This was another SMAP song that seemed to fill the airwaves entirely when it was released. It just felt like I saw the scenes of the guys on that pedestrian bridge on a daily basis on the telly, and that was no surprise since it was such a big hit. In fact, "Yozora no Mukou" (Beyond The Night Sky) placed only 2nd to GLAY's "Yuuwaku"（誘惑） on the Oricon yearly charts for singles in 1998.
I wasn't ever a hugely dedicated SMAP fan in terms of their music but I'd felt that the Johnny's Entertainment group until that point was the group that took over from their sempai group, Hikaru Genji as the 80s went into the 90s. So I had usually thought of SMAP as the boisterous aidoru boy band. But then, "Yozora no Mukou" came along and Nakai-kun and the rest performed this down-to-earth mature contemporary ballad, and I got the impression that SMAP grew up a bit.
Released in January 1998, singer-songwriter Yuka Kawamura（川村結花） came up with the music while singer-songwriter Shikao Suga（スガシカオ） wrote the lyrics....or almost didn't. Allow me to explain that last part. According to the J-Wiki article for "Yozora no Mukou", Suga had been asked to come up with the words for the SMAP song but the request was totally forgotten by the singer until the very day that the lyrics were due. When his manager reminded him while at Tokyo's Haneda Airport en route to a job in Sapporo, Suga pulled off a small miracle by whipping up the words while on the plane and at the hotel in Hokkaido's capital city. Perhaps he must've heard he would have had to deal with an angry KimuTaku if he hadn't gotten it done.
In any case, the rest is history as they say. "Yozora no Mukou" became SMAP's first million-seller and has since been covered by a lot of other artists including the pair who created it. Of course, it hit the top spot on the Oricon weeklies and that invitation to the Kohaku that year came knocking.