SINGAPORE - J-pop boy band Arashi met fans for the first time in Singapore as part of a whirlwind press conference tour titled Jet Storm, which will also take place in Jakarta, Bangkok and Taipei.
Around 50 fans were selected via ballot to attend the press conference held at Jewel Changi Airport on Sunday (Nov 10), while around 1,000 were gathered in viewing galleries set up for fans to catch a glimpse of the five-man act.
Sho Sakurai, 38, says of the group's first official visit here in 20 years: "We have made you wait for a long time and we're sorry."
Arashi debuted in 1999 with an eponymous single and have reportedly sold close to 54 million copies of albums, singles and videos, making them one of the biggest Asian boy bands. Their hits include tracks such as Love So Sweet, Beautiful Days and Believe.
Sakurai was previously here for the filming and premiere of The After-Dinner Mysteries (2013) while Masaki Aiba, 36, had been in Singapore for both work and leisure, saying: "I had hokkien mee when I came here in private and it was delicious."
Leader Satoshi Ohno, 38, says: "We have seen messages from fans at our concerts in Japan that say they come from Singapore, so we're very grateful to be here."
Jun Matsumoto, 36, says he was heartened by the massive international response their social media presence has received. The group, which has primarily centred their activities in Japan, rarely has overseas activities but have a significant fan base around the world.
He says: "I've always known about and noticed our international fans. We're very happy with the response, the fact that they are responding directly to something that Arashi puts out is great."
At the fan meeting and press conference, Kazunari Ninomiya, 36, repeated the announcements Arashi first made in a Nov 3 YouTube live stream. They will now have five official social media channels and all of their 65 singles are available on music streaming services worldwide.
They will hold concerts in May at the new National Stadium in Tokyo ahead of the Olympics and also in Beijing next spring.
The group, which performed at an enthronement festival for Emperor Naruhito on Saturday night, flew into Jakarta on a private jet early Sunday morning before making their way to Singapore. They will then visit Bangkok and Taipei before going back to Japan.
The group's rare appearance in Singapore caused a stir among Arashi fans in South-east Asia.
About 40 Malaysian fans chartered a bus from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore to see the group. They included Ms Santhiya Parthippen, who reached Jewel before 6am.
The 31-year-old teacher and long-time fan says: "I'm going back to Malaysia tonight and back to work tomorrow. It broke my heart when Malaysia was not included for Jet Storm but it's okay, I will go to them."
Ms Tan Lihui, 25, an executive at a trade union who managed to get a seat in the venue, says: "They've not been very accessible to international fans so for them to recognise international fans at this juncture as they are going on hiatus and celebrating their 20th anniversary, I'm grateful for that."
Arashi announced in January that they will be going on an indefinite hiatus at the end of 2020, suspending all group activities as leader Ohno expressed his desire to take a break from the entertainment industry.