09:05 1 January 2017
SMAP breaks up after nearly 30 years as Japanese pop idols
TOKYO, Jan. 1, Kyodo
SMAP, one of Japan's most beloved bands, put an end Saturday to their nearly 30-year career as pop idols, as a last-ditch attempt by fans to avert the breakup failed.
The previous day, thousands of fans had taken the unprecedented action of placing an eight-page advertisement in The Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese newspaper, to plead with the five-man band to not break up.
The ad, which included messages such as "We love SMAP forever" and the names of the fans, was paid for by an online crowdfunding campaign that collected nearly 40 million yen ($342,000) from about 13,000 fans in about a week.
On Monday, SMAP made a final appearance as a group on their signature TV variety show but offered no explanation as to why they were disbanding.
The group formed in 1988 as six members in their teens. Over the years, the core group comprised of Masahiro Nakai, 44, Takuya Kimura, 44, Goro Inagaki, 43, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, 42, and Shingo Katori, 39, remained among the most popular performers in Japan's entertainment world.
SMAP defied stereotypes of Japanese male idol groups known for separating after a short time, and remained popular for three decades at home and abroad, especially in Asia.