Longest-running Japanese idol group SMAP announced they are breaking up, disappointing legions of fans in Japan and Asia. The group?s talent agency, Johnny & Associates, announced that the band will break up on December 31, after spanning a 25-year career.
The talent agency had tried to propose for the band to take a hiatus, but part of the group expressed the opinion of ?wanting to break up rather than go on hiatus.?
The split was first rumored in January which made the group make an unusual TV appearance to inform their fans that they would stay together. This led to a collective sigh of relief even from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
?We judged it difficult for them to continue activities as a group, in view of the fact that some, if not all, hold the opinion of opting to break up,? Johnny & Associates said in a facsimile message explaining the break up.
?We apologize for the trouble we have caused. Please forgive us for having led to a result like this. We are sorry,? the group?s leader Masahiro Nakai has said in a report from Kyodo News agency.
SMAP stands for Sports Music Assemble People. The group started in 1988, when members Masahiro Nakai, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Goro Inagaki, Shingo Katori and Takuya Kimura were still in their teens. The Japanese band debuted their first single in September 1991 and produced hit songs such as ?Yozora no Muko,? ?Lion Heart,? and the most popular ?Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana.?
?Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana? translates to The Only Flower in the World, released in 2003, had sold over 2 million copies.
Apart from performing as an idol group, they also host a weekly cooking show on Japanese Television. At the same time, each has a separate acting career.
Kimura played Howl?s voice in Hayai Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli?s Howl?s Moving Castle film and JP in Takeshi Koike and Madhouse?s Redline film. He also starred in the live-action film of the space opera anime classic Space Battleship Yamato. Kusanagi was Peter in The Diary of Anne Frank anime movie and Kouichi in Hime-chan?s Ribbon. Inagaki played the Kamen Rider G lead in the live-action special of the same name and Dr. Ratchet in One Piece: Karakuri Shiro no Mecha Kyohei film. Katori played Riiya the kid werewolf in Lil? Red Riding Hood Cha-Cha and Hattori-kun in the live-action Ninja Hattori Kun The Movie.
?Arigato,? one of the group?s songs, is being used as a theme song for TBS TV?s coverage of the ongoing Rio Olympics.