• Kyodo

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The government said Wednesday that it has tapped popular Japanese boy band Arashi as a goodwill ambassador to promote cultural and sports exchanges with China ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

During his stay in China from Monday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Chinese leaders about the decision to ask Arashi, who are also popular in China, to play a key role in accelerating people-to-people exchanges between the neighbors.

The group will serve in the goodwill ambassador role through to the end of 2020, the government said. Arashi — comprising leader Satoshi Ono, Sho Sakurai, Masaki Aiba, Kazunari Ninomiya and Jun Matsumoto — has announced that it will suspend its activities at the end of next year.

One of the many male idol groups promoted by giant entertainment agency Johnny & Associates Inc., Arashi members have been active as a group and individually — not only in music but in movies, TV dramas, variety shows and commercials — since making their debut in 1999.

Arashi plans to hold a concert in Beijing next spring.