Iwasa Misaki The Umezawa Tomio Special Theater Troupe Special Performance, featuring Tegawa Toshimi and Iwasa Misaki…Live at Shin-Kabukiza, Osaka (2017/06/18)

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The Umezawa Tomio Special Theater Troupe Special Performance, featuring Tegawa Toshimi and Iwasa Misaki…Live at Shin-Kabukiza, Osaka (2017/06/18)

There was no way I was going to miss Wasamin performing in a play….

This was the first time since I believe 2012 since Wasamin has performed in a play like this. And in that performance she mainly sang. You have to go all the way back to 2009, when Wasamin was cast as one of the main supporting characters in AKB Kagekidan: Infinity for her last significant stage acting role. I actually saw Infinity twice. Once with Sae and Yukirin as the main characters, and then the other version with Akimoto Sayaka and Takamina. In fact, for anyone who has the DVD, I am in the audience (8th row center) for the DVD performance of the Sae/Yukirin version. Moreover, it was at that play that I got to have my first ever significant conversation with Wasamin. Wow, so many years ago!

As I wasn’t sure when I would be able to get out to Osaka and see the show, I did not preorder theater tickets. In fact, when the general sale went online, I continued to procrastinate. This was a major error since at some point they stopped offering the tickets online, and you could only reserve by phone. This is when things got weird. I called the theater a few days before opening night to reserve a ticket for the final weekend. However, they told me that all seats for all shows were sold out. This was odd for a couple of reasons. First off, none of the nights were sold out when I checked online a week earlier. In fact, there were very few sections even sold out. Second, the website said that tickets were available. I immediately thought that they were trying to screw me for some reason. But what could I do. The next day I received three things, a mail magazine from Nagara Pro that specifically said that tickets were available. Then, Wasamin’s manager blogged that tickets were available. And then NagaraPro teeted that tickets were available. WTF??? So this time I had my Japanese friend call for me. They tried to tell him it was completely sold out,but when we pressed them by mentioning the social media posts, they immediately changed their tune, and voila! I had my ticket!

The show ran from June 10th through June 19th, with two performances on most days. I got a ticket for the penultimate performance on June 18th. My seat was in the upper balcony, but it was first row dead center, so it would not be a bad seat at all. I was a little late getting out of the house on Sunday morning. I had planned to possibly go to Namba in the afternoon before the show, but my tardiness sorta ruined those plans. Instead I went straight to the theater. In case there were any issues with my ticket, I wanted to get them ironed out. The theater was easy to find, as it is right next to the train station. I went upstairs, immediately found the box office, and got my ticket. In fact they were already pulling it when I walked up. I guess I was the only foreigner with a ticket at Will Call. In the meantime, the matinee performance was just getting out. It was then I realized something i didn’t previously know…

This play is 3 1/2 hours!

So my backup plan was to head to Namba after the show, but the long duration of the play put the Kibosh on that, I would barely have time to get back to Shin-Osaka for a Shinkansen back to Tokyo. Bummer, but it couldn’t be helped. I instead hung around the theater, and snapped a few photos. It is a really nice place. Actually, the original Kabukiza theater is in Tokyo, and this is their satellite location in Kansai. They mainly do traditional Japanese Kabuki-style performances. There were other music artists in the cast, like Wasamin’s NagaraPro senpai Tegawa Toshimi, who played one of the main characters, as well as another male enka artist who I wasn’t familiar with. And of course you had Umezawa Tomio, who is a famous actor in Japan. Anyway, I went upstairs and found my seat. I noticed most of the Wasafans had seats on the third floor too, although a few were on floor level. Also, there were tons of empty seats. TONS!!! In fact both balconies were at less than half-capacity. So why the hell were they trying to tell me it was sold out!

It wasn’t actually a 3 1/2 hour play, it was really three different performances. The play itself ran for about 70 minutes, after which was a 30 minute intermission. They second part was a musical performance, starring Shimi-san. Wasamin was introduced by Umezawa-san, and performed Saba Kaido. After another intermission, the third part was a traditional dance performance, and the songs were also performed by the cast. Wasamin performed Gomen ne Tokyo, with backup dancers in this part. As for the play, essentially the story was about a girl who runs away from her family and elopes, only to come back years later in shame with a baby in tow, and her family’s struggle on whether or not to accept her. Wasamin played the main character’s younger sister, who loves her sister and is upset with her father’s stubborness, ultimately resulting in my favorite Wasa-line of the show. “Otousan Hidoi!!!” as she spent the next few minutes blubbering in the background. Her exclamation of that line was so cute! I didn’t understand much of the story-line, especially toward the end, but it was a mix of comedy and drama.

As for Wasamin’s singing, it was fun to see her perform in this atmosphere. The other funny thing was that I was probably the only foreigner there, and was getting more than a couple of curious glances from the obasans sitting around me. However, once they realized I was there for Wasamin, I was bombarded with a hundred questions. They were all so surprised. By the end, I was friends with everybody! After the show I hustled out of the theater, and headed back home. It had been a long day, and I had a long ride ahead of me…

Like I said before, this was the first time I had seen Wasamin perform in a play since Infinity, almost 8 years ago. So this was a very nostalgic experience for me. That was one of my big motivations for going, not to mention the fact that I didn’t want to disappoint Wasamin. Plus, it was also a really neat cultural experience. That was my first time seeing a Kabuki-like performance live. I have also been saying that I would like to attend a Takarazuka performance too. I need to check into that again!

 

CK in Tokyo

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Minyo Girls Minyo Girls May 2017 “Challenge Stage Vol. 2” is Now Available to View Online!

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Well, at least a few of their more “idol-ish” performances are.  I really enjoyed this concert this past May, where I was lucky enough to score a front row, left side seat.  It was part of a Nagara Pro ‘doubleheader’.  Minyo Girls did the matinee, and then Wasamin’s Love Live was the evening show.  Here is my original post about the show.

Anyway, here are the videos.  Enjoy!  And by the way, I bought their Happi Coat.  Just looking for an opportunity to wear it again!

 


Ureshi Namida!

 


Himitsu no Yoru

 


Iyooooootsu! Kabuki Mono

 


Let’s Go Takarajima!

 

Enjoy!

CK in Tokyo

 

 

AKB48, HKT48, New Release, SKE48 AKB48-Group Shoot Sign Individual Handshake Event at Pacifico Yokohama (2017/06/10)

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This weekend marked the first Kanto dates of AKB48’s 47th single. Interesting that they are all occurring AFTER the release of the 48th single, but whatever. The 48-groups over-stuffed handshake event schedule causes things to get backed up once in a while. Of the five events planned for the general Tokyo area, I bought CDs/tickets to two of them. Most of my tickets were for yesterday’s event, and then I have a much smaller (four tickets) schedule for one of the events coming up in two weeks. I try to limit myself so I don’t over-buy, and one day on a weekend is plenty of idol-time, as far as I’m concerned. Also, I always have to be conscious of the possibility of Wasamin scheduling something for the same weekend. However, this weekend she is in Osaka. So no worries.

Yesterday I had fifteen tickets for essentially six members. Two of my tickets were for special stages, so I would see a couple of additional members there. The handshake events for this release also features special bonus prizes you could win, from signboards, to 2-shot selfies, 1-shot videos, etc. This are fun additional bonuses to win, however in some cases (the signboards in particular) they can make the queues go painfully slow. I ran into that on more than one occasion. Anyway, I got to the venue shortly before the beginning of Slot 2 and immediately went to get my tickets stamped. It was the longest queue at the information booth I had ever personally experienced. It didn’t take too long, around 15 minutes, but the delay slightly screwed up my Slot 2 schedule. Let’s get to the experiences, shall we…

Slot 2

Fuchigami Mai (Lane 1) After getting my tickets stamped, I immediately queued up for Maichan, whose lane was near the info booth. It was a medium to long size queue, however since it was a signboard lane it was going very slowly. This was an issue since I had THREE Akiyoshi tickets for the same slot. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have gone to see Yuka-chan first. But oh well. After two turns, the lane went slightly faster, but there was less than 20 minutes left in the slot. I finally got to Maichan…

For the signboard, you had to pick which hand the heart-shaped ‘guitar pick'(?) was in. Of course many of the girls “help” you win. I was watching Mikurin in the next lane, and she would shake the hand that the pick was in. For Maichan, she “accidentally” showed me the pick for a brief second before she clasped her hand. Needless to say, I won. Maichan gave me a special bonus by writing on both sides of the signboard, which was cool.  I congratulated her on her preliminary SSK ranking, but then admitted I really hate the Sousenkyo, and gave her my reasons.  She then asked if I was going to Okinawa, I said no.  She actually nodded like she wasn’t surprised to hear this, as I am surely not the only one who feels that way.  Finally I thanked her, and was on my way. Slot 2 was almost over…

Akiyoshi Yuka x3 (Lane 16) I didn’t have too far to go to get to Yukachan’s lane. The line was fairly short, so I figured I could ‘loop’ the line once, and use my last two tickets together. However, that didn’t work out as planned because this was also a painful slow line due to the signboards. There was less that five minutes before the Slot closed, and I was sixth in line, so I went back to the check-in table and changed to use all three of my tickets at one time. It was a smart move since the person originally in front of me was just finishing when they closed the gate, so I wouldn’t have been able to loop. On the other hand, I probably shouldn’t have bothered, and kept those as ‘open tickets’ since the girls took as long as they wanted to sign the boards, regardless of how many tickets you were using.

I finally got to Yuka-chan, and we were so busy talking we forgot to play the game. She just began signing a signboard for me. Not technically, I could have (and probably would have) won more than one, but I didn’t care. As I have always maintained, the bonus prizes are fun, but they are totally secondary to me. I have just as much fun talking to the members I support. While Yuka-chan was signing, I mentioned that I saw the recent HKT stage where she bragged about having Kaigai fans. She smiled, and kinda winked at me. Not that I’m her only foreign fan, in fact she recently made a G+ post about her fans from Thailand. But I know that I am among that Kaigai stable she is proud of.

Anyway, two lane visits, and two signboards. Not bad. I hoped my luck would continue the rest of the day. And I also hoped that I wouldn’t run into any more time problems. However, that was wishful thinking…

Slot 3

Tani Marika – part one (Lane 81) I had to go to the other side of the event hall to gt to Tani’s lane. BTW, AKB had rented out the entire of Pacifico for this event, so the event hall was huge! I got to Marika’s lane early and queued up. I considered using both of my tickets at once, but her line was short, so this wouldn’t take forever. Boy was I wrong…

By the time Marika showed up, the queue got considerably longer. I was fine for my first ticket, but I wondered how long it would be for my second, since Tani is just like Kaotan, and ignores the time people. Plus, this was another signboard. Anyway, I got to Marika, and I was ready to tell her how sexy she looked, when she asked me, “Do I look beautiful today?” I responded that she looked really sexy. Unsatisfied, she asked if that meant that she didn’t look beautiful. Haha, Tani always looking for reassurance. I told her I really liked her denim jacket. She did a big Tani-styled signature on my signboard, complete with a little Unko-character. When I left the queue, the line had gotten really big. I originally planned on taking a break after the next ticket, but if I waited I wouldn’t have time. So I decided to take a break now and come back for the second ticket a little later…

Tani Marika – part two (Lane 81 Lane 79) I eventually came back to the lane 10 minutes before the gates were due to close, and 40 minutes before the end of Slot three. The line was still pretty big. In fact, there was even a short queue to even check in. Usually that only occurs for the top Senbatsu members. I wasn’t too worried, however since even if I had to wait a little bit into Slot 4, I would still have plenty of time to do my three slot 4 tickets. That nonchalance turned to worry as time ticked away, and the queue was moving at a snail’s pace. One of the three tickets I had for Slot 4 was a Special Stage, so I needed to get my other two Yuka-chan tickets done within the first 45 minutes of the slot, otherwise I could miss the special stage. At the beginning of Slot 4, Marika’s line was still long, so they moved all of us to a different lane to complete the slot. The problem was that Marika was letting everyone win the signboards, even if you have multiple tickets. So if a fan came up with like 10 tickets, she would do like eight signboards for them, and it would take forever. So there were people in there for like 5 minutes at a time. Ugghhhh…

After 90 minutes in queue, I finally got my turn. I decided to make it up to Tani by making a big deal of how beautiful she looked. However, she wasn’t buying it one bit. She gave me the stink eye like “Meh, too late” Marika noticed I had on a bunch of HKT gear, including an HKT concert shirt. So she commented that I am an HKT fan. “But I like SKE too!” “Who is your favorite SKE48 member? “Tani Marika! And also Kaotan. Tani and Kaotan are my 2-Top” I told her that I recently won an SKE Theater show, but it was for Team KII, and that I would love to see Team E. She said that she wanted me to see her perform. Anyway, I got another cool Tani signboard, and I was off to try to use the rest of my Slot 4 tickets.

Slot 4

Akiyoshi Yuka x2 (Lane 16) I was already late to the pre-queue of the Special Stage, but I had a few minutes. I decided that if Yuka-chan’s queue was short, I would loop the line. Otherwise I would have to use both tickets at the same time again. Lo and behold, her line was very short. So I checked in with one ticket. It also turned out that her lane was “automatic win” for the 1-shot video. Hmmm, that’s not good. It means she sold very few tickets for this slot. I quickly chose one of the pre-selected sayings for Yuka-chan to do, and made it up to her within a minute or so. I quickly asked her if #7 was good, and she said it was. Here’s the video…

Cute! While I did the handshake I quickly asked her which of the phrases she recommended, but she said she did n’t really know. Oh well, I would take a wild guess on the next one since I was running out of time. I ran back to the entrance and re-checked in. With the form I quickly checked off a random phrase, and re-queued. While I was waiting, I hear my name being yelled. “Kurisu! Kurisu!!!’ I turn and look around, it is Sakaguchi Riko! Haha, Rikopi is pushing hard for me to be her fan, LOL. I quickly told her that I would see her at her Special Stage later on, and she said “Okay, see you there!” Her English is pretty good, too. I made it to the front of the queue, and got ready to shoot my video…

Oops, my birthday isn’t for another six months. Hahahaha, I guess I will save that one and play it back in December. I thanked Yuka-chan, and told her I would see her (and Rikopi) at her special stage later on. I hustled over to the special stages, there was less than 10 minutes before it started. I was still okay…

 

Yabuki Nako, Tanaka Miku, Fuchigami Mai (Special Stage C12) As I got to the C-stage check-in, they were just starting to let people into the room. I quickly checked in, and got my ticket. It was #225. Not good, but at this point it didn’t really matter since they had already let most of the first 100 people in. Eventually my number was called, but I didn’t hear it since the neighboring stage was really loud. But eventually I realized that they were past my number, so I went in and positioned myself in the standing area, around three people back. I tried to find a spot where I would have a semi-unobstructed view. Anyway, I took a couple of short videos during the event.

Nako/Miku Singing…

The last pose they did…

They were doing a bit where they would pose based on a scenario, like “Your best gravure pose, or “Sasshi pose” It was cute. I was there to see Maichan, but Nako/Miku were definitely the ‘stars’ of the stage. However, there were a lot of Maichan fans in the room, so she got good support too. After this I had a bit of time, since I only had one ticket for Slot 5, and my Yuka-chan special stage was just before the beginning of Slot 6, so I took a lunch break at the food trucks outside.

Here was my lunch, a Kimchi-Steak Bowl. If was actually really good. A bit over-priced for the size, but whatever. I would definitely eat there again. I also did a couple other things during this break. I went to the goods line to get the SSK pins they were selling. Unfortunately they were already sold out of the Akiyoshi pin, but I decided to grab a Kaotan pin, especially since I would be seeing her later on.

I also signed a Zunchan birthday card, and her fans gave me a few little tokens of appreciation. Yamane Suzuha is my new favorite AKB-girl, but unfortunately I do not have any tickets for her until the next single events. I would have happily traded in one of my tickets yesterday for her, but she did not have a star (*) on her lane, so same-day nomination was not available. Oh well…

Slot 5

Fuchigami Mai (Lane 1) Back to Maichan, who I just saw at the special stage. This was also a 1-shot Video lane, but I didn’t win. It was my first loss of the day :( Oh well, when I got up to Maichan she immediately commented that she saw me at the Special Stage, and asked if I got any good pictures. I got lots of them, but unfortunately on many of my photos Maichan was turning profile to talk to Nako/Miku. Then Maichan admitted that she had forgotten my name. Interesting, since she had signed it a few hours ago. But that’s okay, I told her my name again, and was off. She is one of the few I have tickets for at the June 25th event.

Akiyoshi Yuka, Sakaguchi Riko, Tomiyoshi Asuka (Special Stage C16) Unlike the morning, all of a sudden I had loads of time to kill before I could use my next ticket on this stage. I took a walk around the venue to see who had the longest queues. They also had all of the SSK posters on the far wall, with all of the member ‘promises’ should they achieve their ranking goals. Eventually it was time, and I queued to get my entry ticket, #76. Not terrible, and many of the numbers in front of me weren’t selected at all, so I ended up getting in within the first 30 people. I got a seat in the second row, on the left side, and was ready to go. Luckily, Yuka-chan was positioned on that side too, so I chose my spot perfectly. Like the first special stage, I shot a couple of short videos, starting with the intro…

This video includes the performance of Kimi/Suki

Q&A

Essentially they were answering questions from the audience, and at the end they all sang Kimi/Suki, which was fun. Rikopi has a very nice singing voice. Asuka, on the other hand, was a bit shy and would only sing the chorus. After this I had two hours until my evening tickets, so I left Pacifico and went to Queen’s Square mall for a dinner break.

 

Slot 7

Tanabe Miku (Lane 40) This is the final weekend Tanamin will be doing handshakes, so I was glad I had a ticket for her. I queued up early, since the was a possibility of her line being unusually long. This was a signboard lane, and for the first time, I lost for the signboard. With Tanamin, there were no hints, just a 50/50 shot. Anyway, I congratulated her, and said I remembered the first time I saw her live almost 10 years ago. Tanamin said not to worry, and that we will surely be seeing each other at Wasamin concerts. Hahaha, does that mean that Tanamin is planning on joining the Wasamin fan club? Quite a few of Tanamin’s fans also like Wasamin, so her comment got a bit of a chuckle from the people behind me.

Matsumura Kaori (Lane 80) Kaotan’s lane was not too long. I checked in, and immediately won the 1-shot video. Cool, my luck had returned! I was watching the people in front of me, and Kaotan was ignoring the phrases and giving everyone a personalized video. Cool! However, I noticed the girl in front of me didn’t press record for her video. I tried to point it out, but the girl ignored me. Then Kaotan asked her if the video was okay, and she said yes. She then looked at me, looked at the girl, and asked “Are you sure?” She confirmed it, although I could see that her video was only one second, and that one second was at the end after I told her she wasn’t recording. Oh well. Eventually it was my turn, and I asked her to give me a special Kaotan greeting. She asked me if it was okay if it was in Japanese. I said that would be fine. So here we go…..

Bwahahahaa! So she went for the English anyway. According to Kaotan, I am a “nice boy, a beautiful boy” Oh, and after she started laughing I stopped recording, but then she kept going. Oops, I interrupted her, and told her I stopped recording already. She was like “Chris!!!” :fp: For the handshake, I told her I had a lot of fun at the Team KII show back in April. She was like “Oh, that’s right, you were at a show!” She thanked me continuously as I made my way out the exit, I would be turning around to see her in just a little while anyway…

Slot 8

Matsumura Kaori (Lane 80) I normally don’t stay for Slot 8, but since Kaotan and Bibian were both late slots only, I decided to stick it out. I also was interested in winning the 2-shot selfie they were both offering. I queued up early for Kaotan, and was fourth in line. Upon check in, the first three people ALL won the 2-shot. Damn, I knew what was coming. I pressed the button…Not A Winner! Oh well, I won in the previous slot. We queued up and waited for Kaotan, who I knew would be late since her previous slot went almost to 8pm. In the meantime…

I forgot to mention earlier, that Kaotan and Tani’s lanes were right next to the ‘handicapped lane’. It was the first time I got a really good look at how they run things in those lanes. In fact, a couple of my Wasa-fan friends use those lanes at AKB events. It’s neat how they set up an itinerary for the girls to come over and see these fans. There is also quite a bit of camaraderie among the fans that use those lanes too. Oh, and the main guard running the SKE handicapped lane was so cute! And she was great, she had wonderful demeanor, and of course she knew sign language, which I’m sure is a prerequisite since many of the fans that use those lanes are hearing impaired. I think the hardest part of the job is trying to arrange the popular members, who have very big queues. Not surprisingly, many of these fans also have tickets for girls like Jurina, Sasshi, and Sayanee. So it is quite the challenge. I saw Jurina over there a couple of times, as well as Masanya, Ryoha, Kanon, Ego, and Dasu. Anyway, back to Kaotan…

Eventually she came out. The funny thing was that none of the fans seemed to know how to take a selfie. They didn’t now how to reverse their camera, or how to position it. Kaotan would have to show em how to do it. Anyway, it was my turn, and Kaotan was very apologetic that I didn’t win. But I told her that I got my extension, and I would be living in Japan quite a bit longer. She got very excited, and asked me if I would continue to live in Itabashi. Wow, she still remembers exactly where I live, LOL. I told her I would be seeing her in a couple of weeks, and was off to use my final ticket…

Murakawa Bibian (Lane 13) I went all the way across, back to the other side of the hall. Bibian’s lane was relatively short, and BOOM, I won the 2-shot. It was only a couple of minutes until I made it to the front of the queue. But like the fans in Kaotan’s lane, I am also a bit of a novice when it comes to taking selfies. I positioned the camera as best I could, and kept asking Bibian if it looked okay, then I finally took the shot. Ladies and gentlemen, behold the WORST 2-shot selfie in history…

LOLZ. I love my famous “trying to balance the camera and hit the button” look, coupled with Bibian’s “photobombing” from the bottom right. On the other hand, it is moments like these that make the events even more memorable. So it’s all good. Since I won the 2-shot, I barely had time to say hello, cool poster, and thank you to Bibian before I was pushed out. And that was it, I was done for the day.

As much as I say that I don’t really care about the special prizes they now offer, they do add a bit of excitement to the events, even if in some cases they can cause lanes to get backed up. At the end of the day I didn’t have to eat any tickets. Makes me wish I had a few more tickets for two weeks from now. But what I am really looking forward to is the new SKE release, since I prefer the SKE and HKT exclusive events anyway.

CK in Tokyo

Iwasa Misaki Catching Up With Wasamin Part Two…DVD Release Events (May/June 2017)

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In May, Wasamin fans were treated to the release of her 2nd concert DVD/BluRay, which would come out on the 17th.  Prior to that there were various ‘pre-order’ events, since Wasamin is always making public appearances.  She’s the busiest girl in show business! LOL.  But before I get into that, a little show and tell.  A few weeks ago I got a mysterious package in the mail from Tokuma Records.  Now I am keenly aware that when I see Tokuma on the return address, it probably has something to do with Wasamin.  Anyway, I opened it to find this…

That is our group pic from the Wasamin BBQ party a couple of months ago.  Neat, huh?  Now I know what you are thinking, quite the ‘sausage fest’  Yeah, it was odd.  As I mentioned on my blog post about the party, they had two seatings for the BBQ party, and for some reason they put ALL of the female winners in the early seating.  On the other hand, we were told that the girls didn’t eat very much, which is why there was such an abundance of food for our afternoon event.  Oh, and I forgot to post this on the blog before, but this is the second ‘Team Picture’ I received from Wasamin.  The first one was from the Bus Tour, and it came with a really nice commemorative card…

Anyway, back to the Concert DVD events.  As I mentioned, Wasamin did a few pre-order events for the DVD, and they weren’t limited to in-store events.  You could also pre-order it at her ‘Love Live’ Acoustic Concert.  The big benefit was that you would get a cheki and a photo for buying the DVD.  On the other hand, it isn’t cheap.  The DVD is 5000 yen, while the BluRay is 6000 yen.  Luckily, you could also get a handshake from buying copies of Saba Kaido, so I wasn’t always buying the concert.  All told, I ended up with 6 copies of the concert (4 DVD, 2 BluRay)  Three of those I bought during pre-orders, and three I purchased during release week.  Speaking of release week…

Wasamin would be doing six appearances during release week.  Five in Tokyo, and one in Osaka.  I ultimately ended up attending four of the six events, although I was late to two of them.  One of them I missed the performance entirely, and only made it for the meet and greet.  That was the evening that I also went to the Tomochin single release event, which I posted on this blog a couple of weeks ago.

For the actual release day event, Wasamin performed at HMV Shibuya, which is slowly becoming a popular place for pop artists to appear.  Just a couple of days ago I posted about seeing Chaki and YUSA here.  I have also seen FES☆TIVE perform at HMV Shibuya.  It should also be noted that this is where Wasamin had release events for her fist album, and for her 4th single, Hatsuzake.  Only those were done outside in the square in front of the building.  This also happened to be the release day of AKB48’s Sousenkyo guidebook, so many of the Wasafans picked up a copy of that.  And I also picked up a copy of Aoba Hinari’s photobook, since this was one of the few shops that was carrying it.

The cool thing was that Wasamin was promoting the DVD release by singing songs from her concert.  So we were hearing some of these performances for only the second time.  And of course since it was release day, I picked up a copy of the DVD.  I wanted to watch it that night anyway, and I hadn’t received my pre-orders yet.

Thursday was an off day for Wasamin, but she appeared at Tower Kinshicho on Friday night.  However, this was the event I essentially missed because of the Tomochin event.  I tried to make it to hear some of the performance, but I had never been to this store before, and got temporarily lost trying to find it.  By the time I found the mall and the store, I could hear the last few notes of Saba Kaido and the Wasafans cheering in the distance.  Oh well.  At least I was in time to visit with Wasamin.  But since I was totally sweaty from running around, I chose to skip the Shamekai.

Wasamin would be making two appearances on Saturday.  The first would be in the morning out in Machida, which is in Western Tokyo.  I woke up feeling a bit fatigued, so I decided to skip making the long trip.  Instead I would just go to the evening event in Asakusa.  However, I ended up falling asleep in the afternoon, and waking up very late.  I cleaned myself up as quickly as I could, and headed out to Asakusa.  I was going to be a bit late.  The other issue was that Asakusa was celebrating Sanja Matsuri, so that could make getting to the venue from the subway even more complicated.  I made it to Yoro-do, where Wasamin has appeared many times.  All of the employees know me there, so they helped me make a quick purchase, and get upstairs to watch the rest of the show.  Wasamin was just starting her third song when I got to my spot in the back.  But I was happy I made it.

Since I was in the back, I was actually the first person to do a Shamekai with Wasamin.  I apologized for being late, and told her that I wasn’t feeling well that day, but I really wanted to see her.  She asked me what was wrong, and I essentially told her that I had a very bad headache all day.  I also told her I wanted to check out Sanja Matsuri, which was taking place outside.  Anyway, she told me to feel better.  And I immediately did since when I pulled my bonus photo, I got this!

An autographed picture.  These are not easy to win!  So it is nice to be lucky once in a while.  Wasamin’s manager congratulated me, and I was on my way.  In the meantime I took some photos and a video of the festivities outside.  I recorded a short video too of part of the procession making its way past Yoro-do, where Wasamin’s event was going on.

 

It was a lot of fun, and there was tons of great food.  Unfortunately I also felt slightly queasy, so I didn’t eat anything.  I just looked around, and then went home.

On Sunday Wasamin did her promotional appearance in Osaka, and then came back for one last appearance in Urawa, Saitama.  This is becoming a regular stop for Wasamin’s live appearances, which is nice because it isn’t very far from where I live.  In fact, she performed there again this past week.  But on this particular day I had a class Monday evening, so I would need to rush if I was going to make it from Shinjuku to Urawa in under an hour.  In fact, I had around 20 minutes to get from my classroom in Sanchome, on to the Shonan-Shinjuku Line at Shinjuku Station.  It was doable if I hustled.  Which I did, and I made it, by about 3 minutes.  Unfortunately, this train is packed like a sardine can during rush hour, not to mention I was sweaty from the brisk walk, but I would bear with it for the 34 minute ride.

I made it to Urawa around 12 minutes before the event, which would give me time to quickly dry myself off.  I bought one last copy of the BluRay, and watched the event from the back.  Once again, Wasamin was wearing an extremely cute Summer dress.  I waited for a little while before queueing up for my shamekai.

This was the interaction that I asked Wasamin about the Karaoke party, which I mentioned on the previous post.  I asked her if I would have to sing at the event, and her cryptic answer was something to the effect of “If you would like to, it would be good.”  LOL.

This was also the first time I had spoken to her since the announcement that she was performing in San Francisco.  Wasamin knows that I am from California, so she asked me if I would be flying back to the States for the event.  The truth is I really want to,  I really do.  I would be so proud to see her perform in California with a bunch of my friends there.  However, do to my schedule, it is going to be next to impossible to make the trip.  However, there is a silver lining to this, since the reason I cannot attend has to to with the fact that I was able to extend my stay in Japan through the end of 2019.  Considering that, it is a good trade-off.  So Wasamin may be disappointed that I can’t go, but she is happy that she’s got me in Japan for AT LEAST another 2 1/2 years.

And that was the end of Wasamin’s DVD promotion.  As I mentioned above, she made another appearance at Tower Urawa this past Monday, which I attended.  However, it was considered a Saba Kaido event, so there were so Shamekai offered.  But it was good to see her perform one more time before she embarks on her two week trip to Osaka to appear in a play.  I still don’t have a ticket to that yet since I procrastinated, and now I am scrambling to find a ticket since they ended the online ticket sales.  I’m not sure if I can get a ticket at the box office, or by some other means.  But hopefully I will be able to go.

Oh, and for those who haven’t purchased Wasamin’s concert DVD yet, be sure and check it out!  It is every bit as good as I remembered.  The portion of the show where she roams the audience is awesome, and it has a couple of very nice VTRs.  One is about her journey learning to play the guitar, and the other is a look back at her year since graduating from AKB.  Definitely worth the purchase!

CK in Tokyo

Iwasa Misaki Catching Up With Wasamin Part One…The Saba Kaido Karaoke Party at Big Echo Ikebukuro (2017/05/28)

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Wow, has it really been almost a month since I last did a Wasamin post on this blog?

It’s not that I haven’t been seeing her over the last month.  In fact, she released her second concert DVD, so there were those festivities.  It was just that I had planned on reporting about the DVD release in one big post,  However, I got kinda busy, then got backed up on event reports, and there ya go.  So this is better late than never.  I will start by doing a brief report about the special ‘invitation only’ event I attended two weekends ago…

Wasamin Karaoke Party! at Big Echo, Ikebukuro (2017/05/28)

This was one of the two big prizes you could win if you mailed in the contest entries contained in the Saba Kaido singles.  The Grand Prize was a “Saba Party”, which was held the week prior.  It turned out to be a Saba tasting party at a very nice Saba restaurant in Tokyo.  Only a few people got to win that prize, and unfortunately I was not one of them.  But I did win the other big prize, and that was a Karaoke party…

There were two Karaoke sessions planned, and 30 people won for each session.  It was held in the basement party area of one of the big Karaoke chains in Tokyo.  What a Wasamin Karaoke party would consist of, I wasn’t sure.  But she has held these after every single release, and the other Wasafans told me it was fun.  Since I wasn’t sure, I asked Wasamin about it at her event in Urawa a few days before.  Specifically, I asked her if I would be doing any singing at the event.  Her cryptic response did not shed any light on it…

“Do you want to sing?  Do you?  If you want to sing, it will be good!”


T
he Shamekai I took with Wasamin in Urawa, moments before we would have that cryptic convo

Obviously Wasamin’s response still left me in the dark, but no matter.  I had actually been to a Karaoke party with friends just a couple of weeks prior, so I was kinda brushed up on my Karaoke skills.  Personally, I am a mediocre singer.  Not horrible, but nobody is ever going to sign me to a singing contract.  On the other hand, I am not uptight about it.  I am perfectly willing to sing badly in front of people.  So no real worries.

I was running slightly late, but I don’t live far from Ikebukuro.  I got to Big Echo just a few minutes before doors opened, and the Wasafans were queued down the sidewalk.  I was second to last in line, so I assumed I wouldn’t have too good a spot.  We were lead in via an elevator, five at a time.  When I got downstairs I scanned the room, four long tables that sat eight each.  The two tables in the middle were pretty much filled, the table in the back was empty, but the table in front had a few open spots, including the first seat, so I took it.  This was like having front row center, cool!  Saso-san, and Yamaue-san, two of Wasamin’s assistants, informed us that we would have unlimited Orange Juice and Oolong Tea during the event, which would be around 60-90 minutes.  They also provided us with tambourines and maracas to use during the performances.

Wasamin came out in a cute little summer dress, and congratulated us for winning the event.  Meanwhile Saso-san queued up the first song,  Watashi no Kare wa Hidarikiki, which is a song she has performed quite a bit lately since she debuted it at her second concert.  She also sang Blue Light Yokohama, and another song I did not recognize.  After that it was time for audience participation.  We were going to be able to sing duets with Wasamin.  Well, some of us were…

Wasamin asked if anyone wanted to sing a duet with her.  Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly, around 90% of the room raised their hand.  They had only allotted around three songs for people to sing duets, so we would have to decide by Janken.  The winners would also receive a set of signed clear files from all of her singles.  I was in a bit of a quandary, since the only rule was that whatever song we chose, Wasamin had to know it, and agree to sing it.  I am fine with singing Karaoke in English, but Japanese is another story, and Wasamin had already sang the song I know most of the lyrics to.  But hell, this was the chance of a lifetime, I would try to win, and worry about what to sing if the situation arose.  Unfortunately, I was not one of the lucky winners.  Oh well.  But the people who did win, all sang pretty well.  So kudos to them!

Next was time for requests, which was again decided by Janken since most of the room wanted to request something.  I couldn’t think of anything in particular that I wanted to hear, so I did not participate.  The first guy who won was an 85-year old fan who requested Saba Kaido.  Ehhhhh?  Wasamin was like “you know I am going to sing that at the end”  But he didn’t care.  He insisted that was his request.  Okay then.  The next guy requested Kanpeki Guu no ne, from Watarirouka Hashiritai, which also inspired a round of “eeehhhh” from the audience.  I mean the guy could have at least requested a WH7 song, right?  The next guy requested AKB48 Team K’s “Saka Agari”, now the fans and Wasamin are like “WTF???”  She was like, “Are you guys the 48-fan group?”  Oh, and although Wasamin has performed this song before, she completely forgot the lyrics, so it ended up being a bunch of mumbling and the chorus.  After the second verse, she was like “Okay, enough of that!” and stopped the song, LOL.  Mercifully, the last person chose an enka song for her.

Wasamin would perform one more song, Saba Kaido (again), before she thanked everyone for coming.  It was also announced that we would get to take a cheki with her, and get a small present, which turned out to be rice crackers with Wasamin’s name and Saba Kaido written on them.

Since I was in front at the first table, I ended up being the second person to take a cheki.  The idea was that we would pose with microphones like we were singing a duet.  Wasamin handed me the microphone, and I immediately started singing the chorus to Saba Kaido.  Wasamin was like “Wait, do that again”  At that moment she flipped on our mics and we sang Saba Kaido, well, just a couple of lines of it.  So now I can (sorta) say I did a duet with her too.  Anyway, we took the cheki, I thanked Wasamin, and I was in the elevator.

It was a fun event.  It went by kind of quickly, but it was neat to be in that casual setting with Wasamin, just foolin’ around and singing Karaoke.  I would definitely do it again, and hopefully I would get a chance to sing a proper duet with her.

Oh, and I was going to make this a dual-report post, but this is running kinda long, so I will talk about the DVD release on my next post.

CK in Tokyo

Concerts, FES☆TIVE, KissBee FES☆TIVE, KissBee, and a BIG Surprise at Shinjuku ReNY Super Live (2017/06/08)

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Continuing an extremely busy week, I headed over to Shinjuku ReNY to check out Idol Super Live Vol. 19, which featured over twenty different idol groups.  As I have mentioned before on this blog, I usually only go to these types of shows when there are AT LEAST two different groups I like, since the admission is not cheap.  This way I feel like I am getting more value for my ‘idol dollar’, even if ultimately I am going to spend more to get the benefits for each group.  This particular show would be featuring two idol groups that I really like, FES☆TIVE and KissBee.  So this was perfect, two groups.

I have been following FES☆TIVE for two years now, ever since I saw them for the first time at J-Pop Summit in San Francsico.  On the other hand, I am relatively new to KissBee.  This was only the third time I would be seeing them, and the second time was just a few days ago.  The two groups were scheduled an hour apart from one another, which was perfect.  I would see KissBee at 7:10, and then visit their booth for handshakes and 2-shots.  After that I would go see FES☆TIVE and do the same thing.  The only issue was that I finished with my part-time job at 2:30, so I would have 3-4 hours to kill before the show.  But no matter, I can easily find ways to waste a few hours.  After going to Dotour for coffee, Excelssior Cafe for Tea, and The Hub for a quick snack and cocktail, I headed over to the show.  I would get there a bit early to get my bearings before KissBee started their set.  However, I was not aware that there was another idol there who I have a bit of history with.

ReNY is a pretty cool venue, and it does A LOT of idol shows.  Their stage and sound system is great.  On the other hand, the lobby where the groups do the post show benefits is very small, and there are usually around five groups selling stuff at any given time.  It makes for some pretty tight quarters.  I showed the ticket taker my reservation, (which also got me a 500 yen discount)  paid for my prerequisite drink ticket, and I was in.  I would first check out which groups would be at which tables.  As I passed through the entrance there was a group immediately to the left doing signed chekis and handshakes.  As I passed them I caught a glimpse of one member taking a selfie with a fan.  Jeez, she looks sort of familiar.  I turned to get a better look.  Our eyes met and she smiled at me.  It had been over a year, but I was pretty sure I knew this girl.  So I asked the group’s manager (in Japanese) how much a signed cheki cost.  He tried to answer me in English (one-hundred yen) which I knew was wrong, he switched to Japanese at that point.  I then asked him the name of the blonde girl on the left.  He immediately responded “Yuki…..” and I finished his sentence….

“Himeri!!!!!!!”  I was right!!!

Yuki Himeri is a former member of Alice Project who graduated over a year ago.  Araki Himeri, as she was known in A.P., was my favorite member, and her departure is the reason  I no longer go to P.A.R.M.S.  I started following her new twitter, and knew that she had been doing some gravure modeling.  I was also aware that she had recently joined an idol group.  However, I had no idea that they were at this show.  I paid for my cheki, and waited my turn.  The manager called to Himeri, and she came bouncing over in the exact same fashion she used to when I would see her at P.A.R.M.S., as she loudly exclaimed “Kurisuuuuuuuuu!!!!!!!!!”

The manager gave us a ton of time to chat, and we spent that time catching up.  I told her how much I had missed her, and I had hoped to see her again one day.  I also told her about some of the changes in my life since we last met.  I didn’t see her group actually perform.  Their name is “Nopuran” (No Plan)  She actually asked which group I was there to see.  However, for the most part we just kept squeeing at one another and flirting while she did a major number on the cheki.

Himeri then offered to take a selfie with me as a free extra bonus.  Of course I accepted, although I wasn’t sure if it was free or not.  But I figured even if she asked for another thousand yen it would be worth it.  My time was finally up, and we parted ways.   But I was soooo happy.  I really liked Himeri, and I did miss her since she was always so much fun and always made a big deal out of it when I came to see her.  And by the way, she looks really hawt with the blonde hair.

I headed deeper into the lobby, passing idol groups looking to attract customers.  I was admiring my Himeri cheki when a random guy came over.  “You are here to see KissBee?”  It turned out he was also at the Venue Fort show I went to last weekend, and he saw me there.  He is also a fan of Tanifuji Misaki, just like me.  I  got a few nods from some of the other KissBee fans after we went into the actual hall, so I guess a few of their fans noticed me on Sunday.  But before KissBee came on I watched a group called Diamond Luffy, who were actually really talented.  Once their set was done I grabbed a good spot on the right side for the KissBee performance, which was three songs and an MC.  However, they performed my favorite song of theirs.  I’m not sure of the title, I just call it the “Love Me Kiss Me Chupa Chupa” song.  I got a quick smile and wave from Misaki-chan after the third song.  Afterwards I immediately went out to do handshakes, 2-shots and whatnot.

They started with a free high touch, which I was happy about since it gave me a chance to quickly talk to a couple of the other members that I like.  First of all Sakura, who is always “liking” my tweets when I mention KissBee, then Rena, who I would probably call my 2nd favorite of the group.  Anyway, I thanked Sakura for “liking” my twitter posts, and told Rena that she was awesome!  I got great reactions from both of them, especially because I addressed both of them by name.  Afterwards we lined up for individual benefits.  I chose to do a cheki and a shamekai.  While in line I was talking to the guy I met earlier,as well as another KissBee fan who was fluent in English. I had forgotten that their manager takes the chekis ‘sideways’, which I don’t love.  On the other hand, he takes the shamekai at a weird angle too.  However, they actually look kinda cool.  Misaki was excited that I came back to see them again, and I told her I was happy they sang the “Chupa Chupa” song again.  She also asked if I was American.  I told her I was from California, but I live in Itabashi now.  She laughed, “Oh, that’s right, you said it before!”  One of these days I need to tell her my name.  After our second interaction, it was almost time for the FES☆TIVE set, so I headed back into the hall.


My Misaki-chan Shamekai 

The hall was a lot more packed for FES☆TIVE, but I waded my way into the fan cheering area, and got as close to the stage as I could.  Unfortunately I got stuck behind this obnoxious group of kids that I see at every  FES☆TIVE show these days.  But whatever, I would just focus on cheering for Hinari.  By the way, most of the groups get about fifteen minutes to perform, but I guess FES☆TIVE  was considered a headliner, since they were one of the few groups who actually got a 30-minute set.  I had my orange glowsticks, so I managed to get Hinarin’s attention despite the fact that I was fairly far back.  One of the songs they performed was their second major single, “Kingyo no Kin-chan” which is a sing about a goldfish.  It is very cute.


Anyway, the show finally ended, so I headed out to grab a Hinarin cheki ticket.  The line for benefits got really huge, going across two other booths with some less popular idol groups.  One of those groups is called ‘Death Rabbits‘, and features three idols and a big dude in some kind of Stormtrooper outfit.  Outrageous!  In fact he came over to me and started talking to me for a few moments while the girls were waiting for customers.  I actually caught a few moments of their set since they were on right after KissBee.  My first reaction was “WTF?”  Also, while I was waiting in line for Hinari all of the members of KissBee walked right by me as they headed out of the club, and I got waves and reactions from all of them…especially Misaki.  My turn to see Hinari eventually came.  And she had something she wanted to tell me…


Death Rabbits (or is it Desu Rabbits?) LOLZ

After greeting me and thanking me for coming, she asked me if I went to the Wasamin event with Matsui Sakiko on Sunday.  (Hinari knows I oshi Wasamin)  Apparently Hinari was there and saw it, although I didn’t understand what the circumstances were.  Hmmm, I wonder if they spoke, and if my name was mentioned?  Anyway, I told her that I didn’t go as I had plans with a friend that day.  (That is also the day I went to see KissBee, but I ‘conveniently’ left that part out)  But Hinari was excited to tell me that she saw Wasamin.  In the meantime I gave her the update on my Japan residential status, and I got a big “High Five”

I wasn’t going to deal with Hinari’s crazy line again, so I decided to just limit it to one cheki.  I had already spent plenty anyway when you consider admission, benefits for three groups (not to mention dinner and drinks)  Instead I went back into the hall since a group one of my friends kinda likes, Disdol was about to play.  However, when I got in there the groups were running very late.  So instead I watched El Float, who weren’t bad.  It was getting late though, so I decided not to stick around.

Needless to say it was a great night.  An idol-trifecta, if you will.  It made me think that I should go to see these idol showcases more often, especially at ReNY since it is a really nice venue, and it is very close to where I work and take classes.  Of course that is a dangerous thought, as far as my wallet is concerned.  So I will likely stick with my plan of only going to those shows when I can see two or more groups that I am interested in.  Unfortunately for my wallet my ‘stable’ of idol groups I am interested in is steadily growing, and now I have to add Nopuran to that list since Himeri is an active pop-idol once again….

Oh jeez!

CK in Tokyo

Concerts, New Release, Tokyo CLEARS Tokyo CLEARS New Single, ‘Heart Wash’ Release Events in Tokyo! (2017/06/06-07)

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Talk about ‘osashiburi’!  I consider Tokyo CLEARS to be one of my favorite idol groups, and yet I hadn’t seen them perform in almost nine months!  The last time was for their previous single release.  Now I check their performance schedule regularly, but I couldn’t find the time to see a show.  That all changed this week.  But before I get into the events, let me backtrack a bit and give you a bit of my history with this group, since I’m not sure if I have spoken about them much on this blog before.

A couple of years ago, my friend David, a former 48-group fan who had gone the ‘indie-idol’ route, was trying to get me visit P.A.R.M.S., the home theater of Alice Project.  I was originally resistant, but eventually acquiesced since he came to a couple of Wasamin events with me.  I didn’t exactly love Alice Project, but it did plant the seed for me to start paying more attention to the indie idol scene.  A few months later I went to see an Alice Project show, and they had a few guest idol groups on the bill.  This wasn’t the first time I had been there where they had done that, and usually the groups that played there didn’t impress me that much.  However, one night I caught this one group, and one girl in particular caught my eye.  Short, reddish-brown hair, really cute, but with this ‘devilish’ expression on her face, and a certain twinkle in her eye.  I was immediately drawn to her, and began watching her intently on the stage.  It didn’t take long for her to notice me watching her, and she immediately started gesturing to me.  Smiling, waving, winking.  She just hooked me right in.  That girl was Sawabe Rion, and the group was Tokyo CLEARS.

When I finally met her, she was really nice.  Down to earth, mature, and a lot of fun.  I later learned that not only was she a former Gravure Idol, but she was also a former member of Ebisu Muscats.  She was the perfect combination of sexiness and kawaii.  what I also loved was that I could talk to Rion about anything.  It wasn’t always idol-ly B.S.  It was almost like talking to a friend, or a peer.  Anyway, I made it a point to see CLEARS as often as I could.  And I did.  They were in my regular ‘rotation’ of groups a often saw.  However, last year I decided to cut down on my indie idol spending, especially since Wasamin was draining my wallet on a regular basis.  As a result, I failed to go seeCLEARS for the better part of a year.  I really felt bad about it too, and wondered if Rion felt like I had abandoned her.  But I really didn’t.  I was always planning to see them, I just never pulled the trigger.  However…

A week or so ago I noticed that CLEARS were releasing a new single.  BTW, I call them CLEARS because the group actually has branches all over Japan.  In addition to Tokyo Clears, there’s Yokohama CLEARS, Gunma CLEARS, Kawagoe CLEARS, and a bunch more.  Oh, and the theme of the group is “Cleaning.”  One of their monthly events is to go clean up litter around Tokyo.  Yes, you can go out with the group and pick up trash with them.  Fun Tiems?  Anyway…

First Event at Sunshine City, Ikebukuro (2017/06/06)

They were doing two release events in Tokyo.  The first was on Tuesday in Ikebukuro.  However, I had already made plans with my friend Derek to have dinner with him.  I asked him if we could augment the plans, but he wouldn’t budge.  Oh well, I wasn’t going to break plans with a friend just to see an idol group.  I would just have to settle for the second show on Wednesday.  However, we ended up finishing dinner rather early.  If I hurried, I could make it to Ikebukuro and catch some of the event.  So with Derek’s blessing, I took off, and hustled to Sunshine City as fast as I could.

When I got to the venue, I was surprised to find out that the event was actually going to start a half hour late.  It was perfect!  I hadn’t missed anything!  I checked out the goods table.  The new single came in four versions, and with each copy you bought you got a member-specific meet and greet ticket.  They were also giving away the promotional poster for the single.  I grabbed a copy of each version, and got four Rion tickets.  I then took my place in the standing area.  It was just about showtime.

Tokyo CLEARS took the stage, and it took Rion all of about 10 seconds to spot me in the crowd.  She immediately lit up and started waving to me.  I was so happy!  They started with their new song, “Heart Wash” which I had never heard before.  It’s a cute song, and has a fun PV.  Here is a short version from the official Avex channel…

Eventually Tokyo CLEARS left the stage, while Gunma CLEARS, Yokohama CLEARS, and CLEARS Smile entered to further promote the single.  I actually took off to the bathroom at this point, and came back closer to the end when Rion came back on stage.  I was mainly there to see her anyway.  Eventually the show ended, and it was time for benefits.

 

Tokyo CLEARS is the flagship group, and had the longest line by far.  I immediately queued up, and decided I would do a signed cheki with Rion.  She had a big smile on her face as she reached out to me with both hands.  “I’m so happy to see you again!”  As she signed the cheki I was busy apologizing to her that I hadn’t seen her in so long, and that I had been going to far fewer idol events. (A ‘partial’ truth, as you know from reading this blog)  She said it was okay, and that she was happy that I was there now.  Anyway, I got my cheki, and I was happy.  I immediately went to re-queue.  However, I forgot to mention that there is another CLEARS member, Yamato Sayuri, who REALLY likes me, and is ALWAYS trying to fish me.  All of a sudden I felt bad for only getting Rion tickets.  I went back to the table to see if I could change one of my Rion tickets for a Sayuri ticket, which they allowed me to do.  I had a little plan anyway.  I could have both of them sign my poster, which was another benefit they were offering.

I came back to Rion, and asked her to sign the poster.  Somehow in the 5-10 minutes since the cheki she forgot how to spell my name, which is funny since she spelled it right on the cheki without even asking.  While she was signing, I also told her the news that I would be in Tokyo even longer than originally planned.  (I’m hoping to make it a permanent residence, but one step at a time)  She congratulated me, and asked me for details.  It was then I noticed that she was signing quite a lot of the poster, so I asked her to leave some space for Sayuri to sign as well.  Sayuri immediately came running over…”You are talking about me, Chris???”  Hahaha, Sayuri gets a bit jealous about my fawning over Rion.  I told her that I would be coming back around for her to sign the poster.  I got back to the front a few minutes later, and had Sayuri sign the poster.  I also apologized to her for not seeing them for so long.  It was then that she made me promise to come to the Wednesday night event.  Pinky out, “Yakusoku???’  Ummmmmm, okay fine!


(
Rion signed on the left (and bottom right), Sayuri on the right.  BTW, Rion is on the far left side of the poster, and Sayuri is just above her.)

And with that I was done, I waved goodbye to both Sayuri and Rion, and made my way to the bus stop to go home.  Oh, and when I read Rion’s blog that night, she mentioned seeing a fan she hadn’t seen for quite a while.  Wow, that is actually the second time she has referenced me on her blog!

Second Event at Naka-Meguro Club TRY (2017/06/07)

After a long day, I made it over to Meguro in the afternoon.  Actually, I went to Ebisu first since it was early.  I decided to grab a couple of beers are Yebisu Brewery Museum, and hit Shake Shack for dinner.  After that I would walk over to Naka-Meguro, which was less than a kilometer away.  I eventually found the club, which was steps away from the station.  There was short queue, so I decided to line up early.  I’m glad I did, because there was actually seating for this show.  And since I was one of the first people in I could grab a front row seat!  I bought three more copies of the CD, got another poster, and three member tickets.  Two for Rion, and one for Sayuri.

The show started, only this time the other groups, Yokohama, Gunma, and Smile performed first.  I’m not a big fan of Gunma CLEARS, but the Yokohama girls are ALL cute.  There is one girl in Smile that I really like too.  But I wasn’t going to go crazy, especially since I was again, mainly there to see Rion.  Yokohama also sang my favorite CLEARS song, Kansha Fanfare.  Unfortunately the one girl who was trying to fish me was from Gunma CLEARS, and I kept trying to avoid her gaze.  “No, I don’t wanna be fished by you!”

The main group finally came out, and I immediately had Rion positioned about three feet in front of me.  Since I was in front I was getting the chance to interact with all of them, although I think they all know I am Rion’s.  Of course that never stops Sayuri, but was paying a lot of attention to me throughout the show.  Oh, and Tokyo CLEARS has a c/w on the Type-B version called Fuite Fuite, which IMO the best song of the release.  Rion is the center of it, too!

For my first ticket, I decided to visit Rion to have her sign one of my CDs, since they were offering that benefit for this event.  While she was signing I asked about the ‘Fuite’ song, and that was when she told me that it was a c/w for this release.  I was stoked, since that meant I could put it on my ipod.  I then re-queued for Sayuri to sign another version, and she promptly misspelled my name (forgot the H, a common mistake)  She managed to jam an H in there.  I reminded her that I kept my promise to show up to the event.  She was like, “You did, Thank you Chris!”  For my last visit with Rion, I decided I wanted a signed cheki, but I needed another ticket, so I broke down and bought one more copy, which gave me two complete sets of the single.  I suggested the “namida” pose (from Fuite Fuite).  While she signed she said something that really touched my heart…

I started by telling her how happy I was to see her two days in a row, and that I was really sorry I didn’t come for so long.  I just said I was busy, and the lat semester at school was quite difficult.  Her response was amazing.  She told me that she had noticed I wasn’t coming.  She went on to say she never forgot about me, and often wondered what I was doing.  I was floored when she said that.  Now I could be cynical and say that she is just saying that as a fishing tactic.  But I think I know her personality pretty well, and I don’t think she would just make that up.

Anyway, I was done, and my wallet was actually empty.  I had about 450 yen in change in my pocket, so it was time to go home.  Rion reminded me of why was so enamored with her to begin with.  Let’s hope it doesn’t take me so long to see her again.  In the meantime I have another idol show to go to tomorrow.  This has been a very busy week for me, idol-wise.  AKB48 16th Gen, Wasamin (still need to do that writeup), CLEARS x2, tomorrow FESTIVE and KissBee together in Shinjuku, then finally the AKB Shoot Sign event on Saturday, where I will get to play with Akiyoshi.  I think I will need a short idol break after this!

CK in Tokyo

Concerts, Hatakeyama Chisaki Chaki Live at HMV Shibuya…With a Very Special Guest! (2017/05/25)

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It was time for me to catch up with a few idols I have been neglecting over the past few months.  Granted, Chaki doesn’t perform nearly as often as some of these idol groups, but she does appear at least a couple of times every month.

These days I have become a bit more selective when it comes to these ‘Live House’ shows, since they are not cheap.  Not only that, the artist will certainly want to sell you CDs and other goods when you go.  You can pretty much count on dropping at least $60-$100 a show.  On the other hand, once in a while these groups will do ‘free’ lives, so you don’t have to pay the $25-$40 admission just to come through the door.  The other factor I consider is whether it is a ‘one-man live’, or a bunch of groups playing.  With a solo live you are going to see the group you like for at least 30 minutes, probably more.  When there is a bunch of groups on the bill, each one normally plays for only 10-15 minutes.  So I try to find shows with at least two different groups I like, to give me more bang for the buck.

Anyway, Chaki has been out promoting not only her latest single, which came out in January, but also a compilation CD which features her, along with a few other groups.  One of them happens to be Minyo Girls, which I have mentioned on this blog a few different times.  In fact, about a month ago Chaki AND Minyo Girls appeared together in Western Tokyo, but I was sick and chose not to go.  This particular show would be Chaki, and another singer named YUSA, who I had never heard of.  But no matter, I would go, buy a couple of CDs, and cheer for Chaki for a little while.


(
from Chaki’s Instagram)

I got to Shibuya a little early, and grabbed a couple drinks at The Hub before heading over to Modi, and HMV.  The last time I saw Chaki here she had a really small crowd.  I hoped that this night would be different.  As I got up to the 6th floor I heard Chaki rehearsing behind a curtain.  I looked around, and didn’t notice anyone that seemed to be waiting for the show.  That’s odd, it was only like 20 minutes before showtime.  I looked around for the table selling the products for the show, but there was only a small table with a few CDs on it, and some papers strewn about.  This was odd.  It almost felt like the show was an afterthought…

Eventually the curtains came up, and we were allowed to go into the live viewing area.  By ‘we’, I mean me and one other guy, since we were the only two there for the show.  As I stood there, I noticed this pretty girl over by the coffee bar looking at me.  Then I noticed she was standing next to Chaki.  The girl smiled, sorta pointed to me and said something to Chaki, which caused her to turn.  All of a sudden Chaki is waving, and trying to get my attention.  As a joke, I pretended not to recognize her, but she kept waving.  She then asked me if I came to see her?  Hahaha, why does she think I’m there, LOL.  The pretty girl she was with turned out to be YUSA.


(from Chaki’s Instagram)

It was curtain time, and the crowd had “ballooned” to about 5-6 people.  YUSA would be the first to perform.  YUSA is from Kochi Prefecture, and fashions her self as an R&B singer.  I loved her songs, despite the fact that I am not much of an R&B fan.  These were lest R&B style, and more like soft pop.  But they were very pretty, and she sang them very well.  The few people who were there weren’t too enthusiastic, so I decided to make up for it and I clapped, and responded to her audience interaction.  While this was going on Chaki actually came over and stood next to me.  I was watching the show together with Chaki!  It was like a date!  BTW, here is YUSA’s official PV…

 

YUSA set ended, and it was immediately Chaki’s turn.  Chaki did about a 20-30 minute set consisting mainly of songs from her album, ‘Chakiism’ , which I absolutely love and highly recommend.  She also performed her latest single, which is growing on me.  (TBH, I didn’t love it the first time I heard it,)  BTW, the crowd had grown to around 15-20 people when Chaki took the stage.  Also, she sounded GREAT!  I’m used to seeing idol shows, where the ‘singing’ can be less than stellar at times.  So it is always refreshing to see good singers once in a while.  Of course Wasamin always sounds amazing.  Anyway, after Chaki’s show ended, it was time for fan benefits, but there was one problem…

Remember the lonely table I mentioned above?  It was still in the same condition.  In fact people were milling around wondering how to buy the goods.  I decided to take a look at YUSA’s CD, which happened to be on the table.  When I picked it up, YUSA immediately came running over to me saying that if I buy it, I will get all sorts of benefits.  Well, I really liked the songs she sang, and they were ALL on this CD.  Okay, I’ll go for it.  I also figured out that you had to buy Chaki’s CD at the main register, and they were “preorder” items, since the store was out of stock on Chaki CDs.  So I made my purchases, and got my tickets, I was good to go…

(Oh, I went through a huge ordeal picking up my CDs the following week.  First they told me I had to go to a different store, then they said the event didn’t happen there, then they couldn’t find the CDs.  Twenty minutes and two managers later they finally found my order, LOL)

Chaki wasn’t ready to receive fans yet, so I decided to go see YUSA first.  She was sooooo gracious!  I hadn’t opened the CD yet, so she took the time to unwrap it and sign it, all the while asking me where I was from, how long I had lived in Tokyo.  She also asked me if I used SNS.  She was telling me that she had moved to Tokyo from a small town a couple years ago.  It was all very sweet.  I told her that I thought she sounded great, and I really liked her songs.  After she signed my CD, she signed a picture, and then we took a Shamekai.

Meanwhile, Chaki started talking to both of us, and she thanked me for supporting YUSA.  I told Chaki not to worry, and that I had tickets for her too since I bought the Sakura Girls compilation CD.  So she asked me if I wanted a signed Sakura Girls poster, and gestured me to come over to her.  However, she didn’t notice that a queue had already formed to see her.  I was ready to go back a queue up, but the fans were cool, and told me to go ahead.  I thanked her for singing so many songs from her album, and then told YUSA that Chaki’s album is one of my favorites.  I also apologized to her that I hadn’t seen her since December.  Anyway, I got my autographed poster, and I was done.  It was time to head home…

It is strange, Chaki seems to draw bigger crowds at clubs, than when she plays free ‘in-store’ lives.  I’m not sure why that is.  I do know that she has that ‘stamp card’ that gets you invited to a special party with Chaki, and they only stamp the card at paid venues.  That might be the motivating factor.  But I would love to see Chaki drawing more people.  She is so talented.  At the end of the day, I think I am better off biting the bullet and seeing her in some of these clubs, even if it means I have to pay admission to get in.

On the other hand YUSA was a really pleasant surprise.  She hasn’t been doing this for nearly as long, but she is a great singer.  I love her look too.  And she is a really nice girl.  She is someone I will keep my eye on in the future.  When I got home I immediately followed her twitter, and friended her on Facebook.  She accepted my request within a few minutes.  Yatta!

CK in Tokyo

 

 

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KissBee, New Release KissBee 6th Single Release Event & Mini-Live at Venus Fort, Odaiba (2017/06/04)

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Over the past couple of years I have been expanding my J-pop horizons and paying attention to artists beyond the 48-sphere.  I have mentioned being a fan of the idol group FESTIVE a few times on this blog, as well as Minyo Girls, Chaki (who actually is a former SDN48 member)  I also like a group called Tokyo CLEARS, and even spent some time last year going to P.A.R.M.S., the home of Alice Project.  I don’t get into new groups easily.  Usually there needs to be some kind of “spark” that needs to happen for me to proverbially “fall for” a group.  That spark actually occurred a few weeks ago, when I happened to be hanging out in Diver City.  Let me backtrack to the end of Golden Week….

I had gone to Odaiba since there were multiple festivals happening there simultaneously.  I had mainly gone for the Cinco de Mayo event, but there was also a German Beerfest, a Gyu-Fest, and a Hawaiian Festival all happening within walking distance from one another.  Additionally, Diver City had an Idol Stage set up, and I just happened to be walking by when a cute idol group was performing.  That idol group was KissBee…

They were wearing these cute, red, almost Christmas-like costumes, and were playing standard J-pop tunes.  I stopped to watch since I didn’t really have anything else to do at the moment.  I wanted to see if they would capture my interest.  As I scanned the girls on stage, one immediately caught my eye.  She was full of energy, dancing all over the stage.  She had a short-bob haircut, kinda like Maeda Atsuko, of Kodama Haruka from HKT48, and a cute little baby face.  I found myself zoned in on this one member, and at the end of their show, when they offered fans the opportunity to take pics, I mainly focused on her.  I was hooked, she got me.

the show ended, and I was thirsty, so I went to get something to drink.  However, I came back and they were still doing handshakes, cheki’s and other benefits.  I contemplated participating, and quickly looked the group up on the web to see if I could figure out the name of the member I liked.  Her name was Tanifuji Misaki.  MISAKI????  TANI???  Was it fate that this girl shared names with two idols I am a big fan of.  (Although she uses a different kanji for the “Mi” in Misaki)  However, before I knew it they were doing last call, and I didn’t get to participate.

A short time later I decided to head back home.  In the meantime, while on the train I posted a few of the photos I took onto Twitter, and linked the group, and Misaki.  And whaddya know, I started getting a ton of likes from quite a few of the group members.  This was too good!  I was already making a connection with them.  I wonder if they noticed me watching in the back?  I vowed to see them again if given the opportunity, and made a note to check their schedule.

Fast forward to one month later.  KissBee has done the occasional performance, but they usually conflicted with other plans I had.  I almost saw them last week in Shinjuku, but the friend I was with wanted to go to dinner instead.  However, last night I just happened to catch Misaki-chan retweeting their appearance scheduled for Sunday in Odaiba.  I didn’t have any plans all weekend, so this would be perfect.  I needed to head out to that area anyway since I had lunch plans with a friend from the U.S.

I made it out to Odaiba about an hour before the performance.  Actually, they had an early performance too, but it conflicted with my lunch plans.  It was my first time checking out Venus Fort.  Wow, what an awesome mall.  So beautiful.  It reminds me of the mall that connects to Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.  Eventually I found where the live would be taking place.  They had a table set up to buy CDs and other merchandise, so I asked them how the system worked.  From what I gathered you could get a 2-shot cheki with two tickets, and the girls do handshakes and sign stuff for one ticket.  I decided to buy three copies (there were five versions) of their new single “Labyrinth” so I would get a cheki, and one handshake/sign.  I also got a priority entry ticket for the event, I was #74.

Thirty minutes before the show I went to queue up.  It was strange, though.  There weren’t even close to 74 people queued up.  It was more like 30-40.  Moreover, NOBODY had a number over 50.  Eventually a guy showed up with a number in the mid-50s, but that was it.  Why the heck did they give me such a bad number?  It didn’t really matter though, I wasn’t trying to be in the front anyway.  So I basically waited for everyone to go in, and I went in last.  After that they opened the area to let anyone in to watch.  I shuffled back a little bit to let two cute, but petite girls get in front of me to have a better view.  The show started fifteen minutes later…

Misaki-chan is definitely one of the “centers” of this group.  She is in front quite often, and sings a lot of solo parts.  However, I would say most of the members are energetic.  Their songs are for the most part, medium-tempo idol tunes.  However, they had one up-tempo song song in particular that I absolutely loved.  It had a latin-beat to it, and the chorus went something like “Kiss me, chupa chupa, Love me, chupa chupa”  I still don’t know the name of the song though.  Ultimately they sang five songs, and did a couple of MCs.  The new single is a really nice song too.  Please give it a listen…

 

Like I said, the show ended with a photo-op, and then a high-touch session.  They had one brand new member who wasn’t in costume, but participated in the high-touch, and she probably gave me the best reaction.  However, Misaki gave a good one too.  After that it was on to benefits.  They started with a “Group Shot” where you take a photo with the whole group, and decide which member(s) are seated next to you in front.  I contemplated doing this, except 1) they use a large cheki camera, and those don’t fit into my cheki scrapbook, and 2) they cost four tickets, which was kinda steep.  I would stick to the original plan.

Next they announced 2-shot chekis  It was one queue, and when you got to the front you told the manager who you wanted to see.  The line was surprisingly short.  Of course I asked for Misaki, and she skipped over to get me.  In the meantime, I was telling her the story about Golden Week, and the twitter likes, and all the while she kept exclaiming how good my Japanese was.  I’m not sure if she remembers me from last month, but she kept laughing at the story.  In any case, my cheki was done, I shook her hand (she grabbed my hand with both of hers) and I headed off-stage.

Eventually it was time for the handshake/signings, and the girls formed their own individual queues for that.  I lined up again for Misaki.  I contemplated having her sign one of my CDs, but instead opted for her to sign my cheki.  The first thing she asked me was if I lived in Tokyo.  I told her yes, I live in Itabashi.  She kinda shrieked in a gleeful way.  Perhaps she lives nearby?  I then asked her which single the “Kiss Me, Love Me” song is on.  She said it wasn’t on any CD.  I gave her a little frown, and she told that meant I have to come and see them more often to hear it performed live.  I thanked her for the signed cheki, and she once again complimented my Japanese, and I was done.

On my way home I again tweeted a few photos from the event, and an hour later I got another “like” from Misaki.  It was a lot of fun, and I am really happy I went to see them.  I checked their schedule, and they are performing at Shinjuku Reny on Thursday.  FESTIVE will also be there, so I think I am going to make an appearance.  Perhaps I will make Hinari from FESTIVE a little jealous if she sees me hanging out with Misaki-chan.

Oh, and check out their official site: kissbee.net

CK in Tokyo

AKB48, Concerts Another Theater Win! AKB48 16th Gen Live at the AKB48 Theater! (2017/06/02)

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I’m still not used to this, since it had been so long.  But there it was, in my inbox.  “Congratulations, you have been elected!”  The even stranger thing was that it was a win via my Twin Pillars fan club membership, which I had NEVER won a theater show with ever before, and I have had a fan club membership for pretty much as long as they have existed.  But it was set.  No cancel machi this time, and no traveling to Nagoya.  I was seeing a show in Akihabara, and it was a 16th gen Kenkyuusei show, which was perfect since my current favorite AKB48 member is 16th Gen KKS Yamane Suzuha.  This would be my chance to see her performing up close, and perhaps find a few more promising newbies.

By the way, this would be my 33rd theater win, counting all theater shows from all groups.  It would also be my fourth Kenkyuusei show win.  In fact the last show I won at the Donki was a Kenkyuusei show, featuring the 14th and 15th gen.  The last few times at the theaters I have had pretty good luck drawing good seats.  I hoped my good fortune would continue.

I arrived at the theater around 20 minutes before the check-in deadline, after having a few cocktails at The Hub.  I wanted a higher entry number, since historically I have arrived early and gotten low numbers at the theater.  It wasn’t very crowded, and there wasn’t even a guard at the bottom of the escalators.  Once I got upstairs i noticed that the SKE Sousenkyo posters were all around the lobby, so I snapped a couple of quick photos of Tani, Mizuki, and Kaotan’s.  I paid for my ticket, and drew #96.  After I walked through the hall I noticed a bunch of Wasamin fans hanging out  They all seemed to be surprised that I won the show.  They were like “You like 16th Gen?  Who is your 16th gen oshi???”  When I told them Zunchan they pretty much unanimously said “Zunchan? Kawaii!!”  Yes, I know.  Anyway, I grabbed a plastic bag to place my stuff into for the metal detector, and waited for the lottery draw.

After the VIP, Enpou and Girls went in, it was time for the entrance lottery.  However, it seemed that the cancel machi people were the lucky ones on this night, and all the really high numbers were drawing in first.  So I wouldn’t be in the first couple of rows.  Oh well, I still felt good about my chances.  As more groups were drawing in, I began wondering how far in the back I would be, until finally “91-100” got called in.  We were 9th. (out of 24)  Okay, I probably still have a chance of finding a seat!

After going through the metal detector without incident, I quickly scanned the room to see what my prospects were.  I had three choices.  I could take a seat in the last couple of rows and see most of the stage, I could stand in the back and see most of the stage, but that would be far back, or I could grab a third row seat on the side, with a partially obstructed view due to the pillar.  I chose the 3rd row seat, despite the pillar, which blocked the entire left side of the stage.  On the other hand, I would be up close and personal with any girl on the right side of the stage, not to mention that stage wing that the girls occasionally dance on to.  I was almost next to it.  It was finally time for the show to start.

The 16th gen KKS stage is pretty much a Team A “Greatest Hits” stage, with various songs from all of the Team A stages.  But that didn’t really matter to me too much.  I really wanted to watch these girls perform.  Who would try to fish me?  Who would impress me?  Would Zunchan be as awesome as I thought she was the first time I saw her?  I will spare you the details of the main show, and stick mainly with my impressions of some of the members.

The member I was there to see…

Yamane Suzuha: She pretty much exceeded all of my expectations, and then some.  Although I was slightly disappointed that she didn’t spend as much time on the right side of the stage as I remembered. (Which BTW is why I chose to sit over there)  However, she is one of the better members when it comes to MCs.  She also did a flawless job singing the lead on “Koike” and doing the spoken parts.  She expressed herself very well.  My biggest surprise is when they did the mid-show costume change, and they came out in tartan skirts, with an untucked dress shirt and loose necktie.  Damn, Zunchan is not a skinny girl by any means.  Don’t get me wrong, I think she looked great.  But she does not have that traditional idol “skinny as a rail” look.  I was in awe of her hips and her waist.

I actually spent the entire show trying to get her attention whenever I had the chance.  And I finally got a sort of acknowledgement during the second half, where I seemed to catch her eye and she looked right at me for at least the next 5-10 seconds.  But the best was at the end, during “high wave”.  Zunchan was at the very end, and of all the members she gave me the biggest “kami-reaction” when she thanked me (in English) and I made a heart symbol for her.

The members that stood out to me (or just spent a lot of time on the right side)

Sato Minami: This “super-loli” is one that from the start of 16th gen I thought would be really popular.  I’m not sure if that has taken hold yet, but it was fun watching her try to perform with intensity.  She reminds me a lot of Yokoyama Yui from Team 8.  She isn’t the type I usually latch on to, she is too “baby-ish”  But she seemed to be in front of me quite often.

Yamauchi Mizuki: If I could pick a girl aside from Zunchan who I think has that “star potential” it would be Mizuki.  She looks really polished while performing, expresses herself nicely, and has a very pretty smile.  While I watched the stage I could tell many members needed a lot of work, but not Mizuki.  I think she is ready to be promoted to a regular team.

Homma Mai: There were two short-haired members who spent a lot of time in front of me (Umemoto Izumi being the other one) but Mai stood out as having the more commanding presence.  However, I didn’t notice her smiling that much.  It was like she was concentrating very hard on the performance.  On the other hand…

Yasuda Kana: always had a big, goofy grin on her face.  And she was one of the few members all night who seemed like they were making an effort to appeal to me in the audience.

Finally there was Kurosu Haruka, who spent a lot of time in front of me, and Nagatomo Ayami, who looks like AKB’s version of Tashima Meru.  I want to say I liked Asai Nanami too, but I can’t remember specifically why.  The rest either didn’t spend much time near me, or didn’t make much of an impression on me.  That includes Mutou Orin, who I didn’t really see until the end.  She’s not really my type of idol anyway.

I decided to push really hard for the encore, since I had a couple drinks in me, and I was in a slightly rambunctious mood.  The girls came out and performed River, and Sakura no Hanabiratachi, before finishing with the new single.  The members were wearing sashes with their names on them, and I made a mental note of every member who stood out for me so I could talk about it on this post.  I really lucked out with the high wave, as for some reason they made our row wait until almost the very end, and we were relatively close to the stage.  So I got to watch the members react to the fans for a long time.  Finally it was our turn.  The girls pretty much played it straight with me, although a few may have raised their eyebrows at the foreigner in the line.  Of course that all changed with the big reaction from Zunchan at the very end, which pretty much confirmed that I picked the “right girl” to root for from the get go.

And that was it, I was out the door.  I got my backpack out of my locker, and I was out of the Donki to meet a couple of friends for a nightcap.  At the end of the day, I am really happy I am occasionally winning shows again.  Hopefully that continues.  I have been a fan of this group since 2007, and it was the theater shows that got me hooked.  Without the theater shows, the group is just less interesting to me.  Maybe that isn’t so important anymore to the powers that be since the group has such a huge fanbase.  But to me, it is vastly important.  More than big concerts, more than 2-shot events.  It is the theater that originally set this group apart.

CK in Tokyo