[blog] big only in Japan and other things they say about Arashi

“So what if they copied Arashi? No one knows Arashi anyway outside Japan.”

I find it amusing every time people say Arashi is known “only in Japan” It reminds me of that phrase “Big in Japan” to refer to those fads that are well known only in the Land of the Rising Sun but not anywhere else in the world. Yes, they are big in Japan they even have their faces plastered on the aircraft of the flag carrier.

arashi jet

But well, I don’t live in Japan and neither do a whole lot of Arashi fans. But I don’t take it against those who don’t know Arashi, like you know, fans of Katy Perry (butthurt after her latest album did not debut on top of the world charts because of this “unknown Japanese group” whose songs the world doesn’t even understand and yet managed to capture the No. 1 spot). I don’t know a whole lot of Hollywood actors myself. Let’s face it, the world does not revolve around Japan, but it does not revolve around the US of Aeehhh nor South Korea.

Sometimes it’s fun to snark though and I do admit to doing that on Twitter every now and then… yes, I’m looking at you @VyLeTtE070111. Sometimes it’s scary to think that  Nino’s snarkiness is contagious. But it’s better to apply humor when dealing with antis than be defensive.

Sure, they’re big only in Japan but they sell millions in CDs and DVDs, crashing CDJapan and other online sites when preoder comes along. They don’t even have to do fan meetings and handshake events just so they could sell their albums or DVDs. And if you are sleeping by the time the preorder happens, don’t even hope to still be able to buy the Limited Edition online when you finally wake up. And don’t bank on having other editions coming out in the future because JStorm doesn’t do various versions of the same product… you know, “same same but different”? That’s totally uncool.

Yes, they’re big only in Japan but hey, imagine if they promoted themselves outside their country, what the sales would be like? If they put as much effort in reaching out to potential markets in the US, South America and yes, China? Not that the Chinese don’t know them based on the Arashi presence on Weibo but if they start to be active in that part of the world… just think of that.

Sadly though, that hasn’t happened not because of geopolitics but simply because even in Japan alone, Arashi could barely meet the demand for concerts. And they are not just idols who sing and dance, they are actors too, and in the case of Sho, a newscaster. If they go overseas, Nino won’t have time to play his games, Jun can’t meet his friends for a drink, Riida can’t go fishing, Aiba can’t do those crazy experiments and Sho can’t plan his vacations by the minute. They have private lives too, you know, and they barely even have time to live outside their idol selves. And I wouldn’t want them to be deprived of the things that make them happy because a happy Arashi shows in the work that they do.

So that’s how big they are in Japan they can’t even think of going overseas… yet. And that’s a big woe for international fans who don’t have a chance to join the lottery for concert tickets and compete with 1.5 million official members of the fan club, unless of course they join online biddings and sell their arm, leg and liver, together with their house and car. So big only in Japan? That may be true, and me thinks their rivals prefer it that way otherwise their rice bowls will be taken away from them.

“They look like commoners.”

I don’t think one became a fan of Arashi because they look like gods. At least that’s true for me.

Yes, I was baited by Domyouji-sama but what reeled me in was the group dynamics. It was never about how goodlooking they are because let’s face it, they aren’t. That reporter Charlene Chua (yes, I will never forget the name) would be very happy to volunteer that Jun has “orange peel skin”; she hasn’t seen Riida’s facial scar yet by the way, or Sho’s large forehead and the infamous nadegata (sloping shoulders). But well, what can I say, that’s nature, not thank you, doctor.

Besides, a handsome face or flawless legs can only get you as far. But personalities, they sustain you. And we’ve got loads of that in Arashi. And mind, not the agency-manufactured kind. Perhaps at the beginning, the agency tried to look into their personalities and capitalized on those differences, just like what HK pointed out in a previous comment here. But over the years, the members started to grow into their roles as they became more comfortable with one another and began to adjust to the pros and cons of being idols. So you’ve got a leader who looks like he’s half asleep all the time but the members won’t have it any other way; a de facto leader who takes care of the group like a mother; a middle child who keeps the balance in the group with his cheerfulness; the bratty one who defends the group in his own snarky way; and the youngest one who takes the responsibility of keeping the group focused.

image(Source: A.M.N.O.S. on FB./ yayrinrin @LJ)

This article looking at the “Arashi social phenomenon” tweeted by @FindAiba gives an idea why fans like Arashi, aside from the fact that it shows their wide appeal across age groups — from kids to pre-teens to grandpas and grandmas. One comment from that article really rings true with me: “They don’t act like celebrities, they act like your friends.”

So yes, the appeal of Arashi is that they look like those regular guys you might bump into in a coffee shop or the bookstore or even at the supermarket. Or the train, if you just properly pay attention, because they themselves talk on taking the public transport and no one noticed them. Maybe because they look too regular? But how can one overlook Sho’s nadegata or Jun’s eyebrows and think they’re just regular commuters? But I like stories like this because that means they are able to live normal lives with their “regular faces” (that earn them millions of yen, if I may say so) and I’m sure they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“They don’t act like idols.”

Ah. But I consider that as a compliment considering how the Asian entertainment industry is packed with perfectly packaged idols with their flawless complexion and their carefully managed public images. Not to say that Arashi doesn’t have an OC management team behind it making sure that no scandal comes out that would affect the group. Each of them had their share of scandals from sex, alleged drug use and heavy smoking mostly courtesy of Psycho Cyzo. Aside from being met with the usual humor and snark by Arashi fans, those scandals–whether true or not–only served to prove that these boys are human so get on with it.

So to say that they don’t behave like idols is something that I love hearing to be honest simply because I don’t want them to be like idols. The charm of Arashi is that they don’t even know how big they are and still get surprised at the number of albums and DVDs they sell or the fact that they can crash servers during an Interactive part of a live show. I don’t think it’s false humility because that’s how they have always been, self-deprecating, even during the time they were performing in half-filled auditoriums and falling off old stages. (Or who knows, it’s an old psychological scar inflicted on them for being treated as the Johnnys-least-likely-to-succeed.)

This Nikkei article looks at how Arashi can serve as an HR manual considering their personality differences that come to fore during their variety shows. Another article discusses at how the group can serve as a model for team management. Taking off from the second most common comment on Arashi above, it’s not the looks but their different personalities that make the group special. For sure, other groups also have this. But instead of being the cause for internal conflict, their differences complement each other and serve to strengthen Arashi even more.

At the end of the day, I fangirl Arashi not because they look like those idols that populate the industry but because their songs give that positive vibe we all need in large doses and they make me laugh and think that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you stand up, brush yourself up and carry on. They may be regular looking and act like clowns more than idols, but hey, they’re not just big in Japan, but they’re big in every Arashi fan’s heart, as cheesy as that may sound.

And the rest of the world doesn’t know what it’s missing.

© Orange Jasmine Purple Yam (blogging since 2001). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the contents in this site without permission from the author/owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Orange Jasmine Purple Yam with appropriate link to the original content.

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12 thoughts on “[blog] big only in Japan and other things they say about Arashi

  1. I see you’ve been using your time wisely 🙂 I love this blog post so much. I love reading fans’ views of Arashi group dynamics; it’s a topic that never gets old. I see you included my random two cents here too ❤ Thank you for the recognition, but thank you even more for linking all those other wonderful articles (especially that Nikkei one, which I'd never read before).

    All this makes me think back to all those wonderful moments on The Shounen Club Premium where Kokubun Taichi interviewed Arashi members and we got to see them in their "solo" mode, talking about what they thought their role in Arashi was. Nino said point blank that his solo activities were a way of benefiting the group and cited Jun's breakout role in HanaDan as the push that vaulted Arashi to popularity. Jun summarized each member's "role" within the group, and you can really tell that he appreciates everyone's differences and unity in their common goal to make Arashi better Ohno talked about how he consciously made an effort to keep up with the other fours' popularity in their earlier years. Again, it's pretty obvious that when an Arashi member does something, he always has the overall group dynamic in mind. I don't think anyone in Arashi actually wants to stand out more than his bandmates (contrast that to the way things are in other Johnny's groups…), and this mindfulness of not just their own positions but also of their bandmates', is a major reason they've stayed together for so long.

    Thanks for writing this post. I completely agree that it doesn't matter if people outside the JPop loop don't understand the appeal of Arashi. What's important is that we do, and Japan does! And if the rest of the world likes other forms of entertainment (Hollywood, Kpop etc.) then they're welcome to stick to their own. We can all coexist peacefully, after all. Just don't bash what you don't understand 😉

  2. LOL. I’m here again, I can’t get off your blog. haha. Anyways, Yes to everything. It actually makes me feel proud to be a fan when even without international promotion Arashi is still known internationally, it may be selfish of me but I’m secretly happy that they’re not that mainstream outside Japan.

    A lot of my friends gets surprised whenever they find out that I love Arashi and then they see what they look like ugh, the consistent “why face” would always be there plastered in their faces. I always have a hard time explaining why I love them and I sometimes feel sad that they cannot understand why I love them.

    I recently influenced one of my friends to be a fan of Arashi and she told me that this has been the longest record of her being a fan of some group and the first time that she willingly spent money to buy something legitimate from a group. The same goes for me. It’s the longest record of me being a fan of some group and up till now I still can’t explain and put into words why I love them. It’s like even if I explain that I love them because of their personalities, I just feel like it’s not enough and my explanation always ends up with the phrase because They’re arashi. They’re like that.

    It’s difficult to explain to others why you love Arashi unless you make them watch one of their shows though sometimes even that is not enough. One of my friends think that they are really bad performers because they can’t dance well or sing well. I can’t help but agree but let’s face it they really are bad at singing (well except for ohno) and they’ve been dancing for 15 years and they still can’t be in sync, but i always say to them that despite that fact I still love them and will not stop watching their concerts. I also try to explain that that’s not the reason why I’m watching and listening to them but I still get the feeling that they’re not satisfied. I think the reason why this saddens me is that because I can’t accept the fact why other people can’t see what I see. It makes me doubt myself. lol. This is becoming a rant so yea, moving on.

    I believe that if they don’t change who they are and if they stay the same way as they are when they started people will never stop loving them.

    • tell me about it lol

      if people expect the idols that we fangirl to be all these flawless, perfectly packaged ones, then they won’t really understand why we love Arashi.

      for me, it’s who they are and what they represent — that hard work pays off, that being themselves imperfections and all can have a place in an industry that is so obsessed with the perfect nose or the carefully maintained public image that is most likely fake anyway.

      I have occasional Arashi campaign with my colleagues who do not know anything about Asian pop. I show them clips from VSA or Shiya and we all have a good laugh. they are amused at all of them and they have nicknames to remember them by: Japanese Spiderman (Sho), Japanese Daomingsi (Jun), Hollywood Sturr (Nino), Leader and Aiba Engrish.

      I think the charm of Arashi is how they are so normal and down-to-earth that it makes it easy for us to relate. it doesn’t sadden me when people don’t understand why I like Arashi… we have different tastes after all, besides, it’s not my loss but theirs lol

      thanks for reading through my old posts!

  3. I really, REALLY enjoyed this post, and basically sums up all my feelings about them 🙂 Btw if it’s okay I’m saving that family picture (it’s GOLD). This is exactly why I absolutely adore Arashi as well. Just subscribed to your wordpress, looking forward to mores posts 😀

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