I was composing a comment to zdorama’s rememberance of an old single by SMAP. A little while later, I had more of a rememberance of my own encounters with SMAP and J-pop in general, a decade-plus ago…
In the mid-90s I was becoming aware of SMAP as part of the whole J-pop pantheon. One of the older managers in the office, a woman from Japan named Setsuko, pushing 60, was a huge fan of Johnny’s Jimusho, especially Kimutaku and SMAP. I was still generalizing on the king of all Japanese boy groups and thought her fangirl attitude a silly thing (ignoring of course my own CoCo worship but that’s another story).
I’m not sure what triggered the notion in me that SMAP wasn’t worthy of ridicule (like say, the Backstreet Boys). Certainly all those “Music Station” retrospectives provided some sort of foundation. And it became clear that I’d have to learn some of those tunes for karaoke cause new material would be necessary for my co-workers from Japan.
One day I crossed Setsuko in the hallway and told her, out of the blue, hey some of those SMAP songs are actually GOOD. In fact, I SANG some of them. She gave me this wide-eyed look, almost full of surprise. “Of coooourse!” she replied, her tone not even trying to hide the obvious nature of my statement. I could have expressed to her my great surprise that the sun rose Koko Head side or that it didn’t snow in Hawaii — her reaction would have been the same.
Not too long after that we were hanging out at a karaoke bar in Waikiki (long since closed) after work and I sang some of those songs, albeit rusty and unsure. However Setsuko was impressed that I gave it the old college try and picked up the tab for the entire evening. Thank you, SMAP!