Japanese Pop Group SMAP to Break Up at End of Year, Agency Says

The Japanese pop band SMAP is going to break up on Dec. 31, putting an end to its 25 years as a group, its agency Johnny & Associates said in a statement on its website.

Some members demanded a split, following continued discussions since February, according to the statement. All five members will stay with the agency and continue activities individually, it said.

The five-member, all-male group dominated Japan’s music scene for more than two decades, with overall record sales exceeding 35 million, according to Oricon, a music statistics and information provider. The group’s members are also widely known as actors in TV programs and movies, and for their TV variety show SMAPxSMAP. An initial decision by the group in January this year not to split was welcomed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as “a good call.”

The group has sometimes faced controversy. In 2012, Toyota Motor Corp., Japan’s biggest carmaker, said it would continue using SMAP singer Takuya Kimura in its advertising even after the pop star was suspended from driving after speeding offenses.

In 2009, the group urged voters to support incumbent politicians as the ruling party faced likely defeat in a national election. The opposition Democratic Party of Japan in fact swept to power for the first time, ending a half-century of almost unbroken single-party rule in what was at that time the world’s second-largest economy.

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