Due to the unique nature of Japanese advertising, you haven’t really arrived as an entertainer until you’ve appeared in at least a half-dozen commercials. The symbiotic relationship is amazing to behold, as the general trust for domestic celebrities and corporations means that when, say, a popular actress appears in an ad for energy-efficient plasma TVs, viewers tend to come away feeling more positively about the product because of the endorsement, and at the same time more impressed by the endorser because of her growing career portfolio.
But sometimes commercials can be a little too effective, as Japan Airlines is finding out with one of its recent TV spots featuring popular boy band Arashi.
Since its 1999 debut, Arashi’s popularity has been skyrocketing, with no signs of slowing down. With a squeaky clean image and huge catalogue of pure-hearted, upbeat songs, the five-member unit has won over women of all ages in Japan, particularly those who find the performers of Arashi’s pop king predecessors SMAP too old, married, or occasionally drunk and naked in public.
▼ A typical Arashi concert
Needless to say, marketers were quick to notice Arashi’s broad appeal, and you could create quite a debilitating drinking game by taking a shot whenever one of its members pops up on your TV screen. Japan Airlines (or JAL) has deep enough pockets to convince all five members to appear in the same commercial, as it did with this ad filmed in rural Kamifurano, Hokkaido.
In the 30-second ad, Arashi visits a cluster of five trees standing in the middle of a field. Noting there’s one tree for each of them, member Masaki Aiba murmurs, “Maybe we should call them the Arashi Trees.” His suggestion is quickly shot down by bandmate Jun Matsumoto, on the basis that the trees should remain nameless, so that they can continue to be free.
▼ Jun Matsumoto, too cool to wear a tie. Also, too diplomatic to just come out and say, “Dude, your idea is narcissistic and dumb.”
Apparently Arashi fangirls were too busy squealing with delight during the commercial to hear Matsumoto’s rebuttal, though, since the five larch conifers immediately became known to fans as “The Arashi Trees.” Since Arashi is so popular that even a new poster of them in a train station can draw droves of fans, the trees quickly became a popular pilgrimage site.
At first, this seems like a win-win. Kamifurano gets a few extra tourism yen, JAL gets to sell some plane tickets since Hokkaido is an island. And the people making the trip…get to see where their heroes stood and recited their lines. Hey, being a fan is about passion, not logic.
Unfortunately, it seems like some of the visitors to Kamifurano forget to pack their manners along with their digital cameras and Arashi albums. Local residents began getting irked when fans started parking in restricted areas, along with traipsing through private property on their way to get a closer look at the grove. Their anger was kicked up another notch when the fans finally departed, leaving their trash behind to blow across the field should a gust pick up. The final straw came when it was discovered that some Arashi fanatics were going so far as to shave off chunks of the trees’ bark to take home as souvenirs.
▼ Couldn’t they have gone with the equally creepy, more eco-friendly trophy of a lock of Arashi’s plentiful hair?
Things have gotten to the point where the trees’ owner, whose name has yet to be reported, is refusing to sit by quietly any longer. The landowner lodged a formal complaint with JAL, which resulted in representatives from the airline coming to Kamifurano in person to apologize. Unfortunately, since the JAL executives aren’t the ones directly causing the problems, this did nothing to curb the troublesome behavior of the visiting Arashi fans.
Faced with no other option, the landowner has decided to mar the view’s photogenic value to Arashi fans. But since cutting down the larches would be counterproductive to his goal of nature preservation, the owner has reportedly decided to add two more trees to the grove instead.
We have to say we’re impressed by his crafty, environmentally-sound solution. Here’s hoping Arashi doesn’t decide to bring on two new members in the future, even though we’re curious as to how big of a forest the man is willing to create in order to teach people some manners.