“Let’s go back to ’99!!!”
When Sho said that on MUSIC STATION last night, I wondered where I was on Sept 15, 1999, when Arashi debuted on a cruise ship in Hawaii.
Fifteen years later, last week, they returned to their “birthplace” aboard a helicopter–well, technically a plane but you get the drift.
Ah, I still have the Hawaii hangover as if I was there myself.
Truth be told, I never thought their 15th anniversary celebration would turn out to be this memorable and meaningful. Every year, we greet them “happy anniversary” and celebrate in our own little ways, proud of the fact that the Johnny’s idol group thought least likely to succeed has exceeded everyone’s expectations–including theirs–and how.
But it was this photo of Riida on the first night of their concert that made me realize the significance of this celebration like a giant wave on Waikiki beach toppling me over with the impact.
“We can reach this far…because of the staffs, and more than anything, the fans. Thank you so much!” – Riida (2014.09.19 speech; cr: @FindAiba)
Ohno is not the crybaby in the group, he is known to be spaced-out and just chill. So for Arashi’s leader to cry like this, it only shows how much this event means to him and to them all. But as Sho said, only the five of them will understand the full significance of going back to Hawaii. It was the place that changed their lives forever after all.
Well, Hawaii has changed the fandom in a way too. I have never seen such “fan coverage”, if we call it that, in my nine years as a fan. Sightings during rehearsals were not just accounts but accompanied by photos and even recordings; same with the concert. For a fandom that has learned to live with the strict rules of J&A, this was an exception indeed and until now, I am torn between being happy and shocked. But we all know this may be temporary considering they were overseas without the protective mantle of their rules in Japan. I can only hope it is temporary because I do not want the Arashi fandom to be afflicted with the common diseases of fangirling that can be destructive.
On the other hand, I also hope that J&A could open up more when it comes to Arashi. Hopefully, Hawaii will just be the start of another round of overseas shows. Everyone has been hoping for Arashi Around Asia part trois for years. While I do get how difficult it is to bring them out of Japan for concerts–one saw how meticulous constructing their Hawaii stage was and how hands-on they are with their shows–sooner or later, they’d have to step out of their comfort zone. Once that happens, I can see a new era opening up for Arashi.
“We’re only based in Japan, so why would anyone know about us?” – Riida (2014.09.19)
I don’t have doubt that Arashi knows there’s a whole world waiting for them out here but to quote Sho again, they are a group that never took shortcuts to get to where they are now. And I am sure that’s how they want things to continue, taking each step at a time.
“Most people said that we, Arashi, are good friends. But 15 years ago, if we didn’t lean on one another, if we didn’t support each other, maybe we can’t stay this long. Fifteen years or later, starting from tomorrow, please take care of us again. Thank you so much.” – Sho (2014.09.19 speech; cr: @FindAiba)
In the meantime, it’s enough to know that their hard work, sweat, blood and tears in the last 15 years have paid off. Arashi has not just climbed up the idol ladder but it has grown into a powerful franchise all its own.
“Thank you for coming all this way to watch our concert. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to do it in such a nice place. Thank you for all the chances you give us to sing, to show up on TV, to have concerts.” – Nino (2014.09.19 speech; cr: yarukizero)
I am also grateful for Uncle Johnny not just for choosing these five dorks among many hopefuls, but also for writing that kanji that has become not just a logo of the group, but a symbol of the wind (kaze) that continues to prop up the mountain (yama).
“Thank you for giving us the wind to keep going and giving us your smiles and your power. If you weren’t here, we couldn’t do this.” – Jun (2014.09.19; cr: yarukizero)
As a famous fandom quote says: “I may not have been there from the start but I will always be there until the end.”
“Even if you’d come to know of us at different timings, you found out about it. You must have thought these guys were interesting and that maybe you’d try to support them. But we made it to 15 years. How was 15 years for you? For us, it was great. For me… with these four, it makes me really, really happy. As team Arashi, we’ll make new path.” – Jun (2014.09.20 speech; cr: yarukizero)
The beauty of Arashi is because it can be anyone’s story and yet, it is theirs. The pains, the joys, the sacrifices that they have to make and that which we can only imagine, the triumphs, and yet in the face of all that, in their 15 years and counting, their feet are still planted firmly on the ground. No airs, just the friends, dudes, brothers, sons and grandsons–bakas if you may–that people treat them as.
“With the five of us… together.. I want to keep going forward as five, so please support us.” – Aiba (2014.09.20 speech; cr: yarukizero)
As we saw on MUSIC STATION last night, even during circumstances when it was impossible for them to be physically together, they made it possible even if it entailed a standee Nino (when he was in Hollywood filming) and hologram Sho (when he was covering the Beijing Olympics).
And as they always remind us, Arashi is made up not just by their staff and the five of them, but the sixth member too. That is, all of us fans.
I end this post with one of my favorite pictures from Hawaii (thanks @jhingnigami). It shows a sun-kissed Arashi, all grown-up and chill, so unlike the uncertain but eager-to-please debutantes that they were 15 years ago. It shows not only the path that they have walked but the quiet assurance that they have gained their own place under the J-pop sun.
Lastly, it is interesting how they chose to start their 16th year with the song Season.
While holding on to those memories
We’ll keep walking
Now inside my eyes, that shining dream will be there
Always and forever
It’s like their grown-up selves telling us that everything that has happened in the past 15 years are carved in their hearts but they will keep on walking and taking their dreams with them, like they have always done.
I can only imagine how Riida must have felt overwhelmed that he was moved to tears, looking back at the 15 years they have gone through together.
Thank you Hawaii. Thank you Uncle Johnny. Thank you Arashi.
I love you bakas. Itsudemo. Itsumademo.
[While we await the release of the Hawaii DVD, NHK will show “Arashi LIVE & DOCUMENT ~15-nenme no Kokuhaku~’” on November 7, 10pm JST. Hopefully by then, we will know who will host Kouhaku.]
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