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Japan, Miscellaneous CK in Japan Spring 2015 Part 8…P.A.R.M.S. & Other Indie Idols

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Keeping my promises to all Enka proprietors

Wrapping up this series, Wasamin’s final promotional event of the week pretty much wrapped up my idol festivities for this trip.  Or did it?  The following day I had a mission, and it was lucky that I had a railpass to soften the blow on my Suica card.  Remember I ahd gone to all of those Wasamin “preorder” events the first week I was here?  Sunday was the day I decided to return to every single shop to pick up the CDs.  This was no simple task as these shops were literally all over Tokyo, not to mention one shop in Saitama, one close to Chiba, and the furthest one of all was practically in Yokohama.  Seven shops in all.  The other issue, considering this is Golden Week, was that there was no guarantee any of the shops would be open.

After 5 1/2 hours of traipsing all over Tokyo I managed to pick up 5 of the 7 preorders.  The other two were open the following day so I managed to pick those up as well.  I already had a ton of Wasamin CDs in my possession, so I suppose I could have just forgotten about these.  But I didn’t want the Wasamin fans to get a reputation of preordering CDs for handshake tickets and then flaking on the order.  Especially since a couple of the shopkeepers questioned whether or not I would come back.  At the end of the day I had 40 copies of Hatsuzake, 20 of which I managed to give away before I left Tokyo.  Additionally, I was able to give away half my copies of AKB48’s Green Flash.  So I had lightened my travel load considerably.

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(The five Wasa-packages from Sunday)

Anyway, one of the big thrills I had is trip was to be able to bring friends to some of these Wasamin events.  One friend in particular had been promising to attend one for over a year.  To be honest I had kinda given up on him, but he finally showed up at the Kitasuna events.  And he showed up to see her perform at Ikebukuro as well.  So I am glad she made a good imression on him.  In fact, shortly after the first performance he sent out this tweet…

“When you see Iwasa live in person in a Kimono, it’s pretty easy to see why Cristafari likes her. She’s quite stunning.”

 

Sampling Some New Idols

So after attending not one, but three events I decided a little payback was in order.  I would spend Monday with David (as well as a few other people) attending the type of events he likes to attend.  It didn’t take long, in fact he didn’t even make it to our meeting place as he got sidetracked into an small idol event on the way.  So I met him over at Twin Box Garage in Akihabara for my first taste of Aoyama Saint Hachamecha High School, a small idol group aiming to make their major label debut.

 

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To be honest they didn’t really do much for me.  The first song I heard was kinda cool.  But I didn’t find the group all that appealing, looks-wise.  Their color-scheme was very Momoclo-esque.  Kind of amateurish.  Then again, most indie ol groups are.  Luckily it was a 25-minute concert (and only 500 yen, which included a bottle of soda) so no big deal if I didn’t love it.  We headed out to Star Kebab, one of my favorite little Akiba haunts for lunch.

 

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After that it was time to venture over to visit a place many idol fans had tried to get me to come to.  And that was P.A.R.M.S., the home of Alice Project.  I think part of the reason why I was reluctant was the way the group was sold to me.  All I heard about was “going crazy” and “chekis”.  Not to mention I would meet my friends afterwards and they were covered in sweat.  I’m not a young guy anymore.  And I can take or leave the chekis.  So these descriptions did more to repel me than intrigue me.  Their free weekend afternoon sample show was described as more of an introduction to the group.  That I found much more palatable.

Alice Project

When we arrived I immediately realised that I had been to this venue before as it used to house a music shop called Ishimaru Soft, the top floors of which were used for idol events.  This was the place I saw Momoiro Clover for their “Pinky Jones” release event.  I also went to AKB48/SDN48 member Sato Yukari gravure DVD release here where she modeled for me.

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Alice Project’s free afternoon show offered a sampling of a few of the Alice Project Sub-Groups.  They would also offer their full menu of handshake and cheki opportunities after the show.  I must admit I was impressed with what they had done to the venue.  But I wasn’t too impressed with Slime Girls, the first group to perform.  There was nothing really catching my eyes or ears.  That reminds me…

I have always maintained that finding an oshimen, or favorite member should be a purely organic experience.  When I go to an event like this I will look for a member to catch my eye, and I will sub-consciously watch them…exclusively.  If it doesn’t happen, that means none of the members managed to catch me.  So that didn’t happen with Slime Girls, but it was a different story with Pa-Ken Girls.  Pa-Ken came out to a quirky little song that immediately had me hooked.

 

Ⅰ(あい) ♥(あい) 愛(あい)

 

Not only that, there was one particular member.  I wouldn’t call her gorgeous.  In fact it was her awkwardness that had me hooked.  In many ways she reminded me of NMB48’s Ichikawa Miori.  But I just thought she was adorable onstage.  She was the only member I watched during Pa-Ken’s entire set.

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Up next was Oz Girls, who had some really cute songs.  Although none of the members appealed to me individually.  Steam Girls were the last act, and you could tell they were the most polished of the four units.  I thought one member in particular was cute, kind of a cross between Kizaki Yuria and Hirajima Natsumi.  She had good energy.  But their songs weren’t very memorable either.  My favorite units by far were Pa-Ken Girls and Oz Girls.

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After the show there were a series of meeting opportunities, the first of which was a handshake event with the Sub-Unit of your choice.  The cost was purchasing an Alice Project CD for 1000 yen.  Of course I chose Pa-Ken, and the first member was the girl I liked, Araki Himeri.  I told her it was my first time ever coming to see Alice Project, and not only was Pa-Ken my favorite unit, but she was my favorite member.  Told her how much I loved the first song.  Jeez, this handshake was going for a long time!  I finally made it to the second girl who immediately asked me to oshi her.  Oh no, I have already made my choice!  Finally one of their managers came over and began moving the line a bit faster.  It wasn’t my fault, as the guy in front of me was talking to each girl for a long time.  Next up was the 2-shot opportunity.  When you get to the front of the queue you tell the manager who you want to see.  Unfortunately I didn’t know Himeri by name yet, so I was pointing in the general direction of Pa-Ken.  Apparently Himeri saw what was going on and immediately stepped forward to get the attention of the manager.  “He wants me!”   And she was right!  With that I had my first 2-shot…

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(Believe it or not, this girl is 20!)

But that’s not all.  Later they offer 4-shots, where you can take a photo with three of your favorite members.  Not to mention group shots where you take a pic with entire group or even all the groups.  I opted for the 4-shot, but there was one issue.  Only two girls really caught my fancy at all.  So I asked management if only two was okay.  They said yes…

So I headed up again.  Naturally I had picked Himeri one more time.  As I crossed the stage the other girl I chose, Maeda Natsumi had just finished taking a photo.  She turned to say hello to me, the hulking foreigner who had crossed her path.  Just then the Slime Girl photographer informed Natsumi that I had chosen her too.  She was excitedly surprised, loudly exclaiming “Oh Thank You!”  Before the photo I quickly told her where I was from, and that I really enjoyed watching her perform.  Oh, if you choose a larger photo (for more yen) one of the girls will autograph the pic…

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(Leaning to my left because I had thought I had broken two toes earlier in the day.  Could barely put any weight on my right foot)

And that was P.A.R.M.S.  They kicked the fans out shortly after to prepare for the evening show.  I would definitely consider making another visit.  Especially to see Himeri.  Don’t worry Wasamin, I’m not going to oshihen.  In fact, since Wasamin earlier admitted to reading my twitter, I refrained from tweeting any of my 2-shots.  You know, just to be sure.

CK in Tokyo

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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

Miscellaneous Arashi On the Run?

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No, this is not becoming an Arashi fansite.  Although with the impending closure of VOX I now have one less blog to keep updated (thank god!).  So in the future you might see an occasional Momoclo, Idoling!!! or (gasp!) even H!P post here once in a while.  As for this post, I just thought it as LOLz-worthy…

 

The moment I saw this Arashi promo I immediately started giggling, as it is an obvious homage to this classic recording from 1973…

 

 

Paul McCartney and Wings – Band on the Run

The funny thing is I actually have that album…well, around here somewhere.  They are even mimicking some of the poses!  So I highly doubt this was some “coincidence”.  Memo to Arashi, I hope you don’t think nobody noticed!

CK in California

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