Iwasa Misaki, Television Wasamin on NHK’s Utacon (2018/05/22)

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With your hosts Ogo Tomoko and Tanihara Shosuke

I love going to NHK’s TV show recordings when Wasamin performs. I have been to the NHK Kaiyou Concert a couple of times, as well as Music Japan quite a few years ago (where I saw SKE48, SDN48, Perfume, Kara, Speed, Ikimono Gakari, and NEWS, quite the lineup!) This time Wasamin was performing at Utacon, which is more of a mix of pop and traditional music. Tickets for these shows are usually relatively easy to get via the reseller shops, and they are generally pretty cheap. However, I didn’t have to worry about that this time around since one of the Wasafans had an extra ticket and asked if I wanted to come along. Score-a-rooni!

I had a little bit of trouble arranging when he wanted to meet me at the venue. At first he said 2pm, which I thought was really odd. Then he said 4pm, since according to him the show started at 6pm. Okay, I had nothing else to do on Tuesday except study Kanji, so I headed out to Harajuku and to NHK Hall, where he was waiting for me in front of the venue. I found it curious that it was kinda quiet around the hall, and when I looked at his ticket I saw that the show started at 7:15pm, not 6pm. Doors opened at 6:15pm. Why the heck were we here 2 1/2 hours before doors, and 3 1/2 hours before the show?

It turned out that it was his first NHK Hall show, so I guess he was under the impression the earlier you get there, the better off you are. As someone who has been to multiple NHK Hall shows before, I know from experience that this isn’t the case at all. In fact, the best ticket I ever got was when I showed up right as doors opened, and was far back in the queue. Anyhow, there was a small line already, which steadily got bigger as the hours rolled by. The front queue is under a bunch of trees, which was nice since Tokyo is currently experiencing a small heatwave. I spent most of the time playing Pokemon Go! while patiently waiting for 6pm to roll around. (LOL) Finally, at around 6:10, the queue began to move. We were among the first people to get into the venue. And when staff handed us our tickets, my expectations were realized, we got 3rd floor seats, albeit the first row of the third floor, so we at least had an unobstructed view. But you see? We were there 3 1/2 hours early to get nosebleed seats.

The theme of the show was a celebration of Tokyo in the 70’s and 80’s. So most of the songs would be Tokyo-centric. Among the cast were a few 70’s-80’s idols, and a few younger artists. In addition to Wasamin, the cast included…

E-Girls: who performed YMCA.
Hosokawa Takashi: has been on Kohaku 39 times since the mid-70s, and was in one of the famous Tora-san films. In fact they showed a clip from that movie. (I really want to see some of that film series! If you aren’t familiar, HKT48 did a send-up of it during their Spring Tour a couple years ago, with Akiyoshi playing Tora-san!)
Nagayama Yoko: an idol from the 80’s
Oginome Yoko: another 80’s idol
Miyama Hiroshi: A popular enka singer
Nishida Ai and Mori Konomi: who performed a duet.

There were a few other artists, but these were the most notable. Anyway, the director came out at 7:15 along with a few of his assistants, and they spent the 15 minute pre-show going over how the filming works, as well as a couple of key points where were would expected to do audience participation. We practiced our parts a few times before it was finally 7:30 and time for the show to begin….

I’ll spare you too many non-Wasamin related details. Basically the performers sang a bunch of songs related to Tokyo, inter-cut with video scenes of Tokyo in the 70’s and 80’s and old NHK Utacon clips. The main problem for us Wasafans was that aside from the short opening medley, Wasamin was largely absent for the first 2/3 of the concert. She was sitting in a gallery where the interviews take place, but she wasn’t involved in the conversation.


E-Girls

Probably the most awkward part of the show was the transition into E-Girls 2nd performance. Last week Saiji Hideki, who is well-known for his Japanese version of the Village People’s Y.M.C.A., passed away. They did a retrospective of his live on the VTR. It was extremely touching, and a couple people on stage started to tear up, especially Nagayama Yoko who was crying very hard. This directly transitioned into E-Girls, and going from such a depressing moment into such an upbeat and fun song was quite odd. If you have ever heard Casey Kasem’s infamous rant about a dog death dedication, this is exactly what I am referring to. As a former radio host, I am keenly aware of the importance of smooth transitions. This was quite the opposite.

 

Around 45 minutes or so in, it was finally Wasamin’s turn. What she did was kinda different. She and Fukuda Kohei, another performer, both narrated videos about different locales in Japan. Wasamin was talking about Sadogashima, which led into her performing Sado no Ondeko. They had an ‘Oni’ Taiko Drummer on stage too, which was kinda cool. But it was also kind of odd, since the theme of the show was about Tokyo, and most of the performers sang cover songs. Both Wasamin and Fukuda’s performances just seemed kind of tacked on. As cool as her performance was, I would have loved to hear her do something related to the show theme.


Oginome Yoko

Since it was a television show, it ended exactly on schedule. However, they do a couple more non-TV interviews after the show, and we get a couple more performances. Personally, I wanted to get out of there and have dinner, but we had to sit through the new singles of Nishida Ai, Mori Konomi, and Miyama Hiyoshi before our show actually ended.


Wasamin pulling faces with Nishida Ai

Ultimately it is fun to watch these shows being produced for a live presentation, the way the cameramen, directors, and staff work off-camera while the show is going on is just amazing. Granted, I didn’t enjoy this particular show as much because Wasamin was barely in it, but that won’t stop me from going to see these shows in the future if/when the opportunity presents itself. Anyway, I joined a group of Wasafans at a nearby izakaya for a post-show celebration. It was a long-ass day, and I need some rest.

CK in Tokyo

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Events, HKT48 HKT48 1st Album Shamekai Event at TOC Gotanda Messe (2018/05/20)

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This was the last in the series of both AKB48 and HKT48’s album shamekai events. Despite only having three usable tickets the first time around, I had a lot of fun during ‘Sports Day’ where the members wore sporty clothing and we took photos with sports themed backdrops. I was also really looking forward to seeing Yukachan again since it had been a while. I didn’t win a ticket for the Romeo and Juliet musical, and I had to oshimashi my Yukachan ticket at the 48-group event last week since she was out for the day (I used it on Yamauchi Suzuran) I also got the great news that Tomonaga Mio would be attending the event, and those of us who couldn’t use our Mio tickets last time could use them at this event as a makeup. That gave me five tickets in total to use.

TOC Gotanda Messe is similar to Tokyo Ryutsu Center in that it is extremely small compared to Pacifico, Makuhari, or Big Sight. And like Ryutsu Center, the lanes were spread out over two different rooms. Both rooms were relatively similar in size. The first room contained lanes 14-22, which were generally the girls who usually have shorter queues. It also had the entrance/bag check, information desks, and handicapped seating area. The far room had lanes 1-13, plus lane 23 which was the ‘Group Shamekai’ lane. I didn’t notice they had added this feature, and Yukachan’s group sold out before I tried to apply. In-between the two rooms was a large hallway, where they moved spillover queues, then the outside parking lot had food, goods, and photo trading. I got in before the 2nd slot started, and immediately queued for Yukachan…

Slot 2

Akiyoshi Yuka (Lane 19) “Otona Ressha”: While waiting in queue for Yukachan, Hokazono Hazuki’s lane already opened. Hazuki was wearing tight, black leather pants and a red leather jacket from the 10th single Platinum Girls B-side, and with her red hair she looked totally hawt. In fact, at one point she caught me checking her out and smiled at me. Meanwhile, Yukachan’s lane finally opened up. Great to see her out of her cast and without her legs covered. Plus, she was wearing the outfit of one of, if my my favorite 48-group songs of all time, cool! When I was third in queue I caught her eye and she smiled at me. Finally it was my turn. “Kurissuuuu” However I hadn’t even sat down yet and the guards were already yelling “pose, pose!” So we quickly did a heart pose.

I tried to say something to Yukachan but they were pushing me out withing a micro-second of me shaking her hand. Oh well, maybe I will get a chance to say something to her next time around.

I had loads of time, and wanted to get something to eat before the food queues got too long, so I went out through the hall and toward the food booths. Karaage, Gyu Bowls, and skewers. I still find it interesting that they offer skewers on sharp wooden sticks inside the venue. Nobody sees the irony in that? I got a Gyutan Bowl.

I also noticed that were selling the guidebook. After seeing the Yukachan photo from the book, it was pretty much a given I was going to buy it. Plus, I would get a bonus photo from buying at an event. Anyway, I went back into the venue to use my other Yukachan ticket…

Akiyoshi Yuka (Lane 19) <2nd ticket> This time I was determined to say something other than hello. The line was short, so I was to the front within a minute or two. Once again, the guards were yelling “pose, pose” and we did an usagi pose.

The guards were trying to push me out, but I managed to ask her about her performance in Romeo and Juliet. However, I think she assumed, based on my question, that I had seen the play, so she thanked me for seeing it. As I was being pushed out, I didn’t have the chance to correct her. That’s okay, if she assumes I saw it, that’s better for my fan cred, LOL. I turned back and she was still looking at me and smiling as I was collecting my bag, so I smiled and waved back to her one more time. I’ll have plenty of time to talk to her at the upcoming Jabaja handshake events, so no biggie.

I left Yukachan’s lane, and the was still around 5-10 minutes before the gates closed. I decided to get my makeup ticket done right then and there. I didn’t want to lose out on my chance later on (a wise move, as you will find out)

Tomonaga Mio (Lane 7) “Hitsuzenteki Koibito”: This was the only ticket I had for the ‘senbatsu room’ where most of the long queues were. I had checked earlier, and Mio’s queue was fairly long. When I returned it was somewhat shorter, as were the queues of most of the members, but it still extended outside the lane itself. The nice thing was since my ticket was a make-up from April, I could use it in any slot I wanted. I wanted to get it done ASAP just in case Mio bailed on the event at some point (which she later did!) Once again, it was extremely noticeable how quickly they were processing fans through the shamekai. In fact, the queue past check-in was getting shorter, despite the larger queue outside. They were taking 2-shots faster than they were checking people in, LOL. The gate had already closed by the time it was my turn. Mio was sitting with her legs covered in a blanket, much like Yukachan a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure what song her costume was from, but I thought all the pills affixed to her shirt were funny. She greeted me with an English “Hello” and I asked how she was doing. We quickly posed and took our shot.

Afterwards I thanked her for making it to the event while the guard was pulling me toward the exit, LOL. That beings me to the subject of time…

So the scuttlebutt around the venue was that all the lanes were being handled in much the same way. People were being rushed through the process. This especially pissed off people who had multiple tickets. As a result, people were complaining at the information booth, and I happen to agree with them. If you show up with 12 tickets, your entire experience shouldn’t take less than a minute, including the pics. What they were doing was rapidly taking the pics, then allowing 2-3 seconds for a handshake regardless of the amount of tickets you had. I only use one ticket at a time, so it didn’t affect me too much, but I get why some people were pissed off.

Anyway, I used this time to queue up and buy the guidebook, and got Ota Nao as my bonus pic. They were pretty much sold out of everything else I was interested in. I held up the photo as I walked through the traders, but since these were HKT fans, none of them were interested. I got the same “Nope!” look over and over. At one point someone asked who I was looking for, and when I said Akiyoshi they responded “Yeah, good luck!” In the meantime, I ran into Carey, who had purchased multiple books for the photos. He didn’t want the extra books, so he gave one to me. Shit, had I known that was going to happen I wouldn’t have wasted my time buying one! Anyway, on to the next 2-shot…

Slot 3

Sakaguchi Riko (Lane 15) “Shekarashika!” It had been a while since I had hung out with Rikopi, so I was looking forward to seeing her. I had to ask what costume this was, and when she said it was from her first senbatsu selection I was kinda surprised. I always think of the yankii uniforms they wear in the PV when I think of that song. Anyway, when it was my turn I got a big ‘hisashiburi’ greeting from Rikopi, she is always super genki at these events.

Once again, it was a rushed process. In fact, the guard took my phone and ran outside the booth with it trying to get me to chase him, LOL. Rikopi noticed my ticket holder, and asked who was on it as I was being led out, but I just smiled and waved to her.

I had over an hour until my last ticket, so I went back outside to the food and goods area. I had to maneuver my way past the spillover lines, which were taking up much of the space in the center hall all day. During each slot, the lines of Sakura, Mikurin, and Hana (yes, Hana!) stretched so long that they had to move them outside the room and to the hallway. Mio also had a relatively long queue since she was doing make-ups for multiple missed events, but her queue didn’t quite make it to the hallway. Part of the issue was that the queuing areas were so small, that even a medium sized line crated havoc for the guards, plus the waiting area outside the lanes was so tiny that there was hardly room for anyone to stand.

This also became an issue for my final handshake of the day. I had a similar issue at the first HKT shamekai. My last ticket was for Maichan, and her lane was in the hall of the ‘lesser popular’ members for some reason. Moreover, it was in the far corner furthest from the doorway to the hall. I tried to get over there early so I could get the jump on Maichan’s queue in the next slot, however Piichan was finishing up her last slot. Like last time, Piichan has this huge entourage of fans who want to do this big production when she finishes her last handshake. Rikopi’s fans also had a similar plan, so getting near those two lanes was almost impossible. Piichan’s fans did their thing, and they almost immediately re-opened the lane for pre-queueing…

Fuchigami Mai (Lane 14) “Sakura, Minna de Tabeta”: I managed to push my way through the mass of Piichan fans coming the other way and made it 4th in line to check-in. This also gave me a front row seat to the Rikopi fans’ festivities. That was fun. As I was 4th in line, this didn’t affect me, but I noticed that line for Maichan became insanely long and had a snaking queue outside the lane in the waiting area. If the lane were closer to the door, they surely would have put it out in the hall, but that wasn’t feasible. The guards kept trying to get us all to scrunch closer together to make more room in the line, it was getting ridiculous. Maichan was a few minutes late too, which didn’t help. Maichan looks cute in anything she wears, but she especially looks cute in the Sakura, Minna outfit.

There wasn’t much of an exchange between Maichan and I during the handshake, except as I was leaving she shouted “I love you, Matta ne!” while I was outside the queue. It was around 2:45, and I was done. I had a plan for the afternoon, but I stopped to chat with my friend Panda before I left the venue.

Postscript

So a couple of interesting things happened to me after the event. I headed to Shinjuku to hang out at the Oedo Beer Festival, and I still had on my HKT48 jersey and concert t-shirt. Every once in a while I would hear the name “Akiyoshi” being muttered from someone behind me. Then after I got to the beer festival, this girl grabbed me. She opened up my jersey. “HKT48, you like them???” “You are fan of Sashihara?” She was even more surprised when she found out I was a fan of Akiyoshi. This girl ended up hanging out with me for two hours talking about idols, LOL. Later on, my friend, a Sasshi fan, came over since he couldn’t use his Sasshi tickets, and we had a couple of brews.

The other funny thing was that I had earlier tweeted my Yukachan and Mio pics, and it was retweeted by a couple of Yukachan fans I know. However, by the evening I was getting a constant stream of Like and Retweet notifications that went well into the night, and is still happening sporadically today. So my Yukachan pic kinda went viral, LOL.

Today is my day of lounging around and doing nothing, but the rest of my week is kinda hectic. Tuesday: I have a ticket for NHK Utacon, Wasamin is performing,Wednesday: AKB48 Theater show, Thursday: FESTIVE single release event Friday: Keyaki Beer Festival Saitama, Saturday: AKB group Jabaja Handshake event, Sunday: Minyo Girls One-Man Live, then Wasamin 4th concert DVD release event. And that will end my 30 day vacation. It’s been fun!

CK in Tokyo

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NGT48 NGT48 3rd Single National Handshake Event at Makuhari Messe (2018/05/19)

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This is the second time I have ever been to an NGT exclusive event. The first time was their Zenkoku event for the 2nd single, and I mainly went to that one out of sheer coincidence, since both HKT and AKB were also doing events at Makuhari on the same day. Actually, I hadn’t planned on going to this event at all. However, my friend Derek asked me to keep him posted on when the next NGT48 event would be, and when I reminded him he just assumed we would be going to the event together. So technically my main motivation in going was merely to hang around with Derek, the event was secondary. That said, one never knows when a magical idol experience might occur. And today ultimately ended up being very special…

I resolved that if I was going to attend this event, I was going to limit myself to two tickets. However, after checking the lane assignments there were three lanes I was interested in…

Lane #4: Nishigata Marina/Kado Yuria. I met Marina at the first event I went to, and she was really sweet. So I kinda wanted to see her again.
Lane #10: Yamaguchi Maho/Yamada Noe. Noe tried to fish me hard at that first event, and she was coupled with Maho, who I wouldn’t mind meeting.
Lane #1: Ogino Yuka/Murakamo Fuka. My brief encounter with Ogiyuka at Horipro Fes was quite memorable, so I considered this lane as well.


Marina was a possible for my two tickets. Rika I wasn’t so keen on meeting this time.

As for which of those lanes I wouldn’t visit, I decided I would let the event determine. Let’s see if any of these girls grab my attention during the live. I met with Derek outside the train station, and we headed to the hall to purchase CDs and get tickets. We also happened to run into Paul again, so we decided to all hang out together during the live. That is, unless we got different section tickets, but we all got section B, so we were cool. We positioned ourselves on the far right side of the standing area, just in case the members walked around the hall, we would have a great view. Although I wasn’t sure this would take place at all since there was no bag or body check before the show. At 1pm the Overture started, and here’s the setlist…

Setlist
1. Haru wa Doko Kara Kuru no ka?
2. Midori to Mori no Undokouen
MC: Member intros
3. Ato de
4. Hansei Soda
5. Watcha Gonna Do
6. Kimi no Koto ga Suki Dakara
7. Jouhatsu Shita Suibun
8. Max Toki 315go

After the fifth song the NGT draftees came out and did their intros. I can’t really tell you which ones stood out for me, although a couple of them seemed extremely genki and outgoing, while a couple of them seemed more reserved. They were also playing a series of games, where a question was asked and everyone wrote their best answer. For example, “your favorite place in Niigata?” Most of the wrote the NGT Theater, although one member wrote “My room” and another wrote Niigata Eki, LOL. I thought the unit songs were kinda cute, although Watcha Gonna Do is quite fierce, and it was by far the loudest song of the set. At one point they asked who was seeing them for the first time, they also asked who was coming to their individual handshake event on Sunday. I heard a bunch of people muttering about the HKT Shamekai event, LOL. I mentioned to the three guys in front of me that I was also going to HKT, and we all started laughing. Oh, and there was another guy in front of me who smelled like a soiled diaper. I don’t know why I often find myself next to these guys. I wanted to move, however I had a really nice view from where I was standing, and didn’t want to give it up. But I was holding my towel over my face for quite a bit of the show.

They ended the show with their signature MaxToki, with all of the members roaming around the audience. They also had the plastic balls with personal messages to throw into the crowd. It seemed like all of the members kinda congregated in one general area, but then they spread out again, and only at the very end of the song did they start throwing the balls. All of a sudden I saw a ball coming in my general direction, but it was going to land a bit short of where I was standing. Then I watched it bounce, bounce, bounce until it hit me right in the chest…


Both sides of the ball, and a gift coaster from the fan in front of me who I think tipped it into my chest.

I jammed it into my pocket as fast as I could. I guess nobody really noticed that I caught it, as a few minutes later I pulled it back out of my pocket, and everyone around me kinda gasped. “Sugoi, you caught it!” I didn’t know who threw it to me, so the fans told me it was Tsugumin. To be honest, I had never noticed this girl before. But that all changed after catching that ball.

So now I had a big dilemma. There was no way I was going to miss the chance of meeting Tsugumin after catching her ball. The question was which ONE of the other three lanes would I visit? I eliminated the Ogiyuka lane right off the bat, since I have never considered myself her fan. I do like her however. It came down to which lane I thought I would have the most fun with. Derek and I re-queued for the handshake portion of the event (I don’t know where Paul disappeared to :( ) After going through security, I checked out Tsugumin’s Lane assignment to see who she was paired with. I also wanted to memorize their faces since I had never met either of them before, and if they looked any way similar I might mix them up.

(Lane #2) Oguma Tsugumi/Kusakabe Aina: I checked their official profiles. Oh look, Tsugumin’s birthday is one day apart from mine, neat! But crap, they have the exact same facial expression on their profile pic. It was just then that I happened to see one of the Wasafans come out of her lane, but he kinda disappeared before I could catch him. As I was standing outside the lane still trying to memorize the girls’ looks, he came back. So I jumped in the queue behind him and asked him if Tsugumin was on the right or the left. He told me she was first, on the right. But then he took it a step further…

I entered the booth, and the first thing Tsugumin says to me is “Kurisu!!! Omedetou!!!!” It turns out that not only did he tell the girls I caught the ball, but he also told them my name. So both Tsugumin and Aina yelling my name and congratulating me, and Aina eventually asked where I was originally from, so it was an awesome experience. I left the lane so happy!

I considered using my second ticket for looping their line. But I believe in ending on a high note, and I will definitely see Tsugumin again, so I decided to instead use my 2nd ticket on someone else…

 

(Lane #10) Yamaguchi Maho/Yamada Noe: I know Noepii is always like ‘shot out of a cannon’ from meeting her before, but Mahohon seemed like an intriguing member to meet, plus she was highly noticeable in Watcha Gonna Do. I entered the lane, and Maho kinda put her hand on her chin and smiled as I told her that I enjoyed her performance on the song. She winked at me, and then thanked me. Nice and subtle, unlike Noe. As expected, I was immediately greeted with a rapid fire of English, which I parroted back at her. Eventually I reminded her that me met at their last Tokyo event, it was just then that I got a good shove from the guard. BTW, Noepii looked MUCH cuter than the first time I met her. In fact, now I am wondering why I didn’t think she was that cute the first time I saw her. Oh well…

And those were my two tickets. I considered getting one more, as they were still selling CDs inside the venue. However, I purposely brought a small amount of cash so I wouldn’t overspend. Instead I took photos of the cardboard stands before leaving the venue, and running into another Stage48 user (Riina!)

Ultimately, I am very happy that I decided to go to this event, despite the fact that I have never really considered myself an NGT48 fan at all. Moreover, I have never really had a favorite member in NGT. But when Tsugumin’s ball found its way into my hands it honestly felt like a fated moment. Couple that with the extra special way she greeted me during the handshake, and BAM!

I have found my favorite NGT member.

CK in Tokyo

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Events, Iwasa Misaki The Iwasa Misaki Fan Club Bus Tour to Shizuoka (2018/05/16)

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I went back and revisited my post last year of Wasamin’s 2017 ‘Valentines Bus Tour’ just to remind myself of what an amazing time it was. Suffice it to say, I was really looking forward to this year’s edition. This year’s event kept with a tradition of moving further and further away from Central Tokyo. The first edition drove to various places around Tokyo, last year was the general Yokohama area, and this year we would be heading 75 miles Southwest of Central Tokyo, to Shizuoka. There we would be visiting the Mishima Sky Walk attraction, enjoying a fabulous lunch, Tea Picking, our traditional shrine visit, as well as all the fun during the bus ride. I’ll tell you right now, this year’s tour was even more special than last year’s, for numerous reasons.

I set two alarms since I didn’t want to oversleep and miss the event. Luckily, I was up at the crack of dawn, and out the door quite early. The event started at 8am in the bus parking lot at Tokyo Station. My first concern was which of the two buses I would be on, since last year I was on Bus #2, in the very back, and it felt like the 2nd bus kind of got a secondary experience. Luckily, I was on Bus #1 this time, albeit in the back row again. Although I had my section to myself, so I could stretch out. The buses were scheduled to leave at 8:30, but Wasamin was ‘fashionably’ a few minutes late. which amused most of the fans.

Bus Ride #1

Lucky Bus #1 got Wasamin on-board first. After a few introductions, where we were given a basic rundown of how the day would unfold, Wasamin had everyone in the bus introduce themselves, and then give some background of how they became a Wasafan, or why they are a fan now. There were 38 fans on each bus, so this took the better part of an hour. In fact, when we reached the mid-point rest area of the drive out, we still had five people left to do the introduction, including myself. (I was last) I essentially told the story about the first time seeing Wasamin perform in the theater in April 2009, and how special I thought she was even from that first encounter. Then I talked about meeting her in New York later that year, and that was how she became my oshimen. I know Wasamin remembers our New York meeting (she has mentioned that she does) but I don’t know if I had ever told her the theater show story before, and how I rushed back to the hotel to figure out who she was, LOL. Anyway, we were then given 15 minutes at the rest area to use the toilet, or whatever.

This was a lively rest area, to say the least. There were lots of food stalls selling melon pan, steamed buns, and meat skewers. Everyone lined up at the various booths to grab a snack, including Wasamin. Wasamin had two photographers filming her every move on this trip, so people at the rest stop began to notice. Everywhere I heard people muttering to one another. “She’s the Enka singer from AKB!” I was so proud of her. She looked so beautiful, and was catching the eye of everyone, yet she is hardly a diva, and is totally comfortable milling around with the fans, and everyone else.


Our one chance to see Mt. Fuji. No worries, I have seen it many many times.

We re-boarded the buses, this time with Wasamin on Bus #2, and proceeded 75 minutes to our next destination. For this part of the ride we were entertained with Wasamusic over the bus sound system.

Mishima Sky Walk

Mishima Sky Walk is essentially a 400 meter long walking bridge over a small valley on the opposite side of Lake Ashi from Hakone. It also provides beautiful views of Mount Fuji on a clear day, which unfortunately this wasn’t. Of course there are also food stalls and gift shops with local products. Wasamin handed each of us our tickets and guidebook, and we proceeded to the bridge entrance where we took a group shot, and then had a Wasamin photo session. The sessions were broken up into four groups, I was in the ‘kiro’ (yellow) group, which usually went second.

At this point I will mention that I kind of have a fear of heights, a concern I mentioned to Wasamin a couple weeks ago. In this case, it’s not that I feared the bridge falling down, it’s that I think I am somehow going to fall over the side. Ultimately, it ended up being quite the pleasant walk, despite the fact that the floor of the bridge was a metal grate, and you could see the valley below under your feet. Since it is a suspension bridge, it sways a bit too. There were a few fans that didn’t cross, and a few others that did, but were petrified the entire way. LOL.

Once across, Wasamin took some photos on the other side. There were food stalls here too, including a guy steam-roasting chestnuts. He saw our large group come across and immediately got to work steaming, but nobody went to his stall. Ultimately Kimura-san and I each bought a bag. Another feature of the Sky Walk is the ‘flower drop’ where you get a small wooden ‘flower’ disc and write a wish on it, then throw it over the side of the bridge. I bought a yellow one, (Wasamin’s color) wrote a small wish for myself, and a small message to Wasamin, and threw mine around mid-way, where the stream passed. When I threw it, it went into a really fast spin, and practically floated to the bottom of the valley, and I am pretty sure it landed in the water, which is what I was aiming for.

We were given discount coupons for the soft cream shop, so a lot of people lined up for that. The rest of us loaded back on to the bus for the next stop. While we were waiting, one of the fans told me he had an extra ticket for Wasamin’s Utacon performance next week, and invited me to come. SCORE! I was about to send a message out to the fans asking if anyone had an extra, so that worked out perfectly!

Soba Lunch

Wasamin was back on our bus for the ride to lunch, which took over 30 minutes to a town called Izunokuni, which is near Atami. The bus had a karaoke system, so Wasamin sang 2 songs for us along the way. First Tokyo no Bus Guide, and then Tegami (The song she sang at her most recent challenge stage) Much to Wasamin’s surprise, our bus guide had never heard the bus guide song before, LOL. The other nice thing was, Wasamin performed the 2nd song at the rear of the bus, so they were really focused on paying attention to everyone this time around.

So lunch…Actually, we were in more of a catering hall, which seems to be a regular stop for Tobu Top Tours, since we weren’t the only tour group there. We could essentially sit wherever we wanted for lunch, and our food was already set at the table, waiting for us to eat. I grabbed a spot at the end of the center table, which ended up being a primo seat later.

Cold soba, tempura, sushi, soup, veggies, and green tea jello. Quite the bounty, eh? The tempura was served with green tea/salt, which from what I understand is a popular local condiment. Everything was delicious, and we all finished rather quickly, which gave us time to go the local gift shop in the regular restaurant, where Wasamin was having lunch with staff. One of the fans, whose name I always forget, came out with an interesting looking bottle. What was it? Unagi Cola??? It has Unagi in it??? I had to try this, so I went inside and bought a bottle.

All the fans were crowding around me. “What is that? Unagi Cola? How does taste?” To be honest, it just tasted like cola. But it ultimately got me a lot of attention, so well worth the purchase. After that we headed inside the dining hall, where we would be getting an impromptu photo session with Wasamin…

 

I strategically placed my Unagi Cola bottle right at the edge of the table. The first person to notice it was the photographer, and then Ichikawa-san (Wasa-manager) who came over to take photos, ask what it tastes like, etc. Wasamin was moving from table to table, posing while asking us about lunch. I got awesome closeups since I was in the first seat. And, I got a special pose…

Yes, that Unagi Cola was a wise purchase indeed…

Tea Picking at Kuraya-Narusawa

A short ride away we arrived at the site of our tea-picking experience. Before leaving the bus we were given a bandanna, and a bag to collect tea leaves. This was also our chance to take 2-shots with Wasamin with her wearing her tea-picking outfit. The tea fields were up on a hill, and had a beautiful view of Fuji…on a clear day. Today was really hazy.


Looking thoroughly confused, not sure which leaves were the right ones…

They didn’t really give us much instruction on tea picking, so I kept asking everyone around me if I was picking correctly, and getting laughed at each time. People were like “What the heck are you picking?” and removing half the leaves from my bag. Ultimately people threw a bunch of handfuls in my bag. I guess I will make some tea with it eventually. To be honest, I was kind of distracted as I had noticed that the property also housed a microbrewery called Hansharo Beer. I was more excited to visit the gift shop than anything else. So I headed back down the hill.

Wow, I would have loved to buy just about everything in that store. They had just about everything tea or wasabi related imaginable. Tea tasting, green tea soft cream, and of course Hansharo Beer! Ultimately I picked up a 4-bottle variety pack, along with a few Wasabi related items. I really wanted to buy the fresh wasabi too, but their graters were kinda pricey, and I had already spent quite a bit, so I passed.

Mishima Taisha

Back to Mishima, where our last ‘event’ would be a visit to a traditional Shinto Shrine to pray for Wasamin and her fans. We did the same thing last year on the tour to Yokohama. Ya know, it is this moment, watching Wasamin praying, that I really get that at the end of the day she’s just a human being with hopes and dreams, just like the rest of us. Anyhow, it was a short ceremony, and we all got a small cup of sake at the end. After a few minutes where everyone bought fortunes and charms, we re-boarded the bus. BTW, my fortune was kinda mediocre. The fans I asked either said “slightly taihen” or “it’s okay” Anyway, I tied it to the wall just the same hoping that it will bring me good luck anyway.

The Ride Home

Once again, Wasamin split the ride home between Bus #1 and #2, we got the first leg. We had been running around 20 minutes late all day, so we would only have a short stop in Ebina for a toilet break, and for Wasamin to switch buses. For starters, Wasamin went around the bus asking various people what they thought of the trip. When she came to me, I told her that I was happy because I had a delicious lunch, bought a lot of omiyage, and got to be with Misaki-chan all day. She asked about the omiyage, and when I showed her the beer she said “You really like beer!” She was referring to the conversation we had a couple weeks ago, when I told her about going to a bunch of Golden Week beer festivals. Wasamin also mentioned to me that she had been reading my twitter updates on the trip all day. Afterwards, she was speaking to the woman who was also in the back of the bus, and sat down in the seat right next to me. My first reaction was to move in order to give her some space. But then I thought “What the heck am I doing? Wasamin sat her cute little booty right down next to me!” So I stayed right where I was.

Next was janken for prizes. She had 10 signed clear files with unique messages, plus a personally signed 2018 Calendar. Unfortunately I didn’t win, but I did come close on the second round of Clear Files, losing on the final round. Misaki-chan rounded out this leg of the trip with more karaoke. Unfortunately a lot of the songs we were requesting (including my request of Niji wo Watatte) weren’t in the system, so Wasamin ended up singing a lot of songs acappella. Finally, as we left the bus we were given a thank you card from Wasamin, as well as Wasa-chocolate (and a gift of green tea from the Tour Company)

For the rest of our bus tour, we were treated to a karaoke performance by our Bus Guide, who was a total doll. Bus #2 got an older guide, we got the cute, idol-level guide. Finally a few fans did Karaoke before we arrived in Tokyo. We all said our goodbyes outside Tokyo Station, and went our separate ways.


Our idol-caliber bus guide

Summary

Chalk it up to another incredible 10-hour experience with my favorite girl in the world. Everything about this event was an upgrade from last year. The bus rides were more evenly distributed, had more activities, and she paid attention to the people in the rear of the bus too. We had more interaction with Wasamin, more photo-ops, and it was a beautiful place to take a bus tour. Wasamin is a wonderful host, and it seemed as if she had as much fun on the tour as we did. I know I had a blast, and I look forward to whatever the next big event is.

Actually, my next ‘big’ Wasamin event is her karaoke party, which is in three weeks. But we also have Utacon next week, Wasamin’s DVD release weekend, and the concert at DMM VR Theater. So lots coming up!

CK in Tokyo

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AKB48, Events, SKE48 AKB48-Group 9th Album Shamekai Event at Pacifico Yokohama (2018/05/13)

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This was the last of the shamekai events for AKB48’s 9th Album. I chose to skip the three Golden Week events, figuring they would probably be more crowded. It also gave me a little more separation from the 1st event of the series, which took place in early April. My report on that one is around 11-posts ago.

The bummer was that my favorite member, Akiyoshi Yuka-chan, was going to be absent from this event because of her commitment to the Romeo and Juliet musical. They gave us the option of using it as a makeup during any of the Golden Week events, but I was not going to make the trip all the way out to Pacifico just for one ticket. Furthermore, I have two tickets for Yukachan at HKT’s shamekai event next weekend in Gotanda. So I will have a nice sob story to to tell her. Well, actually two, since I didn’t win for her play either. Anyway…

I had six tickets, plus an album jacket signing. I had at least one oshimashi to do, and the possibility of a second one came up during the event. My first ticket wasn’t until slot 4, so I came sauntering into the venue at 1:15pm, well rested, and ready to go.

Slot 4

Sakaki Miyu [CUCA] (Lane 28) At the April event, I managed to go 0-6 on winning the signed cheki and booklet. However, I knew I would be getting at least one today since Cuca-chan was an automatic win. I met with my friend David in front of the queue, shortly before the beginning of the slot. We decided to tandem, and were 1st and 2nd in line. Cuca came out, we took our cheki…

Now the problem was that I didn’t really think this meeting through. As you can see, Cuca took her sweet time signing the book, but I really didn’t have that much to say to her. To her credit, she began initiating conversation with me. She asked where I was from, and how long I have lived in Japan. She also asked if I had gone to any of STU’s concerts. What I find most amazing about Cuca is that every time I see her she seems more mature, idol-like, and beautiful. I’m just really impressed by her. So next time I see her I am going to plan some good stuff to talk with her about.

Yamane Suzuha (Lane 74) I waited for David to finish up with Cuca, since we both needed to walk to the other side of the hall. Eventually I made my way over to Zunchan’s lane. I expected the usual huge crowd. To my surprise the line wasn’t long at all. I lt the cheki drawing, and while waiting in the queue I saw Inagaki Kaori in the next lane over. She looked good, and genki. Considering her serious injury at SSA, I was glad to see she was doing well. Anyway, Zunchan remarked that she hadn’t seen me in a while. I think it has been around three weeks. I dunno, not so long, but maybe she missed me, LOL. I asked her the name of her little frog doll she always brings to events. His name is Gabriel. (The way she said it was really cute) So I asked if we could incorporate Gabriel into the shot.

Well, at least Zunchan looks good. I hate when they turn me profile like that. And, this is just another example showing that the closeup shamekai are much better than the long shots. At least that’s how I feel about it.

When I left Zunchan’s lane I walked by Tomonaga Mio’s lane, and it was closed. WTF? If she’s out for the day, then I have two oshi-mashi to do. I found out that she was there for Slots 2-3, cancelled Slot 4, but had not yet cancelled Slots 6-7. (I had Slot 6) What should I do? One of the members I was considering doing oshi-mashi with, Oba Mina, had early slots. If I wanted to see her, I needed to do it soon….

Slot 5

Yamauchi Mizuki (Lane 84) To save a little time, I decided to pre-queue for Zukki’s lane. I was around 5th in line, and just before they opened the gates a bunch guys started to mill around, I guess planning to cut the queue. I stared daggers at a couple of them, and they walked to the back of the line. However, one guy stayed, and when they opened the gate, he tried to jam into the line, but I blocked him with my elbow, LOL. While we were waiting in the queue, they started playing the new b-side MVs from the upcoming AKB48 single. I loved the Center Exam Senbatsu. The song, PV, all great. They just started the Team 4 Music Video as the queue started moving. I really liked this one too. The video ended with Zukki doing a “Nyan” pose, just as I was next in line. Perfect! Zukki lit up as I entered the both. “You have returned!” I said I loved her in the PV, and we should do the PV ending pose…

I think this is my favorite shamekai of the day. (The Cuca pic is nice too) Afterwards I congratulated her on being in senbatsu and centering the single team song. She said she hoped I come back to see her many times. Yes, I do have more tickets for her for both Jabaja and Teacher Teacher, so I am good to go!

I was considering seeing Zunchan for the Jacket Signing, which was in this slot. But after checking her queue, which was pretty long, I decided there was someone else I would rather to the Jacket Signing with. I instead left the venue since I had over an hour until my next ticket. I went all the way out to the Food Truck area before I found a seat. Here I met another Stage48 lurker named Paul. It was Paul’s first 48-group handshake event, so we talked for awhile about what he thought, and shared a few war stories about meeting the members, before heading back in. I wanted to get back in a little early since my Slot 6 schedule had the potential of becoming a little hectic.

Slot 6

Matsumura Kaori (w/Saito Makiko) Jacket Signing (Lane 51) I debated using this ticket first, or one of my handshake tickets. I’m glad I decided on this one, since the interaction completely changed my game plan for the rest of the day. This was another joint autograph lane, just like the first event I went to when I had Yuka-chan sign my CD. Luckily, I managed to be second in line, so I was getting a good head-start on the slot. I knew I wanted to have Kaotan sign my CD, except that Tani was in the next lane over. Moreover, I did not get any Tani tickets for this day’s event. This could be an issue if she sees me, and then doesn’t see me in her lane. In the meantime, Takeda Tomoka was in Tani’s queue, still with a huge line of people. So I might luck out after all. Around the beginning of the slot Murakawa Bibian came walking over, fresh off of her Produce48 activities, and I have to admit, Bibian looked radiant. Not to mention the cute little black shorts she was wearing. I’m not sure why she came over, she talked to the guards for a minute, and then left. After that, Tani came out. The trouble was, they had just cleared out all the fans who didn’t get to see Takeda, and hadn’t let Tani’s fans in yet. Everything was a mess, plus Kaotan and Makiko still hadn’t come out. Finally, a few minutes later, here they came…

The first guy in line chose Makiko, and she signed her CD relatively quickly. It was then my turn. Since Makiko was there, I decided to relate the memory of one of my earliest handshakes with Kaotan, the time when she started yelling at me, and then Makiko and Mikitty started laughing at me. Kaotan and I were trying to figure out how long I had been seeing her, but then when I said the part about Kaotan screaming “Why Why Why???? I Love you I Love you I love you!!!” Makiko started laughing. Not only that, Tani was laughing at us. I think after I related that part of the story, Makiko seemed like she might have remembered it. In any case, I am glad I made everyone laugh, including Tani. Kaotan asked me if I was coming for shamekai, and I pointed to my ticket holder, which I had strategically placed my Kaotan shamekai ticket right on top. (Hehehe)

Yamauchi Suzuran (Lane 43) <oshi-mashi> I had considered quite a few members for my oshi-mashi ticket. Komiharu, Mutou Orin, Sato Kaho, Minarun, even Yuihan. But I have wanted to meet with Ranran for a long time. Plus, I had a story that I wanted to tell her, and I wanted to do it before the story became too old. So this is where I decided to use my Akiyoshi ticket. I got over to her queue around 10 minutes before it opened for oshi-mashi, and spent the time talking to my friends Nori and Keita, who were also waiting to oshi-mashi with different members. Her line wasn’t very long at all, so I still had time to use my other ticket for this slot afterwards. In the meantime I was watching Jurina in the next lane over. However, I never made eye contact with her. She does a great job of focusing on her fans in queue. When I stepped into the booth, Suzuran immediately pivoted to “Oh Hello!” We sat down and I quickly suggested the peace pose, trying to save as much time as possible for my story.

I wanted to talk to her about HoriPro Matsuri, which I went to see around a month or so ago. Suzuran sang a duet of Sakura no Hanabiratachi with a classical singer named Okamoto Tomotaka, and it was really good. I wanted to tell her that I really enjoyed it. She thanked me, and asked if I came to see her, which I replied “of course.” Actually, I’m not sure what she really meant by that, but the fact is I really did want to see her. She said goodbye to me in English, and asked me to come back again. She’s really nice. I had always heard she was a big ‘fisher’, but I didn’t really have that kind of experience. I think perhaps because I kinda controlled the conversation.

Tomonaga Mio (Lane 60) So Mio did come back for her evening slots. But I had somewhat of a dilemma. Since Tani had interacted with me during my jacket signing with Kaotan, I felt really bad about not having a shamekai ticket for her. When I went to Mio’s queue I noticed there was hardly anyone in line. Moreover, there were a bunch of signs hanging in front of her lane. I couldn’t read what they said, but they usually put those up if the member isn’t feeling well, can’t talk, or something adverse like that. It was at that point that I thought that I would really rather go see Tani than see Mio, so I took off. In any case, I may have the opportunity to see Mio next week at the HKT event anyway. I found out later from a friend who went to see her that she seemed fine to him, and she looked really cute in his picture too. As a consolation I will show you what the outside of the cheki book looks like…

BTW, I was running into a few Wasafans during the day. Since Wasamin is out of town, many of her fans found their way to 48-group events. One of them told me that Wasamin apparently mentioned me on a radio show she guested on? When I met with Wasamin last week, I mentioned to her that the name of the show she was going to be on that week was the same as the name of the city I grew up in. So apparently Wasamin related that story to the host of the show. Cool!

Slot 7

Matsumura Kaori (Lane 37) After the dinner break, I headed in a little early to pre-queue for Kaotan, and I managed to be 2nd in line for her slot. Plus, I won the cheki, Yatta! I ultimately went 2-4 on chekis today (I had two ineligible because of oshi-mashi) While I was waiting for Kaotan to come out, Tani was in the neighboring lane, and spotted me again as she headed to her booth. That cemented it, I made the right choice by saving a ticket for her. Anyway, Kaotan came out, and I had a couple minutes since the girl who was first in line also won the cheki. When it was my turn, Kaotan exclaimed “Yatta, you won!” Yes, I was very happy about it too. She asked what pose, I said “smile pose.” Kaotan remarked, “You are very basic with the pose suggestions.” Yeah, I know.

I guess now I need to come up with interesting poses for her, although I thought the one we did in April was funny. (What, me worry?) We continued with my story about some of the first times I met with her. I will have to go back and look to see when it was, and if it was an SKE event or AKB. The incident I was talking about was an AKB event, but I am sure the first time I saw her was at an SKE event. In the meantime, she asked me how to spell “Smile” She had written it, but omitted the “e” at the end. She also asked if I had more tickets. When I told her I would see her next at the Jabaja event on the 26th, she asked how to say that in English. At first she said “two weeks ago,” but she kinda knew that was wrong. Then she said “two weeks later,” which I said was okay. I then told her “in two weeks” She repeated it twice, like she was happy she learned something new. Always fun with Kaotan, she hung out in the doorway chatting at me as they had me check the photo one more time, and didn’t leave until I was halfway down the exit. Kaotan runs on her schedule, LOL.

Tani Marika (Lane 35) <oshi-mashi> I had to wait 15 minutes before I could queue up for Tani. Plus, her line wasn’t short. So this had the potential to take a while. That’s okay, I really wanted to see her at this point. I ended up waiting around 35-40 minutes before I made it to the front of the line. She immediately suggested a heart pose, but after Kaotan made fun of me for being basic, I wanted to do something at least a little different. I had a couple of ideas, but ultimately decided on the Sailor Moon pose…

Yeah, not that groundbreaking, but it’s slightly different from what I usually do. I asked Tani if she liked the story I told Kaotan. Tani asked me about the shirt I was wearing. “Ebi shirt?” I then showed her the whole thing, it is a Wasamin shirt! She puffed her lip and said the she wanted to meet with Wasamin, and gave me a heart sign. I love that Tani and Wasamin are fans of one another.

It was time for me to go, just as the passing rainstorm was at its heaviest. The nice thing is that there is a covered walkway all the way to the station from Pacifico. So despite it raining all day, I never once needed to open my umbrella. Well, except to show the guards that I wasn’t hiding any contraband. Interestingly, of my seven tickets, ultimately I used none of them on HKT members. 4 were used on SKE, 2 on AKB, and one STU. Considering that I think of myself as an HKT fan…Well, next week is an HKT exclusive event, so I will make up for it then.

CK in Tokyo

Concerts, Tokyo CLEARS Tokyo CLEARS One-Man Live; Sawabe Rion Birthday Show at Shibuya Club Glad (2018/05/12)

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After not attending Rion’s last two birthday shows, I really wanted to go to this one. In my defense, the first one I missed had a 10K yen admission, but last year’s I just skipped. When the details of the live came out, I immediately made a reservation. Rion is one of my all-time favorite idols, and I wanted to finally pay my proper respects on her special day.

I headed to Shibuya early. Since the show was basically going on all afternoon, I wanted to have lunch before I went to the venue. Originally I wanted to try the new Fatburger in the old 109 Men’s Store (People from LA should know about that burger place, or fans of Kuromochi Asuka, LOL) But I wasn’t in the mood for a heavy burger, so I had something lighter. Shibuya Club Glad is in the Dogenzaka neighborhood of Shibuya, right next to a bunch of music clubs. Tsutaya O-East, Tsutaya O-Crest, Club Asia, Club Vuenos, Womb, Duo Music Exchange are all within a block of there. I got there around 20 minus before doors, and there was a small line down the hill. Eventually I was joined by David, who saw this group for the first time the previous evening. Eventually the doors opened, so we headed in.

They charged 100 yen more than what my reservation said, but whatever. Once inside the small lobby, they were selling “premium chekis” which are basically single off-shot chekis the girls took. They are 1000 yen a piece, but you get a discount for buying multiples. There was also a flower/balloon stand for Rion’s birthday, which I took a shot of, but it was really dark in the lobby. It didn’t seem like they were selling cheki/handshake tickets yet, so we just headed inside to grab a spot.

The venue has a small floor standing area, and then two upper standing areas. The top level was reserved for VIPs and staff. I saw CLEAR’S Smile up there and a couple other idol-looking girls, and I believe Rion’s mom was up there somewhere, but I think she was lurking in the shadows. Since the floor wasn’t really packed at all, David and I stood at the back against the railing. Ultimately this was a good idea since the fans really went crazy during the show.

The show

This was the first time I had ever seen Tokyo CLEAR’S do a full 2-hour live. Normally I see them where they perform for maybe 30 minutes, a couple of times 45 minutes. I must say that their “full show” was incredibly fun. It was filled with cute VTRs, funny skits, costume changes, and they played pretty much all of their known songs.

One of the funniest parts was when they played the VTR of Rion’s friends wishing her a happy birthday. What was interesting was how many of her friends are parents. There were a few who appeared with their children. Rion is also friends with a couple of AKB48 members, but none of them appeared on the VTR. Later they played another VTR of people wishing her a happy birthday, except Rion didn’t know who any of them were. She kept saying “Dare???? Dare???” It turned out the girls went around Tokyo finding random people to wish her a Happy Birthday. One guy even sang a song about her, LOL.

One weird thing happened during the show. As I mentioned, the floor wasn’t packed at all, but there was a girl standing in front of me who during the show kept creeping backwards to the point where she was almost in my lap. I mean she had like 4 feet in front of her, why she was standing 2 inches in front of me I do not know. I was beginning to get a bit frustrated because she was blocking me from rushing the front of the stage when Rion had her solo lines. Eventually I decided the heck with it, and nudged her out of the way to head to the stage. When I came back, 1) the girl smiled at me and nodded, and 2) I noticed she was actually kinda cute. Okay, so I guess I won’t mind if she wants to watch the show in my lap, LOL. Actually, she gave me a little bit of space after that.

The first skit they did was the members having to do various manomane on command from messages on the screen. However, the second skit was this sort of pantomime of the members being on a baseball team, and Rion’s struggles to become a good hitter, done to the song Fuite Fuite. It was really random, but still funny.

The birthday part was kind of low key, she received flowers, a cake, and she made a little speech. She started to get teary at one point, but the entire group dynamic is so goofy that she snapped out of it fairly quickly. When the show ended David and I went back to the lobby to get cheki and handshake tickets. I also took a look at the shirts they had for sale, but the only shirts they had in my size were Ruka and Rin’s old birthday shirts, which I wasn’t interested in. So next time…

Chekis/Handshakes

They had one queue for Rion, and one queue for all the other members. I was around 15th in line, but wasn’t in any hurry. I also purchased a gift for Rion from LUSH, along with a small note in Japanese. So I was excited to give that to her as well. The members were all wearing their ‘Ninjin’ pajama tops, which was the last costume they wore for the encore. BTW, Rion pointed out that she is not really a fan of carrots, but they bought those just because she is the ‘orange’ member. Anyway, I wished Rion a happy birthday and gave her the gift. While she was signing the cheki I told her how I knew David, since the girls were all intrigued by him from the previous show. Rion thanked me for coming and again asked me to come back soon. She had a long line, which by this time had stretched out into the lobby. So she was kind of restricted on time. (You get a minute, but sometimes she’ll go longer) I waved goodbye and headed out of the club after finally getting by requisite ‘one-drink’ that I paid for at the door.

I must say this has me wanting to see more of their ‘one-man’ live events. So I will probably be watching their performance calendar with that in mind going forward.

CK in Tokyo

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FES☆TIVE, KissBee The KissBee/FES☆TIVE Mini-Live Doubleheader at Tower Records Shibuya (2018/05/08)

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I love when things are convenient.  If you read my last couple of posts, both Wasamin and Minyo Girls appeared at the same mall on the same day this past Sunday, making for a fun and tiring mini-live quadruple-header with my favorite singer, and one of my favorite groups.  So when I noticed that both KissBee and FES☆TIVE were performing at Tower Shibuya on the same day, I couldn’t pass up another great opportunity.  Not only was I getting “2 for 1,” but I was also getting to see FES☆TIVE’s new lineup for the very first time.  Of course I was also going to get a little facetime with both Misaki-chan from KissBee and Hinarin from FES☆TIVE.  That’s a big plus since I know they have noticed that I have not been coming to their lives nearly as much as before.

I headed out in the late afternoon, just before the rains came.  By the time I got to Shibuya Station the storm had established itself over Tokyo.  My evening started with dinner at Guzman y Gomez, which is an Australian Mexican food chain that has multiple Tokyo locations, including one across the street from Tower Records.  I considered going to the new Fatburger, which just opened in the former 109 Men’s building, but I just wasn’t in the mood for a burger at all.   KissBee was up first at 6:30pm, followed by  FES☆TIVE at 9pm.  Jeez, I didn’t know they did in-store lives that late into the evening.  I don’t think they make it a habit though, since they were announcing that they would have to shut things down at 10:10pm, regardless of the queue…

KissBee (6:30pm)

This is the release week of KissBee’s 2nd Album, Pop Honeycomb.  I made it up to the 4th floor of Tower Records, but not before I was “greeted” by the group on the big video screen in front of the store.  The event space was totally packed, and their was a huge queue to buy CDs.  I looked around for copies of their new album, but all I saw were their old singles for sale.  WTF?  This is release week, isn’t it?  Moreover, most of the people in line seemed to be buying the group’s old singles.  I decided to instead find a spot to watch the show, and worry about the CD later.  I was jammed in the back, and couldn’t see anything.  However, KissBee ropes off a section for people who wish to photograph the event.  (Personally, I hate that they do this, and I think a couple of the guys who do the photography are inconsiderate)  I noticed that the photography section was only half full, so I bee-lined my way over to that section and got a spot just inside the roped off area with a partially obstructed view.  This was much better than where I was before.  KissBee came out for their usual mic check and rehearsal performance.  Misaki-chan eventually spotted me and gave me a little smile and nod.

Most of the songs they performed were from the new album.  My favorite has to be the first track LOVE Sugite Shibo~tsu!  The other two album songs they seem to be promoting, OKAWARI Paradox, and Kare Ki ni Hana wo are also very nice.  Ultimately they did a six-song setlist, with a couple of their older songs tossed in as well.  In one of the final MCs of the set, Sakura-chan announced that the album took 1st on the Oricon Daily chart, so the members were all very happy.

They ended the show with their usual janken for prizes, which I have never won.  Then the photo-op.  Luckily most of the fans in front kneeled down for this (except for those camera dudes I mentioned before)  I decided screw it, since I was on the side anyway.  I basically stayed upright and got some decent pics, even if I wasn’t very close to the stage.  I love as part of their gimmick they all make goofy faces during this segment.

Once the show ended I went straight toward the registers.  Their wasn’t a line yet, and I asked if the new KissBee album was behind the counter (it was)  I quickly got my copy (as well as an upgraded version of my Tower ponta card) and was able to lineup for the free High Touch.  When I got to Misaki-chan she kinda squealed my name much the same way Wasamin always does.  Cute!

As for benefits, the general rule on release events is 2 tickets for an unsigned cheki, and one ticket for a handshake where you can get something signed, either the cheki, a photo provided by the member, or on this day the CD.  I chose to do the cheki and have my CD signed.  While I was talking to Misaki-chan, I was asking her about the new tracks on the album.  I knew which songs in the show I liked, but I didn’t know which one’s they were on the CD, so she pointed them out to me.  It helped that the song I really like came over the PA just as I was asking, and she was like “This one?” while pointing to the ceiling.

Anyway, I got my Misaki facetime, and my signed CD and cheki.  I decided to bail out of Tower Records for a while since it was hot in the store, and I was really thirsty.

FES☆TIVE (9pm)


The new FES☆TIVE: Shin-members (Red, Blue, Green) in front

So while KissBee was promoting their new album release, FES☆TIVE was doing a preorder event for their 7th single, Yamato Nadeshiko Sunrise, which comes out in two weeks.  Now the last time I saw FES☆TIVE was one of the last performances of their old lineup before three of their original members graduated.  Since then they have added three new members, and based on their official pics all three of them are extremely cute.  Especially Doko Ruriko, who happens to be Hinarin’s cousin, and a former member of Tokyo Cheer2 Party.  While there was a point where I was wondering if I would be cutting ties with this group after so many graduations, I must admit that the new members have really energized the group, and me as a fan.


Ruriko

The group came out for a non-song mic check.  I immediately started checking out the new members since I wanted to see what they looked like in person.  The first one who noticed me was Ruriko, who immediately pointed at me and started whispering something to Hinari.  And BTW, of the three new members I thought Ruriko was by far the cutest.  The other two were cute too though.   FES☆TIVE did a quick 4 song setlist with no MCs, aside from a short member introduction at the very end.  It turned out they were trying to rush through the event since Tower had put a time limit on it, and I guess Saria could not do chekis after 10pm?  So after the show ended, everyone queued up, and Saria almost immediately came out to handle her cheki/handshake line.  It wasn’t until around 5-10 minutes later that the rest of the group came out.

The system was quite simply one ticket for a handshake, 2 tickets for a signed cheki+handshake, or three tickets for a 30-second video+handshake.  I preordered 2 CDs, and despite the cuteness of the new members, I used them for a signed cheki with my “go-to” girl Hinarin.

I love that Hinarin gets really touchy-feely with me when I visit her.  I told her that I love the new members, and they are all extremely cute.  Now on one hand, you might think Hinari would get jealous about that.  But Hinari was extremely worried when Koto, Yuna, and Miki graduated.  It is obvious that she LOVES being in FES☆TIVE, and I think she is relieved that the fans like the new members.  I noted that she now has family in the group.  (I didn’t know the word for cousin)  She told me Ruriko was her itoko, I countered that in English we say cousin, which she repeated back to me.  I also mentioned that I really liked the rock and roll style song they performed.  Of the four songs they did, I only recognized one of them.  I’m not sure if the rock-style one was the new single or not, but she seemed to get really excited when I said I liked it.  Finally my time was up, but it is nice that they give you a fairly long time to talk with each member.

And with that it was getting close to 10pm, so I took off after thanking the group staff.  I’m not sure if I will be getting to see wither of these groups again this week.  FES☆TIVE is scheduled to perform twice at Tower Shinjuku tonight, while KissBee is back in Shibuya at HMV Modi.  Technically, I could go to both.  But the question is whether or not I want to.  We’ll see.  In the meantime, I spent the rest of the evening tweeting photos from the event, as well as Minyo Girls’ event on Sunday.  The cool thing is that a lot of KissBee’s members react when you post pics of them.  I got likes from almost all of the members, the manager, and couple of KissBee West members, and even a “Thank You” reply from Misaki-chan.  Yes, idols are awesome!

CK in Tokyo

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Minyo Girls Minyo Girls/Iwasa Misaki Mini-Live Event at Aeon Town Kamisato, Saitama Prefecture (2018/05/06)

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Part 2 of 2…

I must admit, I am still kinda bummed that I missed the Minyo’s one-man live last weekend in Asakusa. I had a great entry ticket number too, which probably would have gotten me against the stage. But I made the mistake of going out and partying late the evening before, and I was just too tired to go. With that in mind, I felt like I owed it to them to make it to one of their live events in the near future, especially since they are promoting the release of their first single, which is a tie-in to an anime called Dual Masters! The single is called “Kirari ☆ Yume Ondo,” which while having a hint of traditional folk to it, is definitely more of a pop song. Anyway, when I was planning out the weekend, I noticed that Minyo Girls’ and Wasamin were both performing at the same mall on Sunday. I originally planned on skipping this Wasamin event, since Kamisato is extremely far from Tokyo, practically on the border of Saitama and Gunma Prefectures. But since I was getting two-for-one, seeing both Wasamin and the Minyos, it made the trip more worth it to me. So I swapped my Saturday and Sunday plans, and made it out to this event….

Minyo Girls management does a great job of informing you about little details for each appearance. Not every member performs at every show, and their Twitter schedule details each performance lineup well in advance. That said, I was kinda bummed that Yuua and Yutori were both not performing on this day. However, Miyabi would be there, as would their brand new Shamisen player, Ramu. I was really interested in checking out her Shamisen skills.

Since I knew it would take me a while to get out to Kamisato, I left my house at 8:45am bound for Akabane Station. However, by the time I got there the next Rapid or Express Train wasn’t leaving until 9:40am. This was cutting it kinda close for me. I would get to Jimbohara Station 30 minutes before the first performance, but Aeon Town is around 2.4km away from the station, and there are no buses. So I would need to make the walk in 30 minutes, or take a taxi. Luckily, I ended up on the train with a couple of Minyo fans, and we split the taxi to the mall.


Minori, w/ Kakotan and Ramu-chan

The girls came out 10 minutes early to do one rehearsal performance of the new single, and then went backstage to wait for the official event. The way the day worked, Minyo Girls performed at 11:30am and 2:30pm, while Wasamin performed 1pm and 4pm. It was going to be a long day. As far as the Minyo Girls’ Setlist, I don’t really keep track of which songs they perform in which order, but I am getting better at recognizing their songs and titles. He are some of the songs they performed, in addition to Kirari ☆ Yume Ondo, which they performed at both events…

Shochuu Omimai Moshiagemasu
Akita Ondo
Kokiriku Bushi
Ureshii Namida
Zashikiwarashii
Bitter Sweet

Okay, let me take on a few Minyo subjects….

1) The new costumes. They are really cool. From the beginning I have always thought the group has nice costumes, and with each change they upgrade to something even better. The bottoms look like long skirts, but are actually baggy pants The tops almost make them look like samurai. The only trouble I see is that with the Summer fast approaching, they might be uncomfortable performing outdoors.


Rina-chan (l), Matsuri (r)

2) Rina-chan. She was the first “new” member to join the group shortly before Fuka and Miki’s graduation announcements. At first I didn’t think she was really fitting into the group. However, I feel totally different after watching these performances. First of all, she can sing! She has great projection and control. She’s definitely one of the strongest singers in the group, and that’s saying something since most of the members are pretty good singers. Second, she’s a good MC. This was the first time I had ever seen her take center stage and MC a segment. She seemed right at home, confident, smiling, having fun. Let’s just say that I have finally “accepted” her as a Minyo Girl, LOL.


Ramu-chan

3) Ramu-chan, the newest full member. OMG, she is as adorable in person as I thought she was in her photos. When Miki graduated, I was extremely worried that losing their Shamisen player would leave a gaping hole in the group dynamic. Apparently they felt the same, as they wasted little time in finding a replacement. Now the question is whether Ramu-chan is as talented on the Shamisen as Miki was. After seeing this live, I have no idea. She wasn’t really playing. First of all, the instrument wasn’t plugged in, and it was fairly obvious that she is in the process of trying to learn the songs. She had an intense look of concentration on her face, and seemed focused on following along. Keep in mind that she just joined the group a week ago, so we will give her some time to figure things out. That said, it seems like the entire fanbase has become smitten with her, as she was BY FAR the most popular member taking chekis. It seemed like every other person chose her to take a cheki with, LOL.


Miyabi-chan

4) Miyabi-chan. With Yuua not performing at this event, Miyabi-chan functioned as the group sole center. Sh’s not the only one to sing solo lines. In fact, Kako, Matsuri, and now Rina all get considerable solo time. However, Miyabi stands at Zero Position at the beginning of every song. The other thing I noticed, and I noticed it a few days ago on her DMM Yell account, her face has completely broken out. Oh no! Poor Miyabi-chan. But alas, she is 13 years old. Sometimes these things happen.

5) With the exception of a few of their old ‘staples’, they are focusing a lot on their newer material. I m happy about this, since I think their newer material is really good. In fact, I can’t wait for their next EP since I want a recorded copy of Akita Ondo, as well as Kokiriku Bushi.

I stood in the back for three of the four events since I arrived late, and all the seats were taken by locals, and a bunch of the Wasafans who apparently got to Kamisato first thing in the morning. However, Wild-san, a Wasamin fan from Shiga Prefecture, offered me his first row center seat for thesecond Minyo Girls performance. Since they allow photography, I got a bunch of great shots of the group. Of course I focus most of my shots on Miyabi (and Yuua when she is there) But today I was fixated on taking pictures of Ramu-chan. LOL.

I had four tickets. In the first set I used two to take a group Shamekai. The nice thing is after the shot you get to shake hands with all the members. For the second set, I decided to do chekis instead. I cheki cost one ticket, plus one ticket to get it signed. However, I decided to forego the signing and get two chekis instead. For the first cheki I of course chose Miyabi…

I basically told Miyabi that I think the new costumes are cool, and I would see her again soon. Afterwards I saw Miyabi’s mom, and I think her dad was there too. Since they live in Gunma it would make sense that her family would be there. I also saw Izumi’s mother, who I met once before. There was another family there, but I’m not sure who they belonged to. Maybe Ramu-chan? Anyway, Miyabi’s mom said hello and thanked me for supporting her daughter, and both her parents waved to me when they left after the second performance.

Now I could have just waited and had Miyabi sign the cheki, but instead I decided on another photo. Let’s see, who would I be interested in taking a photo with? At this point for me it was a no-brainer…


Ramu-chan!!!

As I said before, it seems like all the fans are smitten with Ramu, and I totally understand why. With every photo she just seemed more and more amazed that everyone was asking for her. She must have thanked me 3-4 times while we were taking the photo, which was a “Shamisen Pose.” The bad/good news was that when the cheki developed, it didn’t expose properly. They had just finished the chekis when I noticed this, but I showed it to her manager, and she said no problem and had Ramu-chan come over to re-take it. BTW, I asked her a couple of times if she was practicing the new songs, but she just kept thanking me.

Ultimately, I am happy I made the trek out to Northern Saitama Prefecture to see them. They have a few live events coming up next weekend. The only one I can potentially make it to is on Saturday night in Yokohama, where they are doing a free outdoor live in front of Tower Vivre. But I have a friend coming into town that day too, so we’ll see.

CK in Tokyo

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Iwasa Misaki Iwasa Misaki/Minyo Girls Joint Mini-Live at Aeon Town Kamisato, Saitama Prefecture. (2018/05/06)

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Part 1 of 2

So I had a change of plans…

Originally I planned to hit Wasamin’s Saturday Event in Yokohama, and skip the Northern Saitama event since 1) Kamisato is friggin’ far from Tokyo, and 2) The Mall is not near the station, and there is no bus that can take you there. However, as I was going through the schedules of the various groups I like, I noticed that Minyo Girls was also performing at Kamisato on Sunday. Ahhhhhh, it’s a dual-live event. That changed everything! Although I did have tentative plans to go to the various Golden Week festivals in Odaiba on Sunday, I decided to skip them since I was getting both Wasamin and the Minyos in one shot.


Minyo Girls

By the way, although I didn’t go, I still have the lowdown on the Yokohama appearance. Wasamin hinted that she would be doing more than the usual four songs at the Yokohama events. Here are the setlists from Saturday…

2:30 Setlist – Yokohama
1. Hatsuzake
2. Koisuru Fortune Cookie (Enka Version)
3. Ihoujin
4. Blue Light Yokohama
5. Kukou
6. Sado no Ondeko

5:30pm Setlist – Yokohama
1. Saba Kaido
2. Heavy Rotation (Enka Version)
3. Toshishita no Otokonoko
4. Niji wo Watatte
5. Yume Shibai
6. Sado no Ondeko

So on Sunday I knew I had a long ride ahead of me, and the first Minyo Girls event started at 11:30am, so I headed to Akabane Station around 8:45am. By the time I arrive there were no Express or Rapid trains leaving until 9;40, so I grabbed some breakfast at the station while I waited. The nice thing, despite the 85 minute ride, is that it was only one train. Or so I thought, I didn’t realize the train split in half around halfway there, and I was in the wrong half of the train, so I had to hoof down the platform to the other side. Aside from that, it was a smooth ride. My next dilemma was how I was going to get to the mall. According to the map, it was a 2.4km walk. Not too bad, except I only had 30 minutes to get there. Luckily, there were a couple of other Minyo fans on the train, and we split a taxi. I made it on time, yatta!

I’m going to skip the Minyo Girls portion of the report, and focus on Wasamin (I will post about the Minyos in their thread) For starters, here are the setlists for Kamisato…

1pm Setlist – Kamisato
1. Saba Kaido
2. Ringo no Uta
3. Shitamachi no Taiyo
4. Sado no Ondeko

4pm Setlist – Kamisato
1. Mujineki
2. Gakusei Jidai
3. Yume Shibai
4. Sado no Ondeko

Kamisato is just below Gunma Prefecture in Northern Saitama. In fact, there were a few big Wasamin fans from Gunma in attendance. I had never met these guys before, but one of them, Tanaka-san seemed to know who I was. He also knew @Tensai from TV. Ultimately, he ended up being my buddy for the day.

During the first performance Wasamin was asking where everyone was from. Some of the locals kept looking at me expecting me to say something, but I kept quiet. I always say now I’m from Itabashi, LOL. Wasamin also forgot her little cheat sheet that she used to talk about her upcoming appearances and stuff, so she had to wing it. Ultimately she told everyone to just check her website, LOL. She also talked about how often she has performed at this mall. For me, it was my first time seeing her here, but according to fans she has performed in Kamisato on six different occasions.

They had a weird system for pre-ordering at the sales desk, although they were offering free shipping. I had already pre-ordered four copies of Minyo Girls’ new single, so I decided to be frugal with Wasamin and skip the Concert DVD preorder. Instead I bought three copies of her 7th single, which afforded me one shamekai, which I use in the first set, and one handshake, which I did in the second set.

Wasamin and I doing one of the poses from her Sado no Ondeko routine, although I have it totally screwed up. Afterwards I told her that I knew from memory all of her promotions that she was supposed to do. However, as I rattled them off I forgot one of them, which she reminded me of. But I think she was impressed that I knew most of them. The TV appearance, the radio show, the upcoming play, the Yokohama concert, and some Karaoke event she is part of. For my handshake she asked me if I enjoyed Minyo Girls, it was just then that she noticed that I was wearing a Minyo Girls T-Shirt. Jeez, Wasamin, I have worn it to your event at least 3-4 times! Ichikawa-san was laughing since she is well aware that I am a Minyo fan. I whispered to her that I also have a Minyo Girls’ Happi coat. Anyway, I told her that I had an extremely fun Golden Week, and told her a little bit about my adventures in Odaiba last week before my time was up. Wasamin was like “too much beer!”

After the event, the fans who drove carpooled some of us back to Jimbohara Station so we didn’t have to take the big walk. Since this was the end of Golden Week, the train was packed with people returning to Tokyo. Suitcases everywhere. It was a local train too, so it took extra long. But I finally made it back to Akabane around 7pm, had dinner, then went home and crashed out!

I’m skipping Wasamin’s two events next weekend. Saturday she is in Shimotsuma, which is on the outskirts of Ibaraki Prefecture, and just too difficult to get to without a car. Sunday she is performing in Akita Prefecture, which is almost to Hokkaido. Not to mention I am going to AKB’s Shamekai event that day anyway. So my next Wasamin encounter will be her Bus Tour on the 16th! After that, just waiting on her concert DVD release week schedule.

CK in Tokyo

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Iwasa Misaki Iwasa Misaki 7th Single/4th Concert DVD Mini-Live at Elumi-Konosu Mall, Saitama Prefecture (2018/05/04)

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If you look at a map of the major JR Lines from Tokyo through Saitama Prefecture, you will find that almost every station has a big mall either very close to it, or attached to it. I was thinking about this as I was traveling on the Takasaki Line today. There are NINE Stations on that line from Akabane to Jimbohara where Wasamin has performed. If you add the other major trains that travel through that area, you can add around 6 more stops. It is safe to say that Wasamin has heavily promoted herself throughout the main Saitama corridor.

This is not the first time Wasamin has performed at Elumi-Konosu, although it was the first time I had seen her there. The mall is actually connected to Konosu Station. Go out the station gate, and there’s the mall. It wasn’t the most lively mall, although I wouldn’t call it empty either. It just seemed as if there wasn’t much of a selection of shops, so nobody would really go there merely to browse around. The stage setup was in the center court, against the escalators and opposite the food court. A great place to attract passers-by and casual onlookers for her two performances. Most of the locals had camped out the seats early, so many of the Wasafans stood in the back, including myself. I was also happy to see Wild-san, who had made the trip from Shiga Prefecture, and well as Mizuyu-san, who hadn’t been to an event in a while. Here are the setlists…

Setlist 13:00
1. Saba Kaido
2. Tokyo no Bus Girl
3. Kukou
4. Sado no Ondeko

Setlist 15:30
1. Mujineki
2. Ringo no Uta
3. Yume Shibai
4. Sado no Ondeko

The audio system sounded terrible. This was probably another situation where the mall demands the volume be kept at an unreasonable low level. Quite odd since their ads promoted many musical appearances in the coming weeks. But it also sounded quite muddy too. I think it was affecting Wasamin a little bit too as she got a tiny bit pitchy a couple of times, which is unusual for her.

I decided not to do any preordering of the 4th concert DVD today, instead buying CDs. I ultimately went for a 2-shot in the early event, and a handshake in the second.

Wasamin and I doing a pose from Sado no Ondeko. Anyway, I decided to tell Wasamin all about my first ever trip to see a Japanese Major League Baseball Game. I was also relating the story of how I got to go onto the field take a photo with all of the mascots after the game, including the Phillie Phanatic, who was there as a special guest. Wasamin has performed at Maiji-Jingo Stadium before, so she agreed when I said I thought it was a very nice venue.


I took this while in queue for the photo. They are sending me the pic later.

For my second visit I showed her a picture of the mascots. (Not my group shot, they haven’t sent it to me yet) But I wanted to show her the Phillie Phanatic since he looks almost exactly like SLYLY, the mascot of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, who Wasamin has also taken a photo with. Finally, I wanted to confirm the radio show Wasamin was going to be on. I thought I heard her say “Rajio Beverly Hills,” and I was right. When I told her that Beverly Hills is the town I grew up in, she asked me how to pronounce it, which led to the always hilarious Japanese trying to fake an American accent, LOL.


Wasamin and SLYLY back in 2014

Wasamin has performances in Yokohama on Saturday, and back up to Saitama Prefecture on Sunday. Her appearances on Sunday, and the following Saturday in Ibaraki are both at malls in extremely remote locations that are very hard to get to. No train, no direct bus. So I am probably going to skip those. I will probably hit tomorrow’s Yokohama events though. After that, next up is Wasamin’s Bus Tour to Shizuoka. That promises to be a lot of fun!

CK in Tokyo

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