AKB48 Take Me Out To The Ball Game

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Wwasaball98

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When was the last time your oshimen got to sing the National Anthem at a professional baseball game?

 

This past Friday will long be remembered as an incredible moment in Iwasa Misaki’s performing career.  Wasamin appeared at Mazda “Zoom Zoom” Stadium in Hiroshima to throw out the first pitch AND sing the National Anthem prior to the game between the Hiroshima Toyo Carp and the Chunichi Dragons.  Appearing in a beautiful red Kimono, her rendition of Kimigayo was absolutely gorgeous…

 

 (here is an alternative video of the anthem if the YT vid above gets taken down)

People like to debate who the best singer in AKB is.  I am always surprised at the amount of so-called AKB fans that don’t give Wasamin her just due.  However, the truth is there really is no debate.  Wasamin is simply in a completely different league when it comes to AKB48G members’ singing skills.  Just hearing her beautiful voice makes me so happy and fills me with pride.  But I digress.  That wasn’t the only Wasa-fun to be had that day.  In full formal attire, including her shoes, it was time for Wasamin to take the mound.  Well sort of.  I think that is more like Little League distance.   Oh and look at that smile.  She is so excited!

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(alternative video link of the pitch)

Wasamin showed everyone her deceptive and virtually unhittable Wasa-eephus pitch, only rivaled by Bugs Bunny’s infamous slowball.  Truthfully the crowd was slightly amused by her pitching prowess.  But hey…Do you see what she was wearing?  I’m sure it isn’t easy to throw split-finger fastball in full Kimono.

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They should turn this photo into a baseball card!

Later on Wasamin spent a few minutes with the Team broadcasters.  It is amazing how the people of Hiroshima Prefecture, and especially Fukuyama have virtually adopted her after her successful third single was a tribute to that part of the country.

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A Blue Phillie Phanatic???  I see Roura-chan also made an appearance.

All in all it was a very special day to be a Wasamin fan.  And a very special day for Misaki herself.   Congratulations to Wasamin!

CK in California 

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AKB48 Daisokaku Matsuri Pt. 2…That Was Fun, Let’s Do It Again!

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Amidst all of the complaining, there is one absolute truth.  AKB48 Group fans LOVE shuffles.  Don’t let the whining and butthurt fool you.  They LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!  For people who like to complain about the group, it fuels their favorite past time.  For most everyone else, it is amazing theater.  The best drama/soap opera on television, so to speak.  I am no different.  I waited in anticipation for this, and as I said on the previous post was not let down at all!  But some people like to say (even if  deep down they are lying) that they hate shuffles and don’t want them to happen.  This is my response…

I support periodic adjustments in AKB48. It doesn’t have to be a major overhual like Daisokaku Matsuri ended up being. But over and over we have seen the teams within the groups become lopsided due to graduations, shifts in popularity, etc. Re-evaluating the teams on an annual (or whatever) basis could not only keep the overall groups healthy, but also signal to the members that the way it is does not necessarily mean it is the way it is going to be forever.

For example, if I were a mid-pack idol who never gets considered for senbatsu or outside promotions, would I rather stay in the back row of a team I am used to and developed personal bonds with? Or would I take more solace in the fact that I may have other opportunities to advance under the 48 umbrella? I am sure on an emotional level the girls would choose option one. But once they step back from their initial reaction and experience the change I think a lot of them are happy with the new opportunity. It even happened to my original oshi, Ohori Megumi. There was no doubt she was pissed off at the Budokan shuffle in 2009. But I bet if you asked her today she wouldn’t change how it ultimately turned out for anything.

People get far too attached the the things look, and the way they think things are supposed to be. I always chuckle at the people that still lament about the breakup of OriB, the shuffle of OriK, the disbandment of OriTeam4. Describe shuffles as “teams being obliterated or destroyed” Such drama! It is fine to miss the “good ole’ days”, I certainly do. But it is one thing to have a fond memory, another to still have energy about it.

Then there this…Team B is supposed to be the (insert adjective) team, Team E is supposed to be the (different adjective) Team. This member doesn’t fit that team’s image. Personally I have never bought into any of that. Pidgeonholing teams AND members of teams can be very dangerous. It stunts their ability to grow as a talent, and disregards the girls’ abilities to be professional entertainers.

I’m not saying do shuffles every week. But if members are really serious about having a career in entertainment. They should always be thinking about what is next for them. Where is my next opportunity? How can I take my career to the next level? That ain’t gonna happen if their biggest exposure is backdancing in the Talking Chimpanzees PV. Maybe some of the members are simply “happy to be there”. But I guarantee if you asked every member, and they ansered honestly, a great many of them are not satisfied with their status in the group. Or didn’t people watch the third documentary?

Oh, and let’s not worry to much about the crying. Idols cry every day. It is part of their appeal. They are strong girls, they bounce back pretty quickly…like hours later. At least most of them do. [wink]

It reminds me of a recent interaction I had with Yokoyama Yui, the new captain of Team K.  It was shortly after the Budokan 2013 announcement that her concurrency with NMB48 had ended.  I remember seeing her crying face during the announcement.  So as I was shaking Yui’s hand, I decided to mention that I was sorry about the recent turn of events, and I enjoyed her in NMB48.  She just chuckled, and said “Don’t Worry About It”  I could tell it was so “Yesterday” for her.  Just an example that we don’t give these girls enough credit for being emotionally stable and fit endure the changes.
Hopefully there won’t be a need any time soon to do another major overhaul. If the changes the group is presently facing work out, and management does their part to support those changes, AND AkiP gets those stages he promised us pumped out, there won’t need to be. But small adjustments here and there? That’s what I am rooting for.

 

CK in California

AKB48, Concerts Daisokaku Matsuri…It’s Called an Opportunity

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How come every time there is a major AKB48 event I become more disillusioned with the overseas fandom?  I see the stuff being written on forums and twitter…and I just shake my head in disbelief.  It is either over-emotional reactionary nonsense.  Declarations of failure before the proverbial paint is even dry, or (my favorite) the evil management posts.  BTW,  I am convinced the “blame management for everything” comments are merely the fallback when someone has nothing intelligent to say at all.  It isn’t exclusive to overseas idol fans, there are plenty of moronic fans in Japan.  But it just seems more prevalent among the fans who are not experiencing the fandom firsthand.   All of that has compelled me to write my first post in a long time that isn’t a trip report.  Yes, prescribing to the old saying that opinions are like assholes, I have one about the AKB48G Shuffle Event as well.  It is written as a response to what I have been reading around the interwebs…

 

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Every change made in the shuffle last night has the potential to be successful. Sure, some of these changes will turn out to be bigger successes than others. Some of them might even fail. But I don’t think anyone can realistically say “No, that absolutely will not work” with any type of real authority. I am endlessly amused at the people who think they can make those conclusions at this point in the game. So many “fans” immediately pull the ole’ “this is awful” and “greedy management” cards whenever there is any change. I’m beginning to wonder if some of them have Tourette’s. Or maybe they just get off on complaining, Anyway, the following is why I don’t have a problem with any of what was revealed last night at Diver City.

 

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TRANSFERS

It seems to me that almost every member who transferred out of AKB was growing stagnant in the group. I mean were Sato Sumire, Chikano Rina, Kikuchi Ayaka, Ichikawa Miori, Fujie Reina, Yamauchi Suzuran or Oba Mina making strides toward senbatsu stardom? Or were they merely mid-back row performers for AKB? To me they are all in a potentially better place. Ota Aika comes to mind. She was no worse off than any of these members when she transferred to HKT. I think it has proven to be a good move for her.Umeda Ayaka ranks high undergirls, but that’s the only time she ever gets a whiff of senbatsu. Not to mention, she is 25 years old. Her transfer is a little harder to justify. But you never know, maybe Umechan decided that she wanted to live in Osaka for a year before she graduated.

Iwata Karen is still in growth mode, but many of her peers get pushed much more than she does. There are newer gen. breathing down her back. And perhaps she was merely interested in a transfer. Same with Takashima. Far down the pecking order even in her own gen. Looking for a better opportunity in SKE. Maybe?

Maachun and Yuria’s transfers were definitely fueled by their own ambitions. And the same might be said about Tani and Chori. They are thick as theives, and they may have collectively decided that they didn’t want to continue to take a back seat to the HKT lolis. They also could very well may have Tokyo aspirations. From what we have seen of Tani’s diary I wouldn’t be surprised at all. I would have loved to see Marika make it all the way to AKB. But Nagoya gets her close, and there is always next year :awesome:

KENNIN

1) First of all, any chance to participate at the groups’ flagship location in the entertainment capital of Japan has got to be considered a good opportunity. Not only giving access to the largest population of fans, but also access to the Tokyo performance industry.

2) When you have the Shinkansen in your country, the issue of traveling between cities is not really a major issue at all. I think a lot of people make too big a deal out of the commutes. Granted, I will give you that Fukuoka to Tokyo can be a bit of a trek by train. But it is a short flight. Most of the Kennin girls going to AKB find themelves in Tokyo for outside work anyway. And it isn’t like any of these members are leading the pack in theater appearances. So the “overworked” bit has become cliche by now.

3) I hear a lot of people worried about Captains holding concurrent positions. But it is common in business for people in leadership positions do extracurricular activities in their fields, and it doesn’t have to have a negative effect on their leadership in their primary job.  Why would this be any different?  I fail to see how girls like Sayanee and Nana heading out of town a few times a month for performances will negatively affect their ability to Captain their teams. Might be little harder for Sae, depending on how much time she is actually spending in China.

Speaking of Miyazawa Sae. I personally figured her next big move would be to graduate. But if she is going to avail her leadership skills to the members of SKE, I am all for it.  If the SKE faithful have a problem with it, they will get over it.  It is the SKE-fan M.O.

As for the members who are holding Kennin positions that don’t involve Akihabara (like Takayanagi Akane, Yamada Nana, Kimoto Kanon, Watanabe Miyuki) It is a bit harder to rationalize, but at least they are expanding their fanbase. It also serves as a sort of tryout for a future permanent transfer. Or maybe some of these members merely wanted to try something different. What I am saying is that it’s a bit simplistic to declare there is no benefit at all for the member.  You don’t know what the motivation really was.

I don’t want to speak too much on Nogizaka46 since I don’t follow them. But there is definite potential benefit of increased interest for Ikoma Rina and the Nogizaka group itself. I think she is charming, and has a good chance to increase her fanbase with AKB. On the contrary, I don’t see how Matsui Rena benefits. But that could have been a bit of shrewd bargaining done by Sony. “You want to loan out one of our members? Which senbatsu member you gonna give us?”

All that said, I do agree that management needs to step up their game when utilizing the concurrent members. Not only within the theater, but the opportunities they avail themselves to outside.

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CAPTAINS

I like the girls chosen as captains. I don’t see any girl who wasn’t deserving of the opportunity. Nakamura Mariko has certainly shown leadership skills as of late.As for Takamina, I don’t see her bing Captain of A as a step down at all. She is still the GM, right? In fact, I always found it silly that she was leader over all the teams but not the leader of her own team. To me it is a sign that she is still primarily interested in performing, as opposed to strictly being part of management.

As for Nakanishi Yuka, it is too bad there is such a log jam in SKE’s management office as I think she would have been perfect for the SKE GM position ala Takamina and Sasshi.  Nobody saw it as a demotion when Yukirin, Sayaka and Takamina lost their captainship last year.  Why would this be any different?

And Matsumura Kaori as Queen of all Kenkyuusei is pure genius. I’m sure she is loving this appointment.

OVERALL TEAMS

To me the individual teams all look much more balanced than before. especially in the case of NMB48 who I felt were previously all about Team N at the expense of the other two teams. I’m not saying it’s all perfect. In fact as much as I love the new SKE48 Team S I think they are a high risk team with the amount of older members. They could be the next “Team K” that needs emergency fixing after a number of key graduations.

Speaking of Team K. It isn’t lost on me that most of it’s star power derives from the concurrent members. But as a Wasamin fan, I see that as an opportunity. [hehe] Finally most of the HKT48 fans can breathe easy (for the moment) because they didn’t mess too much with their recent shuffle.

I don’t want get into individual members. But as for the Paruru/Mayuyu thing, I think it is a case of much ado about nothing. They put them on their respective teams because they felt that was where they fit best. And until I see this mythical rulebook people keep quoting from that says Centers have to be from Team A (as well as other incredible “rules” I am always astounded to read ), I am going to cast it off as nonsense. I think the entire “who’s the next center” conversation is completely inappropriate at this point in time anyway. There are more important issues at hand.

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The event had most everyone glued to their computers, jammed into movie theaters, and commentating all day on social media. So the way I see it the event was already a success. Fans have cried wolf about this stuff too many times. Most of the reactionary garbage doesn’t phase AkiP anymore.

Personally I would love for THIS to become an annual event. AKB48 is so murcurial. What works today, may not be so effective a year later. So to me it would be great to see them continue to make periodic evaluations and adjustments. Otherwise it just gets boring.

Just like the endless commentary “They are just doing it for the money, waaah :cry2: ”

You mean the business is trying to increase profitability? How awful of them! :fp:

 

CK in California

AKB48, New Release CK in Japan Happy New Year 2014…On the Road With Wasamin Part 2.

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Continuing from the previous entry.  I chose not to stay in Nagoya, instead going straight to Osaka.  At least this way I would have a full day of not having to lug my bags around.  It was a really cute hotel too, right next to Shin-Osaka Station.  Anyway, it was time for the next Tomonoura Bojou promotional event…

Wasatour Day Four: 2014/01/09 Talktown, Higashi-Kishiwada Osaka

 

We got word that the single dropped to #4 on Oricon’s daily chart. But it should be noted that the Nagoya crowd wasn’t very big. Not a good mall, strategy-wise. I’m sure that had an effect. The crowd at Talktown in Osaka was relatively bigger. Plus, they put the stage right at the main entrance to the mall. So it drew quite a few curious shoppers in.

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Also, there were a couple of “heavy hitters” among the Osaka fans who bought a lot of CDs. I think overall Wasamin’s people were very happy with the results on this night. The staff from Young’s Music (the CD shop that was supporting the event) looked really happy with the sales. Even Yoshida-san came back out at the end to personally thank us. So we were hoping we would see a result higher than #4 on the next Oricon report.

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I’m not sure what to make of Higashi-Kishiwada. I am guessing it is a bit of a blue collar area, based on the shops and the clientele. There also seemed to be a few homeless(?) (not sure if they were homeless, but…) who gravitated to the event. One of them hung out for the 3pm and 5pm event, talking to himself the entire time…

Wasamin was wearing a pale-orange Kimono, with her hair done the same way it was done on Tuesday. I think she looks sooooo adorable with her hair that way. Ya know, photos don’t do Wasamin justice. You think she is cute in these pictures? Stand right in front of her. Up close she is even more beautiful.

The setlist was exactly the same as Nagoya (my guess was it would be the same at Hiroshima too) Sound quality wasn’t that good. The system seemed to be echoing a bit. I think it was the acoustics of the mall causing it. So it couldn’t be helped.

At one point in the 2nd set an older fan came up to the stage and began handing her gifts…in the middle of Tomonoura Bojou! Her managers had temporarily disappeared at the moment, and when they came back they looked puzzled as to why there were presents on the stage next to Wasamin. Management fail! Although if there was any trouble the Wasa-wota would have taken care of it! [rock]

This little girl, around 7-8 years old showed up at the 2nd event with her grandmother. She was so enamored with Wasamin, and the fans. She hung out with us all afternoon and evening. They looked like a poor family, so the fans kept handing her handshake tickets. She must have ultimately gone up to Wasamin 10 times! Her mom finally gave her 1000 yen to get her own CD. (Not sure why we didn’t just give her CDs, as we all had bags of them) But you could tell the girl was having the time of her life. Her mom and grandmother (who was deaf) just kept thanking us, over and over.

At the late event a ton of shoppers kept snapping pictures. Staff was running all over the mall trying to get them to stop. They caught one lady twice. After they asked her to stop she went to the other side and tried again. :angry: There are signs all over the place asking people not to photograph the event.

Also funny, a bunch of the fans took to wearing strang costumes throughout the day. My friend Macky was wearing a horse mask. Wasamin kept punching him. She finally yanked the mask off his head. Other members were wearing rabbit ears, masks, and one guy was dressed in drag. That made for some fun Wasa MCs.

Some of the photos are randomly signed at the event (although not many, as only a couple get won per day) There is also one photo she draws pictures on. One of the guys I was with won it. She had drawn a little Octopus since it was Osaka.

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For my handshakes I congratulated Wasamin on Oricon #1. They mentioned it a couple of times that day. I told her that she is now “Iwasa-sama”. She responded “Hontoni!?!?” Later on she mentioned she wanted to try Basashi in Kumamoto. So I had told her I was scared to try it. And asked her if I would like it. I mentioned I really wanted to try Hiroshima Oysters. She asked if I had tried them before, but I said this would be the first time (hopefully) At the end I told her I was excited to go to Hiroshima for the first time, and I would see her tomorrow.

So it was off to Hiroshima.  I had never been there before, I couldn’t wait to get there…

Day Five: 2014/01/10 Aeon Mall, Fuchu Hiroshima

It was nice that this mall was very close to Hiroshima Station.  It made it easy to do a little sightseeing before the events.  To begin here is a report on the day from a local TV station…

 

Plus some promotional shots from her Google+
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It was an awesome day…for so many reasons.

Not to get off-topic, but the previous day I didn’t get to do much in Osaka. I wanted to go down to Namba, see the NMB theater. But at the end of the night the Wasa-faithful decided to spend the evening at a McDonalds in Tennoji. [boom]

I wasn’t going to let that happen again. This was my first ever visit to Hiroshima, and I wanted to really sample what the town was about. Plus, it gives me stuff to talk about with Wasamin. I had plenty of time. Since Wasamin was doing the events in Tomonoura, the singing events started late in the afternoon…

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This mall was very nice. Lots of high-end shops. Great food. Nice crowd. Great for Wasamin!

It should be noted that I have had a great seat in every event…until today. The Hiroshma fans arrived very early, and held seats for hours. So I never got close to the seating area. BTW, that is just fine. The Wasa-faithful are happy to stand in the back while the new fans get a close look. We see Wasamin all the time.  It was a very nice sized crowd!

The Fukuyama/Tomonoura contingency, and the local press were there for the event. Awesome! We want as much publicity as possible for our girl! Check out the video above…

The volume on the speakers was quite low during the event. I think this causes a problem for Wasamin. When the volume is low, she doesn’t project as much. As a result she has the occasional breathing issues on songs. I was pumping my fists at her to help her put more force into the lyrics. Hopefully I helped. But keep this in mind…it is all relative. Her vocals are awesome. But sometimes they are not quite up to Wasa-standards.

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She wore a sky-blue Kimono with roses on it. They made a big deal about it when Roura-san came on stage. I asked her if it was the first time she had worn it. But she told me it was the third time. She asked me if I thought Roura-chan was cute. But I told her that she was much cuter. [inlove]

Crowds were the biggest for the first and third event. It’s a relatively busy mall, so she got quite a few passers-by to get into the event. And as I said before, I couldn’t get close to a seat.

A couple of heavy-hitters bought over 100 CDs, but they were from Osaka and Tokyo. Most of the local fans were younger. I mentioned before that around 6 Tokyo fans were making the entire trip. It is actually closer to 12. And we had another group of 4-6 come in from Osaka. The staff really appreciated our efforts. As they came out after the event to personally thank us. (They did the same in Osaka and Nagoya) Oh, and check this out…

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Awesome! And if you were wondering, there is a #1 Mujineki. It is #2′s daughter.

As for my handshakes, I bought 6 CDs today. Three to start, but I kept adding more. For the first one I told her I her I had Kaki to Champagne for lunch. She was surprised by the champagne comment, but her manager was quite impressed.

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Later I had also told her I had visited Hiroshima Peace Park. Wasamin asked me what I thought, and I told her my impression was that it was Peaceful, yet lonely and sad. Wasamin seemed impressed that I was able to articulate that. (I had been practicing [:)] ) Wasamin is always happy when I say things in Japanese.

But the best was when I showed her Manager the picture of Wasamin and I from 4 years ago. “Look at cute twin-tailed Wasamin!” Her manager seemed shocked that I had been a fan for so long. Then Wasamin chimed in and said that she remembered when we took the picture. OMG, she is so wonderful. I love her so much for remembering things like that!

At the end I presented her with my first gift of the trip, and little souvenir that I bought for her at Disneyland California over the holidays. I told her I was thinking about her when I was at Disneyland. Wasamin loves Disney, so she was happy to receive the gift. I even got an “I Love You” as a result.

I mentioned earlier that there are random autographed photos. (Andy won one today) But there is one per day with a special message. Here is today’s, with a Hiroshima Oyster on it…I think. We were laughing at her attempt to draw an oyster. I couldn’t help but wonder if Wasamin drew an oyster as a result of our conversation yesterday…

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At the end of the night Wasamin invented a “Kaki” chant that she had us do. It was too cute. Totally Wasamin!  ”Se…no…KAKIII!”

Anyway, I needed to get an early start tomorrow. Off to Hakata. Then the Fukuoka event. We were in the home stretch. I could tell Wasamin was getting a little tired. I’m sure. We as fans were getting tired. So I can imagine how she felt. But the Wasa-marathon is worth every step!

Day Six: 2014/01/11 Aeon Mall Wakamatsu, Fukuoka

My first big tactical error of the trip.  Staying out late and partying a little too hard in Hiroshima.  I was paying for it on Saturday.  So frankly my Saturday report was a bit on the short side…
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Crowd wasn’t quite as big as Hiroshima. Earlier crowd was definitely the bigger of the two. Wakamatsu is really out in the sticks. It kind of reminded me of going to Suzuka for the Request Covers events. Around a 55 minute train ride from Hakata. The train goes through some seriously rural areas. However, a few more of the big Tokyo fans flew down for the weekend. One of them bought a box of CDs! And the word was a few more were coming down for the last event.

Speaker volume was higher, and as a result Wasamin’s projection and breathing was much better. Since there were only two events, one of the questions was which song would be left out. Surprisingly, it was Koisuru Fortune Cookie-enka version. She sang Akai Sweet Pea at 1p, and Ihoujin at 4p

She was wearing a dark blue Kimono. Hairstyle back to her traditional Enka look. Just like Hiroshima.

The highlights of the day were some of the youngsters at the event. A little boy, couldn’t have been older than 7 or 8 bought Wasamin a toy. It was a little “light up” trinket. So cute!

Later on six young teenage girls happened upon the event. When they saw Wasamin…wow. They were completely star struck. Then one of the heavy hitters gave them all handshake tickets. Half of them cried when they met Wasamin. One in particular was just beside herself in awe. The crowd was rolling with laughter as the girls’ reactions were just priceless! Earlier another teenage girl cried when she met Wasamin. My guess is they don’t get too many idols visiting that part of the country.

As for my handshakes, I kept it small today since I was really tired. But we talked about my visit to Hakata after the Request Covers campaign. She had commented that she really wanted to try Motsunabe. I told her I really liked Hakata Ramen. Finally I gave her my fan letter. Now Wasamin has a little habit of opening the fan letters and reading them out loud while you are standing there. But I lucked out. She opened it as if she was going to read it. But then remarked that she was happy with the Japanese translation I included.

Lastly, she sent me a little message. She said she knew I had trouble with Japanese conversation. And she could tell I was trying very hard to communicate with her in Japanese. She wanted to pay me a compliment  and tell me that she really appreciated the effort I am making. And that it really meant a lot to her.

Anyhow, I really needed some sleep.  I had to take the Shinkansen out to Kumamoto in the AM.  We were all hoping for a big and successful finale!  But beore that more pics from Wasamin’s visit to Fukuyama…
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With every handshe you got a bonus pic and an autograph board. A few of the photos were autographed, but they were really hard to get (I got zero in 30 chances [:(] ) Then there was one grand prize photo per day. I posted the Kaki pic from Hiroshima on a previous post. Here are a few others…

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Day Seven FINAL: 2014/01/12 Aeon Mall, Uki Kumamoto

So…

After the Fukuoka events on Saturday night, reports came trickling in of various Tokyo fans making last minute plane reservations. This I predicted. I knew the opportunity to give Wasamin one last push would be too important for many to pass up. For those of us who were staying in Hakata, it was a short Shinkansen ride away.

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Uki is a cute little community on the outskirts of Kumamoto, which is one of the larger cities in Kyushu. Unlike Saturday’s events in Wakamatsu, which was really out in the middle of nowhere.  Now this was the final event of the promotion, and usually at the final event many fans like to give Wasamin flowers. However, this was the first mall we came across without a flower shop. My friend Andy was despondent. It was like the world was going to end if he couldn’t give Wasamin flowers. He ended up paying a guy to drive him back to Kumamoto to find a flower shop. What an ordeal!

Now this was weird. Before the events some guy walks up to me in the mall, gets right in my face and begins staring at me. Andy asked him what he wanted, and he just mumbled and pointed at my Wasashirt. This kept happening, all day.  The guy kept getting in my face! In fact he ended up hanging out at the event all afternoon, and even photobombed our group picture!  I don’t think he was a Wasamin fan, I think he was a weird dude who just happened upon the event.

They had some local mall-idol do a warm up show before each event. I think she is there to entertain the kids, judging by the material. But we had fun cheering for her. Not to mention, she wasn’t bad-looking at all. [:D]

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Wasamin had her hair semi-down again, just the way I love it. She was in her hot-pink Kimono. Singing was good…except she missed a breath in the middle of Ihoujin and completely flubbed a line. It happens. However, she got right back on track a moment later. No biggie. In fact, I sort of laughed at her when it happened. I was in the 2nd row. For her MC she wanted to acknowledge those of us who traveled with her all the way from Tokyo, and also pointed out Andy and I coming from overseas. I felt proud to be one of the 10 or so who made it to every event. This was no easy task. We traveled a long way! Tokyo to Nagoya to Osaka to Hiroshima to Fukuoka to Kumamoto. That is a serious trek!

I bought 6 CDs for the last day (which brought my total to 30). So for my first handshake I wanted to tell Wasamin that I got her message from the previous day acknowledging my efforts to speak Japanese with her, and that I wished I could say even more. I also told her I ate Motsunabe for dinner last night (which she recommended) She asked how I liked it, and I told her it was just okay. She was shocked, telling me how delicious it was. But I just blurted out “Nai!” which caused uproarious laughter from staff. Later when she saw Andy she told him she was really surprised I didn’t love Motsunabe. But he explained it really isn’t part of the American palate. I later told her that I didn’t hate it, I just think meat is so much tastier. Then I turned to her manager and said that I also think strawberries are much tastier. (Wasamin had commented on Saturday that her manager loved strawberries)

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Second set went off without a hitch. She performed Akai Sweet Pea as the B-side track. Frankly, I was surprised she didn’t sing KFC all weekend. It was a real crowd pleaser during the week. Wasamin spent the MCs reflecting on the week. And also mentioned that she wanted to eat Basashi. This of course had Andy’s mind spinning. He wanted Basashi for dinner. But I told him “no effing way!” I was still qeasy from the Motsunabe he insisted on the previous night.

For the final handshakes I wrote her a congratulatory letter, which I presented to her with a pink rose. I told her it was a wonderful week, but I looked forward to sleeping. For my last handshake, per usual I told her that I loved her, and that I hoped to see her again soon. She said “I love you”, and as part of her new tradition asked me to say “Love is Over” one more time.

After the show ended we all lined up near the exit and cheered her as she left the venue. When she got to the final corner she kept poking her head back out, then poked and waved her arms out, then she was gone…

Her manager’s assistant came out, and thanked us for our support.  [:)] We asked to take a group picture on the stage before they tore it down. He got in the picture with us. So that was cool! All of her staff are really nice.

Here is the celebratory photo, complete with the photobombing weirdo. (Tan pants, front and center)  Unfortunately a few of her big fans had already left because they had earlier flights back to Tokyo. After this photo staff told us to expect good news very soon (I think they already had word the single was going to be #1)

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EDIT: a Yahoo article with a reaction from Wasamin…

http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20140114-00000003-sph-ent

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Later on that evening I came down with a horrible case of gastroenteritis.  It was really bad.  Funny thing though, Wasamin’s G+ was eerily silent after the events.  Perhaps she was just tired???Nope, Wasamin got sick that night…with gastroenteritis.  Isn’t that cute?  We got ill together.  Although if  Wasamin’s bout was anyhing like mine, she was no fun to be around!


But it was an amazing trip! Quite different from the “Request Covers” campaign, where most of the events were within a commutable distance from Tokyo. All of us lugging our suitases from town to town in support of our oshimen. Finding these random malls in random towns. Eating at restaurants featuring the local speacialties. There was an intense feeling of comeraderie among the fans. In fact, it was the first time I remember seeing the guys hugging one another after the show. (Not a common practice among the Japanese)

But yeah, it was that kind of week. And Wasamin was a big part of it. We were traveling with her (so to speak), experiencing the areas together, and telling her about our experiences. Now how many idols do you get to do that with?

And how many idols can you share enough time with to catch the same illness? :fp: But I recovered around 36 hours later. So my guess is Wasamin should be feeling a lot better by now. [:)]

So there ya go. Another awesome Wasa-love Tour in the books!

And the great news is…Oricon Weekly #1!!!!!!!  Congratulations to Wasamin!

Most of the CD shops have a display with the top sellers of the week in order. Tomonoura Bojou will hold that spot ALL WEEK! In fact, Tsutaya put flowers on her promotion display for the #1 placing. :1st:

 

 

It was a great time.  I was so glad I went.  Even if I got sick twice.  Being in Japan and spending time with Wasamins always a pleasure.  But for now it was back to California…

CK in California

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AKB48, New Release CK in Japan, New Years 2014 Part One…On the Road With Wasamin

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So how did I spend my New Years?  Catching a flight to Narita, that’s how.  It was a last minute decision.  Heck, on Christmas Day I had planned on skipping this.  But after a lot of thought I realized that nothing would make me happier in life than to spend the beginning of 2014 with my Oshimen.  And nothing would have made me sadder not to.  So off I went…

The Iwasa Misaki “Tomonoura Bojou” Promotional Tour.  January 6-12 2014

On the heels of her “Request Covers” campaign last November, it was announced that Wasamin’s third single would be released in early 2014.  Now I had just had the time of my life in November.  It was the most intimately close I had ever felt to Wasamin.  So the chance to re-live that experience was seriously tempting.  What stood in the way were the responsibilities of life.  But in the end, my unwavering passion and support for Wasamin won out, and I was on my way.

What also made this trip so intriguing was the intense travel schedule involved.  With “Request Covers”, most of the events were within a commutable distance of Tokyo.  In fact if you had a Railpass it wouldn’t have been necessary to change hotels.  Not so this time.  To keep with the spirit of the song title, which is about a coastal town near Fukuyama and Hiroshima, most of the events would be taking place in Western Japan.  The opportunity to experience these areas was also a deciding factor for me.  I had 72 hours to do it, but I found a reasonable flight, great last minute deals on accomodations, and a Railpass.  I had four days in Tokyo before the events started, which I spent most of recovering from a bad cold I caught shortly after arriving.  But by Monday I was ready to go.  It was Wasa-Time!

Day One: 2014/01/06 Tokyo

 

The first day was sort of a warmup for the events to come. Especially since Tuesday was the only day Wasamin was performing in Tokyo to support this release. Most of the major promotion was happening in Western Japan. It would be interesting to see how this strategy works.

For today you simply pre-ordered the CD (either version) and got a coupon (for the CD) and a handshake ticket for each copy you bought. Wasamin wore her light blue Kimono. 10-15 second handshake. Her manager gave us a bonus photo and a Tomonoura Autograph Board on exit. I thought we might get three different bonus pics considering it was three different music chains. But we got the same pic each time.

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The turnout got bigger later in the day. Yamano Music in Ginza had the smallest turnout by far. It’s a very classy store. More of a musical instrument store than a CD shop. They were looping the new PV on a giant screen behind the stage.

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For my handshake…After I wished her a “Happy New Year”, Wasamin was excited to tell me that some of my friends have been writing her fan mail. Hontoni????? I guess some of you have been mentioning me in your letters??? I wanted to be sure, but the store staff made you leave if you didn’t have any more tickets. So that question would wait, I was off to Shibuya…

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After grabbing a coffee at the Starbucks above Zebra Crossing, I bought my CD/ticket. They made you queue up on the outside stairwell. By the way, it was really cold in Tokyo! So we got to freeze our butts off on the fire escape for 30 minutes. Luckily I was close to the front of the queue. And for my handshake I wanted clarification.

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Yes, people are mentioning me in their fan letters to Wasamin…

Yatta! I exclaimed. That is awesome, guys! Thank You! I told her I talk to Wasamin fans all over the world. Oh, and this means she is definitely reading our fan mail. I need to ask her about the one I wrote her in November.

It was really cold at Tsutaya, and I was getting tired. (Remember, I was just getting over being ill) So I headed over to Tower Records Shinjuku for the final leg. I passed the time watching promos for the new “Mecha Mecha Iketeru” DVD Box featuring the Momusu Baka Test and Sports Festival. They also had us queue in the stairwell. Luckily, this one had heat.

I was so happy that S48/Ebi User loveandcoffee just made it to the event. So much fun watching her react to Wasamin!

Tower Records was the first place I heard playing the entire CD. Just as my turn for handshake came up,Ihoujin began playing throughout the store. It was the first time I heard her version, and I love it!!! I just sat there listening to it with Wasamin for 15 seconds. It was great. You could tell she is really proud if it. As Yoshida-san tapped my shoulder to leave, I told Wasamin I would see her tomorrow.

Here is a little bonus, the billboards for the new AKB48 Album and Watarirouka CD in Shibuya…

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As for the rest of the week, so far I knew of six fans who like me would be following her to all of the events. I was hoping  there would be more. But it was a good start. Some fans were flying to select events, but not all.

Anyway, that was Day One. I looked forward to hearing her sing, and actually getting my hands on these CDs. That would begin Tuesday…

Day Two: 2014/01/07  Sunshine City, Ikebukuro

To begin, here are some press pictures from Tuesday’s event…

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Wasamin was absolutely glowing in her blue Kimono. [inlove]

Oh, and we didn’t know the CD (both versions) came with a bonus photo inside. There are 5 different photos that you can get!  Now for the report…

Each event featured the same setlist format, similar to the previous singles…

Tomonoura (short version)
MC
B-side track
MC
Tomonoura (ful-version)

The events were MC’d by Nishiyori Higashi from Nagara Pro. He also MCs the Nagara Pro Enka Matsuri

I was front row for all three events. Front row center for 1 and 3. Had awesome luck drawing in the seat lottery.

Out of the gate, Wasamin had some breathing issues on Tomonoura. Mainly on the beginning of the verse, and carrying the vocal on “Bojouuuu” She improved as the day progressed. By the 3rd event, she nailed it!

KFC Enka version, “duel” with Roura (Fukuyama Mascot). Awesome performance. In front of the press too.[rock] This is a real crowd pleaser!

Ihoujin. Slightly pitchy on the first try. Hopefully she would iron that out like she did with Tomonoura.

First event handshake she helped me pronounce the song title correctly.

2nd event I told her she and Roura were cute together, and KFC-Enka version was great!

3rd event I told her the last performance of Tomonoura was perfect! I had a 2nd handshake too, where I commented on her “sad eyes” while she sings Tomonoura. At first she took it as a negative, like she disappointed me. [:(] But I explained “No, it is good!”

On that last handshake I was behind one of her big fans who buys tons of copies, and the guy who wears the “Wasacar” around his neck. All of the sudden the attention is on me. Not sure why I became the topic of conversation. I’m going “Nani…Nani????”

BTW, Wasamin was giggling at my attempts at Japanese today [hehe]

2nd event crowd was huge! 3rd event crowd not quite as big, but the handshake session went for around 90 minutes! Tokyo fans went all out on this day! Hopefully the 1st day numbers would be good.  From here the events in Tokyo ended.  It was road-trip time!  First off to Nagoya!

 

Photos from the Monday events leading into Wednesday…

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And from yesterday in Nagoya…

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Day Three: 2014/01/08 Nadya Park, Sakae Nagoya

 

I quickly took off for Osaka after attending the Nagoya events. Passed by the SKE theater as the lucky winners of Wednesday night’s show (which I applied for) were queued up. But the weather was crappy, and I wanted to get to my Osaka hotel…

Highlights from Wednesday…

Crowd was not very big. Nadya Park in Sakae is kind of a dead mall. Surprisingly, the biggest crowd was for the early performance when most of the salarymen were out on lunch break. Quite a few watching in business attire…

A large contingency of Tokyo fans made the trip. Thank heavens, or else it would have been really dead. However, a couple of the Nagoya fans bought over 100 copies!

The MC’s were the same guys that hosted the Request Covers event in Suzuka last November. They were happily surprised to see me again. They also remembered where I was from! I thanked the lead guy for hosting the show.

Singing-wise, Wasamin was in top form today. I barely heard any mistakes. She has KFC-enka version wired, so no problems there. She also has a lot of practice with Akai Sweet Pea, so that was great. Ihoujin was much better today. And she was awesome with Tomonoura. During the second show I was right next to the speaker, so I was listening very closely to her vocal work. You can hear her voice coming from deep within. A lot of power today.

By the way, she does quite a few hand gestures with Tomonoura and KFC. So it is a lot more than the usual “palm on the chest” she usually has.  She is much looser on these songs.

I still can’t get over how unbelievably gorgeous she looked. She had on a bright pink Kimono, but her hair wasn’t tied up the way it usually is when she is dressed this way. It was long to her left side under her hair accoutrement. I just wanted to propose to her right there. [inlove] When I told her how much I liked her hairstyle, she asked if I thought she was cute. I told her she was mecha mecha kirei, and that I loved her so much!

I also told her that when she sings Ihoujin she is singing about me [:D]

But the best was the MC where she was asking where everyone was from. Of course the topic of me being from San Francisco pops up (also my friend Andy being from Hong Kong) Then she proudly told the crowd that Andy and I were following her all over the country this week! It’s funny how they keep pushing for people to come out to the different locales. The MCs ask “Who is coming to Osaka? Hiroshima? etc… They should have a Wasamin fan-tour! I bet a lot of people would sign up. [rock]

The early word was Tomonoura Bojou debuted #1 on Oricon daily [party]

 

More to come in Part Two of the adventure.  We are just getting started…

CK in Osaka

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AKB48, Concerts, Pop Idols CK in Japan, Fall 2013 Part 3.2…My Week With an Angel

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2013/11/09 Setlist, Iwasa Misaki “Request Covers” Promotional Event @ Ito-Yokado Department Store in Nishikicho, Saitama

Special Opening Act, the karaoke stylings of Jumbo Kobayashi [:D]

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BTW, I attended this event with Andy, and my friend Daryl!!!

11am
1. Moshisora
2. Nagori Yuki
3. Tsugunai
Outfit: White Kimono w/ Fiery Red @ Purple Print
Note: Grand prize won by the guy sitting next to me during the show
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Handshake: (won 2-shot) I told Wasamin her Kimono was beautiful. She asked “Aren’t I beautiful?”, to which I responded “of course!” I also told her that Jumbo was my new twitter friend (I attempted to follow him on twitter the previous night, but his account is protected. He came over to me while I was in the handshake queue to tell me that he approved my request [:)] )

2pm
1. Toki no Nagarene Miwo Makase
2. Blue Light Yokohama <3 <3 <3
3. Mujineki
Outfit: Pink Kimono w/ Black Pattern at the bottom (hawt!)
Handshake: (won sticker) She said I was cute. I told her she was cuter. But she said I was cute too. I asked her if she was happy about the tremendous turnout, and thanked her for finally singing Blue Light.

Note 1: My friend Claudia from Italy is now living in Tokyo, and showed up at the end of the 2nd event, in time to see Wasamin going up the escalator in her Kimono. She looked starstruck, and thought Wasamin was beyond adorable. I was so proud!

Note 2: Between shows I was walking through the food court, and a little old lady came up to me, pointed to my Wasa-shirt and exclaimed “Kawaii, ne?!”

5pm
1. Nada Sousou
2. Moshisora
3. Akai Sweet Pea
Outfit: Light Blue checkered dress w/ Pink scrunchie, Tan thigh high boots
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Handshake: (won postcard) I basically introduced Claudia to her. Gave Wasamin her name and told her she was very nervous.

Note 1: Jumbo was excited not only was San Francisco and Hong Kong in the house, but now Italy was in attendance! Wasamin is truly an international star!

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Note 2: I won the postcard, but Claudia got the 2-shot…on her first try! My tally was now 12 handshakes w/ 4 each of the stickers, postcards and chekis. Yep, right on average.

Note 3: Wasamin delivered a message to me via Claudia. “Please teach Chris Japanese so we can have more conversations” It tugged at my heart that Wasamin really wants to talk with me more, but our language barrier limits what we can really talk about. I wanted to cry when Claudia told me that [cry] Not to mention she had just performed Nada Sousou, which brought me to near tears the first time I heard it. Yeah, I was an emotional wreck for the third performance.

* I had now heard every song on the album performed live

That was the first time I had heard Tsugunai live. It is a great song, so chalk it up as another of my faves. As for Blue Light, it got a huge reaction when she announced it. The fans had noted all day that it was the only song not performed so far. Not only did Wasamin do a flawless job, she actually riffed on the second chorus. I was so impressed that she was confident enough to play with the song on the first live performance!

I think I love that song so much because it really has a sexy vibe to it. Really neat to hear Wasamin sing a song like that! [inlove]

Note: Crowd was by far the biggest of the week. A majority of the seats for the 11am event were taken over an hour prior to the show. 2pm show was absolutely packed to the rafters. Handshake session for the 2pm show took over 45 minutes, 5pm event’s handshakes took about an hour. (they had traditionally been around 30 minutes)

It wasn’t that Wasamin hurt my feelings, but there is so much I would love to say to her but don’t know quite how to say it. But if there is a will, there is a way. I had a trick up my sleeve for the last day…

Anyway, the final event was upon us. It was going to be bittersweet. I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle it, as I was already a little bit choked up…

The Wasa-faithful were already strategizing for the final day. Fans from afar were making the trip early in the morning too. It was going to be great!
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Iwasa Misaki “Request Covers” Release Week Event FINAL, 2013/11/10 at Ito-Yokada in Ageo, Saitama

It was a very emotional day for so many reasons. What Wasamin said about our language barrier was still haunting me. I knew I wanted to give her a gift and a letter, so I was nervous about that. Plus it was the last day, and I wasn’t sure I will get to see Wasamin again this trip. It didn’t help that I was listening to Request Covers on my ipod, and found myself in tears on the train more than once.

Switching gears, I forgot to mention after the Saturday night Wasa-performance I had dinner in Shnjuku with Darryl and Andy. It was an awesome Katsu place. I headed back to my hotel via the Chuo-Sobu Line, which passes right by Tokyo Dome. At Suidobashi station about a million teenage girls boarded the train after watching the Kanjani 8 concert. We were packed in like sardines! But a lot worse places to be than crammed in a train with a bunch of wild young girls!

BTW, there was a 5.5 earthquake in the morning near Ibaraki. It caused everyone to be late, including Wasamin. The JR Takasaki Line, which is the main train to Ageo was running extremely behind schedule. First set got off 15 minutes late.

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Nice sized crowd, but not as big as the previous day’s Nishikicho event. I guess the casuals stayed home to watch the draft? :fp: But her big fans were out in force to support her one more time. Even my friend Wild-san made the 280 mile overnight drive from Shiga!

11:15am Setlist
1. Mujineki
2. Kita no Yado Kara
3. Ai no Mama de…
Outfit: Red Kimono, similar to the one on the regular version CD

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2 Handshakes (sticker, sticker) Wasamin leads off with a shot to the heart…”Chris -san, you are older than my dad!” BTW, this is not true. I happen to know how old her Dad is, and he is older than me. Anyway, I have never told Wasamin my age, and most people guess I am much younger than I actually am. So I re-queued the line after I realized what she said to me to make sure she knew I was younger than Papa-Wasa.

Note: Speaking of Wasamin’s family, they have been to a couple of events in the past. Her Dad looks very young. And as far as her sisters, they all look alike. Oh, and her older sister is apparently really cute. If you mention her older sister’s looks, Wasamin gets jealous. They say her younger sister looks like Wasamin when she first joined AKB. But OMG, 3 Wasamins in one family? <3 <3 <3

2pm Setlist
1. Nagori Yuki
2. Ettou Tsubame
3. Moshisora
Outfit: Light Blue Kimono with Purple/Silver Sash

Handshake (postcard) I finally broke down and gave Wasamin a bouquet of pink roses. I was so nervous about it I forgot to take a photo of them. I bowed as I handed them to her. Wasamin, said “Flowers?, then in Japanese said “Chris-san, I really love you.” She said to me “Love is over”, and I quickly said “chigau!”

I spent the next break writing a really mushy fan (love) letter to her. I had Andy, and Calvin (a Suuchan fan who decided to check out the event) do the Japanese translation for me. It was a great relief to be able to convey some more detailed thoughts to Wasamin for once.

5pm (final) Setlist
1. Mujineki
2. Toki no Nagareni Miwo Makase
3. Akai Sweet Pea
Outfit: Cream colored one piece with brown boots. OMG, this is the sexiest I have ever seen her!

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2 Handshakes (2-shot, sticker) I was having horrible luck picking chekis, so I asked one of her managers Yoshida-san to give me some luck. He shook the box and said “Chris-san, come on!” And whaddya know, I got a 2-shot! I reacted with a bit too much glee, people thought I had drawn the grand prize. [hehe] Since Wasamin looked so incredibly sexy, I decided for her to do a sexy pose with me having a shocked look on my face. She looks great, I look ridiculous. I told her I was off to Hakata tomorrow and would be back in Tokyo on Friday. I told her I hoped I would see her again soon.

For the second handshakes there were two random people who were trying so hard to get our attention, so Wasamin had both of us turn around and wave. I barely had time to tell her that Request Covers is wonderful and that I love her very much. I handed her my letter, and assured her that it was “Ego to Nihongo” She then said “Love is Over!”, to which I replied again “Chigau!” She said “Please, Please?” Okay, “Love is over….wait, Love is NOT over!” I’m not sure why I did my last handshake so early in the event. I was watching everyone else for at least 45 minutes after that. I would have gotten one more CD, but I was running low on cash in pocket. And 17 copies of Request Covers is more than enough, wouldn’t you say?

It really is a wonderful CD. All of you need to pick up a copy. Then imagine Wasamin doing these songs live in a beautiful kimono (or a smokin hawt dinner outfit) That has been my week. And I will never forget it. I don’t think Wasamin will either. Same with her manager…Wasamin spent a little extra time at the end acknowledging the staff and telling us how wonderful we had been as fans. Her manager was crying as this was going on. Wasamin got a new manager recently, and this was her first release. She was really great to all of us.

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And that was the end of an emotional day. I later admitted to my friends that I was on Wasa-overload, and I am afraid that I love her too much. But the rest of the Wasafans assured me that was impossible. You can never have too much love for Wasamin! They all love her just as much. But I really do adore her, and when these events come to an end it is goodbye for a long period of time. It really hurts.

But our celebratory Wasa-fan dinner at Saizeria made me feel a lot better.

 

Some additional observations.  First off, the new manager…

I heard a few different explanations regarding why she had a change in managers, none of which made me any more or less worried about Wasamin’s career. I remember the original manager from the Mujineki events. She seemed nice enough. But the new one seemed especially sweet, and interacted very well with the fans. It is almost like having Wasamin’s mom helping out. In fact, all of the staff were extremely nice. It is a nice change of pace from an AKB event, where everything has to be so regimented otherwise fans overstep the boundaries. This is Nagara Pro and Tokuma Records running the event. So a different vibe. Plus, the Wasa-fans collectively put Wasamin before themselves. So there is a lot less jealousy, and more cheering each other on. For example, there are guys going to these events that buy TONS of CDs. You think my 17 CDs were a lot? A few guys bought more than that for EACH DAY. All of the fans realize this means more sales for Wasamin, so it is all good. We cheers these guys on, and thank them for being so instrumental in helping her sales numbers.

She doesn’t have a huge fanbase, so it is a lot more intimate.

A couple other observations. I mentioned before that Wasamin’s average fan has to be at least 40 years old. I’m like a young guy in that group. It is also 99% male. For some reason Wasamin hardly attracts any female fans. (if you leave out all the Obasan that show up to hear enka) Danie (Jouttex) is probably her biggest female fan, but she is very tom-boyish.

It makes a lot of sense, especially with the musical style Wasamin is striving to succeed with. But even in the beginning the older fans seemed to be attracted to her. I think it is that sweet an beautiful smile.

With that in mind, I see a lot of talk around the forums about “creepy older otaku”. But if you went to any event you would see that the older fans are usually always the most dedicated, and the most well-behaved. AKB was founded on an older male audience, and back then there didn’t have to be rules about everything because common etiquette usually prevailed. It was when the younger fans grabbed on to the group that all the crap started happening that forced Togasaki to implement a million rules for every event.

One of the many reasons I would love to see more people go to these events IN JAPAN so they can see what it is really like.

Notice the rope barrier? So close to Wasamin but there is always that fine line [inlove] [cry] That said, I was surprised that her manager would quite often invite us to get in closer to one another for the shot. Here are a couple more of my cheki, “Hearto Version” and “Mujineki Posu” (I got 5 in all)

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BTW, Here is the final tally of how many times each song was performed…

Moshisora 8x
Mujineki 7x

Ai no Mama de… 4x
Akai Sweet Pea 4x
Ettou Tsubame 4x

Nagori Yuki 3x
Toki no Nagareni Miwo Makase 3x

Hanamizuki 2x
Love is Over 2x
Tsugunai 2x
Nada Sousou 2x
Kita no Yado Kara 2x

Matsu wa 1x
Blue Light Yokohama 1x

Quite funny that my favorite song, and Andy’s (Matsu wa) were the only two songs performed once. But she mentioned us as the two that came from far away to see her at least once per day. So she was still thinking of us.

 

I can’t believe she performed at the theater tonight after that surely grueling week. Although I think Wasamin really enjoys performing, and the adulation she gets when she does.

BTW, my big wish was that Wasamin would be at the National Handshake event next weekend in Iwate. But it was just announced that she will be performing in the theater that day. So my only chance to see her will be if I win that show. Even if I don’t win, I think I will stay in town and watch the show in the lobby.

I listened through the album a couple times again while on the Shinkansen. It is a truly wonderful CD. Her voice just does it for me…

Someone asked if the songs are true to the originals, or are they all done enka style. For the most part, they are true to the originals, but Wasamin does indeed put her stamp on them.

The next day Wasamin posted on her Ameba Blog.  A couple people had wondered if the post made me cry…

It did. I really wanted to understand that one part of her post properly. Part of what I wrote in that letter was how much I want to be there to support her all the time, and how frustrating it is to only to be able to see her once in a while. Also that there was so much I wished to communicate with her, but not knowing quite how to say it when I am standing in front of her. And that my biggest wish was that we could communicate better with one another. So yes, that post spoke to me quite a bit.

I think I have sort of “graduated” in my fandom. I went to the HKT theater for the first time tonight, and watched their new Pajama Drive stage on the monitors. It was fun, but there was something missing for me…Wasamin. I think going forward any trips I make over here will be based on what Wasamin is doing, rather than AKB.

So that’s it for now.  I am still enljoying the CD, and thinking about Wasamin on these long trainlines out of Shin-Osaka  I DID enjoy my visit to the HKT Theater.  I am truly in love with her,  She means so much to me.  I just long to see that beautiful smile beaming at me every chance I get

 

Anyway, that’s it for now.  Time for sleep!

CK in Tokyo

Tags:

AKB48, Concerts, New Release CK in Japan Fall 2013, Part 3.1…My Week With an Angel

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Continuing from the previous post.  The entire day she was down South I was burning with envy and regret.  Why didn’t I make the trip down to Osaka and support my girl?  What was I thinking.  She had one more day out of town before she resurfaced closer to Tokyo.  But I wasn’t going to miss this.  Who cares if it was out in the middle of nowhere, and it would take a whole bunch long train rides to get to?  I wasn’t going to miss another event!!!

Iwasa Misaki “Request Covers” Release Event 2013/11/07 @ Suzuka Hunter-Suzuka, Mie Prefecture

 

Quite the trek to go all the way to Mie Prefecture, but it was totally worth it. I will begin with the setlists and go from there…

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2pm Event:
1. Nagori Yuki
2. Love is Over
3. Mujineki

Outfit: Wasamin in Off-White w/ Pink detail Kimono

5pm Event
1. Moshizora
2. Nada Sousou
3. Akai Sweet Pea

Outfit: Wasamin in mini floral print skirt, with tan wool sweater and thigh-high brown suede boots w/ scrunchie

So the first question I asked when I got there was “Why would they decide to have events out in the middle of nowhere?” I mean, Suzuka…it is an hour outside of Nagoya. No real fun for tourists unless you are coming for Formula One racing. But my question was answered when the crowd began to fill…

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The place was packed, even more than Shibuya. Not only was the main floor packed, but the second and third floor verandas were packed too! The most amazing part? At least one-third of the crowd could be classified as elderly. This was perfect. This is her demographic! They were buying the CD too! I was so excited when they would win the 2-shot.

BTW, a funny aside…When I got off the train I was walking to the event behind two random guys. About a block later I noticed their bags and briefcases had the Tokuma Records insignia on them. They were there from the label to run the show. Kinda funny.

Anyway, I was hanging out behind the performance area when the show started, and rushed to my reserved seat (4th row center) As I entered the MC was talking about people coming from out of town for the event, and half the crowd began pointing at me. [tongue]

As for her performance…her voiced cracked a little bit on Nagori Yuki, like she was straining to hit the high notes. But the rest of the songs were perfect! In fact, Nada Sousou brought me to tears. Seriously! It was beautiful. Wasamin even noticed, kinda squinting at me in acknowledgement.

OMG Moment…During the second performance, in the second MC Wasamin commented about how many people she noticed came from Tokyo, and one person from San Francisco! I couldn’t believe she was singling me out again in the middle of the show! But a lot of her Nagoya fans came up to me after to talk about it.

Once again, she gave away her hair accoutrement as a grand prize, and both winners were friends of mine. I had dinner with both of them after the show. Here is the piece from the early show…

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I bought 2 CDs, so I got 2 handshakes. During the first meeting I apologized for not going to Osaka and Kobe, and told her I enjoyed Love is Over. She freaked out over my pronunciation, and asked me to repeat it. So I did, then I said it emphatically a third time…”Wasamin, Love is Over!” She and her manager were laughing. I won the postcard for that meeting…

For the second meeting, I won the 2-shot! She again started talking bout “Love is Over”, so I had her practice the American pronunciation of “I will Follow You” (Akai Sweet Pea) It took her two tries, but she got it…sort of. I then told her that I was requesting a performance of Blue Light Yokohama tomorrow. So when she sings it, and I think she will since it is one of three songs she hasn’t done live yet, she will think of me…

I can’t begin to tell you what an almost religious experience this has been. Wasamin’s singing has far exceeded my expectations. You can see it in her eyes how focused she becomes when it is time to perform. And for the most part, she nails every song!

Next up, three performances in Ibaraki. I was ready!  Another day of Wasamin awesomeness completed. Lets begin with the setlists…


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Iwasa Misaki “Request Covers” Event 2013/11/08 Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture

11am
1. Ai no Mama de…
2. Moshisora
3. Kita no Yado Kara
Outfit: Pink Kimono w/ pink flowered pattern. Pink/Blue flower set in hair (won by one of the first people in line)

2pm
1. Ettou Tsubame
2. Love is Over
3. Mujineki
Outfit: Purple Kimono with Pink floral print. Ponytail with black&white flower piece in hair (won by one of the guys I was with)

5pm
1. Moshisora
2. Matsu wa
3. Hanamizuki
Outfit: Grey skirt w/overalls Bergundy sweater w/ black short boots. Black choker w/cross Black scrunchie

First of all, the day before I told Wasamin that Blue Light Yokohama was my favorite song on the CD, and now it was the ONLY song she hasn’t done live. Was she mocking me on purpose? Torturing me? The song is beautiful, and I wanted to hear her sing it!

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Got to the mall just before 10am, since that is when the CD sales were to begin. One problem, the mall was closed! They were also doing seating on a first come first served basis. So when the mall doors open it became a race for seats. I came to the mall with Okaji-san, who is heading her birthday committee this year. He isn’t a young guy, so it was amazing to see him run so fast! BTW, a lot of Wasamin’s otaku fans are in the older age range. 35+ In fact I would guess that she has the oldest average fan age range of all the girls in AKB.

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The show was MC’d by Jumbo Kobayashi, who is a high profile guy from Tokuma Records. I remember him from the Mujineki events I attended. He’s a really slick dude, and he plays with the audience (as well as Wasamin) quite a bit. Jumbo started off by calling Wasamin “kawaii” in a very strange way. This totally creeped her out. But Wasamin, as well as the fans love to poke fun of Jumbo as well. In the first show, Wasamin challenged Jumbo to donate something as a grand prize since she was donating her hair set, and suggested his sport jacket. (He wears very expensive looking suits) He offered his pen, but didn’t think anyone would want it.

This was an extremely high end mall, and Tsukuba looks like a beautiful place to live. Nice homes…everything looks clean and new. Far enough from Tokyo to be a sort of refuge, but close enough to enjoy the city. (around 50 minutes by Tsukuba Express from Akihabara)

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Didn’t seem to have as many people in attendance compared to Suzuka. 2pm show was definitely the most crowded. There were 150 seats (which were about 90% filled each time) Quite a few people chose to watch from the upstairs verandas in the mall.

They love the international angle. In the 2nd pre-show MC, Jumbo made a big deal about my friend Andy coming all the way from Hong Kong. Later in the second show Wasamin talked about the people traveling all over the country to the various events, and then mentioned me coming from San Francisco. She proceeded to say to me “Hello, I am Misaki Iwasa!”, to which I responded “HELLO…Wasamin” BTW, I have never said “hello” to her. I always use a Japanese greeting. But it was all in fun. On one hand, I get slightly embarrassed when she puts the focus on me during the show, but I also get that they enjoy pointing out that Wasamin is now “world famous”. Anyhow, she has now done that to me 2 days in a row!

I bought three CDs today, which means I got three handshakes and three prize drawings. Obviously the goal is to get the cheki (or the grand prize, but there is only one of those). Today I got the postcard on each of my first two. I want to be disciplined and not buy a million CDs, but I decided that if I didn’t win the 2-shot on the third try I would buy one more CD and try again. Luckily, I got the cheki with my third ticket. (Jumbo kept calling them “Chucky”, to the amusement of everyone)

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So that made 9 CDs purchased so far, and I had won three of each prize. Three stickers, three postcards, and three cheki. I posted the first 2-shot where we did the obligatory peace sign. For Suzuka we did the joined heart, and today we did Mujineki singing pose. Some people get really creative with their pose requests, it is fun to watch. The guy who won the grand prize for the third show did the “Team B Oshi” pose.

Speaking of cheki. Jumbo had purchased the CD, and kept taunting Wasamin that he wanted his handshake like everyone else. He waited for the end of the last show. And for his prize, he drew the 2-shot. Wasamin suggested the “nyan nyan” pose, but right before the shot she dropped it and gave him a shitty look. Too funny. Jumbo then proceeded to do his best nerdy otaku impression during the handshake until the guard forcefully threw him out!

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For my handshakes, the first one was sort of a “failshake” I greeted her with “Ohayowasamin”, and before I could say what I planned she started talking to me in Japanese. I asked her to repeat it but still didn’t get what she said. So I just said “Gomen Wasamin, I love you!” before I got pushed out.

For the second one I had remarked about her performance of “Love is Over” (more on that in a minute) I got an excited “Hontoni???” as a response. Oh, she again asked me to repeat “Love is over” in American pronunciation.

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Between each show many of the fans hung out in the food court. Between shows 2 and 3 Wasamin posted on her google plus, drinking a Bubble Tea from Dipper Dan, the shop we were sitting next to. The next thing you know there are about a dozen Wasafans (including myself) in line buying the same drink. So for the third handshake I told her I got the Bubble Tea on her recommendation. She said she really liked it and asked if I enjoyed it to.

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On to the performances…needless to say she did an amazing job. This was the first time hearing Matsu wa and Kita no Yado Kara. I you listen to “Yado Kara”, it is an extremely intricate and difficult song. Very traditional Enka. To hear her pull it off live…wow! She is really impressive. As for “Love is Over”, there is a singing ” run at the end of the song that Wasamin performed flawlessly. That is what I had commented to her about on the 2nd handshake.

I think that was it for Friday. It was time to rest and get ready for Saitama. We were hoping that tomorrow’s event will the biggest, since it is the weekend AND close to Tokyo. Fingers crossed…

And I had my fingers crossed for Blue Light Yokohama

Gonna finish this off in one to two more posts…

CK in Tokyo (Fukuoka)

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AKB48, Concerts, New Release CK in Japan Fall 2013 Part 3…My Week With an Angel

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Okay, this is the reason I am in Japan.  And it might take more than one post to present properly.  It isn’t often one gets to spend a week up close and personal with their favorite “idol”.  Actually I should really say Performance Artist, as Wasamin is so much more than an idol now…

Wasamin released her first full-length CD, “Request Covers”.  A complete array of classic Enka and Kayou Kyoku.  This is an very important step in her musical career, and I wanted to be there for her.  Wasamin, along with many of her fans were getting to celebrate with 15 performances in 7 different venues throughout Japan.  I was lucky enough to attend 13 of those 15 events.  But I had my close eye on the two events I missed.  It was going to be an amazing week…

Mini-Live
Handshake Event
A different outfit for EVERY event (and not always in a Kimono)
Prizes, including 2-shot cheki with Wasamin!!!

After attending these events it is pretty evident Wasamin is growing up as a performer.  I went through some emotional changes myself.  I think you will see that as the days’ reports progress.  So lets begin…

By the way, I am going to post these almost exactly as I wrote them on the forums…

Iwasa Misaki “Request Covers” Release Event 2013/11/05 at Marui City, Shibuya Tokyo

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3pm Event
1. Ai no Mama de
2. Akai Sweet Pea
3. Moshizora

6pm Event
1. Ettou Tsubame
2. Hanamizuki
3. Mujineki

I got down to Shibuya around 3 hours before the event.  I wanted to see how the land laid, so to speak.  Along the way I met Okaji-san, who is this years chairman of Wasamin’s birthday committee.  With him was Andy, a HUGE Wasamin fan from Hong Kong.  Not only was Andy going to every event, he had a gift for her for every day.

 Her performances were all top notch I think I heard her voice crack slightly off-key once. It is amazing to watch her get “in the zone” when she sings.

I bought one of each of the regular versions w/ special cover. As expected, it is an overlay much like the “Densha Version” of Mujineki. Also picked up one Limited version

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They made the 2-shot cheki’s a lot easier to get than expected. That said, my luck was bad. I only got one 2-shot out of 4. Seemed like most people that bought at least 4 versions got 2. [:(]

Thy also gave away signature boards. However, they were Moshizora Signature Boards with a Request Covers sticker affixed to them. [hehe] We also got clear files

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Grand Prize for each event…Wasamin’s hair accoutrement from the performance. One of my friends won it during the 3pm event.

Lots of photographers, news crews and reporters there for the first event. It was a lot of fun watching her work with the press First with photo taking, then with Q&A.

The Wasatruck, circling the block. You could see the street from the stage, and it would get Wasamin’s attention every time it drove by…

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at Tsutaya in Shibuya
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Some official shots during the event…

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I wish I had won a 2-shot in the late show. Her Kimono was dark red, with black. Very pretty!

So for the four handshakes…

1) The first thing she said when I walked up was “Hello Chris-san!” I said, “Yes, Chris desu” She asked if I had won the 2-shot, then did the “crying pose since I hadn’t. I told her I flew to Japan just for her….but I screwed up the words. So god knows what I actually said. She must have figured it out though, since she replied Oh, Thank You!

2) Won the two shot, and yelled “Yatta!” Wasamin and her handler both congratulated me, and I just blurted out “HAPPYYYY!”, which Wasamin laughed at. Got a fan ovation for winning since I made such a big deal out of it. Actually, they did that for a lot of people in the early show.

3) I told her that I loved Akai Sweet Pea, and it made me tear up when I heard her sing it.

4) Told her I learned Katakana and Hiragana, to which she replied “Good, then write me more letters!”

Need to come up with more to talk to her about in the coming days…

There were a lot of people there, especially for the early show. It’s funny, I would have thought the later show would have had the better crowd.

When you buy a CD you draw a random number for entry. The idea is to get a low number for a good spot. Then there is a bit of trading going on. For example, lets say I bought two copies and drew #12, and #20 for the early show, but got bad #’s for the late show, and somebody else did the opposite (got good #s for the late show. We would trade our second tickets. So we get better placement for each show. I had #27 for 3pm, and #36 for 6pm. But for both that was really close to the stage. My friend Andy was really lucky, drew #5 for the 3pm show

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One interesting note…I noticed a lot of her bigger fans were standing in the far back. It turns out many of them have decided that it is better for new fans to get the closer spots. They feel it is good to help grow her fanbase by letting the newbies have a great time. I asked them if I should stand back there too. But they said since I don’t live there I should get as close to her as I can [:)]

Not sure if anyone came in on a whim. It seemed like most everyone there had come on purpose. I did notice a few AKB fans walk by and get surprised by the fact Wasamin was having an event. They were passing out flyers up and down the block, and the truck was circling Shibuya all afternoon (as well as other neighborhoods earlier in the day) Hopefully it drew some new people in.

I had wondered what all of the tourists walking by thought of the goings-on. I saw many of them take flyers. Not to mention that giant Wasamin picboard on the stage. She looks so adorable in that photo, I have to thing some of them were interested. But as I said before I didn’t see any foreigners in the show aside from myself.

That was my report from Shibuya.  Next came the two events I missed.

Iwasa Misaki “Request Covers” Release Event 2013/11/06 in Kobe and Osaka

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Early shots of the Kobe event. I know of a couple people who took off for Osaka after last night. One of them is taking the photo, and I see the other one in the photo. [tongue]

Based on that pic, doesn’t look like they are expecting a huge turnout, but who knows. Last night’s area was pretty small too. But they packed us in, and there almost as many people watching from the sidewalk behind the makeshift venue

Kobe Setlist:

1. Mishisora
2. Toki no Nagareni Miwo Makase
3. Ettou Tsubame

Wasamin wearing a yellow Kimono, this is taken from her G+


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Osaka Setlist…

1. Tsugunai
2. Mujineki
3. Ai no Mama de…

Wasamin did not wear a Kimono for this appearance, instead wore an extremely short miniskirt, white knit top and black bow. It seems nosebleeds were abound in Osaka…

Also, a couple of screenshots of TBS coverage of the Shibuya Event

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So there are the first two days.  But there is a ton more to report!  Watch for the next post…

CK in Tokyo (actually, in Fukuoka at the moment)

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Concerts, SDN48 CK in Japan Fall 2013 Pt. 2…Reliving the Good ole’ Days of SDN48

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For those of you who don’t know much about SDN48, this may not interest you too much. For those of you who remember how awesome they were, I think you will get how amazing the following experience was…

I felt re-energized on Monday after finally catching up on some needed sleep. It’s unusual for me to have a weekend day in Japan with nothing to do. But on Sunday I felt really out of it. So the best thing for my body was to merely rest. I have a big week coming up to get ready for…

In the meantime I had another warm up event to attend. I remember how sad I felt when SDN48 graduated in early 2012. I wondered if I would ever get the chance to talk to some of my favorite members ever again. To this day I still follow a few of the members’ blogs. I like to see what they are up to, especially when I have a trip coming up. So I was really excited when I realized tonight’s event would fall right into my trip window…

 

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Hatakeyama Chisaki “Chaki Live Vol. 3″ and Birthday Celebration at Live House Mosaic, Shimokitazawa 2013/11/04

If it wasn’t for Meetan, Chaki would have easily been my favorite member of SDN48. I also adored Akiko (keep that fact in your pocket, it’s gonna come up later in the story) But Chaki…There is a reason her nickname is “Babyface”. She is sooo cute! It is amazing that she is turning 25 today. She still looks like a teenager! She was also one of the best singers in SDN. And boy, could she dance! I had trouble keeping my eyes off of her whenever I went to an SDN show. Anyway, I was going to get the chance to see Chaki up close for the first time in two years (Next Encore concert doesn’t count since I had nosebleed seats)

 

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The Pre-game Adventure

It had been drizzling all day, but had seemed to clear up in the afternoon. I went back to my hotel to a) watch Wasamin perform on TV Tokyo, and b) strip out of my cold weather gear for the show. I took off for the train station under partly cloudy skies, but much to my surprise it was pouring when I arrived in Shimokitazawa. I figured I would be okay if I hurried to the venue. But I got lost. It took me three blocks and a severe drenching before I could find an umbrella. At that point I don’t know why I bothered since I was totally soaked. Eventually I found the club.As promised the were selling tickets at the door. In addition they had goods, and you could preorder her solo debut CD. There were extra bonuses if you reserved multiple copies, but it wasn’t releasing until a week after I leave. I picked up a Chaki oshi towel (mainly to dry myself off) and headed into the hall.Like every other club in Shimokitazawa, the room was tiny! Smaller than the AKB Theater, and much narrower. There couldn’t have been more than 200 people in the place. It made the experience feel really intimate. I had a feeling that some of Chaki’s friends might show up too. Moments later I see SDN Alumni Rachel, Hiromin and a mysterious girl in a mask walk in. A few minutes later, Imayoshi Megumi arrived as well. BTW, Megu looks hawt with blonde hair! They took their spots right behind me. Sharing a concert with a few former SDN members…How cool is that?

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The Main Concert

The lights dimmed, and out came Chaki dancing to Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. She looked adorable! I must admit, I hadn’t been a big fan of the short bowl cut she had been sporting lately. But tonight her hair looked a little longer, and very nicely styled. Coupled with her interpretation of the dance she looked sexy as hell. After that her supporting band came out, and she launched into some of her material.I honestly don’t know the names of any of her songs. (I’m such a bad fan) but she was absolutely glowing on stage. She is such a fabulous singer too. Strong vocals, great projection and pitch. She totally feels the song as she sings it. Her songs could best be classified as “adult rock”, but there is also sort of a jazzy vibe to the way she sings. She also has a slightly raspy voice, which is so cute on her. She did MCs in-between every song, and since the room was so small it was really like an intimate conversation with friends. Funny, I used to say that about the MCs at SDN shows. Rachel was also heckling her quite a bit, which made for an even funnier experience.After the first set she began the karaoke portion of the show, one of her specialties. She takes requests from the fans. I know one of the songs she performed was from Scandal. She then performed her upcoming single which was really good. Now I wish I had bought a copy. I’m sure I could have found someone to pick it up for me…

After showing a VTR, which featured friends and family picking which of her hairstyles they felt best suited her, she came out in a smokin’ hawt red dress, with black lace gloves and a choker. The main set ended with her frenetic version of Kudoku na Runner. She invited her former groupmates to join, but they declined. Chaki left the stage, but who would lead the encore???

We all nominated Rachel, who had been rather talkative thrughout the show. She had forgotten how to do the encore, so fans were whispering stuff for her to say. We started our Chaki chant, which soon turned into an altering “Chaki” and “Ha-Takeyama” She eventually returned to the stage in her concert t-shirt and a black bow on her head. For the next big surprise, Chaki sang the next song while playing the piano. I had no idea she was a pianist, and she is very good at it! The show “ended” with another performance of the new single. But there was lots more fun to come…

The Celebration

Two girls came on stage in clown outfits. I have no idea who they are, perhaps comedians? Next came a woman who everyone called “Sensei”. Perhaps one of Chaki’s managers? It turned out the fans had some work to do to create a birthday present for Chaki. The present? A song written by a few members of the audience, to be performed by the audience. The song was called “Chaki-panman” And of course, it was done to the Anpanman March. We went over the lyrics, then did two rehearsals before Chaki came back out.
She was crying by the end of the song. It totally brought back memories of how she always cried at her birthday shows in the AKB48 Theater. I’m not sure what it meant, but there was something in the second phrase of the song that really got to her. The fans that wrote the lyrics got to give her special birthday wishes during the show.The birthday cake finally came out, then her former groupmates finally came up on stage. Whaddya know, the fourth girl with the mask…was Akiko! I had a feeling it was her because of the hair, but he looked noticeably thinner. Not to mention I noticed her eyeing me more than once. Chaki took some photos with the crowd, then bailed upstairs to do handshakes with everyone as they left. I knew Chaki would remember me, and she gave me a big “sashiburi!” and thank you before I walked out the door. But not before I got a special Chaki button from her manager. And that was it, show over!
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On the surface, it wasn’t a major event. A talented singer with a small fanbase in a tiny venue. But it really brought back emotions from the old days of SDN. It helped that a few other grads were there. Not to mention I had managed to win two of Chaki’s three birthday shows during SDN’s tenure. So in many ways it was just like old times. Heck, I was just excited to be there!

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Chaki meeting the fans post-show

I remember two years ago wondering if I would ever see and talk to my favorite SDN members again. It’s funny how the world works, and I am so thankful for this experience.

 

And now, my friends, begins the Wasamin release event marathon!

CK in Tokyo

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SKE48 CK in Japan Fall 2013 Part 1…Leading Off With SKE48 On Their Home Turf

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Landed at Narita Friday afternoon. I made this trip with one series of events in mind, and I’ll give you one guess which events they are. [inlove]  But there will plenty of other fun to be had!  After having a nice sushi dinner with the gang from Selective Hearing and New School Kaidan in Akihabara UDX, I went back to my hotel for some sleep. I had to be up super early on Saturday to catch the Shinkansen, and I knew the jetlag would be kicking my ass all day…

 

SKE48 Utsukushii Inazuma National Handshake Event @ Port Messe Nagoya 2013/11/02

So I woke up an hour late, scrambled to clear my head and get ready before I jammed for the train station. If I had caught the earliest train I would have made it to Port Messe around 8:30am. Now my ETA was closer to 9:30 am. I figured I would get a crappy spot since I was so late. But when I finally got there I noticed hardly anyone was inside the venue. They were all outside photo trading. The goods line was short, so I grabbed a few photo packs before I went in.

I lucked out and got a Section A ticket. That is the closest area to the stage. It wasn’t even 1/3 full yet, so I was standing around 5 people from the front rail. This is one of the reasons I love going to sister group events in places other than Tokyo. The crowd is a bit lighter, so you don’t have to wait in as many gargantuan queues. That said, there were plenty of people there. Even more than attended the Kiss Datte Hidarikiki event I went to last year.

Mini-live started, Kage-Ana was done by multiple members doing silly voices. I wasn’t sure who was who, but I am fairly certain I heard Jurina and Akarin. Show opened with 1,2,3,4 Yoroshiku. This was my first live look at idols in 6 months, so it felt great when I first spotted Masanya. She looked gorgeous of course.

For some reason I am blanking on the rest of the song order, but I know they performed Choco no Dorei, Banzai Venus and Kataomoi Finally before finally doing Utsukushii Inazuma. They ended the show with SKE48.

For the MCs they first did the bit where they grab props from a table and use them for joke impressions. Mikitty was great! She kept grabbing an old broom, and doing Harry Potter Quidditch bits. A couple of the girls also did puns with Kato Rumi’s name. For the 2nd MC they had a mini-skit battle referee’d by Dasu and Jurina. Yuria played the guy in all of the scenarios. They battled by team, and Masanya won for Team S in the first round. Team KII was very funny. Every time they lost they would “beat up” the girl who got beaten. First Churi, then Matsumoto Rina. That bit was a lot of fun, and everyone was surprised at how well Ego Yuna did. (However, she still lost to Furukawa) The hour flew by quickly, now I had lunch break to figure out how I would use my 13 tickets!

Since I was in A block, I got to go to the handshake area relatively early. I figured I would go visit Akarin first before her line got too huge. But they had screwed up her sign and placed it where the handicapped queue was. I asked the staff and they pointed me to Lane Three. I thought it was wrong, but he insisted that was Dasu’s lane. It wasn’t an extremely long line either. I looked over and saw Jurina’s huge queue, and what I figured must be Yuria’s huge queue. It wasn’t until I got to the front that I confirmed what I had suspected.

Lane 3: Takayanagi Akane (1x) This is Churi’s line!!! I was caught completely off-guard. So I said my quick hello to Churi. As always, she asks me if I am genki, then I get pushed out as I respond. As I headed back outside I passed the rear of all the booths. Mikitty spotted me and started screaming. Hahaha, she remembered our exchange back in June for sure!

The wait for everyone to queue for their first handshake wasn’t long at all, maybe 10-15 minutes. There were 13 lanes, and I managed to visit 9 of them at least once. Originally there was a 14th lane but Rena called in sick. I think that is a general law. You can pretty much always expect one sick Matsui for any SKE handshake event. Almost all of my favorite SKE girls were there, except for Kaotan. Yumana was originally scheduled, but she got replaced. So that was a slight bummer too. In addition to Churi’s solo lane, these were the other lanes I visited…

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Lane 7: Oya Masana/Deguchi Aki/Umemoto Madoka (2x) It is great to be able to see multiple girls in one shot, except that it forces you to have conversations with girls you don’t really follow. That is often quite awkward. I visited this queue twice. Masanya was excited to see me again. I told her she was great during the MC. I had no idea what to say to Deguchi, but she took care of that and began flirting with me. I pretty much just introduced myself to Madoka. The second time around I told Masanya that I was rooting for her in Ebi-Friday Night, and gave her a “Komanechi!” Aki thought that was cute and started laughing at me. So this lane was an overall success.

Lane 6: Ishida Anna/Nakanishi Yuka/Miyamae Ami (2x) Anna is another girl I visit often, so I always get a good reaction. This surprised Yuka, who then began playing matchmaker with me and Anna. She kept asking if I loved Anna, and if Anna was my oshimen. Of course I lied. This continued the second time I went through her queue, so I just played along. Unfortunately I had no idea who Miyamae Ami was, so all I could really do was say hello and where I was from and pray for a quick staff push out!

Lane 4: Suda Akari (1x) I really wanted to say hi to Dasu, and I was burning through tickets rather quickly, so I braved her queue for the 30-40 minute wait. The funniest part was that the staff was literally pushing people out as soon as she grabbed their hand, so the interaction was 3-4 seconds at the most. But she never fails at a great handshake. So much fun!

Lane 5: Kizaki Yuria (1x) I hadn’t planned on visiting Yuria’s solo queue. But her line wasn’t long at all, and I had never spoken to her before. So I had decided to give her a shot, even though I had heard that she isn’t the most exciting to meet. To my surprise, she was extremely nice. She even ga me a “Yuria-chan Peace!” pose. A very pleasant surprise. Another great lesson, while it is great to get advice from people on certain girls handshake experiences, sometimes you need to just see for yourself.

Lane 13: Suga Nanako/Kato Rumi/Kaneko Shiori (1x) I have always liked Rumi, but I was really in this line to meet Kinchan after her character fished me so hard in the AKB 1/149 game! There was no line. As I came up Kinchan looked up and gave me this huge surprising smile. She was even more surprised when I told her I came to that queue especially to see her.

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Lane 14: Furuhata Nao/Ichino Narumi/Tsuzuki Rika/Iguchi Shiori (1x) I felt really bad for these girls as their queue was almost always empty. You could see them repeatedly poking their heads out to see if anyone was coming. I don’t follow any of them, but I had never met any of them either. So I figured it wouldn’t hurt to introduce myself and say hello. I basically jumped in and rattled off the usual cliche’s. “SKE48 is great”, “Keep fighting”, that kind of stuff. But I stopped at Iguchi and exclaimed “Shiori-san sugoi!” in reference to her height which might have caught her off-guard a little bit. Although I am sure she gets that all the time.

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Lane 9: Isohara Kyoka/Kinoshita Yukiko/Yakata Miki (x3) Saving the best for “almost” last, I have made a new best friend in SKE, and that is Mikitty! I posted about my insane experience with her back in June.  The moment she reacted after seeing me in the exit lane I knew I was in for a great time with her. The only problem was that for some reason I don’t really connect with Yukiko. However, I did discover that Yukiko does know a little Spanish. That should be good news for a few people. I really didn’t have much to say to Kyoka either. But it was pretty clear who I was in that queue to see. I reminded her of our exchange at Makuhari, which she remembered. She then asked me to come back through their lane. I got a big “I LOVE YOU” the 2nd time around, and the last time she asked me my name. When I answered she loudly repeated it back “Chris! Chris!” I have obviously connected with her in a major way, evidenced by her Google+ entry after the event. I didn’t even think to look, but one of her local fans found me on twitter and told me about it.  So yeah, Lane 9 was a huge WIN!

I had one ticket left, and I had noticed that one normally huge line had gotten pretty short. So I decided to jump in…

Lane 2: Matsui Jurina (1x) It was pretty quick, but she was super genki and gave me the often-seen “OMG, it’s a foreigner!” look. I congratulated her on the Janken win before getting quickly pushed out. I had used all of my tickets, and it wasn’t even 4pm yet! Oh, and the four lanes I unfortunately didn’t visit were…

Lane 8: Mukaida Manatsu/Ego Yuna/Matsumoto Rina
Lane 10: Shibata Aya/Uchiyama Mikoto/Niidoi Sayaka
Lane 11: Furukawa Airi/Sakai Mei/Saito Makiko
Lane 12: Takeuchi Mai/Goto Risako/Kimoto Kanon

It was a great day. Given that I am not going to any individual handshake events this trip, I was so happy I got the chance to interact with SKE. Hopefully some of my favorite AKB members will be at the National Event I plan on attending in a couple weeks. But HKT…and Tani. I have nothing planned for them, I am going down to Hakata next week. Maybe I will get lucky and win a show.

Also, a HUGE Thank You to everyone who sent me their extra SKE handshake tickets. As you can see, they were all put to good use. You guys are awesome!

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