SMAP, Japan's most successful and popular boy band of all time, seems on its way to disbanding, sending shockwaves through the entire Japanese entertainment industry. For now, there seem to be more questions about the situation than answers, and that alone is enough to be driving fans of the middle-aged idol group crazy.

SMAP, which is an acronym for Sports Music Assemble People (don't ask me what that means), is not only Japan's, but Asia's, best-selling boy band, with over 35 million records sold worldwide. The five-member group includes Takuya Kimura, Goro Inagaki, Shingo Katori, Masahiro Nakai and Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, who are now all middle-aged but still considered to be idols. Despite music having been their bread and butter, with numerous stadium concerts and over 50 singles and 20 albums released, the various members have also been a part of the Japanese pop culture landscape for almost 30 years, appearing in movies, television variety shows, dramas, and commercials. They are all over the place. So why the break-up, when they are still obviously going strong?

Apparently, a longtime female manager of SMAP, one who many think is responsible for the group's rise to fame, is splitting from Johnny & Associates, the talent agency run by boss Johnny Kitagawa. All the members of the group, except its biggest star, Takuya Kimura, plan to follow her out and continue their individual careers. Many in the media speculate, however, that because Johnny & Associates pretty much owns all the super-popular boy bands and male idols of Japan, the four members who leave SMAP will have a difficult time surviving in the entertainment industry, as television stations and sponsors can't afford to upset the all-powerful Johnny Kitagawa. 

This is an ongoing situation in Japan, one which many entertainment reporters are calling the biggest story in twenty years. Stay tuned.

Headline of a sports daily — SMAP in DANGER of SPLITTING

Good ol' days