I went back and revisited my post last year of Wasamin’s 2017 ‘Valentines Bus Tour’ just to remind myself of what an amazing time it was. Suffice it to say, I was really looking forward to this year’s edition. This year’s event kept with a tradition of moving further and further away from Central Tokyo. The first edition drove to various places around Tokyo, last year was the general Yokohama area, and this year we would be heading 75 miles Southwest of Central Tokyo, to Shizuoka. There we would be visiting the Mishima Sky Walk attraction, enjoying a fabulous lunch, Tea Picking, our traditional shrine visit, as well as all the fun during the bus ride. I’ll tell you right now, this year’s tour was even more special than last year’s, for numerous reasons.
I set two alarms since I didn’t want to oversleep and miss the event. Luckily, I was up at the crack of dawn, and out the door quite early. The event started at 8am in the bus parking lot at Tokyo Station. My first concern was which of the two buses I would be on, since last year I was on Bus #2, in the very back, and it felt like the 2nd bus kind of got a secondary experience. Luckily, I was on Bus #1 this time, albeit in the back row again. Although I had my section to myself, so I could stretch out. The buses were scheduled to leave at 8:30, but Wasamin was ‘fashionably’ a few minutes late. which amused most of the fans.
Bus Ride #1
Lucky Bus #1 got Wasamin on-board first. After a few introductions, where we were given a basic rundown of how the day would unfold, Wasamin had everyone in the bus introduce themselves, and then give some background of how they became a Wasafan, or why they are a fan now. There were 38 fans on each bus, so this took the better part of an hour. In fact, when we reached the mid-point rest area of the drive out, we still had five people left to do the introduction, including myself. (I was last) I essentially told the story about the first time seeing Wasamin perform in the theater in April 2009, and how special I thought she was even from that first encounter. Then I talked about meeting her in New York later that year, and that was how she became my oshimen. I know Wasamin remembers our New York meeting (she has mentioned that she does) but I don’t know if I had ever told her the theater show story before, and how I rushed back to the hotel to figure out who she was, LOL. Anyway, we were then given 15 minutes at the rest area to use the toilet, or whatever.
This was a lively rest area, to say the least. There were lots of food stalls selling melon pan, steamed buns, and meat skewers. Everyone lined up at the various booths to grab a snack, including Wasamin. Wasamin had two photographers filming her every move on this trip, so people at the rest stop began to notice. Everywhere I heard people muttering to one another. “She’s the Enka singer from AKB!” I was so proud of her. She looked so beautiful, and was catching the eye of everyone, yet she is hardly a diva, and is totally comfortable milling around with the fans, and everyone else.
Our one chance to see Mt. Fuji. No worries, I have seen it many many times.
We re-boarded the buses, this time with Wasamin on Bus #2, and proceeded 75 minutes to our next destination. For this part of the ride we were entertained with Wasamusic over the bus sound system.
Mishima Sky Walk
Mishima Sky Walk is essentially a 400 meter long walking bridge over a small valley on the opposite side of Lake Ashi from Hakone. It also provides beautiful views of Mount Fuji on a clear day, which unfortunately this wasn’t. Of course there are also food stalls and gift shops with local products. Wasamin handed each of us our tickets and guidebook, and we proceeded to the bridge entrance where we took a group shot, and then had a Wasamin photo session. The sessions were broken up into four groups, I was in the ‘kiro’ (yellow) group, which usually went second.
At this point I will mention that I kind of have a fear of heights, a concern I mentioned to Wasamin a couple weeks ago. In this case, it’s not that I feared the bridge falling down, it’s that I think I am somehow going to fall over the side. Ultimately, it ended up being quite the pleasant walk, despite the fact that the floor of the bridge was a metal grate, and you could see the valley below under your feet. Since it is a suspension bridge, it sways a bit too. There were a few fans that didn’t cross, and a few others that did, but were petrified the entire way. LOL.
Once across, Wasamin took some photos on the other side. There were food stalls here too, including a guy steam-roasting chestnuts. He saw our large group come across and immediately got to work steaming, but nobody went to his stall. Ultimately Kimura-san and I each bought a bag. Another feature of the Sky Walk is the ‘flower drop’ where you get a small wooden ‘flower’ disc and write a wish on it, then throw it over the side of the bridge. I bought a yellow one, (Wasamin’s color) wrote a small wish for myself, and a small message to Wasamin, and threw mine around mid-way, where the stream passed. When I threw it, it went into a really fast spin, and practically floated to the bottom of the valley, and I am pretty sure it landed in the water, which is what I was aiming for.
We were given discount coupons for the soft cream shop, so a lot of people lined up for that. The rest of us loaded back on to the bus for the next stop. While we were waiting, one of the fans told me he had an extra ticket for Wasamin’s Utacon performance next week, and invited me to come. SCORE! I was about to send a message out to the fans asking if anyone had an extra, so that worked out perfectly!
Wasamin was back on our bus for the ride to lunch, which took over 30 minutes to a town called Izunokuni, which is near Atami. The bus had a karaoke system, so Wasamin sang 2 songs for us along the way. First Tokyo no Bus Guide, and then Tegami (The song she sang at her most recent challenge stage) Much to Wasamin’s surprise, our bus guide had never heard the bus guide song before, LOL. The other nice thing was, Wasamin performed the 2nd song at the rear of the bus, so they were really focused on paying attention to everyone this time around.
So lunch…Actually, we were in more of a catering hall, which seems to be a regular stop for Tobu Top Tours, since we weren’t the only tour group there. We could essentially sit wherever we wanted for lunch, and our food was already set at the table, waiting for us to eat. I grabbed a spot at the end of the center table, which ended up being a primo seat later.
Cold soba, tempura, sushi, soup, veggies, and green tea jello. Quite the bounty, eh? The tempura was served with green tea/salt, which from what I understand is a popular local condiment. Everything was delicious, and we all finished rather quickly, which gave us time to go the local gift shop in the regular restaurant, where Wasamin was having lunch with staff. One of the fans, whose name I always forget, came out with an interesting looking bottle. What was it? Unagi Cola??? It has Unagi in it??? I had to try this, so I went inside and bought a bottle.
All the fans were crowding around me. “What is that? Unagi Cola? How does taste?” To be honest, it just tasted like cola. But it ultimately got me a lot of attention, so well worth the purchase. After that we headed inside the dining hall, where we would be getting an impromptu photo session with Wasamin…
I strategically placed my Unagi Cola bottle right at the edge of the table. The first person to notice it was the photographer, and then Ichikawa-san (Wasa-manager) who came over to take photos, ask what it tastes like, etc. Wasamin was moving from table to table, posing while asking us about lunch. I got awesome closeups since I was in the first seat. And, I got a special pose…
Yes, that Unagi Cola was a wise purchase indeed…
Tea Picking at Kuraya-Narusawa
A short ride away we arrived at the site of our tea-picking experience. Before leaving the bus we were given a bandanna, and a bag to collect tea leaves. This was also our chance to take 2-shots with Wasamin with her wearing her tea-picking outfit. The tea fields were up on a hill, and had a beautiful view of Fuji…on a clear day. Today was really hazy.
Looking thoroughly confused, not sure which leaves were the right ones…
They didn’t really give us much instruction on tea picking, so I kept asking everyone around me if I was picking correctly, and getting laughed at each time. People were like “What the heck are you picking?” and removing half the leaves from my bag. Ultimately people threw a bunch of handfuls in my bag. I guess I will make some tea with it eventually. To be honest, I was kind of distracted as I had noticed that the property also housed a microbrewery called Hansharo Beer. I was more excited to visit the gift shop than anything else. So I headed back down the hill.
Wow, I would have loved to buy just about everything in that store. They had just about everything tea or wasabi related imaginable. Tea tasting, green tea soft cream, and of course Hansharo Beer! Ultimately I picked up a 4-bottle variety pack, along with a few Wasabi related items. I really wanted to buy the fresh wasabi too, but their graters were kinda pricey, and I had already spent quite a bit, so I passed.
Back to Mishima, where our last ‘event’ would be a visit to a traditional Shinto Shrine to pray for Wasamin and her fans. We did the same thing last year on the tour to Yokohama. Ya know, it is this moment, watching Wasamin praying, that I really get that at the end of the day she’s just a human being with hopes and dreams, just like the rest of us. Anyhow, it was a short ceremony, and we all got a small cup of sake at the end. After a few minutes where everyone bought fortunes and charms, we re-boarded the bus. BTW, my fortune was kinda mediocre. The fans I asked either said “slightly taihen” or “it’s okay” Anyway, I tied it to the wall just the same hoping that it will bring me good luck anyway.
The Ride Home
Once again, Wasamin split the ride home between Bus #1 and #2, we got the first leg. We had been running around 20 minutes late all day, so we would only have a short stop in Ebina for a toilet break, and for Wasamin to switch buses. For starters, Wasamin went around the bus asking various people what they thought of the trip. When she came to me, I told her that I was happy because I had a delicious lunch, bought a lot of omiyage, and got to be with Misaki-chan all day. She asked about the omiyage, and when I showed her the beer she said “You really like beer!” She was referring to the conversation we had a couple weeks ago, when I told her about going to a bunch of Golden Week beer festivals. Wasamin also mentioned to me that she had been reading my twitter updates on the trip all day. Afterwards, she was speaking to the woman who was also in the back of the bus, and sat down in the seat right next to me. My first reaction was to move in order to give her some space. But then I thought “What the heck am I doing? Wasamin sat her cute little booty right down next to me!” So I stayed right where I was.
Next was janken for prizes. She had 10 signed clear files with unique messages, plus a personally signed 2018 Calendar. Unfortunately I didn’t win, but I did come close on the second round of Clear Files, losing on the final round. Misaki-chan rounded out this leg of the trip with more karaoke. Unfortunately a lot of the songs we were requesting (including my request of Niji wo Watatte) weren’t in the system, so Wasamin ended up singing a lot of songs acappella. Finally, as we left the bus we were given a thank you card from Wasamin, as well as Wasa-chocolate (and a gift of green tea from the Tour Company)
For the rest of our bus tour, we were treated to a karaoke performance by our Bus Guide, who was a total doll. Bus #2 got an older guide, we got the cute, idol-level guide. Finally a few fans did Karaoke before we arrived in Tokyo. We all said our goodbyes outside Tokyo Station, and went our separate ways.
Our idol-caliber bus guide
Chalk it up to another incredible 10-hour experience with my favorite girl in the world. Everything about this event was an upgrade from last year. The bus rides were more evenly distributed, had more activities, and she paid attention to the people in the rear of the bus too. We had more interaction with Wasamin, more photo-ops, and it was a beautiful place to take a bus tour. Wasamin is a wonderful host, and it seemed as if she had as much fun on the tour as we did. I know I had a blast, and I look forward to whatever the next big event is.
Actually, my next ‘big’ Wasamin event is her karaoke party, which is in three weeks. But we also have Utacon next week, Wasamin’s DVD release weekend, and the concert at DMM VR Theater. So lots coming up!
CK in Tokyo