It must be hard but at the same time fulfilling to be the mother of someone whose talent and existence has blessed a lot of people. And it must require a lot of magnanimity to share their son with the public, with attention reflecting on them as well and sometimes even causing inconvenience and discomfort.
This is a tribute to the okasan of Arashi (Ohno Satoshi, Sakurai Sho, Aiba Masaki, Ninomiya Kazunari and Matsumoto Jun), and eomonim of Jung Yonghwa, who have given birth to talented sons destined for a very public, competitive stage.
Little is known about Arashi’s mothers, except perhaps for Aiba’s mom since she owns and manages the family’s China House Keikarou restaurant in Chiba, making her a familiar sight to fans who eat there. I have been there once; visiting the restaurant is part of a non-Japanese fan’s pilgrimage to Arashiland. Aiba is the male version of his mother, who is very gracious and approachable. However, even family members adhere to the Johnny’s rule of no photos so she would apologetically decline requests for photos from fans who are actually brave enough to ask. Obviously, it is an unspoken rule not to even try asking, though some would sneak taking photos of her from afar for private use.
Fans only know the other mothers through occasional stories shared by Arashi members. Of course there is Nino who wrote his solo, 20825日目の曲, for his mother. Then there is Sho with his epic stories on the love-hate relationship with his mother, the latest of which was when he went to Hawaii with his parents and had to return earlier to Japan because of work; his mother watched him all the time while he checked in at the airport that he had to tell her, “please go away, I’m already 35.” There is Riida who is usually the butt of jokes because his mother is still the one who buys his clothes for him. Very little is known about MJ’s mother but she must be beautiful (and youthful) that NEWS’ Koyama once thought she was Jun’s girlfriend when he saw his senpai together with his parents at the chiropractor.
Aside from Aiba’s mother, fans would know how Sho’s mother look as she has appeared in the news before because of their family. The father was a government official while the mother is said to be the heiress of a printing company. The identity of the other three mothers have been kept quite private. Perhaps they could watch an Arashi concert or ride JAL without anyone knowing who they are.
On the other hand, Jung eomma is quite a familiar face to fans of JYH. She’s very visible in his concerts and events, and he would also post his mother’s photo on his social media. JYH is the younger of two sons and obviously a pampered one. His closeness with his mother is very evident in the way he talks about her or how they act in public; I remember her seeing him off at the Busan airport the day after he and CNBLUE had a concert in his hometown on the same night of his birthday (disclaimer: I was at that CNBLUE concert but I only saw photos of them at the airport).
Raising children is already a difficult and challenging task (not that I would know), how much more raising children who are in the limelight. In Asian societies, no matter how old they are, even if they’re married and have children already, they would always be a child in their parents’ eyes. Maybe that’s why Riida’s mother still buys his clothes or Sho’s okasan still worries for him even if he’s been to many places and has achieved so many things.
The presence of a family is also very important to keep celebrities grounded. It is easy to get lost in the limelight, the flashes of the camera, the screams of fans, the seemingly never-ending adulation and hero worship. Without the navigation and wisdom of a parent, it would probably be easy for them to get drowned by fame and everything that comes with it.
Of course there are the stage parents who control their celebrity children, including their money. Or parents who “sell off” their kids and turn them into breadwinners, living off their fame and money. Or those who use the name of their children to gain, and sometimes in vain. We’ve read so many horror stories on how celebrities turn out because of their tumultuous family backgrounds. Some are less horrific but still an interesting study on how parenthood reflects on how their children are like as grown-ups.
That’s why I appreciate Arashi’s mothers because even if we don’t see them in public, we see how their sons have turned out to be. They are certainly not perfect but they are very conscious of the responsibilities that rest on their shoulders and try as much as they could to give something back to a world that has given them more than their dreams. When a national idol talks about performing in front of a dome full of adoring fans then washing his underwear the next moment, you know how they live in the reality and not in a perennial reality-TV-like environment where they are Truman Burbank in their own The Truman Show. And it could be because there are agency rules or social mores they have to adhere to, or there is a mother who constantly reminds them to do so. We may not see the mothers (or the fathers for that matter, except Sho’s dad because of the nature of his career) but we feel their presence when, on important occasions, their sons express their gratitude to them, like when Arashi celebrated their 15th anniversary and they made a plaque of appreciation for their families. Then we know that the Arashi we see and love is an Arashi that has their families, their mothers, standing behind them.
Then there is JYH’s mother who has been his No. 1 fan and supporter. Who is very visible in his public life and has been a steadfast, strong presence especially in recent times. As his fan, I am grateful that he has a mother who wields both shield and sword, and strength, when others have failed him. The one woman who has stood behind him through his ups and downs.
On this Mother’s Day, I thank them for raising such talented sons, sharing them with the public and guiding them through the treacherous path of their chosen career.
- Arashi’s families and the little that is known about them.
- The Waku Waku Gakkou 2012 where Jun sensei’s lesson was about origins; one session featured Nino’s mother and another Ohno’s mother. (I’m pretty sure the three other mothers were featured in other WWG sessions but I could not find any links.)
- Yonghwa talks about his mother’s tears at his debut showcase.
*Featured photo is Gustav Klimt’s Three Ages of Woman – Mother and Child just because I love Klimt.
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