In the late '90s, Tokyo-based pop group Arashi ("Storm") were created as Japan's answer to the Western boy band boom and artists such as Westlife or Backstreet Boys. As their name suggested, they were meant to take the world by storm, and they did, at least its East Asian part. They also managed to combine resonant fame with career longevity atypical of a boy band, releasing a new album -- almost all of which went to number one -- every year but one for almost two decades. Blending J-pop, J-rock, hip-hop, and R&B elements in their music, they reached a wide Asian audience, planting themselves atop the Japanese charts and entering Taiwan and Korea with platinum hits such as their 2001 debut Arashi No. 1 Ichigou, 2007's Time, and 2010's Boku no Miteiru Fukei. As their fame grew, so did their sales, and the 2010s were stacked with multi-platinum, chart-topping efforts that made them a force almost two years after their inception. In 2019, they announced that an official hiatus would begin on December 31, 2020. They planned a full year of farewells, including gigs across Asia and an appearance at the National Stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which were later sidelined by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Established by Johnny & Associates -- the prime Japanese male idol manufacturing agency of the time -- Arashi debuted in 1999 in Honolulu. Deciding on Satoshi Ohno as the bandleader in a paper-rock-scissors game on a TV show, the quintet -- which also featured Sho Sakurai, Masaki Aiba, Kazunari Ninomiya, and Jun Matsumoto -- began recording singles, the first of which, "A-RA-SHI," served as the theme song of the Volleyball World Cup of 1999 held in Japan. The single's sales approached one million copies. Between 1999 and 2001, Arashi worked with Pony Canyon, but after their first full-length release, the platinum chart-topper Arashi No. 1 Ichigou: Arashi wa Arashi wo Yobu!, they switched to J-Storm label, which was created by Johnny & Associates specifically to promote the band. J-Storm did a fine job: Arashi's next two albums, Here We Go! (2002) and How's It Going? (2003), both charted at number two, all the band's subsequent singles and albums topped the charts, and every single between 2002 and 2020 became a theme song for a movie, drama, or anime series. Arashi also released several DVDs and two more singles compilations, not to mention a number of TV and radio programs hosted by bandmembers, who also starred in various movies and TV series.
In 2006, Arashi broke into the foreign market, releasing the album Arashic in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, and South Korea, where it reached number one on the non-Korean albums charts. The LP was promoted by a tour in Taiwan and South Korea (the show in Thailand coincided with a putsch and was thus canceled).
Their ninth album, Time (2007), sold 190,000 units in its debut week and allowed the band to gather a total audience of 200,000 for its gigs at the domes of Osaka and Tokyo. Touring extended into 2008, when Arashi played a five-dome show in Japan, as well as gigs in Taipei, Seoul, and Shanghai. The band also scored high ratings for its prime-time show on the TBS network, and claimed the top two places on the Oricon yearly single charts for 2008 with "Truth"/"Kaze no Mukou He" (number one) and "One Love" (number two) -- an achievement not seen in Japan in 19 years. Their eighth studio album, Dream Alive, went on to sell more than 300,000 copies.
Excepting 2009, Arashi continued to churn out a new album every year, with no sign of dwindling popularity. They continued to dominate the charts, racking up additional number ones across the region and increasing their sales into multi-platinum territory with at least three of their albums selling over a million copies; two also topped Korea's import chart, and four Taiwan's. The most successful, 2010s "comeback" album Boku no Miteiru Fuukei ("The Scenery I'm Looking At"), was also their biggest-selling album overall. The double A-side "I Seek"/"Daylight," from their 2016 album Are You Happy?, gave them their biggest hit single since their debut, selling over 800,000 copies, with both songs used as themes for TV drama series starring members of the band.
After the release of their 16th set, 2017's Untitled, Arashi halted their usual album-per-year cycle and announced celebrations for their impending 20th anniversary. A 50-stop tour was scheduled and a greatest-hits collection, 5x20 All the Best! 1999-2019, was released, topping the charts and selling over a million copies. In the midst of these events, they also announced that they would start an official hiatus on December 31, 2020. Leading up to that fateful date, they announced a documentary (Arashi's Diary ~ Voyage ~) and released all their albums onto streaming services. However, with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, their touring plans were postponed, throwing their farewell plans into disarray. ~ Neil Z. Yeung & Alexey Eremenko
FORMEDSeptember 15, 1999