SMAP in concert

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Ironically there was talk of SMAP breaking away from Johnny's until Inagaki Goro got himself arrested for turning a simple parking violation into an attempted hit and run in August 2001. The incident happened when Inagaki noticed a policewoman standing in front of his car, illegally parked in the youth culture center of Shibuya on a Friday night. Inagaki tried to drive away and hit the policewoman in the process. She was only slightly hurt but more serious damage had been done to Inagaki's career and SMAP's future. One immediate casualty was a 200 million yen drama series starring Inagaki that had been set to air just weeks later. As is the case when a TV star is arrested, all Inagaki's commercial tie-ins were also cancelled. Ratings for the popular SMAPxSMAP show hit an all-time low when the scheduled show was replaced with a rerun.

The same damage control process kicked in again more recently when Kusanagi Tsuyoshi was arrested for public indecency in April 2009. Residents near the Hinoki-cho Park in central Tokyo called police in the middle of the night saying a naked man was running round the park yelling incoherently. The man turned out to be Kusanagi, who resisted arrest and was taken away in handcuffs. The story shocked Japan, particularly as Kusanagi has an image as a quiet and polite type. as with Inagaki before, all his commercials and TV appearances were withdrawn and he dropped out of sight completely. In the end, the charges were dropped and Kusanagi was back at work within a month, saved by the combination of his nice guy image and the huge financial implications of canceling billions of Yen in contracts.

The group's management agency announced in August 2016 that they would be breaking up on the following New Year's Eve.

Kimura Takuya - often voted the sexiest man in Japan (not to mention Taiwan etc), Kimutaku has gained my grudging respect as an actor. He has undoubted charisma and screen presence, particularly compared to the standards set by most 'daikon yakusha' (ham actors) on TV. Fueled by his popularity, dramas like Beautiful Life, Long Vacation, Nemureru Mori (A Sleeping Forest) and Hero have topped the ratings. He received - and refused - a nomination for best actor at the 2006 Japan Academy Awards for his role as a blind samurai in Yamada Yoji's Bushi no Ichibun. His marriage to popular singer Kudo Shizuka became one of the biggest news stories of 2000 as did the birth of their daughter Kokomi the next year.

(By the way, a friend once met Kimura at a party and found him very friendly and talkative, more than could be said for the stunning model he was with at the time. I guess you can't always judge people by the company they keep.)

Katori Shingo - forever cast as the baby of SMAP, Shingo-kun has had one of the most varied careers of all the group members. From nude magazine photo shoots to a variety of cross-dressing TV roles - such as Shingo Mama and her million-selling single 'O-ha Rock' - he seems to be fighting any attempts to categorize him while at the same time sending a lot of ambiguous signals about his sexual orientation. He also starred in HR, Japan's first ever real sitcom, though still a pretty sad bit of television. One of his most successful TV stints is as the host of the SmaStation news/variety show on TV Asahi. It introduced several new ideas to local TV and used SMAP's considerable reach to even broadcast shows across competing networks. His high profile movie roles include "Saiyuki" and what is said to be the last ever adapatation of "Zatoichi," the famous blind swordsman. He was also named to star in the first ever Japanese production to appear on Broadway.

Nakai Masahiro - every group has a leader and Nakai-kun is SMAP's. It doesn't really mean anything except when someone has to be designated to stand up for the group. Nakai has acknowledged publicly that he can't sing and his talents clearly lie in the more general entertainment field. He regularly hosts variety shows and is one of TV's most visible Yomiuri Giants fans. He was an obvious choice to bring in a younger audience as a emcee on NHK's flagging New Year's Eve song spectacular Kohaku Uta Gassen. He first did the job in 1997 and 1998, and was called back again in 2006.

Kusanagi Tsuyoshi - With his skinny frame, drawn face and somewhat shy and awkward demeanor, Tsuyoshi-kun looks a little out of place in the lineup. He is also the Korean face of SMAP. Well, kind of. He has an alter ego character called Chonan Kan, which is the Korean reading of his name. With garish makeup and speaking a very respectable Hangul, he was something of a pioneer - a bridge between Korean and Japanese pop culture from the Japanese side. His arrest in April 2009 (see above) was the kind of scandal that would have ended a lesser career, but Kusanagi bounced back within a month. That more than anything else illustrates how much of a Golden Goose the members of SMAP are for the Japanese showbiz industry.

Inagaki Goro - Probably the least visible member these days, though whether that is connected to his arrest is debatable. Like Kimura, Goro-chan doesn't appear solo that often on the variety circuit and you're more likely to see him in a TV drama series. With his interests in movies and wine, he maintains the most "cultivated" image of the five members.

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