(P1) Rumours are RIFE in Japan that one of the country’s most well-known and long-lived pop groups, SMAP, might be ON THE VERGE OF a BREAK-UP.

(P2) Their TALENT AGENCY has said only that they are in NEGOTIATIONS over their future, but a split would be a huge shock for Japan.

(P3) SMAP – which stands for sport, music, assemble, people – formed in 1988 when its six original members were in their teens.

(P4) Now in their 40s – and minus one member – they have appeared in movies and soap operas, have dozens of advertising deals, and have become AMBASSADORS for Japan abroad.

(P5) Masahiro Nakai, Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Shingo Katori and Takuya Kimura have been a constant presence in the media landscape with Japanese fans calling them their idols.

(P6) They were the first boy band to not only have multiple hit songs but also to PARLAY that success into comedy and acting with a weekly VARIETY SHOW and numerous other appearances.

(P7) The group’s leader, Masahiro Nakai, has been the main newscaster in Japan for several Olympic games.

(P8) The most popular and internationally recognised member, Takuya Kimura, has been voted the sexiest man in Japan for 15 years in a row by one magazine.

(P9) Their popularity has even made them ambassadors between Japan, China and South Korea. In 2011, they were the first Japanese pop group to visit China in a decade. Their Beijing concert was attended by 40,000 people.

(P10) As with many pop groups, there has been SPECULATION before that SMAP could be about to split. One of its members, Katsuyuki Mori, left in 1996 – at the height of their popularity – to become a successful motorbike racer.

(P11) But the new rumours indicate there is politics at play at the talent agency that manages them, Johnny & Associates. Reports say SMAP’s manager, Michi Iijima, who MASTERMINDED their rise since the late 1980s, has FALLEN OUT WITH the agency and is leaving.

(P12) All but one of SMAP’s members are reported to be considering following her out of the company, which would almost certainly be the end of the group as we know it.

(P13) The agency has acknowledged the reports but only said: “It is a fact that negotiation and discussions are being held regarding the matter.”

(P14) On the other hand, they could be negotiating for more money in order to stay with the firm.

(P15) Although Korean pop (KPop) has now largely OVERTAKEN JPop in popularity, SMAP and others like it are seen as among the first to spark a boy band craze in Asia.

(P16) They had developed a huge fan base over their nearly three decades in the industry.

(P17) For people in their 30s and younger in Japan, who have grown up with this band, news of a split would be shocking.

(P18) But they also have many older fans, including women who would travel across Japan to all their concerts and give them expensive gifts, seeing them as the ideal sons.

(P19) Some have questioned SMAP’s singing and acting skills.

(P20) But love them or hate them, many continued to follow their careers.

WORDS: 519

SOURCE: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35299532


If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. Are there similar “boy bands” or “girl bands” that are popular in your country?
  3. Do child pop stars and actors in your country usually keep their success as adults?
  4. Do you think that contemporary society has a healthy or unhealthy attitude towards celebrities?
  5. Do you believe most of the news you hear about celebrities, or do you think that some of it is invented in order to attract attention?


What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.

  • On the verge of
  • Break-up
  • Talent agency
  • Variety show
  • Fall out with

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