One of J-Pop’s (Japanese pop) pioneering idol groups, SMAP (Sports Music Assemble People), will disband on 31st December this year.
The news was just confirmed by SMAP’s management agency, Johnny’s & Associates Inc., after denying rumours of a split for months.
Formed in 1988 before making their official CD debut with the single “Can’t Stop!! Loving” in 1991, SMAP originally consisted of 6 members: Masahiro Nakai, Takuya Kimura, Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Shingo Katori, and Katsuyuki Mori. But it was only in 1994 that the group saw success with their first #1 single, “Hey Hey Ōki ni Maido Ari” (Hey Hey おおきに毎度あり, “Hey Hey Thanks For Your Business”).
Not long after, SMAP quickly built up a huge fanbase in Japan as well as all over Asia as its members would appear in variety shows, films, dramas, and commercials. It is without a doubt that they were “an idol group that does anything”.
Their popularity made them ambassadors for diplomatic relations between Japan, China, and South Korea.
In fact, they were the first J-Pop group to visit China in a decade, when they held a concert performance at the Beijing Workers Stadium in China under the theme of “Come on, Japan. Thank you, China. Asia is a united home” in 2011. The concert, which was a symbol of gratitude for China’s assistance in the aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami tragedy, was attended by 40,000 people.
Upon the announcement, Johnny’s & Associates Inc. released an official statement which read:
“Thank you for always supporting SMAP. We have put everyone into worry regarding the deliberation among the members about their future. With this decision made by the members, and on behalf of everyone who has been involved, we would like to apologise that we have made this announcement through a faxed letter.
SMAP, which has been in the industry for 25 years, will be disbanding on December 31, 2016. In January of this year, there were deliberations regarding SMAP’s future. Over a period of 6 months from February to August 10, we have still continued their activities by appearing on music shows and other various activities as usual. We have also planned to commemorate their 25th anniversary of their debut as well as the 20th anniversary of their show by doing promotional events and even concerts. In spite of these efforts, there were still several people who have doubted saying that continuing their activities is very difficult to do with the current situation of the five members. The debate continued among the officials. In July, we have declined a music program guesting. The month after that, for the sake of the people who cannot wait, we had to take our time to think calmly. There were suggestions that the group should take a short break until these circumstances have been resolved. From the members themselves, however, they said that “We’ll rather disband than take a break”. It’s very difficult for the members to come to this resolve after all the achievements they have had for the past few years. Although it is very difficult, we are now reporting it officially.
It wasn’t possible to meet the expectations of the company stakeholders without the fans’ support which were shown in this year’s commemorative events. We would like to thank you and at the same time, apologize. We are sorry.
With that being said, SMAP will disband, but the affiliation of the members remain in the company. We will focus on their individual activities. We are hoping for you to support them as warmly as before and we are looking forward to your encouragement in the future. We humbly express our gratitude to everyone.
Johnny’s & Associates Inc.”
In addition to the above statement, it was also announced in SMAP’s official fanclub that they will stop accepting new members.
Up to last year, SMAP has sold a whopping total of 35 millions records. Its 5 members – Masahiro Nakai, Takuya Kimura, Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, and Shingo Katori – are expected to pursue solo careers.
It truly is the end of an era. Thank you for the music, SMAP.