Arashi members explain heartbreaking decision for hiatus in Netflix documentary

Singers Matsumoto Jun, Sakurai Sho, Ninomiya Kazunari, Ohno Satoshi, and Aiba Masaki of Japanese band Arashi in Taipei on November 11, 2019. (Photo: VCG via Getty Images)

By Lim Yian Lu

We’ve just entered a new decade as well as a new year. But for the famous J-pop boy band Arashi, this could be their last year. On the final day of 2019, Arashi went global on Netflix with their first ever documentary series Arashi’s Diary: Voyage. Before they go on an indefinite hiatus at the end of this year, Arashi hopes to shed light on how far they have come, what has been going through their heads, and ultimately and most importantly, why they have reached this conclusion.

Episodes of this Netflix-exclusive documentary series will follow Arashi up until their hiatus on 31 December 2020, and are scheduled for monthly release for a year starting on 31 December 2019.

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The first episode of their documentary series titled 20 Years started off with perhaps, their most proud yet nerve-wrecking performance — the celebration of the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito on 9 November 2019. But that was only the beginning of an incredibly hectic schedule. Right after singing for the Emperor, the five of them set off on a private jet late at night to attend the Jet Storm press conference at four cities in Asia. Starting with Jakarta early next morning, Arashi then headed to our very own Jewel Changi Airport to greet their fans in Singapore, and quickly swept through Taipei and Bangkok in a short two-day trip.

This was Arashi speaking to a throng of fans at Jewel Changi Airport in November last year:

Amidst all these events, the idol group was also having their 20th anniversary concert tour which went on for more than a year since late 2018, making it Japan’s largest 20th anniversary tour. All of these successes and all of the glamour shown was in stark contrast to what comes after in the next scene: a sudden hiatus announcement.

“I brought the four other members together and told them my honest feelings. I want to be free to live my life,” said Satoshi Ohno solemnly, who is also the leader of Arashi. In an emergency press conference held as soon as the shocking news was picked up by the media, Ohno revealed that the five of them reached that decision together with no awkward disagreements. But the question most would like to ask is, “Why?”

In order to answer this, each of them had a one-to-one interview (think heart-to-heart talk) to gain a deeper understanding of their thoughts and what has been going on behind the scenes. From regular teenagers to gaining fame and recognition, the five of them have come very far together and made way too many memories (good and bad) together in the past 20 years. As much as the hiatus is heartbreaking for their fans, it is even more heart-wrenching for Arashi themselves.

“I think…this is taking something you truly love and attempting to strangle it to death,” commented Jun Matsumoto, who is the creative director in Arashi, often in charge of planning their concerts.

Sho Sakurai, who produces the rap tracks and tends to play the role of group coordinator in Arashi, even disclosed that the five of them discussed all kinds of possibilities and routes they could take. Masaki Aiba, the happy-go-lucky member of Arashi, thought things might still work out somehow. However, as Aiba mentioned later, they came to an agreement before, that if one of them left, the other four would not continue. For this team-oriented group, five minus one does not equal four — it equals zero.

As much as it is difficult for them, like what Sakurai said, ultimately, the best they can do is accept and adjust to the outcome. Only in doing so, can they proceed to the next step: to give back to their fans. “It’s for all the fans who have supported us until now. This is something we absolutely have to do,” said Matsumoto determinedly. “Protecting the emotions of those fans always came first,” commented Sakurai, which revealed the mature and considerate side of Arashi.

While this first episode has abrupt cuts and scenes that jump here and there, for the fans of Arashi, there may be a dull ache in your heart to watch and hear their confessions; for the non-fans, you may be confused about what is actually happening. Nonetheless, it is curious what else they will reveal in the upcoming episodes.

Arashi’s Diary: Voyage is exclusively available on Netflix and scheduled for monthly release for a year.