Archive for the ‘Concerts’ Category

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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Concerts, Minyo Girls Minyo Girls: “Mingaru Dream Paradise” One-Man Live at Asakusa Gold Sounds (2018/03/25)

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~Fuuchan and Mikorin Graduation Stage~

I guess I didn’t realize how “big” this graduation would be until I experienced it. Well, maybe that is only partially true. For one, these are not the first graduations from this group. Minyo Girls lost a couple of members in the early days, but that was before the group really started taking off and forming any sort of significant fanbase. In the case of Fuuko and Miki, both of them are original members. Fuuko, is in many ways the captain, centering most of the MCs, while Miki on the Shamisen is the true backbone of the group, and a big part of what makes them special. Neither of them are the most popular members, but their contributions to the group are going to be missed. So yeah, I am very sad to see them go. But before that, there was a show to do!

 

I had pre-bought my ticket back in January, which was a good thing since the show was ultimately sold out. Asakusa Gold Sounds is just a short walk from Kuramae Station on the Oedo Line, and very easy for me to get to. I arrived around 20 minutes before doors and took my place in the queue. Once in, I bypassed the bar, goods table, and flower displays and immediately claimed a spot. I was three back from the stage, dead center. Cool. After camping out my spot, I decided “Hey, I always see the other fans dropping their bags, and coming back later on, so I decided to do the same. I went to the bar and grabbed a beer, and I went to the goods table. I knew exactly what I would be buying, a ticket for their next two One-Man Lives in April and June, that would get me two cheki tickets. Interestingly, when I returned to my bag there was another drink ticket underneath it. Nobody around me wanted to claim it, so I would be getting an extra drink later. Yatta!

In the meantime, while I was in line the graduation committee asked if I wanted to be part of the group, and sign the exclusive card for people who contributed to the flowers. Of course I said yes, although it ended up costing me 1000 yen per member. But hey, it’s the least I can do. I didn’t have change outside, but once I bought goods I was able to pay them. After this, the show was about to begin….

Now back in January, at their challenge stage, the members drew colored balls to separate themselves into units. This ended up being Minyo Girls’ “Unit Matsuri” BTW, apparently Yuua had gotten a nosebleed just before the show started, so she came out with a bunch of tissue in her nose and in her hand. After their usual introduction, the members explained how the show was going to go, and each unit had their own unique style…

Unit 1, Kako & Yutori: First of all, tiny Yutori on guitar!! Now before we got too excited, the song they performed basically had one guitar chord throughout (basic A minor), so she essentially had to hold that one chord for 4 minutes and strum. Kako solo’d the song, which was a traditional song from one of their early releases. Kako is a very good soloist, so ultimately this was a great unit.

Unit 2: Matsuri & Yuua: They also chose a traditional song, and did a very good job. I also liked their choice of outfit; white t-shirts with black shorts. Very cute. They also used the song to unfurl a banner thanking Fuuko and Miki at the end. Good job! And I was further impressed with Yuua since she sang very well despite still having a tissue stuffed in her nostril, LOL!

Unit 3: Miki, Rina, & Izumi: WTF was this??? They were basically lip-syncing to a rock song, with male vocalists! They actually had their mics up, but you could barely hear them over the song. Weird choice.

Unit 4: Fuuka & Minori: Idol fans at heart, they chose to sing Momoclo’s Chai Maxx. They weren’t bad, but it looked like they were basically up their goofing around.

Unit 5: Miyabi & Rio: Whoah!!! A ballad? And harmonizing. They were truly great. This wan’t really a contest, but if we had to choose a winner, this would take it by a mile. They also used the song to deliver flowers to the graduating members.


I didn’t realize it during the last concert, but your raffle number is on the back of the photo you received

After the units, they did a giveaway of laminated and autographed large photos of each of the units. Unfortunately I didn’t win, but they looked very nice. They performed two more songs, with a photo-op section before leaving the stage. Personally, I just snap away and hope for the best.


Minori, Matsuri, Kako (w/ Miki)


Yuua, Fuuka, Yutori (w/ Minori, Kako, Miki)

And of course I take lots of pics of Miyabi and Yuua, which is quite easy since technically they are the performing centers of this group. They are both excellent singers, and Yuua in particular has excellent stage presence. In fact, I think their personalities show up well in the photos I take. Miyabi’s catchphrase is “cool beauty,” and Yuua is extremely energetic. Anyway, here are a few Yuua/Miyabi pics…

I took around 150 shots in total, but deleted close to 100 of them on the train home. Anyway, the encore started immediately. Well, eventually it got started. The guy leading the encore got a bit creative, and confused the audience. He wanted us to do “Fuuchan! Mikorin!” but most everyone started doing “Fuuchan! Fuuchan! Mikorin! Mikorin!” Ultimately we got it together, and the girls were back on stage rather quickly anyway. Fuuchan immediately started making fun of the fans for screwing up the encore call.

The encore started with a VTR retrospective of both graduating members. Sometimes we forget that they have been around for four years. They were like babies in the early days. You could hear lots of sobbing coming from the stage as they showed all of this old footage. After that was a video congratulations from each member. It was all very nice. After that, both Fuuchan and Mikorin made a speech, and then finally their signature ending song, Ureshii Namida (their 2nd PV), for which we were given special pink glowsticks to use. Obviously there was lots of crying and hugging happening onstage. Interestingly, the one who seemed in the most distress was Rina, who is still brand new. I kept wondering, why is she crying the hardest? Matsuri and Miyabi were both also crying very hard as well. That was the show. Of course we still had lots of post-show benefits.

I had two tickets, and my plan was to use them on Miyabi and Yuua, as I normally do. But first they do the group pics. I kept asking myself if I wanted to do a group pic instead, and decided to go for it. I went back to the goods table, and bought some of their new buttons. You draw them out of a hat. Of course I was hoping for Miyabi and Yuua. I drew Kako, Rina, Minori, and one other I couldn’t see. But it ultimately fell back into the box, so I had to draw again, and I got Yuua. Nice! However, by the time I got back into the stage area, they were finishing group shots. Oh well, I would go with “Plan B”


Miyabi

I lined up for chekis, and both Yuua and Miyabi were busy with fans, so when they asked who I wanted to see I chose Yutori. Just as I said it Miyabi walked over to me, so I quickly changed it to Miyabi. The way they work it, you don’t really have any time to talk during the cheki. But after all the shooting is done, you again line up to get all of your chekis signed. It is at this point that you get to talk to the members. In the meantime, I circled the line and took a cheki with Yuua, and finally with Yutori. It was the first time I have taken a 2-shot with Yutori, and she was very thankful.


Yutori

After having my second drink at the bar, and saying hello to Yuua and Miyabi’s parents, I queued up for autographs, first going to Miyabi. I was trying to tell her that I like her new hairstyle, but I’m not sure she was listening. But I also told her that her unit song and harmonizing were great. That she heard and understood. Next, I went to Yutori. I wanted to tell her that I had been reading her English tweets She got really excited when I mentioned it, and I told her that I even responded. Ultimately, she is the first member I ever met, and she has always been very nice to me, so I am glad I finally took a 2-shot with her. Finally, I went to Yuua and asked her how her nose was. She said she was fine. I basically told her good job.


Yuua

After that I took off, but not before taking pics of the graduation flowers. I had errands to run, and I wanted lunch. I walked over to Yoro-do to pick up some pre-order CDs. It was funny, the lady assumed I was there to pick up Wasamin CDs, but was surprised when I pulled out my Mizumori Kaori order slip. LOL. When she said she was surprised, I then pointed out my Minyo Girls T-shirt. Although I don’t think that surprised her quite as much.

So I have a ticket to each of the next two solo live events, and I have much lower numbered tickets. So hopefully I can work my way to the front row next time.

CK in Tokyo

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Concerts, FES☆TIVE FES☆TIVE One-Man Live at Twin Box Akihabara (2018/03/19)

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With the pending graduations of Yuna-chan, Koto, and Miki looming, I decided to go and see FES☆TIVE one last time in their current formation, especially since I won’t be able to see their graduation stage this coming weekend. Since my friend Anthony is a fan of both Yuna and Kotone, I invited him along.

According to their official blog, they were expecting an unusually large crowd, and highly recommended making a reservation, which I did. Although it seemed for the most part like the usual crowd size at Twin Box. If you have been to that venue before, it is tiny and cramped, even more so than Twin Box Garage upstairs. A had a couple of cocktails at The HUB before heading to the venue. Not to mention I have a bunch of Twin Box drink tickets leftover from previous shows. I thought I would be able to spend a few of them, but when I told my friend he handed me a few more, since according to him he never uses them, LOL. I guess I need to there one night and just drink!

I was trying to decide who I wanted to purchase cheki tickets for. Of course I would be getting a Hinarin ticket, that was a given. I thought I might want to meet with one of the pending grads, but I have skipped seeing Hiyo-chan the last two events I have attended, and she’s my #2 girl in this group. I would hate to skip over her for someone else, so I got a second ticket for Hiyo.

It was your usual Twin Box live. Loud, lots of fans going wild. My friend and I stayed in the back because he has some sort of inner-ear issue, and didn’t want to be close to the speakers. That’s fine, I’ll get less sweaty that way. They opened with some 3-nin unit I wasn’t familiar with Hinarin, Koto and Yuna. The song was really good though. When I hear a song I’m not familiar with, I always assume it is from their album, which I have never purchased. In fact, they did a few unit songs during the main part of the show as well. There was one song in particular that I liked, something “Nichiyoubi.” But I couldn’t find it on any of their tracklists.

All three of the graduating members looked really loose and carefree on stage, in a good way. Kotone was really getting into the performance, working the crowd. It’s interesting, I really like Kotone a lot, although for some reason I have never really clicked with her at handshakes. But tonight I had my eyes on her for much of the show, almost as much as Hinarin. They referenced the fact many times that this was the last Twin Box performance for the three members, and during the last song Piano started sobbing uncontrollably. It was a cute moment.

It was the usual clusterf**k setting up for handshakes. I usually run for Hinarin’s lane right off the bat since it usually gets very long very quickly. However, I was slightly confused since some of the signs were different, and I couldn’t tell where her line was. Moreover, the two HUGE queues didn’t seem to be hers. Finally, I found this extremely short queue with just 3 girls in it. This was Hinarin’s lane? What happened??? I’m hoping it was for the graduation since the lines for Kotone and Yuna-chan were huge. I wish I could say the same for Miki’s queue, but alas… Anyway, I was 4th in line for Hinarin, so I made it to her fairly quickly. I had planned on what to talk to her about, but they took our cheki quickly, so I got thrown off explaining the pose we did (It’s supposed to be the dance move from their last single) She laughed when I said that, like “Oh yeah!” She then mentioned that she could see me all the way in the back, and thanked me for bringing a bunch of orange glowsticks. (I don’t bring them all the time) I was basically apologizing for not seeing her in a while, neglecting to mention I skipped her birthday show. When I said the last time I saw her was at Tower Shibuya, she remembered. “That’s right, that was the last time” But I told her I really wanted to see everyone one more time before the group changed. My time was up, and it was time for me to go visit Hiyo-chan.

BTW, Hiyo-chan was once again waving to me while I was in Hinarin’s queue. I was really happy I had a ticket for her this time, since she remains cool with me even if when I don’t have a ticket for her. While I was waiting for Hiyo, Saria started smiling and waving to me. That was a first. I am used to Miki and Piano doing that, but not Saria. I was at the front of the queue fairly quickly. Interestingly, Hiyo-chan remembers that I take Japanese classes, and was asking me how it was going. I told her I go three times a week, and am also studying Japanese history. It was right in the middle of this conversation when the camera showed up. In fact I didn’t even remember taking the shot, LOL. Hiyo-chan said my Japanese was improving, and wished me luck.

My friend was just using his first ticket, but I was done, and itching to get out of that stuffy club despite the fact it was raining outside. An interesting side-story, I went for a little walk, and was approached by some random guy offering me “Sexy time” with an idol, and was showing me photos on his phone of young girls, who I think he might have pulled off the 48-group websites. I told the guy I didn’t want any trouble, and then told him I only had 3000 yen on me, at which point he got the message and walked away. I can only imagine what kind of scam that was, but I’m sure whatever it was, it wasn’t going to involve “sexy time” with an idol, LOL. But back to FES☆TIVE.

This is kind of an end of an era of sorts. I first saw FES☆TIVE in San Francisco three years ago, and it was such a memorable experience. For the past 2 1/2 years I have maintained that “Idol-fan relationship” with them. After these three leave, that’s pretty much two-thirds of the original group gone. Lucky for me, my two favorites have both hung on since the beginning. And I must admit, Saria and Piano have ultimately meshed in very well with the group, which was something I wasn’t sure about last year. The rumor is they are lining up three replacements as we speak, so what this group turns into will be interesting. My friend Anthony pretty much said he would be retiring from idols after this (he also likes Alice Project), but he might go and see KissBee with me if I catch him on a good night. For me, as long as Hinari is still there I will stick with them….I think.

CK in Tokyo

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AKB48, Concerts Horipro Thursday FES 2018 ~Spring Song Battle~ at Zepp Diver City (2018/03/15)

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A lot of odd events occasionally show up on the AKB-Group Ticket Center. I wasn’t sure what this event was, despite the “Hori” at the beginning being a major clue. It wasn’t until I checked the details that I got really excited….

Tomochin?
Ishida x2?
Kasai?
MaiMai?
RanRan?
Meetan?

MEETAN!?!?!?!?!?!?

 

My first true oshimen, and I have not seen her since shortly after she graduated from SDN48 when I went to her Gravure DVD release event at Tower Records Shibuya. That was what? Six years ago??? This was the clincher for me. Not to mention Ishida Anna and Tomochin, two former 48-group members who I enjoy visiting would also be there. On the other hand, it had been quite a while since I had actually won a concert via the ticket center. So I was truly surprised when I got the winning email.

I received a second surprise when I picked up my ticket and saw that I had entry #26. Diver City can fit over 2000 people, although I didn’t know how many people were actually coming, especially since the Horipro website said the show wasn’t sold out. But needless to say, with that ticket I would be very close to the stage.

Anyway, I got to DiverCity relatively early, had lunch, and then hung out at Tully’s waiting for doors to open. I checked the goods on the website, and frankly nothing appealed to me at all, so I had no interest in the “early bird” goods table. At 5:30 pm, they didn’t line us up. Instead everyone was in this mass of people as they called people in one by one. That seemed like quite an ineffective way to handle the queue, but whatever. They also made you buy a drink ticket, which I thought was slightly lame considering the cost of the show ticket. Oh, and the crowd was a sea of orange Ogino Yuka T-shirts. It seems like at least 1/3 of the crowd was there to see her. The only other performer I saw any evidence of a support group for was Yamauchi Suzuran.

When I got in, they quickly checked my bag. I ran over to the bar, and quickly grabbed a beer (took about 15 seconds) and then jogged in to get a spot. There was a walkway in the middle of the arena, so you could either go to the left side or right. Everyone was going to the right, so I took off for the far side, and got a spot right against the rail. Not really close to the center, but a good spot nonetheless.

I mentioned a few of the members who were performing. Let me give you the full lineup. The majority of the performers were current and former 48-group members….

The hosts were Ijiri-san and Oshima Mai
Current 48-group members were Myao, Suzuran and Ogino Yuka.
Graduates (other than MaiMai) were Meetan, Iwata Karen, Kasai, Tomochin, Harukyan, and former Nogi member Nagashima Seira. Ishida Anna was supposed to be there, but ultimately wasn’t. I didn’t read the reason for her absence, but I was kinda bummed out about it.
Non-48 Women: Kojima Ruriko, Sasaki Moyoko, Hamaguchi Junko, Yamane Chika, Koso Yoko
Male Talent: Ueda Kandai, Sadaoka Yuho, Okamoto Tomotaka

This was a “Spring Song Battle,” and the performers were put into two teams, red and blue, captained by Meetan (blue) and Kasai (red). The members chose teams by picking balls out of a box, which was shown via VTR at the beginning of the show. BTW, Anna WAS in the VTR, which made it surprising not to see her performing. Also, Kasai had some sort of throat condition, and was not allowed to speak. Instead she carried a art book with pre-written lines in it. As for their outfits, all Team red members wore some kind of red themed outfit, wile the blue team wore blue or white attire.

The first half of the show featured members singing various songs in various pairings and groupings. Interestingly, the Horipro members all have varying degrees of skill when it comes to singing. I’m a Meetan fan, but I am painfully aware that she is an awful singer. There’s really no one among the 48-girls who is an exceptional singer. Karen probably comes the closest, and Myao is surprisingly decent. Ranran’s not bad either. On the other hand, the other talent really carried the show, singing-wise, especially Koso and Uedo. Oh, and Okamoto Tomotaka, well….

This guy is amazing. He is billed as a classical singer. He’s gigantic. He towered over everyone in the group. He’s huge, from shoulder to shoulder he looks like a human wall. Couple that with the long and flowing gown he wears, he is quite the site. And, his singing is incredibly powerful, which is even more surprising considering he is a Soprano. He did a duet with Ranran that for me was probably the biggest highlight of the show.

The second half of the show was the AKB Battle, where they for the most part sang all 48-group related songs, and Tomochin performed her solo song OMG with two backdancers. They sang a lot of short versions of songs, and for the life of me I can’t remember all the songs they performed. I do remember Only Today, Korogaru Isshi ni Nare, Sakura no Hanabiratachi (Ranran/Okamoto duet) and Heart Gata Virus. I would have loved to see a performance of Oshi/Meshi, but since Kasai couldn’t perform. Speaking of Kasai…

It was nice to see the graduate members, and most of them looked for the most part the same. Iwata has the short blonde haircut, which is quite cute on her. However, I did not recognize Kasai when she first came on stage. Her entire face looked completely swollen. Now it IS possible that whatever her ailment is might be affecting her face, since I didn’t notice this in recent photos. Moreover, the rest of her body looks fine, so it isn’t like she is putting on a lot of weight. But yeah, she looked different. Meetan, on the other hand looked really good. I like the short top w/side-ponytail look on her.

As for the non AkiP-Idols, the one that stuck out the most for me (aside from Okamoto) was Kojima Ruriko. Let’s just say she has a slammin’ figure. It was fun to watch the non-singing idols trying to perform AKB songs. One of them commented (I think it was Hamaguchi) that after performing these songs, she had a newfound appreciation for the work if idols.

The end of the show was 1) the vote, and 2) the photo-op portion of the show. We were all given a red and blue glowstick to use during the show, not only as a cheering tool, but to ultimately vote on who won the battle. In the beginning, my glowstick refused to work properly, but after smacking it a few times, I finally got it to light up and stay lit. I was in a quandary, since I wanted to vote for Team Meetan, but I was standing against the Team Red side of the stage, so they would clearly see me voting against them, including Tomochin. Nut what the hell, I voted for Team Blue anyway, and we won. Yatta! It was pretty much a given since Ogino was on the blue team. But it was close, there were a lot of red sticks too.

I was looking forward to the photo ops, but ultimately was disappointed in the way they carried it out. In other shows I have been to, when they offer this benefit the performers will move around the audience to meet more people. However, in this show they stayed stationary throughout the song, I ended up with Iwata Karen right in front of me, so I got lots of great closeups of her. But Meetan and Suzuran were far away from me, so I didn’t get any photos of them. Bummer.

After the show there was a promised High Touch. A couple of the older non-48 group related performers didn’t participate. It was quite a line, and you were pushed through fairly quickly, but I was sure to pause when I got to Meetan. Actually, I saw her eyeing me from when I got about three away from her too. I also got nice reactions from Ranran, Tomochin, Iwata, and the Nogi girl Nagashima, who started speaking to me in English.

And with that I was out of the hall and ready for dinner. But unfortunately last order at all the Diver City restaurants was 9:30, and I got out at 9:31. So I was out of luck. Ultimately the show was fun, but I was mainly happy that I got to see Meetan again. Who knows when/if I will have another chance to meet with her. But never say never, right? It had been almost six years and here came another opportunity

CK in Tokyo

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Concerts, Minyo Girls Minyo Girls: “Mingaru Dream Paradise” One-Man Live at Asakusa Gold Sounds (2018/02/25)

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This has become somewhat of a “home base” for the Minyo Girls, as they have been doing a monthly solo live at this club for a little while now. It’s nice, since they do advance ticket sales for a discount at their other events, and it’s relatively inexpensive considering you are getting a full show, usually with the full group. Although unfortunately Yutori, who is a big part of the personality of this group, was out because of school commitments.

 


Photo gift, pretty much a solo live tradition for this group

The more material Minyo Girls do, the better they are sounding. Needless to say, I have really been getting into them lately. Plus, their lives are a lot of fun!

I arrived at the station around 15 minutes before doors opened. I was surprised that they were doing crowd control at the station, although it wasn’t very crowded at the time. It turned out that this venue was right in the heart of the Tokyo Marathon. Luckily, everyone was already watching the race, and Asakusa Gold Sounds was off on a side street, so I had no trouble getting to the show…

The venue is pretty much standing room only, with the exception for a side seating area for family and kids, plus another section reserved for the members’ parents. We were led in by our ticket number. I had #35, but I was able to get a standing spot on the right side, one back from the stage. (It’s a very small venue) After reserving a spot, I headed to the goods table, and bought the two items I still don’t have, the hoodie and the “new” oshi towel. (I have the original oshi towel) This afforded me three handshake tickets to use later, and I spent a lot of time lamenting how I would use these tickets…

 

 

As I went back into the venue, I was again greeted by Yuua-chan’s mom. Miyabi’s mom also gave me a little wave. Yuua-chan’s mom came up to me after the show as well to thank me for coming, which was really nice.

 

The theme of the performance was “casual.” This I knew. The members would be wearing their normal clothes, plus their official hoodie. What I didn’t know was that the show had another theme; cover songs. I had mixed feelings about this, since I am really joying their new songs and wanted to hear them perform. On the other hand, the songs they did perform were also interesting. I didn’t know all of them, but among the songs I did know…

Momen no Handkerchief
Sochuu Omimai Moushiagemasu
Valentine Kiss

What do these songs have in common? They are all songs Wasamin has performed. In fact, two of them she has recorded! I couldn’t wait to tell Wasamin about this. (In fact, I did yesterday, as told on the previous post) A lot of the songs they performed were also fast paced. In fact, their version of Momen no Handkerchief had a real “metal” feel to it. Adding to that was Miki on the shamisen, who seemed at times as if she was channeling Eddie Van Halen.

 

Although the theme was cover songs, it wasn’t ALL covers. They did perform Ureshii Namida in the encore, which is kind of their staple “end of the show” song since it gets everyone to wave their oshi towels. They also performed a brand new song called “EMOTION,” which you can see below on this official video…


Plenty of shots of the back of my head, LOL.

 

What really made this show special were the big announcements at the end of the show. The VTR began with a message from Yutori, who was the one member not in attendance. This was followed by a few surprises. First…

 

Minyo Girls will be continuing their monthly performances at Asakusa Gold Sounds. Okay, cool. And then…

 

 

 

Rina-chan will become a full-fledged member of the group! Okay, good for her. I like Rina-chan, except that she still seems like she is “getting her proverbial feet wet” in this group. She doesn’t seem entirely comfortable yet, although they did give her plenty of solo lines, and she actually centered one of the cover songs. She is still relatively new, so we’ll give her more time to mesh with the other members. Although her senpai were really excited about her promotion. And that’s not all…

 

 

Minyo Girls will be releasing their first major single. Not only that, it will be the ending theme to an Anime. Wow, this was unexpected. Half the girls lost it on stage. All crying, LOL. A couple of them were still whimpering a bit during the last song. Then it was time for chekis and stuff…

 

As I said, I had three tickets. I had decided to do 2-shot chekis with Miyabi and Yuua. However, I wasn’t sure what to do with the third ticket. If Yutori was there, I would have used it on her for sure. I also considered using it on Miki, or even Kako or the new member. But when I got to the front of the queue, Miyabi was staring at me, so it was decided; two Miyabi chekis.

 


Miyabi chekis

Now the way they do this is kind of unique, and if I had known the procedure beforehand I would have picked a third member to take a cheki with. After all the group shots and chekis are done, everybody re-queues, and you essentially get a handshake/autograph session with everyone you did a cheki with. Since I had two Miyabi, I ended up losing the opportunity to do a handshake with another member. So I was slightly bummed about that. On the other hand, I have always said that if I picked a third member, it would be Yutori.  But alas, she wasn’t there.


Yuua went for the seifuku cosplay. She’s learning…

It’s so cute how both Yuua and Miyabi both know me with different names. To Miyabi, I am ‘CK-san.” and to Yuua, I am “Kurisu-san.” LOL. I talked to both of them about how they were singing the same songs Wasamin performs. Interestingly, neither of them seemed to be aware of that. I also talked to both of them about meeting their parents in Yokohama. Miyabi seemed somewhat surprised, however Yuua knew all about it. She got all excited when I mentioned it, especially when I said that her mom’s English is very good. Finally with Miyabi, I told her that I enjoyed her birthday SHOWROOM.

 

 

 

So I think I will make this a monthly thing, since I do enjoy Minyo Girls’ solo lives. It is interesting that this venue, Asakusa Gold Sounds is somehow becoming their home base. I have noticed this lately with a lot of the groups I like. They do play at different venues, but ultimately they have a “go-to” venue that they regularly play at.  FESTIVE has Twin Box AkihabaraTokyo CLEARS has Akihabara ZestKissBee has Diver City & Venus Fort, even Himeri, when she was in NoPlan had Yoyogi Muse. Interesting…

After I had all of my stuff signed, I headed out. The Marathon had long passed by, so the streets had become somewhat deserted. The show was a lot of fun, and I already have a pre-order ticket for their March solo-live, so I am looking forward to that. Not sure if I will be seeing them between now and then. We’ll see.

CK in Tokyo

Concerts, Iwasa Misaki A Wasamin Weekend Part Two: The Nagara Group Enka Festival (2018/02/18)

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The Nagara Group Enka Festival at NHK Hall, plus a couple of Wasa-News Updates

Today was the Tokyo leg of the Nagara Group Enka Festival. Earlier this week they performed in Nagoya, and two weeks from now they will be in Osaka. I will give a semi-brief experience review. But first, a few news items…

1. Wasamin will again be performing with Umezawa Fumio in a play/performance at the Meijiza Theater in Tokyo.
This is similar to the play she was in last Summer in Osaka. That play starred Umezawa, as well as Wasamin senpai Tegawa Toshimi. This time alongside Umezawa, Wasamin will also be sharing the stage with Enka artist Ken Naoko. The show will take place from 31 August through 25 September, and there will be special offers for Wasamin Fan Club members.

2. Wasamin confirmed today that Akimoto Yasushi composed and produced her 7th single.
I was wondering if Aki-P would be continuing his support of Wasamin’s Enka career. I guess I should have asked her at some point. But she confirmed it in today’s concert during the MC. Emcee Nishiyori Higashi remarked that it’s really nice that Akimoto has continued to support her post-graduation

3. MusicVoice article touts Wasamin’s versatility as a singer.
This is essentially a concert review from her Ebisu show two weeks ago. The writer notes Wasamin’s singing ability, and considers the possibility of Enka reinventing itself for a new generation…or something like that
http://www.musicvoice.jp/news/20180217087323/ (in Japanese)

Anyway…

I will keep this review somewhat brief. NagaraPro’s Enka Festival is a showcase for their top music talent, and stars heavyweights of the genre like Hikawa Kiyoshi, Mizumori Kaori, Tegawa Toshimi, and Yamakawa Yutaka, all of whom have appeared multiple times on NHK’s Kouhaku Uta Gassen. The show also features Wasamin, Hayabusa, Fujino Toshie, and Shiina Sakiko. Wasamin does spend considerable time on the stage, and did get the chance to sing her upcoming single, but the NagaraPro “Big Four” are definitely the stars of the show. On the other hand, it is really neat seeing Misaki-chan standing shoulder to shoulder with such big and important recording artists.

Before the Show

I originally debated whether I wanted to go at all. The tickets were quite expensive. 10,000 Yen for a seat on the floor or 1st balcony. 8,500 Yen for the Third Floor. However, they set up a special booth for tickets at Wasamin’s Love Live back in November, and you got to handpick your seat, so I went for it. I picked the perfect seat too. It was a “double aisle” seat, meaning I had an aisle in front of me and on the left of me. Given that the NagaraPro artists roam the venue during the show, this would be a great chance to see them up close.

Pre-show festivites, including a Wasa-handshake session.

I was running late all day, but got to the venue just as doors opened. The queue to get in was really big, but didn’t take too long. I immediately headed to the goods booths. All of the artists sell CDs, DVDs and other stuff at the shows (In fact, Wasamin’s 4th concert goods were all there) Additionally, both Wasamin and Hayabusa do a pre-show handshake event. I was originally just gonna get one CD, but when I saw they were giving away Sado no Ondeko clear files, I bought a 2nd copy. As for the handshake, I used both tickets at once since they were running late and Wasamin was going to have to leave soon. “Chris-kun!” “Misaki-chan!” The first thing I noticed was that Wasamin was again wearing the green Kimono given to her by Toshimi-senpai. She asked if I liked it. Now she was standing right next to Hikaru from Hayabusa, so I told Wasamin that I was also looking forward to Hayabusa’s “Spider Man” song. (Kumoo no Dansu) Just then Hikaru turned to me and said “Yeah, Spiderman!” I mentioned that I saw him perform it in Saitama. Meanwhile, Wasamin was mildly amused at my interaction with Hayabusa. I turned back to her, leaned in close, clasped her hand in both of mine and told her to do her best.

Part One (in brief) 

The show actually started early, with one of NagaraPro’s new Enka performers on stage. Last year they did the same thing with Minyo Girls. I found my seat, which was a little higher than I expected, but still a great strategic spot. After introducing the performers, Kiyoshi lead off with his infamous Kiyoshi no Zundoko Bushi. The first half of the show mainly focused on the top four’s big hits. The rest of the performers sang in group songs. It was after the intermission that things got more interesting. By the way, I was kinda dozing off in parts of the show, so during the break I drank one of those Vitamin C Boosters AND a large black coffee. Needless to say I didn’t doze off again, LOL.

Part Two (the best part!)

The second part of the show begins with a Nagara Group staple, all the performers roam the audience and shake hands with the fans for like a six song set. It is a lot of fun, and they always sing the Japanese version of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” We were all excited to see who we would get on the second floor, and all the obasans in my section gasped when they saw we had Kiyoshi. We also got Toshimi-san. After 3-4 songs, they all switch floors. Would I get Wasamin in the second part? Nope. Instead we got Mizumori and Hayabusa. Now remember I mentioned I was in the perfect spot for this portion of the show? Here were my experiences…

Hikawa Kiyoshi: It’s The Prince of Enka! Toshimi actually started off closer to me, but Kiyoshi made his way toward my section rather quickly. Oh my God!!! All the women go absolutely batshit for him. They are climbing all over each other to get close to him. He is flanked by like six guards who actually have to pull these women down, fight them off. It’s really funny to watch. They even get out of their seats (which they aren’t supposed to do) At one point I watched a guard jousting with this little old lady who was doing everything she could to run past him and get to Kiyoshi. Anyway, he passed right in front of me and immediately thrust his hand right toward me, so I shook his hand. He quickly glanced at me and smiled before getting mobbed by more obasans, LOL.

Tegawa Toshimi: I really like the sound of her voice! I always think of her as older, but she is actually the same age as Kiyoshi. Anyway, she finally made it to my section, and shook hands with the people on my left. After that she turned around to the people in front of me and passed me by. Oh rats! But then, she turned around and saw me. Her eyes got real wide, she waved and mouthed “hello” to me. Nice save!

Mizumori Kaori: This was the best interaction! I was really hoping she would come to me since I have always wanted to meet her. Mizumori is so cute, she is like a kid. It is astounding that she is almost the same age as me. She came across my section, and like Toshimi-san she shook hands with the people to my right, and then turned around and focused on the rows in front of me. Rats, I got skipped again! Or so I thought. Eventually she turned around and saw the two Wasamin fans sitting across from me. She motioned toward their Wasa-Happi coats and gave them a thumbs up, and out of the corner of her eye she saw me. It was like her jaw hit the floor. She came running straight toward me, grabbed my hand, said Hello, and Thank You! Her smile is so beautiful too. Just awesome!!!

Hayabusa: Unfortunately never came by me during the show. Both Hikaru and Yamato got close, but then the last song ended. That’s okay, since I have met both of them before, and talked to Hikaru before the show. Wasamin and Yamakawa Yutaka didn’t come to the 2nd floor, but I have met Yutaka-san before, and Wasamin, well….

The End 

After a couple of long MCs, all the members got to perform their new and/or upcoming singles. It was great to hear Wasamin belt out Sado no Ondeko on such a big stage. She did a great job! They had a Taiko drummer in the live band, and he actually sounded better than the Taiko on the recorded version of the song. I do like Hayabusa’s new single too. Actually, it seems that pretty much all of them have new releases coming out in the next month or two. Overall it was a really nice show, but I think the real fun happens after the intermission. The part in the audience is pretty much what everyone waits for. I enjoy the Nagara Group shows, but it isn’t the type of concert I could sit through more than once. That said…

Nagara Pro also has a special “Ward Concert” that they do every year, and this year happens to be the Ward I live in. In fact, I could almost walk to the venue, although I will probably jump on the train. That’s coming up in April. And of course the big push for the new single begins next weekend. So a lot of Wasafun coming up.

CK in Tokyo

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Concerts, Events, Iwasa Misaki Iwasa Misaki 4th Solo Concert at Ebisu Garden Hall (2018/02/04)

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Plus, Wasamin meets her fans a few days later…

 

(Cross-posted from Wasamin thread)
Okay, let’s finally do this! I’m sorry this post is coming so late. Usually I try to put up major Wasamin stories within a day or so, but this week I have been crushed with responsibilities, studying, and social stuff, so I barely had time to do the writeup. But alas, today is the beginning of a 4-day weekend…

The day finally came. It was the event Wasafans had been anticipating since late last year. The great thing about Wasamin’s solo concerts is that it’s the chance to see her perform on a big stage. We are also treated to the surprise of what pop-songs she will perform during the photo-op portion of the show. Of course there is also the possibility of a major announcement too.

Since this was Wasamin’s solo concert, the fan club was offered the exclusive opportunity to purchase “Ichigo Seats,” which not only guarantee a seat in the first three rows, but also come with other exclusive benefits. For this show, an Ichigo Seat for the matinee came with the opportunity to go to TBS radio and watch Wasamin record episodes of her weekly radio show. The evening Ichigo Seats came with a special “Wasamin Party,” which I talked about in the previous post. That said, this was the first time I didn’t purchase the Ichigo Seat for all shows. To make a long story short, 1) I had a mix-up with AKB handshake tickets, so I was trying to free up part of the day to use the handshake tickets I had accidentally purchased. 2) Ichigo Seats are quite expensive, so I decided I would be frugal and save myself 10000 yen. As a result, I bailed on the radio recording, and only went to the party. Luckily enough, my “regular” seat for the matinee was in the row right behind the Ichigo section. So from a seat standpoint, it didn’t really make much difference.

Ebisu Garden Hall is just across a walking bridge from Ebisu Station, in the same complex as the Yebisu Brewery Museum and many high-priced restaurants, including my favorite restaurant on the planet, Lawry’s. For some reason I had forgotten what time the matinee show started, arriving in Ebisu just before 11am. When I got to the hall, and only saw one other fan standing there, I realized I was a bit early. Luckily, there was a sign on the door stating that the goods booth would be open for early bids at 12pm. I passed the time watching people ice skate on the portable rink in the middle of the square. I went back and forth on whether to get all the new goods, despite the fact that the shirt and hoodie they were selling came in XL. Japanese XL is somewhat of a crapshoot for me, as sometimes they fit, and sometimes they don’t I considered blowing off the hoodie, but ultimately bought the full set since it also came with a bonus photo of Wasamin modeling all the goods. The irony was that ultimately the hoodie “kinda” fit, but the T-shirt is way too small. XL my ass! It is smaller than the M-size shirts Wasamin had for her first two concerts! Anyway, eventually it was show time.


The “hoodie” kinda fits me


I love the little Sanrio Enka character, too bad I really can’t wear this shirt.


Wasamin modeling all the new goods. Yes, I got the oshi-towel and the acrylic stand too


Another Wasa-ballpen, yatta! You got that if you pre-ordered a single at the venue.

My matinee seat was in the 4th row, which had a huge aisle right in front. Could this mean that I will have some “up close and personal” time with Wasamin? Here is the matinee setlist…

Matinee Show 2pm
01. Saba Kaido (6th Single)
02. Tomonoura Bojou (3rd Single)
MC 1 “Introductory MC”
03. Hi no Kuni no Onna (Sakamoto Fuyumi, 1991)
04. Kaze no Bon Koi Uta (Ishikawa Sayuri, 1989)
MC 2 “Where did people come from?”
05. Wakasa no Yado (6th Single c/w Memorial Ver.)
06. Ettou Tsubame (from Request Covers)
07. Kita no Yado Kara (from Request Covers)
MC 3 “Q: How many times has she performed Mujineki?”
08. Mujineki (1st Single)
(costume change, Wasamin recorded audio message)
Photoshoot Time!
09. Tenshi no Wink (Matsuda Seiko, 1985)
10. Touch (Iwasaki Yoshimi, 1985)
11. Sentimental Journey (YUKI, 2003)
12. Watashi ga Obasan ni Natte mo (Moritaka Chisato, 1992)
13. UFO (Pink Lady, 1977)
(end photo time)
MC 4 Goods Table
(Wasamin guitar section)
14. Taiyou ga Kureta Kisetsu (Aoi Sankaku Jouji, 1972)
15. Konayuki (Remio Romen 2006)
16. Chippokena Ai no Uta (Ohara Sakurako, 2006)
MC 5 “Talk about her acoustic “Love Live” concerts”
17. Watashi no Joukamachi (Koyanagi Rumiko, 1971)
18. Goodbye My Love (Onitsuka Chihiro, 2016)
MC 6 “Masaaki Hirao mini-tribute”
19. Kukou (Theresa Teng, 1974)
20. Moshimo Watashi ga Sora ni Sundeitara (2nd Single)
(end regular set)
VTR: Review of Wasamin’s first six singles, introducion of her 7th single)
EN1. Sado no Ondeko (7th Single)
MC 7 “Noting the debut of the new single”
EN2. Gomen, ne Tokyo (5th Single)
EN3. Hatsuzake (4th Single)

THE SONGS
I have to admit, at the beginning it felt like “just another Wasamin concert.” It wasn’t until she got to the pop stuff and acoustic guitar stuff that I really started to get into it. A couple of those songs she had performed before, but it was really nice to hear her sing UFO. My favorite part was her performance of Goodbye My Love, which contains an English-spoken verse. I just melt when I hear Wasamin trying to speak English. The other question was whether or not she would perform the new song, Sado no Ondeko. Our question was answered during the Encore VTR, which was a retrospective of Wasamin’s past PVs, leading into an introduction of the new song. Her performance was spot on, despite the fact that she later said she was really nervous. Not only that, she is really demonstrative with her body movement while singing it. I am looking forward to seeing her perform it more, as it is quickly becoming my all-time favorite Wasa-single.

GUITAR
Wasamin is still diligently practicing on her guitar work, and ultimately she seems a lot more comfortable playing while singing. However, she completely screwed up on Konayuki to the point where she stopped, sighed, and then picked it back up, LOL.

PHOTO-OP
That black dress was so cute! I love when she wears stuff that shows off her sexy little legs. The bummer was that during the photo-op portion of the show, Wasamin seemed to forget to come over near where I was sitting. I don’t know if it was on oversight, or she just took too long in the other sections, but I was in the perfect spot to get some awesome closeup shots, and she never came by.

Anyway, after a very short break, it was time to enter the venue for the evening show. Wasamin’s family was on hand for the finale, although I’m not sure where they sat. They are usually somewhere in the middle-back of the venue. My ticket was in the Ichigo section, on the opposite side of the stage from where I sat in the matinee. Here is the setlist for the evening show…

Evening Show 6pm
01. Hatsuzake (4th Single)
02. Gomen, ne Tokyo (5th Single)
MC 1 “Introductory MC”
03. Hi no Kuni no Onna (Sakamoto Fuyumi, 1991)
04. Kaze no Bon Koi Uta (Ishikawa Sayuri, 1989)
MC 2 “Wasamin’s visit to Ueno Zoo to see the Giant Panda”
05. Wakasa no Yado (6th Single c/w Memorial Ver.)
06. Ettou Tsubame (from Request Covers)
07. Kita no Yado Kara (from Request Covers)
MC 3 “Where did everyone travel from?”
08. Mujineki (1st Single)
(costume change, Wasamin recorded audio message)
Photoshoot Time!
09. Kamome ga Tonda Hi (Watanabe Machiko, 1978)
10. Watashi no Kare wa Hidarikiki (Asaoka Megumi, 1973)
11. Toshishita no Otokonoko (Candies, 1975)
12. Fuyu no Inazuma (Alice, 1977)
13. Pepper Keibu (Pink Lady, 1976)
(end photo time)
MC 4 Goods Table
(Wasamin guitar section)
14. Kabukichou no Joou (Shiina Ringo, 1998)
15. Heroine (???)
16. Kokoro no Tabi (Tulip, 1973)
MC 5 “Promotion of the bottled water company”
17. Watashi no Joukamachi (Koyanagi Rumiko, 1971)
18. Goodbye My Love (Onitsuka Chihiro, 2016)
MC 6 “Maasaki Hirao tribute”
19. Kukou (Theresa Teng, 1974)
20. Moshimo Watashi ga Sora ni Sundeitara (2nd Single)
(end regular set)
VTR: Review of Wasamin’s first six singles, introducion of her 7th single)
EN1. Sado no Ondeko (7th Single)
MC 7 “Story behind her green Kimono”
EN2. Tomonoura Bojou (3rd Single)
EN3. Saba Kaido (6th Single)

SETLIST
The main difference between the setlists were 1) songs 9-16 were completely different for each show (there are some gems in there too!), and 2) Songs 1-2 and encore songs EN2-EN3 were swapped in the later show Between the morning and evening setlists, I liked this one a lot more. “Hidarikiki” and “Otokonoko” are both crowd-pleasing covers she does a lot, and her cover of Pepper Keibu was awesome!

STAGE VIEW/PHOTO-OP
Despite being just one row closer, I had a much better angle to the stage, and a much better view overall. Plus, Wasamin did come over to where I was sitting, so I got a few nice closeup shots. This may have had something to do with why I enjoyed this show more.

COSTUMES
I mentioned the black dress, which you can see in my photos. The other costume of note was the green Kimono she wore at the end of the show. That was a gift from Wasamin’s senpai Tagawa Toshimi, I believe it had something to do with the play Wasamin performed in last year in Osaka, which Shimi-san starred in.

FLOWERS: Here ya go…

Fan Club flowers, and then the row of flowers, which stretched all the was across the lobby (the pic shows about half of them)

At the end of the day I don’t even other critiquing Wasamin’s singing performance, as it is always spot-on. Her setlists have taken on somewhat of a predictable format, however there are enough surprises throughout the show to keep it interesting. It is a nice mix of enka, pop, and a few classic oldies. The 1000 seat venue was for the most part filled, although it wasn’t sold out. They were selling tickets at the venue before the show. So this seems like the appropriate size venue for her to perform in at this point. As for the ichigo seats, I like to get them, but the truth is I was fine with my non-Ichigo seat as well, so we will see what I will do in future concerts.

Post-show Event: Iwasa Misaki Handshake Event at Tower-mini, Diver City (2018/02/08)

It is always nice to be able to give Wasamin support and feedback after a show. Sometimes we get to do that, like at “Love Live,” but other times we have to wait until the next handshake event. Luckily, Wasamin is promoting her new single, and had a non-singing event scheduled in Odaiba. I actually got to Odaiba five hours early, and spent the day shopping, eating, and hanging out while I waited for the event. Diver City, and Odaiba in general, is a great place to pass the time. The Tower Records in the mall is kinda hidden. Luckily, I had been there before for KissBee, so I knew where it was. I was one of the first fans to arrive, and bought two CDs for two tickets. Wasamin eventually came out, sporting a fresh look. Her hair was black again, and cut a bit shorter.

1st Handshake: I had things to say to Wasamin, but of course I was sidetracked by the new hairstyle, so we spent most of the handshake talking about that. I then told her my favorite performances at the concert were Sado no Ondeko, Pepper Keibu, and Goodbye My Love. Wasamin immediately laughed and asked how her English was. I said “Jouzu and Kawaii!”

2nd Handshake: I told her I read her tweet when she talked about being really nervous when she performed the new song. I then said her performance was excellent. She squeezed my hand really tight; “Hontoni???” I gave her a big thumbs up. I could tell it meant something to her for fans to tell her that. And I really did love the performance!

Anyway, Wasamin is down in Western Japan this weekend. Next week begins the NagaraPro Enka Festival. She is doing a couple of events in Tokyo later in the week, leading up to the NagaraPro Concert at NHK Hall over the weekend. After that, we gear up for the big push of the new single. I’m not sure how many events I will be able to attend, given some of them conflict with my personal schedule, but I will try to make as many as I can.

 

CK in Tokyo

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Concerts, Minyo Girls Minyo Girls Challenge Stage Vol. 3 Live at Yokohama O-Site (2018/01/21)…Plus an Amazing Post-Show Interaction!

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After seeing and having such a great time at their Vol. 2 Challenge Stage last Summer, I was really looking forward to attending Minyo Girls’ next big solo live. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed. This show was full of surprises. New songs, new members, and then the biggest surprise that happened after the show as I was leaving the venue.


Unfortunately I am just out of the picture, but you can see my penlight on the far left side of the pic

Yokohama O-Site is a short walk from Yokohama Station, right in the middle of a major shopping and entertainment area outside the West Exit. I didn’t get to the venue until shortly before doors were opened. I wasn’t sure if it was festival seating or not. I mean I did have a ticket, and it had a number on it, but it wasn’t clear if it was a seat number. Once I saw the seating chart I decided there was no need for me to be in queue, so I instead went to the goods booth. The two big items they were debuting were a group T-Shirt and a Hoodie. They both came in XL size, however Japanese XL’s are kinda hit and miss with me, so I decided to just pick up the T-shirt. Additionally, I picked up one of their CDs (a friend wanted it) and a presale ticket to their solo live in February. That would afford me three post-show 2-shot/group shot tickets. Anyway, I made it to my seat, and put on my Minyo gear, this time remembering to wear not only my Miyabi pins, but my Yuua pins as well. I was in the second row, but had the last seat on the far right, right in front of the speakers.


I still haven’t tried on the shirt yet, LOLZ

THE SHOW

The setlist had a few of the songs from their new CD. However, they also debuted three new songs they had never performed before. The first one was an original song called Hankachi DROP. Later they performed two old traditional songs, Akita Ondo, which was awesome. I think it instantly became my favorite Minyo Girls song. It almost sounds like something BABYMETAL could perform. Finally, Kokiriko Bushi, which they have released on video…

I hope they release more videos from the show, especially Akita Ondo!

As usual for the Minyo’s, they did have a photo-op portion of the show (much like Wasamin’s) Unfortunately for me, my seat was not very advantageous for photos, and I ended up trashing a whole bunch for being too blurry. However, I did get a few good shots in…

 


Miki and her Shamisen

However, the biggest surprise was when they introduced their new “kenkyuusei” member, Rina-chan. Interestingly, Rina-chan looks like she might be in the upper-half of the group, age-wise. They haven’t added her to the official site yet, so I’m not sure. But I am guessing that performing ability is a major factor in her selection since pretty much every member is a decent singer.


Left: Rina-chan, the new kenkyuusei. Right: Matsuri-chan (from Matsuri’s Twitter)

CHEKIS AND STUFF

After enjoying my prerequisite 600 yen cola, I went back into the venue to line up for photos. I wasn’t sure why there were two separate queues, but once the event started, I realized the shorter queue was for group shots. Since I usually do group shots with this group, I switched over to that queue.


Have my two favorite members flanking me, and Yutori has her doll again, this time on top of my head.

I was kinda hoping Rina-chan would be in the group shot as well, but they had her helping with the sales table. In any case, the single-member cheki queue had grown considerably, so there was a bit of a wait. When my turn came I chose Miyabi, and she was very thankful. I confirmed that they sang three new songs in the setlist, and told her that she performed really well. At the end, she gave me a big “Thank You CK-San!” This would become very funny later on.


Miyabi

After the cheki I went back to the sales booth because I really wanted to take a cheki with Yuua as well. I still hadn’t purchased a ticket for their March Solo Live, so perfect. I bought the March ticket, and am now covered for the Minyo’s over the next two months. I could take another cheki too.


Yuua

Yuua is such a sweetheart, although she isn’t quite as conversational during chekis. It is sorta surprising since she (and Fuuka) are essentially the main MCs of the group. I did manage to tell her that I love their new MV. Anyway, I didn’t want to spend any more cash, so I changed out of my Happi, gathered my things, and headed for the exit. It was at this point the most interesting thing happened……


One lonely flower basket =( Some of the fans (and family) also brought flowers

A SURREAL POST-SHOW EXPERIENCE

A woman was waiting for me at the exit. As I stepped out she said Hello, and asked me my name. she then introduced herself, as Yuua’s mother. She was standing there with Yuua’s Dad and younger sister and they were thanking me profusely for supporting Minyo Girls. We talked for a few minutes; she was asking me about what I was doing in Japan, and how I came to know the group. Her English was quite good (she said she takes lessons) I was about to leave, and she tells me to follow her….


“CK-San!” ~ Miyabi


Yuua in action!

 


Yutori stopped, like “Hey, I’m posing for you, take a shot!” and I blurred the pic.

She takes me over to this group of women standing by the staircase and intruduces me to them in Japanese. Just then, the first woman says “Is this CK-San?” Hahahahaha!!!! I know exactly who this is. Like mother, like daughter, she was Miyabi’s mom. I told her the story about how Miyabi surprised me the first time she started calling me “CK-San.” The other two were Fuuka and Izumi’s mothers, along with Fuuka’s younger sister. It was just incredible to be invited into this little pow-wow with the parents of the members. I mean I have met Wasamin’s parents before, and once met Himeri from DISDOL’s (and former Alice Project) mother, but never on the level of this. It was pretty neat, and I have a feeling I will be talking to them more in the future.


Another show perk; free pic!


Moar Minyo tickets!

After a few minutes I bid my farewell and headed downstairs to find lunch.  But yeah, quite a neat experience overall, eh?  Minyo Girls are definitely a group that is demanding more attention in the idol world, so I invite you all to really check them out!

CK in Tokyo

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