“I came here assuming people would think — what is he doing here? So it makes me happy being welcomed in… I am active in a group called Arashi. I am Matsumoto Jun.” Source
MJ has been all over Japanese news the past few days because of his visit to evacuation centers in areas affected by the floods. He came bearing a few shirts from Arashi’s 「untitled」tour, towels from last year’s Waku Waku Gakkou, bags from this year’s, and bandages that he gave away, mostly to the kids.
WWG was launched in 2011 after Arashi cancelled their scheduled concert in Tokyo Dome and replaced it with this thematic educational event that was meant to raise awareness about the earthquake and tsunami disaster that year, as well as raise funds. Since then, they have donated over 2 billion yen to disaster areas including Miyagi and Kumamoto through WWG that they have been holding every year. This year, they gave 50 million yen each to Hiroshima, Ehime and Okayama. MJ, representing Arashi, personally handed the donations in Hiroshima and Ehime.
For sure, 50 million yen (almost $500,000) is just a drop in the bucket compared to their reported fees, whether in cms, films or dramas. But in the first place, that 50 million yen is not a combined amount of, presumably, 10 million yen from each member’s pocket. That amount represents a portion of the proceeds from WWG that are meant to go to causes like this.
So, gasp, it’s not even their personal money?! Well, yes and no. No, it’s not their personal money as it’s proceeds from WWG. And, yes, because it is money earned from their efforts in mounting what has become an annual event for them and the fans. Let’s be honest, if you are not an Arashi fan, would you attend a WWG class and sit through two hours watching a variety show format of five “sensei” and their assistants lecturing about themes ranging from energy conservation, physical fitness to school club activities, except this one is not in a confined, cozy small classroom but a huge dome where they may be live but are most probably just one-inch images to the audience? So WWG, and the money raised from it in the name of charity through the tickets and merchandise, bears Arashi’s name. (This is probably behind why MJ emphasized “Arashi and our fans” because those fans who bought tickets to watch WWG and bought the merchandise have contributed to the effort.)
Sure, it’s good PR for J&A, which has been besieged by bad news over the last few months. It might even be part of J&A’s push for corporate social responsibility. But why are we even questioning the money, how much they’ve given and why MJ showed up with an entourage of cameramen when they haven’t gone this public in previous years? Let’s not forget that they have visited areas and have been donating to them in the past seven years without public fanfare. But isn’t this a way to account for the funds that WWG has raised over the years (obviously less the operational expenses)? And why don’t we instead look at the smiles on the faces of the evacuees, who have been forced out of their homes because of floods and have been sleeping on the floor, with cardboard walls to protect their privacy? (Props to J&A for allowing them to take photos of and with MJ too.)
Some of these evacuees have even expressed gratitude that MJ’s visit had raised awareness about their plight and beamed their situation to other parts of Japan, and to the rest of us learning of this news on social media (not to mention the boy who said to bring the rest of Arashi next time, he’s the one on the right in the photo below).
We can never underestimate celebrity power in charity, whether it is through money or goods donation or personal presence. A very good example of this is Nagabuchi Tsuyoshi, a Japanese rock star who is considered a deity by many of his countrymen, and who has done extensive work for areas and victims affected by natural disasters.
And even without their presence, haven’t we heard of stories from 2011 disaster victims who said they listened to songs of their favorite singers to see them through those difficult times? Arashi’s Kansha Kangeki Ame Arashi was one of those songs.
We need more celebrities like Nagabuchi and Arashi who use their fame to raise awareness on certain issues and use that same fame to help others. How many of them have inspired their fans to do the same? We have seen fans raising money on their own to donate to chosen causes in the name of their idols or were inspired to volunteer. It’s like a domino effect, one little act of kindness could result in something that would have profound effect on the lives of many people.
But of course, we choose to focus on petty things like how much is that of their total earnings. In the first place, it is no one’s business how other people spend the money they earn, especially those very people who actually DO something to help. Can we claim to do the same, even in a much smaller scale? (I can, I do.)
Of course to whom much is given, much is expected. I’d like to think that Arashi are very well aware of that responsibility. Otherwise, why would they continue doing WWG even seven years after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami? They can jolly just go on with their lives, keep on earning off people and not give back to the community. But they do. We don’t have to be impressed with everything they do, but it says a lot about us when we choose to be cynical and negative over a positive thing such as charity, and which the world needs more of.
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