Japanese Boy Band SMAP Quietly Disbands: Decision Not Unanimous, Indicates Agency Of Popular J-Pop Band That Was Together Since 1988

SMAP, one of Japan’s most loved and adored boy bands, officially disbanded at the end of 2016. While the band had announced they would go their separate ways a few months back, their fans tried keeping the group together with multiple techniques, including a signature campaign that exceeded 370,000 signatures, and a paid editorial in a leading Japanese publication that was financed through crowd-funding.

After making music for almost 30 years, SMAP, one of Japan’s most beloved bands ended their association Saturday. After a quarter-century run that was widely appreciated by the band’s fans, SMAP chose to call it quits on the last day of 2016, confirmed the band’s management in a press release Sunday, reported Japan Times. Needless to say, while the news was expected for quite some time, the fans were still left shocked and dismayed because they had hoped that their multiple gestures to get the band to stay together would work. One of the highest paid celebrities for endorsements and commercial appearances in Japan, SMAP’s songs “Egao no Genki”, “Hajimete no Natsu”, and “Kimi wa Kimi dayo” were used as the theme song for anime series, Hime-chan’s Ribbon.

SMAP’s management agency, Johnny & Associates, hinted that the decision to disband wasn’t unanimous. While there is no official confirmation about the lack of consensus on the decision to call it quits, the agency’s words suggest otherwise.

“Some of the members of the synchronized five-man idol group — Takuya Kimura, Shingo Katori, Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Masahiro Nakai — believe it’s best to go their separate ways, and their decision will be respected.”

There were rumors that the group may not disband immediately. SMAP’s agency tried convincing the members that they take a long break, perhaps to go their separate ways and experiment with music on their own. Hence, it was assumed SMAP would temporarily suspend the union and not end the 28-year-old association. However, the band’s decision came as a shock to many. Revealing the heartbreaking news, the agency stated that the decision to call it quits wasn’t unanimous.

“Some members have expressed their wish to disband, rather than to suspend SMAP’s active schedule as a group.

“It was a very difficult decision, but we have judged it will be difficult to continue its activities as a group, although it was not a unanimous choice by the members.”

Interestingly, none of the SMAP members offered any explanation to their fans about why they were breaking up. This has led to numerous rumors about the real reason behind the decision to go their separate ways. Regional experts hint the most likely reason could be the age factor. The five members of SMAP aren’t young anymore, and the group certainly doesn’t qualify to be called a boy band. In fact, all the members are middle-aged men rather than the fresh-faced youths of the past.

Apart from staying relevant for almost three decades, the band has survived the departure of a member and the arrests of two others for minor offenses over the years. Japanese people continue to strongly adore and appreciate the band and its music so much that the band’s perpetuity has been taken for granted. Some old people often consider SMAP as one of their essential requirements, saying, “It is like electricity, gas, tap water and SMAP.”

SMAP’s breakup was first rumored in January, 2016, upsetting millions of fans. However, the fans were visibly distraught after the official confirmation was announced in August. Convinced that they could make the members of SMAP continue with the band, fans collected over 370,000 signatures in the country and abroad to petition the band members to change their mind, reported the Mainichi.

Besides the petition, SMAP’s fans also successfully crowdfunded a large advertisement in a local news publication that urged the group to stay together. The crowdfunding campaign collected nearly $342,000 (40 million yen) from about 13,000 fans in a single week.

SMAP stands for Sports Music Assemble People. Masahiro Nakai, Takuya Kimura, Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Shingo Katori and Katsuyuki Mori were mere teenagers, between the ages of 11 and 15 when they formed SMAP way back in 1988. It was Mori who left the group in 1996 to pursue a career as a motorcycle racer. The rest of the band chose to stay together until last year. The band even attempted to dispel the rumors of their separation in the first half of 2016, causing even Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to be among those expressing relief.

Besides producing music that continues to remain popular among the Japanese, SMAP chose to entertain their fan base by acting and doing comedy skits. Their show, “SMAPxSMAP,” was watched with great enthusiasm, and it was this platform the group chose for their last appearance as a group.

[Featured Image by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images]