And Finally Artist News Beef Of The Week

CMU Beef Of The Week #177: Arashi fans v Arashi trees

By | Published on Friday 4 October 2013

Arashi Trees

Right, I don’t want to come across all patronising, but I’m going to assume that you don’t know who Arashi are. So, here’s a quick lesson to get you up to speed…

Japanese boyband Arashi formed in 1999 and released their debut album, ‘Arashi No 1 Ichigou: Arashi Wa Arashi O Yobu!’, in 2001. That album title, by the way, translates as ‘Arashi Number One: The Storm Calls The Storm’. Let’s just take a moment to think about how shit that makes album titles by all British boybands ever look. One Direction’s new album is called ‘Midnight Memories’, for fuck’s sake. Rightly, the Arashi debut went to number one in their home country in recognition of its awesome title (and possibly its music, though that seems less likely).

Unlike boybands in the UK and US, they didn’t burn out after two or three albums or find that their fans got bored and moved on. Actually, over a decade later they’re more popular than ever. Earlier this year, they released the first single from their still-to-be-announced twelfth album, a double A-side release featuring the songs ‘Calling’ and ‘Breathless’, which sold 756,000 copies in its first week, the highest first week sales of their career by some distance. In terms of domestic popularity, they make One Direction look like a shitty pub band struggling to give their music away.

They also rival One Direction for levels of obsession amongst fans, though that’s probably a closer battle. But it’s their fans who make this week’s beef what it is. Earlier this year, Arashi filmed an advert for Japan Airlines in the village of Kamifurano on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. The advert sees them walk up to a small cluster of trees in a field and have a chat about them for some reason. Here it is:

As RocketNews24 helpfully translates, the band’s Masaki Aiba suggests to his bandmates that they name the trees ‘The Arashi Trees’, as there are five of them, just as there are five members of Arashi. Seems like a logical enough suggestion, but then fellow singer Jun Matsumoto tells him no, these trees should remain nameless so that they may be free. All of which seems awfully profound for a) an advert, b) a conversation between the members of a boyband, and c) the fans of boyband pop music who will see the ad.

And for that latter group, the message of the ad was seemingly lost, because after the advert aired the trees quickly became known as ‘The Arashi Trees’ amongst the band’s fanbase. But did the trees nonetheless remain free? No. Because just as the JAL advert suggested, the fans started buying plane tickets in order to check out what Hokkaido has to offer. And what Hokkaido has to offer Arashi fans is five trees. And nothing else.

So many have been travelling to the field in Kamifurano that local residents have started to become a bit annoyed. Apparently, the pop aficionados keep turning up, parking cars where they aren’t supposed to, tramping up and down over the fields and leaving rubbish everywhere. And then, much to the dismay of the owner of the trees and the land they stand on (see, they weren’t even free in the first place), people began cutting chunks of bark off to take home with them.

Locals complained to JAL, and the company promptly sent representatives over to the village to apologise in person for what they had wrought. But did that stop the fans arriving in their droves? Why don’t you have a guess? If you guessed ‘Yes’, you’re an idiot.

Clearly something more drastic needed to be done. The trees could be chopped down, of course, but that would seem a little counterproductive. Maybe they could be uprooted and separated. That also doesn’t really seem like a great option either. What the landowner chose to do in the end was far more simple.

The attraction of these trees is that Arashi touched them. They touched them (in a fictionalised situation, but whatever) because there were five of them, just like there are five members of Arashi. So, the solution was staring the people of Kamifurano right in the face all along: Plant two more trees.

No, I’m not exactly sure if that’s likely to work either. But at the same time it sounds like it might actually be genius. Maybe if there are seven trees there it’ll make it harder to identify the exact spot where the advert was filmed. Or maybe there being too many trees will genuinely make it a less attractive spot to visit.

Whatever, it’s worth a try, because, if we take One Direction as an example once again, my personal favourite solution of releasing poisonous snakes into the field is unlikely to be a deterrent either.