That’s how long it took.
I could have asked one of my Japanese friends to let me “borrow” an address so I could apply for membership as soon as I became a fan in 2005. I remember when another friend and I went to check out Yokohama during TIME tour and encountered many fans on our way from the metro to the arena holding up signs begging to buy extra tickets. That was 2007. I knew back then how difficult it was to get tickets to their concerts. I experienced how difficult–and expensive–it was when I had to look for tickets for Digitalian (2014) and Japonism (2015) tours in auction sites. But the idea of asking my friends to lend me their address was daunting, considering how private the Japanese could be. They knew I was an Arashi fan but they became my friends through work–my senpais at that–so I wanted to maintain a healthy gap between my professional and fan lives.
But as the 20th anniversary loomed closer, I knew I had to gather my guts and ask. If getting a ticket was akin to Hunger Games before, how much more for their 20th anniversary tour? And I made a vow that I had to go to this tour at all cost if only to celebrate with the group that has largely defined my life as a fan.
So last December, I ended up asking another friend, who ironically comes from another fandom (a common friend said it was best this way since she’s not a “rival” when it comes to balloting for the same artist haha). I applied in January so the annual membership renewal won’t be complicated. Filling up the membership application online must have killed a few of my brain cells and it wasn’t until almost two weeks later that it would get through because a friend of a friend (you really need a vast network to be a fan) almost forgot to pay. The confirmation with my membership number came four days before Arashi announced their hiatus it was almost serendipitous.
So, finally, I’m now an official Arashian…my membership number a few thousands away from the FC hitting 2.4 million members that time (it’s now at 2.7-plus million).
I don’t regret not becoming a member early on. I managed to watch them without being a member anyway. But I did panic when the new rules, limiting balloting to only FC members, came out. By now, Arashians know why they had to limit to registered members the privilege of watching their concerts. Because, indeed, it has become more of a privilege now considering that they will go on hiatus as a group starting 2021.
I remember many years ago, I tweeted on how Arashi was making it “difficult” to watch their concerts. It was a tongue-in-cheek remark, but unfortunately, someone who obviously didn’t have a sense of humor or sense of irony (or was simply having a bad day) made a mountain out of it and thought I was literally blaming Arashi for this. That account rallied followers to turn their guns at this fan for blaming Arashi for something that was “not under their control.” I was both confused and gobsmacked that someone can be this dour to have missed the wry humor (maybe British humor and I shouldn’t be friends). I can count with one hand the unpleasant experiences I’ve had as an Arashian and that was one of them. So since then, I’ve been careful in trying to be funny or candid about being an international fan because you never know whose sensibilities you will offend next.
But come on, it sure is difficult being an international fan of Arashi, or any Johnny’s group for that matter. They’re not accessible–no social media, no YouTube, and you need a Japanese address to join their FC. But being their fan for over a decade only proves that no cultural, language, technological or Johnny-Kitagawa-created barriers can stop anyone from liking someone or something. (It also goes without saying that not being a FC member does not make one less of a fan.)
This has been the longest I’ve been a fan of anyone and I do sometimes wonder why I’m still here. I barely understand the language (my Nihongo 1 has been blown away by a storm), I can’t go and watch their concerts any time I want to, and it costs a lot of money. But before anyone crucifies me again for “complaining,” I went into this as a responsible, thinking adult. It’s a good thing that I already was earning my own money when I became a fan so I could buy their CDs and DVDs, official merchandise and watch their concert (let’s not talk about how much I paid for auction tickets back then) without having to ask my parents for money. I guess those who say money can’t buy happiness haven’t been a fan because it does buy hours of joy and a lifetime of memories.
I have received many messages, here and on Twitter, from fans saying they’ve been reading this blog when they were just coming to know Arashi. I’m glad that this blog has been a way for fans to know more about these five guys we sometimes fondly call as bakas. Although it took 14 years to finally become officially counted, it has been one colorful journey with them and I hope to spend the next 23 months supporting their decision and enjoying their variety shows and other works (I am looking forward to future announcements). I also intend to spend this time honoring and giving tribute to the group that has made life easier to live through their music, dramas, films, and simply by existing as Arashi.
Other people have hobbies like sports, interests like fashion or vices like alcohol or drugs. I have Arashi. And even if some won’t understand why fans would devote themselves to supporting “idols” who will never know them in real life, that’s cool. Idols sell dreams, that’s true. But Arashi has been more than just dreams (and illusions) to fans. I can only speak for myself but I can also truly say that while Arashi may mean and represent so many different things to Arashians, they are also one of the few things in this world that feel constant and consistent. “Let’s keep smiling till the end,” they said. And that was enough assurance that despite this impending hiatus, they will forever be the Arashi that we have come to know and treasure as five.
I will never regret being an Arashi fan.
I’m on Twitter: @uchiwafanimnida
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