Around five years ago I wandered into a Korean-Japanese restaurant and bumped into two friends who, coincidentally, were craving for Jjampong as well. I was a few months shy from finishing my Economics degree then – 19 and with no concrete goal in mind except to graduate. Zi and Shishou were part of a rather rabid, aggressive group that had been trying to convince me to check out this Japanese boy band called Arashi, and I had always managed to brush them off by promising I would give in to their recommendations on another day, preferably after my senior thesis had written itself.
During the entire hour that we sat around that tiny square table slurping spicy Korean noodles, however, the two of them talked of nothing except how fascinating the boys had been when they filmed this horror special involving stairs, zombies and the unflappable nature of some person called Ohno. It was then that I swore I would never become one of them. I didn’t want to be the type of girl who would waste my time flailing over a bunch of men in sparkly outfits with feather-lined collars – not when there were more important things to worry about like my non-existent personal ambitions and the future of the ever-degenerative Philippine fatherland.
I’ve always thought though that we sometimes become the people we say we never will be.
Years and several colorful experiences later, the three of us met again to celebrate the birthday of the man who had baited us into eventually becoming Arashi fans: Sakurai Sho. We had overpriced pizza, went convenience store-hopping, and watched this ridiculously adorable family of triplets on the South Korean variety show The Return of Superman. Zi and I are still active fans of Arashi, although she has not been given any new subbing projects to typeset and I have stopped writing fanfiction in the meantime. Shishou has crossed over to the Korean peninsula, and her eye candy of the year is Jo In-Sung, with minor feelings for one of the Tohoshinki boys – the one who isn’t Changmin.
To an outsider, our gathering after months of minimal contact to celebrate the 33rd birthday of a man who will probably never know we exist is probably a waste of time, money, effort. It might even seem stupid. But to me, and maybe to the other two as well, this birthday is a milestone in my year, a day I look forward to even more than my own birthday because some time ago on this day – the 25th of January – one of the few human beings who have genuinely moved my spirit was born.
I browse Tumblr and the congratulatory fever has not died down yet. I won’t claim to be in love with Sakurai Sho, nor will I claim that I will always be his fan, but at this point of my life, I cannot imagine anyone else whose life and whose way of thinking will influence me more than Sakurai Sho has. He’s charming and smart and very polite, but more than these well-known traits, I look up to him because he has taken a large risk with his life and he has done absolutely everything in his power to make sure that his efforts bear fruit. I look up to him because I see myself as being in the place where he used to be just a few years ago, and although I am nowhere as driven as he is, I hope that one day I’ll be able to dig myself out of my mess and become just as successful as he is now. He may have personal problems, even as one of Japan’s luminaries. Even so, all the work he has done up to now, all the ‘seeds’ he has ‘sown’ have borne fruit, and this is what I pray I will always have strength for – this sowing.
Maybe I will never meet Sakurai Sho in this lifetime. Maybe by the end of this year I won’t even be an Arashi fan anymore. But, as my favorite line from Downton Abbey goes – never mind how it was Tony Gillingham who said this, and I’m ambivalent about him at best – “I’ll never love again as I love you in this moment, and I must have something to remember.”
Which is why I’m still waiting for my Digitalian concert goods to fly in from Japan, so I can muse at Sho’s laughing face in the first photoset I have ever bought for any celebrity.