TOKYO • Japanese boy band Smap will break up at the end of the year, their management said on Sunday, saddening their army of fans across Asia and marking the end of an era.
The five members of the hugely popular group, aged 39 to 43, are regularly referred to as Japan's "national idols" and have dominated Japanese show business for the past quarter of a century.
The news came after months of speculation about deep divisions within Smap and only seven months after the band pledged on live television to stay together.
"Smap, which has worked as an artist group for 25 years since its debut, will disband as of Dec 31, 2016," said management agency Johnny & Associates.
The members - Takuya Kimura, Masahiro Nakai, Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Shingo Katori - will remain with the agency and focus on their solo acts, the statement added.
Smap, which stands for "Sports Music Assemble People", started out as a fresh-faced boy band in 1988. It is still the top J-pop boy group, even though some of its members are now men approaching middle age.
Aside from singing mega hits, the members, as a group or as individuals, have hosted a number of popular comedy, variety and sports television programmes, including the ongoing broadcasts of the Rio Olympics and acted in serious dramas and movies.
"Twenty-five years since their debut, the most powerful idol group in the Japanese entertainment history will bring down the curtain," said the Sports Nippon.
"I never read long sentences, but read this many times," said one tweet, referring to the manage- ment's statement. "I refuse to believe Smap is disbanding."