Yamamoto lost a part in a TV series, and another show he appeared on cut to a commercial in the midst of his political commentary.
Yamamoto was elected to the Upper House in July after vowing to rid Japan of atomic power.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday to put Masako Mori, minister for measures against the declining birthrate, in charge of a state secrets protection bill.
Abe said the goal is to submit the bill at the extraordinary Diet session to be convened Oct. 15.
Nov 12 2013
Anger in Japan over film about murdered British teacher Anger in Japan as film about the killing of English teacher Lindsay Hawker glosses over her rape and murder By Julian Ryall, Tokyo3:41PM GMT 09 Nov 2013
Japanese cinema-goers have expressed their distaste for a film released on Saturday that depicts the years English teacher Lindsay Hawker’s killer went on the run after her murder in March 2007.
Produced by Sedic International and based on the book that Tatsuya Ichihashi wrote while he was awaiting trial, “I am Ichihashi: Journal of a Murderer” largely glosses over the rape and murder of 22-year-old Hawker, from Brandon in Warwickshire. Instead, in focuses on how he evaded the police, endured hardship while on the run, hid on a remote desert island and earned money on construction sites to pay for plastic surgery. The film also shows Ichihashi, played by the actor Dean Fujioka, performing surgery on himself with a razor blade and a pair of scissors in an effort to conceal his identity.
Bill Hawker displays a picture of his daughter, Lindsay Ann, at Chiba district court
Postings in online chat rooms suggested that efforts to portray a stoical Ichihashi as heroic for avoiding capture had backfired. “I think it’s really strange that people have made a film in which the hero is a murderer,” one commentator on the 2Channel site wrote. “I think the company that made this must be mad.”
Another commented, “The company that made this film needed to get the agreement of Lindsay’s family before starting. It is inevitable that foreigners are now going to think of Japan as a place where we make murderers into heroes.” Hawker’s family declined to comment on the release of the film, but expressed their anger in a statement when the movie project was first announced, in November 2011. Not everyone has criticised the film, however, with one of the high-profile guests at the gala opening screening of the film in Tokyo on Friday evening praising it as “interesting” and “really authentic.” Sedic International did not contact the Hawker family before or during the filming of the movie, but have stated that the title does not attempt to defend Ichihashi or play down his crimes. Ichihashi declined to cooperate with the film, even though it was based on his book, and a spokesman said that it was unclear what would happen to any royalties.
Ichihashi also refused to meet Fujioka before filming. Her family appeal for her safe return A spokesman for the company also told The Japan Times that “the privacy of the victim was taken into consideration and no scenes from the film focus on the victim or depict Hawker in any disrespectful way.” The closest the film comes to showing Hawker’s death is a scene in which Ichihashi is seen pouring sand and gravel into a bath. Hawker’s body was concealed in a bath tub on the balcony of Ichihashi’s apartment. Ichihashi was finally arrested on November 10, 2009, exactly four years ago, as he waited to board a ferry from the port city of Osaka to the island of Okinawa. His identity was confirmed through fingerprints, although he reportedly told the officer that arrested him, “I am Ichihashi.” His arrest brought to an end a manhunt that had been triggered after the naked body of Ms Hawker, a graduate of Leeds University, was found in the bath tub.
Her clothes were strewn around the apartment, she had been severely beaten and police believe she had been confined for as long as 36 hours before being strangled. A teacher at the Koiwa branch of the Nova language school, Ichihashi had apparently talked her into giving him an English lesson in March 2007 in a cafe close to Gyotoku Station before claiming to have no cash with him. Ichihashi and Ms Hawker were then seen on a TV monitor leaving the cafe before they took a taxi to his nearby apartment to get the money to pay her. After escaping from police, there were various theories as to how Ichihashi had managed to avoid arrest, including that he had fled the country, had committed suicide or was being protected by friends or his wealthy family. Ichihashi’s father is a doctor and his mother a respected dentist, but their expression of “regret” for the death of Ms Hawker and their failure to call on their son to surrender angered her family.
Oct 16 2013
Japanese cartoonist Takashi Yanase, creator of the popular Anpanman series, has died at 94.
His agency said Mr Yanase had died of heart failure at a Tokyo hospital.
He created Anpanman, a superhero with a head made of anpan, or bread filled with red bean paste, who first appeared in a picture book in 1973.
A television series starring the same character started in 1988, and has become popular in several countries outside Japan.
Anpanman’s nemesis is Baikinman, or “Bacteria Man”, whom he takes on in order to protect the weak, on occasion offering up his own head to them as sustenance.
The series entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 2009 for the largest number of characters, at more than 1,700.
After Japan’s Tohoku region was devastated in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, the Anpanman theme song was repeatedly played in north-east Japan to cheer up the survivors, Kyodo news agency reports.
Mr Yanase was also a poet and wrote lyrics for children’s songs.
“Mr Yanase was the Anpanman. He embraced us gently and taught us to share,” actress Keiko Toda, whose voice was used for Anpanman’s character on the TV show, said in a statement, according to AP new s agency.
“We’ve lost a precious guiding post,” she went on.
Oct 10 2013
More closing down than opening.
Sep 07 2013
Tokyo is celebrating a stunning victory in the race to host the Olympic and Paralympic games in 2020.
The Japanese capital saw off strong competition from Madrid and Istanbul on a night of high drama at the International Olympic Committee vote in Buenos Aires.
Madrid was eliminated in round one after initially finishing level on votes with Istanbul. A vote-off between the two cities saw the Turkish bid go through and the Spanish crash out. But the night predictably belonged to Tokyo.
Japan’s strong track record of successfully hosting major sporting occasions – one summer Games, two Winter games and a football World Cup in 2002 – undoubtedly helped push votes their way.
The IOC’s Evaluation Commission visited each city in March of this year and left Japan hugely satisfied with what it had seen.
Anti-government riots and protests across Turkey this year did not help Istanbul’s bid, while economic uncertainty hung over Madrid’s efforts from the outset.
Tokyo also had the emotional pull of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, showing that triumph can emerge from tragedy.
Their bid team were frequently asked questions about the Fukushima nuclear reactor and recent concerns about contaminated water leaking from it, but they dealt with them. The reactor is 155 miles away from the host city and their prime minister was on hand in Argentina to reassure the IOC in person.
None of the bids had a ‘wow factor’ delegate like London 2012 had when it landed the Games in July 2005 with David Beckham in attendance, but Tokyo can be rightly proud of what it has achieved.
For Madrid (four unsuccessful bids) and Istanbul (five defeats) this will have been a particularly bitter blow.
For Tokyo the party may be in full swing, but the hard work starts tomorrow.
Aug 23 2013
Ex-singer Keiko Fuji takes fatal leap
Former singer Keiko Fuji, the mother of singer Hikaru Utada, on Thursday plunged from a Tokyo condominium building to her death in an apparent suicide, police said. She was 62.
Fuji was found lying on a street bleeding in front of the building in the Shinjuku district at around 7 a.m.
She was taken to a hospital in a state of cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead soon afterward.
Fuji is believed to have jumped from the 13th-floor balcony of the residence of a male acquaintance in his 30s. The man told police that he did not know Fuji had fallen from the building because he was sleeping, sources said.
The building, about 1 km northwest of JR Shinjuku Station, is in an area hosting a number of office buildings, high-rise condominium complexes and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government office.
Fuji made her debut as a singer in 1969 and retired in 1979, moving to the United States. Since then, she has been little seen in public.
She married music producer Teruzane Utada in 1982 and gave birth to her daughter, Hikaru, in 1983.
Keiko Fuji, a former enka legend and the mother of J-pop superstar Utada Hikaru, died yesterday after falling from the 13th-floor balcony of her Tokyo apartment. She was 62. Police are treating the case as an apparent suicide, though no note was found at the scene.
Fuji was the daughter of musicians and led a nomadic lifestyle as a child. She became a breakthrough star following her 1969 debut in the world of enka ballads. Her first single “Shinjuku no Onna” was typical of her dark and melancholy songs about women of the night, and her debut album of the same name spent 20 weeks at the top of the charts. The immediate follow up, “Onna no Blues” was also a huge hit, topping the charts for 17 weeks. No one has since broken that record of 37 consecutive weeks atop the chart.
Fuji married enka singer Maekawa Kiyoshi in 1971 but they were divorced the following year. Fuji’s musical decline began after she underwent surgery for a throat polyp in 1974. She went through a series of comebacks but never reclaimed her former glory. She announced her retirement in 1979 and moved to the US until making a comeback in 1981. She married producer Utada Teruzane (65) in 1982 and their daughter Hikaru was born the next year. The family formed a self-managed trio under the name U3 in 1995 and released a single on their own label.
Hikaru of course went on to become a huge star in her own right, but the family continued to be plagued by misfortune. Fuji and Utada divorced in 2007, a year after Fuji was held at JFK airport after more than $400,000 of cash were found in her luggage (the money wasn’t returned to her until 2009).
Jul 02 2013
The two-time World champion gave an interview to Japanese television today that revealed that a pregnancy had sidelined her for the rest of last season. She found out about her pregnancy last October and gave birth to a baby girl in April.
Miki Ando Says Being Single Mom Won’t Deter Bid for Olympic Title
Japanese figure skater Miki Ando, who beat Kim Yu-na to win the World Championships in 2007 and 2011, has announced that she is a single mother.
During an interview on TV Asahi’s news show on Monday, the 26-year-old said, “In October last year, I found out that I got pregnant, and I gave birth to a daughter in April.” She continued that she wasn’t prepared to surrender the chance to become a mother, even at the expense of her skating career.
“Most of my friends opposed [my decision], but I chose to give birth anyway,” she said in tears.
Ando didn’t reveal the name of the baby’s father, and would not clarify whether it was her former boyfriend and ex-coach Nikolai Morozov. “We had a good relationship. I wanted to work with him until I retire, but he refused,” she said.
Ando and Morozov went their separate ways after she won the 2011 World Championships in Moscow, which came as a surprise to her fans.
Morozov, who has married and divorced three figure skaters, denied fathering the child during an interview on Fuji TV on Tuesday.
Now speculation is mounting that the baby’s father is former Japanese figure skater Yasuharu Nanri. A local magazine released photos of Ando and Nanri on a date in the fall in 2011, and rumor has it they were living together.
Ando has not participated in any international competition for the last two years but she is now training for next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. She is not the first Olympian to return to the rink after giving birth — French ice dancer Isabelle Delobel appeared at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics just four months after bearing a son.
The Essential 15: Looking to Sochi
The last time we saw Ando in competition was in 2011, when she skated ill-prepared at the Japan Open, just months after winning the World title over Yuna Kim. Her trajectory since has been somewhat shrouded in mystery – she skipped the Grand Prix in 2011, then took the rest of the season off, then withdrew from both Grand Prix assignments last season after not securing a coach.
In the end, she sat out almost all of the two seasons after her second World title, only to announce just a few days ago that she would have one last go at competition this season to give herself a shot at a third Olympic berth. If that weren’t difficult enough after sitting out of competition for almost two years, she will be trying for Sochi after resuming training in May, only a month after she gave birth.
There was no mention of the identity of the father of the Ando’s child, but Japanese media has reported that she is currently living with former Japanese World team memberYasuharu Nanri.
Ando competed in the past two Olympics, finishing a disastrous 15th in Torino in 2006 and fifth in Vancouver in 2010. She also confirmed in the interview that this will be her final season as a competitive skater.