SKE48 Tokyo Handshake Events (Individual and National) at Makuhari Messe (2016/20/27-2016/02/28) PART I

Sorry these are coming so late, I have been doing the lionshare of my posting on Stage48, or Facebook.  But for the benefit for the few of you who still want to read this blog I am going to bring many of my posts over here.

SKE48 Tokyo Handshake Events (Individual and National) at Makuhari Messe (2016/20/27-2016/02/28) PART I

I am honestly all idol’ed out after the last 8 days. From the AKB Be My Baby Event, to the 2 Tokyo HKT48 concerts, to 2 FES☆TIVE live events. i thought I would have day off on Friday. But noooo, I had to make a mad dash to Shinjuku to preorder Hashimoto Kanna’s upcoming PB for a book signing event in March. It culminated with a pair of SKE48 events at Makuhari. First the individual event where I had 6 tickets, then the National event which I ultimately had 12 tickets for. After attending the two events, I can say without a doubt I had a much better time at the National event. Now one might say “But you barely get any time to talk to the members. How could it be better?” There are a few reasons for that…

First of all, since there are no names on the tickets you can decide who you want to see on a whim. Even the most popular members. Feel like saying hello to Jurina? No problem, just queue up. Second, unlike AKB the SKE National Events seem to make it very easy to use a lot of tickets throughout day. There are a lot of lanes, and the crowd isn’t quite as big. I used 12 tickets today, I could have easily used 3x that amount. Third, the way they mix the members you never know who you might get to meet (and really hit it off with) I got a chance to meet so many SKE members today who I had never met before. As a result I came away with a new “best friend”

Oh, and you get the mini-live too. Anyway, on to the meetings. And I am going with Sunday’s National Event first since I enjoyed it so much.

The National Event was arranged in four slots, with a mini-live sandwiched in the middle. There were six solo lanes (Jurina, Suda, Churi, Shibata, Sae, Souda) The rest of the members were grouped in threes over 12 lanes. However, Furuhata Nao had a special lane to make up for missed handshake events, so she was not available unless you had her ticket. Also Kitagawa Ryoha was doing a makeup handshake, so she was only available in the morning. The neat part was the girls all shuffled in the afternoon, so the pairings were completely different. I came with a bunch of local friends, some of whom were interested in seeing me interact with my favorite members. So we led off by caravaning over to Mikitty’s lane…

AM SLOTS

(Lane 17) Sugawara Maya, Hidaka Yuzuki, Yakata Miki (x2)
As I am coming down the lane Maya gives me this look like I am Frankenstein coming down the lane. I immediately say “What, am I scary???” “But I don’t know English” “That’s okay” Just as I am saying this I get the OMG reaction from Yuzuki. “Oh, wow!!! Hello!!!” As she is grabbing my hand Mikitty immediately chimes in “Oh, it’s Chris!” Yuzuki: “Chris? Chris??? CHRIS!!!” Yuzuki isn’t letting me go to Mikitty. Finally I get to Mikitty and I tell her that she better be careful since Yuzuki is giving me special Kami-treatment!

When I visited them later on Mayu had gotten the gist of what I was about. So she is laughing when she sees me coming. However Yuzuki immediately bombs over her “Hello Chris!!!! It’s Chris!!!” Pulling me over to her. I kanda felt bad so when I got to Mikitty I whispered to her “Don’t worry, you are still my #1 in SKE” “I am? Good! Thank you Chris.”

(Lane 11) Takahata Yuki, Goto Rara, Matsumura Kaori (x2)
My friend followed me to Kaotan’s lane. I knew Rara was going to be there, but I wasn’t sure who the third member was. I didn’t recognize Takahata at first so I sort of blew by her. Then Rara began talking to me in English. However, I was still in “talk Japanese mode” so it threw me off and I just sat there stammering. Finally I got to Kaotan. After our usual pleasantries I told her I brought a friend to meet her. She was like “Nande nande nande??? You are Chris’ friend?” I guess she was surprised I have friends?

After I left the lane it dawned on me that Hatagon was one of the 7th gen members I was rooting for during the auditions. Plus I really had things I wanted to say to Rara. So a short time later I visited the lane again. Immediately telling “Takahata-chan” (Yes I called her that, and it got a giggle) that I did root for her during the auditions. She was like “You actually know who I am?” For Rara, I told her that I work on one of the big English-speaking 48-group forums and that she was quickly becoming an extremely popular member among overseas fans. “Really? That’s great! I am happy to hear that.” Finally to Kaotan, who commented on my interaction with Rara. “The two of you can speak English together.” I said “Yes, it is good. But I am still here to see Kaori-chan” I asked her if she would be performing in the mini-live. She said that I better be cheering for her.

(Lane 15) Kitagawa Ryoha, Kamimura Ayuka, Tani Marika
The same friend finally followed me into Tani’s lane. Truthfully I was excited to meet Ryoha. I am not really a fan, and she seems to have that “potentially salty” personality. On the other hand, I have heard she can be talkative at events. Which Ryoha would I get? Coming down the lane I see her usual “slightly embarassed” expression. She was very “by the book” Exchanged pleasantries, smiled. But honestly I didn’t have much to contribute either. On to the little kenkyuusei who acted as you would expect most 12-year olds to act with a foreign ojisan fan. So when I got to Tani we just talked about Kamimura’s cute twin tails. (BTW, Ayuka was out sick in the afternoon, so that was probably why she wasn’t too animated)

(Lane 2) Suda Akari
I do like to visit some of SKE’s bigwigs dung the National events. I used to get tickets for Dasu all the time, but I haven’t seen her for at least a couple years. She didn’t really have much of a line. Despite that, it was an extremely quick visit. In fact it was the shortest time I got from all the lanes. (And I visited a couple other solo lanes too later on) Pretty much. Hello Dasu, catchphrase, thanks for coming, and I was out of the exit. She was her usual genki self, but this is pretty much the same as every handshake I have ever done with her. It is like a blur…

I considered using another ticket in the morning (possibly for Marika again), but they closed Slot 2 early to prepare for the Mini-live. I still had time to head over and sign birthday cards for my new pal Yuzuki and Yamashita Yukari.

Mini-Live
I usually have good luck drawing a spot for SKE’s mini-live. I was surprised to see people queueing 3 hours early for it since the draw is completely random. That said, the earier you are the better spot you get in whatever section you choose. My friends and I all went in relatively late and drew the middle section (which we were in the middle of) So we weren’t very close to the stage.

One thing I never knew was that every SKE member has a specific lightstick color scheme that their fans wave. I had only brought one stick with me. I have a bunch, but they are all one-color types with the exception of the one Kingblade I own. So I asked about Kaotan and Mikitty’s colors. They both had a 3-color scheme with red. How about Tani? “Oh Tani’s is crazy, like 6 different colors” So I am supposed to have 6 Kingblades for Marika? Forget it! All three of them had red so I went with red for the show.

Kageana was done by a bunch of different members. There were plenty of screwups, and plenty of giggling.

All of the members who didn’t have a sub-unit opened the live with Okey Dokey, followed by each sub-unit. In order: Love Crescendo, Death Stock Diamond, Furumarion, Caramel Cats, and finally Transit Girls. BTW, my two favorite songs on the single are the ones by Death Stock Diamond and Furumarion.

The one big MC was all about Madoka since this was her last National Event. She was presented flowers, then they did a tribute to her “cheerleader pose”. Other members were shown on the screen with their rendition, the funniest to me was Kanon’s. It just seemed like she was trolling the pose. Anyway, the show was over. Back to the handshake lanes…

PM SLOTS

So now all of those people who had lined up early for the mini-live were in the handshake area, causing most of the lines to be much longer than in the morning. At least in the beginning it was that way. As I strategized how to use my last six tickets I noticed that my new friend Yuzuki was now paired with Kaotan. So I was surely going to hit this lane a couple of times. The rest we would play by ear…

(Lane 11) Asai Yuka, Hidaka Yuzuki, Matsumura Kaori (x2)
I was all stoked and ready to hit this line. But first I would have to get through another of the 7th gen babies. Yuukatan was all smiles and waves when I came through. But again, Yuzuki was extremely excited to see me again throwing up the double High-Five. Not to be outdone, Kaotan got into the act too. BTW, during the mini-live the members of Death Stock Diamond tossed balls into the crowd (ala Hajimete no Jellybeans). I was so impressed with Kaotan. She has a really good arm, and throws the ball with nice coordination. I bet she played softball when she was younger. So I told her that. “I can throw the ball far, ne?” “Yes, you were really good!”

I returned to this lane during the fourth slot. This time Asai was ready for me. She is laughing as I enter and immediately tries for the double high-five. I said “So you want to be my tomodachi too?” I actually wanted to say something to Yuzuki this time so I told her that since we are friends I want to see her perform at the SKE theater. I also told her I signed a birthday card for her. Finally for Kaotan I told her I cheered for her as requested, she told me to use the word “call” (Koru) and that Death Stock Diamond was my favorite of the units. And of course I got the obligatory “I LOVE YOU” scream as I left, with Yuzuki still waving at me from behind.

Interestingly I ended up seeing Yuzuki and Kaotan more than anyone else today, including Mikitty and Marika. I guess I made up for blowing off a Kaotan ticket the week before.

(Lane 3) Takayanagi Akane
Another of the members I used to go see and then stopped. I actually wasn’t planning on visiting Churi today. But then I remembered I did have things to talk about with her. Her line was almost empty so I jumped in. Churi’s handshakes are quite consistent. I have never seen her overly genki. Like Rena, Yui. She is just kinda level-headed and mellow. So I told her that I bought her photobook (It is actually the only PB I have purchased over the past 3 months) She asked if I liked it, which of course I answered affirmitavely. So she gave me the pose from the cover (with her hand partially blocking her face) It was cute. I also wanted to tell her that I saw her photography exhibit in Shinjuku last month, but I got pushed out before I had time. Anyway, the PB cover pose made the visit worth my while.

(Lane 15) Umemoto Madoka, Yakata Miki, Ego Yuna
I was also excited about who Mikitty was sharing a lane with in the afternoon. Not only would I be able to say goodbye to Umechan, but would get to meet Egochan for the first time. However…

The line was HUGE. There were two member lines that remained consistently huge all day. One was Sae, the other was this one. And this queue was gigantic. I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise with both of them graduating, but Madoka’s AM lane wasn’t that crowded. Obviously people had the later slots earmarked. Perhaps it had a little to do with who she was paired with too. I entered the queue not knowing how long it would take. There were 35 minutes left in Slot 3. The line slowly snaked up and down as it got closer to the 4pm break. I was 12 away from the booth when they called break time. Oh no! Luckily this was one of the few lanes that was only getting a 30 minute break. (Actually it ended up being closer to 40, but who’s counting?)

So 80 minutes after queueing for this lane I finally got my turn. I congratulated Umechan, wished her luck and gave her MY version of her cheerleading pose. I complained to Mikitty that the line took so long, and I may not be able to queue up again for it. But I was glad to see her perform. Then came Egochan. I must say, she is much cuter in person than when I have seen her on TV. And she had her hair in these cute-wavy twin tails. She was standing on some sort of stool as well because I know she isn’t nearly that tall. But I told her that I was happy to meet her. At the end I was just happy I got out early enough to complete the last of my tickets.

(Lane 18) Noguchi Yume, Ida Reona, Tani Marika
I feel kinda bad since I only went to see Tani twice. I had planned to see her more than that, but honestly she was just paired with members I had no interest in meeting. At least in the morning I was mildly interested in meeting Ryoha. I felt even worse because apparently Tani was messaging that she felt lonely all day since her queues were empty. In fact during my hour+ in the Madoka queue I could see her repeatedly craning her neck out to see if anyone else was coming…

So I went in not even knowing which girl was which. I think the first was Yumechi, who asked me where I was from. When I said San Francisco Reona got all excited and pulled me over to her. When I finally got to Tani I asked her if she felt lonely today. She kinda puffed out her lip, which I mirrored back at her. “Should I come back and see you again?” She’s like “Please!”

Unfortunately I only had one ticket left, and I wanted to use it somewhere else. So I hope the next time I see Tani she forgets that I kinda let her down. But where to use my last ticket? So many choices. I said earlier that I might want to meet Shibata (who I think I have only met once before) The Azuma/Obata/Arai lane was also intriguing (and getting good reviews) There was also the Ranran/Minarun/Wada lane which would surely be fun. But I decided to go big. And since the line was short I would take advantage…

(Lane 1) Matsui Jurina
So I told my friend (and Jurina fan) that I was going to meet her since the queue had gotten smaller. A couple minutes later he entered the lane, so I went back to the end of the line with him. It was only going to be a few minutes wait anyway. After he told her that he had brought a new fan for her to play with she got very excited. She was reaching for me before I even got into the booth. I told her that I had actually met her twice before, the last time was at the Utsukushii Inazuma event. She winked at me and asked “Do you love me?” I jokingly responded “Mochiron!” She had a really animated guard who started laughing loudly. Jurina went in for the kill with “I am #1???” Now the guard and I are both laughing. He’s like “Okay that’s enough. Thank you!” as he is half-heartedly pushing me out.

And I was done with my tickets. There were 20 minutes to go before the Matome Dashi. I wasn’t going to wait around for the Sae festivities, which from what I heard took hours. So I decided to wait upstairs (where it wasn’t so stuffy). My friends and I made a bee-line for the Train Station before the big K-Pop concert next door let out.

CK in Tokyo