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Monday, January 18, 2016

Day 6 recap on the SMAP saga - 18 January 2016

Here is a summary of the reports on developments in the SMAP saga over the last few days. As usual, nothing official from the group members themselves or the agency yet but it does seem like both sides are heading towards the path of reconciliation which hopefully will result in a win-win situation at the end. Fans will be happy to see that outcome if it materialises.

Now that the cat is out the bag, the media is happy to jump onto the "telltale signs" before the saga broke. A lot of the so-called weird things which happened during the end of the year start to make sense by now e.g. Kimura being obviously in a bad mood or him seemingly alienated from the rest. Then again, since nothing is confirmed by the members themselves, please don't get too upset or affected by these observations by the media since these are merely conjectures on their part.

On a related note, Nikkansports seems to have a lot of these insider details on what is going on behind the scenes as the saga unfolds. Seems like they probably had information directly from the agency or people in the know or else why would they know things like Julie going to Kyoto to meet Kimura yesterday? However, you can't deny too that their reporting seems to be slightly skewed towards showing the breakaway members in a slightly weaker/less favourable light as the issue develops over time which should be due to the observation that the members may have to go back on their initial decision to leave in order to return to the group and agency. 

The "disappearance" of Iijima Michi is also not helping them because she is heavily involved in their work and partners such as the TV stations are unhappy about the delay in their work arrangements due to her absence. Much as I sympathise with her seemingly being treated badly in the company, she really should clear up the mess left by her independence movement and ensure that the SMAP members who pledged allegiance to her won't be left to fend for themselves.

- Kusanagi Tsuyoshi and Katori Shingo who are the hosts in the bay fm radio show "SMAP POWER SPLASH", did not mention anything about the breakup saga during the broadcast on 17 January. It is believed that the programme was recorded in advance though.
The theme of this particular episode was a prediction on what's to come in 2016. At the beginning of the show, they talked about their respective Winter 2016 dramas i.e. "Specialist 4" on TV Asahi and "Kazoku no Katachi" on TBS. Katori expressed his anticipation about his drama starting soon while Kusanagi commented that it's almost time for the drama to start.
Then, the two of them talked about the things they wanted to challenge themselves in the new year and the overseas cities they would like to visit. There was also a segment where Kusanagi made a song on the spot based on lyrics contributed by a listener and Katori sang it.
Sources: Nikkansports / Sanspo

- Inagaki Goro participated in the rehearsal for his upcoming stage play "Koi to Ongaku FINAL ~ Jikan Gekijou no Kiseki ~" on 16 January. When he left the venue at 7.30pm, he was dressed entirely in black and did not respond to questions about the saga from the media who had gathered while heading towards the car that was waiting for him outside.
Source: Yomiuri Hochi

- Nakai Masahiro appeared in his radio show "Nakai Masahiro no Some girl SMAP" via Nippon Housou on 16 January. According to insiders, this particular episode was recorded at the end of December which was before news of SMAP's possible broke this month.
The theme of the show was "kindness" where Nakai commented that he had been thinking what exactly kindness is and that he finds it impossible to show this in front of others because it feels fake. For example, during a meal, he can't do something like take plates for his fellow members and pass them along. He would be able to do it out of courtesy if he's with a senior but when it comes to his peers, he won't be able to do it. However, if it's a one-to-one situation, he will be able to do such a thing for someone. He also finds it a stressful thing to be on the receiving end of superficial kindness from others. Although he emphasized that this is probably due to his character, he denied that disliking people who are good at interpersonal relationships and there was no reference to anyone in particular with regard to his remark.
In the segment where he answered questions from the listeners, Nakai was asked if he had confidence in himself but he replied No. Although he was not confident about his speaking skills and dancing, he didn't care how people thought of him so it doesn't bother him so much.
During the show, he also played SMAP's latest single "Otherside"released last September twice.
Nakai ended the show by hoping for a year when he can work hard but without being too hurried.
Sources: Sanspo 1 / Sanspo 2 / Yomiuri Hochi 1 / Yomiuri Hochi 2

- Katori Shingo appeared on a number of TBS programmes on 16 January to promote his new drama "Kazoku no Katachi".
In the interview programme "Sawako no Asa", Katori mentioned that the first three years since SMAP made their debut in 1988 was especially tough because none of their 12 singles released during this period made it to the Oricon weekly single No.1 position. In addition, during their concerts, the number of fans was so few that they were really discouraged then. Considering that the group before their debut i.e. Hikaru GENJI was so popular, SMAP had initially thought that they would be off to a flourishing start like their direct seniors. When asked by the host Agawa Sawako if the group was in danger of being disbanded during those three years, Katori joked that if he had been part of the management then, he would probably make the group disband since they were so unprofitable.
Since Katori joined the agency at the age of 10, he has spent more time with his members than his family. Reflecting on the 28 years he has spent as a SMAP member, he said that the tough start in their careers was a struggle because they were scolded before by people in the agency for being so unpopular. As to why they probably did not make it big in the beginning, Katori jokingly attributed it to the fact that the group had not received any singing lessons before their debut.
Their subsequent move to variety programmes was a key factor in their later success. However, the idea of wearing wigs and skirts and everyone having to behave in such an exaggerated manner for the shows was very unsettling for them. While coping with self doubt and the urgency to overcome their tough circumstances, they started to become more popular. To date, this sense of crisis is still very much felt by them so they don't get complacent just because they became more profitable than before.
Katori admits to having few friends within the entertainment circle and doesn't like to tell other people his contact details but likes writing letters and sending them to people. As for his most memorable experience to date, he cites the time when Michael Jackson appeared on SMAPxSMAP and each member got to take a signed photo with him. To date, Katori still displays this photo in his home.
Towards the end of the show, Katori was asked about Nakai and he commented that the latter is a very kind person who is considerate of everyone around him until the point when the latter himself falls sick at times.
In another programme "Ousama no Brunch", Katori appeared in the "live" show to talk about the drama but did not mention anything about the saga. When asked by the host Tanihara Shosuke about his feelings now, Katori said that he was excited about the start of his drama and revealed that while filming this drama, he started to think more about the meaning of marriage. After his appearance on the show, Katori returned to the set for his drama's filming.
Source: Sanspo / Yomiuri Hochi 1 / Yomiuri Hochi 2

- SMAP members are expected to meet up for the first time on 20 January for the filming of "SMAPxSMAP". The last time they met was on 11 January when they appeared as guests on NHK's "NHK Nodo Jiman Champion Taikai 2016". FujiTV said that they are in preparations for the filming to take place as scheduled but the final confirmation hasn't been made yet.
It is said that the key to the group's reconciliation lies with Kimura who had decided right from the start to stay while his fellow members wanted to leave. However, Kimura intends to step in between both sides in a bid to resolve this issue amicably. As such, the group's meeting on the 20th is said to be a key factor to deciding the course of the negotiation going forward.
The recording for the 18 January episode of "SMAPxSMAP" was already completed so if the TV station decides to use pre-recorded content for the upcoming 25 January episode, the group might not meet up on the 20th as planned. This is because Iijima has been uncontactable since the news broke on the 13th. Due to the fact that she is the person to make the final decision on the content of the programme, this may cause problems in subsequent episodes of the programme. For now, the TV station will just proceed based on what has been decided so far.
Source: Yomiuri Hochi

- The bigwigs of showbiz have spoken on the issue as some of them reveal that they already knew of the problem months ago.
Downtown's Matsumoto Hitoshi who is a close friend of Nakai, talked about the issue in the FujiTV programme "Wide na Show" on 17 January. He revealed that he had met Nakai the previous day for drinks when the latter called him during a drinking session. Matsumoto told Nakai that they should not head for a breakup. If it had been that the entire group leaves the agency to start afresh elsewhere, that would still be OK but they should aim not to go their separate ways and remain together in the agency. Matsumoto also commented that Nakai values SMAP more than anything else thus the latter wouldn't want to do anything to hurt the group. Since last year, there have been rumours about SMAP. Even though the issue does not concern him directly, Matsumoto revealed that he feels saddened at the notion of SMAP breaking up.
Source: Nikkansports / Sanspo

- Akashiya Sanma who is on close terms with SMAP especially Kimura, said in the Osaka MBS radio show "Young Town Doyoubi" on 16 January that he had known about the saga about 2 months before the news broke. It was then when he and SMAP was recording the NTV Christmas SP for "Sanma & SMAP Bijo to Yaju no Christmas"which they had been doing since 1995 that he realised that the atmosphere between the members was not right. He noticed that it was difficult to get them to interact well and the content of the programme seemed to have been adjusted so as not to make this too apparent so Sanma wondered if the producers already knew of the problem then. After the end of the filming, Sanma said "see you next year" but Kimura had replied that he wasn't sure if there would a next year which made Sanma quite alarmed. As such, Sanma was secretly wondering if there might be a surprise announcement from the group during the Kouhaku. Later on, when they did the recording for FujiTV's "Santaku", it was the same situation so Sanma tried to be more considerate of the members' feelings during the filming despite the members hardly ever interacting as usual.
With regard to the issue, Sanma said that both sides had their own reasons and it was difficult to say who is right or wrong. He recounted having bumped into Mary at an Italian restaurant at the end of last year where she just settled the bill for him quietly and revealed that he had known Johnny-san for a long time so his relationship with the agency goes a long way back. However, he cannot take sides in this case since he believes that both sides have their own valid arguments.

Source: Sanspo / Yomiuri Hochi

- Kimura is said to have called each of his SMAP members personally and confirmed that they want to continue staying in the agency before he called Mary about it. This is seen as a positive step in helping the group reconcile with the agency. Previously, it was observed that there was a rift between Kimura and the breakaway members because he had decided to stay instead of following Iijima. However, with the news of the impending breakup hogging the headlines from the 13th, the four members started to have a change of mind. Especially for Nakai who was initially still insistent about leaving, he was convinced to think otherwise after hearing views from fans and discussing with showbiz bigwigs. Kimura also called Johnny-san on the 15th to ask if they could allow some plans to be made for the group which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
At the same time, Iijima may leave the agency earlier than expected in a bid to take responsibility for the saga. She is said to be leaving at the end of this month instead of mid February.
Source: Nikkansports / Sponichi

- It seems that there were initially plans made for SMAP's 25th anniversary since there was a 5-domes concert tour scheduled to take place from the end of August to November. However, due to the saga, the booking for the domes was cancelled in the middle of December. Under normal circumstances, booking of the domes for the concerts are to be done at least a year in advance. It was believed that the four breakaway members made their decisions known in November while Kimura expressed his wish to stay in December thus resulting in the cancellation last month.
According to event management insiders, it will be difficult to restore the bookings once they have been cancelled because there is usually a waiting list for other events to take up the free slots. However, there is still a likelihood of last-minute cancellations during the baseball climax series from October where baseball teams may open up their respective domes as late as two weeks before the dates.
Source: Sanspo

- During the press conference on 10 November last year where SMAP was named as a supporter of the Paralympics Support Centre, it was observed that Kimura seemed to be angry for no reason as he stood at the far left away from his members. As the press conference was attended by a lot of sports reporters who are not so familiar with entertainment-related press conferences, they were puzzled by Kimura's behaviour and thought that he was putting on airs. However, with the revelation of the impending breakup, it was believed that the rift between Kimura and his fellow members had already appeared as early as in November.
The Paralympics Support Centre aims to attract many people to support the athletes as per what happened during the 2012 London Olympics where spectators gathered even for events that did not feature British athletes. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, although a similar situation appeared, it was believed that the spectators did not come out of their own accord but rather due to the mobilisation by the central government. As such, it is hoped that with SMAP being the promotional supporters, it will create more awareness and hype for the Paralympic Games and in turn, attract more spectators to support the athletes. Despite the fact that SMAP did not actually sign a contract with the Support Centre and was taking on the role as a volunteer, they might not be able to continue being the supporters if the group does indeed break up.
Source: Sponichi

- Kimura was said to have met up with Fujishima Julie, the vice president and niece of Johnny-san, in Kyoto yesterday in a bid to discuss how to keep the remaining SMAP members in the agency. Kimura had been in Kyoto for the filming of his movie "Mugen no Junin" and yesterday marked the day when he was finally done with it. As such, there was a wrap-up party held at 5.30pm which he attended till 8.30pm and headed back to Tokyo via the Shinkansen at 9pm where about 50 fans had gathered at the platform to greet him.
It was said that Julie met Kimura in the afternoon but what they discussed was not known. Although it is not rare for a manager to be at a wrap-up event, for Julie to appear at Kimura's workplace was unheard of. The fact that Kimura had to rush back to Kyoto on the same evening also suggested that there was something he had to attend to quickly.
Source: Nikkansports

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