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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Asian Beauty:Minako Honda | Japan will miss its Miss Saigon(Her Story)



Minako Honda managed to achieve what so few other Japanese celebrities have been able to do -- a successful performing career after being judged a wash-up while still in her teens.
Tragically, Josei Seven (11/24) notes, Honda passed away on Nov. 6 after a valiant fight against leukemia.
Honda was born in Shibamata -- the humble Tokyo district made famous by Japanese cinema legend Tora-san -- on July 31, 1967.
With her dad putting in the long hours typical of Japanese workers of his generation, her mother basically raised Honda and her sister alone.
Honda wanted to become a singer from childhood. She adored the flamboyant Sachiko Kobayashi and yearned for a career singing enka, the mournful Japanese ballads popular amongst the middle-aged.
But, it was the world of pop that snared Honda, when she was scouted off the streets of Tokyo's trendy Harajuku district at age 17. She released her debut single the following year and 1985's "Satsui no Bakansu" made her a household name. She was one of the country's biggest teen idols and gave her first concert at the Budokan, undoubtedly Japan's premiere venue.
Honda was then as well known for her looks and appearance as she was for her singing. In '80s Japan, when it was still common and most socially acceptable for women to wear long skirts and bobby sox, Honda shocked when she flashed around her navel in daring fashions that were still a few years away from being okayed. By 1986, Honda's meteoric rise saw her included among the ranks of the top artists in the country.
But, just as she climbed quickly, Honda vanished in what seemed like a flash. As the '80s became the '90s, she still couldn't eke out another hit. In 1990, she formed Minako with Wild Cats, an all-girl band that eventually failed to make the grade. As her career fell into a slump, she also copped a blow in her private life as her parents divorced

"When Minako's work dried up, she was living with her mom, who went out and got a part-time job to make sure they could get by," a close friend of Honda's family tells Josei Seven. "Minako and her mom are really, really close friends. Minako used to call her mom by her first name, Mieko."
Watching her mom go out and work prompted Honda to re-think her career path. She turned to the stage.
"On the day after she made that decision, applications for auditions for a part she was interested closed," an entertainment beat reporter tells the women's magazine. "It was truly Minako's last gasp chance."
The part Honda went after would become her signature role -- Kim in the Japanese version of "Miss Saigon." She beat out 15,000 competitors to snare the plum job, but it didn't take long before critics were sniping, saying that she had only been accepted because her past life as an idol would give the foreign-origin play some badly needed name value.
Satoshi Kishida, Honda's co-star in "Miss Saigon," brusquely dismisses suggestions that she was used only because of her profile.
"All the auditions were watched over by Americans who'd run the Broadway version of the play. Everybody who had anything to do with deciding parts was a foreigner. None of them knew who the hell she was," Kishida tells Josei Seven. "She got the part on her own."
Honda's career on the stage flourished and she became one of the country's top musical thespians. By 2003, she had moved another notch further up the culture ladder when she released "Ave Maria," a CD filled with classical songs, showing a range unthinkable for one whose roots lay in the world of '80s bubble gum J-pop.
This year was supposed to be a busy one for Honda in a professional sense. Marking her 20th anniversary as a performer, she signed on for "Les Miserables" and "Claudia," another popular stage play. She was going to release a new album in the autumn.
All that changed in January. After feeling a little down, she underwent a thorough medical check-up, which revealed she had leukemia.
Honda bravely battled through her chemotherapy treatment, moving in and out of the hospital while she did so. As summer progressed, her condition improved. She was released from the hospital on July 30, one day before her birthday, so she could recuperate from home.
Things looked good for a while, with Honda -- forbidden from leaving the home because of her drastically reduced immunity courtesy of chemotherapy - happy despite all the pain she was in.
Then, Honda received a shock; her leukemia had broken out again. On Sept. 7, she re-entered the hospital and underwent radical treatment using drugs brought in from the United States. The therapy worked and she was allowed home again.
"Even though she still wasn't allowed out, she was really happy at home, using her dumbbells to work out," a friend of the singer's tells Josei Seven. "She wanted to make sure she'd be fit to return to the stage as soon as possible."
It was not to be. She was returned to the hospital for more treatment. She had been deemed healthy enough to return home for the first weekend in November, but instead complained that her lungs hurt. Her condition rapidly deteriorated. By last Saturday, Honda had moved onto the critical list. She briefly improved, but then suddenly slipped into a coma from which she would never awake. At 4:38 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2005, Honda was declared dead, Josei Seven notes.

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Asian Beauty:Alice.O | WHO tips bird flu will spawn new deadly virus that will spread to Japan

The bird flu epidemic across Southeast Asia is bound to lead to the development of a deadly virus that is expected to spread to Japan, a World Health Organization (WHO) executive said.
In an exclusive interview with the Mainichi, Lee Jong-wook, director general of the WHO, pointed out there is a high possibility that a new type of highly contagious influenza virus will develop in Southeast Asia and southern China where the bird flu epidemic continues to spread.
Experts have warned that millions of people may die if the new flu virus spreads and causes a worldwide flu epidemic.
"It's a matter of time before a new type of flu virus emerges. The period when we discussed whether it will be a threat is over. We should be prepared for a possible epidemic," Lee said.
The director general underscored the need to implement large-scale countermeasures immediately after the first carrier is found. Specifically, he said the entire neighborhood where a patient is found should be completely isolated from surrounding areas to prevent further infection.
However, Lee acknowledged that it is difficult to prevent the spread of a new type of flu, noting that such viruses spread in the air and that anti-virus drugs are in short supply on a global scale.

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Asian Beauty:Hijiri.H | Official in charge of keeping gangsters out of horseracing resigns over gambling

A former executive of a nonprofit foundation that works to prevent gangsters from getting involved in horseracing resigned last month after admitting that he had bought a race ticket in violation of internal regulations, officials said.
"I bought a race ticket in early October at the spur of the moment. I'm sorry," the former head of the Sapporo branch of Keiba Hoan Kyokai (Horserace Security Foundation) was quoted as telling foundation officials.
A board member said the foundation accepted his resignation and paid him about 670,000 yen in retirement allowances rather than dismiss him on disciplinary grounds because he expressed regret over what he did.
"We allowed him to quit the job because he honestly admitted to his wrongdoing and immediately tendered his resignation. We'll take steps to prevent a recurrence," said Kazutoshi Ito, director of the foundation.
The Horseracing Law has a clause that prohibits Japan Racing Association (JRA) employees from buying horseracing tickets but it has no provision regarding employees of the foundation. However, the foundation's internal regulations ban employees from gambling on horse races.
The 62-year-old former executive was appointed as head of the Sapporo branch of the organization in April 2004 after retiring as head of Tomakomai Police Station.
The foundation, which is subsidized by the JRA and the Japan Local Racing Association and employs a large number of retired police officers, has 12 branches across the country. It works to prevent crime syndicates from getting involved in horserace.

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Asian Beauty:Izumi.H | Coach who forced schoolgirls to run around naked arrested over separate case

The coach of a local children's sports club, under fire for forcing several schoolgirls to run around naked in a gymnasium as punishment, was arrested Saturday for molesting another girl, police said.
Yasuo Ozaki, 47, a deputy section chief in the Shikokuchuo Municipal Government's construction division and coach of the club, is accused of indecent assault.
Ozaki took a girl he was teaching to a small room in an elementary school gymnasium in Shikokuchuo in mid-August during a training session and forced her to take off her uniform, local police said.
The municipal government is investigating allegations that Ozaki forced eight other girls belonging to the club to run around naked in the gymnasium in August as punishment for their bad attitudes.

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Asian Beauty:Yui.S | "Sailor Moon," "Crayon Shin-chan" songwriter picked up on drug charge

Masaki Araki, the man who penned the monster-selling hit animation theme songs for "Sailor Moon" and "Crayon Shin-chan," has been arrested for possessing speed, police said Saturday.
Araki, 39, of Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, has been arrested for breaking the Stimulants Control Law for allegedly being in possession of a minute quantity of amphetamines.
Araki admits to the allegations.
"I had it for my own personal use," police quoted him as saying.
Police said that Araki was found carrying the drug when he was walking around in Shibuya-ku on Saturday last week.
Police said they continue looking into the case to try and track down Araki's supply route.

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Asian Beauty:Yoko.M | 18-year-old mother busted for abusing baby daughter

A teenage mother was arrested Saturday for seriously abusing her baby daughter, police said.
The 18-year-old, whose name is being withheld under the Juvenile Law, is accused of inflicting bodily injury. The baby remains unconscious and in critical condition.
She admitted to the allegations during questioning. "I was tired of caring for my daughter," she was quoted as telling investigators.
Police are questioning the mother, suspecting that she had regularly abused her daughter.
At around 2 p.m. on Friday, the girl lifted up her 3-month-old daughter and violently shook her at their home in Nakagawa-ku, Nagoya, after becoming infuriated because the baby would not stop crying, investigators said.
After her daughter slumped, the suspect called her husband at his workplace. The baby was rushed to hospital, where a doctor who examined her suspected that she had been abused and alerted police.

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Asian Beauty:Aiko.K | Spurned schoolboy arrested for schoolgirl's murder

A suburban Tokyo high school boy was arrested early Saturday for brutally murdering a girl from his school, police said.
The 16-year-old boy, a student at the metropolitan high school, stands accused of fatally knifing Yua Koyama, at her apartment on Thursday evening.
He has admitted to the allegations.
"I stabbed Yua with a knife," officers quoted the boy as saying. "I used a knife I found at her home. I stabbed her on the face and in the head and neck."
When asked about his motive, the boy told officers, "We were classmates at junior high school, but she has gone off me since we enrolled in high school."
The boy, whose name is being withheld for legal reasons, told the police he had dumped the knife used in the fatal stabbing beside a back road.
Kimiko Koyama, the victim's mother, came home early Friday morning to find her daughter's body in the living room of their apartment in the Tokyo suburb of Machida.
The girl had suffered some 50 stab wounds in the face, head and neck.
The boy suffered injuries on an arm, and had taken his bloodstained blazer to be dry cleaned, officers said.
The victim's bag containing a key to her apartment was stolen on Nov. 2 from the high school. Police questioned the boy over whether he stole the key.

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Asian Beauty:Mao.M | Train driver faces ax over 3-year-old son's tantrum

Despite receiving hundreds of complaints, Tobu Railway Co. appears poised to go ahead with plans to dismiss a train driver whose 3-year-old son threw a tantrum and rode in the cabin of a train with him for a few minutes, according to railroad officials.
As of Friday night, about 1,500 complaints had been forwarded to the company, complaining that it was being too harsh on the driver by planning to fire him.
But Tobu, which clearly bans third parties from riding in train driver's cabin but does not specify punishments for offenders, remains unbowed.
"Our inclination toward dismissal will not change," a Tobu spokesman said. "We have a duty to provide safe rail services and this should not have happened."
Tobu said the trouble occurred on the Tobu Noda Line just before noon on Nov. 1. The driver's wife and children got onto the front carriage of the train when it arrived at Kasukabe Station. As the train took off, the driver's 3-year-old son began banging on the window separating the driver's cabin from the carriage.
When the train arrived at the next station, the driver opened a window between his cabin and the carriage. The boy came into the driver's cabin, where he sat down on the floor and began crying loudly.
As it was time for the train to depart, the driver in the 30s set off with his crying son beside him. When the train arrived at the next station, the driver handed his son back to his wife.
Tobu learned of the incident and ordered the man to remain at home. It is moving toward firing him. Tobu's duty regulations forbid third parties from entering driver's cabin, but the rules do not outline punishments for those who break them.
When Tobu's plans went public, it was flooded by complaints, saying that its plans for dismissal were too harsh. One person who complained said that firing the driver could have horrible psychological impact on the boy if he learned he had been responsible for his father losing his job.

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Asian Beauty:Maki.Y | Abnormal reaction to Tamiflu medicine tied to deaths of two boys

Two boys have died after reacting abnormally to the flu medicine Tamiflu, with one plunging to his death from a condominium and the other jumping in front of a truck, a doctor has announced.
Even though a document attached to Tamiflu warns that the drug could cause abnormal behavior or hallucinations, this is the first time that such a reaction has led to a death.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry has confirmed the cause of death of at least one of the boys was the result of side-effects from the drug.
The doctor, Rokuro Hama, who heads the Japan Institute of Pharmacovigilance for Evidence-Based Healthcare, will report the details of their deaths in a session of the Japanese Society for Pediatric Infectious Diseases under way in Tsu, Mie Prefecture.
A 17-year-old high school boy took a Tamiflu capsule at his home in Gifu Prefecture in February last year after being diagnosed as suffering from influenza, Hama said. While all his family members were away from home, he suddenly jumped over the fence around his home even though it was snowing at the time. He then jumped over a guardrail, hitting an oncoming truck and died.
Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., the importer of Tamiflu, reported the incident to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, saying that the possibility that the medicine caused his odd behavior cannot be ruled out.
A 14-year-old junior high school boy also took a Tamiflu capsule at his home in Aichi Prefecture at around 4 p.m. on Feb. 5 this year after he was diagnosed with the flu. About two hours later, he was found lying on the ground in front of the condominium where he lived. His fingerprints were found on a handrail on the ninth floor of the complex, leading police investigators to suspect that he plunged to his death.
The boys had never shown any abnormal behavior before they took Tamiflu.
Besides these fatal cases, a teenage girl attempted to jump from a window two days after taking Tamiflu, but her mother managed to stop her.

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Asian Beauty:Aoi.K | School holds meeting with parents after girl's brutal murder by spurned schoolmate

About 140 parents of students at a suburban Tokyo high school attended an emergency meeting on Saturday in the wake of a brutal murder of a female student by a boy from the same school.
Fifteen-year-old Yua Koyama from the metropolitan high school was fatally stabbed by a 16-year-old boy from the same school on Thursday evening.
Many parents tried to avoid reporters as they asked them questions near the school.
A mother said her daughter knew Yua Koyama.
"My daughter was on friendly terms with Yua-chan," the mother said. "On the day the murder came to light, she came home crying, saying, 'Yua-chan was murdered.' I want to find out what happened."
The boy, whose name is being withheld under law, said he fatally stabbed the victim because she had gone off him.
A father of a second-year student of the school said, "My son has been in a state of shock."

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