Arashi’s Diary: Voyage, a limited series on Netflix, finally reached its last episode on Sunday (28 February), after running for slightly more than a year with a total of 24 episodes. The documentary charts Arashi’s various milestones since 2019, including their 20th anniversary, the announcement of their hiatus, the Arafes concert, and of course, their farewell concert This Is Arashi.
Arashi, one of the most successful J-pop idol groups, officially entered hiatus since the start of this year. They're calling it a hiatus, but in practical terms it's almost a disbanding of the group as they pursue solo careers.
Everything began to spin into action — or rather, to a stop — since Arashi’s leader Satoshi Ohno told the other four, “I want to be free to live my life.” Many activities, such as setting up their official social media accounts, making their music available on online streaming sites, and holding live-streamed concerts, started sprouting as part of Arashi’s effort to give back to their fans. Arashi’s Diary: Voyage provides an emotional, retrospective view of what had been going on behind the scenes.
The last episode, titled We Are Arashi, opens with a muted visual of Arashi during the last moment of their final concert. With tears in their eyes, the singers can be seen mouthing words of gratitude, before the scene transitions to the backstage where they give each other a hug and a pat on the back, saying, “Nice work.” And that, as the caption describes, is “the last record of the five members”.
The road that led up to 31 December 2020, the day of their final concert, had been far from easy. In episode 21, titled Jun’s Diary, it was made known that Arashi originally intended to have a concert in the United States. Jun Matsumoto, who planned Arashi’s concerts, was pictured to be in discussions about making song remixes that would suit the American audience.
However, the coronavirus thwarted many of their plans. “Things keep changing. This year has been crazy. The things that were settled are all changing,” said Matsumoto. “It’s like we’re already at this point, but the damage from the coronavirus is just setting in. For me. Mentally. When it was going on, I didn’t think about it much. For two months, I was making stuff. Then it got wiped out.”
Apparently, the plans were beyond salvation, given how the coronavirus damaged many industries and the economy. “The stuff we had planned and worked on since the summer of last year fell to pieces so fast. When I looked back, I saw it had all fallen apart. And even if we tried to fix it, we had no idea how. If we did fix it, it would just crumble somewhere else. There was nothing we could do,” reflected Matsumoto.
Nonetheless, Arashi still managed to move on and keep up with the trying period, as the final day before their hiatus inched closer. Owing to the fact that going into hiatus is a totally new experience for Arashi, who had been in the industry for 21 years, the five guys generally had inexplicable feelings towards it.
“I probably don’t even realise it now. In my whole life, I’m sure I’m in a state of mind that I’ve never experienced and will only experience once. That kind of feeling. I bet I don’t even understand what that is right now,” said Ohno.
“I don’t think I can express it in words. It’s something I’ve never experienced before. It’s the first time I’ve had this feeling in my life. I can’t really find the right words to express this feeling,” explained Masaki Aiba.
“Yesterday, the 28th, I went to Tokyo Dome in the morning. That’s the first time I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want to go out the front door… I don’t want the day to come,” reflected Sho Sakurai.
“You can’t tell until it’s over. While I’m doing this, I don’t think my feelings will change so much… But I doubt I’ll feel it until it’s over. But I really don’t know though,” said Kazunari Ninomiya.
“It’s been about three years since I’ve been thinking about this day and working toward it. In a way, I’m comparing it to what I imagined it would be. But I get the feeling this will easily surpass what I imagined… But I really have no idea what it’ll be like at all,” said Matsumoto.
In a way, while Arashi shone brightly on the stage, Arashi’s Diary: Voyage shows an utterly different side to them, behind the smiles they tried to put on their faces. Arashi had wanted to create a less sorrowful farewell for their fans. But as the biggest fans of Arashi themselves, it was indeed a feat to achieve. Throughout the whole series, one cannot help but feel a tinge of solemnness and gloominess lurking around. However, Arashi seems to be doing well with their solo careers, and we can only look forward to the day the five of them stand on the stage together again.