Review: Arashi Blast at Ko Olina

Sep. 21, 2014 | 10 Comments
PHOTOS BY JOAH BULEY / SPECIAL TO THE STAR-ADVERTISERJapanese boy band Arashi celebrated 15 years of success with Arashi Blast in Hawaii, a two-night concert experience filmed live for broadcast in Japan and a future concert DVD.


Japanese boy band Arashi celebrated 15 years of success with Arashi Blast in Hawaii, a two-night concert experience filmed live for broadcast in Japan and a future concert DVD.


By all accounts, Arashi Blast, the two-night concert event at Ko Olina commemorating the 15th anniversary of Japanese boy band Arashi, was the most elaborate, most complicated, most technically demanding production ever staged in Hawaii.

The biggest and highest stage. The most moving stage pieces and satellite performance platforms. The most special effects. The most video cameras — word was there were 50 — covering a concert performance that was broadcast live in Japan to an audience who paid, rumor had it, almost ¥55,000 ($500+) a ticket to see, and which will also be produced into an Arashi 15th Anniversary Concert DVD with all the technological bells and whistles the Japanese music business can provide.

Arashi arrived at Ko Olina by helicopter.

Arashi arrived at Ko Olina by helicopter.

And don’t even start on the logistics involved in moving 15,000 people in and out of an ad hoc concert venue constructed in a resort area that wasn’t designed or developed for entertainment events of that size.

As it turned out, the most memorable thing about the second of two shows on Saturday, the day the local media was allowed to see Arashi perform, was the rain.

Rain isn’t usually an issue for performers at the Waikiki Shell, because performers are usually protected by the Shell itself even if the audience gets drenched. Rain might be a problem for concerts at Aloha Stadium, but when was the last time there was a concert worth mentioning in Aloha Stadium?

The point is, it rained at Ko Olina during Saturday’s show. It rained hard. For a while it was almost like being in a shower.

Some of the 15,000 fans — a crowd who appeared to be overwhelmingly women under 25 — had those emergency one-time raincoats or ponchos. They were probably OK. Others got wet.

Arashi — Satoshi “Rida” Ohno, Sho Sakurai, Masaki Aiba, Kazunari Ninomiya and Jun Matsumoto — had no protection from the rain at all but they kept on performing. They performed as if it wasn’t raining, performed as if their clothes weren’t getting soaked, as if rain drops weren’t pelting their faces and ricocheting off the surfaces of the various platforms they were working on.

The Arashi Blast concert was a live music video without subtitles for anyone who didn’t speak Japanese fluently, but the quintet’s performance in the rain transcended the barriers of language. It was almost as if the heavy rain was just another special effect that has been conjured up along with the pyrotechnics, the smoke, the dazzling computer synchronized lighting effects and the colorful video sequences.

The rain was a surprise. The afternoon leading up to the concert had been uncomfortably hot and dry. Fans waited patiently in the heat — as only Japanese audiences do — until the gates were opened. Then they took off for various seating areas — some walking, some running, all waiting patiently once in place. General admission tickets were good for designated areas and included a souvenir Arashi chair. Multiple rows of portable restrooms were conveniently located nearby.

Thousands of Arashi fans flew to Hawaii from Japan for the concerts.

Thousands of Arashi fans flew to Hawaii from Japan for the concerts.

Arashi arrived via helicopter promptly at 5:30 p.m., circled the venue a couple of times while the fans waved, then landed backstage. The quintet worked hard, singing and dancing for almost 30 minutes in the hot, muggy weather until sweat soaked through their uniforms. They took a break and then got back into action, performing in several configurations on the multi-level main stage and then riding mobile platforms out into the crowd to the back of the audience where another mobile stage awaited them.

For once, the folks in the back row got some time up close with the entertainers. Arashi did that several times — including while the rain fell.

The show included several lengthy breaks for vintage video clips documenting Arashi’s accomplishments since 1999, interview clips with individual members (some captioned with English subtitles), and several conversations between various combinations of Arashi members on stage while the others changed clothes.

Arashi brought a high-energy, highly choreographed performance to Ko Olina on Saturday.

Arashi brought a high-energy, highly choreographed performance to Ko Olina on Saturday.

Video clips also accented their precisely choreographed song-and-dance numbers. There was lots archival footage from past performances, some snippets of English that usually made sense, and sometimes music videos with subtitles in Japanese. As befits a live from Hawaii event, the guys greeted the audience several times with “aloha,” at least one of them threw out a perfect shaka on camera, and they all wore aloha shirts while performing on a satellite stage with instrumental backing from local musicians.

One of the noteworthy things about Arashi Blast that probably would not work with an American audience was how the audience was released by sections after Arashi had been whisked away in their helicopter. Some of the fans were wet, some were cold and all were muddy after the rain, but they waited patiently until they were told that it was their turn to start walking back to where the buses were waiting to take them back to Waikiki.

Traffic control on the way out — the management of cars and hordes of pedestrians — was excellent. If only concerts at the Shell were handled that well! It was a positive final touch to the most elaborate, most complicated, most technically demanding production ever staged in Hawaii.

Aloha, Arashi!
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at

  • Mélanie

    Thanks for this article so kind and I wish I could be here !

  • ミカ♡( ๑॔˃̶◡ ˂̶๑॓)✧

    Thank you for this article! It was lovely to read for people who weren’t able to make it.

  • Ohno An

    Thank you for such a great review! I hope that more people can see how hard they work and have always been and that they’re not just a boy band.

  • Angela Cristina Espinoza Hermo

    lol… Arashi under the rain is always the best. Arashi is a storm, dakara..

  • disqus_fnwCMQDX7u

    Thank you for the kind review! I have only major concern, and that’s where you say “Fans waited patiently in the heat — as only Japanese audiences do — until the gates were opened.”

    Most of the fans who had to wait the longest in the general admission line were not Japanese citizens/residents – they were citizens/residents of the US, Canada, Europe, and other Asian countries, even if a lot of them were of Japanese decent or other Asian-Pacific ethnicities. Most Japanese citizens at the concert got expedited entrance and didn’t have to wait in the line very long (they paid for tour packages that included this privilege for $2,500-$10,000).

    It seemed as though things were a bit different on the Saturday show than the Friday show which I attended, but besides the Japanese fans with tour packages, most of the rest of the Japanese fans got tickets through KZOO and also had slightly expedited seating compared to the general admission line on Friday.

    I heard on Saturday, many Japanese fans (I assume with KZOO tickets who hadn’t had their own line that day) cut in line in the general admission section where the non-Japanese citizens/residents were waiting all day, and some arguments ensued.

    Anyway, my point is the patience shown by the fans was not exceptional to a Japanese audience, and in fact, the majority of the most patient and polite fans who waited the longest happened to not be citizens or residents of Japan.

    I hope Arashi continues to do concerts overseas, including in the US, and I hope that in the future there is equal access to all fans regardless of nationality so that we can avoid some of the problems that occurred during this concert.

    • John Berger

      Good points, disqus_fnwCMQDX7u. All going well the problems you describe will be resolved the next time a Japanese super group decides to do a show of this size here. .

  • kay

    I hope Arashi continues to come to Hawaii in the future! I do believe that more space is needed to accommodate the amount of people, location was way to small! First of all I could not get in to my space and when I tired to get in. I was only yelled at buy a Japanese fan who chased me and my daughter out. As we tried to move to other locations in our section, we would only be yelled at by the staff events! By being inside the tape so Arashi could come through.We ended up being in a different section next to the cameraman. It was nice enough to see the stage.

    I understand the frustration being that many traveled to see them and hope that better planning for the lines are easier to allow people to get in. Since Japanese are very prompt on being on time and following the rules. Also, more space…

  • Cecilia Ching

    I agree with “disqus_fnwCMQDX7u”. I went to the Friday one. I think us (US/Canada residents/citizens) were the ones that were really patience. I feel like all the media are focusing on how much Japanese fans were there at the concert, but it seems they totally ignore us who flew from all over the country to see them. Even though only about 20%-30% of us are not from Japan, we still deserve some attention!

  • Malika Dudley

    That was a delight to read John! Long time no see! Awesome writing :)

  • Kathy

    I had read elsewhere that the live viewing tickets were as you reported in this article but it is incorrect. I spoke with a friend who attended and told her that I was surprised the tickets cost so much. She said that it cost approximately ¥5000, which is about $50.00. There were a lot of people who could not get a ticket..

    As far as what others have said, the line situation on Saturday ended up being a dangerous situation. disqus_fnwCMQDX7u said that he/she assumes that it was KZOO listeners who cut into the line. I have heard that it was fan club members and that they were directed to enter first. I feel that the main problem was the total lack of communcation by staff. I feel that if it was announced that these people were going to be let in first, there would have been less of a riotous situation. Perhaps many people don’t understand how the fan club system works. Tickets to these concerts are sold only to fan club members who have to apply for the tickets. One of the largest venues that they perform in seats 48,000 and they will do several perfomances there. However even with that amount of seating, it sells out. For all of their performances, there are more ticket applications than seats so tickets are sold on a lottery system. Even for Arashi Blast in Hawaii, that’s how the tickets were sold. Knowing this, I personally had no problem with knowing that the fan club members had special privileges, especially with the tour package pricing they paid. They couldn’t just “win” the tickets for the concert and find their own airfare and lodgings.
    It was a great show and I would love to see them live in concert again. I do hope that this does open the door for other international performers.