Three former members of the iconic J-pop group SMAP, Shingo Katori, Goro Inagaki, and Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, participated in an event that took place at the Maison de la Culture du Japon à Paris on Tuesday (Sept. 18). 

The ceremony honored Katori as goodwill ambassador for the Japonismes 2018: Les âmes en résonance exhibition, a project currently underway in and around Paris celebrating 160 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and France. The former boy band member also kicked off his first art exhibit at the Louvre in Paris from Wednesday (Sept. 19) and the event served as the reception party as well. 

Aside from the three ex-SMAP stars, the Japanese ambassador to France Masato Kitera and former French ambassador to Japan Thierry Dana also participated in the festivities, as well as Mansai Nomura, a renowned kyogen actor who is performing traditional Japanese theater at the Espace Cardin from Wednesday (Sept. 19). 

“I’m excited to see so many of you here today,” said Katori during his speech. “I’m happy to serve as the goodwill ambassador to Japonismes 2018. I’m thankful to everyone that I’m able to hold my first exhibit at the Louvre. Right now I’m just overflowing with happiness.” 

Japanese food and rice wine (sake) were served during the party while highlights from Katori’s illustrious career were shown on the screen. The two other members flew in from Japan to celebrate the momentous occasion with their youngest SMAP cohort, and spoke of their pride in his accomplishments. 

“Seeing (Katori’s) paintings at the Louvre was inspiring,” said Inagaki, noting that he was he was feeling a bit nervous due to the magnitude of Katori’s responsibilities. Kusanagi, who is especially close to Katori, commented that he was proud of his best friend’s achievements. “I’d always seen his works of art, and I feel like each piece paved the way to this place,” he said. 

Shingo Katori’s NAKAMA des ARTS exhibit continues in the Carrousel du Louvre Charles V Hall through Oct. 3. Admission is free of charge. 

Japonismes 2018 Instagram Post 

Text: Billboard JAPAN / Photo: Courtesy Photo (L to R: Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Shingo Katori, Goro Inagaki)