It’s that time of year again; Wasamin’s birthday is coming up, For the last eight years that has also meant that a new Wasamin single is due to come out. Moreover, for the last four years it has meant that she will be holding a big solo concert.
Wasamin’s solo shows have taken on various looks over the past few years. After the first two were at Asakusa Kokaido, the have switched venues for each show. A couple of times they featured multiple shows, like the concerts at Otemachi Yomiuri Hall and Ebisu Garden Hall. This year the concert was held at the Tokyo Kinema Club, which is just down the road from Uguisuidani Station on the Yamanote Line, next to Ueno.
Keeping with tradition, the fan club was given first crack at purchasing tickets, including the famous “Ichigo Seats” which come with a variety of extra benefits. Needless to say, I put in an early application to assure myself of the full Wasa-experience. My ticket arrived in mid-January, complete with my personally signed ‘Ichigo’ badge and a rundown of what the Ichigo bonuses would include…
– Priority seating in the first six rows (This ended up not being a big deal since the venue was relatively small)
– The Ichigo Badge
– Guaranteed availability of all new goods
– Additional photoshoot time (I’ll address this later in the post)
– Post-concert after-party with Wasamin, with more photo/video shooting.
There were also a few additional benefits available for everyone, including a signed clear file for pre-ordering her new single, and a 1-shot cheki giveaway for spending a certain amount at the goods booth.
Doors opened for the concert at 6 p.m., but I arrived at 2 p.m. to queue for the goods table’s early-bird window. When I arrived I noticed a ton of obasans milling around in front of the venue. WTF? Since when does Wasamin have so many female fans? It turned out that Hayabusa, Wasamin’s kouhai group were performing a matinee at the same venue. That explained it. A short time later they formed a queue for Wasamin’s goods, which were being sold outside in the freezing cold. I was around 25th in line, so hopefully it wouldn’t take too long.
I was confused by the cheki giveaway. The way I understood it you received one cheki with at least 5000 yen in purchases, and three chekis with at least 10000 yen in purchases. I should also note that there were only 100 chekis available in total. So initially I was a bit ticked off to see that everyone was purchasing the ‘New Goods Set’ for 8100 yen, and then adding one 2000 yen item to get three chekis. I thought “What a bunch of selfish pricks! Can’t they see that there are over 150 people in line? Maybe some of those people would like to get a cheki too.” Some people were even spending 20000 yen to get six chekis.
What I didn’t know was that in order to get any chekis you had to buy at least one ‘old item’. So when I bought my new goods for 8100 yen, I asked for a cheki, and they said I didn’t qualify to get one. Confused, I asked a couple of other fans about it, and they thought I should have gotten one as well. So they went to the table and asked, and they clarified the ‘old item’ caveat. They offered to let me buy another item, but at this point I was sorta ticked off about it, not to mention I want to get out of the habit of purchasing things I already have, so I refused. I have a ton of Wasa-chekis already.
Wasa-pillow (the new one is on the left, the one of the right is last year’s version)
BTW, I forgot to take a photo of the third new item, which is a Wasa-smartphone case since I put my phone in it before thinking of taking a pic. It is actually quite cool looking. Anyway, after pre-ordering the new CD and receiving the signed clear file, I had three hours to kill until doors opened. I camped out at a Dotour a few blocks away sipping coffee, and then moved over to the Hidaka-ya near the venue for a couple of pre-show beers and fried squid.
Hayabusa’s flowers. I am pretty sure the flowers for Wasamin were the same, and they just switched out the placards. Most of the TV and radio networks sent arrangements
I returned to the queue around 5:30 since I wanted to take photos of the flowers, but they were placed in a dark alcove, so taking a shot was pretty much impossible. Instead I waited out in the icy cold for 30 minutes for doors to open. The only way we could enter the show was via two elevators, so it took an extra long time for everyone to get inside. It ultimately resulted in the show starting 10 minutes late since people were still filing in at 6:30. Wasamin’s entire family were in attendance, and my friend Kenji was lucky enough to have a seat practically next to them. My seat was in the 5th row on the left-side aisle. Hopefully this would result in me getting some nice close-up pics for her during the photo-shooting time. Finally, Wasamin started the Kage-ana, it was showtime! The setlist…
1. Sado no Ondeko (7th single)
2. Ryoshu (7th single c/w)
MC (General welcome, confirming everyone was genki, talked about the cold weather. However, the funniest part of this MC was that Wasamin screwed up and introduced the wrong song. She teed up the intro story for Koi no Dorei, and as she got ready to sing there was no music. She paused for a moment, bowed, and said “That’s incorrect!” LOL. She then went into her story bout how she had been practicing the next three songs very hard since she had never performed them before)
3. Noto Hantou (Ishikawa Sayuri)
4. Yarazu no Ame (Kawanaka Miyuki)
5. Fuyu no Riviera (Mori Shinichi)
The Songs (The highlight of this set to me was Fuyu no Riviera, which was originally performed by a male vocalist. Wasamin’s version was slightly faster-paced, and with a somewhat more cheery style. Frankly, I thought her version was better than the original)
MC (Wasamin was mentioning how she had been really tense about some of the new songs she was performing tonight, and hoped they turned out well. She also made a bit of a joke about the next song intro, since she had already done her little speech about it in error during the previous MC. But she hoped they would clean it up for the DVD. Jeez, I hope not. The screw-up was pretty funny!)
6. Koi no Dorei (8th single c/w)
7. Ohisashiburi ne (8th single c/w)
8. Anata (8th single c/w)
9. Wakare no Yokan (8th single c/w)
The Songs (To me this is possibly the best set of c/w songs Wasamin has ever had on a single. Every time I hear them I am more and more impressed. AndAnata, jeez. It is such a dramatic and emotional song to begin with, and Wasamin puts so much feeling into it. I shiver every time I hear her sing it!)
MC (Wasamin left the stage, next Hiyoshi-san and Kanade-chan, the characters from Wasamin’s daily show on TV Tokyo, Hiruson, came on stage. Well, actually they were escorted on stage since I they seemed to be unable to walk on their own. This was a great idea, since Wasamin had never done anything Hiruson-related with her fans before. Ultimately it ended up being an awkward MC. For one, the dialogue of the characters was pre-recorded, and sounded that way. It sounded like everything was recorded separately and pieced together. However, there came a point where Wasamin was supposed to come back out, but she wasn’t ready. Her mic was live, so you could hear her saying “Wait a minute, I’m not ready!” You could also hear the footsteps of her running around backstage. They essentially had to stop playing the dialogue of the characters, who just stood on the stage silently while we listened to Wasamin manically running around. Eventually she made it back, and was positioned on the floor for the camera-shooting time. After a brief interaction between Wasamin and her anime alter-ego Kanade-chan, they introduced the next song.)
10. Tonde Istanbul (Mayo Shono)
11. Osaka Rhapsody (7th single c/w)
12. Tegami (7th single c/w)
The Songs (Well, I think everyone is so busy taking pics that they don’t notice what Wasamin is singing, which is too bad since her performance of Tonde Istanbul was quite good. Not to mention Neraiuchi (the song below) was a serious “clap along” song. Wasamin performed half a verse of that while standing right next to me, and at one point I became conscious that I might be prominently featured on the DVD, so I started clapping and smiling just in case.)
MC (Short MC to end the camera shooting time for the general audience, and advise the Ichigo Seat holders that they may continue to shoot photos for one more song. Of course I was allowed to keep shooting, but personally I don’t think this was the best idea; to tell half the audience they have to stop taking pics while the other half could continue…just my opinion)
13. Neraiuchi (Linda Yamamoto)
MC (Wasamin spent most of this MC talking about her Kimonos. during the photoshoot she was wearing the one that was a gift to her from Tegawa Toshimi. (Wasa-senpai) Earlier in the show she wore her blue kimono, which I believe was the first one that was specifically designed for her. Later on she would wear the off-white Kimono from the new single Jacket and MV. From there she introduced the next group of songs as her “pop set,” which has traditionally been one of the high points of her solocons)
14. Yureru Omoi (Zard)
15. Rouge no Dengon (Arai Yumi)
16. Genki wo Dashite (Takeuchi Mariya)
The Songs (Oh yes, this set was great. The Zard song is like the quintessential late 80s-early 90’s pop song. Genki wo Dashite is a very pretty acoustic song, the type I could totally see Wasamin performing at one of her “Love Live” concerts. But to me the best song of the set, and perhaps the best song of the night, was her rendition of Rouge no Dengon, which is known for being the opening theme for the Kiki’s Delivery Service anime. Once again, I think she outdid the original)
MC (Wasamin spoke about her ‘Love Live’ shows, which feature her performing pop songs almost exclusively, sans Kimono, and playing the guitar. Wasamin always says that she has a lot of fun performing the pop genre and would like to continue branching out)
17. Gomen ne Tokyo (5th single)
18. Moshimo Watashi ga Sora ni Sundeitara (2nd Single)
19. Tomonoura Bojou (3rd Single)
MC (Wasamin was impressed that the fans are still keeping with the tradition of certain penlight colors for certain songs. Gomen ne Tokyo = yellow, Moshisora = Light Blue, Tomobojo = Red We were tasked with picking a color for the new single, and decided it would be orange. Wasamin noted that since there are 12 colors on the multi-color penlight we are good for four more songs, and then will have to come up with other ideas. After that she went into her usual “last song” routine, which of course features all of our scripted reactions. We have been doing this routine with her for years, but it still cracks people up who have never seen it before)
20. Saba Kaido (6th Single)
Encore (BTW, we have a go-to guy in the fan club who pretty much does every encore call. Interestingly, this time he was sitting directly in front of Wasamin’s mom, and it was interesting to see her mother really getting into the encore chant. The encore call didn’t last long (they were running late from the beginning) The encore started with a VTR showing scenes from Wasamin’s first seven single MVs)
1. Koi no Owari Sangenjaya (8th Single)
MC (Wasamin talked about her upcoming birthday (Wednesday!) But she also spent a lot of time thanking everyone who has been there for her on this solo career journey, including us as her fans. She really got emotional at one point. For a moment I thought there was a surprise announcement brewing. But no, she was merely reflecting.
2. Hatsuzake (4th Single)
3. Mujineki (1st Single)
Ichigo seat holders were told to remain in their seats while everyone else filed out. They put out a bunch of candy and snacks for us to munch on while we waited for Wasamin to appear. We were also given a bottle of Oolong Tea for the “toast.” Wasamin eventually came on stage and did the toast. She was really interested in what we were given to drink. “What is that? Oolong Tea? Itoen?” She was given a bottle as well, but interestingly when we toasted I noticed she didn’t really drink anything. Ichikawa-san (Wasa-manager) ran onto the stage with a bottle of Aquarius (tastes the same as Pocari Sweat), and switched it. Does Wasamin not like Oolong tea?
We were then instructed to line up with our groups for movie shooting time. Half of us didn’t know what our groups were. It turned out to be listed on a piece of paper that was sitting on our chairs when we arrived. I was in group #2 (There were 12 groups in total) I kinda got screwed on this benefit. I think part of the problem was that some people didn’t know which group they were in, and just jumped into the early groups. There were so many people in my group that I got pushed all the way to the far end of the space, and was really far away from Wasamin. The people on the other side were like four feet away from her, and I was like twelve feet away. Not to mention the area was far too dark, so my video looks horrible. Oh, and I had trouble getting my camera started, so I missed the entire time she was talking to me, and she was calling out to me for a good five seconds or so, but I recorded none of it. Oh well, not the end of the world. Here’s the last part of the session…
After that was a short Q&A session, where Wasamin answered four random questions drawn out of a box, and then she bid her farewell. At the end I was hanging out by the door since my friend was waiting for me at an izakaya around the corner. I wanted first dibs at the exit. We celebrated with a Yakitori dinner at Torikizoku.
My overall impression? Wasamin sounded great. Her song choices were really good. Oh, during the Q&A someone asked how the concert setlists are decided, and it was revealed that her manager, Ichikawa-san has a lot to do with that. The MC with Hiroshi-san and Kanade-chan was cute, but could’ve been executed a lot better. On the other hand, the VTR was kinda disappointing in that it felt like it was thrown together at the last minute. Not to mention they usually have some sort of special VTR retrospective of Wasamin’s past year, but that didn’t occur. I was not impressed with Kinema Club as a concert venue. It was small, cavernous, and quite dark. It made photo-shooting quite difficult. It wasn’t as nice as the places she has performed before, although the location was really convenient. I would also re-think the idea of giving the Ichigo Seat holders additional shooting time, I think the negative experience of those who couldn’t take pics during that song outweighed the positives for those who could.
The good news was they had just announced that Wasamin would be doing a promotional mini-live in Saitama the next day, so it would be a great opportunity to discuss the concert with her one on one. That writeup is coming up!
CK in Tokyo