Asian News 6/22

Tokyo received the top rating in the International Olympic Committee’s preliminary selection round for the 2016 Summer Games June 5.

The other three cities that made the cut are Chicago, Madrid and Rio de Janeiro. Prague, Czech Republic; Baku, Azerbaijan; and Doha, Qatar, were eliminated.

The voting results from Athens arrived in Japan at 1:00 a.m., but a large group of supporters was at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building to celebrate the news, including several members of the National Diet.

Later that day, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, who is aiming to make hosting the 2016 games the cornerstone of his legacy, told reporters that the favorable results were expected.

"The important thing is to focus on what we do from this point forward," he said. "It involves a whole range of efforts."

Twenty-five criteria were used for the preliminary selection, including general infrastructure, safety and security, and environmental conditions and impact.

Tokyo received high ratings in all the categories, in particular accommodations, environment and security.

Tokyo’s main selling point is its promise to hold "the world’s most compact Olympics," in which all the sports venues would be located within an 8-kilometer radius.

Plans call for 75,000 units of accommodations to be provided within 10 kilometers of the main stadium. The IOC standard is 40,000 units. Though Tokyo already has sports facilities left over from the 1964 Olympics, new venues are being planned, mostly in the waterfront district on reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay.

While Tokyo received the highest rating from the IOC, it also has the lowest local support ratings among the four finalists. According to IOC surveys, only 50 percent of Tokyo’s residents say they are in favor of hosting the Olympics, compared with 77 percent in Rio and 74 percent in Chicago.

Final bid plans must be submitted by February and the winning city will be announced in Copenhagen October 2, 2009.


X Japan Postpones Tour

X Japan, which recently played its first concerts in more than 10 years, was forced to postpone its planned world tour, citing drummer Yoshiki’s medical issues.

Yoshiki has been plagued by back problems for years, reportedly a result of his violent antics behind the kit. For years he has had to wear a corset while playing drums so as not to aggravate a herniated disc.

However, he refused to wear the corset at the group’s huge reunion concert at the Tokyo Dome in March, and just like he used to, leaped head-first into his drum set at one point in the show and performed "Art of Life," an intense drum piece in the pop metal group’s repertoire.

Apparently that show, as well as a tribute concert to X Japan’s late guitarist Hide in May, further aggravated his problems.

X Japan was scheduled to play Paris July 5, Taipei August 2, and New York September 13.

According to media reports, Yoshiki, who lives in Los Angeles, is undergoing treatment, which involves wearing a neck brace. During the group’s heyday in the early ’90s, X Japan was forced to cancel two tours because of Yoshiki’s back problems


Arashi Plays National Stadium

In celebration of their 10th anniversary in show business, popular boy band Arashi will play two concerts at Tokyo’s National Stadium this September, making them only the third pop group to ever play a solo show at the iconic venue, which was built for the 1964 Olympics.

The shows will launch Arashi’s Asian tour, which will take them to Seoul, Taipei, and Shanghai.

Arashi will also be the first act from the powerful talent agency Johnny’s and Associates’ stable of boy bands to ever perform in Shanghai.

All the concerts in Asia have been scheduled for weekends so the group’s Japanese fans don’t have to take off work to fly over and attend the shows.

Arashi is in the midst of a "dome tour," playing all five of Japan’s domed baseball stadiums.

Speaking of flying in, it was estimated that 20 percent of the audience for Yellow Magic Orchestra’s first London concert in 28 years was Japanese, though it’s assumed that most are probably U.K. residents.

YMO’s show at the Royal Festival Hall on June 16 was brought about by the English band Massive Attack.

London was the first city on the group’s now-legendary world tour in 1979, probably because at the time YMO was more popular in Europe than in Japan. About 3,000 people attended the performance.


Amuro Tapped For Shareholders’ Concert

Avex Entertainment chose its former top artist, Namie Amuro, to perform at the record company’s annual concert for shareholders, which this year took place June 22 and was the largest event ever of its kind.

The company staged the concert at the Saitama Super Arena just outside Tokyo, with enough seats for 20,000 people to attend, making it the biggest ever held by a music-related company.

The concert always takes place right after the annual shareholders meeting, but in the past was at the much smaller Tokyo International Forum. For comparison, about 7,300 people attended Sony’s recent shareholders concert.

Amuro was the label’s biggest act in the late ’90s, but her star has since been eclipsed by other Avex singers like Ayumi Hamasaki and Kumi Koda.

However, Hamasaki is in the midst of a national tour and Koda is still recovering after making some incautious comments on the radio earlier this year that resulted in a brief suspension of activities.

It was Amuro’s first appearance at the shareholders’ concert in eight years.


Touring ‘Guilty Pleasures’

Scott Murphy, the leader of Chicago punk band Allister, will tour Japan in early July as a solo act performing favorite J-Pop hits in Japanese.

Allister last year released an EP of J-Pop favorites, called Guilty Pleasures, and Murphy has expanded the idea with his own album called Guilty Pleasures II.

Murphy’s backup band for the tour includes some heavyweight local talent: Gongon, the guitarist from B-Dash; Polysics bassist Fumi; and Hirotaka Takahashi, the drummer of Ellegarden, one of Japan’s most popular hard rock groups.