Asian News Briefs

Check out the latest reports from our Asian correspondent.


Ayumi Gets Superstar Treatment

Hong Kong media have recently been buzzing about J-pop superstar Ayumi Hamasaki.

Japan’s biggest-selling pop singer was in town for a series of sold-out shows at the Coliseum arena that ended the afternoon of April 8.

With work behind her, the diminutive singer did what any Japanese tourist would do – look for an out-of-the-way eatery that offered rare local fare.

According to a local blogger, Hamasaki and an entourage of 22, including 12 bodyguards, went to Sok Kwu Wan village on Lamma Island, which is about 3 kilometers from downtown Hong Kong. The village is famous for its fish and the entire group managed to monopolize the Rainbow Restaurant.

Locals were understandably curious since they rarely receive such illustrious visitors, but the bodyguards, according to the blogger and other witnesses, were very aggressive about not letting anyone near Hamasaki or taking any photos of her.

Many locals told the press the entourage was rude, though the owner of the restaurant, when contacted by local newspapers, only commented that the group "was very large."


Korean Rain Forecasted For Tokyo Dome

The so-called Korean Wave just keeps getting bigger.

On April 18, the South Korean singer known as Rain gave a press conference for "Rain’s Coming," his upcoming world tour, in Tokyo, mainly to announce that he would be playing Tokyo Dome on May 25.

Rain thus becomes the first Korean pop artist ever to play Tokyo’s largest venue.

According to Oricon magazine, more than 200 reporters and photographers showed up for the press conference "including foreign press representatives."

Rain acknowledged that Japan is considered a huge market "for Korean actors," and said that he hoped to pave the way for a similar boom in Korean singers.

Asked how he relaxes when he’s on the road, the singer replied, "Bowling."


Shiki Gets ‘Wicked’

Japan’s leading stage musical company Shiki (Four Seasons) has added the Broadway musical "Wicked" to its repertory.

Tickets for a four-month run of the play at the company’s Umi Theatre in Tokyo went on sale in late April.

The musical, which basically deconstructs "The Wizard of Oz" from the Wicked Witch of the West’s point of view, has been translated in Japanese and will be performed and produced by Shiki’s specially trained company.

Shiki controls the Japan rights to many famous Broadway musicals, including "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Mamma Mia," and "The Lion King."

"Cats," in fact, has its very own theatre. This means no local promoter can bring foreign touring companies of these musicals to Japan and perform them in their original language.

Shiki is often criticized for its cookie-cutter approach to directing and acting, which some say makes all the productions uniformly bland. But as tourist attractions, the theatres the company operates are huge moneymakers.


Akanishi To Reunite with KAT-TUN

On April 20, Jin Akanishi, a 22-year-old member of the popular male idol group KAT-TUN (pronounced "cartoon") announced he would be rejoining the other five members for their upcoming Japan tour.

Akanishi had just returned from Los Angeles where he had been studying English conversation for the last six months.

When the popular young star left last October, the showbiz press was filled with rumors about the real reason for his sojourn.

KAT-TUN is managed by Johnny’s Jimusho, one of the most powerful talent agencies in Japan and whose stable of male idols is jealously guarded from scandal and any untoward publicity.

Journalists who report anything negative about a Johnny’s act or a Johnny’s executive are effectively blackballed from the showbiz beat because Johnny’s hands are in everything related to the Japanese entertainment industry.

For some reason, Johnny’s didn’t attempt to squelch rumors that proliferated around what the tabloids were calling Akanishi’s "exile." Some reporters said that he may have made an underage girl pregnant or was causing problems within KAT-TUN because of rivalries with other members. Others said he went on his own accord.

Akanishi seemed contrite during the press conference. When one reporter asked him to demonstrate his new English skills, he said somewhat awkwardly, "I’m sorry for having caused so much confusion."

Speaking of KAT-TUN, the boy band’s latest album debuted at No. 1 on Japan’s Oricon charts the day it was released, April 18. But three days later it was supplanted at the top by Avril Lavigne’s Best Damn Thing and dropped to No. 2, just one slot ahead of the Arctic Monkeys’ new album, Favourite Worst Nightmare.


Guanghe Theatre Likely Razed

The Guanghe Theatre, which is located in the historic Qianmen quarter of Beijing, has become the target of city planners and will likely be shuttered in the near future.

The theatre dates back to the Ming Dynasty and was a fixture of the old city as a main venue for Peking opera performances.

The Xinhua news agency reported on April 23 that the theatre has to be removed to make way for Beijing’s "remorseless" modernization plans, adding, "It appears that yet another of the country’s cultural heirlooms is doomed."