Boating Blunder Bungles Boy Band

The ongoing contretemps between China and Japan over the arrest of a Chinese fishing boat skipper whose vessel collided with Japanese Coast Guard boats in disputed waters has spilled over into the pop music realm.

The Chinese government has already canceled a planned visit by 1,000 Japanese students to the Shanghai World Expo, and now has suspended ticket sales for the first China concert appearance by Japan’s top boy band, SMAP.

SMAP was to perform Oct. 9-10 at a Shanghai stadium in front of an estimated 80,000 fans. Though the Japanese mainstream media have mentioned the suspension as being “reported,” a number of vernacular tabloids as well as foreign news media, including the Wall Street Journal, have reported it as fact.

Instead, the mainstream Japanese media are saying that Johnny and Associates, SMAP’s powerful talent agency and production company, has “postponed” the concerts to “ensure audience safety.” No makeup dates were announced, but Johnny’s said it will reschedule the shows as soon as possible and refund tickets.

SMAP, which has never performed overseas before, let alone in China, was originally scheduled to appear at the Shanghai Expo in June, but the appearance was canceled due to concern on China’s part over security, given the huge number of young people who were expected to show up.

The group actually made fun of this incident in a recent TV commercial for the cell phone carrier Softbank, in which Softbank President Masayoshi Son texts one of SMAP’s members from Shanghai with a message that essentially says, “Wish you were here.”