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Pop group Arashi to convey gratitude to fans over remaining 2 years

Members of the Japanese pop band Arashi, from left, Masaki Aiba, Jun Matsumoto, Satoshi Ono, Sho Sakurai and Kazunari Ninomiya attend a press conference in Tokyo's Minato Ward, on Jan. 27, 2019. (Mainichi/Naoaki Hasegawa)

TOKYO -- The five members of the all-male J-pop band Arashi talked in a friendly manner at a recent news conference to announce that they would end their activities as a group in 2020.

It was in sharp contrast to the grim-faced members of SMAP, another huge pop band, who announced at a news conference three years ago that they would continue their activities despite reports that they would disband. One cannot help but wonder where the differences derived from between these two idol groups that share huge popularity nationwide.

Despite its announcement that it would continue its activities, SMAP disbanded seven months later in Dec. 31, 2016, without even holding a press conference, putting an end to its 28-year history.

At the Jan. 27 news conference, the five members of Arashi talked a lot about themselves.

In response to a question as to whether arguing was behind the decision to call it a day, Kazunari Ninomiya, one of the members, jokingly said, "You appear to want to write about that and tend to quickly write about such a thing.

"We should've had it (a fight) even if it was fake," added Masaki Aiba.

Sociologist Shoichi Ota, who authored a book on idols belonging to the Johnny & Associates talent agency, commented, "Arashi is suspending its activities rather than disbanding. Moreover, the group will leave a two-year grace period. The band will give time for it to sink in. It's really kind and I think it's a typical Arashi-style act."

"Idols in the (current) Heisei era are just like escort runners that live with their fans. Satoshi Ono said, 'I want to live freely' and 'I want to see different things.' Fans will try to support such desires," Ota pointed out.

Osamu Seki, a part-time lecturer at Meiji University, said, "I think fans were ready to accept that the group (Arashi) would mention its members' future courses."

In his book on idols belonging to Johnny & Associates, Seki describes SMAP as "charismatic" and Arashi as the "boys next door."

"I think for fans, Arashi members are just like their ideal boyfriends, friends and sons," he said.

With regard to the timing of the end to Arashi's activities, Seki said, "The group is likely to play a role in next year's Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. It may be difficult to suspend its activities at another time."

Akio Nakamori, a commentator on idols, said Arashi members thought about their future after seeing the end of SMAP. He is paying close attention to the unit's response to the question as to whether its decision is irresponsible.

"Over the next two years, we'll convey our sense of gratitude to fans. I'd like people to judge whether our decision is irresponsible after seeing our attitude," said Arashi member Sho Sakurai.

"I think there are people who heard these statements that compared Arashi's end to the disbandment of SMAP. Arashi members obviously decided to end their activities after sufficiently thanking their fans," Nakamori stated.

Risa Tanaka, a board member of Sendenkaigi Co., a publisher of marketing communications magazines, took note of the fact that Arashi members fixed the remaining active period and emphasized that they have not decided what activities they will engage in from 2021.

"They are trying to share their experiences with their fans and improve their value. By transcending the divide between information senders and receivers, they allow their fans to consider the common goals for both sides," she said. "I think the unit's strategy of getting fans involved is successful."

(Japanese original by Kenichi Omura, Ayako Oguni, Joichi Sato and Hiroyuki Wada, General Digital News Center)

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