Asian News 8/3

Fuji Fest, Ella sex tape controversy, dancing Filipino prisoners on YouTube, magician Princess Tenko injured on stage, Kabuki comedy hits U.S., …


Fuji Fest’s A Success

This year’s Fuji Rock Festival, which ran from July 27-29 at the Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture, was another big success.

Attendance was approximately 35,000 on Friday, 40,000 on Saturday, and 37,000 on Sunday. The Thursday night free-admission pre-fest party, where Railroad Earth, Ratatat, and Australia’s The Space Cowboy performed, saw its biggest crowd ever. Last minute no-shows included The Durutti Column (illness), Fishbone (visa issues), and Damien Rice (illness).

During the festival weekend, the rest of Japan was caught up in politics, as there was an important Upper House election taking place on Sunday. No news of the election made it into the festival, where newspapers and broadcast TV are as rare as a Guns N’ Roses album.

However, the recent earthquake in nearby Kashiwazaki was still on many festivalgoers minds and the promoters organized a charity campaign to collect money for survivors.

The weather was close to perfect: sunny and hot on Friday, cloudy and cool on Saturday and Sunday with a few brief interludes of mountain drizzle. Luck is everything: it started pouring Monday morning and continued to pour all day long.

There were no reports of serious illness or injury, though Iggy Pop is said to have nearly broken his neck when he fell during the melee that always results when he invites audience members up on the stage during his show.

The Beastie Boys won the honor of best-selling T-Shirt, Jarvis Cocker was seen wandering the site with his young son on his shoulders, Jonathan Richman played three very well-received sets on three different stages and the Cure made its first Japan appearance in 23 years by performing for well over two hours, with two encores. A petition was immediately circulated to have them come back again next year or, at least, sooner than 23 years from now.

Ella’s Towel Trouble

The Malaysian rock singer Norzilla Aminuddin, who is better known as Ella, filed an official police report on July 28 to have the authorities quash a rumor that she and her sister took part in a sex video.

According to the Malay Mail newspapers, the clip in question, which is all of 36-seconds long and has been spread widely on the Internet, allegedly shows the two women on a cruise ship.

A woman who resembles Ella is featured dressed only in a blue towel. Some might not call that a sex video, but in Malaysia, where modesty is enforced, such an image might constitute even more than a scandal.

Jailhouse Rocks

The latest YouTube hit is a video of Filipino prisoners dancing to songs such as Michael Jackson’s "Thriller" dressed in bright orange prison garb.

The video had attracted nearly 3.27 million hits at press time.

The video was shot in a provincial jail on the Philippine island of Cebu and shows more than 1,500 inmates dancing in a planned routine.

Judge OKs Korean Company

On July 25, Sendai District Court ruled that an opera troupe affiliated with Chongryun, or the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, which supports the government of North Korea, can use a public auditorium in the northern Japan city of Sendai to stage a performance.

In June, the city government, which operates the hall, rescinded an earlier decision to allow the troupe to use it. The performers then filed an injunction against the city.

The government claimed that the troupe would "cause confusion" given the current situation in Japan surrounding North Korea. Ever since 2002, when Pyongyang revealed that it systematically kidnapped Japanese citizens starting in the 1970s for espionage purposes, the already difficult relations between Japan and the communist government of North Korea have been very strained. Persons and organizations affiliated with Pyongyang in Japan have often been attacked.

The judge who rejected the city’s claim said, "It is difficult to recognize any special conditions that could not be addressed by security controls."


When Magic Goes Wrong

Speaking of Pyongyang, Princess Tenko, the Japanese magician who is a favorite of American children and who has given command performances for North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, was injured during a stage show in Fukui Prefecture on July 22.

Tenko was performing an illusion in which she is supposed to escape from a large box being spiked with fake metal swords, but somehow she found herself trapped in the box. Some of the swords broke her right cheek and ribs.

According to her manager, the injuries would require a month to heal. "If one of the swords had [entered the box] one centimeter higher," he said, "it would have stuck in her eye. She is suffering tremendous pain but is more shocked that she had to call off the performance."

Kabuki Comedy Hits U.S.

The Heisei Nakamuraza kabuki troupe, headed by Japan’s most popular kabuki actor Nakamura Kanzaburo XVIII, gave 11 performances at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in New York in late July, followed by another run in Washington D.C.

Kanzaburo performed with his two sons, Kantaro and Shichinosuke, the classic tales "Renjishi" (Lion Dance) and "Kanjicho," as well as the U.S. premiere of "Hokaibo," a comedy about a murderer who disguises himself as a priest.

Kanzaburo founded the 100-member troupe in 2000 as a means of injecting modern energy and humor into the centuries-old traditions of kabuki, which originally was an evolving theatrical form that addressed contemporary issues and news.