If was about this time one year ago, shortly after the Janken event during an episode of All Night Nippon when AkiP casually announced that Wasamin would be getting a solo concert…one of these days. That was the key part of the announcement he didn’t make clear. When would this concert take place? Our hearts sank a little bit acouple of months later when Wasamin tweeted that she didn’t even know if AkiP was talking about this year. So in many ways wasamin’s first big solo concert was backburnered in the minds of the Wasafans….
But we never forgot. We always held out hope that it was just a matter of time. And this weekend Wasamin’s dream, and by extension our dreams, finally came true.
January 30th, 2016, Iwasa Misaki Solo Live at Asakusa Public Hall in Tokyo!
Asakusa Public Hall is a multi-purpose venue, seating 1082 people. It’s a stone’s throw away from the famous Senso-ji and Asakusa Shrine. The hall hosts a wide variety of events, but specializes in more traditional performances like Kabuki and Taiko. This is perfect! Right up Wasamin’s alley.
With four singles and an album, Wasamin has amassed quite a song catalog. That doesn’t even count the many other songs she has performed on NHK. I think we can count on quite a few surprises. Speaking of surprises, there will surely be “special guests” during the show. Possible from AKB, definitely some of her senpai at Nagara Pro. Jeez, I am getting excited just thinking about it.
(Wasamin celebrating the happy announcement with Takamina)
So extremely happy news in Wasaworld. But that’s not the only big venue concert she will be appearing in. It was also recently announced that this coming November Wasamin will be appearing at the Moshi Moshi Nippon Festival at Tokyo National Gymnasium. It’s a three day event, November 6th through the 8th. Wasamin will be performing alongside quite a few notable acts, including Golden Bomber, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Dempagumi, Inc., 9nine, World Order, May’n, capsule among others.
(Wasamin performing earlier this year at Asakasa Sacas)
Not to mention her performance last month at Jingu Gaien Fireworks Festival last month. I blogged about that performance a few weeks ago. Wasamin has been getting quite the indoctrination into performing solo in front of large crowds. BTW, here are some highlights from that show. (Wasamin’s part begins at 3:20)
So now that the big announcement has been made, I now need to figure out how I am going to make it to this show. To me this is an absolute must-see event, and I will be very sad if I have to miss it for some reason. But when there’s a will there’s a way, right?
This year was the 7th Annual J-Pop Summit in San Francisco, and the 4th time I have attended in the last five years. It has probably become the biggest Japanese-themed con in the Bay Area. Well, there is Comic Con in San Jose. We also had Japan Expo in San Jose/San Mateo which once boasted an idol lineup of Kikkawa Yuu and Dempagumi, Inc. But it looks like that one may no longer go on.
I almost chose to skip J-pop Summit this year. Frankly, there weren’t any idols/artists on the bill that I was too excited about seeing. Over the last few years this event has managed to bring quite a few notable idol acts. Danceroid in 2011, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and LoVendoЯ in 2013 , Itano Tomomi and Tokyo Girls Style in 2014, plus the US premiere of AKB48’s first documentary in 2011. I was hopeful this year would bring another fun idol act that could muster up some enthusiasm.
Then of course last year’s event left a slightly bad taste in my mouth with the neighboring Ramen Festival turning the entire event into a complete clusterfuck. It was next to impossible to walk through the event because the ramen booth queues overwhelmed the entire street. This year, instead of the traditional free street fair J-pop Summit always was, they actually held it in a convention hall. And for the first time they actually charged admission.
It wasn’t until some of my friends who were flying in asked to stay at my house that I decided to go. I’m glad I did. Despite the fact that they were charging admission, despite the fact that I didn’t really know any of the musical acts, and despite the fact that the Fort Mason location would make it somewhat inconvenient to get there via public transportation, it was by far the best J-pop Summit ever!
(The food trucks, not bad. At least the lines weren’t huge, and not difficult to find a seat)
To my surprise the event went off with hardly a hitch. There were plenty of booths, most of which were highy interactive. Lots of free food, including a free Shochu tasting booth, Miso Soup, Calbee Products, and Onigirasu (a sandwich shaped Onigiri) served to you by idol group Musubizm. I entered both days for the H.I.S. trip to Japan contest. Unfortunately I forgot to go the the actual drawing both times. Anyway, on to the idol acts…
The first concert took place 15 minutes after doors opened. The performers were…
FES☆TIVE: A relatively new idol act who just signed with Tokuma Records. The same label as Wasamin I might add. (More on that later). They recently released their first major single, Omatsuri Hero.
LittleGlee Monster: A sextet known for their harmonizing and general singing prowess
Faint☆Star: An idol duo, also known for their quality singing.
The crowd was quite small, which meant their wasn’t too much synergy going on. But it did mean that everyone there got to be extremely close to the stage. On first listen I was most impressed with Little Glee Monster. They really aren’t idols as much as they are a true vocal group. They mixed their original songs with covers of The Jackson Five’s I Want You Back and Pharrell Williams’ Happy. I was definitely interested in purchasing some of their CD’s, which I did later on for their autograph event on Sunday.
FES☆TIVE actually led off the event. And per usual I let my subconscious mind and eyes decide if there is a member who will catch my fancy. My friends thought I would be drawn to Suzuki Mitsuki, the petite blonde member. But if you are familiar with my blog (and my taste) you will know that a gorgeous smile will catch my attention every time. It didn’t take me long to find the girl I liked. It was the Orange member, Aoba Hinari. I just couldn’t take my eyes off of her the entire set. Not to mention she noticed me watching her, and immediately responded.
Of all the acts to appear the only traditional idols were FES☆TIVE, and Musubizm who performed later that afternoon as part of the MOSHI MOSHI NIPPON ensemble. This was another smart move by the event producers. It seemed that all of the performers came sponsored by the various vendors. So instead of having to pay for all the talent, I am guessing it was done on more of a barter system for sponsorship and booth space. FES☆TIVE came in support of the CHEERZ Phone App. Little Glee Monster, Gacharic Spin, and Eir Aoi seemed to be associated with Kinokinuya, as well as another J-pop music app.
The other nice thing was that pretty much every group had scheduled Meet and Greet and/or Autograph events, only a couple of which were “VIP Only”. The only group who had no events like that scheduled were FES☆TIVE, which was disappointing to my friends since that was the group they came to see. Little did we know that they would become the most accessible group of the entire weekend. Which brings me to the highlight of my weekend, and pretty much why I thought the entire event was so awesome…
MY WEEKEND WITH FES☆TIVE…AND MY NEW “SECRET GIRLFRIEND” AOBA HINARI
(Luckily my friend had a cheki camera. Note the spelling of “Sanf Rancisco”)
One of FES☆TIVE’s Japanese fans had flown in for the event, and he had a dialogue going with their manager. He let us know that despite there being no “official” fan interaction scheduled, they would be spending a lot of time at the CHEERZ booth throughout the weekend. On Saturday that meant we were allowed to take group shots. I was one of the first to go…
Now the cool thing was that for most everyone else’s shots the fan was the only person in the CHEERZ frame. But I had been “playing” with Hinarin the entire time. So when it was my turn she decided to lean into the frame with me. I took plenty of other photos of Hinari that day, and she always seemed to be striking a pose for me.
Then came Sunday, and it was a FES☆TIVE “free for all”! 2-shots, Group Shots, Autographs, Conversation. We pretty much hung out with the group the entire day. Now on the first day I went pretty much “incognito”, but on the second day I decided to represent with my Wasamin sousenkyo T-shirt. The first person to notice it was Hinarin, who immediately dropped the bombshell “I know Wasamin, she is my friend!” Really? Well, they are both from Chiba (I really seem to be attracted to Chiba girls XD), close to the same age, and they are on the same recording label. Oh no, this could be a total disaster! Or…it could be a good way to make Wasamin jealous. So I told her to be sure and tell Wasamin that we met. A couple of the other members also noticed my shirt, as well as all of Little Glee Monster. So Wasamin is well known among idols.
Later on Hinarin delivered a message to me via the Japanese fan (who also happened to be a Hinarin oshi) She wanted to thank me for supporting her, and that she was so happy I became her fan. Then, as we were leaving her event we again ran into the group in the parking lot. Hinarin immediately gave me the “heart” hand symbol. Later that night she was busy favoring a bunch of my tweets, something she has continued to do all the way up until today. So as far as I was concerned it was mission accomplished. I managed to find an idol I really liked and made quite the impression on her.
BTW, here is one of their PVs. There is a lot of YouTube content on their official site.
So that was pretty much my fun at J-Pop Summit. If you are wondering why I didn’t talk more about the other performing artists. Well, they really weren’t the type of groups I am in to. Gacharic Spin are definitly talented and exciting, although I didn’t really care fmost of their songs. JAM Project was just a trip! Five Heavy Metalesque singers on stage like they are idols or something. It was all so campy I couldn’t help but giggle most of the time. The other highlight for me was running into my old friend “K”, who I hadn’t seen in over 5 years. K was the author of a blog called Mini Moni Mania, and one of my biggest inspirations to get into blogging in the first place. In fact I remember asking K for advice when I started my first blog. So it is always nice to run into old friends like that. Oh, and then there’s this…
(Finally got to see the award my friend won for producing the Koisuru Fortune Cookie Fan Video)
So all in all a great weekend. I was happily surprised at how big a success J-Pop Summit turned out to be. It has instantly turned into an event I am going to look forward to every year…
Now if we can just get Wasamin to come and perform!
Late last month Wasamin’s management reported that she would have a fairly heavy promotional schedule for August. As a Wasamin fan, this is always great news. Not only does it give her fans a chance to see her perform more often, but it is a sign that NagaraPro and Tokuma Records are still committed to promoting her as a solo artist. Even better news, it was announced that she would be kicking off this round of promotion with an appearance at major Tokyo Summer event, the Jingu Gaien Fireworks Festival in Shinjuku.
This festival takes place next door to the National Stadium, at the home of the Yakult Swallows of the NPB. Wasamin would be performing on the second stage, next door at the softball stadium. The artist lineup featured most of NagaraPro’s major talent, as well as a few idol groups including Dempagumi, Inc.
For this day Wasamin performed in her brand new Yukata. Usually she performs in a more traditional Kimono, but I thnk given the event this attire was appropriate. And I must say she looks adorable!
As for the setlist, Wasamin led off with her rendition of Let It Go ~Ari no Mama de~, followed by her latest single Hatsuzake. Unfortunately it was only the abridged version. So it was a fairly short set. Although she got a great review from Nikkan Sports. Hey…anything to spread the Wasa-awareness, right?
Like I said in the beginning of this post, Wasamin has a fairly busy schedule over the next month, with over a dozen mini-live events between now and early September. A few of the venues she is performing at are the same places she performed during her release tour in April/May, so I guess those little Enka shops were satisfied with the turnout during her previous visit…
8/13 16:00 Akasaka Sacas, Tokyo (She will also be recording for a TBS television appearance) 8/17 13:00/16:00 Nittoh Mall Kumagaya, Saitama Pref. 8/21 13:00 Yoro-do, Asakusa 8/21 17:00 Music Shop Dan, Higashijujo Tokyo 8/23 13:00/16:00 Aeon Mall Ishioka, Ibaraki Pref. 8/28 12:00 Shinseido Kashiwa, China Pref. 8/28 17:00 Ongokyu-do, Koiwa Tokyo 8/29 13:00/16:00 Aeon Mall Sayama, Saitama Pref. 9/05 13:00/16:00 Savia Hanno, Saitama Pref.
Always great news to see Wasamin keeping busy with her solo career. Not only does it give her fans ample opportunity to see her perform, it further cements her as an established Enka artist. I am sure we will see Wasamin performing a lot more during the rest of 2015. Hopefully she will be at some special events like the one she performed at yesterday. It begs the question of how long until Wasamin is in the discussion of performers at the annual Kouhaku Uta Gassen?
A small bonus, Wasamin’s outfit at Sunday’s AKB Handshake Event. What is this cuteness?
Ganbatte Wasamin! With every passing day I become more and more proud of you!
Oftentimes it can be an extremely dispiriting endeavor being an AKB48 fan who oshis Wasamin. Everyday there seems to be something new going on with the group, and rarely…RARELY does Wasamin get to participate. It’s a good thing she has her solo career. Even if the majority of 48-group fans pay her no mind since she isn’t one of the “chosen few”, not to mention she sings Enka (da hahrer!), those of us in the know have gotten to witness the blossoming career of a highly talented young singer. So while you won’t find h front and center at any AKB48 concerts, you WILL find her taking center stage for NHK’s many live concerts. Wasamin has participated in quite a few of those shows is Summer, even servine as a co-MC for one show. Misaki-chan has treated us to some incredible performances of some all-time classics.
First up, a duet. Wasamin sharing the stage with another young Enka talent, 16-year old Sakura Maya. Together they performed an amzing rendition of the 1955 classic “Suki ga Totte mo Aoi Kara”, originally recorded by Tsugawara Tsuzuko in 1955.
Wasamin has mentioned that she grew up with her grandparents living in the same house, and they had a huge influence on her choosing the path of Enka singer. In any case, I am always impressed whenshe performs a classic selection like that one. Speaking of classics…
Wasamin and a pack of genki cheerleaders peforming Matsuda Saeiko’s 1981 hit “Natsu no Tobira”
Misaki once again showing she can sing in many different styles. The ripple effect of this performance was that it got me started perusing through Matsuda’s song catalog, and I have found a bunch of songs I am really excited about. So I will very likely be starting a Matsuda Seiko CD collection sooner than later. Anyway…
This is an older performance, but definitely worth checking out. Wasamin performing Naoko Ken’s hit song “Abayo” from 1976. Very pretty song, and Misaki-chan does a great job with it!
Of course Wasamin wants to promote her own records. So here is the latest live performance of her 4th single, “Hatsuzake”
This is why I decided to start blogging about more than my trips. I really don’t think enough people are seeing what progress Wasamin in making in the “real world” of music. Hopefully I will have more performances to show in the near furure. And hopefully these YouTube videos stay up for a while.
One of the things I really like about Tokuma (Wasamin’s label) and Nagara Pro (Her agency) is how busy they keep her throughout the year. Wasamin has a tough road establishing herself in a niche musical genre like Enka which is dominated by older and more established artists. Not that she doesn’t have the talent…she really does. And the more she puts herself outhere the more people realize that she is a legitimate talent. Anyway…
Wasamin is currently having a pretty busy week. So let’s start with the appearances she did over the past weekend. Unfortunately for Wasamin her teeth were bothering her, and according to her G+ and fan accounts she may have been suffering from flu-like symptoms. Oh, and she was obsessing about eating shrimp!
Iwasa Misaki Singing Event 2015/06/12 at Aeon Mall Dainichi, Osaka
2. Hitachi no Meguriai
*Wasamin wearing black and white Kimono with Gold Band (hopefully she will post a pic)
**Apparently they cut the performance down to three songs because of Wasamin’s sore throat, which she mentioned last night on twitter. Not sure what is going to happen with the late performance.
2. Hakimono to Kasa no Monogotari
**Once again a short set. According to fans Wasamin’s throat ailment was noticeably affecting her performance. They also noted that her entire staff were wearing surgical masks, which isn’t the norm. Not to mention her one mysterious G+ entry after the performance about being cold hints that she is fighting a bug of some sort.
Here are some shots from her two radio appearances yesterday promoting today’s live event…
At KBS-Kyoto. During Wasamin’s appearance they played “Let it Go” and “Hatsuzake”
At Radio Osaka. The station did a cute writeup about her appearance….
So after about 36 hours of Wasafans worrying about her health, the Sunday event happened as planned…
**Once again Wasamin going with a 3-song set as opposed to her usual 4 songs. Despite that, fans said her voice sounded much better than it did on Friday and she looked as if she was feeling better. Nice what a day of rest and a little home cooking can do for you.
Anyway, lets all keep our fingers crossed and some some good energy to Wasamin as she has two very important Enka Festival Appearances this week. Those reports coming soon.
CK in California
(I noticed someone trying to search for my email address, so I left my ask.fm address on my “about” page. And of course you can always reach me by commenting here. All of my comments get screened before I post them.
So I have decided instead of having this blog go silent between my visits to Japan, I will keep everyone updates on the last Wasamin goings-on. Misaki-chan has a busy couple of weeks coming up, starting with the Enka Festival at Yamano Music in Ginza.
The Yamano Enka Festival is a series of performances by notable Enka Artists beginning in late May and running for one month. Wasamin was one of quite a few artists on the schedule. Yamano Music is as much a musical instrument shop as it is a CD shop, with floor after floor of most every musical instrument imagineable. “Jam Spot”, the performance hall is on the top floor. I remember visiting there last year, it was the very first stop of Wasamin’s promotional tour for Tomonoura Bojou.
Here is the setlist…
1. Mujineki (1st Single)
2. Seto no Hanayome (Mujineki c/w)
3. Tsugunai (from Request Covers)
4. Toki no Nagareni Miwo Makase (from request Covers)
5. Moshimo Watashi ga Sora ni Sundeitara (2nd Single)
6. Hatsuzake (New Single)
I think that’s the biggest setlist she has ever done! Quite impressive. She performed three of her singles, plus three of her notable covers. As for her Kimono…
I always love Wasamin’s darker colored Kimonos. They look especially good on her. Anyway, quite a busy week for Wasamin coming up. Some of us were worried because yesterday Wasamin was complaining that she was having issues with her Wisdom Teeth. But she didn’t mention her teeth at all, so hopefully she is feeling better! I’d hate to see her miss any of her upcoming appearances…
Speaking of the 2-shot events. Wasamin announced that she would be bringing multiple outfits to each event to add more variety to the fans’ 2-shots. These were the four outfits she wore at the Osaka event…
Wasamin still loves wearing those chokers. <3
So look forward to more Wasamin appearance posts. If last year was any indication, Wasamin will be a busy girl for the rest of 2015.
It wouldn’t be a Japan trip without enjoying some awesome cuisine. The great thing about Japan is that terrific food doesn’t have to be expensive. In so many cases the dining experience is a lot of fun. And with the expansive rail systems all over the country I never have to worry about drinking and driving.
I always have a list of restaurants that I want to visit during my trip, and I made it to most of them. I didn’t get a chance to hit IWA, the AKB-themed Yakiniku restaurant. There were also a couple of Ramen places I failed to eat at. One in particular, a restaurant that specializes is French Fry topped ramen, I merely forgot about. But I did find a few new places to enjoy…
This is actually an izakaya chain, but I had never noticed it before. I tried the one near my hotel in Asakusabashi, but I later found locations in a few other parts of town including Akihabara. They specialize in Sashimi and Grilled Shellfish which you cook right at your table. Plenty of small dishes and an extensive bar menu. Plus they are open 24/7! So a great place to kick back if you miss your train! For both of my visits I had a Sashimi Rice Bowl. It was kinda small. But considering the price, it was pretty good.
I have talked about this restaurant before. I decided to head back to Enoshima early in my trip before Golden Week started. I figured the town would be a madhouse after that. Plus, the weather was quite nice.
I decided against having the Turban Shell they are known for, instead opting for my favorite Grilled Squid and a side of Negitoro. After lunch I ventured up the hill to pick up one of this giant Octopus crackers. I had eaten the lobster version before, but this is their signature item. The line was extremely long so I took one to go.
But it is always nice to visit Enoshima island. Suck a beautiful place, and it is so much fun to ride the Enoshima Electric Railway!
This was the little Sushi restaurant in the Aeon Mall portion of Kishiwada Talktown. It is also where Wasamin had lunch that day. So in a way we ate together (hehe). By the way, the cost for that lunch was approximately $10usd. Try to find sushi that good for that price in the West.
Geez, I never thought I would be eating Nabe again. But it was my friend Kwan’s last night in Tokyo and this was what he wanted. So how could I refuse? This restaurant also came recommended by Wasamin. So again, how could I refuse? They serve much more than just motsunabe. They are famous for their spicy dishes, including spicy Tebasaki. I wasn’t in the mood to blow out my taste buds so early in the trip, so we opted for medium spicy.
I have to admit that part of the reason I didn’t like motsunabe the first time probably had a lot to do with the fact that I was coming down with the flu at the time. Experiencing it with a healthier body makes a big difference. Not to mention I really like this restaurant’s style of making it spicy. Quite frankly, part of my issue with the restaurant I ate at in Fukuoka was that it was too bland. Anyway, I was sure to tell Wasamin that I ate Nabe again since she loves it so much!
Here I go again trying Takoyaki, one of the Japanese foods I can never get into. The other I have trouble with is curry. Although I think in both cases the first time I ate them in Japan the restaurants weren’t that good. Anyway, the reason I chose to give it another try was the Negitaco with vinegar and daikon on the side. It wasn’t covered in sauce or bonito flakes either. Ultimately it wasn’t too bad. Having toppings I really like certainly helps. But I don’t think I will ever be a huge Takoyaki fan.
Another Izakaya restaurant with multiple locations in Tokyo. They have great happy hour drink and food specials, and they specialize in Prime Rib! Kind of an odd specialty for Tokyo. I was well aware of this location since it is directly across from the AKB48 Cafe and Shop. I first went there for happy hour and enjoyed an extremely large Kaku Highball for about 450 yen. But the entire time I was there I could smell that Roast Beef cooking!
The next day, after having my original dinner plans broken and having some bad luck with restaurant queues, I decided to return here and try their Roast Beef dinner. At first the bartender told me they were sold out of Prime Rib, which seemed odd since a) it was only 7:45pm and b) it is their signature dish! Then he paused and told me they were sold out until 8pm. And he said it like that was a long time. I was drinking, so I didn’t care.
It did take a while to come out, over a half hour. In fact I wondered if they ever put the order in. And you know what, it was pretty good! Not the best cut of Prime Rib I have ever eaten, but it was cooked well and the sauce was nice. Oh, and I loved their crude little attempy at Yorkshire Pudding! More like a Popover.
This was recommended by a friend. Actually, he first wanted to eat at the Hard Rock Cafe, but I vetoed that idea. This was his alternate choice, and it was quite a good one! I had their signature item, the Tsubame Grill Hamburger Steak. And that’s exactly what it tasted like, Steak! The vegetables underneath were excellent, and the baked potato covered in Miso was surprisingly good. Rumor has it their sausages are quite tasty as well. I highly recommend this place. It’s located in Atre, on the second floor inside Ueno Station. Thay had quite a line too, but it moved quickly.
I stumbled upon this place in between Wasamin shows in Shibuya. Right around the corner from Marui City. I needed someplace quick, and with Shibuya being so crowded this place was one of the few that didn’t have much of a line. It is a French boulangerie with multiple locations in Japan. I eat at places in Japan like Andersen’s Bakery and Vie de France all the time. But this place blows them away! I had a sandwich, and a few of their smaller items, which all come in bite-size squares. I’m sorry I didn;t get any photos of my lunch. But trust me, it is a must-visit!
Shinkansen Ekiben Stall – Shin-Osaka Station
One of my favorite things to do in Japan is travel by Shinkansen. And if I am traveling during the evening I love grabbing a dinner bento and a couple Suntory Highballs and enjoying the ride (if you know what I mean). The toughest part is choosing just one as they all look so good! After Wasamin’s performance in Osaka most of the Wasamin fans boarded trains back to Tokyo. I boarded a different train for Nagoya, a much shorter ride. But indeed long enough to enjoy a meal. I was really in the mood for Unagi, but when I saw this bento I just had to try it!
It wasn’t Kobe beef, and it wasn’t nearly as rare as it looked on the box, but it was very tasty. An of course like many bentos it was served over a large portion of rice. I didn’t pair it with red wine, instead opting for some harder stuff. But to me a Shikansen ride isn’t complete without a bento and some booze.
Anyhow, that was just some of the places I enjoyed during my trip. Unfortunately I have never properly trained myself to photograph my food so many lunches and dinners go unphotographed. Plus, I eat at a lot of Kaitenzushi. So if you want see pics of a stack of empty plates… That said, these were probably the most memorable. And I am happy to say that I did not frequent McDonalds even once. Although I did visit Burger King one night to try their Onion Teriyaki Whopper. Not bad, but my stomach felt like it had an anvil in it for the rest of the evening. You live, you learn. And with that I say…
A quick elaboration on something I mentioned in the previous post. I injured my right foot, specifically the two smallest toes tripping over a barrier outside my hotel in Kameido. It was bad enough that I was limping significantly over the next two days, and for the last week I have not worn shoes. (Sandals are more comfortable) Luckily nothing seemed to be broken, and my toes are slowly recovering. By the way it isn’t the first time this has happened as a tore up my knee a couple of years ago tripping over a curb in Yokohama.
It was my first time staying at that particular hotel. In fact, for the three hotels I stayed in on this trip it was my first time for all of them. I have a knack for finding hotels with crazy good deals, and then using them until the deal runs out. After that I search for more good bargain hotels. Over the years I have stayed at eight different hotels in Tokyo, two different hotels in Osaka and Fukuoka, and I have stayed once each in Nagoya and Hiroshima. The Smile Inn in Hakata (It isn’t called that anymore, they changed their name for the 2nd time in three years) was definitely the strangest hotel I ever stayed in. The most luxurious being the Shinagawa Prince. Anyway…
Let’s Henshin! for dinner!
I had two nights left before I returned to the States, so I met with a friend to have dinner at one of the two restaurants left on my “to visit” list. We had decided to head over to IWA, Uchida Mayumi’s AKB-themed Yakiniku restaurant in Shin-Okubo. Along the way we met up with three other AKB fans, all of whom I knew online but only one I had ever met before in person. Arriving at IWA, we were met at the door by Uchida’s mom (as well as Nonaka Misato, who works there) who profusely apologized and informed us that the restaurant was booked solid for the evening. She even offered to book us for the following evening, but my friend wasn’t sure he could make it. So we went to our second choice, and perhaps a better choice since I had never been there before…
I haven’t mentioned this on my blog, but over the last year I have become quite the fan of the Kamen Rider television series. I have managed to watch every single Heisei Era season, my favorite by far being Kamen Rider Kabuto. I also loved Kuuga, Agito, Hibiki, and Kiva. When I found out there was a Kamen Rider themed restaurant in Ikebukuro I just had to check it out. Luckily Kamen Rider The Diner wasn’t booked. In fact, we were seated immediately.
It was quite a spacious restaurant for Tokyo, featuring tons of Kamen Rider momentos, scenes from the series playing on the television screens as well as the various theme songs playing on an endless loop. All of the menu items were based, at least loosely on the various characters from the series. The fun part happens when they deliver your food, the waiter will quote a line from whichever character your dish is based. And sometimes it will trigger a scene to be played on the monitors. I absolutely had to order the Kamen Rider Fourze parfait as it was known to trigger one of the most fun waiter/guest interactions on the menu…
The food was decent, I would say it is slightly better than the AKB48 Cafe. It’s a bit pricey for what it is, but I think you are paying for the experience more than anything else. I would probably go back, although I can’t say it made it to the top of my personal Tokyo restaurants list, That said, Im glad I got to experience the place.
On my last evening in Tokyo I looked forward to hitting IWA, but those plans were dashed in the mid-afternoon. What to do? I first decided to head over to Gyukatsu Ichi Ni San since I did enjoy it last year. However, the line was down the block. After standing in the queue for over a half hour I realized it would probably be close to another hour before I was seated. My second choice was an Izakaya across from the AKB48 Cafe that I had always wanted to try for dinner. In fact I had gone to Rose and Crown for drinks a few days earlier. But their signature dinner dish had always intrigued me, especially for Tokyo…
I must say their prime rib wasn’t bad at all. Not the best cut of meat I have ever had, but it was prepared very well. Tobe honest I was kinda sad that I was spending such a lonely final evening of my trip. But just then I received a text message from my new Wasa-buddy Kenji, wondering what I was doing for the rest of the evening. I was so happy he had contacted me, and he had an excellent suggestion for something interesting to do…
Kanda Myojin (The Otaku Shrine)
After all these years of going to Tokyo and spending so much time in Akihabara, I am somewhat embarassed that I have never visited this place. Just a short walk from central Akihabara, and a block away from Ochanomizu Station, Kanda Myojin is a beautiful shrine sandwiched between various apartment and office buildings. It is also the location where many AKB48 members, including Wasamin, have had their coming of age ceremonies.
Visiting the shrine late at night was a special treat, even though it was tough to photograph many of the shrine’s features becase of the darkness. There was a certain serenity that isn’t present with a daytime crowd, and it was really neat to see all of the lanterns lit up.
I enjoyed visiting so much I had resolved to return the next day to take more photos. I wanted a better shot at some of the architecture as well as some of ema, many of which held prayers for various Anime characters, as well as prayers for AKB members. I am guessing there will be quite a few AKB fans visiting between now and the upcoming Senbatsu Sousenkyo.
They were also preparing for the upcoming Kanda Matsuri, which is a major festival in Tokyo occurring every other year in May. I was lucky enough to be in Tokyo for Kanda Matsuri 6 years ago. This was another chance to see some of the Mikoshi they use in the parades. Quite impressive.
After one last Tokyo sushi lunch, I grabbed my bags an headed to the airport. I was able to switch to a direct flight home, which cut my travel time by about five hours. What a relief! Anyway, another successful Japan trip in the books. So happy I got to spend some real quality time with Wasamin. I am glad our “relationship” seemed to level up this trip, due in part to my commitment to communicate with her more in Japanese. I’m not sure when I will see Wasamin again in person. Hopefully it won’t be too long. I have been home for a few days now and I miss her already. I will root for her in the Sousenkyo from afar.
Wrapping up this series, Wasamin’s final promotional event of the week pretty much wrapped up my idol festivities for this trip. Or did it? The following day I had a mission, and it was lucky that I had a railpass to soften the blow on my Suica card. Remember I ahd gone to all of those Wasamin “preorder” events the first week I was here? Sunday was the day I decided to return to every single shop to pick up the CDs. This was no simple task as these shops were literally all over Tokyo, not to mention one shop in Saitama, one close to Chiba, and the furthest one of all was practically in Yokohama. Seven shops in all. The other issue, considering this is Golden Week, was that there was no guarantee any of the shops would be open.
After 5 1/2 hours of traipsing all over Tokyo I managed to pick up 5 of the 7 preorders. The other two were open the following day so I managed to pick those up as well. I already had a ton of Wasamin CDs in my possession, so I suppose I could have just forgotten about these. But I didn’t want the Wasamin fans to get a reputation of preordering CDs for handshake tickets and then flaking on the order. Especially since a couple of the shopkeepers questioned whether or not I would come back. At the end of the day I had 40 copies of Hatsuzake, 20 of which I managed to give away before I left Tokyo. Additionally, I was able to give away half my copies of AKB48’s Green Flash. So I had lightened my travel load considerably.
(The five Wasa-packages from Sunday)
Anyway, one of the big thrills I had is trip was to be able to bring friends to some of these Wasamin events. One friend in particular had been promising to attend one for over a year. To be honest I had kinda given up on him, but he finally showed up at the Kitasuna events. And he showed up to see her perform at Ikebukuro as well. So I am glad she made a good imression on him. In fact, shortly after the first performance he sent out this tweet…
“When you see Iwasa live in person in a Kimono, it’s pretty easy to see why Cristafari likes her. She’s quite stunning.”
Sampling Some New Idols
So after attending not one, but three events I decided a little payback was in order. I would spend Monday with David (as well as a few other people) attending the type of events he likes to attend. It didn’t take long, in fact he didn’t even make it to our meeting place as he got sidetracked into an small idol event on the way. So I met him over at Twin Box Garage in Akihabara for my first taste of Aoyama Saint Hachamecha High School, a small idol group aiming to make their major label debut.
To be honest they didn’t really do much for me. The first song I heard was kinda cool. But I didn’t find the group all that appealing, looks-wise. Their color-scheme was very Momoclo-esque. Kind of amateurish. Then again, most indie ol groups are. Luckily it was a 25-minute concert (and only 500 yen, which included a bottle of soda) so no big deal if I didn’t love it. We headed out to Star Kebab, one of my favorite little Akiba haunts for lunch.
After that it was time to venture over to visit a place many idol fans had tried to get me to come to. And that was P.A.R.M.S., the home of Alice Project. I think part of the reason why I was reluctant was the way the group was sold to me. All I heard about was “going crazy” and “chekis”. Not to mention I would meet my friends afterwards and they were covered in sweat. I’m not a young guy anymore. And I can take or leave the chekis. So these descriptions did more to repel me than intrigue me. Their free weekend afternoon sample show was described as more of an introduction to the group. That I found much more palatable.
When we arrived I immediately realised that I had been to this venue before as it used to house a music shop called Ishimaru Soft, the top floors of which were used for idol events. This was the place I saw Momoiro Clover for their “Pinky Jones” release event. I also went to AKB48/SDN48 member Sato Yukari gravure DVD release here where she modeled for me.
Alice Project’s free afternoon show offered a sampling of a few of the Alice Project Sub-Groups. They would also offer their full menu of handshake and cheki opportunities after the show. I must admit I was impressed with what they had done to the venue. But I wasn’t too impressed with Slime Girls, the first group to perform. There was nothing really catching my eyes or ears. That reminds me…
I have always maintained that finding an oshimen, or favorite member should be a purely organic experience. When I go to an event like this I will look for a member to catch my eye, and I will sub-consciously watch them…exclusively. If it doesn’t happen, that means none of the members managed to catch me. So that didn’t happen with Slime Girls, but it was a different story with Pa-Ken Girls. Pa-Ken came out to a quirky little song that immediately had me hooked.
Ⅰ(あい) ♥(あい) 愛(あい)
Not only that, there was one particular member. I wouldn’t call her gorgeous. In fact it was her awkwardness that had me hooked. In many ways she reminded me of NMB48’s Ichikawa Miori. But I just thought she was adorable onstage. She was the only member I watched during Pa-Ken’s entire set.
Up next was Oz Girls, who had some really cute songs. Although none of the members appealed to me individually. Steam Girls were the last act, and you could tell they were the most polished of the four units. I thought one member in particular was cute, kind of a cross between Kizaki Yuria and Hirajima Natsumi. She had good energy. But their songs weren’t very memorable either. My favorite units by far were Pa-Ken Girls and Oz Girls.
After the show there were a series of meeting opportunities, the first of which was a handshake event with the Sub-Unit of your choice. The cost was purchasing an Alice Project CD for 1000 yen. Of course I chose Pa-Ken, and the first member was the girl I liked, Araki Himeri. I told her it was my first time ever coming to see Alice Project, and not only was Pa-Ken my favorite unit, but she was my favorite member. Told her how much I loved the first song. Jeez, this handshake was going for a long time! I finally made it to the second girl who immediately asked me to oshi her. Oh no, I have already made my choice! Finally one of their managers came over and began moving the line a bit faster. It wasn’t my fault, as the guy in front of me was talking to each girl for a long time. Next up was the 2-shot opportunity. When you get to the front of the queue you tell the manager who you want to see. Unfortunately I didn’t know Himeri by name yet, so I was pointing in the general direction of Pa-Ken. Apparently Himeri saw what was going on and immediately stepped forward to get the attention of the manager. “He wants me!” And she was right! With that I had my first 2-shot…
(Believe it or not, this girl is 20!)
But that’s not all. Later they offer 4-shots, where you can take a photo with three of your favorite members. Not to mention group shots where you take a pic with entire group or even all the groups. I opted for the 4-shot, but there was one issue. Only two girls really caught my fancy at all. So I asked management if only two was okay. They said yes…
So I headed up again. Naturally I had picked Himeri one more time. As I crossed the stage the other girl I chose, Maeda Natsumi had just finished taking a photo. She turned to say hello to me, the hulking foreigner who had crossed her path. Just then the Slime Girl photographer informed Natsumi that I had chosen her too. She was excitedly surprised, loudly exclaiming “Oh Thank You!” Before the photo I quickly told her where I was from, and that I really enjoyed watching her perform. Oh, if you choose a larger photo (for more yen) one of the girls will autograph the pic…
(Leaning to my left because I had thought I had broken two toes earlier in the day. Could barely put any weight on my right foot)
And that was P.A.R.M.S. They kicked the fans out shortly after to prepare for the evening show. I would definitely consider making another visit. Especially to see Himeri. Don’t worry Wasamin, I’m not going to oshihen. In fact, since Wasamin earlier admitted to reading my twitter, I refrained from tweeting any of my 2-shots. You know, just to be sure.
This was the final Wasamin event for me this trip, which is always an emotional experience. I don’t know when I will see her again. There are 2-shot events for AKB this week, and although I will be in town I don’t have any tickets. But it gives me a chance to enjoy the other great things about Japan. It also gives me a chance to rest since I don’t have to run out to any events first thing in the morning. Just go at my own pace. I need that right now…
Iwasa Misaki 4th Single Live & Handshake Event FINAL 2015/05/02 at Aeon Mall Hanyu (Saitama Prefecture)
1. Hatsuzake (Short ver.)
2. Hatachi no Meguriai
3. Hakimono to Kasa no Monogatari
4. Hatsuzake (Full ver.)
1. Hatsuzake (Short ver.)
3. Let It Go ~Ari no Mama de~
4. Hatsuzake (Full ver.)
I spent the night in Nagoya, which meant I had an extra long journey ahead of me. I managed to wake up around 5:15am, which allowed me to catch a really early Shinkansen back to Tokyo.
Good morning Fujisan!
I am always amazed at some of the choices of venue when it comes to Wasamin. Hanyu could definitely be classified as “out in the sticks”, on the far Western end of Saitama Prefecture close to Gunma. Not close to any train station, they provide shuttle bus service for the 10-minute ride from Hanyu Station.
Coming down the main road there it stood, a GIANT behemoth of a mall. By far the biggest Aeon Mall I have ever seen. The only one that might come close is Aeon Mall Hiroshima, where Wasamin performed last year. Filled with high end stores (Like Coach, Burberry, Tommy Hilfiger, Godiva to name a few), an enormous Supermarket and a multi-screen movie theater. It is definitely “the place to be” for the locals since the mall was packed.
It was the second-largest crowd of the week after Shibuya. Wasamin was wearing a pale peach-colored kimono with yellow and green trim. She had her hair pulled pack into a ponytail. She performed every song from the single plus Mujineki. So happy that I got to hear each new song one last time. I also love when there is an escalator behind the stage because you can see the reaction of random people passing the event. I just love seeing the smiles on their faces. Since it was her first ever performance in Hanyu she remarked about the area, and asked who the local fans were. She once again pointed me out as her Kaigai fan who followed her around Japan. I pointed out that I had brought a friend for the Bay Area to the event so she had two kaigai fans on this day.
And for the first time I have ever seen, they cut-off the single sales. and they actually gave some sort of “rain check” to a few fans who still had a bunch of tickets in their pockets. The issue was that Wasamin needed to get to the airport in order to fly to Osaka for the AKB48 2-shot event tomorrow (today), and the handshake event was already approaching the two-hour mark. Quite the contrast to Nagoya, where the handshakes went on for maybe 30-40 minutes.
Team Wasamin! Holding up our Wasa-sodas…Kanpai!!!
I am interested in seeing the final first week sales numbers for this single. Obviously it didn’t burn up the top of the Pop Chart, but that was to be expected. There was too much high-level competition. But an improvement over Tomobojo in sales would definitely be a good sign for Wasamin’s future as an Enka artist.
We had a running gag going about which fan was my “teacher” for each handshake. I told her about my journey that morning. She didn’t know I had spent the night in Nagoya. I also introduced my friend. I like showing her that I bring other overseas fans to the events…
During the break between shows I decided to hunt for a gift. I already had a fan (love) letter all prepared for her. And I did bring her a gift from California when I arrived. My first thought was something Sake-related. But since I don’t know Sake very well I was afraid I would buy something lame. Jewelry and hair accoutrement is always good, and I looked in a few stores. But I am not a good judge for that stuff either. Wasamin dresses slightly conservative, but she is quite stylish. I didn’t want to get her crap she would never wear. Godiva chocolate would have been great, except the shop was right next to the stage. It would just seem so thoughtless to buy her something from a shop 10 feet away. Not to mention that was what a few other fans had already gotten for her. Oh the painstaking effort to get Wasamin a present…
I finally found the mall flower shop, and after searching the place for quite a while I finally found an arrangement that matched her outfit perfectly! Yellow, Pink and Green. It was the winner! By now it was 10 minutes to the late performance, and I was on the complete opposite side of this gigantic mall. So I forgot to take a pic as I rushed back to the stage.
For the first handshake she asked how much longer I would be in Japan. I told her 5 more days, but I didn’t have any Shamekai tickets for the upcoming week. We both did the little “pretend crying” sign. For the second handshake I presented her withe flowers and fan letter. She always asks if there is a Japanese translation. Of course. I always do that automatically. And I pointed out which fan helped me with that. And whaddya know, the flowers brought good karma!
I saved my last ticket for close to the end because I don’t like spending all my tickets, then sitting there watching other fans for 45 minutes while I am empty handed. Plus, the last ticket is always an emotional experience. To keep it light I showed her the winning photo, and she asked if the English was okay. I told her it was PERFECT! I then said since it was the last time we would meet this trip, I wanted to tell her that I loved her. (BTW, the first time I had ever used the termAishiteru) She said she loved me too and hoped I would be back soon…
I did my best to keep my head together. But the fans had something else in mind. They organized a little impromptu goodbye ceremony, thanking me for coming from so far and being such an active participant. At that point the emotions got the best of me. Then, as I was leaving Wasamin’s management team came out and did the same. Damn, just as I was recoving…the tears came flowing back. But it was very nice thing for them to do.
And as a bonus, here is some of the Wasa-swag that was available at the events this week…
The “Super-rare” image trading card. Fans got to draw them after each handshake. If you were lucky you would pull an autographed photo. Each event offered a different photocard. Ultimately there were 24 different cards (for the 24 events this month). I ended up with 19 varieties, so I am missing five.
Signboards and Sticker Sets. The began giving these away on Tuesday in Ikebukuro when the single actually released. You were able to choose one or the other after each handshake.
A Shibuya exclusive, Hatsuzake clear file. There were also five autographed clear files that were given away via Janken during the evening performance.
So that’s it for the Wasamin release week tour. Although they already announced a Hatsuzake handshake event next week in Omiya. And of course the Hatsuzake 2-shot events are coming in May and June. If the last 12 months are any indication I am sure there will be tons more promotion for Wasamin and her single throughout the year.