In the past 24 hours, I've talked to various friends - both fans and close friends who aren't fans alike. I was hoping that by talking about it to them and hearing their words of comfort, I would feel better and eventually get myself out of this funk. But somehow, the more I talk to people, the more I realize I don't want to talk. Strange.
I tried to verbalize my emotions in a more unidirectional manner, in 280 characters on Twitter. But how could 280 characters or even a thread ever be enough for me to express how I feel about this life-changing piece of news? The multitude of thoughts I tried to express in tweets are so fragmented - a limitation of the social media itself, I guess, at least for my purposes - and did nothing to give myself a better picture of what I was feeling as a whole.
I think what I need now, more than anything, is to try and piece together the jagged edges of brokenness that I'm feeling right now into a long piece of prose, and hopefully obtain some kind of catharsis in the process. Hence, I return to this little fangirling space of mine - not to write any birthday wishes for the members, like I used to so long ago, but to try and unpack the layers of emotions that I feel are pent up within me, and to make sense of my own head space.
Shock and numbness. When the news broke, I was in the midst of watching a movie and was fully engrossed in it. I casually reached over for my phone absentmindedly, as I always do, only to see a few messages from concerned friends.
Above all these notifications sat an email from JFC informing members of an important announcement on the site.
Frantically, I rushed to my laptop and pulled the video up with my fingers trembling on the keyboard.
It was the hardest video I have ever had to watch. The solemnity of it all; Ohno's sombre expression, Nino's absence of banter, Jun's effort to hold back the tears in his eyes, Aiba's constant stumble over his words, and Sho's cool and collected composure. Every second of that video made me want to scream, and my tears broke free without restraint when Jun handed the baton to Aiba to speak.
"How is it that this is happening?" I asked myself. "What happened? What about their promise to stay together forever?" The video didn't give me the answers I needed, and in that instant, I felt confused, upset and lost. "How could they do this without any warning?"
When I finally got through the video with much difficulty, I went on Twitter. I was hoping for further clarifications that I might have missed; vital information that could assure me that this wasn't real. Instead, my whole timeline was buzzing with the news and everyone was just a mess, obviously as confused as I was. I blanked out. I really did. It felt like my whole world came crashing down and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I sat in stunned silence in front of my screen for another hour, numb. I willed myself to believe that this was a nightmare. "None of this is true. It can't be. This is a prank, somehow," I told myself repeatedly.
I held onto Nino's words tightly as though it were a lifebuoy; the only thing that could keep me afloat.
「嵐は５人で嵐です。」Arashi is as Five.
「僕らはいつまでも嵐です。」We will always be Arashi.
I could barely eat my dinner that night, anxious to be able to get some answers from the announced press conference. I was simply going through the motions of habit while my heart felt like it was on fire. I felt like crying but my tears seemed to be stuck at the back of my throat and none would come out.
Worry. Since the press conference wasn't aired live, I started reading the reports. I felt slightly comforted knowing that Jun had jumped straight in when asked, "So this is not a disbandment?" and replied sharply with "No, this is not a disbandment." I read about Nino defending Ohno's seemingly selfish decision to lead a life away from the limelight, saying, "With 6 people, or with 4 people, it wouldn't be Arashi. We wouldn't be able to give our 100% in performances. Arashi, after all, is made up of 5." "It's our fault if Leader is made to bear the brunt of any of it." If anything, this press conference merely reasserted the bonds that exist within Arashi; just look at how they still protect each other and Arashi as an ideal.
Simply looking at these photos taken during the press conference once again proves how much Arashi loves Arashi.
Seeing their smiles and laughter; the way they look at each other as though they're ready to jump in front of a bullet for each other was a sharp reminder for me: Yes, I was in pain. But how much more pain must they have been in, to have been talking about either disbandment or a hiatus, or discussing where to go from here for the past one and a half years? It wasn't just the pain of discussing The End, there's also the pain of putting on a strong front in front of the people they know, the fans and the staff they work closely with. How could any one individual take so much pressure and stress, much less share in the same intensity of things that 4 other people also experience?
I take my hats off to them. If I had already felt such heartache in 3 hours, I can't even begin to fathom what one and a half years of feeling like this must have been to them. Unfortunately, recognizing this didn't fill that hole in my heart. Yes, the clips of the press conference reaffirmed the fact that Arashi was still Arashi at their core, but I still didn't feel like I could ever smile again, as though all the light in the world had gone out. There was an Arashi-shaped hole in my heart.
Anger and resentment. My emotions turned ugly. Thinking about how this discussion had been going on since June 2017 during WWG, and on Nino's birthday, started to frustrate me. All this time they didn't let anything slip; we were all made to believe that everything was normal. Ohno mentioned in Hawaii, on multiple occasions, that he'd long given up the idea of leaving Arashi, of giving up his life right now in exchange for one on the seas (metaphorically speaking, but also possibly literally). But in the press conference, he said that he thought about it again after they left Hawaii and returned to Japan. What am I supposed to believe anymore?
While this resentment stirred within me, I told myself to stay rational. Was it really so hard to understand why Ohno probably developed that desire to escape again after their trip to Hawaii in 2014? No, because 2015 was an unreasonably tough one for Oh-chan. Was it tiring to shoulder so many expectations, commitments and responsibilities, especially for someone like Ohno who doesn't like being restricted? Definitely. Was it the right thing to do for Arashi to have kept their doubts to themselves, to try and sort it out among themselves first and try to come up with a solution first before facing their fans and the press? Of course it was; a misstep on their part could incite unnecessary panic (yes, they're basically on another level altogether).
I understand why they did what they did and how they, especially Ohno, must have felt. Why is it then, that I still find it hard to reconcile my emotions with logic? I'm broken.
Guilt. I started hating my own emotions; since I understood their reasons and all I wanted was for them to be happy, why the hell was I still feeling so upset? I couldn't understand myself. I started thinking, "I'm a bad fan. I don't even deserve to be called a fan. What kind of rotten and selfish person am I?!" Believe me, I beat myself up for it continuously. My emotions were so raw, I felt like all I had to do was just sit and I'd melt into nothingness. When I woke up this morning, all I could feel was a dull ache in my heart.
Post-note: I started on this entry last night before I'd watched Zero, when I still felt so broken. I didn't manage to complete it because I'd decided to watch Zero at the very last minute. Little did I expect a shift in my emotions after hearing Sho's heartfelt replies to Udou-san's questions, of which I'll further document in this entry.
I think I can finally see a tiny flicker of light at the end of what seems to be a long and winding tunnel.
As I streamed the first 10 minutes of Zero, I told myself, "What the hell were you thinking, streaming Zero?! Look what they're making you relive. They're confronting you with the reality that Arashi is disappearing after 2020... probably for forever. What do you need this reminder for?!" It didn't help that the staff at Zero had compiled a VTR of Arashi's history; just watching that filled my eyes with tears. Seriously, my whole face was soaked.
But I'm glad I decided to in the end, because Sho saved me last night.
Udou-san: 復活はありますか？(Will Arashi return?)
Sho: (without hesitation, immediately) ありますあります、ありますよ！(YES, yes!)
I let out a sigh of relief that I didn't even know I was holding in.
Watching Sho laugh at #大野くんの夏休み (Ohno-kun's Summer Vacation) and #今日から嵐ファン全員で嵐５人を幸せにしてやるよ (Let Arashi Fans Make Arashi Happy From Now On) healed me immensely. He knows!! Somehow that knowledge made me feel better. I felt less broken.
It may be euphemistic, but this is a way of letting Arashi know that we understand and support their decision; one that they made together as 5. It conveys our love to them, a promise that we'll still be here when they come back, and serves as a testament to the unique bond that Arashi has with their fans. At their very core, Arashi symbolizes the dreams we'd never dared to dream of and the courage we never knew we had. They stand for goodness and positivity in my life.
Every bit of my life is filled with Arashi: Not just their goods (lol) but their motto and their mantra. Be it their professional attitudes, their outlook on life or their genuine treatment of others, I have grown so much because of them and my perspectives have been reshaped for the better. Arashi will always be irreplaceable to me.
Some say that the more people you let into your life, the easier it is for them to walk straight out.
I'd say that that's kinda true. But the love you feel far outweighs the pain. That love is so worth it.
I am eternally grateful that I became an Arashi fan. If it weren't for them, I would never have gotten to know the joy of coming to understand a foreign language, nor would I have met so many other people and even establish friendships with some. There hasn't been a day since I became a fan when I don't feel blessed by Arashi's presence in my life, and that sentiment will always remain in me for the rest of my life.
I've yet to fully come to terms with their decision; I don't think I will ever be okay with it. But I know that no matter what, Arashi has affected me on a cellular level and their legacy will always be present within me and my being. I will never be ready to say goodbye to them, but when 2020 rolls around, I hope I'll be able to summon enough courage to say, "See you later. Remember to come back because I'll always be waiting."