Makiko Esumi

Makiko Esumi was born on December 18, 1966 in Izumo Shimane Prefecture, Japan. She is a well known model and actress in Japan, and is also known to be a lyricist and writer. Esumi is known to play the role of Chinatsu Tsuboi in the Japanese television series Shomuni. When she was still a high school student, Makiko Esumi worked part time as a miko or a supplementary priestess, at Izumo-taisha. She then went on to join the Japan Tobacco Women’s Volleyball team as soon as she graduated high school, but was injured in 1989. She then pursued a career in show business after being inspired by Miki Imai while she was still recovering from her injury.

Makiko Esumi

 

Makiko Esumi made her acting debut in Maborosi as Yumiko in 1995. She received positive reviews for her role, and as stated by Edward Guthmann of the San Francisco Chronicle, Esumi played her role extraordinarily and acted with grace and delicacy. With this performance, she earned the Rookie of the Year award at 19th Annual Japan Academy Prize and also at the 38th Blue Ribbon Awards. In 1996 however, she was involved in an ugly and scandalous divorce with her then husband Rowland Kirishima, where in Esumi was caught cheating on him while Kirishima was on his business trip. On April 26, 2000, Esumi penned and made her singing debut with her single titled One Way Drive. It was used as the ending song for the second season of the Shomuni series, where in she also played a role. The music was played by Tomoyasu Hotei. In 2002, she was nominated for Best Actress for her role in Inochi. Esumi married Shin Hirano who was a Fuji TV director in 2003. Esumi has two daughters, with the first one being born in February 2005 and the second one in December 2009. She was also involved in a small scandal where Esumi appeared in government advertisements encouraging the mass to make their pension payments, and was later revealed that Esumi was not making contributions herself.

 

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The Queens of Japanese Beauty Pageants

Just like in many countries, the Japanese people are also fond of looking for the most beautiful Japanese woman through a variety of searches and pageants. There are a great number of beauty pageants that go on inside the country every year. These include the Miss Earth Japan wherein they will choose which of the contestants would be the representative for the International competition, Miss Earth. The same is true with other major Japanese pageants which include Miss International Japan, Miss Universe and Miss World. In these contests, each region in Japan will have a particular representative and a nationwide search will be held in a night filled with a parade of beauty and elegance.

Akiko Kojima, 1959 Miss Universe

There is also a list of the most popular winners of these beauty contests. The first on the list would be the first Japanese woman to win Miss Universe in 1959. At the time, competing with 34 other contestants, the 22-year-old Akiko Kojima won the crown. She was crowned by Luz Marina Zuluaga from Colombia, the 1958 winner. She held the most popular woman spot for years and was immediately put to the headlines when she won the crown. The next woman on the list is the second Japanese woman to win the crown, Riyo Mori who won the title of Miss Universe in 2007. After decades of not placing in the international beauty pageant Japan, once again, was able to place in the contest. The third on the list would be Rira Hongo who won the 2014 title of Miss International Japan. She is a 21-year old student who competed along 13 other contestants for the 46th annual “Miss Japan” beauty pageant. She will be representing Japan for the Miss International Competition for 2014.

Other types of beauty contests have been popular in the country. There are beauty pageants held for almost all ages. There is Miss Teen Japan contest that accepts participation from High School students all over the country. There are also a very controversial contest entitled “Japan’s Beautiful Witches” that is intended for women over the age of 35. Any contestant may be included in the roster, even mothers and grandmothers. It is called as such because these women have been “untouched by age” that they have stayed young as if through the use of magic.

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Mao Asada is Japan’s Ice Queen

The title of Ice queen seems cold and heartless but that is not who Mao Asada is. She was nicknamed the Ice Queen because she is Japan’s Number One figure skater. Her gracefulness in the rink, her smooth twirls and triple axels have amazed both local and international fans.

It was her dream to become a competitive figure skater and even the Ice Queen did not get purely natural talents to reach her dream. She started studying classical ballet at the young age of three where she learned pretty much all her graceful movements and dances. In 1995, she switched from ballet to skating because she seems to be much comfortable on the rink than on a stage. Her first competition was in 2002 when she joined the novice national championships in Japan. As expected, she won first place. From her impressive win, she was invited to compete at the junior championships but only landed 4th. Her win in the 4th place earned her another invitation but this time in the senior national championships. In this competition, she placed 7th.

In her career which has been going on for more than 15 years, she has been to international competitions winning gold. She has been a three time World Champion winning spots in the 2008, 2010 and 2014 competitions. She also gained four-time Grand Prix Final champion in 2006, 2009, 2013 and 2014. She was the 2005 World Junior Champion and Six-time Japanese National Champion making her one of the most highly recognized athletes in all of Japan.

In that 15 years as well, she had been setting records all over the world. She was the first junior girl to land the triple axel in the 2004-2005 Junior Grand prix Final. She was 15 at the time and was already considered as one of the most prominent figure skaters in the world. Her next goal was to win medals in the Winter Olympics. Sadly, she was 87 days too young to compete in the 2006 Winter Olympics and it was only years later that she would be able to fulfil her dreams.

In the 2010 Winter Olympics, she was closely rivalled to Gold Medalist Kim Yuna from Korea, gaining only a silver medal. She wanted to make a great come back in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic games but only placing 6th overall. However, she broke the world record for the short program scoring 78.66 in the World Championship. Because of this, she won her third world title with a score of 216.69. Sadly, she took a break from all the pressure and limelight after this World title.

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The Face of Japan: Keiko Kitagawa

Keiko Kitagawa is one of the most beloved actresses in Japan. She is known to be one of Japan’s prettiest and freshest faces. She has a very serene face that could easily leave a mark in anyone’s memory. In fact, she landed the number 2 spot in Japan’s Most Beautiful Faces. Not only is she beautiful, she is also a woman of impressive talents and wit. She has starred in roles for a great number of films and TV shows. She is also one of the many Japanese women who has gained popularity outside of the Japanese shores, especially when she landed a small role as Reiko in the Hollywood Blockbuster film The Fast And the Furious: Tokyo Drift in 2006.

Before she embarked on her acting career, Keiko was an exclusive model for the Japanese Seventeen Magazine. After three years in this contract, she wanted to follow a new path in her career as a celebrity and left her modelling career to pursue acting. It was in 2003 to 2004 that she received her big break when she acted for the role of Sailor Mars in the Sailor Moon Live action show called Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon. She has gained leading roles in famous Television Dramas such as Mop Girl in 2007, Homeroom on the Beachside in 2008, Buzzer Beat in 2009, Lady Saigo no Hanzai Profile in 2011 and Akumu Chan in 2012.

She was born in Hyogo Prefecture in Japan in 1986 and grew up in Kobe. She was scouted by a talent agency, with the admiration of her innocent beauty and she decided to try the entertainment world when she was in High school. Because she started so early in this kind of career, her parents gave her two conditions; one, that she would quit if she makes no progress within a year and two, she would always put her education first. With her remarkable talents, she was only able to keep the latter half of her promise when she graduated in Meiji University in 2009. Her one year time limit was not in any way a problem because only after a week of joining an agency, she has been selected both as a model and an actress and was even given the title of Miss Seventeen 2003. She is not only a model and an actress, she is also a writer. She started a blog in 2006 and even wrote for a column called Keytan Hakusho for the weekly television magazine, Weekly The Television.

Keiko Kitagawa

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oC-ute of Hello! Project Kids

The Rise of J-pop (Japanese Pop culture) has paved the way for many aspiring young artists in Japan. Normally, these groups are comprised of well-trained performers who are not only talented singers but graceful dancers as well. There are groups of male and females alike and there are even mixed gender groups. These J-pop performers immediately swept Japanese fans on their feet but also awed fans in different parts of Asia and the world. It is actually surprising that Non-Japanese fans can sing along without fail like they speak the language fluently. It doesn’t matter if Japanese is not their native language, the catchy and upbeat songs of these J-pop groups are already enough to entice fans to learn Japanese!

There are a lot of J-pop groups that have debuted since 2000 and one of the most famous is the girl group oC-ute. Yes, the oC (Celsius symbol) was intentional to give the name a more attractive and original effect. This girl group made their major debut in 2007, immediately attracting thousands of fans as their first single was released. In the same year that they debuted, they already won the Japan Record Award for Best New Artist, showing that this girl band is really ahead of the game. In the next year, 2008, they were nominated for the Main Japan Record Award known as the Grand Prix. Though they lost the award, it really shows that oC-ute has unbelievable talent. Since then, all their major label singles have debuted in Oricon’s Top 10 weekly singles chart.

Members of C-ute

Members of C-ute

All original members of the group were part of the Hello! Project Kids, which is a talent search where fifteen talented girls were selected in hopes of producing a new generation of artists. They all started training since 2002 and became members of different groups. Eventually, the 15 girls from Hello! Project Kids were separated into two – Berryz Kobo of 8 members and Cute with 7 members. Cute was officially formed in 2005. However, over the years some of their members left the group eventually leading to a 5 member girl group consisting of current members:  Maimi Yajima, Saki Nakajima, Airi Suzuki, Chisato Okai and Mai Hagariwa. They immediately caught the fans’ attention because of their bright, youthful image that creates happy vibes to their listeners. They are currently on their 24th single (released in January 2014) and their 7th album (released in 2012). Even though their latest album was released in 2012, they have been staying active and have travelled to different parts of Asia and Europe for tours and concerts.

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Yuriko Yoshitaka

Born on July 22, 1988 in Tokyo, Japan, Yuriko Yoshitaka is a known actress in Japan, represented by Amuse which is a Japanese agency. It was in 2006 that Yoshitaka was given that chance to expose her acting skills through her debut film in the live action adaptation of Hitomi Kanehara, an award-winning novel in 2007. In this, she was given a lead role named Lui; it was her breakthrough role, as most people would say. This film as well marks the start of her unstoppable popularity because after the release, she was instantly noticed by many. In line with this, she was given the fifth promising young actress award and a freshest female celebrity award in 2009 in a poll conducted by Oricon. In the same poll in 2010, she was as well recognized as the most promising actress.

We can say that it is in 2008 that Yoshitaka had the most number of projects. In this year, she appeared in a music video by Flow entitled Arigato. Also in the same year, she had the opportunity to expose her sense of humor through a leading role in a comedy drama entitled Konno-san to Asobo and another role in the Yubae Shojo film. These were all released prior to the feature of her most popular leading film entitled Shakes and Earrings. 2009 was another good year for her as she was given a role in a romantic-comedy drama Love Shuffle. Another great film for her was the police drama Tokyo Dogs. More opportunities came her way in 2010 and 2011.

More to the list of her TV dramas would be Tofu Shimai and Mioka in 2010, The Reason I can’t Find Love in 2011, Vampire Prosecutor Season 2 in 2012, and Galileo 2 and Anne and Hanako in 2014. More to her award-winning lead roles in films would be Konzen Tokkyu in 2011 and Bokura ga Ita in 2012. Lastly, aside from the distinctions given to her by the Oricon in a poll, she was as well given the Best Newcomer award at the Yokohama Film Festival in 2007, Japan Academy Awards in 2008, and Blue Ribbon Awards in 2009. In the same year, she as well received a Best New Actress Award in the Japan Movie Critics Awards. Now, there is no doubt that she was an achiever and nevertheless, an outstanding actress who was simply admired by many.

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Keiko Kitagawa

Born on August 22, 1986 in Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan, Kitagawa experienced a lot even at a young age. The Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, we may say, is very traumatic for her as she lost many of her friends. One interesting fact about her is that she didn’t really dream to becoming the start that she is now. When she was just little, all that she ever wanted was to become a doctor. When she reached high school, this dream became unclear for her, she was uncertain of what to pursue. It was timing though that a talent agency saw a potential in her. With this, she decided to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.

At first, her parents weren’t really into the opportunity she was presented to. Though, they chose to support her given two conditions; first, she will give up if she wasn’t given the chance to progress and second, she will prioritize her education. Kitagawa did finish her studies and graduated in Meiji University in 2009. But just like any starting actress, she wasn’t given an instant shot to stardom, though she didn’t give up. In a week’s time, after being recognized by the agency, she was selected as a model and actress. In 2003, she won Miss Seventeen making her an official model of the magazine Japanese Seventeen until 2006. Opportunities were continuous for her. She was given the role of Rei Hino in the Sailor Moon television series, which also marked her acting career.

When she had the chance to work with director Yoshimitsu Morita in a film entitled Mamiya Kyōdai, her dream became clear which made her decide to just focus on acting and end her modeling career; this decision of hers was believed to be greatly influenced by the said director and nonetheless, her role in the film was something that viewers found significant. From then on, the success of Kitagawa in the entertainment industry was simply overwhelming. She was given so much opportunity to enhance and prove her skills in acting and she was definitely successful in doing so. Some of her movies where she played a leading role were Handsome Suit in 2008, Orion in Midsummer and I’ll Pay in 2009, After the Flowers and Matataki in 2010, Paradise Kiss in 2011, Magic Tree House in 2012, Roommate in 2013, and just this year, Judge!, Dakishimetai, and Akumu-chan The Movie.

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Kyoko Fukada

More than just an actress, Kyoko Fukada is known for being a professional model and singer. Not to mention, she loves swimming. Born on November 2, 1982 and raised in Tokyo, Japan, Fukada is often given the nickname Fukakyon. Her very first appearance was in 1997 where she starred a television drama entitled Sore ga Kotae da! In 1999, she was given the chance to be part of the very popular horror movie Ring 2 where she played as Kanae Sawaguchi. Year 2000 was as well a great year for her as she graduated high school in Horikoshi High School. In 2002, she appeared in the movie Dolls where she played as Haruna, a famous pop-star who unfortunately was disfigured in a car accident.

More to the list of her movies would be Onmyoji II, Like Asura, Inugamike no Ichizoku, Yatterman. Some of the movies where she was given a lead role would be Shisha no Gakuensai, Tokyo Zanzu, Kamikaze Girls, Tenshi, and Renai Gikyoku: Watashi to Koi ni Ochite Kudasai. As stated, aside from being a renowned actress, she was as well an outstanding singer. She made her first single in 1999 entitled “The Last Fruit”. In the same year, she released “Dear”, which is her first ever album.  In 2000, she released another album entitled “Moon”, “Universe” in 2001, and “Flow: Kyoko Fukada Remixes” in 2002. She proved her skills in singing also through various singles such as the “Saigo no Kajitsu” and “Easy Rider” in 1999, “Kirameki no Shunkan” and “How?” in 2000, “Swimming” and “Kimi no Hitomi ni Koishiteru” in 2001, and “Route 246” in 2002.

If you happen to just love her, then maybe the following list of her dramas would be something you will find interesting:

1997- Five, Sore ga Kotae da! ; 1998 – News no Onna, Kamisama: Mo Sukoshi Dake ; 1999 – Oni no Sumika, To Heart: Koishite Shinitai, Tengoku no Kiss ; 2000 – Imagine, Food Fight ; 2001 – Strawberry on the Shortcake, Fighting Girl ….. and the list goes on.

The success of Kyoko Fukada was undeniable. Girls of her age idolized her and simply, all her shows were supported by thousands of fans. Another great thing about her would be her dedication to finish her education, which will always be admired about her. Now, there’s no doubt that Fukada’s career will go a long way. Maybe she has reached so much already, but her skills and determination will surely bring her farther.

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Masami Nagasawa

“Ashura no Gotoku”, “Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World”, “Shinkokyu no Hitsuyou”, “Godzilla: Final Wars”, “Touch”, and “Rough” are just some of the major movies of Masami Nagasawa, a known Japanese actress. Currently working for Toho Entertainment, Nagasawa was born on June 3, 1987 in Shizuoka. Considering her family alone, we can say that she is very much made to be known in the big screen as her parents are, as well, known public figures. Her father, Kazuaki Nagasawa, is the former manager of Jubilo Iwata, one of the J. League teams.  Masami Nagasawa, won a beauty contest back when she was just 12, once auditioned and won the 5th Toho “Cinderella Contest”, and as well an actress, having “Crossfire” as  her debut movie.

More than an actress, Masami as well pursued a career in professional modeling where she remained long wanted by “Peach Lemon”, a popular teen magazine in Japan. It was in 2002, after she appeared in Nabisco CM, that she became known and appreciated as a model. She was even given the title “The Pretty Girl from the Nabisco CM”.

The career of Masami Nagasawa is every aspiring actress dreams. Her great career continued in 2003 where she was given her biggest break yet, a lead role in a movie entitled “Robokon”. Her role as a high school girl who is smart and studious was simply admired by watchers leading her to winning the Best New Comer Award in the 27th Japanese Academy Awards. She was fortunate to be given another chance to star in another movie entitled “Gunjo” which is directed by the great director Yosuke Nakagawa. In 2008, Nagasawa became more willing to take more mature roles leading her to accepting a role that required her to perform her first ever actual love scene.

More to the list of her movies would be “La Maison En Petits Cubes” and “Detroit Metal City” in 2008, “Peak: The Rescuers” and “Magare! Spoon” in 2011 and 2009, and “Moteki” in 2011 as well. Aside from her numerous movies, Nagasawa was as well idolized for television shows which include “Yasashii Jikan” and “Dragon Zakura” in 2005, “Komyo ga Tsuji” and “Sailor Suit and Machine Gun” in 2006, “Proposal Daisakusen”, “Butterfly Stroke in Ganges River”, and “Hatachi no Koibito”, all in 2007, and many more.   No doubt, this actress is blessed with so many projects and nonetheless, the Entertainment industry is very lucky to have her!

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Yoko Ono

                 A multimedia artist and performer describe Yoko Ono. This famous artist was born on February 18,1933 in Tokyo, Japan and came from a wealthy aristocratic family. Ono found an interest in art and poetry when she once stayed in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village though her works were not instantly loved by fellow artists and the consumers mainly because they found those works too radical. It was when she was able to work with American jazz musician and film producer Anthony Cox that she given the opportunity to prove that she is indeed great in her chosen craft. Aside from being her second husband, the director extended his help through financing her interactive conceptual events back in the 1960s.

                The works of Ono were unique and known for its different concept and this focused on having her audience actively participate in every work that she does. Taking for instance her famous piece “cut piece”, she demanded the participation of the audience by making them cut off parts of her clothing until she has nothing on. This activity was all for the purpose of making people see the essence of discarding materialism in one’s life. Aside from being successful, her popularity boomed when John Lennon came into the picture. John Lennon, as we all know, is one of the members of the very known band the Beatles. It was in 1966 that they first met and from then on, Lennon supported Ono by visiting her art exhibition and by simply appreciating all of Ono’s work and achievements.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

                The spark of these two, back then, was undeniable and was a hit. After dating for almost 18 months, they began an affair. Lennon was in the process of divorcing his first wife at that time and  when things were over between them, she then married Ono in 1969. The two were simply great together. Collaborations on art, film, and music were amazing with them. Their aim to promote world peace through their conceptual events captured the interest and support of many. Lennon’s tragic death greatly damaged Ono as their relationship was something that they found special. Her husband death, though, didn’t stop her from pursuing the career and dream that both of them once shared. She worked not only to expose her talent but also to honor the memory of her talented husband and continue their aim and commitment on promoting world peace.  Their love and career stories will always be remembered.  

Music by Lennon and Ono

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