Playback 2014: Mao Inoue’s Midnight Adventure and Yakiniku Date with Jun Matsumoto | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Playback 2014: Mao Inoue’s Midnight Adventure and Yakiniku Date with Jun Matsumoto

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Mao Inoue leaves her home and picks up a cab with a sharp look around her (’14 May 9 and 16 issue).

Ten years ago, twenty years ago, thirty years ago, what was “FRIDAY” reporting? Let’s take a look back at topics that were hot at the time with “Playback Friday.” This time, we deliver the article from the May 9-16, 2014 issue titled “Big Two Extremely Cautious – Mao Inoue and ‘Arashi’ Jun Matsumoto ‘Late-night Yakiniku Shop’ Private Room Encounter.”

Mao Inoue (then 27) and Jun Matsumoto (then 30) reportedly started dating after co-starring in the first season of “Hana Yori Dango” (TBS series) in 2005. Despite eyewitness accounts such as wearing matching rings and Matsumoto coming to see Inoue’s stage play, and occasional rumors of marriage, there had never been actual sightings of their interactions, leading to their relationship becoming somewhat of an urban legend. This article captures the scene of their date that had never been caught before.

The reason why no decisive scenes had been reported so far was that their dates were carried out under ultra-high-security measures with the cooperation of those around them.


Late-night outing wearing a hat, glasses, and mask.

After about three hours since returning home, at half past ten in the evening, Inoue, alone, left her house to catch a taxi by the curb. The complete disguise of hat, glasses, and mask indicated that the place she was heading to was special.

Inoue, wary of her surroundings, got into the taxi and after a few minutes of driving, she got out of the car. She must have been suddenly called by someone. She seemed to be searching for the destination or was confusedly looking at the screen of her smartphone. Eventually, she arrived at a high-end yakiniku restaurant with private rooms, despite it being just before last order. Inoue entered the restaurant without hesitation.


Despite it being a late-night outing where she wouldn’t attract attention, Inoue’s excessive vigilance had a reason, of course. It was none other than because someone was waiting for her at the yakiniku restaurant. Who that someone was would become clear about three hours later.


Two hours past closing time, at 2 in the morning with the entrance locked, Inoue emerged from the employees’ entrance of the now darkened and deserted restaurant. While she beckoned the wary employees looking around, she got into a taxi alone and headed towards her home.


Five minutes later, Jun Matsumoto, wearing sunglasses, emerged from the employees’ entrance, followed by the then 29-year-old Ikuta Toma, also from Johnny’s. They hailed a taxi on the street and disappeared into a residential area.


There were other nights when Inoue went out late at night. Some days she disguised herself with hat, glasses, and mask, while on other days she wore makeup perfectly without a hat. On each of those days, she cast sharp glances at every passerby, disappearing into the darkness of the night with caution. It was likely that her rendezvous was indeed with Matsumoto. A certain entertainment industry insider testified at the time about the relationship between the two.

Last summer, speculation arose that Jun Matsumoto and Inoue were on the verge of marriage, as a fashion insider revealed on their blog that Matsumoto and Inoue were present when they were invited to the home of Shun Oguri and Yu Yamada.

Idol Matsumoto and Inoue, with the upcoming NHK Taiga drama (2015’s Hana Moyu), are both in a period where they must avoid scandals at all costs. Therefore, they likely refrain from meeting alone, taking extra precautions.

In “Hana Yori Dango,” after trials and tribulations, Inoue and Matsumoto’s characters were supported by their friends and eventually came together. Similarly, in the real world, it seemed they were steadily progressing with the support of their friends Ikuta and Oguri.

However, despite frequent reports of marriage and breakups, there has never been any concrete information about the progress of their relationship. It has become a urban legend once again.

In January of this year, Inoue appeared as a guest on a New Year’s special of “Sanma no Manma.” When asked by Sanma Akashiya, “Are you not married yet?” she promptly replied, “I am not married.” She also denied the previously reported marriage rumors, saying, “I have been rumored to be getting married many times online, but if I don’t deny it, it will be seen as confirmation. I often receive congratulations, but there really is nothing.”

On May 16th, Matsumoto announced his departure from the agency STARTO ENTERTAINMENT and his decision to become independent. However, among some fans, rumors of marriage have sprung up again, with Inoue’s name still being mentioned as a possible partner. Until one of them actually gets married, the two from “Hana Yori Dango” will remain an eternal couple for fans.

Inoue, guided by the staff from the closed yakiniku restaurant after 2 a.m., quickly boarded a taxi. (From the May 9-16, 2014 issue.)
Matsumoto came out of the restaurant in time with Inoue. Toma Ikuta is also seen a short distance away (May 9 and 16, ’14 issue).
Matsumoto and Ikuta also walked to the street, picked up a cab, and drove away (May 9 and 16, ’14 issues).
Inoue and Sato Takeru were on location for the TV show “If I Said ‘I Love You’ 1 Million Times” (TBS). (From the January 20-27, 2023 issue.)
Matsumoto and Sonim were on location for the TV show “Tonari no Chikara” (TV Asahi). (From the January 20-27, 2022 issue.)
  • PHOTO Makoto Kuwata (1st~4th), Yusuke Kondo (5th), Shinji Sakamoto (6th)

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