TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - One of Japan's oldest and most popular boy bands Arashi will go on indefinite hiatus and suspend their group activities at the end of next year.
The five-member group made the announcement on its fan club home page on Sunday (Jan 27).
Members of the band, which is managed by privately held Johnny's Entertainment, are regulars on Japanese television shows. SMAP, another popular boyband managed by the company, disbanded at the end of 2016, after close to 30 years together.
"We, Arashi, have something to tell our fans. After much discussion, we decided to suspend our activities on Dec. 31, 2020," leader of the idol group Satoshi Ohno, 38, said in a video message posted on the group's official fan site, Nikkan Sports reported. "I'm sure you're all surprised by the sudden announcement but we wanted to tell the fans who have been supporting us more than anyone."
At a press conference held at Johnny's Entertainment on Sunday night, Ohno said he first talked to his members about the plan in June 2017.
"I gathered them and told them that I wanted to end activities as a part of Arashi. We talked about it many times and came to a compromise before we reported our decision to our agency in February 2018."
On his decision Ohno said: "I want to live a life of freedom."
He confirmed that he will leave the limelight in 2021. The other members revealed that they have yet to decide on their personal plans, but implied that they will not be leaving show business.
The rest of the group's members Masaki Aiba, Jun Matsumoto, Kazunari Ninomiya and Sho Sakurai fully supported Ohno's decision.
"It's tough if one person's views can decide the future of Arashi but it is also not right to tie down the life of a person," said Sakurai, 37.
"The five of us met as teenagers in middle school, we have been important partners to one another for 24 years. And so, no matter how much time we might spend, we wanted to find a compromise that all the members could agree upon."
Matsumoto, 35, confirmed that the group is not disbanding and that there were no fights in the lead-up to the decision.
Ninomiya, 35, said: "What we've always felt strongly is that it isn't Arashi if it's not the five of us."
He added: "This is a decision we've come to as a group. If Ohno bears the full brunt of criticism or he's made out to be the villain of this story, then that is a failure on all of our parts."
Choking up, Ohno said: "When we decided on the plan, they told me that we'll journey to the end with a smile. And even as I felt apologetic about my decision, I felt so glad that I am part of Arashi."
The five-member group debuted in November 1999 and will tour Japan for their 20th anniversary this year.
Arashi is easily one of the best-selling acts in the country.
Their songs are regularly featured in the Oricon sales charts for singles, albums and music DVDs. The band made its first appearance on Kohaku Uta Gassen, the famous music show that NHK televises every New Year's Eve, in 2009 and have since appeared regularly, even hosting the show several times.
They are also the faces for Japan Airlines and Japan Post, which are both official partners of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
They have been active as a group and individually, not only in music but also in movies, Japanese dramas, variety shows and commercials.