Even in terrible times, Arashi is something that makes you smile
Since announcing their hiatus, Arashi began using SNS and releasing their music online. During the stay home period of the coronavirus pandemic, Arashi released their previous concerts for free online, started doing "remote picture book story time" videos, and continued to take on new challenges. How did the members deal with the response from others?
Sakurai: Well basically, because the story time videos consisted of us all reading and narrating a story, the publishing company were very surprised when they saw it. A classmate who has a young kid also contacted me for the first time in ages, to tell me that working mothers were saying, "They really saved me."
Ninomiya: When I heard that even doctors in hospitals watched our videos, I was really amazed. The fact that our videos were used in even hospitals makes me really happy.
Aiba: Hearing that, I wish we had practiced more (laughs).
Matsumoto: Right? (laughs)
Sakurai: I thought the fact that Arashi is something which can make people smile, even in a terrible place, is so great. Well, it's mainly Aiba but- (laughs)
Aiba: We didn't just cure them by recordings things (laughs).
Ohno: Even though it was just hiragana, it was really hard to read. But there was also hard kanji...
Matsumoto: Then what shall we do? (laughs) At the end of last year we started releasing our Netflix documentary "Arashi's Diary: Voyage." We shine the light on backstage stuff you wouldn't normally, see and the member's honest opinions are revealed.
Sakurai: When I met Maru (Maruyama Ryuuhei) the other day, the first thing he said to me was "I'm watching Voyage." Ueda (Tastuya) also said he's watching it, but I was surprised by that.
Matsumoto: (Ueda idolises Sakurai as his 'Aniki') No no, it's because you're Aniki!
Aiba: He fast-forwards it, only looking for Aniki's section!
Ohno: I don't really watch it but... it seems like lots of people are watching.
Ninomiya: Ah, Nanbara (Kiyotaka)-san said "Everyone, good luck!"
Matsumoto: It seemed to be the hot topic of the Hirunandesu green room.
Ninomiya: These days when I met Nanbara-san in the make-up rooms at TV stations, he said "I talk about Voyage so much that I feel like an Arashi member too, so I say 'Good luck!' to everyone." (Laughs)
Sakurai: Haha. Even the people who I work with are interested in the other side of Arashi and how we work.
Aiba: Though a camera is constantly following us, I've stopped caring about it. (While the spotlight was on Aiba) I met with my middle school teacher but, in the Myojo from back then, I had written a letter to that teacher. One of their students said "Oh, isn't this about the teacher?"
Ninomiya: Thank you, Myojo.
Aiba: Myojo, thank you for bringing us together.
Matsumoto: Hearing that story was fun, since I hadn't heard it before, and it made me feel nostalgic about things the 5 of us have done.
Sakurai: This is really like a diary.
Arashi's starting point in Johnny's was as Johnny's juniors. More than 20 years ago, Arashi was the centre of an era of Johnny's juniors referred to as the 'golden age'. Some irreplaceable memories and experiences from that time are...?
Sakurai: Johnny's Juniors itself was interesting. When I was in middle school, being in a school with classes of 30-40 people, I lived in a surprisingly small community. However, people from a variety of places ages came together [in Johnnys], and of course there were a few naughty and a few dangerous kids, but it was fun to have a variety of people.
Matsumoto: Because I have an older sister, I had seen Myojo before joining Johnny's Juniors. Because people like V6, Kinki Kids and Tackey were featured, I can clearly remember the first time I appeared in the magazine. During interviews I was often taken to family restaurants.
Ninomiya: After we took photos in a park, I was asked "What food do you like to eat?"
Sakurai: Oh right.
Matsumoto: I ate French toast and sautéed spinach.
Aiba: Also, if I hadn't joined Johnny's juniors I wouldn't have gone abroad, which was really fun. When we all went to Hawaii it was so much fun that I could barely sleep. I had a completely different experience compared to my classmates in school.
Ohno: And I was in Kyoto for about a year and a half.
Sakurai: In your teens, a year and a half is a long time, huh.
Ohno: When I was 16, that was the very first time I experienced living alone. I was able to do things that most teenagers couldn't.
Sakurai: If you go to Kyoto, do you feel nostalgic?
Ohno: I do.
Aiba: At that time, did you visit your friends on days off?
Ohno: I didn't. I went to the shops and bought radio controlled gadgets.
Ninomiya: We heard a story about when you would go to the convenience store and often pick fights with delinquents (laughs).
Ohno: I ran away from them. I think that was the quickest I've ever run.
Matsumoto: The pose we had for our first appearance on Myojo wearing headbands is the same as in our 5x20 concert booklet.
Ninomiya: In the 20 years that passed since our debut, Leader wearing a headband now started to look like the manager of a ramen restaurant (laughs)!
What have you come to know from following behind your senpais?
Nowadays Arashi are admired by many kouhais, but they too were influenced and encouraged by their Johnny's senpais. Watching and learning from their senpais led Arashi to become who they are now.
Sakurai: When we were shooting our 2002 movie "Pikanchi Life is Hard Dakedo Happy" (the photographer was very close up) we spent time with Okamoto Kenichi almost everyday, it was a really big influence on us. Because Kenichi is a very straightforward person, he would tell us things like "Why aren't you doing that?" "Why aren't you doing it more like this?" It was really valuable for him to easily teach us things that we didn't understand, and we thought were impossible at that moment.
Matsumoto: If we didn't have that period of time, even now I wouldn't be able to talk to Kenichi so much.
Sakurai: The fact that even when talking to such an important senpai, Aiba can refer to him like "Ken-chan-san, Ken-chan-san" is amazing. Even Kenichi accepted it.
Matsumoto: But did he really accept it? (laughs) Personally, I wonder about (Satou) Atsuhiro. He came to watch our concert in around 2002 and after it finished he gave us some advice. Other people who helped us in even just a public performance were Hikaru Genji, they told us what their thoughts were about it. Looking back, it's because of them that we as Arashi were able to establish ourselves, and I'm really thankful for it.
Aiba: For me, it seemed so fun when everyone in TOKIO was chatting, so having ridiculous negative feelings start to swell up at a young age, I instead tried to think "If Arashi could be like that, it'd be amazing."
Ninomiya: Back then, on a Music Station special or some other music program, we shared a dressing room TOKIO and V6, and while waiting for their turn TOKIO changed their clothes. Joshima (Shigeru) started running around in circles wearing leopard print underwear, and Matsu-nii (Matsuoka Masahiro) threw money at him...
Sakurai: Oh! I remember that!! (laughs)
Aiba: I remember! (laughs)
Ninomiya: When that happened I was like "Why are they doing this even when the cameras are turned away?!" For example, I would never just wonder around in the same dressing room as my 15 years younger kouhai wearing only underwear, right? (laughs). I was surprised back then, but now I understand their relationship, they were just doing it to have fun (laughs). As you can expect Johnny's is a weird place, but that's just what youth is like.
Sakurai: The fights in the Johnny's baseball tournament was also funny. We weren't able to join in though, so we just watched.
Ninomiya: Ultimately, Joshima was lifted up in celebration. The interactions between Joshima and his manager were also astonishing. When Joshima asked "What's my schedule for tomorrow?" his manager's response was "Do you even have a job!!"
Sakurai: Oh I remember (laughs)!
Ninomiya: Joshima also prepares for that in advance. Even though it's in the green room, it's just a small thing to get us laughing.
Ohno: For me, it's V6. Because we were always their backup dancers, when they guest on our shows it feels incredible.
Ohno: Even though (Miyake) Ken is our senpai, he said, "Arashi is great," when he came to watch our live show, and I'm really grateful.
Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, Arashi's planned concerts have been cancelled and there has been a big impact on Arashi's activities. Even as these circumstances continue, the five are every day thinking about how they can have a good time together with their fans.
Matsumoto: I don't know how things will unfold, but I want to do a live stream. TV music shows and live broadcasts are also like that, but we also enjoy music.
Aiba: I think if we come up with even one way we can have fun with everyone we should share it, and because of the current times I want to enjoy it.
Ohno: Under these circumstances, while we are searching for a way to be with everyone, we must be doing our activities still.
Ninomiya: I will never enjoy this going back and forth, between lots of anxiety and bearing so much fear and doubt, I don't think I can calm my mind down. Even then, how do we face issues - well entertainment isn't changing. Even in these circumstances, I still want to help everyone feel joy.
Achieving the record of the eldest?! So, they are legends
Now finally, a message for the Myojo readers!
Ohno: (Seeing the newest edition again)... well, has it changed since the past?
Sakurai: A variety of places, and a variety of memories have been displayed in this magazine. To young people setting out on journeys, and the Johnny's juniors, I hope you can have many good experiences. ... huh? This isn't for the readers, it's a message for the editors (laughs).
Aiba: With this Myojo, if you have a relative, like an uncle, say "I wanna go here!" and they'll take you there.
Ninomiya: Hey! The interview has a very personal use (laughs).
Aiba: As we had so many experiences as young boys, I hope we can also be an 'uncle' to our kouhais!
Sakurai: We aren't everyone's uncles!!
Ninomiya: This is a wonderful magazine.
Ohno: We've been in Myojo since we were juniors... and even now we are?
Matsumoto: Today as well, we're appearing!
Ohno: That's great (read in monotone).
Ninomiya: ... you're too kind (laughs).
Ohno: I am turning 40, this year.
Ohno: Is it alright to be in Myojo?
Sakurai: It might be a record for the cover of the magazine!?
Ohno: Then I'm really glad!
During the photo shoot they reminisced together, with a very peaceful atmosphere from beginning to end. We were shown an Arashi with constant positive energy and smiles on their faces. Let's make sure these five keep shining until their hiatus!
Feedback on the formatting would be welcomed! Is it properly readable? I tried my best... haha