SMAP, one of Japan’s most famous pop boy band groups, have announced they will disband at the end of this year.

Japan awoke to the sad news today that SMAP, one of the most popular boy bands for the past three decades, will be breaking up on New Year’s Eve.

There has been speculation of a breakup since January when it was revealed that one member of the group was considering leaving and pursuing a solo career. These reports were followed by an apology by all five members of SMAP on national TV for the “trouble” they had caused through this speculation.

▼ SMAP apologizes for rumours of a breakup in January 2016

According to NHK, there were ongoing discussions over the future of the group between the five SMAP members and their managing agency, Johnny & Associates, over the last six months. At the beginning of August, Johnny & Associates suggested to the group that they go on a break rather than disband, but the group said they “don’t won’t a break — they want to split up”. The statement from Johnny & Associates released this weekend said, “It was tough decision, but we respect the achievements of the group and their hard work up until this point”.

SMAP first started in 1988 with six band members. The group now consists of five: Masahiro Nakai (the “leader”), Takuya KimuraGoro InagakiTsuyoshi Kusanagi, and Shingo Katori. The sixth member, Mori Katsuyuki, left the group in 1996 for a career in speedway racing. SMAP is the one of the most successful boy bands in Asia, selling more than 35 million records. Their hit singles have included “Sekai ni Hitotsu Dake no Hana” (“The Only Flower in the World”) and “Lion Heart”.

▼ SMAP’s 2000 single “Lion Heart”

All five SMAP members regularly appear on TV both individually and as a group. The lead singer of the band, Masahiro Nakai, is famous for his TV hosting abilities. The other members have all played roles in TV dramas or movies.

Whether you love or loathe SMAP, there is no denying they have been a staple of Japanese pop culture for the past quarter of a century. There will be many people all over the world feeling a little down today.

How do you feel about the news of SMAP’s breakup?

Sources: NHK, Wikipedia/SMAP