Shibutani will leave the group Kanjani 8 before they are supposed to begin their 5 Domes tour on 15 July in Sapporo, Hokkaido. He is expected to leave the agency within the year.
To pursue a music career while being based overseas.
Shibutani who is widely regarded to have the best vocals among Kanjani 8 members, made his solo debut in 2015. However, by the time he passed the 35-year-old mark, he began to have thoughts of focusing on music in January this year and brought this up to his fellow members on 15 February. After repeated persuasions and discussions, they set the deadline for the final decision to be made on 10 April which was when fellow Maruyama Ryuhei would return from Osaka to Tokyo after finishing his stage play. Shibutani was still adamant about not changing his mind even by this deadline.
Shibutani expressed his wish to learn music formally even though he has been an artiste for 21 years but didn't think he could attend school while still working as a Kanjani 8 member. He also didn't think it was right to continue being a part of Kanjani 8 if he was not devoted wholeheartedly to what he was doing so he apologised to his fellow members and asked for their understanding about his desire to do what he wants.
Shibutani informed the president of Johnny's Jimusho i.e. Johnny Kitagawa about this decision 2 days before the press conference by calling him directly. The latter expressed his support for Shibutani since he had already made up his mind and asked him to work hard.
Kanjani 8's best hits album "GR8EST" to be released on 30 May will be the group's last album with 7 members. Their 15th anniversary year events will last till August next year as planned but the upcoming dome tour will feature the remaining 6 members.
Shibutani hasn't confirmed yet what his future plans are but does not rule out going to language school first. As for the choice of the country where he is planning to go to, he hasn't decided yet but it will most likely be an English-speaking country. However, he stressed that this decision did not mean that he was retiring from showbiz.
Other key points
- When asked if there is any senior in Johnny's Jimusho who he would see as his goal to work towards to, he said that there was none. If there was anyone in particular, he wouldn't have wanted to quit. He also denied that this decision had to do with the SMAP saga and he had not discussed this decision with any of his seniors while emphasizing that this was his personal decision.
- Shibutani denied rumours in the tabloids about his departure being due to his disdain about Kanjani 8's career having a strong comical influence. He also said the same about speculation that he hated appearing on variety shows.
- The 6 remaining Kanjani 8 members excluding Yasuda Shota were present at the press conference with Shibutani. Yasuda fell down at home on 9 April and suffered a huge impact to his back. Although there were no issues with his bones and he was discharged from the hospital 3 days later, he has not recovered from his bruises yet. Much as he wanted to attend the press conference, he had to give up the idea at the orders of his doctor. He is currently recuperating at home.
Shibutani planned to be at the press conference alone but his fellow members wanted to be with him and speak about this personally so that their fans could hear what they felt about this matter.