Singer Ayaka Will Return with New Independent Label

Singer Ayaka 23, who went on hiatus in 2009 after being diagnosed with Graves’ disease, has announced that she is launching a new independent label and resuming activities before the end of this year. She has plans for a new release in early 2012, though it is not yet known whether it will be a single or an album.

In April 2009, Ayaka and actor Mizushima Hiro 27 announced that they had married and that Ayaka was suffering from Graves’ disease. She suspended her musical activities at the end of that year, after performing at NHK’s Kouhaku Uta Gassen.

Ayaka is still receiving treatment, but her symptoms have apparently stabilized, so she felt it was time to officially return to her music career. Even during her hiatus, she was already writing new songs in preparation for her comeback.

Although Ayaka previously released her music through Warner Music Japan, her contract expired in March 2010. Instead of signing with a major label again, she decided it was better to launch her own independent label. Ayaka is currently in the final stages of making it an official company. The label’s name is still being determined.

Ayumi Hamasaki to marry Austrian actor Manuel Schwarz

Singer Ayumi Hamasaki (32) has announced that she will soon get married. According to statements she made on her Twitter account and on her fan club website just after the start of the new year, she will be tying the knot with Austrian actor Manuel Schwarz (30).

Hamasaki met Schwarz in August of last year. At that time, Schwarz (who is also known as Mannie) played her husband in the music video for her song "Virgin Road." Then in October, he appeared in two more of her music videos, for the songs "Love Song" and "Last angel." Within those two months, the two became very close, frequently exchanging e-mails and phone calls.

On December 31, Hamasaki performed "Virgin Road" as the opening act of NHK’s Kouhaku Uta Gassen, wearing a white wedding dress. After that, she headed to Yoyogi National Gymnasium for her own countdown concert. However, she decided to wait until after those performances before announcing the news of her marriage online.

Hamasaki’s management has acknowledged her announcement. Although she does not have any upcoming work in her schedule at the moment, it is said that she does not plan on retiring. It is also reported that she is not pregnant.

Akiko Wada in car accident

Singer Akiko Wada (60) was involved in a car accident this afternoon, while on her way to the rehearsal for NHK’s Kouhaku Uta Gassen. She appears to have suffered minor injuries, which became apparent during the rehearsal.

At around 3:45pm on December 29, Wada was on her way to the NHK studio. While her car was stopped for a red light at an intersection in Shibuya, her car was rear-ended by another vehicle, driven by a man in his 30s.

Wada said she felt some pain in her neck and waist after the accident, but she proceeded to the nearby NHK studio on foot for the rehearsal. She was later taken to the hospital for examination. Wada’s driver and the driver of the other car also complained of pain in their waists and other body parts.

Wada is scheduled to participate in another rehearsal on December 30 before the Kouhaku Uta Gassen on December 31.

Keisuke Kuwata confirmed as Kouhaku special guest

It was rumored that Southern All Stars member Keisuke Kuwata (54) would be making a special guest appearance on the upcoming Kouhaku Uta Gassen. On Monday, his management agency and record label officially confirmed the news.

Although he will not be part of a team, this will count as his first solo performance at Kouhaku. The last time he was on the show was in 1983, when Southern All Stars made their third appearance.

Currently, it is still not known which songs he will perform or when in the program he will appear. It also has not been decided whether he will be at the event itself or will perform through a live video feed.

Kuwata has not performed in public since July, as he underwent treatment for esophageal cancer. He resumed work in October and recently finished his new album.

The Kouhaku Uta Gassen will begin at 7:30pm on December 31.