Golden Week Survival Guide

21 May

After my trip last summer, I planned on returning in the spring for Silent Siren’s tour. [What if you no longer liked Silent Siren?] I would have still gone, I’d just check out the Tokyo Hobo Orchestra at Ueno Zoo instead.

My spring break was later in the year than most schools and coincided with Golden Week. I’ve read horror stories about traveling during Golden Week (overcrowded trains, ticket sellouts, otaku riots) and I wasn’t sure a trip would be worth the effort. It turned out that the experience felt identical to my previous trips. If anything, the airport and train stations seemed less crowded and the shinkansen (bullet trains) I used were 70% empty. The only tangible difference was an increase in concerts scheduled. That’s so GEM!™

Instead of burying my travel suggestions in my recap, I’ll post them up front. And you’re welcome!

  • If you’re visiting during Golden Week, plan your trip like you would any other. I traveled light with smaller luggage anticipating heavier crowds, but this was unnecessary and ultimately I just inconvenienced myself. 
  • Using the Japan Rail Pass is as simple as showing it to the attendant at the ticket gate. But what about gates that aren’t staffed? After staring at an unmanned exit for 20 minutes like a total idiot, this is what I figured out: simply walk through the handicap lane by pushing through the gate. The gate looks fixed, but it will retract when you push it.
  • JR Pass is unnecessary if you are staying in one city during your visit, however it’s helpful if your itinerary includes using shinkansen at least twice. Anything more than twice and you are traveling for free. Last year, I bought my pass online and had it delivered, but I found out that H.I.S. offices (located in most major U.S. cities) sell them for direct pick-up and for about $15 cheaper, since their prices are fixed and didn’t fluctuate when the yen strengthened.
  • Shinkansen reservations are unnecessary, just arrive a little early and queue at a non-reserved car. (Although, if you are traveling in a group, it could be worth making reservations to ensure you can sit together.)
  • JR Pass ticket holders are allowed to make train reservations up to 30 days in advance, however during Golden Week there may be restrictions allowing only same-day reservations.
  • The HyperDia app works great with JR Pass. It’s free for 30 days and more importantly, when calculating train fair it takes into consideration the routes that are no cost with JR Pass (all JR trains and shinkansen). Time your activation so you can use it before your trip (for planning routes and finding potential travel destinations) and during your trip (when your plans change due to weather or schedule changes).
  • Free wifi is readily available in Japan and can be very helpful if you don’t have mobile data. I got lost twice and wasted hours trying to find my way, and my biggest mistake was not checking for wifi so I could use my GPS.

My Schedule

May 1 Yumemiru Adolescence mini-lives in Tokyo
May 3 GEM Live Mixture 2016 ~Best 10ct Forever~ in Osaka
May 4 Silent Siren Live Tour 2016 in Matsuyama (Ehime)
May 5 Silent Siren Live Tour 2016 in Takamatsu (Kagawa)
May 6 Returned to Tokyo ; ate at a Japanese restaurant
May 7 Went to Kamakura and Shin-Yokohama
May 8 GEM in Tokyo ; drop & Maneki Kecak in Tokyo

May 1, Sunday My flight from Los Angeles was delayed two hours and I landed at Haneda at 1AM. I collected my JR Pass later that morning at 7, at which point I’d been awake for ~34 hours straight, including a full day of teaching in which my students were acting crAaaAAZy. Yet, I still heroically made my way to LaLaport Toyosu (an ocean-side mall in Tokyo) for the Yumemiru Adolescence mini-live at 1PM. Afterwards, I heroically planned on going to Yokohama for a similar Doll☆Elements event, before heroically returning for the second Yumemiru Adolescence live at 4PM. In order to see Doll☆Elements, I needed to catch every transfer, because I had an hour window and the venue was an hour away. Unfortunately, after the live, I took a wrong turn at the station and missed the first train. It was pointless to continue, so I just heroically returned to Toyosu. I think my brain malfunctioned because I was being so heroic and YumeAdo’s current outfit consists of semi-transparent fabric plus the shortest shorts ever. To kill time before the next live I watched the TERRAFORMARS movie. I didn’t understand a word, but I made sure to act scared and cheer when everyone else did.

I became a Yume Ado fan last year, after randomly watching one of their promotional videos for their first concert dvd. After seeing them live, I can only ask “Where has this group been my entire life??” They are GEMazing. Their fandom for the past 1.5 years reminds me of SUPERGiRLS from 2011 to 2013, when the fanbase was extremely active, without being idiotic. Which is why I feel I’m two years late, because this phase never lasts long. Regardless, they are my number one group now. Or at least tied with Magical Punchline.

Yumemiru Adolescence Live 1
1. JUMP!

2. Fantastic Parade
3. Mawaru Sekai
4. Mai Gene!
5. Oshiete Schrodinger

Yumemiru Adolescence Live 2
1. Bye Bye My Days
2. Oshiete Schrodinger
3. Himawari Heart
4. Kuracchu Summer
5. Mai Gene!
6. Fantastic Parade

This is kind of relevant, so I’ll put it here. And since this is my last post, I’ll allow it, but just this once. [Isn’t this like your 15th “last post”? Not to mention all the times you were supposed to retire from the internet.]

Early to the Party Late to the Party
PASSPO☆ Doll☆Elements
predia Yumemiru Adolescence
GEM drop
Qumali Depart  SMAP

May 2, Monday I checked out of my hotel and took an early morning train to Nagoya for SUPERGiRLS’s tour. This wasn’t in my initial schedule, but in March, Reira and Rino, announced their graduations. After a few days of serious idol deliberation, I bought a ticket for their Zepp Nagoya tour date.

I’m no longer a rabid fan and since I hadn’t listened to their new album, I didn’t know the songs they would perform on the tour. It turned out that their new album is actually decent and the concert setlist was better-than-expected, because they included a few classic songs and excluded all of their summer singles. Unlike previous tours, production values were non-existent though, with the only stage decoration being color-coded flags and a video screen. They performed for 2.5 hours, including the new unit songs and one of the most rare (and best) S☆G songs of all time, Zettai Jibun Zenshin Sengen.

At the end of the concert, Reira and Rino discussed why they were graduating. Reira oft-repeated that she never thought of herself as an “idol,” with that perception being so strong that she released an image book on that topic. Idol or not, I’m glad I was able to see Reira (and the rest of the group) one last time.

0. Welcome to SUPER★CASTLE
1. Hanamichi!! Ambitious
2. Zettai Jibun Zenshin Sengen
3. Gomen ne. No tonari de
4. Karei Naru V!CTORY
Dance Number
5. Clam Chowder ga Same Chau Getsuyoubi
6. Don’t Stop The Party (unit w/ Reira, Mirei, and…three other members)
8. Happy ×2 Birthday
9. Tribute
11. Hikokigumo Itsuka (the superior b-side to GiraGira Revolution)
12. Girl’s Party -my friend Jenny-
13. Renai Rule 
14. 1,000,000☆ Smile
15. ah ha ha!〜 Chozetsu bakusho ondo 〜
16. Joshiryoku←Paradise
17. Icchatte♪ Yacchatte♪
18. EveryBody JUMP!!
19. JOY!&JOY!!
20. GiraGira Revolution
21. Miracle ga Tomannai!
22. JOY!&JOY!!
23. Renai Rule (shuffle version with Rino getting Amita’s solo)

May 3, Tuesday This day was kind of a bust. In the morning, I went to Osaka for a GEM concert. Nagoya to Osaka is a busy route and was the only time I wasn’t able to make a seat reservation, which meant I had to queue for a non-reserved car. It was easy though, and I arrived in Osaka at 11:30, two hours before the concert’s start. GEM and Cheeky Parade had concerts that day, which is why GEM was performing so early. I knew the exit to use to get to the venue, and conveniently there were coin lockers, as I had my luggage. Because the concert was so early, it wasn’t possible to check into my hotel beforehand.

Up to this point, the day had gone according to keikaku (plan), but as I approached the station exit, I realized the gate was unmanned. Without an attendant I couldn’t show my JR Pass and exit. Despite only knowing how to get to IMP Hall from the west gate, I backtracked to the next closest exit and figured I could leave from there and use common-sense to get back to the general vicinity of the west exit. Unfortunately, there wasn’t an attendant at this exit either. Nor at the third exit I tried. I wasn’t sure what to do at this point. I had a Suica card, but I couldn’t use it because I hadn’t scanned it at the originating station, and it would be idiotic to pay a fare when I have a JR Pass. Reluctantly, I backtracked all the way to the main gate, where there were several attendants. I had wasted 30 minutes and after leaving the station, I would waste another 30 minutes trying to reverse-locate the west exit.

But even though I was completely lost I still had to photograph stuff like this:

IMP Hall

I was never able to find the west entrance, so I returned to the main gate and asked the station attendant for help. He was familiar with IMP Hall, showed me a map, and gave step-by-step directions. It was 20 minutes away and his instructions were something like, “Go left, then right, straight, left, straight, right… then cross the bridge.” I was writing down the instructions, but when he said “bridge” I just thought, “I’m screwed.” After spending 30 minutes going left, right, straight, left, straight, and right, I wasn’t able to find the bridge and since there was just 30 minutes until the concert, I gave up and took a taxi like a loser. Because it took 90 minutes to do something that should have taken 20, I lost my chance to buy GEM goods and then go to Osaka Castle.

The concert was hyped as GEM’s last in Osaka as 10 members, and was also significant because Maho had just returned from a month-long hiatus due to illness and they would perform all five of their new songs. In other words, this concert was going to be #leGEMdary. It was also Chisami’s birthday, and while queueing, I was given a yellow glowstick. By the time the concert began, I had forgotten the designated song and ultimately it didn’t matter, because the song was never performed and the glowsticks were never activated.

“The song was never performed” was the unofficial theme of the concert. After 40 minutes they already announced the last block of songs and at 70 minutes they had left the stage. Including the encore, the concert was 90 minutes. #leGEMday indeed. For a concert that was 5000Y and had minimalistic production values (a solitary banner on stage and one new outfit), that was so not GEM. Last summer I went to GEM’s Non-stop Zenryoku Live, which was an experimental, completely non-hyped concert, featuring an uninterrupted 60 minute setlist, and they performed the same number of songs, for just 3000Y. Although all of the new songs, Maya’s solo, and Just! Call Me were awesome, for a concert that was supposed to be important to the GEMbers, it was a huge disappointment.

You know which group would never disappoint? [YumeAdo.] Exactly. YumeAdo would have a 500 hour concert, with bikinis.

After the concert, I returned to the station for my luggage. To get there, I crossed a bridge and it turned out that the West Exit I was unable to access was also a bridge that would have taken me straight to the concert hall. Somehow this was Maya’s fault, but just like before, there was the issue of getting through the unattended gate. As I was contemplating what to do, a delivery guy pushed a cart of boxes through the handicap lane. He didn’t have a key or special pass, he just forced his way through like an animal. Wellll, if he could do it, then I could do it. Technically, I think the official policy for JR Pass holders is to only use manned gates, and avoid ones that aren’t staffed, but I think that is unreasonable. For instance, this station–which was a relatively large station in Osaka, had four exits, and only one of them was manned. Tourists shouldn’t be expected to search for the singular manned gate, and in the process get themselves completely lost. Eff that, I’m barging through every gate from now on! (while cosplaying as a delivery guy of course.)

It began raining as I checked into my hotel, cutting short the time I could spend in Namba. I went to an okonomiyaki place, but the queue was long, and since it was raining, I hilariously ended up eating at McDonalds. Reminded me of when my brother, sister, and I ate at McDonalds in Paris after visiting the Louvre. Total waste of a foodie town like Osaka, not like I care that much about food.

May 4, Wednesday Fourth day, fourth city. This was my first time in Ehime, which I previously only knew as HimeKyun’s prefecture and for Kitty Hall, a super-ghetto and possibly haunted live-house that Doll☆Elements once used to stream a concert. The reason I was in Ehime was for Silent Siren, who I would be seeing again the following day in Takamatsu. The train from Osaka was 90% empty and the scenery alternated between ocean and hillsides. I saw mermen frolicking in the water and mountain people wrestling bears. This was my favorite train route of the trip and Ehime was my favorite locale. 

The part of Ehime I visited was the capital, Matsuyama. I was going to mention that the men in Matsuyama are renowned for war mongering and the women for their ample cup size, but that would make me sound stupid. When I arrived, I bought a 1-Day tram pass, because the best way to get around the city is by tram–everyone knows that! My hotel was a minute walk from Dogo Onsen, an iconic hot-spring that is the oldest in Japan–but everyone knows that too! According to the Matsuyama guidebook, the water in the onsen is particularly soothing for women, who often spend hours in the hot-springs, allowing the water to caress their arms and legs and special places. The sounds of women enjoying the onsen can be heard all day and all night. Unrelated, there are 1.2 million holes crudely drilled into the walls of the women-only bath and hot-spring. The purpose of these holes are currently unknown. 

After checking into my hotel, I went sight-seeing before the concert. Although I was only there one day, Matsuyama is the most enjoyable city I’ve been to in Japan. It’s serene, but there are plenty of things to do in the area, they have a great public transportation system, and it’s surprisingly English-friendly.

Too much sight-seeing resulted in me arriving to the venue later than planned.

More precisely, I arrived 30 minutes before it opened. The concert was at Salon Kitty, a 400 person club located on the outskirts of the city and built alongside a shallow river. As a result, there were a lot of bugs flying around and upstream kids were splashing around in the water like ducks. On the fourth floor of the building is a sister venue that’s even smaller called Kitty Hall. Most of the people waiting around were wearing pink Silent Siren shirts and I went to the merchandise booth to also partake in the exchange of currency for crap. Their tour goods are consistently cool though, and Ainyan–the bassist, is typically in charge of their design. For the 2016 tour all of the members contributed at least one item though: Hinanchu designed a tote bag and an iPhone case, Suu an alternate shirt and silicon bands, and Yukarun an alternate towel. I wanted the towel designed by Ainyan–which looks inspired by the video game Splatoon, the tour silicon bands, and key chain. Unfortunately, they sold out of the towel and key chain. When I was told that the towel had sold out I actually said “Aaaaww,” which may have contributed to an announcement 15 minutes later that they had ten more towels available. I hope a staff member didn’t have to rummage through their van on my account, considering I was too lazy to return to the booth and buy one.

My ticket for the concert wasn’t great, since I purchased it late. There were four Silent Siren tour dates available during my trip and it took a while to figure out which ones to attend, since I had to keep availability open for other concerts. Not to sound like a nerd, but finalizing my concert schedule was a very time-consuming process. The concert was a sell-out, expected considering it was a live-house, and at this point of the tour, 10 of 12 concerts had sold out. Despite my ticket being 317 out of 400, something weird happened as I entered the club. The floor area (which was three-tiered) was packed tighter than Chubbiness in their tour bus, but the staff led about twenty people, including myself, into a space that had been closed off. I found myself in the direct middle of the front row of the second tier, which had an unimpaired view of the stage, inferior only to the very front row. I’m still unsure what happened and I felt guilty for my good fortune, particularly as there were five girls directly in front of me on the tier below, who for the entire concert had their visibility blocked by the guys standing in front of them. I wanted to make room for one girl to step up, but if there is one thing I’ve learned while in Japan, it’s never do anything unnecessary. In America we help our fellow man. Of course, in America we also kill our fellow man.

The concert was dominated by heavy rotation songs and their newest album S. The music was great, but every three or four songs, Suu or Hinanchu would kill the energy and get on their soapbox and just ramble for five to ten minutes about boring topics. Hinanchu mainly talked about idols. One of her rants was how she understands that fans have favorite members, but she thinks we should like everyone equally. And she has a quirky way of talking that’s like: “Hey you guys… so I was thinking… I’m not sure how to say this,” before beginning her story. She is the type who tells a story in a roundabout way, instead of straight to the point, which is annoying when you’re there to rock out. Although she did tell a funny story about how everyone makes fun of the tote bag she designed, and when another member or staff does use it, they make sure the art side is facing in, so only the denim side is showing. Suu was worse, because she talked nonstop, which is surprising considering she does 99% of the singing, and since her vocals are so clean, I would think she would want to rest during the breaks. She talked about high school and having no friends, wanting to play guitar but only receiving encouragement from one of her teachers, and preaching about the importance of family. And when she noticed one of the guys in the audience had brought their 3 year old daughter, she started crying because it reminded her of her dad taking her to a concert.

They didn’t perform my favorite songs, but I enjoyed the setlist, which included a cover of Hi-STANDARD’s “My First Kiss.” Later that night, as I reflected on the number of times Yukarun made eye contact with me, it dawned on me that I had forgotten to redeem my drink ticket and take photos of the venue. That’s going to haunt me for the rest of my life.

1. Milk boy
2. Hachigastu no Yoru
4. Biisan
5. Routine
6. Love install
7. hikari
8. Lucky Girl
9. Soukai Rock
10. Hapi Mari
11. nukumor
12. Reira
13. Slow Morning
14. Yoshidasan
15. C.A.F.E.
16. DanceMusiQ
18. My First Kiss (Hi-Standard cover)
19. GuruGuru Wonderland
20. Cherrybomb

May 5, Thursday From Matsuyama, I took a 2 hour express train to Takamatsu.

The Silent Siren concert was at a club called Takamatsu MONSTER. It was larger than Kitty Hall and had a scary name, but it was basically just a boring room with a boring stage. As I walked to the club, I intermittently saw fans wearing pink Silent Siren shirts and their numbers increased as I got closer and closer. I still had to ask a fan for help though, and he looked a little confused as he pointed to the entrance, which was literally ten meters away.

The club and my hotel were located in a part of Takamatsu comprised of street after street of shopping arcades and malls. Since the stores and restaurants looked similar, it created a labyrinth of access-ways and side-streets and I got hopelessly lost trying to locate my hotel. I’ll skip the story, just remember to check for wifi when you don’t have mobile data. The entire city offered free wifi and that would have helped tremendously, had I taken the time to check.

Silent Siren had four concerts scheduled during my trip, and I considered going to three. After it was revealed that they would make their U.S. debut at J-POP Summit, three would have been overkill and I decided on two. My preference wasn’t the show at MONSTER though, because that was a concert on a consecutive day, and based on their 2015 tour, the setlists in these situations would be practically identical. The weekend concerts weren’t possible though, due to the timing of GEM‘s concert on Sunday, so it was Takamatsu by default.

And the setlist was practically identical to the night before, deviating by only two songs. And Hinanchu and Suu continued to talk relentlessly. In pro sports there’s a thing called “back to backs,” a reference to teams playing a match two days in a row. It’s rare because athletes usually play worse on the back to back due to fatigue. I think the same phenomena was in play here, because they didn’t perform with the energy they had in Ehime. It was still fun, it just wasn’t the type of concert that would induce spontaneous combustion.

1. Milk boy
2. Hachigastu no Yoru
4. Biisan
5. Limited
6. Love install
7. hikari
8. Sweet Pop!
9. Soukai Rock
10. Hapi Mari
11. nukumor
12. Reira
13. Slow Morning
14. Yoshidasan
15. C.A.F.E.
16. DanceMusiQ
18. My First Kiss (Hi-Standard cover)
19. GuruGuru Wonderland
20. Cherrybomb

May 6, Friday I didn’t go to concerts on Friday or Saturday. I wanted to see MAPLEZ at least once, but their concert that night in Nagoya was too underground. So I spent most of the day organizing my Doll☆Elements trading cards, counting my millions of yen, and returning to Tokyo. The trip is 5.5 hours from Matsuyama and I also intended to spend a few hours in Kyoto, since it was on the route. It had been raining all day though and was getting worse as I got closer to Kyoto, so I reluctantly scrapped that plan.

After returning to Tokyo and checking into my hotel, I went to Ramen Street, which is a ramen park at Tokyo Station. Although I previously mentioned I don’t care about food, ramen isn’t food, it’s life. [That is easily the stupidest thing you’ve ever written]. Obviously you haven’t read my Chubbiness fanfic.

May 7, Saturday Silent Siren and E-girls both had concerts, but it wasn’t possible to go to either. Silent Siren’s was too far from Tokyo to make it back for GEM’s Sunday concert and E-girls’s had sold out, and I wouldn’t buy resale tickets for an arena concert, since there are better ways to waste money–like Doll☆Elements trading cards and Chubbiness body mattresses. [Don’t you mean Chubbiness body pillows?] No, I meant mattresses. Hey, they’re big!

The weather was perfect, so I went to Kamakura, a beach city an hour by train from Tokyo. I went here last year for a Silent Siren concert and the area reminded me of California (minus the temples). It’s also the locale from one of my favorite J-dramas ever, Biblia Koshodou no Jiken Techou (Antiquarian Bookshop Biblia’s Case Files). I didn’t have time to look around last year though, which is why I returned. I randomly took the following photos almost a year apart and was surprised how they lined up when viewed successively. 

Kamakura city and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine:

After praying at every shrine that Magical Punchline doesn’t turn out as tragically horrible as World Standard, I realized that it was almost my daily feeding time. I was like, “Oh my gosh! It’s almost my daily feeding time!” As I contemplated how I don’t really care about food, I made my way to the Ramen Museum in Shin-Yokohama.

May 8, Sunday It was a crisp, plucky, frisky, snappy, zippy, and zesty day. [Please stop using weird words to describe the weather.] It was also hella peppy. That night, I would see my current fixation drop, after an early G-ls Entaa teiment micstia concert at the bland & non-stellar Shinagawa Stellar Ball. After GEM’s 90 minute concert in Osaka earlier in the week, I truly thought they were saving themselves for an epic concert in Tokyo, since it’s common for a tour finale to be more extravagant. The concert had also been described by the group as their final as 10 members–which is confusing considering their 3rd anniversary concert is in June–unless Maya isn’t going to be at that concert, which would be weird even by GEM’s standards.

I don’t know if it’s common practice at Steller Ball, but before the concert when calling ticket numbers, after they got to ticket #290, they switched from counting by tens, to counting by hundreds. I thought that was hilariously lazy. Outside of that, there isn’t much to write. The concert was okay, but not unlike any other GEM live I’ve attended. The setlist was 90% identical to Osaka, the differences being Do It Do It and Just! Call Me were exchanged for Speed Up and Can’t Stop Loving. The concert was still 90 minutes and a fan next to me commented to his friend that World Standards recent one-man was two hours. At both concerts, Chisami took Rana’s intro for Baby, Love Me! Last year, Maya also sang the intro at least once. Maybe they are challenging themselves, but the harmonizing in that intro is way better suited for Rana’s voice. The diamond cutouts on stage were also new, although I think they would have had a better effect if there were ten, to match each member. Unless that was a cryptic hint that GEM will only have seven members after the reshuffle in June.

After GEM’s concert, I went to Shimokitazawa for a drop four-man at Shimokitazawa GARDEN. The concert was organized by drop’s agency and was one of their sporadically-scheduled concerts called “Compotes,” where drop is joined by their little sister group Maneki Kecak, and invite one or two other groups. During Golden Week they had five of these, with Akishibu ProjectFES☆TIVE, Kamiyado, and Yurumerumo joining them for different shows. I went to the final, which included Kamiyado and Yurumerumo. I wish I could have traded those two for Akishibu Project. Unfortunately, I don’t have that super-power. I almost always avoid underground shows like this, but decided to go after finding out that drop uses Peatix for ticketing. Peatix is a ticketing service that allows overseas fans to purchase concert tickets directly, and thereby avoid relying on acquaintances in Japan or ticket buying services. Total gamechanger if more groups sign up.

Drop is completely unlike the groups I typically follow and I consider them my “exception to the rule” group. They are part of the nerdcore faction of J-pop, currently popularized by Stardust and DearStage groups–a category I’ve universally disliked since the beginning of time. Drop is an exception because everything I dislike about this niche–the obnoxious and annoying vocals, over-the-top outfits, annoying on-stage antics, and members with average talent and below-average looks, is either minimized or tweaked in drop, or simply doesn’t exist. Yes, their vocals are obnoxious at times, but their music has progressively become reliant on mainstream singing skill, and I appreciate how their designs utilize hand-drawn art and their incorporation of campy horror and Tim Burton-esque motifs in their music and outfits.

And they’re cute and hot. And cute and hot and hot.

Unfortunately, the group’s momentum was decimated when their miracle member Shizuka graduated in 2015, due to health reasons. I’m certain this is the reason they’re still an indie group, while Maneki Kecak has already had a relatively successful major debut in April. In an attempt to relaunch, drop opened auditions for new members in January and introduced them at their tour finale in April. The two new members made their live debuts during the Golden Week concerts.

Recap I arrived in Shimokitazawa 1.5 hours early and after locating the club, I went next door to 7-11 to download my Peatix ticket, since I needed their wifi. While using the Peatix app, I bought a drink and browsed the aisles, at which point I heard a girl in an annoying voice say something to the effect of, “OMG, these are super delicious!!” while stuffing two pastry things into her basket. I casually glanced at what she was referring to because I wanted something super delicious too. That’s when I realized the girl talking was Hikari (aka Takki) from drop. Her basket was overflowing with junk food, since she was probably also buying for the other members, and the girl she was talking to was one of the new members. The random encounter reminded me of Tobi’s stories about seeing members of Bellring at convenient stores. When I finished shopping and got in line to pay, Miyu, one of the two front girls from Maneki Kecak, got in line behind me and she also had a basket overflowing with junk food. She was standing with a guy who I recognized as drop and Maneki Kecak’s producer, and when he noticed I had the Peatix app open, he asked me which group I liked. When I answered, he seemed amused at my American pronunciation of drop. Later that night, when I entered the venue and the staff at the entrance asked which group I was pushing, I again said drop, and he replied “Eh?” I felt fake for then having to say “do-ra-pu.”

The concert would have a really late start. It was scheduled for 6PM, but by 6:30, the event from the early show still hadn’t ended, so the floor space had a mix of stragglers from the first concert alongside those who were arriving for the night concert. The club has a 500 person capacity and the show was a sell out, so it was uncomfortable and boring having to wait for the live to begin. [Was the venue packed liked Chubbiness in their tour bus?] Absolutely. It was also packed like Chubbiness in the women’s only bath at Dogo Onsen.

At 6:40, drop’s producer went on stage and announced the event was over and began calling ticket numbers to determine the order of fans on the floor space. It was a redundant process, considering ticket numbers had been called when everyone entered the venue initially, and there wasn’t even anyone to verify tickets. Because the first concert had extended into the second, it would have been extremely easy for someone with a ticket from the first show to stay for the second. It was during the wait for the concert to begin that I secured a spot with a great view of the stage. GARDEN has a two-tiered floor space and I was on the rail of the second tier, in the direct middle of the venue. I had a feeling the crowd could be chaotic, so the rail would also serve as a buffer. It turned out that the crowd was insane, so I made the right call.

The concert began with drop, Maneki Kecak, Kamiyado, and Yurumerumo on stage, while drop’s producer explained the lineup order, and because of the late start, that each group would be performing 25 minutes, instead of 30. During the entire intro segment I watched my favorite drop member Misato (aka Misa) as she chewed on the hair of a girl from Kamiyado, who looked completely confused. Everyone knows Misa is a weirdo though, so it’s Kamiyado girl’s fault for standing next to her!

Maneki Kecak opened and performed five songs. They’re the new hotness in this scene and out of the four groups, the crowd was the loudest for them. Their two front girls, Chiai and Miyu, are surprisingly talented and attractive, and I wish they could have been added to drop, to consolidate all of the agency’s top talent into one super group. Kamiyado followed and I thought they were the typical, cliche “generic pop group.”

Drop was next and performed five songs, three as a trio of Misato-Takki-Harupi, and two songs with the new members. I’m not enamored with the new members and they represent a departure from the original premise of the group, which was “beautiful girls with twin tails.” Yeah, that sounds extremely superficial, but the original focus of the group emphasized looks and completely delivered. The twin tails gimmick died at some point last year and their new image is much more eclectic and hard to pinpoint, but if I had to use one word to describe their look it would be homeless-girls-who-live-in-a-cave. It’s a new drop and the fanbase is either accepting it or moving on. A lot of fans in attendance had used their drop penlights during Maneki Kecak’s performance, but were a lot less enthusiastic during drop’s performance, which I interpreted as the original fans moving on to the sister group. I enjoyed both performances, but I strongly prefer drop because of Misato and Takki.

Yurumerumo performed last. I knew nothing about them, but I gave them a chance, despite immediately knowing they weren’t my type. I stayed for two songs, and considering I’d been up since GEM’s concert, I didn’t feel guilty for leaving early. Unfortunately, I don’t have that super power. Afterwards when I was eating dinner in Shibuya, I remembered that I forgot to redeem my drink ticket again! That’s going to haunt me for the rest of my life. Well, that and Misa eating that girl’s hair.

1. Iroha ni Hoete de Vampire
2. Nanimo Irinai
3. Hocus Pocus
4. Watashi ga Watashi Dearu Tame ni
5. Joudan Ja Nai ne

Magical Punchline Spring Tour 2017
Overall the trip was okay. It was more relaxing than I thought it would be, considering I was traveling to a new city and changing hotels everyday. This was probably because I was sleeping like a tranquilized baby gorilla each night.

I’m not sure when I’ll return. I’ve gone to Japan every summer since 2011, but I finally realized last year that their summers are really, really horrible. Maybe next spring. By then Magical Punchline should have conquered Japan.

Something I learned while traveling abroad
This is how a typical Japanese person reacts to western humor.

And this is how a typical human reacts to a Peanuts comic.

Maybe people really aren’t that different after all.

The End


Idol 2-shots just got a lot nerdier

27 Sep

My new iPhone arrived yesterday, which is relevant because (1) I’m cool and (2) there is a new feature called “Live photos,” which combines a still photo with 1.5 seconds of video before and after the shot. This is an interesting–dare I say revolutionary feature because of how easily it can be applied to a 2-shot, potentially making them a lot more interesting, worthwhile, and sexy. Considering the popularity of iPhones in Japan, I can imagine idol fans trying to maximize the effect, since they’ll now have footage of the idol setting up her pose, in addition to the end result. It would be cool if this is a feature that groups (and their management) actually embrace in order to enhance the experience. On the other hand, it would be extremely lame if fans are asked to disable live photos before taking the shot.

New wallpaper

Old wallpaper

For some reason Perfume is in the American iPhone commercial

This is old news now, but when I was watching the iPhone conference at work a few weeks ago, I immediately noticed Perfume in the commercial and had to punch a colleague in the face to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

Note: I got my master’s degree and I’m teaching now, so this will be my last update. Thanks for reading.

Recaps: Silent Siren

5 Sep

saisai spacetime banner v3.2I previously mini-capped™ the Silent Siren concerts, but this is the superior version 2.2.
[What happened to version 2.1?]
Version 2.1 turned into that weird thing I wrote about Apple Jacks.

Although I’ve been a fan of Silent Siren for years, I never considered attending one of their concerts. I had assumed their lives would be overly girly and also only attended by girls. Wait, does that sound sexist? [I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure out how a concert only attended by girls could be considered a bad thing.] It wasn’t until I watched their two concert blu-rays, and then re-watched them over and over again, that I realized they are overly girly! But in a good way. Well, it’s better than a girl band being overly boy-ey.

Having become a Silent Siren addict, I wanted to attend every live they scheduled during my trip, which turned out to be “Mezamashi Live,” a two-man at Otodama Sea Studio, and a brief appearance at Tokyo Idol Festival. Unfortunately, I missed their tour finale by a week–which in retrospect would have been enough reason for me to reschedule my entire trip. They also had a photo event in Shibuya and Yokohama during my stay, but since they wouldn’t be performing I was too lazy to attend. It was so hot in Tokyo that a lot of the smaller events I typically would have gone to became too much of a hassle.

“Mezamashi Live”
@ Odaiba Yume Tairiku
July 30, 2015

Mezamashi Live is a long-running series of summer concerts produced by Fuji Television (named after their morning program “Mezamashi TV”). The concert was scheduled for 18:30, but I arrived at 17:00 in order to collect my 1-day pass for the Yume Tairiku festival (which is included with the concert ticket and necessary to access the concert venue) and to purchase Silent Siren goods.

Earlier in the day the band tweeted there would be a high touch event after the concert, so in addition to purchasing a towel and wristband, I pre-ordered their new single Hachigatsu no Yoru, which included the event ticket.

Suu backstage before their rehearsal. Source

Afterwards, I went to the stage because the band had started rehearsing. They were super long kawaaaaaiiiiiii, particularly Suu who kept jumping around and acting like a kid. The session lasted about 20 minutes, and they played bits of random songs, including my favorite Silent Siren song Yumeoi. When they finished, I joined the concert queue which was located at the back entrance to the festival. 

My ticket number was 211, which was pretty good since there was about 900 in attendance. In comparison, at last year’s SUPER☆GiRLS Mezamashi Live, my number was 684. For most of my concert tickets this trip, I used Japan Concert Tickets and they were awesome. The guy who helped me was extremely professional and was able to enter me in several ticket lotteries, which would have been otherwise impossible.

Upon entering the venue, staff members handed everyone Silent Siren disposable glowsticks and I chose a spot in the center column of Row 7, which was based on where the members position themselves on stage. I am a huge Suu fan (lead singer and guitarist) and she occupies the center position. My second favorite member is Ainyan (bassist and backing vocals), so I deliberately chose a spot that was directly in the middle of the middle column (for Suu), but I then shifted two seats to the left (to get slightly closer to Ainyan’s spot), in order to maximize my field of vision for both members. [In other words you’re a huge nerd. And that explanation was poorly written!] I also kept shifting back and forth trying to find the perfect spot, which I think confused and annoyed the people around me. [Umm, no one needs to know that detail.]

The group performed wearing cute white dresses (pictured above), which are outfits they’ve worn since 2013. Their smaller concerts begin with them running on stage and clapping along with the audience, before heading to their stations and picking up their instruments. It’s a simple intro, but surprisingly cute. I’m going to write the word cute a lot, because the members have genuinely cute mannerisms on stage, contributing to their overwhelming cute aura. And I actually think that despite being a rock band, they are cuter than practically every idol group. Their cuteness is a result of the way they perform and interact with the audience, as opposed to the rehearsed cuteness idol groups rely on, which tends to disappear once the performance begins.

Despite the setlist being heavily tilted towards their gimmicky songs, the concert was amazing. Their new single Hachigatsu no Yoru has become my second all-time favorite Silent Siren song and from the moment the first chord was played I was crying non-stop like a baby gorilla and screaming “Suuu daiSUUUkii” directly in the ear of the person in front of me for the entire song! I was flailing my arms and just kicking whatever was in my path knocking over people and just having a blast! (<- All of that may or may not have happened).

They also performed their cover of ZONE‘s “Secret Base,” but I thought their version was a little rough. Maybe they are still getting the song down, or maybe they intentionally didn’t want to do a clean version. Now that I’ve listened to their single though, the studio-version sounds great, although I still prefer the original. The concert lasted about 45 minutes, and another 15 minutes for the high touch to conclude.

The high touch went fine, until Ainyan looked at me and said “Whoooa!” like she just had a close encounter with an alien from Mars. Initially I thought it was hilarious, but after thinking about it more I have no idea if it was a positive reaction. My hair was pretty spiky that day so maybe it was a combination of that and being a foreigner. I would see them again at TIF and again on August 5 in Kamakura, but this time I was setting up official Suu fan headquarters directly in the center because Ainyan was dead to me! (jk)

1. Soukai Rock


3. Secret Base (ZONE cover)
4. Hachigatsu no Yoru (New single)
5. Starmine
6. GuruGuru Wonderland
7. Bii San (Beach Sandals)

“Tokyo Idol Festival 2015”
@ Zepp DiverCity (“Heat Garage” stage)

August 2, 2015

On day two of TIF, I arrived at Zepp DiverCity at 8:00 to queue for Silent Siren, who would perform at 10:15. Palet was scheduled immediately after them, and ever since Yumi Nakano joined the group, I’ve become a casual fan. The weather was already hot and a second reason I wanted to arrive early was in order to queue in the shade, since there is only a small stretch next to the venue that isn’t in the sun. When Silent Siren was added to TIF I assumed they would perform a regular set, considering they were scheduled for 30 minutes. Even after PASSPO was designated as their guest, I just figured there would be a harmless gimmick involving PASSPO members either singing alongside them, playing instruments, or doing somersaults on stage.

When I arrived there were about 25 people in the area, but an official queue hadn’t started. I thought that was weird, but took it as an opportunity to buy some drinks. Even after I returned ten minutes later, fans were still just casually standing around This was annoying because there are always line cutters at TIF, but usually the very beginning of a queue is safe. At all the TIFs I’ve been to, queues had formed this early, so I was confused and just stood near the fans with Silent Siren shirts and towels and would follow their lead.

At 8:30 the staff conferred (pictured above) and shortly afterward moved the unofficial queue to the side of the building (which you can see in the stretch that is in the shade). At this point, there was a two-hour wait for the venue to open. Upon entering, I noticed that there wasn’t a security check like there had been for day one and I went directly to the middle of the stage next to the cutout for the camera operator. It wasn’t first row, but it was center and I was on the railing, therefore I would have an unobstructed view.

The group performed wearing cute pastel colored dresses. Suu was wearing a knee-length dress that was completely saved by slits on each side, revealing her SUUper-skinny, yet SUUper-perfect legs. Every time I see her I just want to scream “SUUUU!!”–like a wolf howling at the moon.

Unfortunately, they only performed three songs, and I kind of realized the setlist would be short after they performed GuruGuru Wonderland second, since they typically end concerts with that song. After Bii San, the rest of their timeslot included PASSPO and a boring discussion of the punishment game Yukurun lost during their spring tour, which culminated with her performing Material Girl with them. [If you’re interested in the backstory on the collaboration you can watch this video–skip to the 10:00 minute point.]

Although disappointing, Silent Siren appearing at TIF was completely unexpected. Therefore, I was grateful, but I still selfishly wanted more. Have you ever seen a wild bear eating cookie crumbs? That’s what I looked like. I was like a starving bear eating Silent Siren crumbs and constantly looking for more Silent Siren crumbs and then devouring those.

Except the crumbs were Suu’s legs, making them the best crumbs ever.

1. Lucky Girl
2. GuruGuru Wonderland
3. Bii San

“Otodama Sea Studio: Itano Tomomi x Silent Siren”
@ Otodama Beach, Kamakura

August 5, 2015

Otodama Sea Studio is a summer concert venue located directly on the beach of Kamakura, a city 50 kilometers to the south of Tokyo. Travel time was 70 minutes by train and when I arrived I quickly visited Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, a popular Shinto shrine. The shrine is in the opposite direction from the beach, so I only had about 15 minutes to look around before I needed to head to the venue. The weather was really nice because of the proximity to the ocean, and a total departure from the Tokyo heat.

Earlier in the day, the band tweeted photos while they had lunch and walked on the beach.

Unfortunately, there would be no bikini photos on that day–probably because Suu’s skin is very creamy. [And soft too.] Oh yeah, absolutely. [And supple!] Please stop interrupting my Suu story. And never use the word “supple.” Anyway, I was concerned that her delicate skin would be harmed by the sun. But it looks like she was wearing protective clothing. I was thinking though…

Wasn’t there anything I could have done for Suu to protect her from the sun?–which would coincidentally allow her to wear a bikini. Alas, I’m just a normal guy. Suu and I come from completely different worlds. I’m a successful private detective by day and zoo keeper by night and she is a beautiful idol with a sassy personality by day and lingerie model with a sassy personality by night.

Yet I kept asking myself over and over, “What could I do for her? What could I do for her?”

And each time I replied, “I can rub sunscreen all over her body. I can rub sunscreen all over her body.”

Maybe it’s because I am one of the few remaining good guys in the world, but whenever I think about idols going to the beach, I just really, really want to rub lotion all over their body. I know, crazy right?

I missed my chance this time, but if she ever returns to the beach, I promise that I will make the ultimate sacrifice and rub lotion all over her body. [Even the parts that won’t be in the sun?] Especially the parts that won’t be in the sun. Those are the most important parts!

I would tell her, “Suu, your creamy skin will soon be in the sun, and you are already shivering like a baby gorilla. Do not push me away or scream in my ear. It is with great reluctance that I remove all of your clothing. Alas, I must apply sunscreen over your entire body. And yes, including the parts that won’t be in the sun. Fortunately, I always carry with me twenty bottles of lotion. I will be here all day… and you’re welcome.”

Anyway, when I arrived at the beach, the staff had just begun letting fans into the venue. Unfortunately, I had no idea what the process was, because they weren’t calling by ticket number. It seemed like they were just letting in blocs of people based on ticket number ranges, beginning with fan club members. I knew I had a good ticket so I just got in the queue and I entered without a problem. It’s a free-standing venue and I was able to get 4th row in the center column. The floor is actually sand, since it’s a structure set up on the beach.

The two-man line-up was interesting because I doubt there is fan overlap between Silent Siren and Tomomi Itano, and the ratio was probably close to a 90/10 split in favor of Silent Siren. Because it was a shared concert, I figured the etiquette of letting fans of each group have priority would be in effect. I didn’t know who was opening though, so I chose the best spot available, and would vacate if Tomochin opened. I figured she would open though, since the stage didn’t have Silent Siren’s instrument setup. Most of Tomomi’s fans are girls, so when she came on first, I let them pass me, but I still had a decent position. I’m no longer a fan, but when I followed AKB48, she was my fourth favorite member, so I was interested in seeing her as a solo artist. I won’t get into detail about her performance, but it was entertaining, although she heavily relies on a backing vocal track. I think she sang six songs, with a short MC, before returning for a one-song encore.

At the conclusion of her encore, the Tomochin fans relocated to the back of the venue, and I returned to the front near Suu’s spot. Silent Siren’s staff then brought out their instruments and did the standard instrument checks. For the concert Hinachu would use an electronic drum kit instead of her typical acoustic drum, which you can see in the photo below.
I was about two meters from the stage and I actually moved closer because I don’t recall ever seeing the guy wearing the hat in the above photo. There wasn’t the typical gap between the stage that exists at larger venues, so the group was extremely close. They performed wearing the same dresses as Mezamashi Live, but this concert was a lot better, because they performed more songs, it was free-standing, and the beach setting had a better vibe than Odaiba. During the MC, Suu explained that the two-man came about because Tomochin requested Silent Siren, and their managers set it up.

They performed for an hour and sang BANG!BANG!BANG!, Lucky Girl, Hachigatsu no Yoru, What show is it?, GuruGuru Wonderland, and Bii San, in addition to a few others. The group had been heavily promoting their new single Hachigatsu no Yoru, and had another high touch event after the concert. If there was even a 1% chance they would do the event while wearing bikinis, I would have purchased ten, I mean one hundred copies. But Suu has creamy, delicate, soft, and supple skin remember?

The sun hadn’t yet set as I left the venue and I walked along the beach. I had heard that there were Japanese restaurants that served Japanese food in the area, and I was anxious to try one as it would be a nice change from the Japanese restaurants that served Japanese food that I had dined at every day since arriving. Unfortunately, every restaurant I walked into told me they were closed. Which was weird because…

It was only 19:00!

So I ate at Kua Aina, the only restaurant in the area that was still open.
I didn’t mind, afterall, maybe I could find a Japanese restaurant tomorrow.

The End

Spring Tour 2016
I’m planning my next trip to coincide with Silent Siren’s spring tour. [When is the tour?] Spring. [Oh. Probably no bikinis then.]

I think tour details could be revealed during their year-end concerts in Osaka and Tokyo. Until then, I won’t be blogging–unless I finish my Chubbiness fanfic “Chubbfu11y.”Although after a year of writing this is all I have:

Chapter 1
The Chubbiness concert at the onsen had just concluded and the members were extremely sweaty. The special twelve-course dinner the proprietor had promised them would be served in an hour, and in the meantime they would all have time to relax. [Chubbiness member’s name] decided to take advantage of the opportunity and make a quick reconnaissance of the hotspring. Afterall, she was very sweaty.

“OooOOhh this is so relaxing! The water feels great caressing my arms and legs and special places. But now that I am clean and refreshed, I seem to have forgotten my towel in my room. Well, it’s just a short walk, I’m sure no one will see me. Wait, I just heard a noise! Oh, it’s just you [Chubbiness member’s name]. You scared me!”
“Yes, it’s just me, [Chubbiness member’s name]. And I also forgot my towel.”