SMAP poll: Japanese MPs happy boy band staying together

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[January 19, 2016]  TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's staid politicians aren't known for championing pop music, but even Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday was hailing an announcement that homegrown boy band SMAP had averted an impending break-up.

Saturation media coverage and despairing fans greeted news last week that the five-man group, which formed in 1988 when its members were in their teens and in its heyday packed venues around Asia and sang for Chinese leaders, was on the brink of dissolution.

But late on Monday, SMAP - whose name stands for "Sports Music Assemble People" - said they would stay together, prompting so much joyful internet chatter that Japan's Twitter network briefly crashed.

"It was good that the group responded to the wishes of many fans and decided to continue (as it is)," Abe told a parliamentary committee.

"Like in the world of politics, I assume there are various challenges for a group to keep on going for such a long period of time," added the 61-year-old leader, whose ruling Liberal Democratic Party has been in power for nearly all of the past six decades.

Other cabinet ministers, including Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, lauded SMAP's survival and said they hoped they would continue to "give dreams and hopes to the public."

(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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