What: Stopping all group activities as Arashi
When: After 31 Dec 2020
Why: Ohno Satoshi initiated this decision by revealing his intention to take a break from his activities as a Arashi member back in June 2017. The group members collectively decided in June 2018 that they would stop group activities in his absence rather than disband because they can only be Arashi if the five of them are together.
Where: The impact of this decision will be largely felt in work projects involving the five of them together such as their variety shows "VS Arashi" and "Arashi ni shiyagare". Solo activities are expected to go on as usual except for Ohno who will also take a break from showbiz for his solo career.
In the video which they released to their fanclub members first, here are the translations of the official statements from the members:
We, Arashi, have something to tell our fans.
We, Arashi, have decided to stop our group activities with effect from 31 December 2020 after many discussions among ourselves.
We know that you will be shocked by this sudden announcement but we wanted to let our fans who have always supported us all the time to know about this first.
Around the middle of June 2017, I gathered the other four members and conveyed my feelings to them i.e. I wanted to end my activities in Arashi as of the year 2020.
As a cut-off point after Arashi's 20th anniversary and the year 2020, I wondered if it would be fine for us to "fold up and put away" Arashi for the time being and go on our respective paths. Although this may seem selfish, I wanted to live freely for once without any restrictions so I conveyed my thoughts to them.
I met each member numerous times to talk about this.
Later, the 5 of us had similar discussions many times as well before reaching the consensus that we would stop group activities as Arashi after 2020.
Every member has their respective views on this.
While bearing these in mind, I plan to continue working hard until the end of 2020.
As this is a sudden announcement, I am very apologetic to everyone who is working with us especially our many fans who have been supporting us all this while.
I am filled with gratitude towards everyone which I cannot express fully in words.
Thank you very much.
In the remaining period until the end of 2020, I will fulfill my mission and responsibilities to the best of my abilities.
We had many 1-to-1 and group discussions before we reached this decision.
As Aiba mentioned it earlier, rather than going our separate ways, the Arashi of today is the 5 of us putting our arms around one another and facing one huge goal together. In other words, we are united unanimously in our decision.
We have had numerous dreams come true, thanks to everyone around us.
From now on, the 5 of us will continue to run towards the end just like sparklers which emit warmth until it culminates into one huge aerial fireworks while continuing to think about and explore various possibilities.
It would be great if you can continue to look on us favourably.
Thank you everyone for your support till now.
I was also very shocked. I feel very strongly that Arashi is only Arashi if the 5 of us are together. If there is 1 or 2 of us who are missing, it would be difficult to continue group activities under this name.
I love Arashi very much and would do anything for Arashi. This result is not because our relationship has soured and we went to great lengths to talk about this over and over again. This is a decision which was reached by the 5 of us and our staff members.
In the time remaining, we will continue to work hard and bring the best entertainment to everyone as per before. We will continue to do our best as well in preparation for the likelihood that a day may come when the 5 of us are able to face the same direction and restart our activities as Arashi,
Thank you everyone for your support till now.
We hope that the fans will continue to follow us till then.
And following the release of the announcement video, Arashi held a press conference to talk more about this. I have picked the highlights here from various news articles:
- Apparently, Ohno picked 16 June 2017 i.e. the day before Ninomiya's birthday to meet the other members by sending a LINE message to their chat group. Ninomiya actually thought that it was a deliberate choice by Ohno to give him a birthday surprise so he was shocked to find out that the latter had a different agenda in mind. On the other hand, Sakurai had a hunch that Ohno had already decided on something which he didn't know though so Ohno's message of "wanting to talk about something" suggested that he wasn't calling for the meeting to ask for advice or discuss the issue. Meanwhile, Aiba was so stunned by the announcement that he fell backwards from his chair which Sakurai remembered quite well since Aiba was sitting on his right that day. Nonetheless, they still went to celebrate Ninomiya's birthday after Ohno revealed his thoughts and he apologised to Ninomiya for the timing of this revelation which sort of spoiled the mood for the celebration.
- Ohno actually felt that he would have to quit the agency in order to show how serious he was about this. However, the 4 of them dissuaded him from quitting and suggested that he should just take a break for the time being without the need to take such a drastic step for now. Ohno said that he actually entertained thoughts of this around 3 years ago although there was no specific trigger which led to this idea.
- Although Ohno will stop his solo activities as well from 2021, he has no idea nor plans as to what he wants to do. For now, he just wants to experience and see things which he had never been able to and lead an ordinary life when he leaves showbiz for the time being. However, he will still be under the management of Johnny's Jimusho. As such, he pledged to "maintain his appearance and figure" even during his break so that he doesn't look too different or old from now even after he stops appearing on TV. He joked that he might have to put in more effort to achieve this as compared to the other members.
- Matsumoto made it very clear at the beginning of the press conference that they are not disbanding. He explained that a group can only succeed if the members have the strong will to make things work. He also revealed that they actually did talk in the past about whether to end group activities while they were still in good shape although there were no concrete plans then. Matsumoto said that he wasn't surprised to hear about Leader's decision and respected his wishes.
- As Sakurai put it - "Just as it was difficult to decide Arashi's future based on one person's feelings, we also couldn't tie down another person's life because of how the others felt.", this was how tough it was for them to find a mutually acceptable decision and why it took them a long time to do so. However, this episode also strengthened their bond as a result even though it was a very painful decision.
- Aiba said that he needed a long time to come to terms with this decision especially since he was very much of the opinion that Arashi can only be the 5 of them. He discussed with Ohno on how to continue as Arashi but finally accepted that it was wrong to make Leader (Ohno) compromise if he didn't feel the same way as them and acknowledged that stopping group activities was the only way to go.
- When asked about why he insisted that the 5 of them made this decision not because they are on bad terms, Aiba explained that he didn't want them to be misunderstood and deliberately hoped that the media would mention this. In actual fact, their 20-year bond with one another actually became stronger after the repeated discussions.
- The media has suggested several reasons as to why Arashi is announcing this 2 years before the end of their group activities:
1) The numerous people who work with them, be it in TV, CMs, events etc. - it takes a long time for them to make adjustments and arrangements in relation to this decision.
2) Their fans - Arashi's fan club is said to have more than 2.3 million members. Even with the ongoing dome tour of 50 performances and a possible final concert tour next year, not everyone will get to attend their concerts.
By giving a 2-year advance notice, Arashi can probably come up with some new projects and events to meet the fans' requests after their announcement.
3) What went wrong with SMAP - Johnny's Jimusho seemed to have learned its lesson from the SMAP saga which ultimately was due to the members having different opinions on their futures and management problems. Even though Arashi members are on good terms with one another unlike SMAP, there is no guarantee that someone may revolt if they continue to work at such high intensity while facing various restrictions such as the freedom to get married. In order to avoid the worst scenario of disbanding, this was probably what led to the agency accepting their decision of stopping group activities.
- As to why Ohno had the idea of wanting to live freely, there are several possible theories which the media has come up with:
1) the stress of being a top star - being at the centre of attention everywhere and having no privacy now that your whereabouts can be easily exposed with everyone having smartphone cameras and the proliferation of social media
2) the tough work schedule - if you look at the amount of money they are making just from CD and DVD sales i.e. in 2017 (about JPY 10.8bn) and 2018 (about JPY 6.7bn) along with their TV appearances, dramas, movies, CMs and concerts, you can probably tell how busy they must have been over the years.
Now that we know that the end is coming in 2 years, does it make it easier for you to accept the decision as compared to a last-minute announcement?