Photo/IllutrationThe five members of popular Japanese male idol group Arashi, from left to right: Masaki Aiba, Jun Matsumoto, Satoshi Ohno, Sho Sakurai and Kazunari Ninomiya exchange comments after announcing the group will go on hiatus at the end of 2020 during a news conference in Tokyo on Jan. 27. (Shiro Nishihata)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Popular Japanese male idol group Arashi will suspend its activities indefinitely at the end of next year, its members said on Jan. 27.

The surprise announcement was triggered by leader Satoshi Ohno's desire to experience something other than show business, a feeling that started surging in his heart about three years ago.

“I want to leave the showbiz world once to see scenery I have never seen before,” said Ohno, 38. “I am also interested in leading an ordinary life.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the group, which saw it rise to the top of the Japanese idol scene.

Arashi's five members, decked out in suit jackets, were besieged by more than 100 media representatives at a Tokyo news conference on Jan. 27.

Although four of them were smiling as they gathered onstage, Ohno stood out for the solemn look on his face.

“We've decided to suspend our activities as a group,” he said simply, and all the members bowed deeply.

It took a moment for those in the room to process the surprise announcement and follow up with questions.

In June 2017, Ohno shocked the other members by proposing, “we can suspend activities as Arashi in 2020 and can take different paths in life."

Ohno also told them he “wanted to live freely.”

Arashi had a series of discussions to try to find a way to continue together, but eventually reached a consensus that “Arashi can only exist with these five members,” abandoning an option to keep the group going with four members.

The idol group informed its management, talent agency Johnny & Associates, of its intention in February 2018 and decided in June to step out of the spotlight.

“We want to take time to convey our gratitude to as many people as possible (through concerts and other activities),” member Sho Sakurai, 37, said, to express the group’s appreciation to their fans during the less than two years it has left.

Arashi debuted in 1999 comprised of Ohno, Sakurai, Masaki Aiba, 36, Kazunari Ninomiya, 35, and Jun Matsumoto, 35, releasing the CD single “A RA SHI,” and went on to have a series of smash hits.

They performed 10 times in a row on “Kohaku Uta Gassen,” the popular year-end Red and White music contest aired by Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK), since 2009.

Arashi reached a new height in popularity after it commanded a huge national audience when they performed as “otori,” the group that plays during the contest's extravagant finale, in 2016.

All the group's members have seen success beyond the music stage, becoming familiar faces on Japanese television, appearing regularly in variety shows, TV dramas and commercials.