Arashi turned 12 this year.
On September 15, they marked their launch as a group in Hawaii. On November 2, they marked the release of their debut single, A.RA.SHI, which remains their bestselling single to date.
Since their debut in 1999, the five boys have been through many ups and downs. They may be successful now, the toast of Jpop town, but they have had their share of the low points.
The so-called “dark years” are from 2000 to 2005, just before Matsumoto Jun appeared as the iconic Domyouji Tsukasa in Hana Yori Dango.
As I quote from coolncute:
– Arashi’s CDs were not selling well so their then record-label (Pony Canyon) changed investment to W-inds.
– They didn’t have many movies, radio shows and TV shows. Their TV aired only in the Kanto region, which gained them the reputation of being “Kanto region artists”.
– There was time that their only fixed show was a 5-minute radio show.
– McDonald’s terminated the group’s advertising contract ahead of time with the reason: “changing strategy”.
– Their first show on FujiTV was “Nama Arashi”; when the rating was only 1.5%, the show was cancelled.
– They used to do midnight shows on NTV, with a corner where they had to solve complaints (C no Arashi), interview men who like to dress as women ( G no Arashi)… and many other corners (D, G no Arashi). They worked very hard in those corners, but at that time many people said they were “not-like-idols”.
– Since they worked hard but didn’t get any good results, the five of them had a serious discussion about Arashi’s future in Ohno’s room in the 2002 tour.
– 2004 is the darkest year of Arashi. The 2004 Athens Olympics was very famous and it got attention from the public with TV stations spending 70% broadcast time for Olympics news. Many people predicted that year’s 24h TV program will fail. Arashi was appointed to be the main personality supporters (maybe they thought it would fail so they didn’t care who took on the job). Kitagawa Julie accepted that project in order to promote Arashi. When Aiba cried and read the letter he wrote for other members “We will definitely fullfill our dream to be the top”, fans of other groups sneered.
– In 2005, they planned to do a concert in Yokohama Arena (17,000 seats), but had to give that arena to KAT-TUN (not debuted yet) and moved to Yoyogi (10,000 seats). Arashi also had concerts in small and old arenas, they even fell off stages.
– In 2005, they filmed “Subarashiki Sekai” PV but after that JE didn’t release it because the company was afraid “no one will buy it”. Until now we still don’t have the full PV. JE also didn’t release “One” concert DVD with the same reason, even though Jun insisted that they release it. In the end of 2005, Jun accepted the role of Domyouji in Hana Yori Dango; one of his reasons was it’s a chance for Arashi to release a new single. Other members joked “ Thanks to Matsujun’s Hanadan that we get work to do” (in Wish single’s secret talk).
– Arashi said “The priority of Arashi in the company is 8th”.
Well it would seem that with the newsletter of Johnny’s International, Arashi remains to be #8 priority or even lower. I barely read about them in there even if they have concerts or albums or singles that are being released. Sometimes I wish they’d have the independent streak of SMAP and go on their own but the boys are obedient, model employees. Perhaps they also feel they owe it to JE for sticking by them despite the low points in their career as a group. But if it were not for the boys’ own hard work and perseverance, they wouldn’t get to where they are now.
I remember I was in Tokyo in 2005 during the time that Hana Yori Dango was airing. At that time I felt Arashi was really popular but I was disappointed not to see anything in the city that would prove their fame. Instead I saw KAT-TUN everywhere, their giant billboards leaping out of walls in Roppongi. My Japanese friend didn’t even know Arashi.
A year or two later when I returned, my Japanese friend gleefully told me that she knows who Arashi is already. How things change in just a year. With the success of Hana Yori Dango and the single Wish, Arashi reached the consciousness of fans. Many of my friends were “Jun-baited” into Arashi; I was Jun-baited myself. Sometimes I wonder, if MatsuJun didn’t take the role of Domyouji, would Arashi be where it is now? That is not to sound that it was MatsuJun who steered them in this direction. Because I believe that it’s still their fate to be where they are now so it doesn’t really matter who stirred the fame. As I’m sure even among the boys themselves, it doesn’t matter either and for them, it’s a collective work.
C, D, G no Arashi and Mago Mago Arashi are still my favorite shows of the group because they were at their rawest form. They were young and inexperienced when it comes to hosting and yet they shouldered on. That has been the characteristic of the group, they fight on even if the odds are against them. I read a comment that said that one has to admire how the boys were working hard and smiling for the cameras then even if they didn’t know what was in the future, if they had any future at all. No one could see the worry on their faces, not that anyone would have cared at that point for how they felt because many have dismissed them as not idol-like, and therefore, didn’t have a chance to get rewarded for all their hard work.
But they showed their critics, detractors and those fans who sneered at them, and how. Individual drama projects, films, TV shows, endorsements both as a group and individually, albums, singles, concerts. The first time I watched on DVD their first concert at Kokuritsu–being one of only three pop groups to have performed there–I had goosebumps and tears. It made me feel so proud watching them knowing it was not easy to get to that place. Kokuritsu, for me, was just a symbol of the dream that Arashi had, to make a storm in the world. And they bagged it.
And thanks to those dark years, it makes one appreciate Arashi more, knowing the journey they have been through. They’re not just a pop group that was manufactured from the factory–trained until their bodies wanted to give up–but they were trained in the real world where their blood, sweat and tears became their investment and asset.
Those dark years… that is why we have the Arashi that we know now.
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