In a move that shocked fans, popular Japanese boy band Arashi said Sunday that it will go on hiatus at the end of 2020.
“Around the middle of June 2017, I told other members that I wanted to end the activities as Arashi for now and that I wanted to live freely,” Satoshi Ono, the leader of the five-member idol group, said in a hastily arranged news conference in Tokyo. “I’ve discussed this many times with other members and decided that the date will be the end of 2020.”
“I wanted to get away from this world and experience a normal life,” he said, adding that he started thinking about this possibility about three years ago.
The news comes after Johnny & Associates’ other popular boy band group, SMAP, disbanded at the end of 2016.
Ono, 38, said he thought he would have to quit giant entertainment agency Johnny & Associates in order to do so but after much discussion, he and agency officials decided he would take a break.
Asked repeatedly about if and when he plans to come back, Ono said he didn’t know and that he would put his career in the entertainment industry on hold for the time being.
Later Sunday, Johnny & Associates issued a statement which said, at the end, it respected the decision of Arashi members after much discussion on how it would affect the fans, relevant parties and the public.
“In making the decision, the five members had a strong and unwavering feeling that the activities of Arashi should be conducted by the five of them,” it said.
The group debuted in November 1999. The other members are Masaki Aiba, Jun Matsumoto, Kazunari Ninomiya and Sho Sakurai.
Arashi is easily one of the best-selling acts in the country. Their songs are regularly featured on the Oricon sales charts for singles, albums and music DVDs.
The band also made its first appearance on “Kohaku Uta Gassen,” the famous music show that NHK televises every New Year’s Eve.
They have been active as a group and individually, not only in music but also in movies, dramas, variety shows and commercials.
Reaction by fans to the news was swift.
They begged the group to continue its activities, tweeting “It cannot be possible” and “Let it be a dream.” Many mentioned how the band was part of their youth.
“The news was such a shock that I couldn’t remain calm,” said Anzu Koshida, a 20-year-old university student from Tokyo who rushed to a Johnny’s goods shop. “Arashi was entwined with my youth from elementary school to university. I am sad that I will be unable to see the five members’ performances” again, she added.
“They were such national idols and both parents and children could enjoy what they did,” said Yuko Okazaki, a 50-year-old mother who was at Johnny’s official goods store in the city of Fukuoka.
“They seemed so busy recently so I hope they can have a good rest,” said her 16-year-old daughter, Ruri.
News about the band spread across Asia quickly. Words related to Arashi were popular search words on Weibo, China’s microblogging site, with many commenting, “I can’t accept this,” and “This is so sudden and unexpected.” Teary emojis filled the comment boards.
The reaction was similar in Taiwan. “Fans are crying,” trumpeted a Taiwanese newspaper in its online edition. “Fans are startled and cannot believe it,” it added.