Asia News: Olympics, Arashi, Venues, ‘We Are The World 2020’

Tokyo Olympics Torch
AP Photo / Eugene Hoshiko
– Tokyo Olympics Torch
Former judo Olympic medalist Tadahiro Nomura holds the Olympic torch of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games during a press conference in Tokyo Wednesday, March 20, 2019. The Tokyo Olympics open on July 24, 2020.
Tokyo Olympics Postponed 
The International Olympic Committee, reportedly at the urging of the Japanese government, has postponed the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games to 2021 in response to many athletes’ and international sports federations’ concerns over the COVID-19 crisis. 
In a later announcement local officials said the Olympic games would take place July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021. 
The announcement was met with a crossfire of differing reactions in Japan itself. The most widespread response was a mixture of disappointment that all the preparations would not come together on schedule and relief that all the weeks of speculation had not resulted in the games being cancelled outright. 
However, there was also a sizable minority opinion expressing anger that the games were not, in fact, cancelled, since postponement would lead to greater expenses (likely shouldered by Japanese taxpayers) and more disruption to everyday activities over the coming months. 
Another subset of people who were at least partly relieved were those who had already purchased tickets for events. So far a total of 5.44 million tickets have been sold in Japan and abroad for Olympic and Paralympic events, and it was feared that the organizers would not provide refunds if the games were cancelled, since one of the terms of agreement is that refunds were not required in the case of an act of God, and one of the acts of God cited in the small print is an epidemic. 
The organizers initially said that all tickets sold for the 2020 Tokyo games would be honored at the relevant events in 2021 (which, to add even more confusion, will still be called the 2020 Tokyo Olympics), though later a representative of the organizers said the matter was still under discussion. 
The postponement also might mean that ticketholders who cannot attend events in 2021 for whatever reason will have to eat the cost as it is not clear if tickets will be transferable. According to the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, the organizing committee is now thinking of changing its policy and giving refunds to purchasers who desire them or allowing them to put their tickets up for sale on an official resale website that has yet to be set up. 
Arashi – Arashi
Promo shot

Arashi Rumored To Postpone Farewell
The Olympic postponement has also sparked rumors that top J-pop boy band Arashi may postpone its retirement. 
The quintet, which debuted twenty years ago, was slated to call it a day at the end of 2020 after spending most of the year as the ambassadors for the Tokyo Olympics. 
The group was, in fact, scheduled to be the centerpiece attraction of the 2020 opening ceremony, which would have capped its career. They guys have already made Japanese history by being cited by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry as having released the biggest-selling record album in the world in 2019. 
Arashi’s career-ending compilation, “5×20 All the BEST!! 1999-2019,” sold 3.3 million copies, beating out Taylor Swift’s “Lover,” which sold 3.2 million copies, and BTS’s “Map of the Soul: Persona,” which sold 2.5 million. 
The IFPI determines sales solely on physical and digital sales of albums, not streatming figures, and in Japan fans still like to buy complete albums, even as CDs. 
The question now is whether the group wants to stick around for an extra 6 or 7 months so that they can still perform at the postponed Olympics. The group’s leader, Satoshi Ono, was reportedly the main force behind the group’s retirement, having tired of the grind years ago. Like most idols he has cultivated an acting career but according to reports wants desperately to take a few years off before deciding what he wants to do with his future. 
Arashi is conspicuously absent from the roster of acts toiling for Johnny & Associates, the huge male idol-focused Japanese talent agency, on Johnny’s YouTube channel, which has been featuring special concerts in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 
The emergency has led to the cancellation of all Johnny-related concerts in the coming months, so the company has launched “Johnny’s World Happy LIVE with YOU” streaming concert series. 
The concerts are especially noteworthy since Johnny’s was famous for not allowing any content featuring their charges on the internet until only a few years ago. 
Desperate times call for desperate measures, and in addition to showing concerts by boy bands like Sexy Zone, SixTones, Kanjani8, Kis-My-Ft2 and Hey!Say!JUMP, the content will have various stars demonstrating the proper way to wash you hands and maintain physical distancing. 

Japanese Venues Remain Open
A large number of clubs, live houses and theaters in Japan continue to be open for business despite the government’s plea to close for the sake of stemming the spread of the novel coronavirus. 
In recent weeks, the Japanese media has been filled with stories about how clusters of infected persons originated in concert settings. 
As pressure to close increases, these venues, along with many of the artists who perform in them, have put together a petition asking the government for compensation in exchange for closing the venues indefinitely. 
The movement, organized under the hashtag #SaveOurSpace, had, as of March 31, collected 90,000 signatures out of a target of 100,000. 
In the text of the document, the petitioners “Ask the government to compensate our business financially for a period of time starting from Feb. 26, when the request for self-restraint was officially announced by the [governor] of Tokyo, until we are allowed to operate our business. The compensation should include facility maintenance costs, employee salaries, and event production costs…In addition, for peformances that have been cancelled due to the effects of the pandemic, we will present the actual amount of loss to be subsidized.”
The press is suggesting that the central and local governments have so far resisted declaring a state of emergency and/or a lockdown of various regions because they are afraid of being asked to provide compensation for workers and businesses who will be financially disadvantaged by the declaration.
Titans Align For Online Concert
The Straits Times reports that three Asian entertainment entities have decided to join forces to raise money to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Koreaboo, KVLY and Freegos Entertainment are putting together what they claim is the world’s largest online concert. 
“We Are The World 2020,” the world’s first “untact” (no physical contact) live streaming concert is scheduled to take place April 30. 
As the name implies, it is meant to be the Asian version of the “We Are The World” event of 1985 that was set up to raise money for Africa. 
The concert, which will be broadcast on YouTube, will feature several dozen Chinese and South Korean stars, including Jay Chou, Jacky Cheung and G-Dragon. Viewers will be asked to donate money to help in the support of relief efforts for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alan Merrill Dies Of COVID-19
On March 29, singer-songwriter-guitarist Alan Merrill died of complications from the coronavirus in New York City at the age of 69. 
Though Merrill, the son of jazz singer Helen Merrill, is mainly known as the writer of Joan Jett’s hit “I Love Rock and Roll” in his native U.S., the news was reported extensively in Japan. He was one of the first foreign artists to make a successful music career in Japan. 
After studying at a university in Tokyo, he formed a band in Tokyo that had one hit single before dissolving due to visa issues for other members. 
Eventually, he signed a management deal with a local agency and recorded a solo album for Atlantic Records, becoming the first-ever foreign solo act to score a hit single made exclusively for the domestic market. 
This was the storied “Group Sounds” era, when lots of Beatles-inspired pop groups were dominating the Japanese charts. Merrill’s hit led to TV acting jobs, TV commercials and a gig as a host for a teen-oriented variety show. In 1972, he formed a glam band called Vodka Collins with one of the major stars of the Group Sounds era, Hiroshi “Monsieur” Kamayatsu, as guitarist and vocalist.
Though the band only recorded one album, it is considered the Rosetta Stone of Japanese glam and remains in print to this day.