Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Shingo Katori, three former members of the ultrapopular boy band SMAP, will leave their management company, Johnny & Associates, in September, the agency said.
Contracts with Inagaki, 43, Kusanagi, 42, and Katori, 40, will expire Sept. 8, Johnny & Associates said. It will be the day before the 26th anniversary of the debut of their first song on a CD, “Can’t Stop!! — Loving —” which was released on Sept. 9, 1991.
The trio told the agency’s management that they did not want to renew their contracts. No information about SMAP’s former leader, Masahiro Nakai, and the fifth member, Takuya Kimura, was given, but media reports said they will remain with the agency.
“The three will embark on their own paths that they themselves decided on, but anywhere they go, and under all circumstances, I’ll wish them the best of luck,” Johnny Kitagawa, founder and president of the management agency, said in a statement Sunday.
The Sports Hochi newspaper said it was extremely rare for Kitagawa to make an official statement.
“Five great people of SMAP will not only remain in your hearts, but also in my heart as well,” Kitagawa wrote.
He added that SMAP, which originally stood for Sports Music Assemble People, will now stand for Subarashii (“great”) Memories Arigato (“thank you”) Power.
The talent agency said it’s now up to Inagaki, Kusanagi and Katori to make any further announcements about their plans for the future.
Originally formed in 1988 with six members, Katsuyuki Mori left the band in 1996 to become a motorcycle racer.
SMAP is considered one of the most influential groups in Japanese pop music. It’s members gained popularity not only through singing and dancing but also as actors, comedians and even chefs, as they appeared in various films and TV programs such as their own “SMAP×SMAP,” which ran from 1996 to 2016.
Their song “The Only Flower in the World” has sold over 3 million copies since its release in 2003.
Last year, 13 years after its debut, the song became the third highest selling single in Japanese history thanks to die-hard fans who were said to have purchased several copies each to show their love and support for the group.