Tomoya Nagase

Matt Wilce

According to the Chinese astrology, a horse is ambitious, hardworking and happy to be in the spotlight. So it comes as little surprise that Tomoya Nagase, lead singer with Tokio, Japan' most successful pop-idol band next to SMAP, is a horse. Tokio was formed in 1991 but leapt to prominence in September 1994 when Nagase joined the band and the hit single "Love you only" was released.

Since then, they have gone on to have numerous hits, including (dubious) titles like "Boku no ojisan," "Ai wa nude," and "Spicy Girl"- occasionally assisted by such music moguls as Michael Jackson, who produced their "Children's Holidays."

The horse's courage proved useful when Nagase was stung by a bee during a live concert. As if this wasn't enough to contend with, the guitar amp failed during his solo performance, but he continued in true Freddie Mercury-the-show-must-go-on style, assisted by fellow band member Taiichi improvising on the piano.

One of the reputed reasons for Tokio's success is that not only can all the members actually sing and play their instruments - a shocking revelation in the world of J-pop-but they also write their own songs as well as act. Nagase pursues his cosmic love of challenges through various dramatic roles, most recently playing a husband joining his wife's family and taking her name in the TV drama "Muko Yoshi."

Until recently Nagase was always the youngest person on the set. Now, at 22, he finds himself taking more senior roles, but he resists growing up. "I am worried that adults have nothing to really enjoy with all their heart... that if their work is taken away there'll be nothing left."

Even though filming on location takes a lot more time, he prefers it to the studio. One of the roles that had the greatest influence on his life was the TV drama "Hakusen Nagashi: Ring - the last chapter" that involved fishing on Lake Kizaki. Since then, he's become a fishing fanatic and heads to the water at every opportunity. "I'm hot tempered, so I think it may be suitable for me," he says. "I went berserk the first time I actually caught a fish!" When he isn't fishing, acting or singing, he's playing billiards: "Be careful! I'm very good!" is the modest quote straight from the horse's mouth.

In love, a steed enjoys the chase more than the conquest. And with his sultry good looks, long hair and "dirty-smart" fashion sense, there's no shortage of admirers. At 19 he thought 20 would be a good age to marry. Now he thinks 23 or 24 would be better, although "30 may be more appropriate." His ideal girl should be "cheerful, considerate and pleasant." Nothing very remarkable in that, but she should also like Guns N' Roses, be able to cook (especially sushi), like pets, be a good listener and punctual. Don't be late for a date: "I won't wait more than three minutes," says the talkative talent.

Cathy Frances

381: Tokyo Tower
Japan's own Eiffel Tower
380: Ken Hirai
Current king of Japanese R&B
379: Ayumi Hamasaki
Powerhouse of pop
378: Makiko Tanaka
New Japanese Foreign Minister
377: Junichiro Koizumi
Japan's most charismatic prime Minister in years
376: Hiromi Go
The original boy idol
375: Junichiro Tanizaki
Nobel Prize winning author
374: Tomoya Nagase
Lead singer with pop group Tokio
373: hitomi
Sultry songstress
372: Fumiya Fujii
'80s boy band member
371: Yoshio Kodama
Powerful, postwar yakuza Godfather
370: Wakanohana
Controversial big man of sumo
369: Hanae Mori
Queen of fashion in Japan
368: O-Ko
A whiff of Japanese incense
367: Yuko Arimori
The former marathon queen
366: Kappa
A water-imp's fart
365: Nagurareya
Tokyo's own Fight Club
364: Tengu
Mischievous swordsman
363: Hideki Saijo
Pop legend in the making
362: Hina dolls
Beautiful dolls of the Hina festival
361: Mitsugoro Bando X
Kabuki actor Yasosuke Bando
360: Chonmage
Fancy men's topnot
358: Setsubun
Bean-throwing Ceremony Day
357: Terao
The Tom Jones of Sumo
356: Masao Sen
Poor man-rich man-poor man
354: Shingo Katori
Saucy SMAP boy
352/3: Shichifukujin
Six Gods and a Goddess
351: Tadanobu Asano

Stylish, off-beat actor
350: Umeboshi
Sour pickled plums


ISSUES 248/9-