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SMAP Idol Group to Break Up on December 31

posted on by Egan Loo
5 members will remain with Johnny & Associates to pursue solo careers

The talent agency Johnny & Associates announced via fax on Sunday that the popular idol group SMAP is breaking up on December 31, after a career spanning over a quarter century.

Johnny & Associates' facsimile message explained that part of the group held the opinion of "wanting to break up rather than go on hiatus," so they decided to end their activities as a group. The five members will remain with Johnny & Associates going forward, but will focus on their solo careers starting next year.

SMAP (Sports Music Assemble People) formed in 1988 with six members, although Katsuyuki Mori left the group in 1996. The band debuted with their first single in September 1991, and went on to put out a number of hit songs, such as "Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana," "Yozora no Mukō," and "Lion Heart." "Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana" sold 2.5 million single CDs.

Newspapers reported in January that Masahiro Nakai (43), Tsuyoshi Kusanagi (42), Gorō Inagaki (42), and Shingo Katori (39) had been in talks to leave Johnny & Associates, with only Takuya Kimura (43) staying with the agency.

The reports added that the four would leave following the imminent resignation of SMAP's long-time manager Michi Ijima. Reports indicated that the four members had been considering leaving the agency since last September, and Sankei Sports reported that they made the decision at the end of November to leave the agency. According to the newspaper, Johnny & Associates cancelled a proposed five-city dome arena tour after Kimura decided in December that he would stay at the agency. Sankei Sports reported that SMAP's manager would resign from Johnny & Associates at the end of February.

Johnny & Associates Inc. released a statement later in January that confirmed that it was in talks with some members of SMAP regarding a possible departure from the agency, but the agency has not officially confirmed any of the other reports from various newspapers and news outlets. The five members then appeared in a live message during their weekly SMAP x SMAP program to address the reports on January 18. They apologized for the unease they caused their fans. Despite indicating they will continue working, they did not directly address whether the group will break up in the future.

Together the group performed theme songs for Hime-chan's Ribbon and Lil' Red Riding Hood Cha-Cha. They have also had separate acting careers. Kimura has voiced Howl in Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli's Howl's Moving Castle film and JP in Takeshi Koike and Madhouse's Redline film, and starred in the live-action film of the space opera anime classic Space Battleship Yamato (adapted as Star Blazers in English). Kusanagi played 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 the One Piece: Karakuri Shiro no Mecha Kyohei film. Katori has played Riiya the kid werewolf in Lil' Red Riding Hood Cha-Cha, Hattori-kun in the live-action Ninja Hattori Kun The Movie, and Kankichi in the 2009 live-action drama adaptation of Osamu Akimoto's Kochira Katsushika-ku Kamearikouen-mae Hashutsujo ("Kochikame") police comedy manga.

Source: NHK News

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