The number-one multifaceted male pop group in Japan has inadvertently broken the hearts of millions.

On January 27, I received a message from a Japanese friend. “Did you hear the news about Arashi?” she asked. My immediate reaction was to assume that any news about one of Japan’s most established and popular male idol groups would involve some sort of so-called “idol scandal,” so I have to admit that I was a bit taken aback when I then read what was the biggest headline making waves on the Japanese Internet: Arashi was to go on hiatus after December 31, 2020. 

My friend continued, “I got a flash notification on my phone about it. Now it’s the only thing on entertainment news hubs. Many girls in Japan are completely shocked, and I imagine that some women are taking the day off from work.” 

▼ Actual screenshot of my Japanese friend’s newsfeed one week ago. Every single article is related to the group’s impending hiatus.

SoraNews24

While that last statement about taking the day off from work may sound absurd, Arashi is just that much of a staple in the Japanese entertainment world. The five-member group, whose name means “storm,” indeed took the pop scene by storm when they debuted in 1999 as teenagers. Satoshi Ohno, Sho Sakurai, Masaki Aiba, Kazunari Ninomiya, and Jun Matsumoto are all household names. As part of the Johnny & Associates talent agency (which was also home to the recently disbanded-once-and-for-all mega-group SMAP), they regularly top the Oricon singles and albums charts in Japan, churning out new songs, music videos, and choreography every few months. As of this writing, they currently boast 16 studio albums to their name and have tirelessly released anywhere from one to six new singles every year for the past two decades. That’s all on top of staying heavily involved with countless variety TV programs, dramas, films, radio shows, magazines, and commercial appearances. The group is also currently in the midst of their “Arashi Anniversary Tour 5×20” with a total of 50 performances and an anticipated 2,375,000 concertgoers, making it the largest anniversary tour in Japanese music history.

▼ My personal introduction to Arashi was their 2005 single “Wish,” which served as the theme song for the hit J-drama Hana Yori Dango starring Arashi member Jun Matsumoto (35).

View this post on Instagram

・ #花より男子#花男 #花より男子リターンズ #花より男子ファイナル ・ 花男は本当に何回観ても飽きないドラマ。 ・ 花沢類、ほんとに一途。こんなにも純粋な高校生男子は現実にはいません…♥ ・ 西門総二郎、女たらしだけど、意外と一途。 ・ 美作あきら、F4まとめ役。 双子のお兄ちゃんながら、1番のしっかり者。 ・ 道明寺司、日本語に弱い横暴野郎(¯ ˘ ¯)そこがいいんだよね😚 牧野を大事にする。 ・ F4はこの4人でないと務まりません😌 リメイク版とか出てもこの4人を超えられないと思う(個人的意見です) *・*・*・*・*・*・*・*・*・*・*・*・*・* #松本潤#道明寺司 #井上真央#牧野つくし #小栗旬#花沢類 #松田翔太#西門総二郎 #阿部力#美作あきら #F4

A post shared by D.ℓσνє❤︎" (@d.love_stagram) on

When the group broke the news of their indefinite hiatus in a video message on their official fan club website, group leader and oldest member Satoshi Ohno (38) relayed, “With 2020 as the crossroads, Arashi will halt activities and the members will be able to pursue their separate pathways. We’ve arrived at this conclusion after discussing it countless times.” He also revealed that this was an idea he had harbored since June 2017, when he approached the other members to share his thoughts about taking some time to go their independent ways. Member Kazunari Ninomiya (35) added, “We will continue to give it our all in Arashi style until the very end of 2020.”

Net reactions tended to air on the side of disbelief at the forthcoming absence of something they had always taken for granted:

“But they’re only in their 30s…!”
(Note: The members of some currently active Johnny & Associates groups, such as TOKIO and V6, are now in their 40s.)
“I never thought they’d go out before V6!”
“A final Dome Tour is now inevitable.”
(Note: It’s considered a huge milestone in their professional career when a musical act is able to tour Japan’s biggest dome concert venues. Arashi has had that privilege multiple times.)
“First SMAP, and now Arashi. These are truly testing times.”
“All of them probably want to get married.”
“At least the 2020 date will set them up to perform at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics…(fingers crossed).”

With the group now slated to halt activities on December 31, 2020, two particular points impress upon me: 1) the way that fans seem to be treating the term “hiatus” as “total disbandment,” and 2) the fact that the group made their announcement a full two years ahead of time. Perhaps it’s all part of a strategy to lessen the shock for longtime fans about the Arashi-less world to come.

Sources: Yahoo! Japan News via Livedoor News, Hochi Shimbun
Top image: SoraNews24