When the 2013 Bohol earthquake struck on the central island of the Philippines at 8:12 a.m. on October 15, I was riding a motorbike with a local friend right by its epicenter. The quake measured 7.2, ripping up roads in front of me, and no doubt causing much more damage inland.
Amongst many live reports and comments I gave to domestic and international media, was this interview for CNN’s Lateef Mungin.
It’s been two years since pop music guru Simon Cowell described her as “phenomenal” following her striking audition on “Britain’s Got Talent.” And for the most recognisable East-Asian to have appeared on the ratings juggernaut, it’s also been a long wait tinged with regret. But now Sue Son, back in Seoul and working on her own terms, is ready to step back into the limelight and prove that Korea isn’t only producing idol pop music, but that it’s a country offering genuine musical talent too.
Music-lovers attending Japan’s largest music festival, Summer Sonic, have become accustomed to catching sets by the world’s biggest musicians, from headliners Jay-Z and Beyoncé to Coldplay and My Chemical Romance. This year though, a special guest closed the show in Tokyo. Girls’ Generation is the first Korean act to close the Japanese festival, and follows in the footsteps of a previous late-night special guest, Lady Gaga.
Singaporean photographer Leslie Kee may be renowned for nude shots of celebrities, models and artists but when faced with the March 11 earthquake he was quick to turn his camera to the disaster, capturing and publicizing the aftermath, before devising a plan to raise money the best way he knew how. “I spent two days meeting soldiers, children, old people and it changed my life,” Kee said at the launch of “Love & Hope,” a ¥5,250 book containing his shots of the likes of Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Namie Amuro.
Since holding aloft an Oscar for “Departures” — winner of Best Foreign Language Film in 2009 — Tokyo-based A-list actor Masahiro Motoki has been, in his own words, “a bit lost.” Speaking in an exclusive interview with CNN in trendy Aoyama on March 10, the man known as “Mokkun” revealed that in spite of having two wildly successful entertainment careers already under his belt, the big what-next question turns out to be as puzzling and curious for him as it does to his fans.
by Robert Michael Poole
The Great East Japan Earthquake struck while I was at work at CNN, at 2.46pm. Tokyo being a city regularly suffering from earthquakes, it began like most, slowly shaking and not immediately causing concern. But unlike regular quakes, this one continued for some time, and grew in the size of vibrations as it continued. After around 15-20 seconds it became apparent it could be the big one Tokyo was expecting.
On a recent visit to the offices of Japanese public broadcaster NHK, the one-time A-list actress Honami Suzuki gives us her take on making a post-family return to acting at the grand old age of 44. Suzuki, once renowned for her portrayal of Rika Akana in the 1991 drama “Tokyo Love Story” has just made her comeback after 11 years out of the business.
On a chilly December evening, when most adults are getting ready to call it a day, little Seishiro Kato is on location and hard at work. Crowned and wearing a king’s costume, he stands amid a cluster of staff … and his mother. Just nine years old, Kato has fast become one of the most recognizable faces in Japan.
Japanese AV (adult video) actress Sola Aoi has made her debut as a singer — in China. The porn actress, who has built up a sizeable following in China in recent years, released “mai yu” (毛衣/ Sweater) yesterday via Chinese mobile phone networks and PC downloads sites.
Speaking to CNNGo, Aoi said, “I read language textbooks and listened to dialog CDs on my own. As for now, nothing new has been decided, but I’m willing to do something. I think I will visit China.” The song, sung in Mandarin, was recorded over two days with the help of an interpreter.
On February 5, viewers around Asia will get their first view of MTV’s first ever reality show developed in the region. “Shibuhara Girls,” produced in Tokyo, tells the tale of four aspiring young women aiming to make it in Japan’s entertainment industry. Here, two of the stars sit for their first ever interview about their, and the channel’s, tentative first steps into reality TV.
Yoko Ono caused a commotion at the Audi Forum in Harajuku on Friday when she walked in wearing her trademark black shades to announce a new photo exhibition.
Running from December 4, 2010 until January 5, 2011, the Kishin Shinoyama Photo Exhibition brings together intimate original images from the 1980 photo shoot for the cover of album “Double Fantasy,” featuring John Lennon and Yoko Ono kissing in front of The Dakota building in New York.
It is hard to forget the images of tears on Mao Asada’s face that broadcast around the world when her triple axel jumps failed her during this year’s Winter Olympics. Since then, Asada has been plagued with disappointing performances, and her season is off to a slow start. Indeed, just 10 days before she competes at Japan’s National Championships, she says her season has yet to begin.
In Indonesia, the concept of green living is starting to take hold. This archipelago of more than 17,000 islands stretched along the equator is home to Bali, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and it has seen resorts, tourist facilities, ugly hotels, clubs and all the trimmings that go with those developed over the last several decades. Now, the island is not only pushing a trend to create structures that preserve the natural environment, it is also establishing new forms of education.
Tadanobu Asano is relaxed and composed, sitting over a huge desk at his management company’s offices in Harajuku. His hair is neat and trim, his knit jacket and jeans make him the picture of a man calm and content. He looks anything but the roguish bad boy that has filled the lead roles of so many indie Japanese films.
Since debuting in 2001, hip-hop boy band EXILE has slowly grown not only into the most dominant boy-band in Japan today, but also into one of Japan’s independent success stories by running their own management firm. They have increased in numbers too. On March 1, 2009 they merged with boy band J Soul Brothers to become a 14-strong unit. With their dark-tans, slick hair and surly looks, EXILE have stood out from the crowd of usual feminine J-pop boy bands. They have also excelled in dance.
Perched meekly on a sofa in an Omotesando lounge, a dainty Maki Horikita is revealed as a shy but determined character as she prepares for a new challenge in an already award-winning career.
Dressed in vibrant blue, she looks sparkling compared to the intentionally scruffy images of her in the past. She is preparing for her upcoming role as Joan of Arc in a play of the same name at Akasaka Act theater, running from November 30 until December 19. It’ll be the first time Horikita, 22, steps into live performing, having established herself as one of Japan’s most dependable TV drama and film actresses.
The Jacksons, brothers Jackie, Tito, Marlon and Jermaine, will perform on stage next October for a Michael Jackson tribute concert series that starts with two shows in Tokyo. The announcement of the shows was made via a produced video during a special 10th anniversary performance of Japanese R&B star A.I.
A.I. will emcee the shows and sing with the brothers, and spoke exclusively to CNN. She will also be recording new tracks with The Jacksons in early 2011.
Just days before Japan Fashion Week, fashion behemoth Louis Vuitton tried to steal the early limelight with a party in the Lady Gaga-christened Tabloid. Celebrities turned out en masse, with models, singers and actors from around Asia, all dressed in the brand’s designs, treading the green carpet for two hours.
The mafia may be strong, but Tokyo Dandy is also a force to be reckoned with, having emerged as one of the most popular fashion blogs to come from Japan. Tokyo Dandy is equal parts Dan, 29, from York, England, and his Japanese compatriot Joe Kazuaki, 29, from Okinawa.
The two started the site to bilingually showcase their favorite fashion topics and post photos from parties and events that Dan took after sneaking into them. Now they are guests of honor at said receptions and have been invited to blog awards and events in Florence, New York City and New Zealand.
South Korean TV and movie star Kim Tae-Hee never thought she’d be so popular. Not for acting anyway. Recently she has been lauded for her fine performances not only in her homeland, but across the waters in Japan where her popularity is rising fast. But without an acting background it’s not been a smooth journey to the top, as she reveals in a rare English language interview.
“Restricting talented people is the biggest problem in the entertainment business in Japan,” says 24-year-old Erika Sawajiri. “This is the 21st century and it has to change.”
The sheer frankness of the enigmatic model, actress and singer is certainly an unusual, and I must say refreshing, occurrence in conservative Japan. She has gained a reputation as a difficult, thorny character. But now, in her first ever English-language interview, Sawajiri simply comes across as honest, direct and passionate about changing how Japanese entertainers are treated by their agencies.
25 years into their career, Norwegian pop trio a-ha recently brought their final tour through Tokyo, with a show at the city’s largest music festival, Summersonic. Speaking at their luxury Shinjuku hotel, the band reminisced at the special treatment and loyalty Western acts receive in Japan.
Miss Universe Japan has been one of the most successful entrants in recent years in the Miss Universe competition, run by Donald Trump since 1996. With one semi-finalist, two runners up and one winner since 2003, it’s no wonder eyes are on this year’s contestant, Maiko Itai, as she prepares for the final on August 23 in Las Vegas, Nevada in the United States.
CNNGo caught up with her during training shortly before the 26-year-old flew out for her final preparations.
Getting time to sit down with celebrity photographer Leslie Kee during his utterly hectic schedule to speak in detail about his career was the easy part: getting him to stop speaking requires a trickier sleight of hand.
The Singapore-born and Tokyo-based Kee has a thick resume, photographing such uber-celebs as Ayumi Hamasaki, Zhang Ziyi, Kumi Koda, Choi Ho Jin and Beyonce among countless others for magazines, books, posters and commercials. Recently, his proclivity for taking photos of subjects unclothed and au naturale has sent shock waves through conservative Asia, but Kee sees it as a revelation and hopefully a revolution in an entertainment and fashion industry that lacks aesthetic diversity.
Japanese actress Meisa Kuroki talks to CNNGo about Jolie’s strong but vulnerable persona, and how the American has provided her with inspiration for her own life and career.
Fast-rising Japanese actress and singer Kuroki spoke to CNNGo seconds after stepping off stage with Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, in Tokyo to promote her latest film, “Salt”. “I first saw her in [1999 psychological drama] ‘Girl Interrupted’ and that is still my favorite film of hers,” reveals Kuroki, who says she has been inspired by Jolie’s background and lifestyle.
This year from July 1 to 4, an estimated 180,000 people visited the Paris Nord Villepinte in Paris, a near 60-fold increase on the 3,200 who came to see the first Paris Japan EXPO in 1999. As the scale of the event has increased, showcasing anime, fashion, cosplay, traditional Japanese ikebana and minyo and live music, so has the level of the guests of honor, this year attracting all-girl pop group Morning Musume.
On March 1st 2010, Japanese R&B singer MISIA was appointed Honorary Ambassador for the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity by the U.N. Secretary General. It was the result and recognition of years of work by the 32-year-old, who remains one the most successful pop singers across Asia in the last 10 years.
Tibetan singer Alan Dawa Dolma will fulfill a dream when she steps onto the stage on July 23 at Shibuya Bunkamura Orchard Hall. Having studied the traditional erhu at both the Sichuan Conservatory of Music and the Art Academy in Beijing, the fast-rising singer will this time be backed with a symphonic band as she shows off her distinctive Tibetan wail amongst her repertoire of J-Pop, ballads and traditional songs.
It’s the people that make a place, so we’ve selected 20 of the top talents in Japan from the worlds of entertainment, business, sport and more who are shining brightly this year. Topping the list is actress Erika Sawajiri, the name on everyone’s lips. See who else made the rundown.