Surprises at Tokyo Game Show

For gamers, this weekend will feel like Christmas. Tokyo Game Show (TGS), Japan’s biggest gaming event, began Thursday at Chiba’s Makuhari Messe convention center and will continue through Sept. 18 (on Saturday and Sunday it will be open to the public). More than 140 exhibitors are on hand, off-site parties have already begun to go late into the night and — most importantly — there are tons of new video games.

Game face: Research engineer Mikael Le Goff checks out Sony’s PlayStation Vita at Tokyo Game Show on Thursday. Japan’s largest video-game event continues through Sunday, and will be open to the public on Sept. 17-18. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

Not bad for a show that seemed impossible in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11. As the government pushed the summer of setsuden (energy conservation), an energy drain like TGS seemed improbable. Organizers responded to the crisis by implementing measures to reduce the total electricity consumption of the event by 25 percent: turning off escalators, using LED light bulbs and limiting power for exhibition booths.

Read the rest of the story: Expect tons of surprises at Tokyo Game Show.

Kashiwa Sato – The Creative Mind Behind ‘Cool Japan’

Kashiwa Sato is the face behind many of Japan’s most famous designs — from the logos for Fast Retailing’s casual-clothing chain Uniqlo to artwork for Japan’s popular boy band SMAP and premier fashion designer Issey Miyake. Now he is taking on a new challenge as the creative mind behind the country’s new logo and message representing “Cool Japan,” the government’s campaign to promote modern Japanese culture abroad. It will be used by Japanese agencies and companies.

This week Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda selected the 46-year-old’s design out of 99 submissions. The logo is similar to Japan’s national flag, with a bright red sun in the center against a white backdrop. But Mr. Sato’s sun is blazing ahead toward the future, with spiky rays streaking across the white background. Below it is Mr. Sato’s simple message to the world: “Japan Next.”

Read the rest of the story: The Creative Mind Behind ‘Cool Japan’.

Tokyo Game Show turns to smartphones as new star

Social games played on smartphones are hogging the attention at this year’s Tokyo video-game exhibition, boasting new ways of making money by selling "virtual" goodies, not the usual expensive machines and software packages.

Gree Inc., a social networking service that began just seven years ago in the founder’s living room, was the big star at the annual Tokyo Game Show, with its first booth ever. The show previewed to media Thursday ahead of its opening to the public later this week at Makuhari Messe hall in this Tokyo suburb.

Its stardom underlines the arrival of so-called "social games" aimed at casual users passing the time on smartphones and tablet devices rather than the sophisticated plots, imagery and controls found on gaming devices.

Read the rest of the story: Tokyo game show turns to cellphones, has new star.

PlayStation Vita to Hit Japan On December 17

Sony has successfully built up a lot of hype for its new handheld, the PlayStation Vita. Now we know that the system will arrive this year in one territory at least.

At its Tokyo Game Show press conference, Sony announced that the Vita will launch first in Japan on December 17. The publisher has not yet provided a release date for the handheld in Europe or North America, though at this point 2012 seems almost certain.

Read the rest of the story: PlayStation Vita Hits Japan On December 17.

Nogizaka46’s “Nogizakatte, Doko?” variety show to air in October

On Monday, the official website of idol group Nogizaka46 revealed some details about their variety show, which will begin airing next month. The show will be titled “Nogizakatte, Doko?” (“Where’s Nogizaka?”) and will be broadcast on the 6 main stations of the TX Network: TV Tokyo, TV Osaka, TV Aichi, TV Setouchi, TV Hokkaido, and TVQ Kyushu Hoso.

The show is said to focus on showcasing the personalities and strengths of the group’s members, including singing, dancing, acting, and intense effort.

Episodes will air weekly on Mondays at midnight, starting on October 2nd.

Nogizaka46 was officially formed last month by Akimoto Yasushi and Sony Music Entertainment as the “official rival group of AKB48.” The group currently consists of 36 members.

ChocoLe new idol unit with Idoling’s Hashimoto

Watanabe Entertainment recently formed a new 3-member idol group called ChocoLe, and it has already been decided that they will make their CD debut under Avex this December.

ChocoLe consists of Idoling!!! member Hashimoto Kaede (14), gravure idol Takahashi Kurumi (14), and fashion model Tamagawa Ramu (14). Their debut single, “Milk to Chocolate,” will be the new ending theme song for the popular anime series “SKET DANCE” from October onward.

Edward Entertainment says Oranje comes after GReeeeN

A new singer-songwriter is ready to make her debut, under the same management agency as the popular group GReeeeN. Going by the name Oranje. (read in Japanese as “orenji,” the same reading as “orange”), she will maintain the same veil of secrecy as GReeeeN by never publicly showing her face.

Oranje. is said to be a resident of Sendai who had no past music career but sent in a demo tape to Edward Entertainment (GReeeeN’s agency) at the end of last year. A producer instantly fell in love with her voice, and contract talks began the next day.

Oranje.’s debut song will be released digitally on September 14, titled “100 Mankai no ‘Aishiteru’.” It is being described as an “answer song” to Rake’s hit song “100 Mankai no ‘I love you’,” which reached 1 million downloads earlier this month. Rake composed and wrote the new song as well.

Oranje. will actually be the first female artist from Edward Entertainment, which also manages groups like Kimaguren and MONKEY MAJIK. She is expected to make her CD debut before the end of the year as well.

Kago Ai in stable condition after suicide attempt

Former Morning Musume member Kago Ai (23) apparently attempted suicide this morning, it has been learned. She was found in her Roppongi apartment with a slit wrist and was taken to a nearby hospital, but fortunately, it is said that she is in a non-life-threatening condition.

Azabu police received an emergency call at around 11:55am on September 11. Kago was found in her apartment with a slit wrist, and it is said that she was in a stupor at the time. It is suspected that she may have consumed a large amount of drugs.

According to police, Kago had spoken over the phone with someone from her agency just before the incident. Her words suggested that she was contemplating suicide, so the person from the agency rushed to her apartment, where Kago was discovered on the floor.

The apparent suicide attempt comes just a few days after it was reported that her boyfriend, Ando Haruhiko (44), was arrested for attempted extortion on September 6. It is believed that Ando may be associated with the yakuza.

News outlets also reported that Kago was living with Ando, and she was present at the time he was arrested. Kago later underwent voluntary questioning by police regarding Ando’s case.

AKB48 to launch Indonesian sister group JKT48

AKB48 has officially announced the creation of JKT48, a new sister group that will be based in Jakarta, Indonesia. Although plans for a Taiwan-based group were previously revealed, it appears that JKT48 will likely be AKB48′s first overseas sister group to officially launch.

The news of JKT48 was announced at an AKB48 event at Makuhari Messe in Chiba on Sunday. The new group will keep the same “idols you can meet” concept, and Akimoto Yasushi will still be the group’s overall producer.

Open auditions for JKT48′s first generation have also been announced, open to girls between the ages of 13 and 18. Applications will be accepted until September 16. The interview round will take place in late September, and the final dancing/singing audition round will be held on October 8-9. The passing members will be announced on the final day.

JKT48 is aiming to debut around the end of 2011.

Tokito Ami and Sonar Pocket vocalist, ko-dai, rumored couple

Idol and talento Tokito Ami is reportedly in a relationship with ko-dai, the vocalist of the group Sonar Pocket. According to the Sports Nippon newspaper, the pair met about two years ago through their group of mutual friends, and they started dating about one year ago.

It is said that Tokito has already revealed the relationship to others in the entertainment industry, and ko-dai has also informed the other members of his group.