Ai Fukuhara (34), a former representative of Japan’s national table tennis team and medalist in two consecutive Olympics, appeared on TV after a long absence.
She appeared as a surprise guest on “All Star Thanksgiving ’23 Spring” (TBS) on August 8 with Jun Mizutani (33), another former Japanese national table tennis player and Olympic medalist. They also participated in a ping-pong god-serve project and the “Akasaka 5-chome Mini-Marathon. The host, Koji Imada (57), said,
Welcome back, Ai-chan. We were worried when you disappeared from the LINE group.
I was worried when you disappeared from the LINE group,” teased Fukuhara, who said she was suffering from hay fever,
I have hay fever.
Fukuhara responded, “I have hay fever,” and the audience laughed. However, this exchange was met with a few questions on social networking sites, such as, “The custody issue has not been fully settled yet,
The question of custody has not been fully settled yet, so what are you doing talking about it?
I don’t understand why Fukuhara is OK when (Un-jash’s) Watanabe still isn’t.”
The room was filled with such criticisms as, “The custody issue has not been completely settled yet. In March 2009, NEWS POST SEVEN reported on Fukuhara’s alleged “back home” affair with Mr. A, a trading company employee five years her junior, and in July of the same year, she divorced her ex-husband Chiang Hung-Chieh, a representative of Taiwan’s table tennis team.
In December, Fukuhara and Mr. A were reported by “Josei Seven” to be on a date at a park, and the two proudly declared their relationship. At that time, they explained that they were not having an affair and that they started dating after their divorce was finalized. They then lived together in a 300 million yen mansion that Fukuhara had purchased in Tokyo with his eldest son, whom he had brought from Taiwan last July. However, Jiang claimed that Fukuhara’s eldest son was also ‘taken away’ from him.
On April 3, his son’s birthday, Jiang updated his Instagram page,
Happy birthday. He expressed his feelings by saying, “Daddy is thinking of you very much, I haven’t heard your voice for a long time, I haven’t seen you for a long time.
He expressed his feelings. The fact that his first TV appearance in a long time was five days later seems to have caused the social networking service to react even more strongly to the news. In July last year, Fukuhara also appeared on “Entertainer Ratings Check: How good are your responses? He showed his presence by answering “scallops” when the correct answer was “horse mackerels” in the taste check, but some people on the Internet expressed their displeasure with his appearance.
Since the divorce issue, his TV appearances have been as infrequent as once every few months, but each time he makes an appearance, the Internet erupts with criticism. It does not seem to be a positive thing for the TV station in any way, but why do they still allow him to appear? A variety show production staff member who has known Fukuhara since she was a little girl says, “She is very popular with the staff.
She knows all about variety shows, and she is popular with the staff.
Fukuhara is an athlete, but for the variety show staff, the image of ‘cute crying Ai-chan’ as an adult is still the same,” said a variety show production staff member.
Fukuhara first appeared on TV in June 1993, when at the age of four she won the Miyagi Prefecture Elementary School Table Tennis Championship. She also placed in the top 16 in the elementary school class at a national tournament, and was introduced as a “prodigy table tennis girl. After this, the mass media gathered wherever she went, and she was introduced as “Ai-chan, the table tennis girl. She was also called “Ai-chan the Crying Mouse” as she was repeatedly shown practicing hard and crying when the game went badly, and she became a national idol.
TV was desperate to get Ai-chan to cry somehow. Sometimes she even asked her mother for help in forcing her to cry when she performed with celebrities on variety shows,” said a staff member of a variety show at the time.
Later, she became one of Japan’s leading table tennis players, but as an adult she was comfortable with TV interviews. Naturally, she was well received by the staff.
She is just so charming and cute. When we went to interview her before a game, she would laugh along with us and talk to the staff. She has been working with Sanma Akashiya and Kiyotaka Minamihara of “Ucchan Nanchan” since she was a child, so she understands TV very well. All the staff members who interviewed her fell in love with her. Even as an adult she has changed very little. Her smile and gestures are just as they were then. The staff members who worked with her back then have now risen in the ranks and become great people, so if she asked me to do something for her, I wouldn’t be able to say no (laughs).”
There is also this story.
When the affair was reported, Fukuhara’s side apparently consulted with executives at a major office and asked them not to handle her story for the TV station. Whether or not this had an impact, negative coverage of Ms. Fukuhara gradually decreased” (wide-show insider).
In 2009, Fukuhara established her own company, which touted social contribution activities. In the same year, she became a visiting associate professor at Aomori University, and in ’22 she became the general manager of World Table Tennis. However, none of his businesses has led to a large income, and on January 17, “Josei Jishin” reported that he had rented out his 300 million yen mansion due to a sharp decline in his income. She is also not satisfied with her TV appearances as a ping-pong commentator alone, and it is said that she would like to increase her appearances on variety shows in the future. What will the TV stations make of this reaction from viewers and social networking sites?
PHOTO： Naoki Nishimura/Afro Sports, Sota Shima (3rd and 4th)