In the January 11th Weekly Bunshun, Shingo sat down and gave an interview to “the father of the entertainment industry,” Kinichi Hagimoto, or Kin-chan.
Shingo talks about how he felt joining the entertainment industry so young, his relationship with the other SMAP members, up through the decision to start anew in 2017.
Yes, this is Weekly Bunshun, a gossip tabloid that never really deserves much attention. However, this is a terrific interview that deserves all the attention it can get.
I honestly was going to do highlights, but then it became a long list of pretty much the entire interview. So…here’s the interview. I tried to proof this a few times, but since the interview is quite lengthy (7 pages of Japanese), I apologize if there are any typos or inaccuracies. But I figured if I kept going over and over it, I’d never post this.
I divided the interview up into some sections, even though the original article doesn’t do this. Hopefully, it’s a little easier to get back to if you get interrupted during reading.
Interview – Shingo x Kin-chan
Kinichi Hagimoto (K) Wow, Shingo, you really came! I’ve been in the business a long time too and I didn’t think I’d see you at the Bunshun head office.
Shingo Katori (S) I’m really here.
K This is big news.
S I understand that to some degree, but today I came with the mindset of “I’ve been called for a normal magazine interview.” Even so, the editors who came to greet me were lined up at the entrance and said they deeply appreciated me being here.
K For me they just said, “Oh, welcome.” *laugh* What the hell!
S As they were saying that, those that knew about me coming were, “Oh, that’s right. You came.” People were saying “thank you” as I came in.
K Today, I directly spoke with the editors already. They said if there’s anything distasteful, they’d take it out. Since while we’re talking, there may be times we’ll casually say something shocking.
K I think they’re thinking we can speak openly like friends.
S Kin-chan, ask me anything you want.
K Well then, Shingo-chan, how old are you?
S I’m 40.
K Do you remember when you were 37 and we were in the dressing room for Kasou Taishou and I said “You’re at a good age. I was the most active on TV when I was 37!”
S Yeah, I remember. “What?! There’s still more!?” At that time, I was shocked since I thought I’d already worked a long time in this industry.
K That’s true. You’ve been in the entertainment industry since your teens.
On School and the Entertainment Industry
S Since I auditioned [for Johnny’s & Associates] when I was ten, it’s been 30 years.
K What did you feel joining the entertainment industry at age 10?
S I had no idea what I was doing. I thought it was more fun than school, so I’d go. That’s kind of how I felt.
K Were there things you didn’t like?
S Staying out late, being sleepy and hungry. At those times I’d think “I want to go to school.”
K Ah, that. And it’s difficult if you think, “oh, that talent over there, I hate him.”
S That’s wasn’t the case. I didn’t start feeling that until past my 20s…
K Let’s change the subject. *laugh* When did you realize you were famous?
S When we had our CD debut, I was the youngest member at 14 years old. Until then, I’d been busy with work and never been to a school culture festival. It was my first time trying to go to one, but fans from other schools had gathered at the school entrance and were causing a ruckus. So just like that, I was taken to the teacher’s lounge. Since it was a normal school, they didn’t know how to handle it and said, “go home for now,” and I got in a teacher’s car and was taken home. I really remember that.
K That was a special experience. And you were in your teens.
S I don’t really have memories of going to school. In my 20s, when I was cleaning my house, I came across my middle school report card. The truth is, it was the first time I’d seen my own report card. I opened it with excitement… it was all 1s. (TL note: 1 is the lowest grade you can get.)
“What!?” I thought, and when I looked at the teacher’s comment section, it said: “please do your best at work.” *laugh*
K That was good. That’s a good teacher, don’t you think?
S I printed that report card onto a t-shirt and handed out to the staff at the time…
K A good person meets good people. That teacher was definitely watching over you, who couldn’t come to school at all. Receiving kind words like those open up your life.
S That’s right. Five years later and all 1s isn’t a shock, but the teacher’s words were the kindest, and it was a moment I once again thought “ah! I’ll work hard!’
K That’s great. Typically, teachers would feel disappointed, but for a talent, that was the right thing to say.
On Relationship with SMAP members
K In a manner of speaking, you can say SMAP was your school. As the youngest member, how did you see the others? As senpai? Or friends?
S Neither. If I’m forced to say, I guess it’s close to “big brothers,” since the oldest guys were 5 years older.
K To a 10-year-old, 15-year-olds look like adults, more so than the age gap now.
S So I loved them, but if there was something they did that I hated, we had the kind of relationship where I could honestly say “stop screwing around!” But with Inagaki being in the middle, well, even if he hated something, he had to put up with it and stay silent, right? I suppose since I had the comfort of being the youngest, I could say I hated the things I hated.
K When you’d say, “stop messing around!”, did your older brothers go, “okay, got it”?
S It’s just looking back now, we didn’t have regular conversations. Each of us gave it our all, that’s how I feel things were.
K There wasn’t anyone that’d work and get angry, was there?
S As a group, in the end, there wasn’t anyone like that. But to that extent, it seems the time we spent talking to each other slowly increased. Our relationship is strange. In middle school, it was like an extension of school. As we got a little older, we began to not consciously talk to each other. After some more time passes, we’ll realize and come to start talking… That’d repeat.
K I see.
S Like we’d suddenly realized we hadn’t said a word to each other for about two years, even times without even saying good morning, and like now we’ll be talking. You can say our relationships are always changing.
K Looking back on yourself, has there been a time you felt you’ve hit a wall?
S No. I really hate looking back.
K Ah, everyone looks forward.
S Yes. I probably look back even less than you, Kin-chan. *laugh*
K That’s nice. I reflect a lot. So that must be why it’s so comfortable to be around you. Alright, so even though you are starting new activities now, you have no worries.
S No, no. I worry. Under those conditions, if I said “I don’t have any worries!” what kind of person would I be? *laugh*
But, I think I worry less than everyone thinks. Because I’m the type that will beat myself up if a little worry or fear is born in my heart.
K But, Tsuyoshi, who is always with you, he’s the opposite type, isn’t he?
S Ahh, I worry about him!
S Yeah. More than him being the opposite of me, he’s someone who has fewer worries and fewer concerns than me. No matter what happens, he doesn’t worry. He never looks back to the past. As a person, I worry the bare minimum, but he doesn’t seem to worry at all. *laugh* Now, it seems really fun, but I really worry seeing him like that.
K Have you guys gone drinking lately?
S There wasn’t time.
K No time?
S A lot happened, and there was a period he stopped drinking for about five years. Until then, when we’d go out to eat, we’d go drinking together. Since he wasn’t drinking, it became difficult to invite him… But lately, we’ll occasionally drink.
K When we were filming together before, since you looked like you hadn’t slept I asked if you hadn’t and you said: “Tsuyoshi came over to my place and was crying the entire time.” That left an impression on me.
S Hahaha. That was probably when he was drunk. When he drinks, he’ll suddenly start crying, and hit me and then say “Shingo, I’m sorry! Hit me back!” Some people are like that when drunk, aren’t there?
K Man, he’s an interesting friend, isn’t he?
S He is. But that’s why I worry about him!
K When you guys would go out to eat and such, did you talk about your vision for the future?
S This time, on the occasion of starting new things, the three of us, Inagaki, Kusanagi, and I, met together and talked. We spoke for a long time, and I think that was the first time we talked like that in 30 years.
K Sounds nice. I definitely want to hear what you talked about.
S What we realized when we tried talking like that was there were many things we still didn’t know about each other. For example, the kind of car Kusanagi is driving or that Inagaki cooks his own meals at home. There were many topics like that we didn’t know. That’s why, even though we should’ve been talking about each of our lives, before we knew it we’d stray off topic and get fired up.
K “What, you make your food?!” like that?
S Yeah, yeah! *laugh* And for a while we’d be excited and then, “No, no. This isn’t the time to be talking about that. There’s more we need to talk about,” and while the conversation was returning, we debated.
K I thought the three of you had silly conversations every day.
S Of course, we had silly conversations, and that’s why we left periods behind…
K I wanted to ask you something today. On OjaMAP with Zakiyama-kun, is it true there really was a segment where you were with Tsuyoshi and suddenly started street dancing in the pouring rain in front of a station?
S There was.
K The two of you jumped out there in the down-pouring rain without ever making a miserable face. That manliness, you can’t run away from work, I thought. I’d think in the rain like that, behind the scenes, the staff asked “Shingo-san, what do you want to do? Will you do it?”
S That staff over there isn’t like that. *laugh* Even if I were to look concerned about the rain, they’d say, “It’s no problem. You’re doing this, right, Shingo-san?”
I could only wordlessly agree, “I’m going.”
K Those are great colleges.
S After dancing, while jokingly complaining about the “downpour,” I said “man, that was great!” The completely drenched staff were drying their eyes, and that’s when I said: “don’t make me go out in the rain when it’s like this!” Everyone laughed.
K When the two of you finished dancing, I saw the image of bystanders gathered, holding their umbrellas, watching you, and clapping without thinking. I had never seen such a scene like that before. I was delighted.
S Everyone was trying to clap, but they also wanted to take pictures with their phones, and somehow (holding their umbrellas between their shoulder and neck), they clapped. It was kind of funny.
K That’s a grown up’s job on TV. I can really tell that you’re crazy about your job right now.
S Each and every one is supporting us. I can feel everyone’s passion for that program; I can’t lose.
K That isn’t something a kid who got all 1s on their report card would say! *laugh*
When I appeared on the program, I wondered if it’d rain. I said I didn’t want to lose, and let’s jump out into the rain! But it was clear.
S It cleared up. At that time, we were disturbing Komazawa University by attending, but the moment we entered the school gates, the students greeted us warmly.
K You say warmth, but I came to understand your greatness. Where ever you went, before you knew it, people had gathered. You’d just wave a little and “KYA!”
S No, no.
K But after that filming, I got depressed in private. Because in my 3 years at college, not once did someone tell me, “Kin-chan, I saw you on TV!” Yet after the broadcast, girls that would just nod at me would say, “Kin-chan, I watched it!”
S And you were quietly being a college student… I’m sorry *laugh*
K It’s amazing. I received many letters from fans saying, “please continue to take care of Shingo.” Am I your dad? If something happens to you, I have to take responsibility.
S Truthfully, I’m happy about that.
On “That Person” and Leaving Former Company
K This is written in an issue as well, but during that recording, what left the biggest impression on me was when I asked, “Is there someone you are working hard for?” and you answered, without hesitation, “There is.”
What kind of person is this? I’ve been interested to know what kind of person you’ve been thinking about up until this point.
S I can’t say it well… I can’t find the words, but someone who I think “I want to work together with this person.”
K I see. I won’t ask who, as there’s no need to say the name here, but what advice did that person give about starting anew?
S For example, if I asked: “Which should I pick, A or B?” if that person said A, I’d say, “okay. If you say it, then it’s A.” It’s always been like that. For me, this person is someone I can trust like that.
K I was really happy to hear you say you had someone you were working hard for. If that’s the case, I think your future will have great work.
S I’ve been in this world since I was in elementary school. And yet this time, numerous times people have said: “Shingo Katori is retiring?” But that isn’t the case.
K Wasn’t it a big shock?
S This is the only place I’ve known. Up until now, in this world, I’ve worked with this person. Even with a lot of difficult moments, I’ve always thought that I want us to work together. That’s why, retirement? No, no, no. Don’t just throw that word around freely.
K You said you talked with the other two quite a bit. Was the result you deciding, “alright! let’s do this!”
S Truthfully, it wasn’t like I told them, “let’s do this together!” I wanted to work with that person, and those two strongly felt the same. The three of us had the same thoughts and we came together and came to: “Well, let’s do this together.”
K Bunshun is probably interested to know who this person is. *laugh* By the way, what do you want to do now?
S Let’s see. “What do I want to?” Actually, I haven’t really done that much up to this point. I’ve worked in response to the demands of others. From now on… for example, take the Bunshun office. Even if I had wanted to come, I wouldn’t have been able to, right?
K That’s true.
S That’s why when you invited me here today, for the first time in 30 years I was able to come here. That’s what this means. I thought I had experienced a lot in this world, but there’s still a mountain of things I’ve yet to experience and I want to experience each and every one of them.
K Looking at you here, I’m so happy, I’ve never seen you as you are at this moment. Many things will happen, I know it.
S That’s right.
K Without a wall, you’ll make friends across all of Japan. “Shingo-chan, will you come to such-and-such town for a festival?”
“I’ll be glad to.”
Things like that will occur from now on. *laugh*
S Seems like I’ll be super busy. *laugh*
K People seeing you on TV or in magazines will be looking forward to the places you’ll take them. Being a talent is a job where you make fans think, “I wonder where this person will take me?”
(to the editor) It’s become such idle talk, what does the magazine want to ask?
Editor Now then, what is Kin-chan to you, Katori-san?
K Oh, I haven’t heard that one before. Hey, think about this one a bit.
S (after thinking for a while) Just thinking about it now isn’t good, but… Kin-chan, you are the man who said to the child me, “Don’t think. Push forward.”
K I told you that?
S Yes. At the time, your program was my first variety show (Yo! Taisho mikke 1994). Back then, although my self-awareness concerning work was budding, it was my first variety and I didn’t know what I should do. At that time, you gave me the advice, “don’t think.” That shocked me! It was as if you were Bruce Lee! “Don’t think, feel.” *laugh*
K Oh, I remember. You were so funny at that time.
I asked you, “If you didn’t become a singer, what would you be?”
And you said, “Hmm, I’ll run a yakiimo shop.” It seemed like those words just jumped out without thought.
“Why?” I tried to press.
“Because I like flags.”
I didn’t understand. *laugh*
S But you said to not think!
K The audience was seized by “a yakiimo shop,” and I went with “flag” and next when I asked where a good place for a flag would be, you said, “somewhere it’ll flutter.”
After the show, the director suddenly came over, excited, “Today, Shingo was great! He really took off. What happened?”
S But, the nerves at the time… I saw the audience laughing and your eyes were gleaming and asking “Shingo, that was good. What will you do next?” That was super scary! *laugh*
Again I was shaking and I had to say something, but I couldn’t think of anything, what do I do?! I panicked.
K With your shocked face watching the audience, you couldn’t say anything *laugh*
S And the next stage, Kin-chan, you said this, “Don’t shake the next time I say ‘what do you think, Shingo?’ Just when I look at you, say something.”
K I said something like that?
S You did! During the program, you were talking with another guest but looking at me with a gleam in your eyes. I couldn’t think of anything at that moment, I butted in with “but, but, it’s…” I was afraid of your gaze, I ignored it at least once in the third stage of the 2nd half of the program. *laugh*
While paying attention, I’d think “Ah, I wonder what he’s looking at,” then I’d look away.
K Hahaha. That was probably the moment you grasped what TV is. When you overcame your nervousness, you became a pro, for sure.
S I learned from you at that time, that there are many words that will be spoken on TV without thought. There, with each moment I thought, it’s not a lie but it’s not the truth. I wondered if that was okay to say. But that’s why afterward there’s no need to ask, “was that the truth or a lie?” If that moment you can be funny and happy, then it’s fine.
K Right, right.
S But compared to that time, the meaning of a single word spoken like that will weigh you down year after year. Like with “What was Katori’s real intention with what he said on set?” The weight becomes more than what I was thinking…
K That’s true, there are parts like that. You can also say your life is one where true intentions are always called into question.
S Just, I’ll take this opportunity to say this, but normally I don’t think half the time, and I just say what I’m thinking at the time. And a lie is a lie, the truth is the truth, but in that moment, I’m certainly thinking what I say… Even if I say “I hate it” when asked if I like or hate something, there are times when I really do love it, you know?
K Saying that in advance is a good idea. *laugh* Even if you say, “I hate him,” you can say afterward that it wasn’t your true feelings.
I think that for types like you, it’s better to have many moments where you think like that. That’s why with Kasou Taishou I tried to not give you much time to think.
S Kin-chan, you get in the dressing room early. When I made you wait, you were angry at me and said, “you don’t need to come.” The next time, when I barely made it before the program, “Hey! You came? Then shall we go?” That was the feeling we went on stage with.
K That’s because your merit showed.
S After all, for me, you have such a colossal existence. Speaking like this, with the history of your life, I’ve come to think that the time I’ve spent is so small…
K Rubbish. You are SMAP, nothing compares. *laugh*
When I did Skit #55, for a moment it was an idol phase, but it was just five years. Once it ended, fan letters dried up. You guys have been doing this for 30 years, right? Nothing compares.
S But there are so many legends about Skit #55. Once I asked you, “is it true in the heyday you flew from station to station in a helicopter?”
K That story is out there.
S And you said, “Give me a break! I’ve never flown in a helicopter. I’m afraid of them. No way.”
“Whaaat?” I thought. *laugh*
K Taking off from TV Asahi and landing at NTV, there’s no time to fly. *laugh*
S That’s true.
K A former talent, Naoko Iijima asked me, with a serious face, “Kin-chan, is it true that in the past, you’d kill one pet goldfish every day for good luck?”
“You heard that?”
Sure, I had about 100 goldfish. And in the summertime one morning, about 25 died. I’d talked about that, but why did it become a story where I killed them?
S …I’m sorry. I’m the one that told them “killed.”
K Wait a minute. You’re the source of this rumor!? *laugh*
S I corrected parts of the helicopter story, I’ll do the same from now on with the goldfish.
K A great punchline. I’m begging you, really. *laugh*
On The Future
K Now then, in 2017 you set off on a new path and there’s one final thing I want to ask. What kind of year do you want 2018 to be?
S That’s right. We made the fan site, Atarazhii Chizu, started on SNS, did 72 Hour Honne TV…. I was able to experience more than I imagined. If this has been our prep time so far, then January 2018 feels like it’s our true start. I’ll have to stay on my toes here on out, but I hope to keep smiling while relaxing and loosening up. And while eating delicious food and drinking.
K And you plan to paint too, right?
S I will. But “painting” is no good. This year, my art was on display at different places…
K I was shocked that even Prime Minister Abe came to see your paintings!
S It’s more than painting, it isn’t just painting for a hobby. Even as one person, I want many people to see my art. “That’s amazing!” they’ll say, and I want to say, “What!? No, it’s nothing.” *laugh*
K That smiling, laughing expression is great.
People are coming on location on TV saying they want to do new things with you. That’s very nice, isn’t it?
S That’s right. What else do you…
K No, I’m done.
K It’s what you make of it from now on. It’s no good to look back. What will you create with the younger generation? That’s something to look forward to, isn’t it?
S If I can say so, I want to meet the people that have looked after me up until this point, but there are also many more people that I couldn’t meet and want to.
K The more people love you, the more those around you will do their best to make great things for you.
S This year became full of pain and suffering, but Kin-chan, you said “now is the best time.” And now, with a new start and such, this really matches your words.
K I said one other thing that time. “If you say ‘I want to do something like this,’ the people around you are the age to listen to you directly.”
That’s why it needs to come from you. Things like, “I want to write a page in Bunshun.”
S (with his next breath) No, I haven’t thought about that. *laugh*
K And the Bunshun people toppled forward *laugh*
S Kin-chan, what do you plan to do from now on?
K I have one wish now. Since I started with #55 (Skit #55), I want to end with a #55. That’s why I want to reproduce #55.
S What!? That’s amazing.
K After that, it’s about what kind of tomb will I make.
S That’s amazing too. A funny tomb?
K My memorial hall will be made for me in a college classmate’s temple. A stone monument saying “Fly, fly” will be erected. On both sides will be Kazuki Kosakai and Tsutomu Sekine, like Dogen Zenji and Kiezen Joukin’s “Ichibutsu Ryoso.” I made a generation with people like them. So then all the fans that visit the temple will write down their names, and I’ll be surrounded by that. Wouldn’t you be happy? For a person to not have their bones buried at a temple, but instead their history.
S That’s amazing. Am I allowed to enter?
K Yes, that’s fine. But when you come in, temple visitors will rapidly increase and it’d become larger than my monument. My monument would become tiny. A temple is a business too. *laugh* At any rate, it’d be nice if people could come to the temple carefree. When they come, I wonder what they’d be thinking?
S I still have a long way to go after all. We made a site and recruited members to join, but Kin-chan, you’ll engrave fan’s names in a temple!
K Grand, isn’t it? What’s important now for you is to go on increasing the number of people around you. Within that circle of people, I want your world to steadily expand.
S I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and it was a first coming here today. It feels like new things are really starting. And Kin-chan, you being here… If Zakiyama were to invite me today, I’d refuse. *laugh*
K That’s a great line. *laugh* I’m glad we could meet today. I’m very much looking forward to your future, Shingo-chan.
Closing from Kin-chan
When I first heard from my manager that Shingo had accepted the interview offer, I instantly said, “He really did!?” It was a shock.
That’s why I was so pleased when I saw Shingo grinning at the Bunshun office that day. When Shingo mentioned how the editors said they were deeply appreciative, I burst out laughing. *laugh*
The interview is over and from now on, I believe there will be a lot of people coming out to support Shingo taking on new challenges.
This time I wanted to have an interview where everyone reading would become allies of Shingo’s. At the very least, Bunshun should be his ally. *laugh* But nothing would make me happier than you becoming allies as well!