(The first entry I’m writing for the year is inevitably sad, and it won’t be the last one. As I process Arashi’s hiatus, writing would probably help me come to terms with it.)
No one saw it coming, certainly not me, a newly minted member of the official fan club (now numbering 2.5 million and still growing with 90,000 new memberships over the last two days; how it took me 14 years to finally be a FC member is for another post).
My friends and I were just discussing what dates and which venues to ballot for the 5×20 Anniversary Tour. The fandom has just celebrated Sho’s 37th birthday and was feverishly discussing the new rules in balloting for the tickets (now strictly limited to only FC members). I was just musing about how, despite their success, Arashi has remained humble and so down-to-earth, after reading the account of one of their kouhais during the recent Music Station Super Live. I was laughing at Kagawa on Shiyagare on Saturday evening and being excited about Jun’s NHK SP drama. Everything was good, coasting along smoothly. There were so many things to look forward to. Nothing could ever go wrong, right?
Then BAM! Breaking news in the middle of a lazy Sunday afternoon. Given my limited, Google-Translate-dependent Nihongo, I thought at first that it had something to do with Tokyo Olympics because of “2020”. But I froze when I saw the phrase “suspend activities.” My mind went blank for a while, not able to process anything, until I was stirred to go to Twitter and look for clarification.
Everyone on my TL was reeling from shock too. “What?” “This could not be happening.” “What is this?” “Is this a joke?” “Am I dreaming?” The news was first broken on Japanese TV that said a video had been sent to FC members too. As a new FC member, I was of course excited every time I’d get a new e-mail. But not this time.
At first I thought it was disbandment, but as more information started trickling in, it became clear–Arashi was going on hiatus starting Jan. 1, 2021. Dec. 31, 2020 will be the last time–in god knows how long–they will be together as Arashi.
As another fan said, she never thought she’d read the words “Arashi” and “hiatus” in one sentence. Arashi, for me, was something eternal, something that was a constant in this ever-changing world. I’d wake up each morning, check Twitter and find something to smile or laugh about on my Arashi TL, and I’ll be ready to face another day. At night, before I sleep, I’d scroll through my Twitter TL again to update myself–something is always happening in the Arashi world, we are talking here, after all, not just of Japan’s No. 1 idol group but of five individuals who are superstars in their own right, with their own careers as actors, TV hosts, in-demand endorsers, newscaster. If I had a bad day, I’d usually choose to watch their variety shows or concerts to de-stress. I’d go to sleep much calmer and happier, knowing that tomorrow is another day, and Arashi will always be there.
But today is Day 1 of trying to come to terms with their decision to halt group activities by Jan. 1, 2021. I’d be completely honest and candid–I was disappointed with Ohno (don’t kill me yet, please read through the very end of this post) although I was not really surprised. He was after all one of the three members who wanted to quit soon after Arashi was formed in 1999. But I thought that by the time they celebrated 5×15 in Hawaii in 2014, he had finally settled down with being a top idol. We all remember how emotional he was during the concerts and crying openly in their TV anniversary specials. I felt relieved and glad that his thoughts of wanting to quit have finally dissipated. I could never have been more wrong.
Following Arashi for 14 years doesn’t make me an expert on them but I do pick up some cues. After 5×15, for instance, I started to notice subtle changes like how they have become more expressive and more demonstrative about their bond. They have always had this clear-cut line between their professional and personal life, prompting non-fans to even question the bond that has often been cited by fans as the reason why they like Arashi. They never hang out after work, they haven’t been to each other’s houses until recently, they have different friends outside their Arashi world. But they started sharing the time they spend together and what goes on in their Arashi LINE room and became more generous with private photos and anecdotes. It felt strange at first, but now I get it. That the bond was probably strengthened even more that time as they started to process what would be the most important decision in their 20-year career. A decision that probably put that very bond to the test. I never had doubts about their bond even at a time that they brushed it off as no-big-deal because how could you fake working harmoniously with everyone else over a decade or more? This bond, this is the reason why I was confident that Arashi will be around forever–despite the disbandment, retirements and a member leaving their group that have been common in the industry. Alas, this bond is also the reason why Arashi will go on hiatus two years from now.
I have written before on how happy I am to see Arashi being happy doing the things they do. That I’d rather they quit if they’re no longer happy because it would most probably be painful to see them forcing themselves to go onstage, to sing, to act, just for the sake of their fans. I didn’t want to see them growing old in the public eye unhappy with themselves. I didn’t want them to keep on being Arashi just because I, as a fan, couldn’t let go of them. And this is precisely the reason also why, despite my initial disappointment with Ohno, I understand where he is coming from. I accept that this is all part of life, that they too get tired of their work, as much as we ordinary people do. That they think of retirement and look forward to it as much as we do. They’ve given us more than 20 best years of their life, how could we still ask for more? But it also doesn’t mean I am not sad nor devastated. Of course I am, and I have been acting like a crazy woman switching between laughing and crying for the past almost 24 hours.
Today is only Day 1 of the long goodbye before they go on hiatus. Fans have two years to fully come to terms with Arashi’s collective decision. It took them more than a year to reach a point that they could all agree on and they fully understand that everyone who will be affected by this–the fans, their staff, J&A, the companies they work and have contracts with, TV networks etc.–will need time to also accept and adjust to it.
But as Nino said, he will never understand what Arashi means to him until it all ends. As for me, now I understand what the Arashi bond is. That when they say Arashi is the five of them, not one more nor one less, it means that five minus one is zero (5-1=0). Five or nothing at all.
(Next entry will be about Sunday’s press conference.)
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8 thoughts on “Arashi: 5-1=0”
Tbh, I never thought that they will go on hiatus. I know that after 5×20 there would definitely be some changes, maybe fewer group activities, fewer single releases or maybe they will take one year off to do a concert tour (if i am not mistaken yearsssss ago SMAP did this). But stopping a group activity all together, i never saw that coming! I accept fully support their decision but it still hurts. I did nothing but cry since the announcement. 😢
The fandom has been upbeat but can’t help the sadness too. After all it is uncertain when we can see them again. 😭 I’m holding on tightly to these two years.
The first time I read the news on a JPop site, “What the hell? Wha-?” Like that.
Shocked was an understatement.
Never would I had thought they might go on hiatus. I mean they had their 20th anniversary and ut just never crossed my mind.
I quickly go to Youtube to see if there is a recording from a fan posted there about their announcement or news covering it. And there they are. Just several hours after the release. I was sad and I also relieved and a bit happy when I read the word ‘hiatus’. Hiatus would mean I wouldn’t see Arashi doing anything together but I might still see them someday together.
I fear I might discover the hiatus turn into retirement on Youtube tbh. After SMAP retired, Tackey & Tsubasa also retired. Now if I received another of the senior group retirement, how sad would it be? But it would be devastating if I saw Arashi retirement announcement. I would literally cry.
The announcement they did that was posted to their fans (with the 5 of them on a white bg) was just done so seriously that I just begin to think this is all a dream. They couldn’t laugh and the smile was just that. A smile. And Ohno was all chocked up. I guess he feel it is finally official after saying it and having it certainly be watched by all Arashi fans and public. Except it is not a fucked up dream of me after too much work and fatigue.
I tried to understand with my limited Japanese. I certainly was relieved to understand that it us not ‘intai’ 引退 retire or ‘kaisan’ 解散 disband retire and instead 休憩 kyuukei break.
That was what stopping me from weeping. I just want to think positively that they are coming back someday to us.
They gave us almost 2 year to accept this. And I was grateful for this. Really. They are really thinking about us all even though maybe some fans might think that ‘if they think about us, they won’t even do this’. But actually they could have been dropping this months before 2021. Or even exactly at December 2020. But no. They told us as soon as they reached this discussion and spoke to higher ups. Giving us time to digest and accept this.
For all who think they are selfish, They have WORKED HARD and NON STOP for years since their debut. Even I got many times when I just want to quit and as soon as holiday roll around, I went off radar to keep my sanity. Now that one of our dearest Arashi need this time off, the least we can do is support them on this made decision. They had told us that they had this discussion and talks with Ohno group pr individually many many many times, searching of ways before they finally came upon this discussion.
Call me naive but the conference interview with all the medias after that announcement and seeing them briefly smile and laugh on a section, relieved me.
It’s because seeing them so solemn and downtrodden in the group announcement video was just a very heartbreaking sight to see. 😦
I don’t know starting from 2021 when they would be back as 5 again, but I just want to believe that they would be back when they finally be ‘Arashi’ again. And that was very important to them and it too will be what most important thing that will ringing inside me when I am anxious about their comeback.
I love Arashi and I am just going to enjoy all the time given to us by you to have strength waiting for you 5 to be 1, the Arashi once more.
Thank you for dropping by. I totally get you and Sho’s interview last night on News Zero have more relief too that this is not the end but just a pause. We still have two years to enjoy them, let’s do our best to walk this journey with them and make more memories that will accompany us through those days they are taking that break. Ganbatte!
Ganbatte for you too my friend! We are going on a ride. :’)
Tbh I also took them for granted, as in, I always thought they will always be there. I am so used to see new things about them in my twitter I can’t even imagine how it is going to be starting 2021. I also felt disappointed in poor Ohno, but it is impossible to NOT understand him **sighs** With my sister we were always half joking, half meaning it, that Ohno or Nino would be the first one to leave. I mean, there were many times where either one of them had a very tired expression or just didn’t seem so energetic/happy. But that all negative thoughts ended when the tour started and you could see how happy both of them were. And Nino’s words in most concerts… **sighs** I am so sad and depressed right now, this is the first time I am writing something about it (I only read in Twitter, never post). I have also joined the FC (half a month ago) praying to at least attend to one of their concerts. Hopefully my sister and I will enjoy them at least once in our lives..
Good luck for you too! May the odds be in our favor!
Thanks for dropping by and commenting.
Tbh I was also surprised at Nino’s reaction in their video announcement and during the presscon. He looked the most shaken among the other four. It’s going to be difficult seeing them on their own by 2021 but Sho’s assurance last night on a possible comeback gives me hope. It all depends on Riida though. But it’s funny how we are already dreading the hiatus and talking about a comeback when we still have two years to go!
Good luck too on your ballot! I hope everyone gets a chance to see them before they go on leave.
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