Pop group SMAP holds concert in Beijing

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Japanese pop group SMAP members and the honoured guest, Chiling Lin (3rd, R), perform onstage at SMAP' s first-ever overseas concert in Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 16, 2011.

Japanese pop group SMAP members and the honoured guest, Chiling Lin (3rd, R), perform onstage at SMAP' s first-ever overseas concert in Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 16, 2011. [Photo/Xinhua]

Japanese pop group SMAP on Friday night staged their first overseas concert, and they chose to perform for their Chinese fans in Beijing.

As the five-member, all-male group appeared on the stage of the 70,000-seat Beijing Workers Stadium, streams of yelling burst out in the drizzling night.

Many fans waving fans, on which names of their idols are printed, came a long way to join the pageant.

"I am so thrilled by the performance for I have adored SMAP since 1993," said Rebecca Chan, who traveled from Hong Kong to Beijing for the concert. She said she considered it her best chance to see idols.

"It costs much more to fly to Japan, and SMAP had never performed in Hong Kong," Chan said.

The Japanese idol group has been active for nearly 20 years after the release of their first CD in 1991, and are among the most famous Japanese artists in China.

Under the theme "Come on, Japan. Thank you, China. Asia is a united home," the performance is an expression of gratitude for China's assistance after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami hit Japan on March 11, according to Kimura Takuya, a SMAP member.

"Thank you, China. Thank you all for offering hands in the Japan earthquake that occurred on March 11," Kimura Takuya said during the performance, standing still on the stage amid wafting music with video clips of the disaster appearing on a giant screen.

Among excited Chinese audience, most in their 30s, a group of Japanese fans dressed in Kimono or T-shirt with SMAP portrait were also seen in the stadium.

A 34-year-old Japanese woman, who identified herself as Chako, said she had paid 160,000 yen (2,000 U.S. dollars) for the four-day trip to Beijing just to watch the SMAP concert.

Chako joined Chinese fans to sing in unison SMAP hits like The Only and The One Flower in the World, and Beyond the Night Sky.

Tickets of the show were sold out within days as fans scrambled to see the long-awaited show in China which had been canceled twice last year.

"It was Premier Wen Jiabao's vist to Japan this year that made the event possible," said Tong Shandan, a senior project manager for Asia marketing of China Performing Arts Agency, the organizer of the concert.

During his visit in May, Wen met the SMAP members in Tokyo, who performed a Chinese version of a pop song to encourage victims of natural disasters.

The tour is also part of a series of cultural exchanges between China and Japan to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties next year, Tong said.

"I am so excited to realize the dream of performing in China. I hope this show will strengthen the friendship between China and Japan," Inagaki Goro, another member of SMAP, said at a press conference Thursday in Beijing.

Zhu Feng, a professor of international relations in Peking University, said despite frictions in China-Japan relations, cultural exchanges should be able to play an increasingly important role in promoting mutual understanding among the people in the two countries.

"Xiexie!" Kimura Takuya said in Chinese after the last song Arigado (meaning Thank you in Japanese). "I will always remember today. I am looking forward to seeing you again."

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