• Kyodo

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A core member of the five-man pop group SMAP has offered an apology for the band’s decision to break up on Dec. 31 after more than a quarter of a century together.

“I now cannot find words to say to all of our fans who, just like me, have seen SMAP as part of their life,” Takuya Kimura said Friday on his Tokyo FM radio program “Takuya Kimura’s What’s Up SMAP!”

“I just feel sorry for all fans of SMAP. I’m really sorry,” the popular member better known as “Kimutaku” said.

Talent agency Johnny & Associates said Aug. 14 that the group will break up on Dec. 31. All of the members — leader Masahiro Nakai, Kimura, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Goro Inagaki and Shingo Katori — will remain with Johnny & Associates and focus on solo careers starting next year, it said.

The move followed a media frenzy sparked in January by rumors of SMAP’s possible break-up, with all but Kimura supposedly in negotiations to leave Johnny & Associates, dismaying fans not just in Japan but elsewhere in Asia.

But later that month, the group apologized to fans for causing the controversy and pledged to stay together.

SMAP, which stands for Sports Music Assemble People, was formed in 1988 by six teens, with one — Katsuyuki Mori — leaving in 1996 to pursue a career in car racing.

The group debuted with a single in 1991 and would go on to put out a plethora of hits such as “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” (“The Only Flower in the World”) and “Lion Heart.”

SMAP has participated in NHK’s popular “Kohaku” song show on New Year’s Eve 23 times, with Nakai in 2009 serving as a host on the annual competition, which features the year’s most successful singers.

“Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana,” which was released in 2003 and sold more than 2 million CDs, was ranked No. 1 on a Japanese hit chart in late January as fans spooked by the SMAP breakup rumors launched a buying campaign to express support for the group.

The members have also had separate careers in TV and movies, and helped promote the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. One of their songs, “Arigato” (“Thank you”), is being used as a theme song for TBS TV’s coverage of the Rio Olympics.

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