The Olympics have always been popular in Japan, and this year's games in Rio de Janeiro were no exception. While NHK was broadcasting the games in the early hours of Aug. 14, a breaking news message flashed across the screen: "SMAP to disband Dec. 31."
It wasn't a complete surprise. The five-member group made up of Masahiro Nakai, Takuya Kimura, Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Shingo Katori had reportedly considered a breakup earlier in the year, but were brought back from the brink of dissolution and marched out on television to apologize to fans for the confusion. Those same fans are currently holding their breath hoping something similar happens this time around, but things don't look good. The group released a greatest hits album, "SMAP 25 Years" on Dec. 21, and its flagship TV show, "SMAP×SMAP," is set to air its final episode on Dec. 26. And, according to an announcement by the group last week, SMAP will not appear on NHK's end-of-year TV music spectacle "Kohaku Uta Gassen."
Maybe it's a good thing. My non-Japanese friends have never really liked SMAP. My Japanese friends aren't big fans either, but I'll still hear "Sekai ni Hitotsu dake no Hana" at karaoke from time to time — a pretty good feat seeing as though most of the people I hang out with like punk. But that song, rendered in English as "The Only Flower in the World," was released in 2003 and is the country's third best-selling single of all time, with more than 3 million copies sold. It has been pretty much unavoidable and as such it can trigger some pretty heavy nostalgia.