(櫻井 翔, ) (born January 25, 1982) is a Japanese idol, singer, rapper, actor, newscaster, host and former radio host. He is a member of Japanese boy band Arashi.
Sakurai began his career in the entertainment industry when he joined the Japanese talent agency Johnny & Associates in 1995 at the age of 13. About seven years after his debut as a singer with Arashi in 1999, he became a newscaster in 2006, appearing in the news program every Monday. In 2008, he was appointed the official newscaster for the news coverage of the Olympic Games in Beijing on NTV. For his work as an actor, singer and newscaster, Sakurai became one of the recipients of GQ Japan’s Men of the Year award in 2009.
Sakurai was born in Minato, Tokyo as the oldest child of his family. He has two younger siblings: a sister who is four years younger and a brother who is thirteen years younger.
Sakurai attended Keio Yochisha Elementary School, an affiliated elementary school to Keio University, after passing the entrance examinations. Despite already having an established career with Arashi by the time he graduated from high school, Sakurai went on to attend Keio University, graduating with a degree in economics in 2004.
Sakurai is the designated rapper of Arashi and, although he had written rap lyrics (known to fans as ) for some of the group’s earlier releases under the pen name “Show”, his first major contribution was for the song “Kotoba Yori Taisetsu na Mono”. While not the first artist from Johnny’s to take on rapping, his breakthrough made it easier for his juniors to rap as well despite being idols. According to Taichi Kokubun of Tokio, KAT-TUN member Koki Tanaka began to rap because of him.
He became the first member in Arashi to hold a solo concert called in 2006. Sakurai was also a part of a special group with his co-stars that same year. Specially formed to promote the movie, they released the movie’s theme song “Seaside Bye-Bye” as a single on October 25, 2006.
Unlike the other members of Arashi who made their major acting debut on stage, Sakurai made his debut on television in Arashi’s volleyball-centered short drama in 1999. In 2001, he took part in his first drama series called with Masahiro Matsuoka as his teacher. His role as a student with two conflicting characters won him Best Newcomer in the 5th Nikkan Sports Drama Grand Prix Awards.
In 2003, Sakurai was given his first lead role in the drama . He portrayed Taiyō Suzuki , a man who strives to prove himself capable of being a nursery school teacher. After , Sakurai took up many drama specials and mini-dramas until 2005. He even acted in a NHK late-night drama series called , in which each episode lasted for fifteen minutes each.
Sakurai and bandmate Kazunari Ninomiya co-starred together in the manga-based comedy drama in 2007. Although there was no release of dramas, movies or stageplays from Sakurai in 2008 due to his involvement with the Olympic Games in Beijing and Arashi’s concert tours, 2009 saw his first lead role in a drama series since in 2003. In the drama with You Yokoyama, he portrayed an amnesic host of a live TV quiz program. Sakurai rounded off 2009 with a small guest appearance on the final episode of the drama , which was bandmate Masaki Aiba’s first starring role in a serial drama.
On January 9, 2010, Sakurai co-starred with the other members of Arashi in the human suspense drama special . He portrayed Yukio Tomizawa , a 28-year-old life insurance salesman who is caught up in a building hijack. Sakurai appeared in the docudrama special on January 16, 2010. He portrayed Tomohiko Mitsuyama , a real photo reporter who worked for the Kobe Shimbun and helped keep the newspaper running without interruption despite the damage inflicted from the Kobe earthquake.
On January 17, 2010, TBS aired the first episode of Sakurai and Maki Horikita’s comedy drama .
In 2002, Sakurai made his motion picture debut in Arashi’s first movie together, . He portrayed Chu, a yankee who dropped out of high school after an incident involving his teacher and the girl he had a crush on. That same year, he took on the role of Bambi, a college student who becomes part of a burglar ring at the beckoning of his cancer-stricken friend Bussan in order to make Bussan’s final days worthwhile. In the drama with Junichi Okada playing the character Bussan, the drama would eventually span into two movie sequels entitled and in 2003 and 2006 respectively.
In 2004, he reprised his role for the sequel of , .
While training for a rowing competition with the rest of Arashi on their variety show in 2005, Sakurai filmed for his first starring movie role in the manga-based live-action film . He portrayed the mellow Yūta Takemoto .
In 2007, all the members of Arashi co-starred in their third movie together, , with Sakurai playing the role of an aspiring writer. By the end of the year, it was announced that he would star as Gan-chan in the Takashi Miike movie , which was not released in theaters until the beginning of 2009.
It was announced on June 8, 2010 that Sakurai will co-star with Aoi Miyazaki in the novel-based movie , which is scheduled to be released in theaters in 2011.
From October 5, 2002 to March 30, 2008, Sakurai hosted his own radio show called on FM Fuji.
In 2006, he became a newscaster for with newscaster Nobutaka Murao and actress Mao Kobayashi. In 2007, he was chosen to help host NTV’s a special program, regarding the upcoming House of Councillors elections. Sakurai became the first pop idol to host such a program. Following that same year, he was chosen as the main caster for Fuji TV’s broadcast of the 2007 Volleyball World Cup, marking it the first time in eight years that he has been involved with the Volleyball World Cup.
In 2008, Sakurai was appointed as the main caster for the news coverage of the Olympic Games in Beijing on NTV. On June 7, 2009, Sakurai was one of the main newscasters for a special program entitled , which focused on . On August 30, 2009, he was appointed the official caster for the second part of NTV’s special program, which covered Japan’s 2009 general elections, entitled .
Sakurai was the special newscaster for the 2010 Winter Olympics news coverage on NTV with Shizuka Arakawa as the main newscaster.