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Standing in the midst of Yoyogi Park, Nakai Masahiro surveyed the crowd gathered in front of him with pride. 19 men of various ages, all of whom could easily declare themselves some of Johnny’s finest. Why, watching them, it was easy to ignore the Junior – what was his name again, Ikuta Doshin or something like that? – nagging at his back. “Um... Nakai-kun? Nakai-kun?” Hands on his hips, his best MC smile on his face, Nakai prepared himself to give the opening speech, the words that would forever affect the course of their lives.

“Welcome, everyone, to the-”

“Look, Nakai, just get your ass back on the starting line and let Toma-kun do his job,” grumbled Kimura Takuya, pushing his bandmate back to join the line of Johnny’s. Protesting and pouting the whole way, Nakai was eventually shoved into his rightful place amidst the contestants.

Ikuta Toma sighed with relief. “Thank you, Kimura-kun.” Extricated from one jam, Toma launched himself headlong into the next... hosting a show where the sole point was basically to torture his senpai.

“Good morning, everyone! Welcome to Yoyogi Park. In just a few minutes, you’ll be starting on a race that will take you around the world. Along the way will be a series of clues to guide you, the first of which you’ll find sitting on your luggage. You’ll also come across various challenges, which you must complete to continue on, or face a penalty.”

“Ahhhhhh, we know, we know, just get on with it already!” Everyone turned to look at Aiba Masaki. “But I need to pee!” Sakurai Sho, standing next to him, slapped a hand to his face and shook his head. This is not my teammate. This is not my teammate. This is not my teammate. ...Oh god, we’re going to lose.

“Fine, fine.” Toma raised his arm, racking his head for the words used by the actual host on all those DVDs the company had made him watch. “The world is waiting. Travel safe.”


“ALRIGHT, FINE, GO!” Ten pairs of two made a mad dash to the backpacks lined up behind Toma, knocking him over and nearly trampling him in the process. Left on the grass, Toma looked up at the sun, framed by the treetops and clouds.

It was just another day in Tokyo...

This is the Amazing Race: Johnny’s Edition. For the first time ever, 10 teams representing 9 different groups of Johnny’s will be competing against each other in a race around the world to win… well, more media exposure. What? It’s not like we’re going to get 100,000,000 yen in this economy. Basically, the higher-ups wanted to revive the profitability of Sports Day and realized they had a ready-made cast of stars people would watch. Sell it to a station, hype up the profits they’ll make from ads to squeeze even more yen out, and boom. Easy money. Life is good when you own the company managing Japan’s most wanted stars.

...and that brings us to our ten teams. Each team is made up of two members representing a debuted group. Now you know some of these teams don’t need the extra media time, especially in comparison to us poor underexposed Juniors, but it’s not like the big people up top really gave them a choice.

To start, representing SMAP are Nakai Masahiro and Kimura Takuya.

Head cocked, Nakai grinned cheekily at the camera. “Taku-chan’s famous overseas.”

“Don’t call me that,” Kimura rolled his eyes and gave his bandmate a playful elbow. “My wife and kids are probably watching. You hear that? Don’t call daddy Taku-chan!”

“But you hate being called Kimutaku.”

“Don’t call me that either.”


Kimura groaned. “Ignore Nakai. So we’re the longest-lasting of all the groups participating and have had plenty of TV time, but that’s no reason to even think we’re going to lose.”

“Because Taku-chan’s famous overseas.”

“It’s ‘cause we’re SMAP and we worked our butts off for that name. Some people might not remember, but everyone else’s reigning popularity is possible because we fought to be popular ourselves. We pioneered the lasting idol. If we can do that, we can do anything.” Inspirational speech delivered, Kimura allowed himself to focus on Nakai once more. “Now stop calling me that.”

“Iiiiiiiiiiiiii~ can give you Gatsby~~~ GATSUUUUBYYYYYYYYYY!”

Kimura punched Nakai on the shoulder. Hard. “I hate you.”

Representing TOKIO are Nagase Tomoya and Joshima Shigeru.

“Leader here is the oldest participant on this race!” Nagase declared, one arm around a blandly smiling Joshima. “Right, Leader?”

The older man ducked his head in a modest nod. “Y-yes…”

“But we’re going to show everyone else what it means to be men! Right, Leader?” As if to emphasize his manliness, Nagase flexed with his free arm.


“There’s no way we’re letting anyone beat us in a physical challenge!” Nagase was burning with gleeful pride.

“No way,” echoed Joshima, who certainly didn’t seem to echo his teammate’s energy.

“So everyone else had better watch out, ‘cause we’re going to win! Right, Leader? ARRRRRRRRRRR!”

“ARRRRRRRRRRRR!” The sudden growl sent the camera (and cameraman) reeling back in shock. As Nagase laughed his butt off, Joshima lowered his head and uttered a meek “Sorry.”

Representing V6 are Sakamoto Masayuki and Nagano Hiroshi.

Sakamoto backed slowly away from the camera to join Nagano on the seats. “Oh, it’s on? Um, uh, it’s nice to meet you. I’m V6’s Sakamoto.”

Nagano smiled cheerily. “And I’m Nagano.”

“I’m not really used to this, Inohara-kun usually does the talking. Um, we’re amongst the oldest competitors, but we’ll do our best!” Sakamoto looked to his partner for help. “It’ll be fun, right?”

Nagano continued to smile. “I’m sure it will.”

“We’ve faced a number of similar challenges before, haven’t we?”

“You mean like on our variety shows?”

“Like for Gakkou he Ikou!, we were only allowed to rely on students in unfamiliar places,” mused Sakamoto.

“We survived that, so we should do fine here is what you mean to say, yes?” Nagano knew just what his bandmate was thinking. In fact, after nearly 15 years working together in the same group, there were few things Nagano didn’t understand about Sakamoto’s thinking patterns. And what he didn’t understand by now, Nagano reasoned, he probably didn’t want to know about anyways.

Then, a thought struck Sakamoto. “There aren’t any scary things during this race, right?”

Nagano also understood Sakamoto well enough to know that there was no right answer to that question. “About that...” For the first time, his smile faltered. It was barely perceptible, but it faltered.

And Sakamoto pounced on it like a hungry tiger. “There aren’t any scary things during the race, right? Like heights or ghost houses or monsters or bugs or...”

“Er...” At a loss as Sakamoto continued to list his fears, Nagano turned to the camera with his brightest smile and waved. “We’ll be looking forward to your support! Bye-bye!”

“Hey, answer me already! There aren’t scary things, are there?! Hey!”

Representing KinKi Kids are, well, the KinKi Kids.

Domoto Koichi and Domoto Tsuyoshi sat awkwardly in front of the camera. The former had his face buried in his hands in a position of pitiable sorrow, but if his partner felt any pity, he wasn’t showing it.

“I really don’t want to do this, you know,” Koichi was deadpan. “Just because we’ve both gone overseas for movies before doesn’t mean we’ve really got anything to bring to the race.”

“It’s good to get your old man butt out of your house sometimes.” Tsuyoshi was used to Koichi making the least of an adventure abroad, but work was work. This time, work might be fun.

“But! Pan-chan! How is she going to live without me?” The perfect (puppy) parent, Koichi even whipped out his wallet to show a picture of his beloved chihuahua to the camera.

“I thought you’d already decided that your parents would take care of her. So let’s do this, and let’s have fun. So, uh, Pan-chan can see more of you on TV.” Tsuyoshi was beginning to think he might prefer to be in a team with one of those noisy boys from Kanjani8.

“Fine.” Putting away his wallet and putting on his best Prince-on-a-White-Horse smile, Koichi turned to the camera and waggled his fingers in an affectionate wave. “Pan-chan! Daddy misses you!”

Tsuyoshi looked away and rolled his eyes. “It’s good to know our biggest obstacle in this race is missing our dogs.”

Representing Arashi are Sakurai Sho and Aiba Masaki.

Sho and Aiba had on their best idol smiles. They weren’t especially trying to look good for the camera, it’d just become instinct after the past few years of being constantly on TV.

“We’re Arashi’s Sakurai Sho and Aiba Masaki!”

Aiba slung an arm around Sho’s shoulders. “Sho-chan loves traveling so this is the perfect job for him!”

“And Aiba, you’ve gone to various places around the world before for work, right?”

“Yeah! So that’s why we’re Arashi’s representatives.”

“Well, I think Ohno said he wanted to fish instead and Nino laughed in our faces when we mentioned choosing members to him…”

“Ah, that’s right. And then he went back to playing on his DS. What about Jun?”

Sho pulled out his cell phone to check something. “He never got back to us. I’m kind of worried he’s being held hostage by a fangirl or something.”

“Don’t worry, Jun! We’re going to kick butt and win!”

“No, I’m the one who’s worried about Jun.”

“Oh.” Aiba let out a high-pitched giggle. “But we’re going to win! Yay!”

Representing Tackey & Tsubasa are Takizawa Hideaki and Imai Tsubasa.

The screen was filled with an indistinguishable face. “Hi! Remember us? We’re Tackey & Tsubasa!”

“Tackey. My face. It hurts. Really.”

“Sorry.” The face slowly pulled back to reveal the complete visage of Tsubasa, Tackey’s hand on his head. In fact, the hand was the only visible part of Tackey. “Better?”

Tsubasa grimaced. “Dude, get your hand off my head. Don’t you want to be on camera too?”

“Yes, but you haven’t been on camera in so long…” Despite the excuse, Tackey’s hand removed itself to give Tsubasa a chance to back up, finally revealing Tackey grinning his face off.

Together. The point of this is to do it together, Tackey.”

Tackey’s grin turned sheepish. “I know, I just miss us being together in front of the same camera. It’s been a while since we’ve done anything together, but we’ll win this thing and get the company to focus on our working together again!”

Tsubasa raised his hand for a high-five and was rewarded. “Now that is a plan I can agree with.”

Representing NEWS are Koyama Keiichiro and Kato Shigeaki.

Koyama’s mouth, already often worked due to his role as main host of The Shounen Club, was running full-blast in excitement. “Shige! It’s here! Our chance! We’ll win this! All we have to do is win! And we’ll be stars!”

Unsure how to respond, Shige scratched his head. “...we technically are stars. Not in the hunks of carbon burning brightly way, but y’know...”

“But this time, the focus is on us. Not Yamapi, not Ryo, not the adorable ones, us.” Shige tactfully avoided reminding Koyama that “the adorable ones” – Tegoshi and Massu – were also participants in the race. “It’s our chance to show Japan there’s more to us than being backup. To become more popular. I no longer have to be just the Member Ai Guy!”

“I guess,” Shige himself had been relatively content with his popularity of late, thanks to starring in Troubleman. But it definitely wouldn’t hurt to be more popular.

“So with your smarts and my charisma, we’re going to topple the competition!” Koyama stood and did a fist pump. If he knew how clichéd it was, Koyama ignored it. “Watch out world, here comes Koyashige!”

Shige gave the camera a smile of much suffering. “I’m going to guess that that sounded much better in your head.”

“You’re not joining me. Fist-pump! On 3 – 1... 2... 3!”

Shige dutifully did the fist pump.

Representing Kanjani8 are Yokoyama Yu and Murakami Shingo.

For certain reasons, Yoko and Hina had not been in the best of moods when they arrived at the studio to do their introductory camera confessional. If you asked Hina, he would have pointed out – very dryly – that oh, perhaps the fact that they were coming from Osaka following their radio show and had absolutely no sleep because for some reason the staff had decided that the two K8 boys just had to come in at 3AM to do the talk so that all the Johnny’s could do it on the same day had something to do with it.

If you asked Yoko, he would’ve told you that it was because Hina did get sleep. During the ride in the van, in fact. And while in the van, Hina had snored so loudly that Yoko himself couldn’t sleep.

Yoko would have also told you about how he’d considered transferring Hina’s eye mask and earplugs down so that they covered his mouth and nostrils. Perhaps not respectively.

“So we’re going to win this so that the staff treat us better! ARE YOU LISTENING, CAMERA-SAN?!”

The camera moved up and down in affirmation.

“Good.” And then the two did a complete 180, with crazy grins and energetic salutes that completely hid their previous moods. “Now that that’s over with, we’re Kanjani8 and we’re going to bowl everyone else over!”

“We’ve fought our way into the media spotlight before,” remarked Hina, thinking back to Kanjani’s early days. “After being upstaged and overlooked for more local talent, no less. It’s definitely not going to be a problem for us to claw our way to the top of this race.”

“We’re determined, we’re energetic, we’re innovative, and we really want this,” Yoko agreed, “It doesn’t matter if our senpai have more experience or more popularity outside of Japan. We’ve proven how well we can work together – on stage, TV, radio – and it’s going to be those things that will take us to the top.”

“Kanjani steps onto the world stage!” Hina’s stomach growled. “...speaking of world, I’m kind of hungry for pasta.”

Yoko whacked Hina with the back of his hand. “Nandeyanen!”

Representing KAT-TUN are Kamenashi Kazuya and Tanaka Koki.

Kame and Koki gave the camera their best smiles. Smiles that made it easy to ignore the various events that had occurred just this past year. Forget arguments, forget broken bones, forget now missing a member – they were KAT-TUN. They could still be the amazing group that debuted with a #1 release on every Oricon chart in the same week.

And they were going to make sure that Japan knew it.

“So we’ve had a bit of a tough time lately. But we’ve hit rough spots before and managed to come out on top. That just shows we’re resilient,” Kame pointed out.

“We didn’t get this rocker image for nothing,” Koki added. “We know we’ve had some problems getting along before in times of stress, but if we can focus our stress on the other teams instead of each other, I think we’ll be okay.”

Kame snorted. “Yeah, who needs Akanishi, that ass. You want to brag about going to America? SUCK ON THIS!”

Koki frowned. “...I thought we’d agreed we wouldn’t mention him. I’m sorry, camera, can you cut this out?” Then, realizing something, Koki sniffed the air. He sniffed closer to Kame, and then followed his nose to a water bottle at Kame’s feet. “This isn’t...”


By now Koki had taken a sip of Kame’s bottle and it had only confirmed his suspicions. “God dammit, Kamenashi, why the fuck did you put vodka in that bottle?! And how the hell is it half-empty already?!”


Koki rushed to the camera, frantically waving his hands to blur the image. “Cut, cut, CUT!”

And lastly, representing Tegomass are Tegoshi Yuya and Masuda Takahisa.

“I’m really excited to be going overseas,” Tegoshi chattered, “I mean, I’ve been before for variety shows and film projects, but the best part of this is doing this with Massu.”

Massu smiled proudly. “I’m just as excited to do this with Tegoshi. We’ve been together pretty much since he entered the Juniors, and we know each other pretty well. We definitely make up for each other’s weaknesses and bring a lot of strengths.”

“We’re both active...” Both men held up a finger.

“...good with people...” Another finger went up on that hand.

“...creative-thinking...” And another finger.

“...energetic...” And another.

“...and able to communicate well with each other!” ended Tegoshi. Now each with a full hand up, the bandmates high-fived each other as if to emphasize their unspoken communication abilities. “Plus, my previous travel experiences have been similar to the spirit of the race, going to new places to attempt challenges.”

“And I can handle any eating challenges there are!” The high-five turned into a clasped handshake, which transformed into a fist pound, and finally shifted into the two slamming the backs of their fists against the other.

Massu gave a thoughtful look. “If this is going to be on TV, I guess our secret handshake isn’t secret anymore, huh?”

10 teams. 5 continents. 12 countries. 30 days around the world. I’m your host, Ikuta Toma, and this… is the Amazing Race.

March 2011

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