Ex-SMAP members embark on new journey

The Yomiuri Shimbun

From left, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Goro Inagaki, and Shingo Katori

By Emi Yamada / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterThree of the former members of the now-disbanded male pop group SMAP have been expanding their activities by focusing on their official fan site “Atarashiichizu” (A new map).

Goro Inagaki, 44, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, 43, and Shingo Katori, 41, are now involved in various activities such as appearing in live online programs and a new movie, while also posting on social media.

During a recent interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun, the trio said they had wanted to do a movie as their first project.

Released in April, “Kuso Yaro to Utsukushiki Sekai” (The Bastard and the Beautiful World) is a movie that consists of four short stories, with Inagaki, Kusanagi and Katori each starring in one of the stories. The final links to the other three episodes.

The movie ran for only two weeks but drew 280,000 viewers. It has been decided that a sequel will be produced to make the film into a series. “The film gave us confidence and paved the way for the next one,” Inagaki said.

Since their CD debut in 1991, SMAP released many hit songs, such as “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” (The one and only flower in the world), that were popular across a wide range of the audiences.

A possible breakup of the five-member group was reported in January 2016, and the unit eventually disbanded in December that year. In September 2017, Inagaki, Kusanagi and Katori left Johnny & Associates, the management agent to which they had belonged to for about 30 years. Before launching the “Atarashiichizu” website from scratch, they had many twists and turns.

“Around a year ago, it was impossible for us to think we’d be able to work like this,” Kusanagi recalled. “We made a big decision to move forward.”

Inagaki also looked back on the days when they thought about what to do, saying, “We were determined to keep going, even though we have no weapons or armor.”  

Despite their strong concerns, the three launched “Atarashiichizu” about seven months ago under the concepts of “Go beyond borders” and “Let’s be sociable,” through which they have made connections with various creators.

“The past seven months, during which we were helped by many people, have passed so quickly and been very intense,” Katori said. “Now, I really feel deep down that we’re doing entertainment and I also feel like it’s easier to breathe. It’s good for us to have taken the courage to jump into a new world.”

As one of their new challenges, the three began using social media, posting on Twitter, Instagram and other sites.

Katori said he used to be scared of social media because it was an unfamiliar area. But now he has found that it’s a “place with love.”

“I rarely exchanged contact information with anyone,” he added. “But now I read messages from thousands of people around the world and casually reply to them on Twitter. It might be strange, but I’m really enjoying this communication.”

Over the past two years, Inagaki, Kusanagi and Katori said they have realized again the warmth of their fans, who carried out a signature-collecting campaign calling for SMAP to continue their activities and helped the group’s best-of album sell over a million copies.

Kusanagi said he “strongly felt the thoughts and actions of our fans throughout the country.”

Inagaki said that if SMAP disbanding caused fans to feel like they had lost something, “We’d like to make up the loss and continue to have a good relationship [with them] in the future as well.”

The trio are also interested in contributing to society, with Katori saying, “While our style has changed, we’d like to give back what we’ve received for many years.” This prompted them to sing “Ame Agari no Step” (A step after the rain) as a charity song to support sports for the disabled.

“We don’t always have the same ideas, but we’re moving forward with the same ‘map’ in our minds,” Kusanagi said. “The map has been completely blank, but we hope to make it into a large one by writing down many places.”Speech

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