• Kyodo

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Fans of the now middle-aged boy band SMAP, set to break up at the end of this year, celebrated the 25th anniversary of the release of the group’s first single on Friday by begging the band to continue in personal ads in newspapers across the country.

Messages such as “Happy 25th anniversary,” “Thank you for your smiles always” and “I will support you forever and ever” filled almost the entirety of the personal ad space in the morning edition of the Tokyo Shimbun.

Similar messages were also printed by regional newspapers in various parts of the nation, including the Kahoku Shimpo in Miyagi Prefecture, the Shizuoka Shimbun in Shizuoka Prefecture, the Jomo Shimbun in Gunma Prefecture, and the Kitanippon Shimbun in Toyama Prefecture.

The 25th anniversary of a band as hugely popular as SMAP would usually involve special concerts and events, but no celebrations were planned after talent agency Johnny & Associates Inc. announced in August the group will break up at the end of the year.

But loyal fans launched a campaign on Twitter calling on fellow fans to place anniversary messages in newspapers around the country.

SMAP, which stands for Sports Music Assemble People, was formed in 1988 with six original members, one of whom left in 1996 to pursue a career in motorcycle racing.

The group debuted as a band when their first single was released on Sept. 9, 1991. It has since put out a plethora of hit songs such as “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” (“The Only Flower in the World”) and “Lion Heart.”

The band caused a brief media frenzy in January when news of their potential breakup surfaced, before band members said later that month they would stick together. At the time, fans also launched a campaign to express their support through the purchase of CDs of “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana,” SMAP’s best known song, and as a result pushed the CD single released in 2003 to No. 1 again on a Japanese hit chart.

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