AKB48, Concerts, Japan CK in Japan Summer 2014 Final…A Farewell to Yuko

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I had one more event to attend before I headed back to Osaka to finish up this trip.  To be honest, I kinda had my fill of Ajinomoto Stadium the previous day getting soaked in the rain.  At least for this show it would only be a few hours instead of the all-day extravaganza that is the Senbatsu Sousenkyo.  I also wasn’t worried about the weather since my seat was shielded from the elements.  When I woke up it wasn’t raining at all.  The forecast was for light scattered showers.  Quite the contrast from Saturday….It figured.

My friend and I headed out around mid-afternoon and found a street vendor nearby selling Kara-age and Chu-Hi.  We got our fill and a slight buzz before we headed into the stadium.  This time just a little bit before showtime…

 

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Oshima Yuko Graduation Concert at Ajinomoto Stadium  June 8, 2014

I was surprised how short and quick the line was on the opposite side of the stadium from where I entered on Saturday.  Plus, there more areas shielded from the weather.  Damn, had I known I probably wouldn’t have had nearly as miserable time the previous evening.  Oh well.  We headed to our seats and were given a small “graduation kit” from the Yuko supporters with a glowstick, and instructions how to use it.  The glowstick even had an inscription on it…with the original cancelled concert date.  That meant these had been lying around for a while.  But I had brought my green glowsticks, along with the green flags given to us at the gate I was ready to party!

 

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Our seats were exactly as expected.  Upper deck, around 7 rows from the rail around 2/3 of the way back.  No blind spots, but pretty far from the stage.  Binoculars would have definitely come in handy.  The good news was we were two rows from the aisle where the girls performed in the upper deck on Saturday.  So if they did that again we would have an awesome view for it.

 

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The Show

Once the show began I was immediately reminded how much more I love AKB48 in smaller AND indoor venues.  There are so many issues when a group who’s motto is “Idols You Can Meet” performs in a stadium.  Most of the seats in the venue, including those on the field are much too far away to enjoy the show with the naked eye.  You are going to either need to use binoculars or resign yourself to watching the monitors.  That is unless they move the performance to a spot in the stadium closer to you.  The second issue is the sound.  There are echoes, delays.  The sound you are hearing doesn’t completely match up with what you are watching.

 

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It also becomes glaringly obvious how much of the performance utilizes lip-synch.  Especially in the group songs.  Not necessarily during solos and duets.  There were also moments in the show where the singing was obviously live.  But when the girls are running all over the stadium mid-song, it doesn’t even look like they are even trying to mimic singing.  They are just running!  Not that any of this really ruins the experience.  It just emphasizes how much more special the theater shows and performances in places like Budokan or TDC Hall really are.  At least that is how I feel about it.

This particular show would be best remembered for it’s special and celebratory moments, beginning with Yuko’s opening performance of Nakinagara Hohoende with live piano accompaniment.  From how she was positioned on stage it looked as if she was wearing a HUGE flowing wedding dress, draping all the way from the top risers to the stage.

The next two segments after the opening MCs featured the AKB48 teams performing their B-sides from the Labrador Retriever single, as well as the sister groups’ performances.  Of all the B-sides my favorite by far is B Garden.  However the song loses a bit of it’s humor when watching from so far away.  It was also during this segment that Not Yet performed their debut single Shuumatsu Not Yet….in the middle of the arena.  In fact I would have been inches away had they done this performance formation on Saturday. I am sure they had something planned like that.  It must have been washed away by the rain.  Rats!

 

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NMB48 performed their new single…I mean feature track from their upcoming album, Ibiza Girl.  It sounds fairly generic to me.  It’s too bad since I thought NMB had a great run of singles from Nagiichi to Kamonegix.  But their last two I haven’t liked nearly as much.  I still am looking forward to their album release as it sounds like it will come with some great DVD content!  All three sister groups finished their sets with fan favorites, NMB’s Nagiichi, HKT’s Melon Juice and SKE’s Oki Doki.  The set finished with the old concert favorite Hikoukigumo.  Dammit, I have so many flags at home specifically for use in that song!

Note to self:  Always bring a Hikoukigumo flag to any AKB48 event…just in case

It was around is time that Yuko and Kojiharu did an MC across the stadium.  The one where Yuko tried to goad Haruna into announcing her graduation, and Haruna’s trolling the audience with her responses.  To be honest I am all for the older members moving on and the younger girls taking over AKB.  But there was a bit of happiness to hear Kojiharu fight it and say “Hell no, I’m not going anywhere…yet!”

The next memorable moment for me was the performance of After Rain in the upper deck.  Four members came right by me, including Yuko, Yukirin and Matsui Rena.  To be honest I forget who the fourth person was but they were all close enough to High-Five.  In fact the girls did do that occasionally.  Unfortunately I wasn’t one of the lucky ones.  Seishun no Inazuma featured Yuko tap-dancing alongside her Ori-K partner Miyazawa Sae.  It was a nice touch, as was Yuko’s duet with Takamina on Kinjirareta Futari.

 

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The rest of the main set was filled with Yuko-centric songs and a short cloudburst leading into the encore.  The rain didn’t last too long, maybe 2-3 songs.  The encore began with a VTR, and Yuko’s new graduation song.  Everyone lit their commemorative lightsticks.  But it was immediately apparent that they did not create nearly enough light for an impressive visual in the stadium.  So the fans quickly abandoned them for their green glowsticks, which created a much more powerful effect.

They saved most of the sentimental Team K songs for the very end, performing Sougen no Kiseki and Sasae with many of Yuko’s original teammates on stage.  Among them were some of the graduates, but not all.  Aside from Sayaka, Nontii and the remaining Team K members who haven’t graduated, I really couldn’t tell who was there.  But I was sure Meetan wasn’t there as she was scheduled to deliver her baby any minute!  The next moment, originally designed to be emotional, turned out to be extremely humorous.  The handshake line….

Yes, every member from every group queued up to say goodbye to Yuko.  The line stretched completely around the stadium.  But even that wasn’t enough room as girls continued to queue after the line started moving.  All the while the musical portion of Sasae played on a loop over and over.  Some of the girls did become tearful, but a cry-fest really isn’t Yuko’s style.  There were probably more humorous interactions than anything.  But what was really funny was the amount of time this was taking.  I wasn’t keeping track, but I am sure it took at least 30 minutes.  Eventually someone told the girls to hurry up, so by the time AKB got their turn (they were last) it turned into more of a high-touch.  Too bad.

The show ended with one last performance of Mae Shika Mukanee and Heavy Rotation, with Yuko floating above the stadium on a wire all the way to the top deck.  It was actually quite nerve-wracking to watch, especially in that weather.  She floated into a small structure above the crowd, and with an audible “door slam” she was gone…

 

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Their was a final performance of Labrador Retriever as fans were already filing out of the stadium.  You see the fans’ were in a hurry to conquer next challenge…getting to the train station, and on to a train back to Shinjuku.  My friend and I decided to hang back and go to the goods tables.  Luckily nothing was sold out so we pretty much got everything we wanted.  It was then that I felt completely foolish for arriving so early on Saturday.  Live and learn, I guess.

Yuko would finish her official AKB duties with one more theater performance.  I didn’t win for it, so I went back to Osaka to finish out my trip.  I decided to treat myself to some crab and a nice massage.  The following day I made a brief visit to South Korea before heading back to the states.  Picked up some authentic Korean Kimchee as well to enjoy when  got home.

 

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Overall it was a very nice trip.  Not the least bit disappointing.  Did disappointing things happen?  Sure, but not everything goes your way in life.  The disappointing events ultimately opened up new opportunities which I am so happy to have experienced.  I was mainly sad because I didn’t get a chance to connect with Wasamin.  But that was easily remedied.  I wrote her a nice long letter, telling her about my adventures and making sure she knew that I did come to Japan to support her, even if we couldn’t see one another.  After all, that is what having an Oshimen is really all about.  It isn’t about me.  It is about Wasamin.  It’s something I don’t think a lot of people in the Western fandom really understand.  What it really means to have an Oshimen.

 

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At any rate, Japan trip #14 is in the books.  I arrived safely at home, and am now scheming for my next trip over.  Whenever that will be.

 

Until next time,

CK in California

P.S.  Occasionally I get asked personal questions on this blog.  I know there is no email link.  But you can find me on twitter or Ask.fm @Cristafari, and on Stage48 with the same handle, Cristafari 

 

AKB48, Concerts CK in Japan Summer 2014 Part 5…Getting Drenched at Ajinomoto

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I forgot to mention I had the chance to check out the NMB48 Theater.  Well, at least the outside of it.  I don’t think you can go downstairs unless you have won a ticket.  Sadly I didn’t win any NMB shows, but I can now say I have been to every 48-group theater in Japan.

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The Morita Ayaka Birthday Committee was preparing for the show.  Not only did NMB have armed security in front of the theater, security was also positioned in front of the AKB48 Cafe and the NMB48 Shop around the corner.

 

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The 6th Annual AKB48 Senbatsu Sousenkyo June 7th at Ajinomoto Stadium

Nearly two weeks into my trip, I was finally able to attend a real idol event.  And it was a big one.  Actually it was two big ones.  For the second year in a row I was going to attend the Annual AKB48 Senbatsu Sousenkyo.  It’s funny when I think about how sad I was to give up my ticket to the 4th event in 2012.  Little did I know I would attend the next two in a row.  Additionally I was able to obtain a ticket to Yuko’s graduation concert, which was also taking place at Ajinomoto Stadium.  It was going to be a huge weekend.  However…

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The forecast was for rain all weekend.  For Yuko’s concert my seat was in the upper deck which was covered by an overhang.  But my seat for the Sousenkyo was right in the middle of the field.  Needless to say I was not looking forward to sitting in the rain for 6-7 hours.  I hoped for a miracle.  When I woke up Saturday morning the rain was still going strong.  Oh well, it was what it was.  I had heard the queue for goods was already pretty long, so I headed to the Stadium.  That was my first mistake…

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My Senbatsu Sousenkyo experience could easily be called a “comedy of errors”, beginning with leaving over four hours early for a concert/event that would take close to seven hours.  When I arrived the queue for goods stretched one-third of the way around the stadium, up a street, back down the street, further around the stadium, across the parking lot, and down another street.  It was insanely long, and the rain was coming down pretty steady.  I had my umbrella, but it wasn’t really preventing my shoes and socks from getting wet.  That was Error #2…

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Just because it is raining, you don’t necessarily have to dress for cold weather.   I looked around and noticed a lot of people were wearing shorts and flip flops.  Considering the state of my shoes, socks and bottoms of my jeans I thought to myself how much more comfortable I would be if I was dressed like that.  Oh well, it was far too late to change clothes.  Around 90 or so minutes later I made it to the goods tables and got everything I wanted.  I stuffed everything in my backpack, but as I looked around I noticed so many other people had their stuff in heavy plastic bags.  Oh jeez, how were my backpack AND IT’S CONTENTS going to survive the day?  I was in deep trouble.

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Teru Teru Bozu were no help whatsoever

 

After eating a quick lunch at one of the food trucks that was catering the event, I noticed the queue to get into the stadium became rather long.  I then remembered Yuasa had warned everyone that the line could be very slow, and to get into the stadium early if possible.  So I queued up.  Error #3…or is that 4???

The line moved quickly, and within 20 minutes I was in the stadium.  I put on my pink poncho, took off my long sleeve shirt and wrapped it around my concert goods.  Hopefully it would keep them dry.  I had the Sousenkyo guidebook, as well as the concert program and a bunch of collector photos in the bag.  Once inside the stadium there weren’t really any spots to shield yourself from the rain that weren’t occupied by hundreds of people.  I decided to head in and check out the view from my seat…

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By the way, that is NOT the view from my seat.  Disregard the green circle as well.   I borrowed this shot from somebody else.  I am just out of picture on the mid-left hand side of the photo.

 

Not bad, but not great either.  I was about 2/3 of the way back from the stage just right of dead center.  If they utilized the rear stage I would have a decent view.  But for the main stage the monitors were going to be my best bet.  I cleared the huge pool of rain that had formed on my seat so I could sit down.  Which is where I discovered the ramifications of my chosen attire.  You see the poncho, which was paper thin (and for some reason oily) protected your legs as long as you were standing up.  But I am not a short guy.  So when I sat down it would hitch halfway up my thigh.  So now I my legs were getting pelted by the rain almost to the pockets.  You know, the pockets with my Passport, JR Pass, Money, and Cellphone inside.  This was a huge problem.  I used my two oshi towels to cover my legs.  That helped…for a while.  But pretty soon the towels were completely soaked.  Thankfully it was just about showtime.  At least I thought it was…

The Concert…Finally!

Forty minutes late, the show finally began.  Everyone was standing, jumping around, waving their pink senbatsu flags.  The excitement of the concert, and watching the girls getting drenched themselves brought levity to the situation.  The show started with an introduction of all the ranking members from last year.  I strained my eyes to see if I could pick out Wasamin among the Future Girls as they broke into Koisuru Fortune Cookie.  Yes!  I was back at an AKB concert!  The humor wasn’t lost on the crowd when they performed After Rain since it was still coming down pretty hard.  I do really like that song.  As expected, the best vantage point I had was when the girls performed on the back stage.  It was happening quite a bit too.  I am glad management chooses to utilize the entire stadium for the performance.  Otherwise most everyone would be staring at the screens the entire time.

After Shoujotachi Yo, which has become another fun concert standard they did the first MC.  During every MC I chose to stand as much as possible to avoid further water damage to my clothes.  Pretty much all of the members were soaked.  I thought it was kinda cool that most of them had the attitude “What the hell, let’s just have fun!”

 

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Out of the break with Otona AKB.  Tsukamoto Mariko, hmmm.  What can I say about her.  She is a pretty hawt mom…I guess.  I’m just not getting the best vibe from her personality.  It feels forced to me.  But I do get a kick out of the song Oshiete Mommy.  The other highlight to the abbreviated concert was when the Senbatsu members performed Oogoe Diamond in the upper deck.  I was already jealous of those fans’ comparative dryness.  Here was another reason to feel jealous.  The show came to an abrupt end due to the late start.  I hear they cut out a huge chunk of the setlist, inuding most of the performances by the sister groups.   But the girls had about 20 minutes to dry off and change before the big moment.  The Sousenkyo!

The Election

I could not wait for this event to get started.  I was wet and cold, but I couldn’t let that get in the way of important matters.  Unlike last year when I was merely hoping Wasamin would rank and I just wanted to hear her name called.  This year she had a great preliminary, so I wasn’t worried about whether or not I would hear her name.  I knew I would.  But could she finally break into Undergirls?  This was the Wasa-fans’ ultimate goal.

Wasamin’s name wasn’t the only name I was interested in.  Could Matsumura Kaori make senbatsu this year?  To me that would be an amazing WIN.  Would Tani Marika get her name called for the first time?  How about Ishida Anna?  Tanabe Miku?  How about Yakata Miki?  Could she return to the rankings after missing out last year?  Those were the names I cared about the most.  To me the battle for the top spots is much less important.  Let the noobs and casuals worry about that.  Although when it comes to Sasshi and Mayuyu, I will vote for Sasshi every time!  So the stage is set, the show was starting.  But not before the Gamashura Ouendan set the mood with their stirring and effective speech.  You could tell many members were really affected by what was being said.  Not to mention the crowd.  The cheering throughout the stadium was passionate and emotional.  You could feel it!

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The Up and Coming Girls

For many of the members I cheer for, if they were going to rank at all it would be here.  I didn’t hear Tani’s name called, which was disappointing.  But I did hear Yakata Miki at #73.  She is so much fun at events, and tries her best with foreign fans.  I was so happy to see the look on her face when she got called.  A short time later one of the biggest surprises of the night occurred with Tanabe Miku’s name being called at #71.  The reaction from the crowd was wonderful.  She is an original Team B member.  For seven years she has been virtually ignored by management and fans.  It was great vindication against all the people who have called for her graduation.  Tanamin made the most of the moment with one of the funniest speeches of the night.  Good for you Tanamin, finally a little bit of respect and recognition.  It was long overdue!

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Future Girls

Listening to the vote count, I knew Wasamin had quite a few more than the girls on the low end of Future Girls.  But as the vote counts increased I began to get worried.  In fact every time I heard “AKB48″ and then “Team K” I would prick up my ears.  No, not yet!  Wasamin must rank higher! When Uchiyama Natsuki’s name was called at #63 I was happy for my friend Frank, who was hoping she would get her first ranking.  He is also a fan of HKT48′s Sakaguchi Riko (#60), so this began to look like “Frank’s Girls”.  I think the biggest shock was Kuramochi Asuka’s drop to #52.  But I wasn’t too surprised.  A lot of these mid-pack members from the early days of AKB are being passed by their juniors.  We were getting toward the end, it was almost a sure thing that Wasamin would be upgrading to Next Girls.  Then I heard it…

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“AKB48, Team K…Iwasa Misaki”.  My audible gasp caused heads to turn.  “No!  She was supposed to be much higher than this!!! How did she drop so…..wait what?  She is CENTER of Future Girls???  Well, that’s something else entirely!”  I think my reaction is many ways mirrored Wasamin’s.  Initial slight disappointment, but then came the realization that she would be center of a Sousenkyo team for the second time!  I don’t think anyone aside from Acchan and Yuko hold that distinction.  Throw in the fact that in the early years Wasamin didn’t rank at all.  So as much as Wasamin and her fans would love to see a higher ranking, just having her hold a trophy is in many ways a win all by itself.

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Next Girls and Undergirls

I was running out of members to root for as there was no way Tani or Anna would rank this high.  I was interested in whether or not Takayanagi Akane and Oya Masana would stay in Undergirls, which they did.  Nobody who quliified for Next Girls excited me too much, but I was really happy to hear Takahashi Juri’s name called at #28.  I have always felt she was adorable.  I was also satisfied at Takajo Aki’s #26 ranking,  but not in a good way.  I find some of her fans to be quite annoying, so I was hoping she wouldn’t make senbatsu just to humble them a bit.  As the Undergirls were being called I was more and more excited.  It was going to happen, Kaotan was gonna do it.  Just one more name to be called!  But like with Future Girls, the name I was hoping I wouldn’t hear was announced…

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Like with Wasamin, there was initial disappointment.  But having Kaotan be the center of Undergirls is a great accomplishment, AND should make for an terrific PV.  As expected Kaotan’s speech was one of the best of the night.  And as always she uses her time to promote her fellow Kenkyuusei.  She may be gritty, but Kaotan is just an awesome idol!!!

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So all of the girls I really care about were called.  The excitement was pretty much over for me.  Or was it?  There was one particular name we hadn’t heard yet.  It was about to become the feel-good story of the election.

The Senbatsu 

Nobody had to wait long for the other great surprise.  Kawaei Rina ranking #16 was the perfect elixir for the pain in the hearts of every AKB member and fan.  And to see her step on that stage?  It made it even sweeter.  I don’t think there was a person in the stadium that wasn’t affected by that moment.  To watch her stand on that stage and accept her award gave us all hope that things would eventually be okay in the world of AKB.

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As for the rest of the rankings, I was so happy to see girls like Miyawaki Sakura, Shimazaki Haruka, Matsui Jurina, and especially Suda Akari rank up.  Seeing their collective growth in popularity gives me hope for the future health of AKB.  But I have to admit I was disappointed by Mayu beating Sasshi.  I don’t dislike Mayu.  I just don’t get her aura.  I’m sorry, but I just cannot picture her as the face of AKB.  I just can’t.  But whatever.  As I have always said the fight for the top of AKB is more important to the noobs and casuals.  The girls further down the pecking order fighting for their idol careers will ALWAYS be much more interesting to me.

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BOOOO!   (hehehe)  Aww shucks, I’m happy that Mayu is so excited.

 

I couldn’t wait to get back to my hotel and dry off.  Luckily my hotel had free washers and dryers.  As for the concert goods I had purchased as well as the contents of my pockets?

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You can’t tell from the pic, but they are both in really bad shape =(

Most everything survived.  Including the photos.  Phone worked, passport still intact.  My money was wet, but usable.  As you can see my only casualties were the guidebook and concert program, which were completely waterlogged.  I was able to obtain another guidebook.  But I am going to keep the two ruined programs as a momento from such a crazy day!

I was going to report on both concerts here, but this post is already really long.  So there will be one more entry for Yuko’s big concert!

CK in California

 

 

Japan, Miscellaneous CK in Japan Summer 2014 Part Four…The Galloping Gourmet

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Before I get to my final trip experience, the concerts….

I recently did something on my Facebook page and got some really positive feedback.  Considering the circumstances of this trip ithis is a great opportunity to do it on this blog.  I often get asked questions about my travels.  In fact I was slightly amused, although perplexed at a question (or should I say demand?) I received not too long ago on my Ask.fm account.  (By the way, feel free to send me questions if you like)

“Enthuse me about how great Japan is! :)

I really didn’t know quite how to answer this question.  How do I enthuse someone?  Do I talk about the idols?  That might do it for some, but not everyone.  There are many different things that could possibly “enthuse” someone about going there.  Personally I have a bit of “train otaku” blood running through me.  The idea of traveling around Japan by train absolutely thrills me.  But aside from entertainment, there is one thing that universally stimulates everyone’s enthusiasm when it comes to overseas travel.  The food!  And Japan is one of, if not the best place in the world for cuisine.  In that spirit, I thought I would post pictures of some of the dishes I enjoyed on this and previous trips over.

Just one warning.  I have this habit of digging into my lunch/dinner before I remember to take a picture.  So some of the pictures will have a few bites taken out of them XD

Let’s begin with everyone’s favorite…ramen!

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Pork Bone Ramen  King Ramen, Canal City Hakata

 

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Hokkaido style crab based ramen.  Ramen Stadium, Hakata

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Ginger-soy sauce ramen.  Aoshima Shokudo, Asakusabashi

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Spicy beansprout ramen.  Hiroshima Chuka Soba Usagi, Saitama

I am not a huge ramen fan.  But I must admit all four of those dishes were really good.  The Hokkaido ramen had a wonderfully rich crab-based broth.  And don’t you love that bowl?  I also loved the pork at the Asakusabashi joint, which has a line out the door every day!  But I think my favorite might have been the spicy ramen with beansprouts.  I love spicy food!

How about some meat?

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Regular Gyudon.  Gyu no Chikara, Ueno

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Tonkatsu dinner set (Pork cutlet). Tonkatsu no Miseto Chinkan, Shinjuku

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Gyukatsu Dinner Set.  Gyukatsu Ichi Ni San, Akihabara

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Motsunabe. Rakutenchi, Hakata

Of the four dishes, the best to me was the Tonkatsu in Shinjuku.  It was recommended by my fellow Wasa-fanatic, Andy.  I have eaten a lot of Tonkatsu, and this has been my favorite so far.  It was so juicy and tender.  The Gyukatsu was a unique experience.  It was very good, but it lacked the juiciness you get from Tonkatsu.  It did come with an amazing garlic sauce.  As for the Motsunabe.  Not really my favorite food.  I wanted to try it since it is one of Wasamin’s favorite dishes.  It was after this meal that I told her I didn’t love Motsunabe.  She was so disappointed :(

My favorite food in Japan has to be sushi!

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Toro plate.  Sushizanmai, Tokyo

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Chirashi Bowl.  Gyoson, Odawara

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Shirasu-don w/ Toro. Tobiccho, Enoshima

I probably eat sushi more than any other dish in Japan.  I just love raw fish.  Once you have sushi in Japan, the stuff you get in America just pales in comparison.  That bowl was really nice, but the different grades of tuna on one plate was a lot of fun.  Not cheap, but not overly expensive either.  Sushizanmai is a chain, but a pretty good one if you ask me.  Tobiccho is one of my favorite restaurants on the island of Enoshima.  It was actually featured on a recent episode of Ariyoshi AKB.  They are the restaurant that serves fish-infused beer.

Yes I love sushi.  But I probably love shellfish even more!!!

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Grilled crab to-go.  Kani Doraku, Osaka

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Gilled squid and turban shell.  Marudai, Enoshima

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Hiroshima Oysters. (and a glass of champagne) Kakimeian, Hiroshima

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Crab Miso and Crab Tempura. Kanitsuu Hakataten, Fukuoka

Crab is one of those foods that I love the idea of eating more than actually eating.  I hate the work that goes into crab.  I just want to eat!  The grilled crab is from that famous restaurant in Dotonbori with the moving crab sign.  I love oysters!  I went to that restaurant on a local recommendation since it is one of the foods Hiroshima is famous for.  They were very good, and I loved that a glass of sparkling wine came with your lunch!

More meat.  This time chicken!

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Assorted Yakitori.  Aburidori Baricho, Akihabara

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Kara-age lunch set, Ko-Edo Funachu, Akihabara

Yakitori is another of my favorite things to eat in Japan.  This particular restaurant in Akihabara UDX is really good.  Although my favorite Yakitori restaurant of all-time is a little hole in the wall in Shin-Koenji.  Kara-age is easy to find in Japan.  Much better than any battered chicken that I have ever had in the US.  This place served a “Wet Karaage, which was different, but very tasty.

Miscellaneous grub…

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Tomato/Avocado Curry.  Akiba Kaigan Curry, Akihabara

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Okonomiyaki.  Okonomi Monogatari Eki Mae Hiroba, Hiroshima

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Appetizer set.  Museum of Yebisu Beer, Ebisu

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Okonomiyaki.  Ueno Park, Sakura Matsuri

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Oshima Yuko’s Raspberry Cheesecake.  AKB48 Cafe, Akihabara

So you can see there is plenty of delicious food to eat in Japan.  And this barely scrapes the surface of all the different places I have enjoyed over the years.  I didn’t even post all the terrific bentos I have eaten on the shinkansen either.  Even some of the fast food is great.  You don’t like McDonalds?  You should check out some of the special items on their menus in Japan.  Some pretty good stuff!  Oh, and Akihabara has an awesome chain of takeaway restaurants called Star Kebab that I highly recommend!  Most everything on this post is reasonably priced too.  So don’t go buying into that “everything in Japan is so expensive” stuff.  Not true at all.

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Star Kebab, Akihabara

And what do I wash it all down with?  It is always fun to find new things around Japan.  One of the local coffee house chains was offering a new drink that I fell in love with…

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Perrier-Espresso.  Excelsior Caffe

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Tory’s Black Highball

My new favorite drink in Japan is that coffee drink, which for me is amazingly non-alcoholic.  Yes, I do like to imbibe while in Japan.  Especially Hi-balls, which are pretty much Whiskey & Soda.  The Black Highball (pictured above) is the cola version.  Some restaurants serve a Ginger version.  I love them all!  I have also mentioned that I like Chu-Hi.  But yeah, that Espresso and Perrier is good stuff.  I want to start making these at home!

I will finish up with the concert posts tomorrow.  Until then….

CK in California

AKB48, Japan CK in Japan Summer 2014 Part Three…The Sousenkyo Museum Redux

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Something else that kept me occupied while in Tokyo was the AKB48 Sousenkyo Museum at Belle Salle Akihabara, right across the street from the Don Quijote.  Last year I thoroughly enjoyed the museum which I described in this post.  I bought two tickets during presale.  One to use immediately and the other to keep in my back pocket in case I got wind that Wasamin was making an appearance.  Just like last year, each ticket came with a Sousenkyo poster as well as the opportunity to purchase additional posters for 550 yen apiece.  Since the entryway to my home is lined with last year’s posters, I was excited to have the chance to freshen them up with the current versions.

 

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So how did this year’s Museum stack up against the 2013 version?  Let’s head on in and check it out!

The AKB48 Sousenkyo Museum at Belle Salle Akihabara 2014

The first big difference was the bag check and metal detectors at the entrance.  Since this was less than a week after the Iwate Incident this was all new to the fans.  But it really wasn’t that bad.  In fact I had prepared by only carrying essential items in my bag, so the inspection was very quick.  I might add that the guards were all very nice too.  Upon entering you were given a whole bunch of paperwork.  Last year they had one contest you could enter for prizes.  But this year they had three different contests.

The first contest wasn’t for prizes, it was merely to decide which member had the most artistic poster.  Matsui Rena’s was in the lead for pretty much the entire two weeks of the museum.  The battle for second was between Sayanee and Mayuyu.  Mayuyu?  Really???  Can her fans not take off their oshi glasses for one second?  I must admit that really bothered me.  Mayuyu’s poster was nothing special.  There were so many that were a thousand times more creative and artistic.  Anyway from what I understand Rena’s ultimately won, so there is justice in the world.  And if you are wondering who I voted for?

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At first I thought I would find the poster of an underdog that I really liked.  Maybe Kaotan?  That was a funny poster.  Mita Mao drew herself as an anime character.  I always love Aamin’s poster.  This year was no exception.  I didn’t vote for Wasamin’s poster either.  Not that I don’t love it, but there wasn’t anything especially unique about it.  Ultimately I voted for Rena each time I visited.  I wanted to make sure Mayu didn’t win.  After all, Rena’s really was the best poster!

 

The second contest was virtual slot machine.  If you got three matching images you won one of the autograph boards the members signed for the museum.  Needless to say, I didn’t win.

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Finally the best, and hardest contest.  A chance to win a personalized DVD message from this year’s senbatsu.  All you had to do was predict ALL FIVE centers of the Sousenkyo teams.  Yeah, pretty much impossible.  And considering Mayuyu won you could probably toss out 75% of the entries.  I doubt anyone won this.  I know I didn’t!

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Like last year they had all of the posters on display for the members to sign.  During the first week most of the visitors were from the sister groups, so there were quite a few signatures from SKE and HKT.  Same with the autograph wall inside near the stage.

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This year there were far more costumes on display.  Not only from the PVs, but from the Sousenkyo photo shoots AND the group’s performance on NHK’s Kouhaku Uta Gassen

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More of my favorite costumes…

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Sasshi’s Koisuru Fortune Cookie

 

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From Takamina’s Sousenkyo Poster

 

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As well as Sayanee’s.  We had an interesting discussion on twitter about the placement of that tiger.  And my favorite costume on display in the museum?

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Kaotan’s Matsumurabu.  WIN!!!

 

In addition, some of the props the girls used for their photoshoots were also on display…

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Of course it wouldn’t be a Sousenkyo museum without the “gorgeous” artist renderings of Senbatsu winners past.

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Sasshi’s would be alright if they didn’t mess up her nose.  That Yuko painting in the foreground?  Sheesh!

 

The awards of winners past.  Where is Sasshi’s award?  I have no idea!  I can tell you it wasn’t on display for the entire first week.  What I did like was that they put them in much nicer display cases.

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There was even an area where you could create your own Teru Teru Bozu for the upcoming concert.  (They gave away a pre-made version as a gift)  With the weekend weather forecast becoming more dire by the minute, this seemed like a desperate exercise.  But I wanted to have good karma, especially since I had a very good arena level seat for the show.  So I went ahead and created one with a secret Wasa-message hidden on the inside!

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Of course the girls’ appeal videos were constantly playing on the monitors.  I just had to get this shot.  I hope everyone is paying attention.  Wasamin presiding over the festivities.

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The other fun feature of the Museum was the chance that a few members might drop by while you were inside.  This year they tried a new tactic by posting who would be visiting in advance, although they did not advertise the time the girls would be appearing.  I was lucky enough to be in the venue for two such visits.  The first was Team A’s Iwata Karen.  The second was a visit by a few members of SNH48.  The girls would appear on stage, say a few words, sign the wall.  Not a big deal.  But it was fun nonetheless.

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If I had to compare it to last year, I would say this year’s version of the museum was MUCH nicer.  There were more activities.  There were more costumes.  The displays seemed alot more professionally put together.  They had a live NicoNicoDouga stream.  Not to say I didn’t enjoy the museum last year.  But this year’s version to me took it to another level.  There was a lot more thought and preparation involved.

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And of course I got to sit on the throne….Wasamin represent!

 

More to come!!!

CK in California

AKB48, Japan CK in Japan Summer 2014 Part 2…Creating the Wasamin Experience

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So I was in Japan, an suddenly I had a lot of time on my hands.  What to do?  I had a JR Pass in my pocket, so the possibilities were endless.  As it was my first extended stay in Osaka, I spent the first couple of days checking out Namba and Dotonbori.  By the way, Dotonbori is awesome!  I love this place.

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It has just as much, if not more energy than Shibuya.  It is as lit up as Shinjuku.  Simply stated, it is a nightly party!  Not to mention a foodie paradise.  So many amazing restaurants to try.  It was hard to pick!

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Even if the place does have a little bit of “seediness”, I still enjoyed it.  This is where the action is!  And when I say action, I am including all the hawt idol-looking young girls on the street who looked like they were open for business.  Jeez, next time I am going to dress a bit nicer.  One of these girls looked exactly like Team KII’s Ishida Anna.

The next day I took off for my first ever visit to Kyoto.  I didn’t have a full day, so I only had time for one activity.  I wanted to check out the Geisha neighborhood, but my friend wasn’t into that.  Instead we visited Fushimi Inari-taisha, which was a short train ride from Kyoto station.  However before we went in we decided to try some local Inarizushi!

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I have never really been a fan of this kind of sushi, but these were amazing.  Fresh, with the perfect taste of sesame.  Great with an ice cold brew on such a warm day!

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After that we were off the the shrine.  Or should I say shrines?  There are a bunch of them on the mountain.  As we climbed Inari Mountain through the Torii tunnels we started to realize how long this trail really was.  In fact I think we made it about one-third of the way up before we decided to turn back.  But it was a beautiful place, albeit with a ton of tourists and local visitors.  If you are coming to this shrine for solitude, you may not find what you are looking for.  But to visit one of Japan’s beautiful treasures?  I’m glad I went!

But I had come to see Wasamin.  Even if that wasn’t going to happen, I could still add some Wasamin-esque experiences to this trip.  Since I was already in Osaka, and I had a railpass, the first was a no-brainer…

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A visit to Tomonoura, via the Wasamin bus!!!

This was a planned excusion.  The previous day, when I visited Kyoto I was supposed to be Wasamin’s event and mini-live.  Today was one I had been looking forward to for a long time.  I was going to the town that was the inspiration for Wasamin’s third single, Tomonoura Bojou.  I couldn’t wait, but would I have to?

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Wasamin’s Event Poster…Postponed!  =(

I headed to Fukuyama first thing in the morning.  It’s a one-hour ride from Shin-Osaka via the Shinkansen.  You see there was one little hitch in the plan.  On the weekend the Wasamin bus runs all day on a set schedule.  But this was a Thursday.  During the week her bus runs on an irregular schedule, usually once per day.  It could be in the morning, the afternoon…who knew?  I did not want to miss it, even if I had to sit at Fukuyama terminal all day!

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Upon arriving at Fukuyama Station, the first thing I did was look down from the train platform to see if I could spot the bus.  It wasn’t there.  Okay, I hoofed it down to the Bus Information counter and inquired about the Wasamin Bus.  The woman brightly responded “The Wasamin Bus, Yes!  Would you like one ticket?  I paid the round trip fare and was given one of the special Wasamin bus tickets.  I didn’t realize they still gave those out, SCORE!  In fact I should have purchased an extra as a keepsake.  But I still have the stub.  As suggested by my Wasa-friends in Japan, I then inquired about the Wasamin-bus schedule for the day.  I couldn’t understand her response.  Did she say 12pm?  11:20am?  She was pointing to a time on the schedule that had already passed.  I was confused, so I decided to simply wait.  It would be along eventually, right?

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After an hour of waiting around the terminal and watching many busses pass me by, the supervisor of the ticket office came over and asked why I wasn’t boarding.  I told her, I came all this way for the Wasamin bus!  They had thought I simply wanted to go to Tomonoura.  She went back to her office and found out the bus was scheduled to come at 2pm.  I had already been there for over an hour, two more hours couldn’t hurt.  I had lunch and took a look around Fukuyama.  Nothing too exciting, although I did see quite a few Wasamin posters around town.  They really do love her here!  Eventually I took a little catnap in the air-conditioned terminal building.  But just before 2pm, here it came.  It was the Wasabus…in the flesh!

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It isn’t a special shuttle, it is merely a regular route bus that goes to Tomonoura.  So I barely had time to take some quick snapshots of one side of the bus.  But the inside was filled with Wasa-pictures.  Even more than when it first started running.  They also play Wasamin’s single over the PA!  It was the most enjoyable bus ride I had ever taken.  If only I could tell her all about it.

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Eventually we arrived in Tomonoura.  It is a quiet little town.  The fact that it was a weekday caused it to be even quieter.  Many of the shops weren’t open.  But that was okay, I was merely there to see the sites featured in the PV and take a few photos.  By the way, there were Wasamin posters all over town, and I heard Wasamin’s voice singing from more than one business.  Awesome! Quite a few locals were curious as to why a foreigner like myself would come to such an out of the way place.  When I told them Wasamin sent me, they were all amazed.  Really, you love Wasamin???  Yes, I wanted them to know that Wasamin brings in tourism!!

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Aside from the few places to visit, many of which charge a small admission, there wasn’t much to do in Tomonoura.  So after about 2 hours I decided to head back to Osaka.  I had seen what I wanted to see, ridden the bus I had longed to ride.  I even had a souvenir.  Wasamin Mission #1 accomplished!!!  I would celebrate with a tasty feast in Dotonbori!

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Following Wasamin’s footsteps to Odawara

Skipping forward, My next little Wasa-excursion had to do with a television show she appeared on in February with Enka artists Mizumori Kaori and Yamakawa Yukata.  Most of the program had to do with hiking around Odawara, but at the end they enjoyed lunch at a restaurant in the Odawara Fishing Port.  That was the part that intrigued me most.  The restaurant looked amazing!  So off I went to Odawara…

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Odawara, and the port is pretty easy to get to.  You can take the Shinkansen to Odawara, which is the stop after Shin-Yokohama.  The port is one local train stop away.  Or if you are on the cheap, you can take the Tokaido line from Tokyo all the way to Hayakawa Station for about 1/3 the price, but it takes three times as long.  Anyway, I arrived at the station, and every review said the restaurant was close by.  So how hard would it be to find?  I walked completely around the port until I found a cluster of restaurants.  Although none of them looked like the one from TV.  All the way at the end was a fancy looking place.  Could this be it?  It was right next to the fishing dock.

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Unfortunately that wasn’t the place either.  But the fish looked really nice, so I decided to have a Chirashi Bowl.  Fresh tuna and other assorted fish, it was very nice.  So I am now walking back, and I had almost decided to give up on finding this restaurant.  I was lost in thought, and missed my turn back toward the station.  About a block down away from the water I heard what sounded like a carnival barker.  I looked over, I had finally found it.  This is the restaurant… The Odawara Sakana Center!!!

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This is not a typical restaurant.  It is more of a fish and produce market.  Then outside they have picnic tables with small gas grills.  You pick your food, rent a table (1000 yen) and cook it yourself.  The shellfish looked amazing, and surprisingly inexpensive.  I grabbed a giant clam, a huge oyster, and four large prawns (total cost, around 1300 yen), ordered a large beer and headed to the tables.  (Yeah I know, two lunches.  Sue me, I’m on vacation!)

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OMG, so wonderful.  I have often mentioned how much I love going to Enoshima and tasting their fish.  But the seafood here was just amazing.  The staff was extremely nice too.  Very helpful when I picked out the fish.  Mama-san made sure I had everything I needed, and the young girl there practiced her English with me.  A great time!  I now have a new must-visit location for my future trips.  If you like seafood, especially shellfish, I cannot recommend this place any more highly!

 

Close Encounters of the Idol Kind

Backtracking to my first evening in Tokyo, I had a planned dinner engagement with a few friends.  We would be hitting the new Yakiniku restaurant that is all the rage for AKB fans.  We were going to IWA, produced by Mayumi Uchida.  Little did I know it would result in a close encounter with Wasamin that I would find out about a day later.

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I will spare you too many restaurant details.  It’s a nice place.  Good food and drinks.  In fact the Kimchee was especially good.  Of course the music of choice in the restaurant is AKB.  We were seated right next to the VIP room, and from what we could tell it was being used.  Hopefully Uchida would come by and say hello.  She did appear, but unfortunately she did not visit the tables.  Shortly after we saw Matsui Sakiko in a striped purple top come out of the VIP room.  So we knew there were AKB members inside.  It wasn’t until the next day that we saw the photo tweeted by Uchida…

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So while I was busy gorging on Yakiniku and getting drunk on Hi-balls, Wasamin was about 6 feet away partying with her idol-friends.  I wonder if she saw me when I wasn’t looking?  It was nice that not only did I enjoy a great meal, but Wasamin was so close by.  Almost fate, except that real fate would have had us encounter one another.

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 My new IWA mug.  Should get plenty of use at home!

So those were my Wasa-experiences.  Would I have anymore?  The AKB48 Sousenkyo Museum was open, and members were making appearances.  There was also the Sousenkyo concert coming up.  Perhaps I would have a good enough seat where she could see me.  We will see…

 

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My Tomonoura “selfie”

 

CK in Tomonoura :) 

AKB48, Japan CK in Japan Summer 2014 Part One…Prologue

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Once again due to a bunch of last-minute decisions I found myself in Japan…

It began as nothing more than a voting strategy.  I simply wanted to vote for Wasamin in the AKB48 Senbatsu Sousenkyo.  I knew the most economical LEGITIMATE way to do that was by ordering the theater edition of AKB48′s upcoming single.  So I did.  And as long as I was ordering theater editions, might as well reserve some handshake event tickets as well, right?  You never know, I might be able to use them after all.  Anyway, I would have my voting tickets.  That was the main point…

Then AKB48 management announced the Senbatsu Sousenkyo would be taking place in early June.  The day before Yuko’s graduation concert and six days after my handshake ticket date.  So I thought I would apply for the hell of it.  If I won then I might consider going.  If I didn’t win well…it just wasn’t meant to be.  I put in my application, and whaddya know, I won!  Not only that, a friend of mine had an extra ticket to Yuko’s graduation concert.  This was working out perfectly except…

The price of airline tickets was higher than I had ever seen it.   This could be a deal breaker!  I checked multiple sites, multiple airlines.  Everything was really pricey.  Perhaps this trip idea wouldn’t work out after all.  A short time later Wasamin announced an enka event in Fukuyama on the day I was planning to arrive.  Hmm, what if I flew in earlier?  And what if I flew into Osaka instead?  And there it was.  Just above my goal price.  Direct to Kansai, back home via Incheon.  I had to be creative, but I got what I wanted.  Everything was perfect.  That is, until the Iwate incident…..

Let me backtrack for a moment.  Any reader of this blog knows that I have described the details of every idol event I have ever attended while on my many trips to Japan.  And it’s true.  I have given a rundown of every event I have gone to.  Except for one.  It was back in November, just after I had a wonderful week of supporting Wasamin’s album release and then visiting Fukuoka/Hakata for the first time.  My final event of that trip would be the AKB48 National Handshake event at APIO Iwate.

 

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The reason I didn’t post about it was because it was just a weird experience overall.  The venue is a hassle to get to.  Nowhere near a train station.  It’s like someone dropped a convention center in the middle of the woods.  I tried to get there early.  But I couldn’t find the shuttle bus.  That’s okay, I would take the train instead and walk.  From the station I followed what I thought were AKB48 fans.  But they ultimately ended up being students walking to University.  I was hopelessly lost, not even sure if I knew how to get back to the train station.  That is until a kindly bus driver pulled up alongside me on a rural road and gave me a lift until we found a taxi.  By the time I finally got to APIO I had missed much of the performance.  But I was immediately appeased as they were performing one of my favorite AKB songs that I had never heard live before, Hajimete no Jellybeans.  It was also my first time seeing Koisuru Fortune Cookie performed live.  What I was really looking forward to the handshake event.  So many good lines, and I knew my first ticket would be used on 15th gen. member Tsuchiasu Mizuki. (Wasamin wasn’t at the event)  I had such a great experience with Mizuki at her debut.  Surely she would have the same fond memories, right?

 

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It took forever to even do my first handshake.  A total fail I might add.  I went to see Mizuki so we could reminisce about our fateful first encounter.   But she didn’t remember me at all.  Instead she merely looked confused and said “Nani?” a couple of times.  What a letdown!  For some reason Sato Kiara DID remember me.  Not sure why.  Wait, I think she might have been the one that kept staring at me during the 15th gen debut.  Aahhh.  Next I got tongue-tied with Takamina.  The handshake was just an overall fail.  We then had to requeue to exchange the rest of our tickets, but the line was insanely long, and it was already almost 4pm.  I just bailed, luckily finding the Morioka Station shuttle.  It was a weird event, in a weird location, with weird fans.  I just didn’t get a good vibe from APIO Iwate.  So when the saw-incident involving Kawaei and Iriyama occurred, it kinda hit home for me.  But for different reasons than most.  The fact that it happened at THAT venue put a pit in my stomach.  Not to mention I had a plane to catch.  Yes, the world of AKB was in turmoil, and I was on my way to Kansai!

I arrived to the news that not only was my handshake event cancelled, but the National event I planned to go to in Nagoya was cancelled as well.  A short time later Nagara Pro announced the cancellation of Wasamin’s event.  Now every opportunity I was going to have to talk to Wasamin had been postponed.  Why was I even here?  Then I remembered, I LOVE JAPAN!  Everything about it.  The culture, the history, the people, the cuisine, the idols.  I just love everything about it.  So maybe I wasn’t going to be able to do all the great idol stuff I looked forward to.  Did that mean i couldn’t have a wonderful 2 1/2 weeks in Japan?  Of course not.  I became determined to make this trip another awesome experience.  Starting with the fact that I was in a town I had yet to really explore…Osaka.

 

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I will begin Part 2 with the experiences.  And if you are wondering if these posts will be idol related?  Don’t worry =)

CK in California

AKB48 Take Me Out To The Ball Game

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

 

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

 

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

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

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(alternative video link of the pitch)

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

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They should turn this photo into a baseball card!

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

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

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

CK in California 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CK in California

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

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

 

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

 

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TRANSFERS

It seems to me that almost every member who transferred out of AKB was growing stagnant in the group. I mean were Sato Sumire, Chikano Rina, Kikuchi Ayaka, Ichikawa Miori, Fujie Reina, Yamauchi Suzuran or Oba Mina making strides toward senbatsu stardom? Or were they merely mid-back row performers for AKB? To me they are all in a potentially better place. Ota Aika comes to mind. She was no worse off than any of these members when she transferred to HKT. I think it has proven to be a good move for her.Umeda Ayaka ranks high undergirls, but that’s the only time she ever gets a whiff of senbatsu. Not to mention, she is 25 years old. Her transfer is a little harder to justify. But you never know, maybe Umechan decided that she wanted to live in Osaka for a year before she graduated.Iwata Karen is still in growth mode, but many of her peers get pushed much more than she does. There are newer gen. breathing down her back. And perhaps she was merely interested in a transfer. Same with Takashima. Far down the pecking order even in her own gen. Looking for a better opportunity in SKE. Maybe?

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

KENNIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CAPTAINS

I like the girls chosen as captains. I don’t see any girl who wasn’t deserving of the opportunity. Nakamura Mariko has certainly shown leadership skills as of late.As for Takamina, I don’t see her bing Captain of A as a step down at all. She is still the GM, right? In fact, I always found it silly that she was leader over all the teams but not the leader of her own team. To me it is a sign that she is still primarily interested in performing, as opposed to strictly being part of management.As for Nakanishi Yuka, it is too bad there is such a log jam in SKE’s management office as I think she would have been perfect for the SKE GM position ala Takamina and Sasshi.  Nobody saw it as a demotion when Yukirin, Sayaka and Takamina lost their captainship last year.  Why would this be any different?

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

OVERALL TEAMS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

CK in California

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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EDIT: a Yahoo article with a reaction from Wasamin…

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

CK in California

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