Burglar caught sporting his Hello Kitty sandals

A 36-year-old truck driver suspected of involvement in hundreds of burglaries in Gunma and Saitama prefectures between 2004 and 2010 was likely wearing Hello Kitty sandals during the crimes, just like when he was arrested, Saitama police have said.

Masakazu Kanda, currently on trial for theft and other charges at the Saitama District Court, was wearing pink sandals bearing the famous feline character when he was walking on a street in Saitama Prefecture in June 2010, catching the eye of police officers after footprints collected from residences where burglaries had taken place showed the perpetrator was wearing Hello Kitty sandals.

Read the rest of the story: Hello Kitty sandals lead to arrest of suspected burglar.

Kana Nishino, queen of chaku-uta, hits 25 million downloads

Singer Kana Nishino (21), who is sometimes called the "queen of chaku-uta," has just reached an impressive milestone. Since her debut, her songs have been legitimately downloaded a total of 25 million times in a variety of formats, from chaku-uta ringtones to mobile video clips to full-length songs for the PC.

Nishino made her debut almost three years ago on February 20, 2008, with the single "I." This means that, on average, her songs have been downloaded approximately 23,000 times each day, though the bulk of the downloads actually happened within the past year. Based on data from download service Recochoku, Nishino was the #1 artist of 2010 in the chaku-uta and chaku-uta full categories.

Nishino also recently announced that she will hold her first Nippon Budokan concert on September 8, as the final show of her 16-city tour that starts on July 29.

Harajuku – Where trends draw the crowd

For several decades, the trendy Harajuku district in central Tokyo has been a magnet for young people seeking the latest fashion trends and also for those who want to express their own style.

From imported luxury brands to "fast fashion," tiny individual stores offers shoppers and browsers a huge range of fashion goods, turning the area into Japan’s fashion mecca.

Following are some basic questions and answers about Harajuku.

Where is Harajuku?

The area is in Shibuya Ward and can be reached by train or subway. It is actually hard to identify the boundaries of Harajuku because the name itself has not been used for addresses since 1965.

In general, many people tend to view the intersection of Meiji-dori and Omotesando avenues as Harajuku central. Those places are located between Jingumae 1-chome and 6-chome.

Read the rest of the story: Trendy Harajuku draws crowds.

EXILE’s AKIRA to act in NHK’s taiga drama “Gou”

AKIRA (29) will become the first member of EXILE to act in one of NHK’s taiga dramas, it has been learned. He will appear in the ongoing series "Gou ~Himetachi no Sengoku~" in the role of Toyotomi Hidekatsu, one of the husbands of the main character Gou, who is played by lead actress Juri Ueno (24).

Historically, Hidekatsu was the nephew of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. He became the second husband of Gou after she divorced Saji Kazunari, but Hidekatsu died shortly after that during Japan’s invasions of Korea. Gou later married her third and final husband, Tokugawa Hidetada, played by Osamu Mukai (28).

As an actor, AKIRA has appeared in a few films and television dramas. Last year, he received Best New Actor in the 19th Japan Movie Critics Awards for his role in the 2009 film "Chanto Tsutaeru."

AKIRA’s appearance in "Gou" will start with the series’ 17th episode, scheduled to air on May 1.

Kurume Arisaka registered her marriage

Actress Kurume Arisaka (31) got married on Wednesday to a 33-year-old businessman who owns a dining bar, after a year and a half of dating. Her agency announced the happy news, saying that she plans to hold her wedding ceremony in October of this year.

The couple started living together in a Tokyo apartment last November, and the man proposed to her on Christmas when they visited the temple Tanjo-ji in Chiba. Like many others, they decided to register their marriage on February 2 due to it being an auspicious day (‘taian’) according to the rokuyo calendar, in addition to the significance of the number 2 for a couple.

Sony’s New PSP Turns Out to Be ‘Full-featured’ Console

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc (SCE) had a press conference along with the announcements of the "Next Generation Portable (NGP)," a successor to its PlayStation Portable portable game console, and the "PlayStation Suite (PS Suite)" service, Jan 27, 2011, in Tokyo.

"We would like to introduce the new world that the PlayStation is about to realize," SCE President and Group CEO Kazuo Hirai said.

At the conference, he explained the features of and business strategies for the NGP and the PS Suite.

The NGP is a so-called “full-featured” portable game console, which is equipped with a variety of sensors and input devices to realize “ultimate immersion,” Hirai said.

Read the rest of the story: Sony’s New PSP Turns Out to Be ‘Full-featured’ Console.

Pandas to arrive to Ueno Zoo in February

A pair of giant pandas to be leased from China will arrive at Tokyo’s Ueno Zoo in February, sources said Saturday.

The giant pandas will be the zoo’s first since Ling-Ling, a male panda, died in April 2008, and follows a deal between the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and China to borrow the popular animals for 10 years.

One of the pandas is a male named Bili, and the other is a female called Xiannu.

Read the rest of the story: Ueno Zoo to get pandas in February.

Toyo Shibata – Japan’s bestselling poet at 99

A 99-year-old woman writing about love, dreams and hanging on to hope has touched the hearts of Japanese worn out by years of a lagging economy, propelling her self-published poetry book onto bestseller lists.

Toyo Shibata’s success with her first anthology, titled "Don’t be Too Frustrated," is all the more surprising because she only picked up her pen at the age of 92.

"I’m alive to this age thanks to support from my families, friends, care-givers and doctors and am transforming my gratitude into poetry to tell them, ‘Thank you. I’m really happy,’" said Shibata, who turns 100 in June, in written answers to questions.

Her collection of 42 poems, which include messages such as "Everyone is equally free to dream" and "Don’t try too hard," has been the most popular book on the closely-watched Oricon charts for the last two weeks and was one of the top 10 sellers for 2010, according to Touhan, one of Japan’s biggest publishers.

"Although 98, I still fall in love. I do have dreams; one like riding on a cloud," Shibata confesses in one poem with the title of "Secret."

Read the rest of the story: “Grandma next door” poet a Japan bestseller at 99.

Takuya Kimura starring in TBS’s “Nankyoku Tairiku”

Broadcaster TBS has announced that SMAP’s Takuya Kimura (38) will star in a new drama series next fall, tentatively titled "Nankyoku Tairiku ~Kami no Ryouiki ni Idonda Otoko to Inu no Monogatari~." The show is being produced in commemoration of TBS’s 60th anniversary, and it is said that it will have the biggest budget of any TBS drama series in history.

The series will focus on Japan’s first Antarctic research expedition team, which consisted of 11 members and 19 Sakhalin Huskies. The team stayed at the Showa Base in Antarctica for over a year until 1958 when a second team came to take over, but extreme weather conditions forced the teams to completely retreat from the base, unfortunately leaving behind 15 of the Huskies. When one of the dog handlers returned in 1959 with a third team, it was discovered that two of the dogs, Taro and Jiro, had somehow managed to survive.

That expedition team was also the subject of the 1983 film "Nankyoku Monogatari," starring Ken Takakura (79). That movie earned approximately 11 billion yen, making it the second highest grossing live-action Japanese film in history after "Odoru Daisousasen: The Movie 2."

The drama will not be a remake of the film. Instead, it will be an original script inspired by the book "Nankyoku Ettoutai Taro Jiro no Shinjitsu" by Taiichi Kitamura.

Kimura plays the researcher Takeshi Kuramochi, the vice-leader of the team. His rival, the head weather observer Himuro, will be played by Masato Sakai (37). Teruyuki Kagawa (45) is playing the team leader, while Kyohei Shibata (59) is playing the overall person in charge of the expedition. Other team members will be played by Yusuke Yamamoto (23), Susumu Terajima (47), and Naoto Ogata (43).

Filming will start in February and last more than half a year. Scenes will be shot in Hokkaido, though TBS is also considering doing some filming in Antarctica. The series will begin airing in October in the Sunday 9:00pm time slot.

Japanese advertisers know the buzz is priceless

Interested in a part-time job that pays 2.5 million yen ($30,500) per hour for delivering a pizza to a remote island by plane?

Too good to be true?

Yes and no. While the job offer was right on the money, it was only a one-time deal, or rather, a one-pizza delivery. Job security was clearly not on the menu.

But no one cared about the downside, and thousands applied for the job. And that was the point–the campaign generated massive publicity for the pizza company.

While companies have long employed quirky advertising tactics and seemingly overgenerous rewards to entice customers via print media or broadcasting, the advent of online services such as Twitter have spawned extreme, sometimes off-the-wall campaigns.

Read the rest of the story: For Japanese advertisers, the buzz is priceless.