Originally written: November 2011
"SMAP": Sports Music Assemble People
Country of Origin: Japan
Agency: Johnnys Jimusho
Label: Victor Entertainment (1991 – present)
Current Members: Nakai Masahiro, Kimura Takuya, Inagaki Goro, Kusanagi Tsuyoshi, and Katori Shingo
Former Member: Mori Katsuyuki
Years Active: 1988 – present
CD Debut: September 9, 1991
Official Website: http://www.johnnys-net.jp/j/artists/smap/
Japanese Wikipedia page: http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMAP
They debuted during a time when idols were no longer of interest to the Japanese people. Now, after years of working, they are ranked as the top idol group of all time; the “monsters” that changed the landscape of the Japanese idol and entertainment industry.
Once considered a failure by their agency, they are now the only Johnnys group to have a single ranked in the “All Time Best Singles Chart in Japan”; a single called “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana”.
Their debut event is legendary because of the typhoon and heavy rains that hit that day, and their debut live performance was abruptly halted because of technical problems. Since then, they have lost a member, been through scares, scandals, and even a shotgun marriage, but through it all, they have remained united as a group and they have persevered.
With 23 years in the industry under their belt, since the group’s formation and including the years before they made their official debut, they are to date the longest-running active idol group in history.
Local media have called them “the super group”, “super idols”, “top idols”, or “top stars”.
However, perhaps most frequently used is the title of “national idol group”.
A title given to them – SMAP.
MEETING SMAP: FROM SKATER BOYS TO THE SEXY SIX
Johnnys Jimusho, also known as Johnnys and Associates or just simply “Johnnys”, is an idol/talent agency formed by Johnny Kitagawa. This idol behemoth has dominated the industry for many years since it was established in 1962. During the 70s and 80s, it churned out many popular groups with record-breaking achievements, such as Shounentai, Four Leaves, Ninja, and Tanokin Trio.
The agency recruits young boys through strict audition sessions before taking them under its wing and giving them the training they need to become full-fledged idols. These pre-debut juniors usually perform as back dancers in live performances of debuted groups in order to gain experience. For Hikaru Genji, 12 juniors had been chosen as their back dancers. These juniors were known as the Skater Boys.
In April 1988, six boys were picked out to be part of the Skater Boys: Nakai Masahiro (15), Kimura Takuya (15), Inagaki Goro (14), Mori Katsuyuki (14), Kusanagi Tsuyoshi (13), and Katori Shingo (11), and called together by their agency president, Johnny Kitagawa. He christened the group and gave them the name of “Sports Music Assemble People,” otherwise known as SMAP. Before their CD debut, SMAP spent three years working within the ranks of the Johnnys Juniors, and during that period, they participated in idol programs, dramas, stage plays, and many other projects to ensure their name and popularity as idols.
Their hard work paid off when finally, on January 1, 1991, they were given the chance to hold their first concert in Nippon Budoukan. On September 9 that same year, they also had their CD debut by releasing their first ever single “Can’t Stop!! – LOVING –“. With their debut, SMAP were also awarded the Golden Arrow Best Newcomer to Broadcasting Award in March 1992.
However, fate was about to deal them a cruel hand, and it seemed like their career would die before it had even begun.
Even as SMAP was celebrating their debut, the idol industry was falling apart, and they were heading straight into an era that would be known as “The Idol Ice Age (Aidoru Hyougaki)." This period saw the decline in mainstream music programs which were the usual platforms that previous idols had relied on to promote themselves and gain a foothold in the entertainment industry. It seemed like everything was against SMAP, even the weather; their debut event was a near disaster when a typhoon struck and drenched everyone at the outdoor event in torrents of rain. The sound systems and microphones were also damaged. Their press conference was equally horrible with the reporters giving them the cold shoulder and they were not asked a single question during the conference. Their first concert in a major venue was a shocking experience for the members - the entire stadium where they performed was nearly empty. The grandstand was completely empty and the arena was only half full. Perhaps the only highlight during those dark years, was the opportunity SMAP were given to perform for the first time on the stage of the prestigious NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen.
But, SMAP were not about to give up so easily. Realizing that they needed to be different, that they needed an extra boost, SMAP changed their course and set their sights on spreading their wings through other ways, such as participating in variety programs.
From the very beginning, it was an uphill struggle. But in April 1992 (about half a year after their debut), they were chosen to become regulars on the television program “Yume ga MORIMORI”, which succeeded “Yume de Aetara,” a program on “Panasonic Waku”, an alias for Fuji Television. The show was exceptional, standing out in stark contrast to the usual idol programs, and by accepting and performing serious and original skits, SMAP was beginning to possess a degree of familiarity and popularity. They were beginning to stand out from what people expected of usual idol groups. As well-known movie and drama director Isamu Nakae, who first met SMAP some 20 years ago, noted, “Frankly, my first impression of them was, ‘They are not very idol-like’.”
To further build the name of SMAP, the group’s leader Nakai requested that SMAP be allowed to host a variety show that would showcase the unique personalities of each member, which was the group’s biggest strength. This variety program was called “Ai Rabu SMAP." The following year, the group hit gold when Kimura was thrust into the spotlight with his role of the shy but endearing Osamu Toride from the hit drama “Asunaro Hakusho.” This shoved SMAP firmly into the hearts and mind of the public.
Things were looking up, and in the year 1994, SMAP’s 12th single “Hey Hey Ookini Maido Ari” ranked in at Number 1 on the Oricon Charts. This would be their first single to top the charts.
In 1995, they were given the honor of being the main personalities in the 24 Hour Television “Love Will Save the World” program along with Hisamoto Masami.
In 1996, SMAP became the first idol group in the history of Japan to independently host their own variety show, a popular program known as “SMAPxSMAP." The format of the show was refreshing and new, and it showcased how diverse and multi-talented the SMAP members were, from being pitted against each other in cooking battles in the renowned “Bistro SMAP” corner to entertaining audiences with hilarious original skits and parodies of the latest trends, and performing in musical collaborations with top artists and musicians in the entertainment industry. This caught the attention of experienced industry people, who were beginning to take notice of this “idol group that does everything." SMAP stunned everyone with their exceptional sense for comedy. Professional comedians were taken aback by Kimura’s Furuhata parody; it came as a shock that such a good-looking idol could perform a comedic skit of such quality. SMAP became known as the first idol group that could rival professional comedians in the quality of the comedy skits they did. They were so good at it that even the head of Yoshimoto, a famous management company for comedians, was said to have been troubled after watching the first episode of “SMAPxSMAP,” because he was afraid that comedians would lose their place in the industry. Scriptwriter Osamu Suzuki, who is now a staff member on the show, commented, “For idols to be able to achieve such success with a variety show in a golden time slot, it became a monument in TV history. As their power got bigger and changed, they exploded into hot commodities.”
Since then, both as a group and as solo artists, SMAP began participating in dramas, variety programs, concerts, and commercials. With their experiences, SMAP was different from their idol predecessors; they took risks and those risks paid off. They are, in many ways, the pioneer of the type of male idol groups that we are familiar with today.
THE NEW SMAP
Just when everything seemed to be going their way, SMAP hit a snag in their path. In 1996, SMAP member Mori Katsuyuki shocked fans by announcing his retirement from the group. He would then go on to pursue his childhood dream of becoming an auto-racer (when he retired from SMAP, Mori was 22 years old. The maximum age limit for entering the auto-racing academy was 23 years old).
This left SMAP as a group of five.
However, SMAP were determined to go on as a group, and it seemed like nothing was going to slow them down. Only a few months after Mori’s retirement, the group topped the Oricon Charts with their 23rd single “SHAKE”, which would go on to become their fourth best-selling single of all time. That same year, Kimura landed the starring role of Hidetoshi Sena in the Fuji TV Getsuku drama “Long Vacation”, a huge hit which garnered an average rating of 29.1%. In 1997, Nakai was chosen as the host for the White Team in the NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen that year, becoming the youngest host in the program’s history.
In 1998, SMAP broke the million mark for the first time with the release of their 27th single “Yozora no Mukou”. In 2000, their 32nd single “Lion Heart” topped the Oricon Charts and went on to become their second hit million seller. That same year, Katori’s solo single entitled “Shingo Mama no Oha Rock”, which he released under his persona Shingo Mama, also broke the million selling mark.
NOT ALL SMOOTH SAILING
Then, fans were shocked for the second time in SMAP history when Kimura announced at a press conference on November 23, 2000, that he would be getting married to fellow celebrity and idol Kudou Shizuka, and that she was already with child.
The following year, on August 24, 2001, Inagaki was arrested in a traffic altercation. However, because there was no foul play involved and because Inagaki was judged to have no intention of fleeing arrest, the enforcement of his arrest charges was deferred. In the following month, Inagaki held a press conference to make a public apology.
That same year, on September 9, the group celebrated their 10th year anniversary. With Inagaki’s suspension, it would be a bittersweet event celebrated by fans and only four members. However, SMAP once again proved their group unity by promising fans that they would bounce back from this stronger than ever. “SMAP will definitely make a return with 5 members (SMAP wa 5 nin de kanarazu modotte kuru)” – this was what they appealed. They further demonstrated their seriousness on the matter by refusing, for the first time in their career, to perform at that year’s Kouhaku Uta Gassen because Inagaki could not perform with them and they were not complete as a group. Their struggle and patience paid off when on January 14, 2002, after five months of strict house arrest, Inagaki made a comeback in an emergency live broadcast of SMAPxSMAP. This broadcast recorded the highest rating in the history of the show with a rating of 34.2%.
From then onwards, it was truly smooth sailing. In the month of April that year, “Yozora no Mukou” was chosen to be inserted into the music textbooks for Year 2 and Year 3 Middle School students. Their “SMAP 02 Drink! SMAP! Tour!” achieved an attendance record of 1.15 million (115 man nin). It is the record for the largest audience attendance domestically.
In 2003, SMAP cemented their status in Japan idol history when their 35th single “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” broke the double million mark. That same song had been recorded as an insert song in the album “Drink! SMAP!” and was used as the theme song for Kusanagi’s drama “Boku no Ikiru Michi.” Coupled with the popularity of the drama, this song grabbed attention, and when it was released as a single cut, the CD became a humongous hit that sold over 2.5 million copies. At the 54th Kouhaku Uta Gassen, the group was selected, for the first time, to be the Ootori (the most prestigious final act). They were the first pop artist in 25 years to be selected for the position.
In 2004, because Katori acted in a taiga drama and the other members acted in renzoku dramas, the only time that their schedules allowed them to meet was on the days they filmed SMAPxSMAP. Their busy schedules prevented them from being active in group activities, and they didn’t have a tour. By the end of the year, SMAP ended up not releasing any single, and because of this, they declined the invitation to perform at 55th Kouhaku Uta Gassen. This was the second time they had declined an invitation to perform at the prestigious annual music program.
In contrast, the following year came with a flurry of group activities. In 2005, after two years of not having any tour, SMAP performed for the first time at the National Olympic Stadium in Tokyo, also known as the Koukuritsu Kasumigaoka Rikujou Kyogijou, as part of their concert tour which kicked off in Sapporo Dome. SMAP became the first artist ever to hold a concert at that stadium, and to date are one of only three artists in the history of Japan to hold a concert there (the other two artists are Dreams Come True and Arashi). In conjunction with the start of their tour, SMAP released their 37th single “BANG! BANG! Bakansu!” and their 16th studio album “SAMPLE BANG!." Both the single and the album topped their respective weekly Oricon Charts, making SMAP the first group with more than three members in 12 years to simultaneously top both the singles and albums charts after WANDS in 1993. That same year, the group was acknowledged by Oricon to have become the fourth group in the history of Japan to have had a total singles sale of over 20 billion copies.
SMAP continued to expand their influence beyond the boundaries of entertainment and pop culture. “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” was selected as the morning wake-up song to be used by NASA in space.
In 2007, it was also was selected as one of “100 songs that a child and parent can easily sing together” by Japan’s Agency of Cultural Affairs and the Parents and Teachers Association nationwide assembly.
In 2008, “Triangle”, their 38th single, was selected to be used in Japan’s high school music textbooks. The lyrics of “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” was also selected to be used in Japan’s high school English textbooks.
Then, after enjoying years of stable success, SMAP was once again shaken when Kusanagi was arrested after being caught running around naked in a public park in April 2009. All his activities, as a solo artist and as a member of SMAP, were cancelled and he was placed under strict house arrest. And, once again SMAP rose to the occasion, striving to keep their heads up and the group together as they waded through their member’s absence. For the second time, their strength and unity as a group proved true when they were finally able to reunite with Kusanagi in the filming of SMAPxSMAP more than one month after Kusanagi’s arrest.
The following year, 2010, saw a mixture of ups and downs for the group. SMAP had come out of their latest scandal stronger than ever, when their “2010 We Are SMAP Concert Tour” saw them going down in history as the first ever Japanese artist to break the 10-million mark of total concert audience attendance. They also released “THE SMAP MAGAZINE” and it topped the Oricon Yearly Charts under the category of ‘Talent Books’. However, their first ever overseas performance in Shanghai was forced to be cancelled when political unrest broke out between Japan and China.
WE ARE "SMAP"
2011 was a year of tragedy as one of the biggest earthquakes in human history rocked Japan, and as the country struggled to pick itself back up, SMAP was right there every step of the way. While the aftershocks still shook the ground, they reached out to their fans and offered encouragement through their message on J-Web, which was later repeated and reported in mainstream news.
They had also previously recorded a Chinese version of their hit song “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” and this version was to be sold through Avex China where all the proceeds from the sales went to the Japan earthquake relief fund. SMAP also sent messages to their fans through Music Station and Kimura updated the “WHAT’S UP SMAP!” Official Website with a message of encouragement and advice. Their need to reach out on behalf of their nation wasn’t confined to the borders of Japan, and they also appealed to and thanked other nations for their help through messages, like the one Nakata Hidetoshi read out during the Taiwanese charity program, “Believe and Hope, Fight&Smile."
Mere days after the actual earthquake, SMAP braved the chaotic circumstance and in a risky and courageous move resumed the broadcast of SMAPxSMAP with an emergency live broadcast on March 21. The objective of the broadcast was to comfort the people of their nation and to boost morale. The entire episode was set up to conserve electricity and energy, and SMAP also donated all their allowance fees for that episode to the earthquake relief fund. While it was not officially declared, the total donated amount was estimated to be 10 billion yen. The public reception of the broadcast was overwhelming in its strength. Within just 79 minutes, SMAP received over 10,000 e-mails and 3,000 fax messages from the audience responding and sharing their thoughts and experiences on the turmoil in Japan. Local media, TV producers and even sports athletes blogged and tweeted about the power and encouragement they had received from SMAP. Yamada Mihiko, an entertainment columnist, wrote: “With various meanings, once again, SMAP showed us their presence. When five of them line up, the power is really amazing…The program had struck deep in many people’s hearts.” Inoue Kouzou, an entertainment reporter also blogged: “Once again I felt that they are national idols. It’s important to give donations, but to give hope is important as well, which isn’t something that anyone can do.” This broadcast was then followed by the broadcast of “SMAP Ganbarimasu!!”, an annual SMAP show, where a large portion of it was dedicated to uncovering the situations of earthquake victims and earthquake relief aid people.
Privately, the group was also reported to have donated more than 400 million yen. During their down time and away from the eye of the camera, the members visited the affected areas, and these private visits left profound impressions on the locals, fans and non-fans, men and women, adults and children, who chanced to meet them. A man, who attended the private meeting with SMAP along with his four-year-old son wrote in his blog, “I was just happy. The national top idols were fulfilling their duty in these tough times. They came all the way out to the rural areas just to meet the elementary school children and their parents. Furthermore, they have made not only the children but also the parents happy…They are great guys. They really showed how much they think about and care about the victims of the earthquake. Their thoughts and care have gotten through to us.”
SMAP proved themselves to be a constant and consistent source of support amidst the tragedy. In an effort to help with the conservation of electricity and energy, SMAP’s latest single “not alone ~ Shiawase ni Narou yo ~” became the first ever fully digitally released single of the group. A portion of the sales proceeds from the song was also donated to the Japan earthquake relief fund. This was followed by the release of SMAP’s best album “SMAP AID.” Although it was meant to be an album celebrating SMAP’s 20th anniversary, it also doubled as a part of SMAP’s contribution to the Marching J project, a charity project organized by their agency to help earthquake victims – a portion of the sales proceeds was donated to the earthquake relief aid fund.
SMAP also physically participated in the Marching J project, and met with fans, publicly in fan meetings and privately to lend their support in various relief aid stations. They had weekly community announcements on SMAPxSMAP encouraging people to donate to the relief aid fund, long after every other program had stop airing these community announcements. From a suggestion spawned by Kimura's strong desire to further contribute to relief efforts, they also participated in the FNS 27 Hour Television where the members went out to earthquake affected areas and cooked for 2,000 people as part of a special Bistro SMAP segment. Moreover, SMAP became a key player, along with Softbank president Masayoshi Son and pro-baseball Softbank chair Sadaharu Ou, in being involved with key movements, all recognized as charitable organizations, with the aim of supporting children who have become victims of the earthquake.
With their smiles and encouragement, their genuine desire and extraordinary efforts in doing their part in helping to rebuild their nation, SMAP have truly won the hearts of the people.
Amidst their relief aid efforts, SMAP got the opportunity to personally meet up with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. They were also awarded the honour of being invited to hold a concert in China to mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Japan and China.
A NEW BEGINNING
On September 9, 2011, SMAP celebrated their 20th anniversary in a spectacular, memorable yet intimate event. Along with 10, 000 fans, they returned to their roots, the place where it all started: their debut stage at Seibuen Park. They sang hit songs, amongst them their debut single, “Can’t Stop!! – LOVING –“. They played games with fans, answered questions from fans, and discussed nostalgic moments in their journey together, such as Mori’s announcement of his retirement. And, they ended the event in true SMAP fashion; they surprised fans with a special unplanned handshake event. It took them 3 hours, but SMAP were there until the last fan had shaken hands with them.
On August 16, 2011, Kimura represented SMAP to attend their concert press conference in Beijing. It would be the first concert that SMAP held overseas. The interview gained a lot of international attention as it was streamed live over the Internet. This was only the start of the buzz that was beginning to build around the concert, a wave of attention that reached bursting point when SMAP set foot in Beijing on September 15, 2011. The welcome they had was spectacular as 300 screaming fans awaited them at the airport. They were then shipped off for interviews with the Chinese press, and were even presented with extravagant gifts – beautiful calligraphy pictures of their names – at a press conference held in the Great Hall of the People, a place that is usually closed off to most, and had previously welcomed important people, like the President of the United States Barack Obama. They even got the chance to meet, have a talk and shake hands with State Councillor Tang Jixuan, a former ambassador to Japan, who greeted each of them personally in Japanese.
The reason for the VIP treatment? Under the theme and banner of, “Do your best, Japan. Thank you, China. Asia is One”, SMAP’s Beijing concert would make a significant historical mark in rebuilding the fractured relationship between China and Japan. Their concert was of such political importance that it made headlines in media all around the world, including CNN and BBC. In Japan and China, the impact of their concert on the nation was actively discussed and political commentary ran abound. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said at a press briefing, “We hope these kinds of communications and exchanges will help improve national sentiment between China and Japan.” Back in Japan, Japanese Parliamentary Senior Vice Foreign Minister Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi echoed that sentiment as he expressed how thankful he was of SMAP’s popularity in China, which meant that the group could achieve what political diplomacy had failed to do.
Amidst all the hope and building expectations, SMAP was busy preparing for their concert. It was an event filled with challenges and trials. They changed certain steps in their choreography to suit the country’s social boundaries in order to ensure that there would not be a repeat of the conflict caused by a Japanese concert in the past. Preparations also didn’t go smoothly as it stormed on them, which forced them to cancel rehearsals and it delayed the overall process. However, it was all worth it when the curtains were raised on September 16, 2011, and the concert began. It was held at the Beijing Workers Stadium, one of the biggest stadiums in Beijing, and SMAP performed for an audience of 40, 000 fans.
Following their first overseas concert, which was a huge success, SMAP would mark another first in their career as they were chosen to be featured in NHK’s “Professional ~ Shigoto no Ryuugi ~”, a documentary which takes a closer and more intimate look at professionals in various industries. With over 160 episodes, the popular series has been on air since 2004, and SMAP would become the first ever idol group to be featured in an episode. With a rating of 13.7%, the SMAP Special would also go on to become the highest rated episode in the show’s history.
Through ups and downs and loop-the-loops, SMAP’s journey to the top has been an incredible one. However, the journey has yet to come to an end.
THE SMAP CALENDAR HIGHLIGHTS
1988, April – Nakai Masahiro (16), Kimura Takuya (16), Inagaki Goro (15), Mori Katsuyuki (15), Kusanagi Tsuyoshi (14), and Katori Shingo (11) were chosen to be members of the group named “Sports Music Assemble People” aka “SMAP”.
1991, September 9 – They debuted with the single “Can’t Stop!! - LOVING - “
1991, December 31 – The 42nd NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen. SMAP performed for the first time at the NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen.
1992, March 18 – SMAP was awarded the Golden Arrow Best Newcomer to Broadcasting Award.
1992, April (half a year after their debut) – They were chosen to become regulars on the variety program “Yume ga MORIMORI”.
1994, March 12 – The release of “Hey Hey Ookini Maido Ari”, which is SMAP’s 12th single. This was the first time that SMAP’s single ever ranked in at Number 1 on the Weekly Oricon Charts.
1995, January 20 – SMAP dedicated a message of support and a special performance of their song “Ganbarimashou” to the victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake during an episode of Music Station. They had initially intended to perform a different song, but changed their plans at the last minute to suit the needs of the people during that time of chaos and disaster.
1995, August 26 and 27 – SMAP, along with Hisamoto Masami, was selected as the main personality of the “FNS 24 Hour Television ‘Love Saves the Earth’” program. That year, the program managed to raise 1, 056, 798, 341 yen.
1996, April 15 – The first episode of SMAPxSMAP was aired. With this variety show, SMAP would become the first ever idol group/idol in history to fully and independently host their own variety show.
1996, May 27 – Mori officially announced his retirement from the group during a special ending song performance on SMAPxSMAP. He would then go on to pursue his childhood dream of auto racing.
1996, June 24 – The episode of SMAPxSMAP that aired on this date achieved a rating of 29.5% and ranked in at Number 24 in the “Top 30 Highest Rated Television Episodes of 1996”.
1997, September 15 – The 69-minute special episode of SMAPxSMAP that aired on this date achieved a rating of 29.4% and ranked in at Number 14 in the “Top 30 Highest Rated Television Episodes of 1997”.
1998, January 14 – The release of “Yozora no Mukou”, which is SMAP’s 27th single. This is SMAP’s first single to break the million mark, selling over 1.57 million copies.
1998, April 4 to June 29 – SMAP’s “Taisetsu” was used as the theme song for “Brothers”, which is a Fuji Television’s Getsuku drama starring Nakai Masahiro. SMAP became the first Johnnys group to sing the theme song for a drama in the Fuji Television’s prestigious Getsuku (Monday, 21:00) drama time slot.
1999, January 3 – The drama special “Furuhata Ninzaburou vs SMAP” was aired. All five members of SMAP acted as criminals in the drama and including this special, Kimura Takuya was the only actor who appeared twice in the Furuhata Ninzaburou series. The special achieved a rating of 32.3% and ranked in at Number 4 in the “Top 30 Highest Rated Television Episodes of 1999."
1999, July 12 – The episode of SMAPxSMAP that aired on this date achieved a rating of 33.5% and ranked in at Number 3 in the “Top 30 Highest Rated Television Episodes of 1999."
2000, August 30 – The release of “Lion Heart”, which is SMAP’s 32nd single. This is SMAP’s second single to break the million mark, selling over 1.28 million copies.
2000, November 23 – Kimura officially announced his marriage to Kudou Shizuka in a press conference. He also announced that Kudou Shizuka was pregnant.
2000, November 27 – The episode of SMAPxSMAP that aired on this date achieved a rating of 30.0% and ranked in at Number 16 in the “Top 30 Highest Rated Television Episodes of 2000."
2001, March 19 – The episode of SMAPxSMAP that aired on this date achieved a rating of 29.6% and ranked in at Number 8 in the “Top 30 Highest Rated Television Episodes of 2001."
2001, August 24 – SMAP faced their first scandal as a group when Inagaki was arrested. In a traffic accident, he had injured a police officer. However, because there was no sign of him resisting arrest, his sentence was deferred, and he was placed under strict house arrest.
2001, September 9 – SMAP celebrated their 10th year anniversary during their nationwide concert tour “Live pamS." However, only four members were present at the celebration.
2001, December 31 – The 52nd NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen. This was the first time that SMAP declined an invitation to perform at the NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen. They didn’t accept the invitation because they didn’t want to perform with only four members.
2002, January 14 – After 5 months of strict house arrest, Inagaki made a comeback on an emergency live broadcast of SMAPxSMAP. This episode recorded the highest rating in the show’s history at a rating of 34.2%. This episode also ranked in at Number 19 in the “Top 30 Highest Rated Television Episodes of 2002."
2002, April – SMAP’s “Yozora no Mukou” started to be used in the music textbooks for Year 2 and Year 3 Middle School Japanese students.
2003, March 5 – The release of “Sekai ni Hitotsu dake no Hana”, which is SMAP’s 35th single. It was originally released as a song in the album “SMAP 015 / Dink! SMAP!”. When it was re-released as a single, the single version broke the 2 million mark, selling over 2.57 million copies. Until today, it ranks in at Number 9 on the “Oricon Charts All-Time Best Selling Singles in Japan."
2003, December 31 – The 54th NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen. SMAP was selected, for the first time, to be the Ootori (which is the most prestigious final act). They were the first pop artist in 25 years to be selected as the Ootori. Their performance achieved a rating of 57.1%, which was also the highest performance rating for that year’s NHK Kouhaku Utagassen.
2004, December 1 – The 69-minute episode of SMAPxSMAP that aired on this date achieved a rating of 26.9% and ranked in at Number 24 in the “Top 30 Highest Rated Television Episodes of 2004."
2004, December 31 – The 55th NHK Kouhaku Utagassen. This was the second time that SMAP declined an invitation to perform at the NHK Kouhaku Utagassen. Due to their busy schedules and numerous solo activities, they had not released any singles that year; therefore, they decided that it would not be appropriate for them to perform at the NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen.
2005, July 27 – The simultaneous release of “BANG! BANG! Bakansu”, which is SMAP’s 37th single, and “SAMPLE BANG!”, which is SMAP’s 16th studio album. Both the single and the album topped their respective weekly Oricon Charts, which made SMAP the first artist in 12 years to simultaneously top both the single and album charts after WANDS in 1993.
2005, July 30 – SMAP had their first ever performance in the National Olympic Stadium in Tokyo also known as the Koukuritsu Kasumigaoka Rikujou Kyogijou. They became the first artist ever to hold a concert in that stadium, and to date, are only one of three artists ever to hold a concert in that venue.
2005, December 19 – Oricon announced that SMAP’s overall single sales totalled up to more than 20 billion copies. SMAP went down in the history of Japan as the fourth group to have ever achieved such a sales record.
2005, December 31 – The 56th NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen. SMAP was selected to be the Ootori for the second time. Their performance achieved a rating of 48.6%, which was also the highest performance rating for that year’s NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen.
2006, March 13 – The episode of SMAPxSMAP that aired on this date achieved a rating of 26.6% and ranked in at Number 24 in the “Top 30 Highest Rated Television Episodes of 2006."
2006, September 9 – SMAP’s 15th anniversary since their CD debut in 1991.
2006, December 31 – The 57th Kouhaku Uta Gassen. Although SMAP wasn’t the Ootori for that year (they were the 52nd performance out of 54 performances), their performance achieved a rating of 48.8%, which was the highest performance rating of that year.
2007, January 18 – SMAP’s “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” was selected as one of “100 songs that a child and parent can easily sing together” Japan’s Agency of Cultural Affairs and the Parents and Teachers Association nationwide assembly.
2007, December 31 – The 58th Kouhaku Uta Gassen. Although SMAP wasn’t the Ootori for that year (they were the 52nd performance out of 56 performances), their performance achieved a rating of 43.9%, which was the highest performance rating for that year’s NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen.
2008 – SMAP’s “Triangle”, which was their 38th single released in 2005, was selected to be used in Japan’s high school music textbooks. The lyrics of “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” was also selected to be used in Japan’s high school English textbooks.
2008, April – SMAP’s 20th anniversary since the formation of their group in 1988.
2009, April 23 – SMAP faced their second scandal as a group when Kusanagi was arrested for running around naked in a public park. All of his activities were cancelled and he was placed under strict house arrest.
2009, June 1 – The first time that all five SMAP members reunited to film SMAPxSMAP since Kusanagi’s house arrest.
2010, January 4 – SMAP had a 4.5 hours live broadcast of SMAPxSMAP. However, Katori was absent because of influenza.
2010, April 26 – The official announcement was made that SMAP would be one of the performers at the Shanghai World Expo. It was supposed to be their first overseas performance as a group. However, because of security concerns, their performance plans were cancelled.
2010, August 25 – The release of “THE SMAP MAGAZINE." After its release, it topped the Oricon Yearly Charts for the category of “Talent Books."
2010, September 15 – SMAP went down in history as the first Japanese artist to break the 10 billion total concert audience attendance mark.
2010, October 10 – Their second attempt at holding a concert in Shanghai was cancelled because of security concerns due to the political unrest between Japan and China.
2010, December 19 – The “Sanma & SMAP Beauty and the Beast Christmas Special” was aired on this date. This is an annual program featuring SMAP and veteran comedian Akashiya Sanma. This particular episode achieved a rating of 23.4% and ranked in at Number 27 in the “Top 30 Highest Rated Television Episodes of 2010."
2010, December 31 – The 61st NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen. SMAP was selected to be the Ootori for the third time. Their performance achieved a rating of 48.9%, which was also the highest performance rating for that year’s NHK Kouhaku Uta Gassen.
2011, March 21 – SMAPxSMAP renewed broadcast for the first time since the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami rocked the country. The episode was done as a 79-minute emergency live broadcast, a courageous but risky move during a time of such confusion and anxiety. The SMAP members supported and encouraged the people of their nation. The entire episode was set up to conserve the usage of electricity, and SMAP’s appearance fees for the episode were donated to Red Cross Japan in hopes of helping the victims of the earthquake and tsunami.
2011, April 25 – The digital release of the short version of SMAP’s "not alone ~ Shiawase ni Narou yo ~." It was also announced that the release of the song would be part of the charity effort to help Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami. For every copy sold, 100 yen would be donated to Red Cross Japan.
2011, May 4 – The release of the full version of SMAP’s "not alone ~ Shiawase ni Narou yo~." This single marked the first time that SMAP has released a fully digital single without a physical copy. The reason that they decided to do this was to conserve the electricity and fuel that was needed in order to produce and ship physical copies of the single in an effort to help with the conservation of energy in Japan.
2011, May 20 – SMAP met the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and sung an a cappella rendition of the Chinese version of "Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana." SMAP were also invited to hold a concert in China to mark the 40th anniversary of the normalisation of diplomatic ties between Japan and China.
2011, July 23 and 24 – Nakai was selected to be one of the main personalities of “FNS 27 Hour ‘– What A digital we are! –’” program along with Ninety-Nine member Okamura Takashi. The rest of SMAP also participated as they visited the earthquake affected areas of Kamaishi in the Iwate region (Kimura and Inagaki) and Nihonmatsushi in the Fukushima region (Kusanagi and Katori) as part of a special Bistro SMAP challenge where each team as to cook for 1000 people. They also got together as a group and performed a medley of their famous hits in a special “SMAP Digital Live”.
2011, August 17 – The release of “SMAP AID”, which is SMAP’s 5th Best Album after “pamS” in 2001. It doubled as a charity album that was part of the Marching J project, and 200 yen from every sale per copy was donated to the Japan earthquake relief aid fund. Fans were given the opportunity to vote for the songs they wanted to be included in the album.
2011, September 9 – SMAP celebrated their 20th anniversary in a special fan meeting event at their debut stage in Seibuen Park.
2011, September 15 – On the eve of their first overseas concert, SMAP had the opportunity to meet with State Councillor Tang Jixuan in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
2011, September 16 – SMAP held their first ever overseas concert in the Beijing Workers Stadium. They performed for an audience of 40, 000 fans.
2011, October 10 – NHK aired a special episode featuring SMAP on their “Professional ~ Shigoto no Ryuugi ~” documentary series. SMAP would be the first ever idol group to be featured on the popular documentary series. The SMAP special episode also recorded a rating of 13.7%, and it became the highest rated episode in the series’ history.
2011, November 12-13 – SMAP held a fan meeting in Tokyo Dome.
DID YOU KNOW?
1. At one point, Masayuki Sakamoto (currently the leader of V6) and Kokubun Taichi (currently a member of TOKIO) were included in the line-up of members for SMAP.
2. Even though SMAP, as a group, is senior to TOKIO (debuted in 1994) and V6 (debuted in 1995), Joshima Shigeru (the TOKIO member born in 1970) and Masayuki Sakamoto (the V6 member born in 1971) are older than Nakai Masahiro and Kimura Takuya. Hiroshi Nagano (the V6 member born in 1972) is also older than Kimura Takuya.
3. Nakai was the first member to enter the agency (March 1987) followed by Kusanagi (July 1987). Inagaki and Katori entered the agency at the same time (5 November 1987) while Kimura was the last to enter the agency (15 November 1987).
4. SMAP is the only idol group in the history of Johnnys Jimushou to have debuted at Number 2 on the Oricon Weekly Singles Chart. Every group before and after them debuted at Number 1.
5. Of the current five members, only Kimura and Kusanagi can do backflips.
6. SMAP is the second musical group of vocalists in the history of Japan to have a total album sale of over 10 million copies after Chage and Aska.
7. SMAP is the third group in the history of Japan to have a Number 1 album in 3 consecutive decades (1990s, 2000s and 2010s) after Southern All Stars and Chage and Aska.
8. SMAP members are colour coded. Kimura’s colour is red, Kusanagi’s colour is yellow and Katori’s colour is green. Nakai’s colour used to be blue and Inagaki’s colour used to be pink, but during Inagaki’s suspension, Nakai wore Inagaki’s colour to remind fans that Inagaki was still a member of the group. After Inagaki’s official return, their colours were permanently switched. Now, Nakai’s colour is pink while Inagaki’s colour is blue.
9. Nakai and Kimura are famously known as the 2TOP of SMAP because they are the two oldest in the group. While Nakai is the official leader of SMAP, Kimura is often considered to be the spiritual leader.
10. Kusanagi and Katori are best friends. They have been close to each other since the beginning when the four older members of SMAP were in high school while the two of them were stuck in middle school.
11. Michael Jackson’s appearance on SMAPxSMAP in 2006 marked the only appearance he ever made on any Japanese variety program.
12. Nakai once punched Inagaki because Inagaki refused to go on a rollercoaster in spite of it being part of a job. In the end, all the SMAP members went on the rollercoaster except Inagaki, who ended up doing the job from the ground.
13. SMAP once fought with a group of normal boys on television when the boys attacked them unfairly during a contest. A boy had pushed Kimura, and Mori high kicked him in defence of his group member.
14. SMAP once had a fight on the streets when a group of guys scratched the windows of their van with the rings on their fingers. It was the first time SMAP had ever been given a vehicle to move around on their own.
15. In their “La Festa” mini album, which was released in 1998, three out of five songs were written by the members themselves. “HA” was written by Kimura under the penname of “Takuya”, “Aro Hawaii” was written by Katori under the penname of Shingo and “Oira no Jinsei Nopporaboh~!” was written by Nakai under the penname N. Mappy. As N. Mappy, Nakai also wrote other SMAP songs, such as "FIVE RESPECT", "FIVE TRUE LOVE" and "CRAZY FIVE"; songs written for SMAP about SMAP.
16. SMAP has sung drama theme songs for all the members.
17. In the “CM Tarento Koukan Do Ranking”, which measures the favourability of the talents used in CMs in the eyes of the public, SMAP ranked in at first place for 9 consecutive years from 1997 – 2005.
18. On the Oricon Charts, it is known that SMAP has 3 million selling singles, which are “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana”, “Yozora no Mukou” and “Lion Heart”. However, according to the Planet Music Chart, “SHAKE” is also listed as a million seller.
19. In their entire career, SMAP has never had an international concert. Their performance in Beijing was their first performance overseas. Yet, they have fans all over the world.
20. They are the first Johnnys group to have a fully digital single. “not alone ~ Shiawase ni Narou yo ~” was not released as a physical CD.
This article was written as part of the SMAP 20th Anniversary Project. More articles like this (the discography of SMAP, the profiles of individual members and other such information) can be found at The SMAP Museum: http://smapxmuseum.webs.com/