Archive for the ‘Concerts’ Category

Concerts, Minyo Girls A Wild Weekend With Minyo Girls (Live at Oedo Hawaii Fest, plus 1-Man Live at Shinjuku Marz, 2018/07/14-15)

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When I say wild, I mean a lot of interesting things went on with the Mingaru’s two appearances this weekend. First off was their appearance along with Wasamin at the Oedo Hawaii Festival in Nihonbashi. I had planned on meeting some friends, as well as the Wasafans for this event. Minyo Girls would be performing first, on the 1st floor of Belle Salle, and Wasamin would be performing 40 minutes later on the B1 level, which was actually inside Nihonbashi Station. The actual festival was happening on the B2 level, and cost 1000 yen to get in. So lucky for me I avoided having to pay any admission…

The problem was that Tokyo is in the middle of a tremendous heatwave. Not only that, it is extremely humid, which makes any outdoor activity quite the challenge. Minyo Girls were actually scheduled to perform outside. Which brings me to the prediction I made a couple months ago. In a previous post back when the girls performed with Wasamin in Saitama. I mentioned that their new costumes would be hell to wear at any outdoor Summer activities. This pretty much came true. It was supposed to be a full group show, but Ramukyun was announced as cancelling her appearance in the morning. A short time later, Rio was announced as out for the show, and just before showtime Miyabi was announced as out sick for the show. In fact, I sorta witnessed the drama around Miyabi, especially since I am friendly with her mom. Mom was called backstage, and a short time later she came out and started apologizing to everyone.

So the seven remaining members, plus Ryo, their one kenkyuusei, came out and did a shortened version of their performance. It was only around four songs, and they were sucking down water in-between each song. I felt bad, since the friend I was with was seeing them for the very first time. But with the heat, and the sudden lineup changes, they were really off their game. They didn’t do their intro properly, which I think is a cute feature of their act. The first song (Akita Ondo) sounded good, but the other three they sang all sounded off. The entire time I sat there I was just wondering how uncomfortable they were.

Taking all that into account, and since it was a free live, plus two of my three favorite members were out, I really didn’t mind the abridged setlist which was mainly songs from the single release. In fact, I didn’t even stick around for goods, chekis, and whatnot. Instead I headed down to the far cooler B1 level where Wasamin was about to perform. By the way, the reason I was so nonchalant about missing on goods and benefits, aside from the fact that Miyabi (and Ramukyun) were out was because Minyo Girls would be performing their one-man live the next day in Shinjuku. So I figured I’d save my energy (and money) for that. However, I did send Miyabi-chan a tweet telling her I hope she feels better.

In the meantime, my friend and I headed over to Oktoberfest in nearby Hibiya. We ended up being there for around six hours, but I was very conscious about how much beer I was drinking because I didn’t want to be hungover for the Minyo’s solo live on Sunday.

Mingaru’s One-Man Live at Shinjuku Marz (2018/07/15)

So my strategy paid off. I avoided drinking too much on Saturday night, and was good to go for the girls’ Sunday morning Solo Live. The group has been doing their monthly solo live in Asakusa for the past six months or so, but have changed that up for Shinjuku in the coming months. Why? I am not sure. It is technically not a bigger venue, and the stage seems slightly smaller. Perhaps it is less expensive? I am not sure, but I can say the tickets were considerably more expensive. I knew exactly where the club was since I have eaten at the izakaya above it (Sekai no Yamachan) on many occasions. Despite the fact that we had entry order numbers, I didn’t want to arrive early just to stand outside in the even more oppressive heat and humidity than the previous day. Luckily when I arrived they were already queueing everyone, and my spot was just inside the doorway in the shade.

Shinjuku Marz is not dissimilar from Shibuya Glad in that you enter the venue on a small balcony, and then go down a level to the floor-standing area, although Marz’ balcony is considerably smaller than Glad’s, quite a few people did watch the show from there. Also, since Minyo Girls always have a lot of family in attendance, there is a seating area on the far left mainly used by grandparents and siblings. (A few of these girls have very young brothers and sisters) I even got the opportunity to meet Miyabi’s grandmother. I told her that Miyabi is a great singer, and that I am glad she was feeling well today.

The good news was that none of the members were worse from wear the previous day, so we would be seeing the full group. After grabbing my prerequisite beverage (Oolong Cha) I took a spot three back from the stage. They were playing the new single music video on the giant screen behind the stage, and the show got off a little late. Also, the air-conditioning was on full-blast, so the place felt quite cool. Although when I stood very close to the AC unit upstairs I could sense the faint smell of mold.

Mingaru often “theme” their one-man live shows. This one was mainly Minyo-style songs in the beginning, and then it turned into a tribute to the Minyo Girls II EP. I love the second EP, so I was good to go. Moreover, I was so relieved that their performance skills were back on track today since the previous day was kind of a small disaster, LOL. Also, it was a very long show. They sang a lot of songs, and the encore was quite long too, I think 4-5 songs plus two long MCs.

They allow photography for two songs in the early part of the show. I used to have a difficult time getting my pics to come out properly, and I think others had the same issue since the past couple of shows I notice they change the lighting for this part. My pics look a lot better as a result. I was on the right side, which meant I had Rio, Matsuri, and Ramukyun right in front of me. The awesome thing about Ramukyun is the way she reacts when you smile at her. I think she has probably been told she needs to smile more, since nearly every time I smiled at her she would instinctively smile back. It is so cute. On the other hand, Miyabi (and Yutori) were both relegated to the back row for this entire segment, so getting good pics of them was a bit difficult. I also had a tall guy between me and Yuua, so that was an issue. But oh well. I got a few good group shots.

As has been a tradition at the 1-man shows, they had a VTR with announcements during the encore. We all have to kneel down for this (which kills my knees, BTW) They did a retrospective of all their releases, which some great early group footage, followed by an announcement of more 1-man live events in the fall. But the big announcement was the promotion of their one kenkyuusei, Ryo to a full-fledged member. It was cute how they did it too. The manager came out and presented her with a proper costume.  Nikkan Sports wrote an article about it…
https://www.nikkansports.com/entertainment/news/201807150000700.html

I waited to buy goods until after the show, and there was a bit of a mix-up, thanks to 1) my non-fluent Japanese, and 2) Mingaru’s complicated system. You see, how many tickets you get, and what kind of tickets you get, depends on not only how much you spend, but what items you buy. This totally confuses the process where it used to be “spend XX yen, get XX tickets.” So I spent 4000 yen on goods, and only got one ticket. This wasn’t what I wanted. Not to mention, I specifically bought something I didn’t really want just to get to the 4000 yen mark. I couldn’t explain my problem on the fly, so I told her I would come back. In the meantime I tried to explain it to one of the other staff, who understood, but told me I would have to explain it all to the people in the goods booth. Jeez! The big issue was that I wanted to return the second thing I bought, since it didn’t get me the second ticket I wanted. Eventually the guy behind the counter understood what I was getting at, and let me return the item. I bought something else, and had my two tickets. One was for a signed cheki, the other for a shamekai.

I used my first ticket on Miyabi. The first thing she did was thank me for the “get well” message I sent her the previous evening. I told her I was worried, but was glad she felt better. The rest of the time I essentially talked about the heat.

Which was the same thing I talked about with Yuua. I seriously considered using my second ticket on Ramukyun, but she and Yuua were right next to each other, so I just could not do it. I really want to discuss Ramu being an AKB fan though. Not to mention she reacts to me while on stage all the time.

And with that I took off. I had to return to Oktoberfest since I had purchased in IQOS there the previous evening, which was defective. So I wanted to bring it back so they could either fix it, or give me a new one. They gave me a new one. But it was yet another interaction where I had to explain my problem all in Japanese. And since I came all the way to Oktoberfest, might as well have a couple beers. Frankly, after all the explaining and complaining and whatnot, I really needed a drink!

CK in Tokyo

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AKB48, Concerts AKB48 Idol Shugyou Chuu! Stage (2018/07/13)

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Lanterns line the outside of the UDX building behind the Donki, bringing a very festive atmosphere to Akiba

Things are beginning to look up, ticket center-wise. It had been slightly more than two weeks since my last cancel machi (and eventual theater win) for AKB’s Idol Chugyou Chuu! stage, and after waking up Wednesday morning I saw the email that had again won cancel machi for Friday Night.  It was a great number. (#6) With a cancel machi number that low, I would undoubtedly win. In fact, when I checked my ticket center account, it already said that I had won the show, which meant at least six people had cancelled overnight. Yatta! This was going to be my 43rd Theater Show!

So of course I was excited to be seeing Ranchan again. I just hoped that I would get a good draw in to the theater so I was close to the stage. Fast-forward to Friday; I headed over to Akihabara in the mid-afternoon after sweating (both literally and figuratively) my way through three Kanji tests. My brain felt like jelly, so I looked forward to blowing off some steam in the theater. But first I headed over to The Hub for a couple of pre-show cocktails. Eventually I made it over to the theater. I was kinda hoping to get a high lottery number, since I have noticed the times I have been in the theater that the high numbers are often called early. I mean it is supposed to be completely random, but personally when I get a good draw-in, it is often with a high number. The theater wasn’t very crowded at all, so I stored my backpack, and eventually queued up to buy my ticket. I had ticket #121, which meant when my group was called I would be the 2nd person in.

They also had some sort of special event in the lobby, where Inagaki, Yasuda, and  Suzuki Kurumi came out and did a Dare ka no Tame ni donation collection with the fans. I was a bit out of position, so I didn’t get to participate, but everyone cheered for them. It all took about a minute or two. Eventually it was time to call the lottery for seat draw…

1st: 10-19 (Wow, the early birds got one for a change!)
2nd-4th: 50-59, 60-69, 70-79 (Again wow, right in a row, and again the earlier arriving fans)
5th-6th: 230-239, 210-219 (Cancel machi peeps get a good draw)
7th: 130-139 (Damn, just missed!)
8th: 120-129 (Yatta, not bad!)

Okay, I should at least be able to get a seat. How good a seat though? It didn’t help that I set off the metal detector for some inexplicable reason, which slightly delayed my entrance. I wanted to be on the left side of the stage, but that section was beginning to fill up. I wasn’t sure, but the right side seemed relatively empty, so I walked to the other side. Sure enough, only the first row was taken on the right, so I headed over to the second row. First I took the inside seat, but it was next to the pillar, and blocked half the stage, so I moved to the far end of the row, next to that little side stage the girls sometimes dance on. It was further from the center, but a much better view. I brought a lightstick for a change, so I was ready to go. Eventually we heard the Kage-ana, and the overture, it was showtime!

Per usual, since most of you are fairly well-versed in the stage setlists and such, I will focus on my impression of the members. Obviously my focus will be on Ranchan. But I have cultivated a bit of familiarity with many of the 16th gen girls in this show, and there are a couple other draftees I kinda like too, and since Ranchan was going to be on the opposite side of the stage for a lot of the show, I could focus on other members for a bit. So let’s start with….

Members who fished me:

Tada Kyoka: I had never really noticed her before, but I got a closeup view of her last week at the handshake event since her lane was next to Zunchan. She always has a big smile on her face and is often ‘working’ the audience members. She looked at me quite often during the show, and more than once mimicked my response. She’s really not my type of idol, but I gotta give her points for the effort.

Yasuda Kana & Inagaki Kaori: I have been interacting with these two for quite a while now, and Kana is always scanning the audience for who she can fish, she is super-energetic and genki. I have to give her credit for being one of the most dynamic girls on the stage. Inagaki, kinda like Suzuki Kurumi, has really blossomed since I started seeing both of them in the ‘Let’s Go Kenkyuusei’ stage. I am also amazed how popular she is. Inagaki easily gets the loudest reactions throughout the show. Speaking of reactions…

Member who made a big impression…on somebody

Taguchi Manaka: I didn’t even see her name on the performance roster, but she was there, and it seems like she gets at least close to center position on many of the songs. She was also getting great audience reactions. She seems to be a good singer, but I have personally never been drawn to her. She also does an amazing job centering Tsundere!

Draftees who I came away with a great impression of (Besides Ranchan)

Otake Hitomi: Okay, I have to admit, I find this girl totally hawt. Adorable face, nice figure, great energy and dancing on the stage. She is a lot of fun to watch. I found myself suddenly really wanting to meet her at a handshake event. There is just something about her face, she looks mature and cutesy-kawaii at the same time. Just my type, sexy and cute. And, she has a husky voice. Love it!

Honda Sora: So yeah, I have been talking up both Hitomi and Sora since the first time I saw the draftees perform, and I have had the same impression each time. Both of them are really cute, and have great stage presence and energy. I actually expect good things from both of them in AKB’s future.

Katsumata Saori: This is the first time I had ever noticed her, but she was in front of me quite often during the show, and I found myself drawn to her stage presence more than once.  She reminds me a bit of HKT48’s Yamamoto Mao.

And then there’s…

Kobayashi Ran (Ran-chan!) I was there to root for Ranchan, but could only get a peripheral look at her for the first half of the show. She slid over to my side a couple times, but only briefly, and our eyes didn’t meet. It wasn’t until Saishuu Bell ga Naru that our eyes finally met, and she locked onto me for a good 5 seconds or so. It was awesome, totally focused on me. From that point forward, she would find me whenever she slid over to my side of the stage. A nice setup for when I meet up with her at the handshake event next weekend.

Notes on other members…

I am used to getting fished by Taya Misaki, but she left me alone for the most part, despite being in front of me for much of the show. Yahagi Moeka did not get as big an ovation as I am used to her getting, and I noticed she fiddles around with her outfit a lot when the MCs aren’t focused on her. But per usual, her singing is top notch. This was the first time I had seen Okada Rina, and she seemed like she wasn’t too comfortable on stage. In fact, her introduction MC was one of the shortest I have ever seen. Oddly enough, she sorta reminds me of a young Meetan.

I wasn’t in the front row, and I wasn’t in the center, but 2nd row far right does have its perks. Probably the biggest is when the girls go to the side stage. At that point my seat becomes temporarily a front-row seat. This is particularly evident during Shinkirou, where Inagaki did her first verse just a couple meters away from me. But the members also dance on the side during Kanojo ni Naremasuka and Sobukasu no Kiss, so I was in a great position for that. I also want to echo what @Riina said a couple weeks ago. The black, red, and silver outfits the members wear for RIVER are awesome!

Eventually the show ended, and it was time for “High Wave,” as I like to call it. I get the usual enthusiastic, and sometimes English greetings. I also tried to make a connection with Hitomi, but I blew past her fairly quickly. I was really waiting to get to Ranchan, who was second from the end. Of course it was my best reaction, and we are really connecting now that she has seen me at three shows and multiple handshake events. I feel sorry for Tacchan though, who was at the end. I was so focused on Ran, that I pretty much ignored her. Oh well.

I headed out to buy the Group pic, and it wasn’t until I got home that I saw the inside has little messages from all the performing members. Another really nice touch, which to me has become an essential part of the theater experience. I am developing a small collection of those Team Picture booklets.

My next scheduled 48-group events are the Teacher Teacher handshake event next weekend, and then HKT’s handshake event in early August. I also have an application in for the #17-#100 SSK thank you concert at Yokohama Arena. We’ll see how good my luck is on that one. In the meantime, this will be a busy weekend as I am seeing both Wasamin and Minyo Girls. Should be a lot of fun.

CK in Tokyo

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Concerts, Minyo Girls Minyo Girls Live at the DMM VR Theater, Yokohama (2018/06/17) [Plus their new single!)

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As part of a NagaraGroup concert triple header, the Minyos did a solo live show at the DMM ‘Virtual Reality” Theater. Along with Minyo Girls, both Hayabusa and Wasamin also had solo lives on the same day. This was the middle show. But before I get into that, here is the new PV for their first major single, Kirari ☆ Yume Ondo…

The CD releases this week in three different types with three tracks each. Some great c/w tracks as well, I highly recommend. Anyway, back to the concert…

I arrived in Yokohama relatively early because I wanted to get lunch before the shows. I was in the mood for sushi, and found a decent kaitenzushi around the corner from the venue. They were doing new single preorders outside, but I already knew I was going to buy the new goods, as well as a ticket for the group’s July solo concert in Shinjuku, so I skipped on the singles. Their newest item was a new version of their oshi towel, which is a great idea since the previous towel has the old lineup on it. This version is simply the group name. They also had the reflector postcards and plastic uchiwa, just like Wasamin. I bought the July solo show ticket, but held out on August since 1) they are more expensive than their previous solo shows, and 2) I’m not sure if I will be in town for the August show. But I got my goods, and my prepaid Ginger Ale, and headed in for my seat.

BTW, a funny little side story. The total for all my goods and tickets came to 6200 yen. Being that I like to minimize change and bills in my pocket, I gave the girl 11200 yen. (1 10,000-yen bill, 1 1,000-yen bill, and 2 100-yen coins) This completely confused her, and she kept trying to give me the smaller money back, but I kept insisting. She brought another girl over, who also didn’t get it. Finally the manager came over and had to explain basic addition to them. 11,200-6,200=5,000. One 5,000 yen bill. But they ended up giving me 5 1,000-yen bills. :fp: 

I was in the 5th row on the left side, and had a decent view of the stage. I was really interested to see how they would incorporate ‘virtual reality’ into their show. In case you are wondering, the theater has a he back screen and an invisible screen in front of the stage. There are also side screens to give the show sort of a “Cineramic” feel. So essentially you have visual effects going on all around the performers in sort of a 3D effect. Here are some example pics…

Personally, I found the effects to be kinda cool. However, I also saw Wasamin perform there later in the day, and the difference in the utilization of the effects was noticeable. For Wasamin, it seemed like they really thought about how the effects would enhance the song, and also how they would look in relation to Wasamin. For Minyo Girls, it just seemed like they chose some cool effects and went with it, regardless of how it would actually relate to the performance. This cause some of the effects to be a bit distracting and odd. They also used the effects for most of the show. The only time they didn’t use them was when the members came out to the floor for a couple of songs, and the ‘photo-op’ segment. It seems like my iPhone camera is getting more and more unreliable for getting clear shots, but here are a few shots of the members…


Ramu-kyun. Interestingly, I take more photos of Ramu than any other member including Miyabi and Yuua. I really like her a lot. I’ll talk more about that further down the post.


Rinacchi, one of the group’s singing ‘aces’


Kako, the ‘senior’ member


‘Captain’ Izumi, who is always genki


Yutori, the ‘member I have known the longest


Rio, Minori, and Matsuri. Unfortunately I didn’t get any good individual pics of the three of them.


And of course my ‘2-top’ Yuua and Miyabi

After the show it was time for benefits, which were done in a small room outside the venue. Minyo Girls have kind of a strange system. First of all, you get one ticket for every 2000 yen you spend. This is usually good for a signed cheki, or shamekai. If you spend two tickets you can take a full group picture. One of the issues is that all of their stuff is oddly priced, so it’s tough to hit the 2000 yen plateaus evenly. And their is no partial, so if you spend 3500 yen you get one ticket. they used to sell various member pins for 500 yen that you could buy to bring it up to the next level, but they haven’t done that lately. So whenever I am buying goods I am always trying to mathematically work it out to hit as close to 2000, 4000, or 6000 as possible. Also, for some reason which I am not sure of, I earned a bonus ticket this time around. I mean they do have a ‘ponta card’, but I haven’t hit any level up as far as I can see. So cool, I guess. I wasn’t sure if I wanted a group shot or not, but the manager came over and asked me if I wanted to take one. Ultimately I decided to go for it. I must say, it is probably one of the coolest group shots I have taken with them, and I got the new oshi towel in it too (Yuua and Miyabi helping me hold it up.

After the shot I got Matsuri’s attention, since I wanted to tell her that I am also a fan of the K-Pop group Black Pink. During the group solo live last week Matsuri did a dance performance to the song ‘Boombayah’ which I really liked. Anyhow, my comment got Matsuri, Izumi, and Rina all laughing very hard. Oh, and it seems Ramukyun is an AKB fan, and recently went to Asai Nanami’s birthday show at the theater…

After that they had two separate lines. One was for chekis, and the other for shamekai. Personally I prefer the chekis since I like to collect them, and quite often I get them signed by the members. I wasn’t sure which line was which, so I asked their new kenkyuusei Ryo, who was helping direct fans and answer questions. She actually pointed me to the wrong line, but a few fans nearby corrected her, LOLZ. Since I had used two of my tickets for the group shot, I had two left for individual pics. Per usual I used them for Yuua and Miyabi.

To be honest, I have been captivated by Ramukyun ever since she joined the group. In fact, the first time I saw her live I took a cheki with her. The issue is that chekis with these girls are already kinda pricey. I don’t want to add a third girl to my repertoire. I could always take one with her in place of Miyabi or Yuua, but that would be a problem. They are not a huge group, and they all see who is taking photos with who. I have been taking pics with Yuua and Miyabi for a couple years now, and have also cultivated a sort of ‘friendship’ with both of their parents. Not to mention these girls are pretty young. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, and I do like Yuua and Miyabi. So I guess my only pics with Ramu will be the group pics. Or perhaps if one of them is out for a show Ramukyun will be my backup. Yeah, that’ll work…for now.

For some odd reason they only allowed me to get one cheki signed, so I chose Miyabi. I told her that I really enjoyed the show. She asked my if I was going to see Wasamin later. I told her I was, but that my ticket for Minyo Girls was a better seat. So I didn’t get a chance to say much of anything to Yuua other than ‘Thank you’ and ‘Great job.’


Bonus ‘gift’ photo was taken at last month’s solo live in Asakusa (I remember those costumes!)

I was done with my tickets, and the Wasamin fans were already milling around outside waiting for the evening show. I decided to take off for a little while and take a short break before starting the whole process again for Wasamin.

Ya know, I really love this group. I think their music is great, and they really have a bright future. I hope they don’t stray too far from the ‘Minyo’ aspect of their music, since that is what I think makes them special. There are some folk-style songs on their new single, so that’s a good sign.

CK in Tokyo

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AKB48, Concerts AKB48 Idol Shugyou Chuu! Stage (2018/06/24)

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Almost exactly one month to the day from my previous win I received another cancel machi email. Actually, I didn’t realize I had won cancel machi until I saw my friend post about her cancel machi win. I immediately checked my email, and I had one too for the same show, albeit with a somewhat higher cancel machi number (39)

As I have mentioned before, they list a ‘cancellation count’ on the ticket center for those who have cancel machi. It didn’t go very high last evening, and when I woke up this morning it had only reached 15. This dampened my hopes that I would get into the seat lottery, but I still thought my chances were good to get into the show. When I arrived at the theater the count was at 18. However, the last five minutes saw an onslaught of people queue up to buy tickets. In the meantime Riina found me hiding over by the rear lockers, and wished me luck before she queued up for the entrance lottery.

Cancel Machi

Interestingly, the guy doing the cancel machi call was calling in sets of five. (20-25, 25-30) I thought to myself “jeez, they must have a lot of space left.” Unless that is just the way they do it now, I don’t know. He called 30-35, and I thought I was good to go. In the meantime a bunch of latecomers showed up with winning emails, and they let a few of them into the line. I hoped that didn’t dash my chances. Ya know, they used to not do that. If you were late you had to wait until after cancel machi was over. But I suppose it is the nicer thing to do. Anyway…

Staff called #36, and closed it off. SHIT!!! So close. I was still going to get in, but as one of the last people to enter the theater. The bigger bummer was the last 12 cancel machi winners all got a great entrance draw too. Eventually my group queued up as the ‘final 10′ winners’ as they brought us into the lobby. There I saw that Riina was in one of the last groups still not called in. And as I finally entered the theater, I saw her struggling to find a spot where she could see, I went to the far right to the standing area, where I thought I saw a bunch of space. It ended up being a terrible place to watch the show from, too many tall people in front of me. But at that point I was pinned in and had nowhere else I could go…

Part of the problem was this guy who had kinda positioned himself like he wanted a lot of elbow room. There was a bit of space behind him to his left, his right (and in front of him too), so I took the spot to his left, and sorta behind him. He kept creeping backward and almost had me pinned to the back rail, so I moved over to his right against the wall. I could tell this ticked him off, but I didn’t care. He was trying to create this ‘force field’ all around himself, and I and everyone else weren’t having any of it. Plus, he was a dead fish throughout the show. No lightsticks, chanting, clapping, nothing. Oh well…

My 42nd Theater Show, Yatta!

So given that I had a horrible vantage point, where I could sorta see the right side of the stage, and maybe little bit of the left side, there isn’t too much I can say about the girls’ performances. In fact for ‘Blue Rose’ I technically didn’t see the performance at all. I spent most of the show craning my neck around looking for Kobayashi Ran (Ranchan) although I would have probably been best served just paying attention to whoever was at the far right of the stage. Ranchan spends most of her time on the opposite side of the stage, but does come over to the right side in that later portion of the show. I did spend some time observing the members I could see in order to gauge which members I might find interesting. I found two members in particular, Sato Shiori and Otake Hitomi interesting to watch. Not surprising since they were among the same members I liked when I saw this same stage last month.

Once again, I really enjoyed the setlist of the stage, particularly the River/Bell/Theater/Kiss set. The last three are all songs I like, and even River is fun to watch live. The opening set is really nice too. All told, Yukirin picked out a nice stage.

High ‘Wave’ 

After clearing out the first row, one of the first areas they clear out as fans leave the theater is the little balcony to the right of the sound booth, so I was able to hoist myself on to the rail and watch a lot of the high touch. I also wanted to strategize who was where so I knew who to pay attention to. That said, most of the High Touch was a quick blur for me, except Inagaki gave me a great reaction, complete with ‘Hisashiburi’ and all. There was one member in the middle who also gave me a big “English’ reaction. I think it was Honda Sora (It may have been Maeda Ayaka too) But of course I got the biggest and greatest greeting from Ranchan, who started jumping up and down as I got to her. It also seemed to surprise Taya Misaki, who was next to her. And with that I was out of the theater. I queued up to get the photopack, and was on to the escalator…

Interestingly, they held the escalator for a minute or so to clear people out, and one guy in particular seemed to be pissed about it. There was also a guy with two big pizza carriers. I am guessing he was delivering lunch for the girls? When I got to the bottom of the escalator I finally got to meet marioworldakb who was at the theater watching the monitors with a few friends. He invited me along to hang out (with Riina as well) but I really wanted to eat lunch. Mario recommended a place behind the theater that I have often considered trying, so I went for it. After lunch I considered heading to the AKB Cafe to meet them, but I needed to do homework and get some rest, so I went home.

So as expected, it is always ‘feast or famine’ for me with seating at the theater. I either get front row, or am buried in the far back. But I am glad I won and got to see the show, and am especially glad I got to say hello to Ranchan. And I guess I should set my watch for another late-month cancel machi in July, LOLZ.

CK in Tokyo

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Concerts, Iwasa Misaki Iwasa Misaki Live at DMM VR Theater, Yokohama (2018/06/17)

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I’m sorry this report is so late. It has been an extremely hellish week.  But better late than never, right?  Last Sunday NagaraGroup organized a live “triple-header” at DMM’s Virtual Reality Theater near Yokohama Station. Hayabusa, Minyo Girls, and Wasamin were all performing separate concerts. Naturally, I bought tickets for both the Mingaru afternoon show, and Wasamin’s evening finale. (I will write a Minyo Girls concert report separately)

The shows were kinda close together, so after taking chekis with the Minyo Girls, it was almost time for the Wasamin Goods Booth to open. All three groups were debuting new products at this show, each with one particular unique item. Hayabusa had a new T-shirt, the Minyo’s had a new oshi towel. And Wasamin had a very interesting selection….


Wasa-Pillow!

All the groups also had postcards with a “changing” image on the front, and a small plastic uchiwa. Of course I ended up buying all of the new goods for both groups, as well as an advance ticket for Minyo Girls’ concert in July. Eventually staff started queueing us up to head into the theater.


The Postcards and Uchiwa

My ticket was for the 6th row on the right side, not quite as good as my 5th row left side seat for the Minyo show. One of the big things I was wondering about was how they would incorporate “Virtual Reality” into a live concert. I got my first preview in the Minyo Girls show, and while it was kinda cool, I wasn’t completely amazed. I assumed that the VR in the Wasamin show would be something similar, but I am pleased to say that there was a significant difference. Now if you are wondering about this VR stuff…

What happens at a ‘VR’ theater?

It’s pretty much the same concept they use at Hatsune Miku’s concerts. There is a huge screen at the back of the stage, and then an ‘invisible’ screen in front of the stage. In addition, there are two tall screens on each side of the stage to give it almost a cineramic feel. Unlike Miku, Wasamin is actually standing on the stage, but everything happening around her was VR. In fact, they did a great job of working the effects “around” Wasamin, but before I get into those kind of details, the setlist…

1. Moshimo Watashi ga Sora ni Sundeitara
MC (Introduction)
2. Anko Tsubaki wa Koi no Hana
3. Momen no Handkerchief
4. Hatsuzake
5. Ii Hi Tabidachi (original artist: Yamaguchi Momoe)
MC (Introduction of the ‘Seasons’ Theme)
6. Natsu no Tobira
7. Koisuru Natsu no Hi
8. Blue Light Yokohama
9. Kamome ga Tonda Hi (original artist: Watanabe Machiko)
MC (Blue Light Yokohama is standard for all her Yokohama appearances)
10. Nada Sousou
MC (Goods Introduction)
11. Matsu wa
12. Toki no Nagare ni Miwo Makase
13. Cosmos
14. Ryoshuu
MC (Talk about her ‘Love Live’ acoustic shows. This show was done in place of it)
15. Saba Kaido
MC (Wasamin notes that she had lots of Winter songs to choose from)
16. Kita no Yado Kara
17. Ettou Tsubame
18. Tsugaru Kaikyo Fuyugeshiki
19. Kita no Hotaru
MC (Asking for feedback regarding the VR effects)
20. Mujineki
EN1: Sado no Ondeko

Setlist

First, let me say how unbelievably awesome this setlist was. Wasamin themed everything to represent the four seasons. There was a song section for Spring, Summer, Winter, and Fall. The other cool aspect of this show was the nostalgia factor. Many of the songs she performed were from her first solo concert. I was so excited when she announced Anko Tsubaki as her second song. Same with Koisuru Natsu no Hi, those two songs were among my favorites at that show three years ago. There were also a lot of songs from her 1st album. So not only did it bring back memories of the concert, it also brought back memories of her 1st album release tour, which is such a fond memory for me.

The VR Effects

Interestingly, Wasamin only used the effects dung 4-5 songs. However, they did a great job of 1) working the effects around her 2) theming them out for the song. For Moshisora it looked like she was standing on clouds while she was singing. During Saba Kado it was like she was underwater, with a school of fish circling around her. Unlike Minyo Girls, who used the effects on most of their songs, but it wasn’t as strategically good.

MCs

Wasamin has become a lot more irreverent and goofy during her MCs. She also interacts directly with the audience a lot more. However, the funniest MC of all was her introduction of the goods, particularly the pillow. Actually it was called a cushion, but Wasamin was not bashful about how one might use it, and even implied fans should “sleep with it’ so they can wish her a good morning when they wake up. That said…

I did take Wasamin’s advice, but apparently I am a restless sleeper because when I wake up in the morning “Wasamin” is always on the floor. She will not be happy if she finds out I push her off the bed in my sleep, LOL.

Post-show Meet & Greet

One semi-gaffe before the show. There was a handshake event scheduled for after the performance, but they didn’t put out the pre-order sheets until after everyone was lined up to get into the venue. Some people left the queue to buy CDs, but most people figured they would do it after. This resulted in a huge queue to purchase CDs after the show. It was also a well-attended event, meaning the queue to meet her was very long as well. In fact, they asked us all to ‘matome’ our tickets instead of looping the line. Ultimately it took me 45 minutes to purchase CDs, and get to the front of the handshake queue. I had two tickets, good for a 2-shot with the special “Instagram” board they had prepared for the event…

Anyway, I told Wasamin how nostalgic the show was, and it reminded me of her first concert, as well as her old release tours. I also mentioned the memory of her crying in the middle of performing Koisuru Natsu no Hi at the first concert. It’s an amazing moment in the show (If you have seen it) which I am sure she remembers too. As I exited the handshake ‘room’ the line was still almost down to the street. I thought about waiting for everyone to finish, but it was late, I was hungry, and had a long ride home, so I bailed…


Fan Club Flowers

All in all the show was a lot of fun. The VR effects were a unique experience, and the concert hall itself was really nice. It’s cool that Wasamin is trying different things, instead of the same stuff over and over. I don’t mind that she didn’t do a ‘Love Live’ this Spring. Makes it more special. This Fall she is going to do a concert at an Onsen in Kansai, which seems like it will be a lot of fun too. In the meantime Wasamin is going to be doing a lot of appearances outside of Tokyo. She is in Niigata and Ishikawa Prefecture this weekend. She is going to be in Kobe next weekend, then Fukuoka. She does have a Saitama event squeezed in there next week, which I am planning on attending. I should be able to see her at least a few times in July.

 

CK in Tokyo

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Concerts, Minyo Girls Minyo Girls: “Mingaru Dream Paradise” One-Man Live at Asakusa Gold Sounds (2018/05/27)

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Minyo Girls have been doing their monthly “Dream Paradise” stage at Asakusa Gold Sounds for a while now. It’s a nice little venue located very close to central Asakusa and Senso-ji Shrine. The Minyo’s do a full one-man live with special games and prizes. This is also where they make a lot of their big announcements. It’s a lot of fun. They also use this show to showcase a different side of the group. Today’s theme was ‘Solo Performances.’


Limited Edition photo w/ our lottery drawing number on the back

I was excited to see their one-man live again after missing last month’s edition. I had a really low-numbered entry ticket, which would guarantee me a really good spot too. However, I lost track of time and left my apartment quite late. Based on the train schedule I would arrive 5 minutes before doors. It takes three minutes to walk to the venue from the station entrance. I might make it after all. I turned the corner with one minute to spare, and was disappointed to see they had just opened the doors. Damn! I still managed to get toward the front of the queue, only a couple of places back from where I should have been. Once inside I positioned myself just behind the people standing against the stage at the far left. Not bad.

The show started with the girls’ usual giggle-filled Kage-ana, and then their exotic intro music. Once again, the members were in plain clothes for this performance. Some of them dressed in theme for the solos they were going to do, others went for a cute outfit. After member introductions, the girls went directly into their solos….


Minori

Minori (Yeah! Meccha Holiday!- Matsuura Aya) Once again, Minori shows that she is a true otaku at heart (last time she did a Momoclo song) Minori’s not one of the strongest singers, but like the last time I saw them she had a lot of fun and bounced around the stage quite a bit.


Matsuri

Matsuri (Boombayah!-Black Pink) This was more of a dance exhibition than a singing performance. However, Matsuri did sing parts of the song. This reminded me a lot of watching my nieces dance in the living room to their favorite pop songs. And by the way, I now have Matsuri to thank because I have been listening to Black Pink for the past couple of days, LOL


Rio

Rio (Moonlight Densetsu-from Sailor Moon) Rio was decked out in her Sailor Moon t-shirt and belted out this song quite well.

Izumi (Heart Shaker-Twice) More K-pop, and another dance performance. Izumin didn’t sing at all, instead trying to incite the crowd to jump, dance, chant etc. Dancing is more Izumin’s forte anyway, so probably for the best.

Yutori (Nagori Yuki- Kaguya Hime) Yutori on guitar and singing. The last time she performed on guitar I mentioned that she played the same chord the entire time. Well, she showed me! She played quite well, and sang the song decently too, albeit at a slightly low volume. This is a song that Wasamin also sings and performs on guitar. And I would say that Yutori’s guitar playing is close to Wasamin’s level.

Kako (Traditional Minyo-style Song) I have no idea what song it was, but Kako’s strong point is belting out that traditional Enka vibrato. She she was on-point in that respect.

Ramu (Shamisen solo) We finally get a chance to hear Ramu actually play. She was all ‘plugged in.’ I don’t think this was a particular song per se, more like general riffing. From the start I thought she was channeling George Thorogood. Really hard chords, and bending the notes. Toward the middle she changed to a more nuanced and traditional type of sound. But it was a nice showcase. It didn’t seem perfect, as I thought I might have heard a few mistakes along the way, but given I didn’t know what she was supposed to be playing, I wasn’t sure. Oh, and Ramukyun had on the cutest outfit of all. The little animal ears were adorable.


Miyabi 

Miyabi (Amuro Namie song) Miyabi in seifuku and a pink wig. Cute! I don’t know which song this was, but per usual she did an excellent job, and showed why she is one of the best singers in the group.


Yuua

Yuua (Inoue Azumi song) I had to ask Yuua about the artist since I had never heard of her before. It was a standard pop song. Like Miyabi, Yuua did a great job.


Rinacchi

Rina (???) I have no idea what pop song this was, or who the artist was, but Rinacchi was awesome! It is becoming apparent when it comes to singing, she is an absolute ace, and I expect her to be taking an even more front-line position in this group going forward.

The girls collectively asked how they did, and the audience gave them an enthusiastic response. Next, it was time for games and contests. The first was a batsu/prize game featuring that infamous “box” with a mystery item that the audience can see, but the girls can’t. They had to guess what was in the box. Now, this had the potential to be a hysterically funny segment, except Miyabi led off, and with no fear shoved her hands in there and started to feel around. She pretty much gave away that it wasn’t anything scary (although she wasn’t sure what it was) so the rest were all pretty much fearless in doing this too. Eventually most of the girls figured out what it was, and in unison revealed it was corn on the cob, LOL. The winners all got cotton candy, while the losers had to do something silly on twitter later on.


Miyabi and Yutori

The next segment was the fan prize contest. Usually it’s signed photos, a framed picture, goods. But this one was really weird. It was basically like a garage sale. The girls were giving away a personal item. It was all very random (a pencil box, throw pillow, compact mirror) This was one time I sincerely hoped I didn’t win, and thankfully I didn’t. They did one more song, which was the photo-op portion of the show. I did get a few nice shots being close to the stage. Unfortunately I was far from Ramu-kyun, and didn’t get any real good shots of her. After this they left the stage.

Encore

The encore chant didn’t last very long before they came back out and sang their upcoming single Kirari ☆ Yume Ondo. Afterwards it was time for announcements. The first announcement had to do with the future of their monthly one-man lives. They are skipping June since they will be doing single release festivities instead. However, in July and August they will be moving their monthly show to Shinjuku Marz, which is a club I have never been to. Although I have eaten at the restaurant on top of it a few times. (Sekai no Yamachan) The last announcement was they will be doing a performance in Korea. They were all really excited about that. In fact they were all so excited that Izumin bumped her head and had to be taken off-stage for a few moments. After seeing the debut of the new full PV, they finished the live with their standard Ureshii Namida.

 

The above video is the 30-second TV Spot for the upcoming single.  You get the gist of the entie video from the preview, but what they don’t show is some of the graphics they use to ID the members, and show what they are shouting in spots (Think the old Batman TV show)  It’s a pretty fierce PV, and I love the outfits.

Post-show

I was greeted by Yuua’s mom in the beginning of the show, and by both Miyabi and Izumi’s moms afterwards. There was another mom there who I had never seen before. She was kinda young and petite. Ramukyun’s mom? Maybe Yutori’s? I didn’t ask. I hadn’t yet bought goods, and wasn’t sure what I wanted to get. My original plan was to get a second t-shirt and a couple of buttons, which would afford me two signed chekis. However, they ran out of buttons, and there was nothing else on the main table I wanted. They had a separate single pre-order table, where you got a signed cheki for every two singles you bought. (Well, each cheki is one ticket, and each signing is one ticket) Since the pick-up shop was HMV Shibuya, I decided to go that route. I would be getting a signed cheki for both Yuua and Miyabi. I would love to get one for Ramukyun too, but I have to limit myself, and as much as I love Ramukyun she is third-banana in this group for me.

They do the photos and the signing in two separate processes. Oh, and they now also offer a shamekai option. Oh, and their newest kenkyuusei Ryou was helping run the cheki process. She is so tiny, but she is very outgoing. I was surprised. Between the two segments I went outside to get some air, Miyabi’s mom was like “You’re leaving?” No, I’ll be back in a few minutes! I did the signings pretty much consecutively. I asked Miyabi if she was a big Namie Amuro fan. She was like “Huh?” but Yuua heard me and asked her on my behalf. She was kinda non-committal about it, LOLZ. This was also when I asked Yuua the name of the artist she sang. When it was my turn with Yuua, I told her that I missed seeing her when the group went to Kamisato, which is close to where she is from. I assumed she was busy. She was like “Yeah, I wasn’t there, but I live close” Yeah, I know that. Rinacchi was right next to her, so I took the opportunity to tell her that I thought her performance was great. She smiled and thanked me, and then Rio nudged her shoulder as if to say “You see? You were good!” LOLZ.


I should be pretty easy to find

With that I left to have lunch, and go to Wasamin’s mini-live in Minowa. (Which you can read about in the Wasamin thread) Not sure when my next encounter with the Minyos will take place. I’ll have to check the schedule.

CK in Tokyo

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AKB48, Concerts AKB48 Idol Shugyou Chuu! Stage (2018/05/23)

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It looked like my theater show drought was finally coming to an end. I only briefly mentioned it on the NSK Podcast post here a few months ago, but I won my 40th theater show back in early January, and since then I have had 4 consecutive really high cancel machi invitations, and ultimately didn’t get into the theater on any of them. Well…I did win the ‘last chance’ “High Wave” draw a couple of times, where you get to enter the theater after the show and greet the members, but no actual show wins.

On Monday I received a cancel machi email for Wednesday night’s show. The good news was that it was a Fan Club cancel machi, meaning the number (#35) would be a lot lower, thus increasing my chances of winning. I checked the show roster, it was the Kashiwagi Yuki produced stage, which features many the 3rd Gen draftees, as well as some of the 16th Gen kenkyuusei. There were really no members I was a huge fan of, and I had never seen the new AKB draftees before, so I would be going into this fresh, providing I actually won.

One of the Wasafans I hung out with Tuesday night checked the show history, and for this stage the cancel machi has always gone over 50. That’s good. I spent the morning periodically checking the ticket center to see how many early cancellations there were. It was really slow going at first, but after the rainstorm came the number started increasing. I headed over to Akihabara and the Donki a little earlier than usual, and went upstairs around 15 minutes before the cancel machi call. To make a long story short I got into the seat lottery. I was good to go. It was my 41st theater show. Now the question was how good my draw in would be.

There was a slight delay because a couple of the people with family and women’s seats disappeared, and they wanted to find them before beginning the lottery draw. The first group to draw in was #100-109. Oh well, that was never going to be me. Next was #200-209. Damn! Those were the cancel machi people ahead of me. Next #110-119, then #240-250, which only had three people. A moment later, #210-#219, Nice, I should certainly be able to get a decent seat with this draw. After going through the metal detector I scanned the room, and noticed the entire left side front row was empty save for one person. I made a beeline for that row and got the 4th seat left of the pillar…

FRONT ROW BABY!!! THIS IS GOING TO BE GREAT!

It’s funny though, it is usually feast or famine for me with these draws. I either get the first row, or I am stuffed somewhere in a back corner staring above many shoulders. But this meant I was gonna get a really closeup view of the members, and of course it meant I was going to get fished a lot. The question was by who? And how much?

The Show


Suzuki 

Suzuki Kurumi did the Kage-ana, and the show started a few moments later. This stage is relatively new, and for the most part has a very strong setlist. At least that seems to be the consensus. There is a lot of energy to the stage, and it is sprinkled with quite a few iconic songs like Blue Rose, River, Nage Kisu de Uchi Otose, and Enkyori Poster. It also includes one of my old favorites, Sobakasu no Kiss. My first impression of the show was that all the members were full of energy. It helped that it seemed to be a really rambunctious crowd, even more so than usual. And it wasn’t a minute into the song that I had my first fishing attempt. This draftee member came right up to the edge of the stage and started pointing right at me. She was adorable too, but I didn’t know who she was. Later on in the same song I had a similar interaction with Kurumi, but I could not wait to get to the MC to find out that girl’s name!

First MC

There are quite a few goofy members in this new gens, and there were two members in particular acting crazy through the entire MC. One was Maeda Ayaka, who I didn’t remember being like this. The other one was Sato Shiori, the draftee from Hokkaido. In a way, she reminds me a bit of Zunchan. Her devilish grin also reminds me a bit of Tani. Anyway, Shiori just acts goofy all the time, even when she is performing. I was cracking up watching her dance during Tsundere. Oh, and that cute draftee who fished me? It was Kobayashi Ran, (Ranchan!) Great, now I know who I am rooting for during the show.

Units

 

Blue Rose just happens to be my original oshimen’s unit. That said, I thought all four girls fit the song very well. I was closest to Kurosu, and in a way it felt like she was channeling Meetan. Nage Kissu also reminded me a lot of the AKB ‘old days.’ The chant on this song is always a lot of fun. Kurumi does a good job as center, AND it has Ranchan in it! I had fun all night yelling her name. The ballad was okay. Tsundere! was complete silliness, from Shiori’s over-animated ‘guitar’ playing, to Manaka’s playacting, to Kana-chan’s big goofy smile. And then there was Yahagi…


Yahagi 

By now it is no secret that Yahagi Moeka is a superior singer. She was great control and nuance. In fact, I’d say singing-wise she is superior to Akimoto Sayaka. My only complaint is that she is a bit frozen for the first two verses of Mushi no Ballad, and then goes into ‘spasm’ mode on the last verse. It was a lot of herky-jerky convulsing. So in that respect I think she still needs to work on matching the proper emoting that Akimoto was so brilliant at doing in the original K-Stage. But singing-wise, two enthusiastic thumbs-up!

Post-Unit

One of the funnier MCs was when the girls were discussing what physical or character trait they admire, or want to ‘take’ from the other members. A couple of them agreed that they admired Yahagi’s singing prowess, but I was surprised when Kurosu said that she wanted Ranchan’s oshiri. Really? She’s kinda young. Then again, Kurosu is super-skinny, and probably lacking back there in the curve department. I was ecstatic to hear them perform Sobakasu no Kiss, which is one of my old faves. Moreover, I also know all the hand motions to it, so I was ‘dancing’ along with the girls on stage. That got me quite a bit of attention; first from Kana-chan then Shiori, and finally Taya Misaki who started fishing me really hard toward the end of the show. Although I think she calmed down when she saw me screaming for Ranchan, who was right next to her at the time. Like Team B Oshi, the “fresh” version is just as big a mess, but I do get that it is a bit of a crowd-pleaser. I was wondering how the girls always remember the order, especially with the lineup occasionally changing.

Notable Members (These are the members who fished me, or otherwise left me with a good impression)


Kobayashi

Kobayashi Ran: Ranchan made a wise move by focusing on me so early in the show, since it guaranteed I would be focused on her for the rest of it. I think she has great energy, enthusiasm, and is really cute. She reminds me a bit of Ariyasu Momoka (former Momoclo) and Sato Minami (16th gen) Anyway, she came away as my show MVP, and someone I want to meet during handshake events.


Sato 

Sato Shiori: She didn’t interact with me until much later in the stage, but we exchanged a couple of funny facial expressions toward the end. This girl is all about goofing off, all the time, She was reacting to everyone’s MC, either laughing, or making a funny gesture with her partner in crime, Maeda Ayaka. I can definitely see her following in the footsteps of Tani Marika (SKE) or Yamada Noe. (NGT)

Suzuki Kurumi: I started noticing it earlier this year, but Kurumi is fast becoming a true stage leader. It surprises me since early on I found her to be kinda bland and uninteresting. But she has grown a lot, and is someone to watch.

Yahagi Moeka: Exceptional singer, good personality. She caught my eye quite a bit during the show, and I was impressed overall with her solo unit. At one at the end of the show she spotted me and started waving, then accidentally almost missed her queue to talk. She was caught off-guard, LOL.


Otake 

Otake Hitomi: Reminds me a lot of Anai Chihiro, looks-wise. She was one of two draftees who came across as more mature, both in looks and demeanor, the other being Honda Sora. Both of their presence was abundantly felt throughout the show.


Inagaki 

Inagaki Kaori: I have to mention Kaori. This wasn’t her first show back from injury, but the fans gave her a huge ovation just the same. I almost didn’t recognize her, since it looked like she lost a bit of weight since I last saw her. But Inagaki seemed thrilled to be performing every step of the way. Anyway, she has great energy, and I am happy to see her back on the AKB stage. Finally…

Taya Misaki: Who made a significant effort to fish me during Team ‘Fresh’ Oshi, pointing at me and then herself. She has tried with me before, so she gets points for that.

Ending

Before we left for ‘High Wave’ we were treated to the full Teacher Teacher MV. Visually, I like the PV quite a bit. In fact to me the visual is a lot more memorable than the actual song. And I get why people think the ‘mountain’ scene seemed a bit out of place, but it didn’t bother me at all.

The members returned to the stage, and there was a couple of minutes until we filed out of the room. In the meantime I was lucky enough to get Ranchan and Yasuda Kana right in front of me. Ranchan gave me and the guy next to me a really enthusiastic wave. The other guy told her that her performance was awesome, and I nodded in agreement. She thanked both of us. Ranchan also jumped up and down when I passed her leaving the theater, LOL Kana and I are ‘old friends’ so to speak, so she waved and said hello to me too. The other member to notably focus on me during high-wave was Yahagi, who actually stepped right to follow and try to talk to me, LOL.

I left the theater, and quickly queued up to get the group photo set, which now has a limited edition folder drawn by Miyupon. From there I grabbed my umbrella, and took off for dinner, and then home.

Suffice it to say I am extremely impressed with the AKB 3rd Gen draftees, especially those I mentioned during this writeup. So far I have seen the SKE, NGT, and now the AKB draftees, and to me these girls are the most impressive (I really like SKE’s as well) I was worried when most of the 16th gen got promoted since their stage was my favorite (and easiest) to win. But now I will be happy to watch the draftees perform any time, especially for Yukirin’s stage, which is a lot of fun to watch…

And I will be rooting for RAAAAAAAAAAANCHAAAAAAAAANNNN!

CK in Tokyo

(some photos “borrowed” from ModelPress)

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

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

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

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

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

The show

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

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

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

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

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

Chekis/Handshakes

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

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

CK in Tokyo

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Concerts, Iwasa Misaki Nagara Group Enka Festival at Itabashi Cultural Hall (2018/04/18)

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Imagine how excited I was when I found out Wasamin and the rest of the gang from Nagara Pro would be coming to my neighborhood for a big performance. It turns out they make this an annual tradition, traveling to different Tokyo Wards for a performance. This year’s show would be a short distance from my apartment, near my local ward offices. Of course this didn’t get past Wasamin, or the rest of the fans. Wasamin knows I live in Itabashi, and she was counting on me to be there.

This was going to be a really big show. All the Nagara Pro regulars were there; Hikawa Kiyoshi, Mizumori Kaori, Tagawa Toshimi, Yamakawa Yutaka, Fujino Toshie, Hayabusa, and of course Wasamin. The show also featured Sasaki Isao, Billyken, Shiina Sachiko, and Nagara Pro’s new regular performer. Tatsumi Yuuto. As usual, the MC was Nishiyori Higashi.

 

There were two performances scheduled, but I wasn’t sure I could sit through a full Enka show twice in one day, so I opted only for the evening performance, which I applied for via the Wasamin fan club. In the meantime, when I met Mizumori Kaori (Wasamin senpai) in Asakusa a month or so ago I also told her I lived in Itabashi and would be at the show. The only thing left was to get my ticket….

 

BAM! Front row! Right on the aisle too. This was going to be great. Or would it be? Sometimes being the token foreigner and being in a high-visibility seat can come with some interesting interactions and responsibilities. And today, well…let’s start by saying by the end of the show everyone in the 1200 seat hall knew who I was. But I digress….

 

I could almost walk there, but I decided to take the train for convenience sake. I arrived a little early since I had never been there before, and wasn’t sure of the layout. There was already a queue down the side of the building. After grabbing a cup of coffee to wake myself up (I have been sick and on medication the past few days) I queued up. Once inside, it was a madhouse! Per usual, all of the artists had sales tables.  Hayabusa, Billyken, and Wasamin were doing handshakes for people who bought their goods. I saw Wasamin’s sales booth, but didn’t see her. Then I found her all the way at the end. So I doubled back to grab two CDs and handshake tickets, fighting waves of obasans coming in the other direction. I got my CDs, and went back to the handshake table. In the meantime, Hikaru from Hayabusa spotted me and started waving hello. Ya know, they are really nice guys, and I always ignore them at these events…

So I went to see Wasamin, and they were being really generous, giving us about 30-40 seconds per ticket. I welcomed Wasamin to Itabashi. She asked how close my apartment was to the venue (hehe) and I told her two stops away, but very close. I just kept telling her how excited I was that she was performing in Itabashi. She noticed I was sweating, and asked if I was okay. I told her it was because of the crowd of people, which was actually half true. I was also kinda weak from being sick, and all the hustle and bustle in the lobby was getting to me. I told her I had another ticket, and would be back in a minute….

 

I doubled back over to the sales booth, and I found what I was looking for. I always tell Hayabusa that I like their latest single, I should finally pick up a copy, which I did. I went back over to the handshake table, but this time to see Hayabusa. Yamato was first, and I basically told both of them the same thing. I see them all the time, and I never meet them after performances because I am always there to see Wasamin or Minyo Girls, but this time I wanted to say hello to them. Hikaru actually tried speaking some English with me, but he wasn’t very good at it. Also, I wasn’t aware that the third member of Hayabusa retired from the group a few weeks ago. I noticed he was out the last time I saw them at NHK Hall, and then I noticed all their new promotional material only has Hikaru and Yamato on it. Oh well…

After that I went back to use my second Wasamin ticket. She was showing me these honey glazed walnuts she found at a conbini, and asked if I liked them. I told her I did and asked which conbini she got them from, but she couldn’t remember. Then I showed her my ticket, and that I was in the front row. She was very happy for me. I mentioned meeting Hayabusa, and also told her the story about taking a 2-shot with Mizumori-san, but she acted like she already knew, so I guess Mizumori-san told her. I wished her the best and told her to have a great show. I got away from the craziness in the lobby and headed down to my front row seat…


Yep, right against the stage!

It turned out I was sitting next to one of the other Wasafan club members, so that was nice. A few fans came up to me and noticed my Wasamin Happi, most of the crowd were Kiyoshi supporters, but there were patches of supporters for everyone throughout the theater. The show started with a group song and introduction of all the performers. I spied Wasamin staring at me a couple of times, and then Mizumori saw me and gave me a little nod and wave. It was the end of the MC, and all of the sudden Mizumori-san tried to get Higashi-san’s attention, and started pointing to me. Oh jeez….

It’s time for “Look, there’s a foreigner in the audience” Today’s special guest? Me! Yutaka-san, who I think speaks decent English, came to the front of the stage and asked my name. At first he didn’t hear what I said, and then Wasamin blurted out “Chris-san!” Higashi-san then mentioned to Yutaka that he had spoken to me previously, and that I could speak Japanese. Well, that was all fun, but it didn’t end there…

Each performer sang a random song, either an older single, or like in the case of Wasamin, one of her new B-side tracks, Yume Shibai. Kiyoshi, of course, sang his classic Kiyoshi no Zundoko Bushi. After that is was time for the guest performances of Sasaki Isao and Billyken. Isao-san sang his famous theme from Space Battleship Yamato. Next were the long MCs, first Wasamin, Hayabusa, Sachiko-san, and Yuuto. After that it was the big guns. Kiyoshi was wearing an interesting suit, which he described as “Keema Curry.”

Then at one point during the MC, Yutaka again turned to me and said “You understand?” Higashi-san was like, “You okay over there Chris?” Ya know, I didn’t really want to co-star in this show, and of course the fans are having a great time with it. It’s one of those things I will look back on fondly. But in the moment, I was dying. “Just leave me alone!”

The final part of the show was interesting. Each star sang their current single, with the music video playing on the big screen behind them. It’s interesting, since most of the PVs are basically the same. Mainly lots of closeups of the singer, alternating with a picturesque backdrop and an in-studio style backdrop. Only Wasamin’s PV, as well as Kiyoshi’s really seemed to have any directorial or production on them. In fact, I really liked Kiyoshi’s song and PV…

They didn’t play Hayabusa’s Mushi Dance PV I’m guessing because the their member left, instead just projecting their performance on the screen. After one last group song with everyone, including Higashi-san singing, the show was over. As I left I heard my name called by various people about a dozen times or so. And of course the other Wasamin fans were laughing at me. I wanted to join them for beers, but I had to go home and study for final exams.

It was a great show. Being in the first row is really a different experience, even from being in the second row. Unfortunately, they didn’t do their usual “walking around the audience” portion of the show. I was really in a great spot if they had done it, but oh well. And now I really want to see Wasamin too so we can talk about all the attention I got. After all, Wasamin always says that I’m famous. LOL

CK in Tokyo

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AKB48, Concerts, HKT48 A Weekend at Saitama Super Arena (HKT48 & AKB48 Spring Concerts) 2018/03/31-04/01

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When they announced that not only HKT48, not only SKE48, but also AKB48 would be performing Spring concerts at Saitama Super Arena, I figured my chance to win tickets were pretty good.  After all, SSA is a pretty big place.  SKE and HKT have been playing at much smaller venues, even when they were arguably more popular.  But I wasn’t sure how easy the tickets would ultimately be to win, so I decided to put in applications for all four shows.  Now I don’t often do this, but it’s time for my rant…

For many of you who have been to Japan, and have tried to win either theater shows or concerts for AKB48, you know how difficult, even impossible it seems to be.  I’ve never come out and said it before on my blog, but there is something seriously “rotten in  the state of Denmark” when it comes to that ticket center.  The reason I say this is not only because I lost for all four shows, in all three rounds of applications, but most everyone I know who won, won all four shows.  It was pretty much feast or famine.  People who won, won them all, people who didn’t win, got shut out entirely.  That, in and of itself is strange.  But it got even stranger…

When they announced the third round of applications, it was because the concerts didn’t sell out.  Wait a second?  Didn’t sell out?  But I lost all four applications?  How can this be???  Moreover, after the third round was over, they announced that it still didn’t sell out, and tickets would be available at the box office on the day of the concert.  This begs the question; Why are people losing, and the show didn’t sell out?  I’m not saying this is exclusive to foreign fans either, since I know a lot of Japanese fans who also got shut out of the lottery.  Not to mention, I also know foreigners who won all the shows.  But this kind of stuff just makes it even more obvious that there is nothing really random about the ticket center at all.  And to be honest, it really pisses me off.  I remember a time before the ticket center existed when the AKB48 lottery process seemed completely random and fair.  I have no idea why the company has turned it into what it is, but it is obvious that they are screening all applications, and deciding who gets to win, and who doesn’t.  Anyway, rant over.

I already knew I was going to the HKT show since I had friends with extra tickets.  As far as the rest of the shows, I really wanted to see SKE, but I wasn’t sure about AKB.  Also, at my age sitting through two concerts in one day is a bit of a hassle.  So I had to decide, which additional shows, if any, would I try to see?  I had pretty much decided to skip the SKE show since ultimately I didn’t know how many extra tickets were available, and I didn’t want to head out to Saitama first thing in the morning to find out that it had already sold out.  However, when I DID arrive at Saitama later in the day, I learned two things…

First, the HKT48 concert ultimately didn’t sell out.  They were still trying to sell tickets just before the show started.  Second, reliable sources told me that there were “lots of tickets” left for both AKB shows.  So I decided that I would head back over on Sunday, and get a ticket for one of the AKB shows too.  So that was my plan, one show for each day.

So after having lunch and meeting my friend in Akabane, we headed over to the arena.  The first thing we wanted to do was check out the goods tables, which were set up outside the arena.  Since the SKE concert was still going on, there was no line for their tent.  However, their selection was kind of picked over.  But I did get this…

Kaotan the JK, I love it!  The girl selling it started laughing at my friend’s and my reaction to seeing the button.  After that we headed to the HKT side.  The HKT booths had been open for a while, so the queue was short.  That is, unless you wanted to buy the manually decorated Uchiwa.  There was a big queue to use the tables for that.  Ultimately I decided to grab a new Akiyoshi ticket holder, and a concert towel.  They had some shirts in XXL, but I didn’t love them.

So after hanging around the arena for a couple hours, we finally got our tickets and headed into the venue.  But not before I had a chance to snap a couple of pics of the HKT flags.  I first found Bibian, but she was in the middle of the photo trading area, so I could only get a long shot.  I couldn’t find Maichan’s flag, but I found Yukachan right at the arena level entrance.  I had my friend hold it steady since it was kinda windy.

We headed up to our 400 level seats, pretty much the top deck.  There is a small Level 500, where you are practically hanging from the ceiling.  But we were low, 4th row, in the back left corner.  It was a direct view, but we were high up.  Anyway, here is my brief review of the HKT48 concert…

They started with a VTR on the proper use of uchiwas.  This is one of the things I love about HKT concerts, their little vignettes in the VTRs are so funny.  The star was Imamura Maria, but Akiyoshi also had a nice little part in it.  At one point Imamura is cheering for Yukachan with a giant onigiri uchiwa, and smashing it into the other fans.  Later on, she has one of the homemade uchiwas, and is cheering for two different members by flipping it around.  Meanwhile, Akiyoshi is peeking from behind the curtain and pissed off, LOL.  Dirty DD!

BTW, some sample video I took during the “camera ok!” time…


After the opening set, they showed a second VTR with certain members “in disguise” complaining about wanting a chance to be center.  The funny part was when it was Imamura’s turn, she was too short and could be seen behind the smoked glass.  Conversely, Natsumikan was too tall.  Finally, Ueki Nao’s chin was exposed, which is kind of her charm point.  This led into a huge series of solo songs by each and every member.  Despite the songs being shortened, it was still a really long set, with 23 consecutive songs.  Among my favorites, Motomura Aoi’s Akai Pinheel to Professor was really good, with really neat video effects.  Nako, Maichan, and Tomiyoshi also had really strong performances too.  Yukachan also centered a song, but it wasn’t really a solo.  Speaking of Yukachan…

I didn’t see it, but at beginning of the concert she fell off one of the stage runways and broke her foot.  Amazingly, she performed the rest of the concert, and only afterwards did they realize that there was a serious issue.  I saw her dancing and running around.  Heck, she even had a big part in the live skit in the middle of the concert.  BTW, I talk more about Yukachan’s broken foot in my previous post.


This is about as close as Tomiyoshi and Piichan came to me

My two biggest complaints were 1) The sound was really bad in the arena.  I don’t know if it was just where I was sitting, but it seemed like all of the sound was in the front of the concert, and we were just getting the echoes in the back.  I noticed that all the speakers seemed to be facing one direction too.  My second issue is that Sakura should not be singing the lead in Otona Ressha in place of Haruppi.  Otona Ressha might be my all-time favorite 48-group song, and I felt Sakura did a weak job of singing the lead.  The concert finally came to an end, but not before they flashed an ominous sign on the screens telling fans to check Twitter in 15 minutes.  Ultimately it was the new single senbatsu announcement.  Not sure why they couldn’t do that in the arena, but whatever.  All I know is that the new single Senbatsu is severely lacking in the Akiyoshi department.  Anyway, on to AKB…

I arrived at the arena on Sunday around 30 minutes before doors were scheduled to open for the matinee.  I went to the box office expecting to see a queue.  Uhhh, like five people in queue.  You had to fill out a form when you bought the ticket, and they asked me which show I wanted to buy for (or if I wanted both)  It was at that moment I decided to go for the matinee since I was already there.  The other option was to go all the way back home and come back six hours later.  In the meantime a friend of mine who is an SKE and Team 8 fan came to get a ticket, so we decided to renban the show.  Nice to have some company.  Our tickets were again 400 level, but on the other side of the venue in row 15.  So pretty much the same view, but out of the opposite eye, LOL.  I went to check the goods.  The line was huge.  Not to mention, there was really nothing I wanted that badly, so I decided to skip AKB goods all together.  We headed in and found our seats.  There were lots of empty spots all around us.  As for the show…

The first thing I was interested in was the sound, and for some reason the sound was much better than the previous day.  Now on one hand, I was in a different part of the venue.  But I also noticed that the speaker stacks were now facing multiple directions, so I think they made some overnight adjustments.  The show started with all the kennin members performing Enjou Rosen, followed by a stupid VTR and another overture.  BTW, I heard some fans were pissed about that, and felt it was somehow disrespectful to the kennin members. (Somebody tried to explain why, but I didn’t get it)

The main theme of the show were the Teams.  First, the current Teams (A, K, B, 4, Kenkyuusei, and Team 8) all performed songs.  Then the new teams came out and performed.  Since it was so high up, I didn’t get a real good feel for any differences in style or dynamic.  But the point was that the shuffle is moving forward.  After all that, we got a few units…

Surprisingly, Sakura’s performance of Maeda Atsuko’s solo debut Flower was surprisingly good.  I never think of Sakura as an exceptional performer, bu she pulled Maeda’s song off quite well.  On the other hand, Nako, Ryoha, and Nagisa’s rendition of Maria was the worst performance of that song I had ever seen.  It had no power, poor singing, just a mess.  She’s Gone, centered by Iriyama and Miru, was just slightly less bad.  They sounded so shrill on the chorus.  BTW, they allowed us to film in this show too.  Here is a sample video I took…



The best part of the show was when they allowed us to record and take pics.  They did this in the HKT show too, but the members came nowhere near us.  This time we got a bunch of 16th Gen get pretty close to us, so that was a lot of fun.

Overall, I liked the AKB show a bit more than the HKT show, but that was mainly because of the sound.  These days I’m a much bigger fan of HKT than AKB.  But since the sound was louder and more full, it seemed more exciting, which makes a big difference.

After the show ended, I briefly contemplated buying a ticket for the evening show.  But ultimately decided I would be happier not shelling out the extra 8000 yen, and instead wemt home to enjoy the rest of Sunday.  After seeing that the evening show was pretty much more of the same thing, I was happy with my decision.  I’m more of a theater guy anyway.  But it was nice to at least experience some of the 48-groups’ Spring Tour.

CK in Tokyo

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