Music

SMAP shuns NHK ‘Kohaku’ request, opts for signature variety show for band’s final appearance

Kyodo

SMAP, one of Japan’s most popular and longest-lived pop groups, has turned down a request from NHK to appear on the public broadcaster’s famous year-end music program as they opt for their signature variety show aired by a commercial broadcaster for their final appearance before breaking up, their agent said Friday.

SMAP has decided to make the final episode to be broadcast Monday of “SMAP X SMAP,” a show featuring SMAP singing, cooking and doing a comedy skit, their final appearance as the group.

In a letter addressed to the producers of “Kohaku Utagassen,” NHK’s annual music extravaganza and released the same day by talent agency Johnny & Associates Inc., the members expressed thanks for the request and said “each of us thought hard about how our last stage should be” before their Dec. 31 breakup.

“We came to the conclusion we would like to make ‘SMAP X SMAP’ our last stage because we have worked with its staff for the past 20 years and all five of us have appeared on it regularly,” said the letter dated Dec. 19.

However, the “last stage” is likely to be a taped one, as show business sources said the members will not appear live on the final episode of the variety show.

The names of SMAP and its five members — Masahiro Nakai, Takuya Kimura, Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Shingo Katori — were written at the end of the letter.

NHK’s public relations department commented that although NHK is disappointed by the decision, the broadcaster is grateful for SMAP having appeared on “Kohaku” 23 times in the past and added excitement to the show.

After Johnny & Associates unveiled in August that SMAP will part ways at the end of this year, NHK President Katsuto Momii said, “SMAP is huge. Naturally, I want them to appear” on the annual music extravaganza. He also said he was willing to personally negotiate with the band’s representatives to make it happen.