I've been here for a long time. Somehow, seven years have passed since I first saw his ridiculous self in fur, pointy leather shoes, and that heinous perm; seven years since he led me to an obsession and eventually, a love for storm that will prove lasting and enduring. It doesn't feel like seven years--just thinking about that amount of time makes it all feel unreal and fictive. Granted, other fans have been around for longer, yet for me, seven years of following, loving something this much is a first. It's all thanks to a certain man named Matsumoto Jun, who has baited and lured millions of women, in Japan and across the globe, to the promise land that is Arashi. There's something to be said about being genuinely Jun-baited: he never quite lets you off the hook, and you don't want him to.
When Jun turned 28, I poured my heart out about what a beautiful human being he is, inside and out. That obviously hasn't changed; I believe it never will. Then when he turned 29, I went for a proper and much needed in-depth documentation of his smile, a smile that continues to make me believe in good.
The last Arashi member to turn 30...doesn't it feel pivotal enough to make you cry? God. I'm being embarrassingly emotional here, but honestly, in a strange way, doesn't Jun turning 30 make you feel like you've seen the five of them through so much? Enough for relief and pride to rise and swell over you in overwhelming waves; enough for you to realize that you've lived a substantial amount of your life with their songs in your ear and their beats in your heart. You've been a fan long enough to see Jun transform from an awkward, eager adolescent with obvious identity issues into the self-assured, hardworking, and perfectly capable man he is today--most people don't stay that long in other fandoms--and doesn't that just stun and amaze you?
You've born witness to how this thing, this existence called Arashi, has become the darling of Japan, even as you hold them close and achingly remember who they were when you discovered them, especially minor details like how their hair looked liked, or how they smiled, as you also remember who you were, and what has changed in you. Time passes. I was just 18 when he was 23. Age is just a number, true, but I know in my gut that this is a turning point. That it will be a decade completely unlike their 20s, and in turn, an Arashi unlike their 20s selves. Except for the important, essential things that don't even need mentioning. Like our feelings for them, for all that they are.
If you've been here long enough, you (should, and do) carry all these special feelings in your hands with the steady knowledge they're just flesh and blood. They curse, fuck, sleep, shit, feel, stumble, hurt, and inflict hurt, even as an aggressively adept marketing machine has successfully painted them as Japan's wonder boys over the years. They are collectively the eternally charming, humble, and available boy-next-door to suit your every fantasy. They are the fantasy; they've worked hard to cover up anything that will shatter the illusion. But you've grown to understand, somehow, that these five boys, Jun included, Jun most especially, have a special ability of making genuine connections that will always feel personal. It's not something a non-fan can understand: the love is real, like a conduit for energy that just grows and grows as you invest in it. It's their gift to you. It will overwhelm you sometimes. And Jun, bless Jun, has nurtured those shared feelings and holds them in his hands with such careful awe. He thinks about Arashi more than anyone else. Including you, 6th member. He's always been thinking about you.
If we're lucky, we'll get to celebrate the last member to turn 40. 50. 60. Together. If not, then the memories have been blindingly beautiful, the music, untarnished. I, for one, will never forget this gift. A home away from home. A love so sweet.
Since we're all here and Jun's finally hit 30, let's end this post by looking back on 30 portraits of his that just underscore how pretty fucking breathtaking he is to look at. I think it's a more than fitting way to celebrate him: by zeroing in on what drew us in in the first place, shallow as it might have been. Shallow impressions paves the way for the deep, lasting connections. Look into his eyes and remember why, and why, still.
Happy 30th birthday, Jun. ♥
Thank you for your neurotic, kind, passionate, and miraculous existence. I'm glad to have met you. :)