SMAP set to skip year-end ‘Kohaku’

by Daisuke Kikuchi

Staff Writer

NHK announced the lineup Thursday for the 67th edition of its annual “Kohaku” year-end music contest, but the country’s top boy band SMAP was not on the list.

The five-member group, comprised Masahiro Nakai, Takuya Kimura, Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Shingo Katori, announced in August that they will split up on Dec. 31, and many fans had anticipated their appearance in Kohaku on their final day as a band.

With their 2003 single “The Only Flower in the World” selling nearly 3 million copies, SMAP is considered one of the most successful boy bands in Asia.

Following the announcement, some disappointed fans posted to Twitter. While one user @PoTaTo_777SOUL said “I wanted SMAP to appear in Kohaku” on their final day, another user @gsamiazpy said: “Let’s hope they’ll come back with a perfect stage” performance.

Some reports, including an article in the Asahi Shimbun, said there is still a possibility that the group will appear in a special section, saying that NHK is still negotiating with the group’s agency Johnny & Associates.

However, last year’s installment earned the lowest ratings in the extravaganza’s 65-year history, according to TV audience researcher Video Research Ltd. Some netizens said NHK should not use SMAP as an easy way to gain viewers.

Meanwhile, other groups from SMAP’s agency made the list, including Arashi, Tokio, Kinki Kids, V6, Kanjani Eight and Sexy Zone. It is the first appearance for Kinki Kids.

It was also announced that Arashi member Masaki Aiba will be one of the main presenters on the program, along with actress Kasumi Arimura.

It will also be the first appearance for pop singer Hikaru Utada, whose September album “Fantome” peaked at No. 3 in the U.S. iTunes album chart.

Singer Akiko Wada had also been expected to perform for the 40th time, but her name was not on the list.

Other notable acts include rock bands X Japan, The Yellow Monkey and Sekai no Owari, as well as pop acts including Puffy, Perfume and AKB48.

“Kohaku Uta Gassen” (“Red and White Song Battle”) is one of the nation’s most popular shows on New Year’s Eve.

The contest pits a men’s team and a women’s team against each other with the studio audience and viewers at home picking a favorite.