Drunken SMAP Member Arrested

A member of superstar Japanese boy band SMAP was arrested during the wee hours of April 23 for public indecency.

Police found Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, a 34-year-old singer, actor and pitchman, drunk and naked near his luxury condominium after responding to complaints from nearby residents about someone screaming incoherently in a local park.

The media frenzy was fast and furious, reflecting not so much the severity of the misdemeanor – Kusanagi was released the next morning – but the public profile of the person arrested.

Collectively and individually, the five members of SMAP are the biggest stars in Japan, forming the bedrock of the talent agency juggernaut Johnny’s and Associates.
Johnny’s stable of young, good-looking boy bands also includes TOKIO, Arashi and Kinki Kids.

Kusanagi, always billed as the “quiet member,” is probably the least lucrative for the agency in terms of his individual productivity, but nonetheless the requisite “hansei (remorse) period that always follows a Japanese star’s public faux pas may cost Johnny’s billions of yen in lost and canceled contracts.

In addition to half a dozen spokesperson gigs for Toyota and other major companies, all of which have since voided their contracts with the idol, Kusanagi is also the “character” for the government’s promotional drive to remind citizens that television broadcasts will completely switch to digital in July 2011.

Kunio Hotoyama, the communications minister, flew off the handle after the arrest, calling Kusanagi “the lowest form of human being” before removing him from the position.

The backlash has been even stronger. Tokyo police have been deluged with calls from fans complaining about the instant search of Kusanagi’s apartment after the arrest, and generally the public reaction has been one of alarm: What exactly did he do that was so terrible?

The singer himself responded almost immediately by giving a press conference April 24 apologizing for his behavior, admitting he likes to drink too much and overall handling it in a mature, gracious and responsible fashion, even in the face of provocatively silly questions (“Do you like to get naked when you drink?”).