Atarashii Chizu, A Year Later

The Launch of Atarashii Chizu

On September 22, 2017, an ad appeared in the nation-wide Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun and in Tokyo Shimbun. It was a simple ad that spanned across two full pages. The focal point being a reversed compass rose and the Japanese for new map (atarashii chizu in Japanese) in the bottom right corner. In tiny, almost unreadable print was the URL for atarashiichizu.com and the names of three SMAP members: Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, and Shingo Katori.

Atarashii Chizu launch ad
Atarashii Chizu launch ad

Now, typically a print ad for a fan site isn’t really noteworthy news, but add in the context of the ad, the situation at the time, and what the ad is a response to… This ad attracted a lot of attention from not only SMAP fans but the entertainment and advertising industry.

The Significance

It’s hard to talk about the significance of the ad without discussing who SMAP are and the circumstances surrounding SMAP’s disbandment. This could go on for pages and pages, but considering most people reading this at least know who SMAP is, I’ll skip that part.

I will touch on the disbandment, as there are a number of new fans who discovered SMAP during this time. It’s a difficult subject to cover since there is no credible reporting and the speculation could go on forever. Instead, I’ll do my best to try to summarize the struggle fans went through.

2016 was supposed to be the year SMAP and SMAP fans celebrated the group’s 25th debut anniversary. That didn’t happen. Instead, SMAP’s life-long manager resigned and they started the process to leave with her. For whatever reason, they didn’t leave and fans watched as members were publicly humiliated on TV as punishment. It was stated they weren’t going to disband. However the year only got worse as fans watched as SMAP was slandered all over the media, all chances to even see SMAP live were taken away, no live performances… You get the picture.

So despite an official statement that SMAP would not disband, the atmosphere said otherwise. The flurry of activity from fans that followed showed fans did not believe SMAP would be SMAP much longer. Fans desperately tried to do anything they could think of to keep SMAP together.

Fans resorted to CD buying campaigns to show support, taking out ads in Tokyo Shimbun during member’s birthdays, sending postcards of support to TV shows and radio shows, started a petition gathering signatures to not disband, even contacting the Japanese consumer protection agency to go against SMAP’s company. Fans were doing anything they could think of to tell SMAP we support them and to please not disband.

It didn’t matter what fans wanted. The disbandment announcement came anyways. SMAP would be disbanded by December 31, 2016.

It wasn’t a surprise for many. The bigger surprise was that SMAP members were staying with the company that fans grew to hate. A company that fans felt disrespected SMAP and all those that cared for SMAP. A company that fans felt forced the disbandment of SMAP.

Fans could do nothing else. Fans had already sent letters and postcards of support, but there was still one thing left. Fans raised 39,925,936 yen for a black-and-white, 8-page ad in Asahi Shimbun.

8-page ad fans took out for SMAP in Asahi Shimbun

To SMAP who has always given us so much love and courage —
We strongly believe in the future.
From now on, let’s hold hands.
We will not let go.
We will be by your side from now on.
We Love SMAP Forever
Can’t Stop!! -LOVING-
Even though what we can do as individuals is minuscule,
we realized if we gathered together we become much stronger.
We hope these feelings reach you somehow.

The ad even closed with a call for aid for earthquake victims, repeating the SMAP call for aid that SMAP continued to make. Despite it being years after the earthquake disaster in eastern Japan, despite it slipping from the media and public minds, SMAP never forgot. Fans stated they’d continue to call for aid, just as SMAP did.

We Hope These Feelings Reach You Somehow

We hope these feelings reach you somehow.

Fans came together in 2016 to show support to SMAP. SMAP never acknowledged fans’ efforts. It would’ve been impossible for them to have missed fans efforts, especially the multi-page ad, yet we faced silence from a group we loved.

It was hard wondering if they heard us and became easier to question if they cared as the silence continued.

At least until the ad for Atarashii Chizu was published in Asahi Shimbun. The ad was not only the launch of Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, and Shingo Katori’s new careers as independent talents, but a long-awaited acknowledgment to fans saying: we heard you and thank you.

An amazing brand movie was also uploaded to YouTube, promising  more to come on October 16.

Let’s run away from what binds us
Let’s cross borders
Let’s rewrite
Loving freedom and piece, our weapons are ideas and charm
It’s okay if they make fun of us
Wholeheartedly, we’ll touch others hearts
Now, let’s go with openness
We’re Atarashii Chizu

The ad, the video, the message… Fans felt we had SMAP back.

New SMAP?

Now, it probably felt like SMAP was back because of the creative team behind the ad. The three creative directors, Taku Tada, Takaaki Yamazaki, and Naruhiro Gonpa, had all previously worked with SMAP and poured their everything into creating the ad.

“We’d take most of the responsibility if they failed at the start. We’d feel guilty.” – Taku Tada in the July 2018 issue of Nikkei Trendy.

So the ad was made with a creative team that knew SMAP and wanted these three to succeed. They did it. They captured SMAP’s spirit and blatantly included the name SMAP.

  • The compass is reversed, except for the S.
  • The compass spells out NEWS.
  • Atarashii Chizu translates to new map.
  • NEWS + map = New SMAP?

With the disbandment of SMAP, the name SMAP disappeared from all but one radio show.  Some girl’ SMAP became Nakai Masahiro’s ON & ON AIR. STOP THE SMAP became Editor-in-Chief Inagaki Goro. SMAP Power Splash became ShinTsuyo Power Splash. Fans were angry about this. They felt that SMAP is SMAP, and they were robbed of their name.

After leaving their former company, fans have never herd Goro, Tsuyoshi, or Shingo even say the word SMAP anymore. Fans assume they are legally bound to never mention their name or their music again, but if true, that didn’t stop them from making their fan site name Atarashii Chizu, or NEW MAP.

In all its 2-page glory, the Atarashii Chizu ad was a long-awaited reply to fans and a statement they’d always be SMAP.

A Day We’ll Never Forget

For 21 months, SMAP fans were treated to silence from the men they’d supported over the years. It was a struggle as a fan, and many of us questioned if our support was hurting them or helping them.

The ad said we did the right thing.

“The three of us will not forget that time [the ad was published]. I believe all our fans that support us will never forget that day either.”
Goro Inagaki, 2018/07/12 at Asahi Shimbun’s 66th Advertising Award Ceremony

Goro said it best at the Asahi Shimbun’s Advertising Award Ceremony. Fans will NOT forget September 22, 2017. And I think this long winded post proves at least one fan won’t.

Published by msjumpingjax

Not-so-seriously studying Japanese. Not-so-slightly obsessed with SMAP. This blog is an outlet for my SMAP love and a way to practice my Japanese. I'm not fluent but hopefully I am successful with at least getting the gist of what goes on.

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