According to Johnny's Jimusho, the members had been engaged in discussions since February until 10 August over their appearances on music programmes, concerts, projects and events relating to their signature variety show "SMAPxSMAP" which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and the group's 25th anniversary since their CD debut. Despite the fact that the agency's president Johnny Kitagawa stated clearly in May that he didn't think the group will disband and the same was mentioned in the SMAP fanclub newsletter sent out in June, some of the members had expressed their views that it was difficult for the five of them to be working together as a group. This led to the group withdrawing from the TBS music programme "Ongaku no Hi" in July and FujiTV's "FNS Uta no Natsumatsuri". In August, although there were efforts trying to give SMAP a break from group activities until the conditions could be adjusted to accommodate everyone's views, some of the members indicated that they would rather disband than to take a rest. As a result, the decision was made to end the group's 25-year-long career on the last day of this year. Johnny's Jimusho commented that even though not everyone has the same view on this issue, it is difficult for the group to continue to function if there are members who have indicated their wish to disband thus reflecting the fact that the differences which surfaced in January were never resolved.
The comments of the five members are as such:
Nakai Masahiro: To all fans and related personnel, we are announcing the disbandment of SMAP. I am deeply sorry for the inconvenience and worry caused to everyone who had cared for and assisted us so far. Please forgive us for this outcome.
Kimura Takuya: Honestly speaking, I feel regretful about this outcome of the group disbanding. However, we won't be able to do anything for the 25th anniversary concert nor group activities if the five of us cannot get together so this is a situation which I have to accept. For the fans and staff who had supported us so strongly and to ignore their wishes with the group's breakup, it is truly a miserable ending. At present, I find it difficult to come up with words to describe my feelings.
Inagaki Goro: To all fans and staff, I apologise for the worry and inconvenience caused by this. At present, it is difficult for the five of us to work together thus we have to come to this painful decision of disbanding. I hope that you can understand our wishes and thank you for the past 28 years.
Kusanagi Tsuyoshi: SMAP has chosen the path of disbanding. To the fans and related personnel who have supported us all this while for the past 28 years, thank you very much. Going forward, we will continue to work hard so it will be great if you can continue to support us warmly.
Katori Shingo: To all fans and staff, we SMAP are disbanding. I would like to express my gratitude towards all the people who have supported us. I apologise deeply for the sudden announcement.
And here is the statement released by the agency to the media:
To all members of the media
With regard to our artiste SMAP's group activities in future
Thank you for supporting SMAP as always. To date, much worry has been caused to everyone with regard to SMAP's activities going forward so we would like to report on the outcome of repeated discussions with the members. With respect to the members' wishes, please understand that this is why we are making the announcement through this written format.
SMAP who has been active as a group for the past 25 years, will be disbanding on 31 December 2016. In January this year, SMAP had indicated that they will stay in the agency thus our company had come together to try to make preparations to support the group's activities. For more than six months since February to 10 August, there had been repeated individual and group discussions about issues such as SMAP's appearances on music programmes, concerts to express thanks to fans and special events to celebrate their signature programme's 20th anniversary and the group's 25th anniversary since their CD debut. However, as discussions progressed, several members had expressed their views that it was difficult for the five of them to work together. In August, in order to give some time for members to consider their decisions and make adjustments to accommodate their wishes, a suggestion of taking a break from group activities was raised but was met with responses that it would be better to disband than take a break. Although this is a painful decision which is not unanimous among the members, it is decided that we will respect their wishes so as to respect the contributions and hard work of the members so far and that it is difficult for them to work as a group.
To the fans who had been eagerly anticipating the 25th anniversary concert and events and all related personnel who had supported the group so far, it is sad to be unable to meet your expectations and we apologise for our inability to make things happen.
Although SMAP will disband within this year, the five of them will continue to be our care and will work hard in their solo activities. Please look upon them favourably and continue to support them warmly.
Sources: Nikkansports 1 / Nikkansports 2 / Nikkansports 3 / Sponichi
Well, the dust has finally settled. Frankly speaking, I feel relieved that they finally decided to go their separate ways since it was getting so painful seeing them try to put up a pretense when things were definitely not well. Since that "pledge" on TV not to disband, SMAP has been dominating the tabloids with topics such as how things were so bad among the members that they didn't have live audiences at SMAPxSMAP anymore so that the fans couldn't see the tense situation, how the members were rumoured to have told friends about their unhappiness over the "independence movement" which didn't work out, how Kimura was seen as a villain for his last-minute defection or how some members were very vocal about not doing any more group activities.
For a start, SMAP is hardly considered a "nakayoshi group" i.e. a group where the members are very close and on good terms with one another. As such, I've always seen them as 5 distinctly different individuals who get together for the sake of work. Of course, what happened in the beginning of the year was probably the last straw for them and pushed them onto the path of disband. Much as I thought earlier that it was a pity for them to disband, I thought that they were actually putting the fans through a lot of unnecessary and prolonged worry and unhappiness by not doing this earlier. Now that they've finally decided to let go, hopefully it is for the good of everyone.
Just looking at the comments from the members, it is quite apparent who is for and against the disband. Although the personal relationships between the members may be hardly rosy now, some of the members may have still wanted to keep the group going since it has already been around for that long and are probably prepared to keep things on a purely professional level. However, if not everyone is willing to cooperate, there really is nothing you can do about it.
For many of us at the workplace, we don't get to choose who we work with. We can't just break away from a team or department as we like just because we dislike one of our teammates. We can't possibly like all our colleagues just as we can't expect everyone to like us in return. As such, we continue to work while keeping things professional and limit personal interaction with these people we can't stand. Perhaps for SMAP, they've finally had enough. Luckily for them, they have a way out now. I just hope that they can end this journey as a group nicely with no more ill will or animosity stirred up in the next few months.