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Television personality Masahiro Nakai made an appearance as a “surprise guest” on the March 10 installment of Nippon TV’s law-related variety show, “Gyoretsu no Dekiru Horitsu Sodanjo” (“Line-up Law Office”). Earlier, guest Koji Kato had related an anecdote featuring Shingo Katori, Nakai’s former associate in the idol group SMAP, which disbanded in 2016. Nakai liked the story, referring to Katori affectionately as “Shingo-chan.”

It was hardly a big deal but, according to the online news blog Cyzo Woman, the exchange shocked a number of media people. SMAP called it quits when three of its five members, including Katori, decided to leave the company that created them, Johnny & Associates, one of Japan’s most powerful talent agencies. Nakai remained. Industry practice says that when someone quits an agency for any reason, they are informally blackballed by media entities, which means their name shouldn’t be mentioned on the air.

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