Koji Yakusho, lately seen inMemoirs Of A Geisha, is set to starin an adaptation of hit serial novel AiNo Ryukeichi (Penal Colony Of Love)for Japanese major Toho.

The novel - which is writtenby Junichi Watanabe and is currently running in Japanese newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) - has become notorious for itsexplicit descriptions of sex between the middle-aged writer hero and his wife.

Yakusho's previous filmbased on a Watanabe novel was the 1997 drama Lost Paradise, about adulterous lovers who commit double suicide,which grossed more than $34m (Y4bn) in Japan.

Since Watanabe's latestnovel serialisation started in the Nikkeiin November, film companies and TV networks have competed fiercely for the filmrights. The winner Toho plans to release the film version next autumn.Principal photography will start next spring with TV drama veteran YasuoTsuruhashi directing.

Long one of Japan's leading male actors, Yakusho has recently raisedhis international profile playing the facially disfigured patron of ZhangZiyi's geisha in Memoirs Of A Geisha.He also starred in Masayuki Suo's 1995 hit ShallWe Dance' and Shohei Imamura's 1997 Palme d'Or winner The Eel.