Ken Watanabe in New Japanese Drama Series

Ken Watanabe (52) will be portraying former prime minister of Japan, Yoshida Shigeru, in a NHK drama series titled “Makete, Katsu~Sengo wo Tsukutta Otoko • Yoshida Shigeru~ (Victory after Defeat ~ The man who created post-war Japan, Yoshida Shigeru~)“, which will air at 9 PM every Saturday from September 8th and onwards.

Tanihara Shosuke (40) will act as Shirasu Jiro, a close associate of former Prime Minister Yoshida and a negotiator for the General Headquarters of the Supreme Commander (GHQ), who’s often called a “difficult Japanese” by GHQ. Matsuyuki Yasuko (39) is cast as Yoshida’s second wife, a former geisha, and Tanaka Kei (28) will be playing Yoshida’s eldest son, Yoshida Kenichi who’s an English literature scholar.

Murakami Art Auction Fetches $9 million for Quake Aid

A collection of contemporary artworks by Takashi Murakami and others fetched nearly $9 million (about ¥700 million) in a New York auction to raise funds for the victims of the March 11 disaster, Christie’s said Wednesday.

The 21 works were sold for a total of $8.76 million, far above the estimate of $5 million, it said, adding that proceeds from the sale will be donated to the Sasakawa Peace Foundation as well as two other organizations.

At the start of the auction, actor Ken Watanabe read a poem, "Ame ni mo Makezu" ("Undaunted by Rain"), by Kenji Miyazawa (1896-1933), in English and Japanese. Miyazawa was a poet and author of children’s books from Iwate Prefecture, which was hit hard by the disaster.

Read the rest of the story: Art fetches $9 million for quake aid.

Ken Watanabe stars in film about Hayabusa space probe

Some details have been released regarding Toei’s movie about the Hayabusa space probe, tentatively titled “Shouwakusei Tansaki Hayabusa: Harukanaru Kikan.” The big-budget film will star actor Watanabe Ken (51) as a character modeled after Kawaguchi Junichiro, the project manager behind the Hayabusa probe. In addition, Watanabe will be serving as project manager for the movie itself, working with director Takimoto Tomoyuki (“Hannin ni Tsugu,” “Ikigami”).

Toei is pouring in 1.5 billion yen for the movie’s production, which includes building 3 life-sized models of the Hayabusa probe (about 6 meters long) under the guidance of JAXA. The studio Toei Animation will be doing CG work for the film.

The script for “Shouwakusei Tansaki Hayabusa” is originally based off a work by journalist Yamane Kazuma, but it also includes information from exclusive interviews with more than 50 people associated with the project. The story covers the challenges faced by the mission’s team over Hayabusa’s 7-year flight to the asteroid 25143 Itokawa and back, becoming the first mission to bring back an asteroid sample to Earth.

The probe, which successfully returned to Earth last year, is the subject of at least two other feature films, including one by 20th Century Fox starring actress Takeuchi Yuko.

The rest of the cast for “Shouwakusei Tansaki Hayabusa” will be announced in the near future. In order to learn the technical knowledge necessary for the film, the cast is conducting technical rehearsals until May 20, when the film begins shooting. In mid-July, they plan to shoot part of the movie overseas, and filming will wrap up at the end of that month.

Toei is aiming to complete post-production in December of this year, making the film ready for release in 2012.

The 33rd Japan Academy Awards

The 33rd Japan Academy Awards were presented on Friday at the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa. The film “Tsurugidake: Ten no Ki,” received 6 of the 15 awards presented. The film is the directorial debut of cinematographer Daisaku Kimura.

Actress Matsu Takako (32) won the Best Actress Award for her role in “Villon’s Wife”. She beat several strong rivals such as Ayase Haruka (24) or Hirosue Ryoko (29). Actor Ken Watanabe won best actor in a leading role for the film “Shizumanu Taiyou.”

Best Picture went to Setsuro Wakamatsu’s “Shizumanu Taiyo,” which won a total of three awards.

  • Best Picture: Shizumanu Taiyo (Setsuro Wakamatsu)
  • Best Animated Picture: Summer Wars (Mamoru Hosoda)
  • Best Director: Daisaku Kimura (Tsurugidake: Ten no Ki)
  • Best Screenplay: Miwa Nishikawa (Dear Doctor)
  • Best Actor: Ken Watanabe (Shizumanu Taiyo)
  • Best Actress: Takako Matsu (Viyon no Tsuma)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Teruyuki Kagawa (Tsurugidake: Ten no Ki)
  • Best Supporting Actress: Kimiko Yo (Dear Doctor)
  • Best Music: Shinichiro Ikebe (Tsurugidake: Ten no Ki)
  • Best Cinematography: Daisaku Kimura (Tsurugidake: Ten no Ki)
  • Best Lighting Direction: Takayuki Kawabe (Tsurugidake: Ten no Ki)
  • Best Art Direction: Yohei Taneda, Kyoko Yauchi (Viyon no Tsuma)
  • Best Sound Recording: Kenichi Ishidera (Tsurugidake: Ten no Ki)
  • Best Film Editing: Takao Arai (Shizumanu Taiyo)
  • Best Foreign Language Film: Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood)