Asian News 3/30

Japan TV Lures Madonna

Fuji TV announced that "Miles Away," a mid-tempo ballad from Madonna’s new album Hard Candy, will be the theme song for a 13-week drama series the Japanese TV network is launching in April.

It is supposedly the first time Madonna has permitted the use of one of her songs for a television drama. According to media reports, Fuji TV was surprised that the singer approved.

Representatives of the network contacted Madonna last December while she was recording her new album to see if she might want to contribute a song to the series "Change," which features Takuya Kimura, the biggest star in Japan.

Madonna met Kimura in 2005 when she was in Japan doing promotion for her last album. She was a guest on "SMAPxSMAP," a variety show hosted by SMAP, the boy band Kimura is a member of.

Fuji staff say Madonna was intrigued by the premise of the drama, which is about an elementary school teacher who enters politics and ends up becoming the prime minister of Japan.

Hard Candy will be released in Japan on April 30.


Big Tour Announcements

Tickets for Radiohead’s two nights at the massive Saitama Super Arena, north of Tokyo, will go on sale April 27.

Not to be outdone, Avril Lavigne’s Japan tour will start in early September and travel to seven cities. During the tour, Lavigne will play Tokyo Dome for the first time. Tickets go on sale in May.

Tickets are already on sale for Cheap Trick’s return to Budokan on April 24 to commemorate the group’s historical stand at that hallowed martial arts hall in 1978.

The group’s performance there not only catapulted the band to stardom on the back of the resulting live album, but gave Budokan its reputation as a world-class rock venue.

The first time the Smashing Pumpkins played Budokan they celebrated the fact with a Cheap Trick medley.


La-ppish Co-Founder Dies

Gen Ueda, one of the founding members of Japanese rock and ska band La-ppisch, died March 9 in Tokyo of lung cancer.

La-ppisch was formed in 1986 by five Meiji University friends and was a fixture of the 1990s pop music scene in Japan. The group broke up in 2002 and Ueda pursued a solo career as both a songwriter and a producer for some of Japan’s top pop acts.

La-ppisch reunited last year, but Ueda, who had been undergoing treatment for cancer since late 2006, participated in only one concert.


Kuwata Breaks Broadcast Record

Keisuke Kuwata of the Southern All Stars made history on March 23 when his performance on the island of Ishigaki near Okinawa was broadcast live on all 53 FM radio stations in Japan simultaneously.

Kuwata, 52, was celebrating his 30th year in show business. It was his first time to ever perform on the island, which is located at the extreme southern end of the Japanese archipelago.

The set was all acoustic and included Okinawan songs in addition to more well-known Kuwata compositions.

The singer-songwriter was joined by Begin, one of the most popular groups to emerge from Okinawa in the last decade or so, as well as by his wife, Yuko Hara, the keyboardist in the Southern All Stars.

The show was free of charge and was attended by about 1,000 people, most of whom had sailed over from neighboring islands.


Shinhwa Turns 10

Shinhwa, Korea’s longest-running "idol" vocal group, celebrated its 10th anniversary in show business with two concerts at Seoul’s Gymnastic Stadium March 29-30.

It is the group’s first Korean concert in two years and will be the last one – at least for a while – for three of its members, who are about to serve their mandatory military service.

Shinwha has lasted 10 years without any changes to its original six-man (or boy) lineup.