This week the tabloid press is obsessed with Tomoko Nakajima, half of the comedy duo Othello. According to the scandal weekly Flash, Nakajima hasn’t paid rent on two apartments in Shibuya–one her residence, the other an office–since last August and is now being sued by the owners of the two properties, which together cost ¥1.1 million a month to rent. Nakajima hasn’t worked since April when she took sick leave, but show biz reporters are saying that she came under the spell of a “fortune teller.” Nakajima allowed the woman to move in with her and she has been directing Nakajima’s life ever since, presumably squeezing her for cash. The comedian’s parents and management company say they have not been able to contact her for months, but also assume that once Nakajima runs out of money the woman will lose interest and move out.
The story wouldn’t have normally interested us until we heard that the apartment Nakajima rents as a residence at ¥650,000 a month is owned by Masahiro Motoki, who starred in the Oscar-winning film “Departures” (“Okuribito”). We dug a little deeper and learned that Motoki is not the person who is suing Nakajima for back rent. The suit is being carried out by the guarantee company that manages the apartment. This is a common investment scheme. Guarantee companies broker deals between apartment sellers and buyers, convincing the potential landlords to purchase the property and leave all management to the guarantee company, which looks for tenants, sets rent rates, and acts as guarantor in exchange for a sizable fee that is paid by the tenant. Nakajima’s unit is 122 square meters, which partially explains why her rent is so high. Other factors include the location, Shibuya, and the fact that the building houses a number of other celebrity-owned units that we presume are also managed by guarantee companies, thus setting up an interesting show biz pecking order. Motoki, a former Johnny’s idol who made a successful transition to legitimate acting, can invest in properties that are then rented out to other show biz people who are successful but not successful enough to buy their own luxury condos. (We’re not entirely sure if Motoki didn’t live in the apartment at some time in the past, but at any rate he did hire the guarantee company) In fact, we would think that one of the advantages a star like Motoki would derive from such a business arrangement would be keeping his name out of the press if a lawsuit erupted with a tenant. How does it look for a former idol to be suing a civilian, or even a current comedian for that matter? Maybe it means nothing. In our research we found a number of celebrities who have made similar investments, including another comedy duo, Kyain. Othello is popular, but not as popular as Kyain. Are they popular enough to afford ¥1.1 million a month in rent? At the moment, apparently not.