We didn't know that on January 27, 2019, the things that we took as regular, as a given, would suddenly become so precious. This week, my heart broke and mended in turns, and I'm just so overwhelmed.
I was having coffee with my friend, when she saw the news on her phone. Arashi, officially to stop activities on 2020. And with my heart stuck in my throat, I scrolled through Twitter. As Ohno explained what was happening in the FC video, I found unfamiliar tears streaming down my cheeks. I am not a crier, never have been—but this one caught me off-guard. I spent the next hours crying, not being able to believe what I was hearing and reading. My heart felt like it was being stabbed over and over again. For different reasons.
Because Ohno. Oh, Ohno.
Of course it was always going to be Ohno. Somehow, I've always known it in my heart.
Ohno Satoshi, the reluctant and bewildered national idol, who has still nonetheless given it his all for 20 years, and now, for two more.
How I've always wanted him to follow his happiness. And now, it's happening.
How he's finally being brave enough to put it out there.
How I can't think of anyone more deserving.
The fact that Ohno couldn't articulate what he means when he said that he wanted to be free.
That it's a desire that he knows he needs to act on, that he just knows he needs to do it. Now.
The fact that Ohno brought it up two years ago, took that time to discuss and plan his moves together with the other four, and gave us two more years. TWO MORE YEARS OF HIS LIFE.
I saw a Japanese tweet basically saying that Arashi is a national ideal that is too heavy for anyone that’s “flesh and blood” to carry for a whole lifetime. And it really hit me hard—them walking their own paths with our love and full support is the best we can and should give.— N💙 • 5-1=0 (@nunuuu) January 27, 2019
How Ohno didn't go up first to management to discuss his feelings, he went to his members, because that's what felt natural, that's what all these years meant, that's how much he respects these four people.
How they went to each other's houses, deciding what to eat and drink, how they gave Ohno a safe space to air out his thoughts. How they hashed it out and decided it among the five of them first, because they are a unit.
The inherent trust in all of that.
The fact that even after 20 years, their relationship isn't just strictly a transactional work relationship—they are taking it personally while dealing with it professionally.
They know what they mean to each other, how precious each other is. Yet they also know that Arashi is a whole lot bigger than the five of them now. The fact that they didn't make hasty decisions or announcements.
How obvious it is that this was carefully thought of, that they've really thought about not just their fans, but all their stakeholders—their agency, their staff, their colleagues, the shows that they're on, all their sponsors.
The other four, how they are tirelessly and genuinely supporting Ohno.
How they never discussed the issue as four, only as five. Yes, they consulted each other, in different permutations, but never as four discussing about the one who started it. They never “left out” Leader.
How it was never up for debate that Arashi will cease to be Arashi without Leader.
Without any one of them. That there wasn't a future with Arashi if one of them was missing.
That they would always be five, and that if Leader wanted his freedom, they will walk with him hand in hand towards that.
That they will wait. That they are willingly giving Ohno the time to decide if he wants to come back, without pressure, without any time limit.
The colorful cupcakes during the press conference, oh my god. The fact that they walked in to freaking 'Wild at Heart', in light pastels and not black suits—because it wasn't a funeral, it wasn't a scandal, they were simply there to communicate their decision as straightforwardly as possible. How Nino and Sho fiercely defended Ohno from unsavory questions. How Ohno answered everything honestly. How Aiba and Jun made the atmosphere lighter, always mindful of the fan's feelings. The fact that only Arashi could pull off that kind of press conference—unfathomably making us love them even more even when they're announcing that they're going on a hiatus. Unbeatable. Class-act. Love of our lives.
they are pressing for Ohno to tell them how long roughly will he be taking a break for and Ohno says he really doesnt know/thought of it— Shoyuko (チーム嵐) (@ShoyukoTakirin) January 27, 2019
and I love how the other members can laugh with him
and aiba even going "even I don't know how long his break is!" pic.twitter.com/keiPw781mV
The outpouring of shock, but also warmth and support from everywhere.
How truly beloved they are in Japan. How fond the "Ohno's Summer Vacation" hashtag is.
Their repeated reassurances, that 5 will always be 5, no matter what.
Them acknowledging that we can react the way we need to, that we can cry, them telling us they know it will take some time. Sho's clear answers on Zero. Jun's empathetic j-web entry. Aiba's brave smile. Nino's rare tears on their first Music Station appearance after the announcement, my heart. Their bare vocals against the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.
The sheer magnitute of these two years, the fact that this is the biggest gift they could ever give us: the chance to walk this path with them in full honesty, the chance to let go but also cherish the existence of Arashi together.
How long two years is, from Ohno's POV. How he's decided to give it to us, with all his heart.
How short two years is. It sounds selfish, but oh wow. Two years.
I cannot stop the tears. I haven't been able to, for the past week.
I knew this day would come in some form, but not like this. I always thought Arashi would be like V6: stable, present, some getting married and having children, with less activities, but still there. But to have a deadline...I don't know. Two years sounds like a lot to other people, but Arashi has literally spoiled us daily for 20 years and to now have a deadline. ...well. It's painful. To someone like me who has intertwined her happiness with Arashi, it sounds unthinkable to face 2021 without them. Every so often, I panic at the thought of what happens after 2020, of what it really means to not have anything new from them.
Yes, they gave us the most amazing, and in fact prodigious, backlog and lineup of shows, music, concerts, and more through these 20 years, more than enough to go on, but my heart literally twinges at things like...there will be no more new albums. No new Ohno haircut to discuss endlessly together in the morning. No stupid VS Arashi intro chats. No more "thanks for always giving birth to me". No OT5 shoots to snicker at. No more new concerts—that one, to me, is a gaping loss.
There are two more years, yes, and we have been so spoiled by them, so loved. But when it comes to Arashi, it seems like we will never be able to get enough, because we love them that much. And now, I just have to face that the time is limited, that I need to steel my heart, because we owe this to them, to face them with gratefulness. To be ready. To be happy for them.
I don't want to compare my fan experience to other people's—but I have never truly moved on from Arashi. Some of you may have been with Arashi for a certain season, and you're not less of a fan for it, not at all, but I'm one among many fans who have kept Arashi in our lives on a daily basis. I planned my vacation leaves around their yearly concerts. I cried in 2014 during my first live concert, when Ohno peace-signed me from his cart, 5 feet away. I've spent a more than significant amount of money and time on them. They have become an emotional and mental crutch, and while that's not something I'm proud of, that's the truth. I think I love them too much.
I knew I would be deeply affected but I didn’t know this much. And it’s so intense and weird to process all of this in front of non-fan friends and family who have good intentions (asking me what happened, what does it mean that Arashi is going on a break, etc.) when I don’t have— N💙 • 5-1=0 (@nunuuu) January 28, 2019
the strength yet to explain or to simply, I don’t know, not cry in their presence. Their intention of reaching out to me is good enough, they don’t have to understand all my feelings about this. But maybe that’s putting the pressure all on me, during a time when I’m trying to— N💙 • 5-1=0 (@nunuuu) January 28, 2019
understand why it’s affecting me this way. There’s guilt, that I can’t communicate with them clearly, but there’s shame that I am having such an emotional reaction on what looks like to them not such a life-and-death matter. It’s not their fault. It’s my inability to be honest,— N💙 • 5-1=0 (@nunuuu) January 28, 2019
to really tackle why the loss of Arashi is and will be so devastating, to me, personally. They have saved my life, so many times—but I haven’t really shared that at all with my friends and family. To them it’s just a cute and quirky side to me. So to have all of them bearing down— N💙 • 5-1=0 (@nunuuu) January 28, 2019
on me, to comfort me, to help me—it’s so hard. ”I’m still alive because of Arashi”—how do you even say that out loud? How can I go through this patch without appearing to look like I need support, all the time? I just want to be alone, with fans, to process this. I want space.— N💙 • 5-1=0 (@nunuuu) January 28, 2019
Last night, I went to sleep with the thought that I didn’t want this to be about me. But it IS about me. Every bond that we all have with Arashi is so unique and deeply personal—and we’re all here, rearranging our hearts, to be okay, to be strong enough to love them better.— N💙 • 5-1=0 (@nunuuu) January 28, 2019
Some voice inside of me is asking how I could have let it go this far, how could I have integrated so much of Arashi into who I am, into what makes me stable/happy? And I just answered that I’ve no regrets, that this is just who I am—I’ve come this far partly because of them.— N💙 • 5-1=0 (@nunuuu) January 28, 2019
To me, their announcement feels like an indirect prod to myself that, a message from Arashi saying that hey, you can go on, you can be strong. That you can live life full-throttle too, with no regrets. That it's time. And maybe it is.
Yesterday, I listened to Kitto Daijoubu. And every note transported me to that time when I was just falling in love with them—not even twenty yet, listening to them on my old iPod, feeling giddy, happy, and warm. Somehow, I feel like I'm being asked to say goodbye to that younger self, and it's bittersweet. I know that I don't have to let go of the memories, but the passage of time is alarmingly fast. And my eyes cloud in tears, for all the fun I've had thanks to Arashi, for all the friends around the world I've met (all of you, every single one of you), for the moments when they've literally encouraged me to go on, to live.
“With the same members as usual, now, at this place where we used to talk together
（Bye-bye）Burn this landscape into your heart, let's step forward to tomorrow!”
I never thought Kitto Daijoubu would ever make me cry, but here we are. Yet it holds true. Everything will be alright. Kitto daijoubu.
With all my heart, I want to send them off as five with all of my heart, my energy, my love. With a smile. In these two years leading up to the hiatus, I want to grow strong enough to stand on my own. And as I do that, to cherish every single moment left with them. With all of you, old and new friends. Let's walk this road with them.
I owe you, Arashi.
Thank you. And I love you. Always. 5 is forever my treasure number.
Do you see me, Oh-chan? I'm smiling again.