December 19, 2007

happy birthday, Shoon!

Yamashita Shoon, 山下翔央 Ya-Ya-yah
Beware! It's December 20th already in Japan, Shoon's birthday, and that's the day on which I embarrass myself calling Shoon "Puppet" —that's what I call him affectionately— and writing the mushiest post ever.


I'm releasing another bird today. [if you're wondering what I mean by that, and don't understand the meaning of the poem on the header, you probably missed Hikaru's b-day post]

This "bird" is called Yamashita Shoon, and he is... can you guess? Yes, he's a nightingale of course. What other bird could he be?

nightingaleAnd not just because of the romantic connotations Oscar Wilde's tale The Rose and the Nightingale gave to that bird.

Have you ever seen a nightingale? In case you haven't, this is what they look like. *points to the picture on the left* [if you click on it you can see it full size]

They got that name in English because from Spring to early Summer you can sometimes hear them sing at night. Well, the males, that is. The females don't sing.

It's awesome to be lying in bed at night in the summer with the window open, listening to a nightingale sing. Would you like to know what the nightingale song sounds like? I found a nice video clip on YouTube for you to listen to. *points to the clip on the right* Yes, the player is that small because there's nothing to watch as the clip was filmed at night. XD The only thing you can see are a few lights in the distance.

Nightingales are slightly bigger than sparrows. In fact, the first time I saw one at the back garden of my family's country house it was from a distance, and I actually thought it was a sparrow.

There's nothing particularly striking about nightingales. They're not brightly coloured, and they don't have a peculiar beak or anything, so seen from afar you might take a nightingale for a sparrow, like I did. However, when you look at it more closely, you notice its bearing is more elegant, more regal than that of a sparrow.

Also, sparrows are rather noisy and you often see them together in groups of up to 10or 15, while the nightingale is much of a loner. You may see a nightingale with its mate perhaps, but not in groups.

When they land on the grass they are quiet, and they stand still for a good while, looking ahead while moving their tail up and down now and then in a very gentle motion. Perhaps it's because of that that when you watch them they make you feel at peace.

I see those same qualities in Shoon: he's elegant, delicate (though strong at the same time), independent, quiet, and there's something peaceful about him, something that soothes [last words stolen from my own fic Kotchan's Story XD].

So fly away, dear Shoon. Pursue your dreams and don't give up. I don't know what the future holds for you nor what you want from the future, but in any case I hope it will be the very best. For me you'll always be Yamashita Shoon of Ya-Ya-yah, and even though now you find yourself alone to fight, you have the support of your family, friends, and fans so, you know?, you're not really that alone. =] 翔央くんは一人でありません。 家族と友達とファンは翔央くんのことを支持します。頑張って下さいね。

PART 2 - LETTER TO SHOON [翔央くんにお手紙]

パペットくんへ、[Dear Puppet,]

すみませんが、英語で書きます。m(_ _)m 私の日本語はまだまだです。そして、これは長い手紙になるでしょう。[Sorry for writing in English, but my Japanese is not good enough, and this is going to be a long letter.]

How I wish my Japanese was not so poor! They say nobody is a prophet in their own land, and it shocks me so much that you're not much more popular in your country than you are. If my language skills were better, I'd blog in Japanese to make a lot more people realize how wonderful you are and convert them into your fans.

Do I come across as too naive? It's actually just that when I love something I want other people to love it too.

Some think you're overrated. I think it's exactly the opposite: you're seriously underrated. You may not be as talented as others are in some respects, but when you are given a task, like a solo performance, for instance, you do your best to the extent that one can hardly find fault in it. Every move looks so smooth, and every note is so carefully delivered that you may not be the best dancer in the world, or the best singer, but it seems like it doesn't take you any effort at all. And when somebody does almost everything right, people usually don't take much notice, which is a shame. They often need to have somebody dragged into the spotlight to notice them. Otherwise they just overlook them.

How can anybody overlook you? For me it's so hard to understand. But then you're the only one I really look at when I'm watching a performance. Sometimes it takes me rewatching it three times to actually pay attention to the performance as a whole. And when I do so I sometimes come to the conclusion that I wasn't really missing that much. I think the most evident case was the 2007.02.04 Shounen Club performance of Kiss de Tsutaete.

I swear I'll never get tired of watching you dance in that performance. I was so impressed that I remember I thought: "perhaps it's just me; perhaps I can't be objective when it comes to Shoon". Just out of curiosity I rewatched that performance like a dozen times, focusing on the other people individually, and not one of them danced as beautifully as you did. There was a certain grace in your movements, a certain elegance, and a certain sensuality the others lacked. Who needs any shirt ripping or provocative gestures? JE needs to learn that. It’s like trying to substitute a real rose with one made of plastic.

I’m not saying you’re the best dancer in JE —there are many other johnnys whose dancing is awesome too—; but in that performance for me you were indeed the one who danced best.

There are also those who say you’ve been given many chances, but made little of them. I've already discussed this here, stating that I completely disagree with that, but it's something I've been thinking about a lot lately because of the complicated situation you're in right now, and there are a couple of things I failed to mention.

Chances. I think JE has been rather uneven in giving you chances. In the Summer of 2003 and then in the Summer of 2004 you staged Stand by Me with Taiyô, Yabu, and Hikaru, which was definitely one big chance. The four of you were featured in so many magazines with articles about the play as well! We only have the few clips of the play that were shown on the Ya-Ya-yah TV show, but as I've said before, the scene in which you had an outburst and cried was pretty impressive.

Then for a month, from 2004.12.04 to 2005.01.09, you played A-Rab's part in the West Side Story musical, with some Arashi members, Ikuta Toma, and Tôshin. I felt so lucky the day I came across a fancam of the play online. Unfortunately —for us, your fans, that is—, the person who recorded it was an Arashi fan, and mostly an Ohno fan I'd say, so she focused mostly on them, but still I'll always be thankful to her. Otherwise it would have been impossible for me to see you in that, because back then I didn’t even know you existed.

That was certainly another big chance; no one can deny. It was a small part, but there you were with Ohno, Sakurai Sho, and Matsujun. I’m sure you must be very proud of that. There were articles about it on several magazines too, and of course in the “JE” mags as well. There was this article in 2004.12 Myojo that makes me ponder when I look at it. 翔ぶときが来た。“Tobu toki ga kita.” “The time to fly has come.” [note to readers: 翔ぶ is actually a pun between 飛ぶ, “tobu” (“to fly”), and the first kanji of Shoon’s name 翔 [sho], which can also be read as “to” (as in Nakajima Yuto)] [These scans are courtesy of our wonderful Yuantim (thanks again!) and you can find the whole 2004.12 Myojo set here]


It looked indeed like the time for you to fly had come. I think it was actually pretty amazing that being just 15 years old back then, the youngest one in the cast, your dancing and acting were almost every bit as good as those of your senpai. Yet nobody seems to think of this as extraordinary or at least I haven’t heard anyone say so yet. As I said before, I think people tend to underrate you, which is just so unfair. Watching you dance with the rest of the cast one might think that you’re a great dancer, capable of matching up the abilities of people several years older than you, or that you spent many hours practicing. That will always be your best guarded secret, I guess. ;-)

tubame107-img450x600-1192786118syoon1It seems your starring in that musical attracted the attention of the press as well, as can be seen from this newspaper article. I lost the auction of this page on Yahoo!Japan auctions, and I slap myself mentally every time I remember it. I think that if the media took an interest in you then, it might very well happen again if you were given more chances like that.

That was not the only time a publication unrelated to JE and idols took an interest in you. In 2006 you had another small role in the TV drama Satomi Hakkenden along with Takizawa Hideaki, and a lifestyle magazine called Hanako West published an interview with you in their August issue of that year.

hanakowest2006.08Together with that gorgeous pic of you in the 2007.02 Kindai, I think this is possibly one of your best photographs to date... and I have won an auction of this magazine. ^_____^ [meaning that I’ll make a nice big scan of this page as soon as I get it] Back to Satomi Hakkenden, you had a small role in it, but in the few scenes you had you managed to convey the traits of the character you played: a slight arrogance, obstination, braveness, and a wondrous childlike essence underneath. Even in the last scene, in which you don’t utter a word, you have such a great screen presence, that regal bearing I mentioned before.

Translated and subbed by Nya!Fansubs

Unfortunately though that’s where the chances end. JE-wise your main chances have been the Ya-Ya-yah concert in 2005, the Ya-Ya-yah show, a solo, and not much else. By “chances” here I mean chances other juniors have not been given. Also, it must be said that those chances were not half the same for Taiyô and you as they were for Yabu and Hikaru. For starters you two were always on the sidelines, and then Yabu and Hikaru were given other chances you were not given at all, like taking part in Takki’s One and in his Enbujou for two consecutive years. It will always remain a mystery to me why you two were excluded from those events. It’s just so strange. You were the only juniors who didn’t take part in them. O__o???

I want more chances for you in 2008. You deserve them, but more importantly you need them. Other juniors have their groups, but you are on your own now, and as far as I know there are no solo artists in JE. If you want to continue in JE you’ll need some chances to follow the path of juniors like Ikuta Toma or your friend Yoshikazu Tôshin who are now acting in dramas and theatre plays. Jimmy Mackey left —according to the rumour mill— because JE had nothing else to offer him, and I’m praying that won’t be the case with you.

Here’s hoping that this new year of your life will be full of projects and success, but above that I hope of course that you’ll be happy and well. That’s what really counts in the end. お誕生日おめでておうございます、翔央!素晴らしい日を過ごしてくださいね。[Happy b-day, Shoon! Have a great day!] ずっと ずっと 大好きだよ。  

イレアより [Yours, Irea]

PS: バースデープレゼントを持っています。^__^ 以下の絵をクリックしてください。[I have a birthday present for you. Click on the picture below.] [to readers: please finish reading the entry before clicking this; especially if you don’t know what a どこでもドア (“doko demo door”) is]

PS2: 翔央くんがもしこれを読むなら、このペンダントをまた着て下さい。↓↓↓ このように、外国のファンは、翔央くんが、私たちが翔央くんを支持していることを知っているのを知るでしょう。 ^___^


The theme for Shoon’s birthday contest this year was “Give Me a Reason”. Contestants had to write a short text giving other people one reason for liking Shoon. All the reasons submitted have been posted at a site I created some time ago called “101 Reasons to Like Shoon”, and the winners will be announced later today there and at Shoon around-the-Clock, at midnight GMT+1.

Not long ago somebody wanted me to explain to them why do I like Shoon. I replied that it would take me so long to explain for them to understand, that I was not sure it would be worth it —especially as this person and I seemed utterly unable to come to an understanding on anything. It was as if we were from two different planets or something.

Every day I find new reasons to like love Shoon. There are a million things about him that make me smile, that move me, that warm my heart, that impress me..., the kind of things that made me want to know more about him in the first place.

However, if I had to give somebody a reason for liking Shoon, I guess it would be that Shoon himself is more than enough of a reason. It sounds like a riddle, but it’s actually quite simple. Just like music is meant to be played, like flowers are meant to be admired, and children are meant to be cherished, just like that, Shoon is meant to be loved.


To begin with... do you know what a どこでもドア (“doko demo door”) is? Or rather... have you ever heard of Doraemon? *points image on the left* Doraemon (ドラえもん) is a Japanese manga series created by Fujiko F. Fujio, which later became an anime series. The series is about a robotic cat named Doraemon, who travels back in time from the 22nd century to help a schoolboy called Nobita Nobi.

Doraemon has a magical pocket on his stomach, like a kangaroo, from which he takes out the most extraordinary gadgets. One of those gadgets is the “doko demo doa” or “door to anywhere”. It’s a magical door that can take you to any place you want to go to. You just have to think of a place, open the door, and when you cross the threshold you’ll be there. The picture on the left is a picture of a “doko demo doa” that can be seen at Doraemon’s museum in Japan. And all I’ll say is that this kind of magical door has something to do with my present to Shoon. ;-) Feel free to open Shoon's "door to anywhere" (翔央くんのどこでもドア) and take a look around.

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