I had another news story planned for this morning, but on the train to work I was rocked by this news bomb of a trending hashtag on my Twitter feed - SMAP解散 - SMAP kaisan - SMAP breakup! Now, if you don’t know who or what SMAP are, you must have literally just stepped on to Japanese soil. Everyone else will know that this 5-member boy (sorry, man) band are the current standard bearer for good, clean, commercially generated pop/entertainment. A Japanese Take That / Boyzone / Backstreet Boys, if you will.
A shaky search on the train lead to an article on 日刊スポーツ.com (nikkansports.com), a publication I confess to knowing nothing about. Still, what few news articles I could find on this, all lead back to said publication.
In brief summary, group members Nakai Masahiro (43), Inagaki Goro (42), Kusanagi Tsuyoshi (41), and Katori Shingo (38) are reported to have reached the decision to split from Johnny's Entertainment group (founder and manager of SMAP). Lady’s favourite, Kimura Takuya (43) looks set to remain with the organisation.
The article continues to report that although no date for the split has been set, discussions have been ongoing for over half a year and the current decision was reached at the end of last year. According to the publication’s source, "That they were having these talks, is a fact.". It’s also one that, in Nikkan’s own words, will send a huge earthquake through the celeb world. Or something like that!
The question we want to ask here though, is, Will the rumoured split cause any kind of seismic shift to be felt among the expat community of Japan?
I suppose the best place to start here is by asking, Do you watch Japanese TV?. If the answer is, No!, then any absence of SMAP will largely go unmissed. For those who do venture into the acid-flashback world of Japanese variety TV, this will certainly be a shapeshifter for the genre. Undoubtedly, each member will be getting his fair share of air time, but arguably SMAP are like an over performing sports team - the sum of more than their individual parts. After all, one of them can’t sing, another one is about as far removed from a poster boy idol as you could image, and there’s one member who doesn’t seem to do anything.
Together though, they are responsible for bringing, for me, familiar cultural faces onto otherwise confusing Japanese TV screens. I’ll never forget the time Coldplay performed Viva La Vida with SMAP on backing vocals (above). Then there was the positively surreal time SMAP performed with unlikely 80s pop phenom' Rick Astley. On the TV show Bistro SMAP (SMAPxSMAP), they would hold a cook-off to see who could put together the best dish to serve to such megastar guests as Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, Quentin Tarantino, and even Robert (I don’t like giving interviews) DeNiro!!
At this stage, there has yet to be any official announcement of the SMAP split. This could all just be an embarrassing mistake or poor translation on my part. If it is true though, we are now entering the group’s 25th anniversary year, so you can be sure to be napalmed with enough SMAP related promotions/specials to make you wish they’d just hurry up and get it over with. If you turn on your TV, that is!
Oh, just as a quick footnote; Who knows what SMAP stands for? Leave your answers in the comments section below. Sorry, there’s no prize!