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Japan Summer Trip Recap: Harajuku Monogatari, Silent Siren, TPD, and TIF.

12 Aug

Summer Trip: July 24-August 8

My final trip to Japan. The trilogy is now complete.

[Um, you went 12 times.]

Okay. The four trilogies are now complete.



Since I’m 99% certain this was the final time I will go to Japan, I sat in the first row of the plane and bought some toys for the flight.

And I was reminded why I don’t drink Bloody Marys. They’re disgusting!

Schedule

July 24  Arrived at Haneda, took a shinkansen to Shizuoka
July 25 Silent Siren 5th Anniversary Tour @Sound Shower Ark (Shizuoka)
July 26 Silent Siren 5th Anniversary Tour @Sound Shower Ark (Shizuoka)
July 27 Akishibu Project (Yuna, Natsumi, Saori graduation) @Akasaka BLITZ
July 28  Women-only onsen
July 29 Harajuku Monogatari, Yamaguchi Kassei Gakuen, Tenkou Shoujo, palet, Maplez, Woltanative, 26-ji no Masquerade Idol Koushien @Akasaka BLITZ
July 30 GEM, SUPER GiRLS, RuriRori, La Pom Pon @OTODAMA SEA STUDIO (Miura)
July 31 Harajuku Monogatari, drop, Cheeky Parade, Maneki Kecak, READY TO KISS, Task have Fun Konya wa Anata no SUPER LIVE @TSUTAYA O-EAST
August 1  Women-only onsen
August 2 Tokyo Performance Doll release event @LaLaport TOYOSU
August 3 Tokyo Performance Doll one man @Shinjuku BLAZE
August 4 Tokyo Idol Festival Day 1 
August 5 Tokyo Idol Festival Day 2 
August 6 Tokyo Idol Festival Day 3 
August 7 GEM teiki koen (Tokyo)
August 8  wild animal only onsen

Arriving in Tokyo
Typically when I arrive in Japan, I take a train to my hotel and fall into a coma (L.A. to Tokyo is a 12 hour flight). It’s especially tiring after you binge-watch four movies in a row. I watch the Japanese movies on the in-flight catalog, and there is almost always one that I end up loving. During my winter trip I watched a movie with Rina Takeda called “Kagurame,” (she’s awesome; check out “Wakakozake” if you can). The movie I loved though was Flying Colors (aka “Biri Gal”). I watched it going to Japan and on the return flight and bought it when I got back home.

During this trip, I watched “Kimi to 100-kaime no koi” with Erina Mano and Miwa, “HaruChika” with Kanna Hashimoto and a guy from Sexy Zone, and an American movie called “Before I Fall.” The fourth movie was “Let’s Go Jets” (aka “Cheer Dance”). I loved this movie. It’s kind of like Cheerfu11y, only way better. Definitely buying when it becomes available.

I wasn’t able to fall into a coma this time, because upon arriving, I had to take a shinkansen to Shizuoka in order to see Silent Siren the following day.

Silent Siren
@Sound Shower Ark
July 25 and 26

This will be brief because there isn’t a lot to write about. They didn’t perform any of my favorite songs at either concert and as they always do, they had a long “punishment game” corner. But it’s Silent Siren, so I can’t complain. And I’ll see them in December when they play in Los Angeles. Very likely from the front row. Also the weather upon arriving was great. With the exception of the final two days of the trip, the weather was almost perfect the entire time.
So, instead I’m going to explain what happened in the above photo.

After buying tour goods (more like greats), I went across the street to the shopping mall to look for souvenirs (my parents have been to Shizuoka before and wanted me to get them something). When there was ten minutes to go until the venue opened, I began walking back. In the photo, you can see the Silent Siren fans in the background. At this point I noticed an old lady walking her dog. Correction, I noticed a crazy old lady walking her crazy dog right into a row of bicycles. She then continued on her way like nothing happened.

I hope I never get old. Or crazy.

Tour goods

Akishibu Project
@Akasaka BLITZ
July 27

In the morning I took a shinkansen back to Tokyo for Akishibu Project’s concert, which would be Yuna, Natsumi, and Saori’s last with the group. Yuna and Natsumi are my favorites so this effectively ended my fandom.

The stage had three giant banners for the graduating members. After a few songs they did a MC and explained the rest of the setlist would be non-stop. Of course, not a single song they would perform was a favorite of mine :P Which was a recurring theme throughout my trip. I guess I have weird taste (or bad luck), because when it comes to the groups I follow, the songs I like are rarely part of the normal rotation. Overall, the concert was kind of “blah”–the crowd was tame, the graduation part was sloppy, and there were no announcements at the end which could give fans optimism that the group has a future. (A few days later they did debut new songs, a pv, and outfit though).

Idol Koushien
@Akasaka BLITZ
July 29
My original plan was Roppongi Idol Festival for Tokyo Performance Doll and SUPER GiRLS. I hesitated buying a ticket because I’d seen the broadcasts of this event before (it’s an annual thing) and I knew it was an outdoor stage that was also kind of janky. An Idol Koushien was also scheduled for the same day, with the typical Idol Koushien lineup, so not exciting. As the weeks passed, the lineup updated, and eventually there were seven groups I legitimately wanted to see: Harajuku Monogatari, Yamaguchi Kassei Gakuen, Tenkou Shoujo, palet, Maplez, Woltanative, and 26-ji no Masquerade. At the time I was still on a TPD high, but I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to see a lot of the groups I just listed at TIF due to timetable conflicts, so it was either Idol Koushien or never. I’m thankful logic won out over my infatuation with TPD, because this is the event that introduced me to Harajuku Monogatari hotness.

Mini-reviews
Typical for Idol Koushien, the event was from 10:00 to 20:30 and you could come and go. I saw a lot of groups, but I’ll just focus on the seven I came to see.

Harajuku Monogatari (aka Monoga) was scheduled for 13:20 and Yamaguchi Kassei Gakuen was the last act, so I was going to be there a while. I arrived ten minutes before their set, but I was able to get a great spot in the middle column at the barrier. When they came on I noticed they weren’t wearing their sleeve things, which was kind of their visual trademark for a while. They performed nonstop without MCs, with members continually swapping in and out based on the song. This is how they always perform, and I think it’s cool, even though my favorite member rotates out for a lot of songs (the rotations are based on their “teams,” a system they no longer use). I immediately liked their choreography, music, and several of the members, but it wasn’t until the following days when I starting researching the group and watching and re-watching the few videos they had on youtube that they really began sinking into my subconsciousness. 

In my opinion Harajuku Monogatari is the most exciting group to emerge since PASSPO back in 2010. The unexpected thing about Monoga is there is no other group like them, which is strange because on the surface they don’t seem particularly unique. When you see them perform though, their dance moves, lineup, outfits, and overall sassiness make them unlike any other group. To me, they are as unique as Migma Shelter, just in the opposite direction. They weren’t always unique though, when the group was formed last year, they were a typical indie kiddy group. Their “3rd chapter” overhaul at the beginning of the year completely changed their image. If I return to Japan during winter break, it will be because of this group.

Tenkou Shoujo performed next, and they also recently overhauled their image for the better. I didn’t like them as much as I thought I would though. The lineup is just a little off. [It’s the chibi member right? Just say so.] Can’t, chibi member might be reading this. And I’m afraid of chibi member.

Maplez came on two sets later. This was the first time seeing their new linuep, which completely changed earlier in the year when the original members were shuffled into spinoff groups (one of which is Woltanative). Vocally, the new lineup is pretty weak and I feel they are a huge step back. The music is still great, although it doesn’t seem like they are producing new music anymore. Their setlists always seem the same. Two groups later, Woltanative took the stage… with only three members. I was shocked. This group debuted just a few months ago and they already lost two members. That literally killed my interest, since one of the members was my favorite and the most visually striking of the group.

26-ji no Masquerade eventually performed and I think they are currently riding a wave of popularity from their new single. Having seen several of their live streams, I assumed I would be more into them, but I actually thought they were really generic. I didn’t dislike them, they are just kind of “blah.”

Palet came on after a few more groups and allowed photos during one song. I wouldn’t normally join in, but I do think Rito is one of the best looking members of any group ever. I basically like palet for three reasons: (1) Rito, (2) Haruka, and (3) Rito.

Yamaguchi Kassei Gakuen were scheduled last and I was surprised how many people were still at the stage area. For the only time that day, I got front row. I’d actually seen YKG years before, but I wasn’t really watching them back then. Like you can see something, but not really see it if you aren’t paying attention. This can apply to a lot of things in life. Anyway, even though they’ve been around for years (and I’d seen their music videos here and there), I didn’t really notice this group until two months ago when I watched the Idol Yokocho streams and realized their music and choreography is really good, and their center, Yui Moriwaki, literally never stops smiling. [And you fell in love. How predictable.] No, I did not fall in love. I fell in like. [I’m impressed then. It’s about time you didn’t fall in love based solely on looks.] Well, then I saw her in person and fell in love.

GEM, SUPER GiRLS, RuriRori, and La Pom Pon
@OTODAMA SEA STUDIO
July 30
The next day I went to Miura beach, which was an hour by train from Tokyo, in order to see GEM and SUPER GiRLS. I’d been to OTODAMA SEA STUDIO two years ago for a Silent Siren concert, and I assumed the venue would be at the same location this year. But when I got to the final station, I immediately knew I was in a different city. My brain temporarily short-circuited and I was like, “Umm, where the f-junk am I?” At first, I thought I was at the wrong station, but I began to slowly process that they just moved the location this year. It’s entirely possible that they move the venue to a different beach every year–since this is a long-running summer event, and I wouldn’t know since I’ve only been to two of them. Without knowing where I was, I left the station and walked toward the beach–once I figured out which direction that was :P It was a five-minute walk, and once I got to the beach, it was easy to find the venue.
I was surprised that there was hardly anyone at the concert. There was a night show also with a slightly different lineup, but I doubt the situation was much different. The stage is in a covered hall, directly on the beach, so you are standing on the sand. The girl band RuriRori opened. They’ve been around for a while and are the group with their name stylized as  凸凹凸凹. I’ve seen them before and they’re cute, especially the lead singer, who performed wearing a bikini and super short-shorts. Their style is very Silent Siren-like, except they don’t seem to have a huge catalog of music. 

The group definitely hasn’t leveled up since I saw them last. The first chord the lead singer played on her guitar resulted in one of the strings snapping. It was simultaneously hilarious, cute, and patheti-sad. Later on during a towel-waving song, she threw her towel in the air and it got stuck on a hook above the stage. I was dying. They’re really cute though and an average girl band is much more appealing than an average idol group.

After the group cleared their equipment from the stage, GEM performed. They didn’t do their SE, they just came out wearing GEM shirts and short shorts and hyped the crowd. It kind of felt awkward because the venue was only a third full. This isn’t going to be that informative because I forgot most of the songs they performed and pretty much all details–outside of the short shorts. They definitely performed their two new songs, which I really, really, really don’t like. Particularly the b-side. That song is all over the place. Chaotic choreography and nonsensical musical arrangement. Not to sound elitist, but the quality of the song is way beneath them.

La Pom Pon performed next, and I actually liked their set better than GEMs. Their new single is a cover of Mai Kuraki’s “Feel Fine” (they are from the same agency). I was a huge fan of Mai K and I thought their cover was cute. I used to like LPP’s leader Yukino, but I now like Rima (light blue). [Let me guess, she is super-long kawaaiiiii.] She is absolutely super-long kawaaiiiii!

SUPER GiRLS concluded the show. I don’t know the names of their songs anymore, but a lot of fans were jumping around, including myself. Since we were on the sand, I didn’t realize that sand was getting kicked everywhere until I noticed people brushing it off. I felt bad and proceeded to jump more responsibly.

After the concert I had to rush back to the station because Yamaguchi Kassei Gakuen had an release event in a few hours in Ikebukuro for their new album. 

Konya wa Anata no SUPER LIVE (“Tonight is your Super Live”)
@TSUTAYA O-EAST
July 31

There were a lot of groups scheduled and my interests were Harajuku Monogatari, drop, Maneki Kecak, Task have Fun, READY TO KISS, Cheeky Parade, and 2o Love to Sweet Bullet.

Mini recap
I reserved my ticket through Ready to Kiss‘s Tiget page, but I chose drop upon entering (still not sure the actual purpose, but it’s  protocol to choose the primary group you are pushing). I arrived ten minutes before Task have Fun took the stage and I saw Fuka watching from backstage. [Did you fall in love with her?] Yes, of course. Did you even have to ask?

This would be the only time I saw them this trip because I wasn’t able to see them at TIF. I should clarify that I like them, but just casually, so I watched from the upper step in the back of the venue because it offers a good view of the stage. They performed the three songs they always perform. And it was nice. [How descriptive.]

Fast forward to Harajuku Monogatari, I immediately awoke from my slumber and charged to the front of the stage, but only got to the second row of the middle column. They performed three songs (maybe four) and I wanted more. [How many more did you want?] I don’t know, 10. No, 20. I mean a million.

Fast forward again to Maneki Kecak. Forgot where I was, probably on the right column to avoid the pit area. I think this was the first time I saw them as just four members. Forgot when yellow member graduated. [Wow, your memory is great.] Something I wanted to definitively resolve this trip was whether I like them or drop more. After watching them perform at this event and at TIF, I can say I like drop a lot more. Drop’s music is much funner in my opinion and Maneki Kecak has too many ballady songs. Lineup wise, I think both are great, and it just comes down to preference. Chiai is one of the few truly elite idols and I rank her second only after Kome of SUPER GiRLS. Reona is also awesome. I just like Misa from drop the most from the groups. Speaking of Chiai, my first reaction when I saw her on stage was that she looked alarmingly skinny. Anyway, they performed the song “Splash.” This song haunts me. Why does this song exist and why do I keep seeing them perform it?

Cheeky Parade followed and… they are a shell of their former selves. I felt bad watching them and I don’t see how they can survive, with or without Marin and Mariya (whose returns I  never believed were going to happen anyway).

2o Love to Sweet Bullet performed next. This was the first time I’ve seen them and… they were kinda “blah.” And I need to stop using that word to describe groups.

Drop was the second to last group to perform. The thing about these types of concerts is you have to endure a lot in order to get to what you like. Even when the lineup is 50% to your liking, there is still a lot of dead time. Since it was getting late, they just performed three songs, but they were all high energy. Everyone was just jumping around and having a good time.

Unfortunately someone died.

But overall, it was great.

And no one actually died.

READY TO KISS ended the show, and I was kind of burned out by this point. I’m still a huge fan of the group’s center Sakino. I’ve been a fan of hers since she debuted in Houkago Princess, which was like seven years ago.

With this show over, all that remained on my schedule was TPD and TIF.

[And Goo Choki Paa. Don’t you dare forget them!]

To be continued

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Winter Trip mini-cap

4 Jan

Tokyo Trip 2016/17: December 28–January 6
Warning: This is going to be super sloppy, poorly written, and completely unfunny.

It’s been seven years, 14 months, and 3 seconds since my last update. I no longer care about blogging and internet superstardom, but I promised my editor/grandpa that I would recap all of my trips, and promises to editors/grandpas are sacred. It’s Wednesday and I’m more than halfway through my trip. Today is the only day I will have time to write a recap before school resumes and life gets hectic again–and just thinking about my demon students is depressing :P

Concert Schedule
December 29: Girl’s Bomb!! @Shinkiba STUDIO COAST
December 30: Silent Siren @Tokyo Taikukan (Metropolitan Gymnasium)
January 1: 9nine @Zepp Tokyo
January 2: New Year Premium Party Day 1 @Zepp Tokyo & Zepp DiverCity
January 3: New Year Premium Party Day 2 @Zepp Tokyo & Zepp DiverCity
January 5: GEM @Shinjuku BLAZE


December 29
Girl’s Bomb!! Year End Concert
@STUDIO COAST
img_6783

Girl’s Bomb
is a series of idol events similar to Idol Koushien. This particular event was larger than their typical ones since it was their year finale. There were 61 groups, mostly indies, but there were a few known acts. My interests were Akishibu Project, drop, Maneki Kecak, Ready to Kiss, and Houkago Princess. Before heading to Shinkiba, I bought a new penlight and I was kind of surprised how expensive they are now. My previous generation King Blade died (although I am now starting to suspect I just needed to change the batteries. Well, I did change the batteries, but I think I changed them to a set that was also drained. Doesn’t matter now since I already threw it away :P) The new King Blade is more expensive because it interfaces with your phone and allows you to edit the colors. We’ve discovered ways to hack penlights, yet for some reason we don’t have robot butlers, flying cars, or time machines.

Ah yes, the concert. It was just… okay. I saw Akishibu Project at the outdoor stage and main stage, but unfortunately I didn’t like either setlist. For Akishibu Project I either like or dislike their heavy rotation songs, and I had bad luck with their song selection this trip. Drop performed my favorite songs, but they were dressed up in track suits. They seem to do this a lot the past year or two, basically just wearing random clothes when they perform, which is very different from when they started and really pushed their unique costumes and hotness. Ready to Kiss was missing my second favorite member who had the flu, but I still liked their set. Maneki Kecak and Houkago Princess were both good. (I told you this is going to be super sloppy, poorly written, and completely unfunny.) Lastly, I was intrigued by a group called Gallop+, mainly on the basis of one member (the blonde one if you must know!). In the past I would have afterwards done a lot of research on them, but I’m completely over that phase of my idol fandom now.

So to recap, the event was… good. [I thought you said it was “okay.”] Yes. It was.

And average.

December 30
Silent Siren Year End Special Live “Dream On”
@Tokyo Municipal Gymnasium
When I saw Silent Siren in Los Angeles in October, during the group photo I told them I was going to this concert–even though at that point I hadn’t bought a ticket, booked airfare or hotel, or did any trip planning whatsoever. Promises to your favorite bandols are sacred though–unless that sounds really nerdy, in which case pretend I didn’t write that.

Before the concert I met up with Tobi in Akasaka for yakiniku. Then I traveled to Sendagaya station (which is between the Shibuya and Shinjuku areas) and I intended to buy Silent Siren’s fukubukuro (New Year’s lucky bag), towel, and wristband. Their goods booth opened at 1PM, I arrived around 1:30 which I thought was early (concert was at 7PM), but there were thousands (?) of fans already there, and within 30 minutes it was announced that they had sold out of the lucky bags. The queue I was in was huge and my motivation for staying had disintegrated, so I decided to return to my hotel and come back for the towel and wristbands later that afternoon (good plan right?), since I didn’t think they would sell out. Turns out, I didn’t end up returning to the venue until 5PM (wasted too much time online–like I’m doing right this instant :P), and by then they sold out of practically everything. This is the third time I’ve messed up getting Silent Siren goods. On one hand, I’ve had really good luck with not being eaten by zombie dinosaurs from outer space or falling off cliffs while snowboarding (almost happened maaaany times), buuuut on the other hand, a lot of goods (more like greats) have sold out before I could buy them. Overall, I would say I’ve been unlucky.

After my e-fail (epic fail) at buying goods, there was an hour wait for the venue to open. And it was freeeezing. I’m fortunate I remembered to wear clothes that day. Because if I wasn’t wearing clothes, well I don’t think I would have survived. That’s how cold it was! Eventually the queues were set up depending upon whether you were on the arena or 2nd floor/3rd floor and everyone skedaddled into the venue. It was nice and warm inside. Kind of like when hobos congregate around a barrel fire and tell crazy stories about life as a hobo. That’s how warm it was!

My seat was on the 2nd floor, but my view was great. Surprisingly much better than probably 70% of the arena seats. I almost felt bad for them. They thought they were cool because they were in the arena area, but the band never performed on the runway or end stage. Meanwhile, I was in the second row, with no one sitting in front of me, or on either side of me, so I had an unimpaired view of Suu and Yukarun and the rest! And I could jump around like an idiot! This was despite my area being designated as the “family area,” which meant no standing. I knew the rule and would have definitely complied, but at least half the fans ignored it, so I just followed along. It’s like I always tell me students, “It’s okay to be a follower. Just don’t follow someone over a cliff.”

To save time, I’ll just recap my highlights:

  • The second song they performed was my favorite Silent Siren song of all tiiiime, LOST.W. This song is extreEemely rare, despite being extrEEEemely awesome. (too rare for a youtube link)
  • They also performed Yumeoi, which was my first favorite Sai Sai song back when I really got into them a few years ago. It’s also rare, but not as rare as LOST.W.
  • Their outfits were extrEEEemely cutiful, maybe their best ever.
  • Somehow one of the concert streamers with a message from each member landed right in my lap. The guy sitting two seats from me actually tried to snag it while it was in the air, but he missed and looked like an idiot in the process. And right when it landed on me, a girl behind me asked for it. I didn’t even have it for a second and people were trying to take it–as if a guy wouldn’t want to keep it. She clearly doesn’t read my blog because I collect these things :P
  • Most of the venue was filled, except for the first two rows of my block of seats. It was sad when considering where the fans were sitting in this photo. It also made my area a dead zone, outside of me and a few others.
  • The “Dream On” part of their concert was a campaign asking fans to send their dreams to the group. This part of the concert included two fans getting photos with the group on stage and a couple who recently got married getting serenaded by the group, as if they were their wedding band (this was when they performed Happy Mari). Considering the theme of the concert, I was surprised they didn’t allow fans to take photos during a song, since they allowed this during their Yokohama Arena concert a few months ago. They probably didn’t want that to become a permanent thing though, and if they allowed it at two big concerts in a row, fans would expect it every time.
  • They announced their 5th anniversary tour, which helps plan my summer trip. Since TIF also revealed the dates, I already know the dates I will go this summer. Yata!

Setlist
1 stella☆
2 LOST.W
3 Lucky Girl
4 Ring Ring Ring
5 Joshiko Senso
6 Hachigatsu no Yoru
7 Happy Mari
8 Koi i Yuki
9 Sepia
10 Yumeoi
11 Strawberry Moon
12 Koi Hana
13 DanceMusiQ
14 What show is it?
15 Guruguru Wonderland
16 Yoshida-san
17 Cherrybomb

Encore
18 Fujiyama Disco (new song)
19 Bii San

I didn’t mention a lot of details about the concert: Overall the show was amazing, maaaybe not as amazing as their LA concert when I had front row, and less than two meters from Yukarun and Suu, but it was at least a close second. Fujiyama Disco is an okay song–not as great as Hachigatsu no Yoru or their other newish song Sinbad, but way better than Cherrybomb; they also changed labels; they will have two Budokan concerts as their tour finale; and they unveiled new logo. But I did say this would be super sloppy, poorly written, and completely unfunny.
 
January 1
9nine concert
@ Zepp Tokyo
Laziest recap ever.

January 2 and 3
New Year Premium Party (TIF x @JAM collaboration event)
@Zepp Tokyo & Zepp DiverCity

I’m writing this recap four months after the event–I umm, got busy.

I had unrealistically high hopes for NYPP because many of my favorite groups were performing: SMAP, GEM, Yumemiru Adolescence, SUPER☆GiRLS, predia, Maneki Kecak, and Akishibu Project

I actually still remember one detail very vividly. I brought some work with me to Tokyo [I’ve mentioned before that I’m a new teacher (this is my second year) and I had to grade short stories my students wrote: the topic was living on Mars]. Anyway, the day before NYPP, I was grading the stories in my hotel’s lobby and I got a message from a friend on LINE: “YumeAdo has turned down/withdrawn from the New Year Event :(” I just stared at my phone in disbelief. That was the only chance I would have been able to see them during the trip. Even today I’m still annoyed at what happened. YumeAdo has just released the music videos for two new songs and I really wanted to see them perform “Idol Race.” My interest in the group has died a lot since then.

This event basically came down to two things. For the first time ever I got front row for GEM at a main stage. I’ve seen them from the front row once or twice, but they were random small stages, and I was off to the side. This time, I waited out a few groups and had a little bit of luck and was able to get right in front of Sara and Maho’s section. Needless to say, their performance was #greatestGEMory.

The second thing: I saw Tokyo Performance Doll for the first time and… I was intrigued. [What were you intrigued by?] Their hotness! They caught my eye the same way Doll☆Elements did when I saw them at TIF 2015. I’ve known of TPD since their debut in 2013, but I thought their music was repulsive and their weird stage shows were too AKBish, so I ignored their existence–even though I knew since the beginning that they had a great lineup. Fortunately, they’ve evolved a lot since their debut and don’t have to rely on the original TPD music anymore. Since the four months that I saw them, I bought their 2015 concert blu-ray and downloaded every concert I could find. They are what SUPER GiRLS used to be: an elite group of super hotties with talent and amazing outfits. Like SG, their only negative is their music is either hit or miss. Regardless, they are my new number one group. Never thought that would happen. Although I never thought I would become a hardcore SUPER GiRLS, Doll Elements, or drop fan either. Or a fan of any J-pop group for that matter.

Seeing TPD was definitely #greatestGEMory. [I thought front row for GEM was #greatestGEMory?] There can be two #greatestGEMories!!

January 4
I could have gone to Akishibu Project’s regular live and/or an idol event also with Akishibu Project, drop, Maneki Kecak, LinQ, and Houkago Princess, but I felt burned out on shows. So this was a lazy day for me and I just thought about life and contemplated important questions, like whether I prefer cute idols or cool idols.

January 5
GEM 1st Tour (day and night shows)
@ Shinjuku BLAZE

When I booked my trip on October 3, GEM’s tour hadn’t yet been announced. It was complete luck that three weeks later they revealed the tour dates, and the Tokyo shows miraculously fell on my last full day. And they were performing two shows. Considering my last day was a Thursday made it even luckier, because that’s not a common day for a concert. 

A few days before the concert, there was an absence notice informing that Chisami would miss the shows because of the flu. The flu has hit GEM hard the past month, so again I was lucky again that my favorite members were unaffected. 

The first show was at 12, and merchandise sales began at 10. As usual, I messed up and arrived way later than I intended and had to rush to buy their wristbands and penlight. Wristband colors were random, which meant it was part 2 of this ordeal.

I wanted SaRana wristbands and ended up getting Kako (pink), Chisami (white), and Rana (green). Ranaran’s was the last package I opened, so up to that point, the colors I got were kind of a disaster (no offense). After opening the packages I noticed that behind the booth was a bag of wristbands that had been removed from their packages so the colors were visible. In retrospect, I wonder if I could have asked/begged for the colors I wanted. 

Both of my tickets were around #250, which from experience I knew wouldn’t be great. Years ago, I had ticket #80 for a SUPER☆GiRLS show and that was third row. Somehow I ended up with 5th row for the first show and 6th row for the second show, both center stage. That was probably due to a combination of a lot of no-shows because of the cold weather, it being a school/work day, and Chisami’s absence. Because of Chisami the group asked fans to switch their penlights to white for certain songs, and Kako being a huge dork held a penlight for Chisami for close to half of both shows.

The concerts were the best I have ever seen them perform. The two members from Tokyo (Maho and Hirari) produced the concerts. One of the many highlights was the segment when they reminisced about street-sei and performed wearing their old street-sei team outfits, which they hadn’t worn in five years. I think they mentioned this was the first time Hirari performed these songs. They also performed the two b-sides to their new single, although I think both songs are average. All three times I saw GEM this trip, they didn’t do their dance intro, I wonder if they scrapped that permanently. Sara also mentioned that she assumes everyone who has a green penlight is pushing Rana. She asked her fans to do something different to make her aware their green is pushing her, but I couldn’t comprehend what she requested. Since Jurin’s color is black, I’ve wondered what penlight color she has. Turns out it’s a really ugly dark purple. And I’m skipping a ton of details, but in my defense I’m really sleepy right now.

Last thing: Something I noticed previously from a SUPER☆GiRLS video I watched years ago, is how idols can have little knowledge of concert behavior. On this particular show, Reira and Mirei were watching GEM perform and were given penlights and they had no idea how to use them. Similarly, during GEM’s concerts, more than half of the GEMbers were unable to turn on their penlights–Jurin had to turn them on for everyone. Sarachin got frustrated and just threw hers aside.

So to answer my question from earlier, cool idols are the best.

Setlist – Day
1. Speed Up
2. Fine! ~fly for the future~
3. FLY NOW!!
4. BFF
5. Delightful Days
6. Like A Heartbeat
7. Tears in the sky
8. Zettai Love Magic (street-sei song)
9. GEMbatte Seishun (SUPER☆GiRLS song)
10. Sugar Baby
11. WHAT IF
12. We’re GEM
13. Just Call Me
14. Baby, Love Me!
15. Yume no Tsubomi

Encore
16. Party Up
17. Do You Believe?
18. Can’t Stop Loving

Setlist – Night
1. Speed Up

2. Tears in the sky
3. BFF
4. FLY NOW!!
5. fRiEnDs
6. Star Shine Story
7. Like a Heartbeat
8. Miracle ga Tomannai! (SUPER☆GiRLS song)
9. Real Material (street-sei song)
10. Sugar Baby
11. Do You Believe?
12. We’re GEM
13. WHAT IF
14. Baby, Love Me!
15. Yume no Tsubomi

Encore
16. Just Party
17. Just Call Me
18. Can’t Stop Loving

Summer 2017
My next (and final–for real this time) Japan trip will be July 24–August 8 for Silent Siren and TIF 2017.

I’m preeeetty sure these will still be around by then.

Tokyo Summer 2016 Mini-Cap™: Yumemiru Adolescence, GEM, and Akishibu Project

15 Aug

Going to Japan was a last minute decision, although I was deliberating it for a while. On July 31, I finally decided and booked my flight and hotel for August 3–12. My main motivations were seeing Akishibu Project, Yumemiru Adolescence, drop, and GEMAnother motivation: I had purchased tickets for J-POP Summit in order to attend Silent Siren’s U.S. debut in San Francisco on July 23, but as luck would have it, I ended up getting a job interview at a new school the following Monday, so instead of going to San Francisco, I spent the weekend preparing my presentation for the interview. So I wanted to make up for that loss. Everything turned out for the best, I got the job, went to Japan, and I’ll see Silent Siren when they perform in Los Angeles in September. 

Every summer, I stay at the same hotel in Odaiba, because it’s a ten minute walk to Tokyo Idol Festival. After checking in, I went to Akihabara to see Yumemiru Adolescence at Akiba Cultures Theater. In the ten times I’ve been to Japan, I’ve only been to Akihabara twice, and I had never been to a show at Akiba Cultures. For some reason, I’ve also never been to Ginza, even though that is the first district of Tokyo I learned about when I was in college studying Japanese. Surprisingly, I was able to purchase a ticket to the show using my Pigoo account and credit card. Now in addition to being able to purchase drop and Maneki Kecak tickets, who use Peatix, I can also purchase tickets for shows at Akiba Cultures. That’s so GEM!™

This is the process I used for entering the lottery and purchasing a ticket
1. Register for a Pigoo account (assuming you don’t live in Japan, you’ll have to fill in a fake Japanese address.)
2. Wait for the pre-sale period, which varies depending upon the type of membership you have. For free accounts, I believe the lottery period begins ten day before the show. You can review the details here.
3. Enter the lottery and wait for the results, which will be sent to your registered email address.
4. After you win the lottery, pay using a credit card or paypal.
5. You’ll receive an email confirmation, which includes your ticket number.
6. On the day of the concert, pick up your ticket 30-60 minutes before the show start time by showing your email confirmation along with a form of ID. 
7. Pay the 500Y cover. If you plan on buying merchandise before the concert, arrive early, because sales end about 15 minutes before showtime.

This was a new experience for me and it was a little nerve-wracking, because I kept thinking my ticket would be cancelled since I used an American credit card and a fake Tokyo address, so hopefully the above instructions are helpful.

Yumemiru Adolescence
YUME LIVE! @ Akiba Cultures Theater

August 4, 2016

I arrived at the theater 30 minutes before the start time, and since I’d never been there before, I tried to casually observe what was going on–which is difficult when you stand out. Eventually a staff member yelled out that anyone who still needed to exchange their ticket should go to the ticketing area, so I walked in (still kind of thinking there was a chance my ticket could be invalid). Fortunately my fears were unfounded and I was able to show my ticket confirmation in exchange for a real ticket. The girl helping me checked my ID and I wonder if she compared my California address to the fake Japan address I used for my Pigoo account. I was prepared to explain the situation if pressed, but it wasn’t necessary.

After getting my ticket, I was literally a few seconds from entering the queue for merchandise when they closed it, because by that time it was 15 minutes until showtime. My ticket was #289, which is pretty bad for this venue, since capacity isn’t much higher than 300. The concert sold out, and I think they sold extra tickets beyond normal capacity. Despite my high ticket number, I had great visibility from the standing area in the back.

Most of the fans in my area were pushing Karin (who is also my favorite), and since she is color-coded red, we were the red light district. Which reminds me, when I was still at home packing my luggage, I tested my penlight and found that half of the colors weren’t working–it’s supposed to toggle through 10 colors, but I lost yellow, light blue, brown, purple, and two others. 

The concert lasted only about an hour, but I knew that beforehand from watching their previous YUME LIVES. The concert was great and now that I know how easy it is to purchase tickets, I’ll go back in the future, since a lot of groups I like perform there. The venue also isn’t as janky as I once thought :D The low-res streams on niconico kind of give a bad impression of the theater.

And I feel very mature for not once mentioning how hot the members are.

Setlist
1. Suterusu Bukai 25: 00
2. Mai Gene!
3. Mawaru Sekai

4. Shomei Teenager
MC: Announced a free live on 8-13, the day after I leave :P
5. Oshiete Schrodinger
6. Fantastic Parade
Encore
7. Love for You (new single)
8. Hi! Summer Dreamer


GEM, Yumemiru Adolescence, Up Up Girls, Moso Calibration, et al
GIRLS❤GIRLS❤GIRLS SUMMER LIVE!! @TSUTAYA O-EAST
August 9, 2016

When I found out that Yumemiru Adolescence was performing at an event called GIRLS❤GIRLS❤GIRLS SUMMER LIVE!!, my first instinct was to purchase all the tickets and not share GIRLS❤GIRLS❤GIRLS with anyone! But then I got hella dizzy looking at the word GIRLS so many times in a row and realized one ticket would suffice.

A friend mentioned that this event sounded like a strip club, which reminded me that when I was in fourth grade, when returning to school from a field trip, our bus drove by a building that had a huge sign that read GIRLS! GIRLS! GIRLS! I was only ten at the time, but I remember my best friend and I thought that was hilarious and wish we could have gone on a field trip there instead.

The concert was two days after TIF and was sponsored by a Tokyo radio station celebrating their anniversary, which is why the lineup included groups which typically wouldn’t participate in a shared concert. This was also the last real show I would go to for this trip; everything else was release events.

The full lineup in order of appearance: J-Dee’Z (opening act), Zettai chokkyū joshi Play Balls, Tsubaki Factory, GEM, Bakusute Sotokanda Ichome, Moso Calibration, Yumemiru Adolescence, and Up Up Girls.

I’ve never seen J-Dee’Z, Play Balls, or Tsubaki Factory before. I’ll just write one sentence about each:
J-Dee’Z’s music and style is kind of old-school and the way they dressed, it was like they just pulled clothes out of their closets and then went on stage.
Play Balls are a baseball-themed idol group and they have two guys in the group who wear baseball uniforms and act like idiots on stage to the delight of their fans.
Tsubaki Factory is a Hello Project trainee group, and like all Hello Project groups, are old-school and incredibly boring! :D

GEM followed Tsubaki Factory and as one of the few remaining good guys in the world, I politely plowed my way to the front center. GEM was actually a late addition to this concert. Obviously, that’s so GEM!™ Ever since I’ve been a fan, my interest in them has constantly been up and down though. They recently added two members to the group, Monami and Hirari, when Maya went on hiatus and almost immediately I became a huge fan of Monami. Because of her, my interest in GEM had skyrocketed into the furthest reaches of outer space. Unfortunately, Monami fans came crashing back down to earth soon after her debut, because after about ten days of activities, she went on a sudden hiatus–and hasn’t been heard from since. It’s possibly due to illness, but no one is really sure, because there hasn’t been an update on her status.

Despite her absence, I still love GEM and had a great time. Their set was much funner than any I had seen from them at TIF. Although, instead of doing their new overture, they came on stage singing “We’re GEM,” which was disappointing since the new overture is cool and “We’re GEM” is not. At least the choreography allows us to repeatedly point at our oshiGEMs. They performed their new single “Spotlight” and “Party Up” from their recent album, which are both great additions to their normal rotation. “Do You Believe?” is fun, but I doubt I’m the only one who is getting tired of it. Lastly, I continue to get haunted by the song “Can’t Stop Loving.” Every time I see GEM, they perform either this song or it’s brother, Star Shine Story. And I would see them perform these two songs three more times during the trip.

GEM’s setlist
1. We’re GEM

2. Spotlight
3. Party Up
4. Do You Believe?
5. Can’t Stop Loving

Bakusute Sotokanda Ichome was next and umm, I’m not going to write about them so fast forward to Moso Calibration, although I don’t have much to write about them either. The last time I saw them was 2014, and I remembered their fans do wotagei and also run around in circles, so I moved out of the center. Their fans were extremely tame during their set though. 

Afterwards, I again became a gentleman and politely plowed my way to the center for Yumemiru Adolescence. There were a lot of YumeAdo fans at the show, so the front area was more congested than it was for GEM. There was still space to move and jump though. Really fun setlist, the funnest of the night for me. Basically just a lot of jumping around.

YumeAdo’s setlist
1. Love for You

2. Bye Bye My Days (Note: I would link to this song, but it’s disappeared from the internet)
3. Kurachu Summer
4. Mai Gene
5. Fantastic Parade

After their set I went to the bar to redeem my drink ticket. I had noticed 7 or 8 foreigners at the show, and two came up to me while I was getting my drink and mentioned seeing me at TIF. Up Up Girls came on shortly afterwards and I went back to the floor area. I’ve seen this group several times, and they’ve never clicked with me and I left after watching two songs. I was also starving since I’d been out since early that afternoon and it was now 9PM.


Fairies Event @LaLaport Tokyo Bay, Chiba
August 10, 2016

I haven’t followed Fairies in a long time, but I’m still slightly interested in them, so I went to their event in Chiba. They sang three slow songs, including their new single Crossroad. I’ve noticed they’ve rapidly matured their look during the past year. It seems to be working since they are still getting more popular, but I prefer the more high energy, cool look they used to have.


GEM @Ikebukuro Sky Deck (aka the Tobu Department Store rooftop)
August 11, 2016

GEM and Akishibu Project both had two events in separate locations in Ikebukuro, and because of the timing I was able to go to both of GEM’s and one of Akishibu Projects. Later that night I wanted to go to Narumi Takiguchi‘s one-man in Shibuya, but that didn’t work out, so I went to Akishibu Project’s third event scheduled that day, which was also in Shibuya.

I feel like I shattered his perception of the oversees GEM fan. Anyway, I’m still surprised that I was able to see GEM so soon after the new GEMber’s debuts, yet I wasn’t able to see Monami. It’s pretty rare I become a fan of a new member so quickly. I honestly hope she’s okay and returns to the group, but this situation is kind of unprecedented.

GEM Event 1
Overture
Spotlight
Can’t Stop Loving
Star Shine Story

GEM Event 2
We’re GEM
Do You Believe?
Spotlight
Party Up
Can’t Stop Loving


Akishibu Project events
@Shinseido, Ikebukuro
@HMV & BOOKS, Shibuya

After GEM’s first mini-live I rushed to Akishibu Projects event at Sunshine City (a large mall in Ikebukuro), which was about ten minutes away. On the way I saw their truck promoting their single and had to stop to take a photo. I also saw the truck in Odaiba during TIF and in Shibuya.

Their event was at a Shinseido store at the far end of the mall, and was a little hard to find since it was actually a mini-store inside a store. Since the shop was small, the stage was even smaller. The members were dressed as staff and handled cd sales.

I purchased two copies of their single and afterwards, I had to rush back to GEM’s event, which was beginning in 20 minutes. Because I was in a hurry, I bought the wrong version of one of the cds (each of the five versions have different tracks). Not a huge deal, but it’s a great single and it’s doubtful anyone will upload the other versions. Yuechi helped me with my purchase. I have several favorite members in the group, which is why I like them so much, but Yuechi and Yuna are my favorite. I was a little nervous and I’m pretty sure my hand was shaking like a person being electrocuted as I handed her the cds.

After their Shinseido event and GEM’s second event, I went back to my hotel for an hour, before going to Shibuya. Earlier in the day I found out Narumi Takiguchi was having a one man at a small club near O-EAST, and I really wanted to go, despite not having a ticket. I’ve been a fan of hers since 2013, when I saw her with her old group Takokusekigun, at an underground idol show in a small club called Shibuya Deseo. So I went to the venue she was performing at called Vuenos. I had to run to get there and arrived 5 minutes before the opening time. There was literally no one there though. I thought maybe I had the wrong day, but checked her twitter and confirmed this was the day. There was a sign on the door in English that said “Not Ready,” but I went inside anyway. There was an old man sweeping the floor and a few girls standing inside, but I didn’t see any staff or Narumi fans in the lobby. I went outside and waited until 7:10, not really sure what to do since this was an underground show and I already felt out of my comfort zone. Akishibu’s event was at 7:30 at HMV & BOOKS, which is across the street from Tower Records, so I knew I could get there quickly if necessary. I waited a few more minutes and didn’t see anyone enter or leave the venue, so I walked around to the back thinking there could be an alternate entrance. I didn’t find one so I decided to go to Akishibu’s event. It was getting late, so I also had to run there. Running through Shibuya’s crowded streets isn’t the coolest thing to do, but I’m an extremely fast runner so I was able to get their quickly.

HMV & BOOKS is a relatively new store and they have an event space on the 7th floor. It’s supposed to hold 100-200 people, but that seems like a complete exaggeration. I should have purchased more singles, but I still hadn’t realized I bought the wrong version earlier in the day, so I just watched the live. They came on stage wearing pajamas and I loved all the songs they performed. It was a short live, but this was their third event of the day, and they had been promoting all week, so it was understandable.

Setlist
Summer Summer

LOVE&PARADISE
Be Yourself

If you think you can have any interest in Akishibu Project, please watch the video for Be Yourself. It’s super long kawaiiii and super long kakkoiiii!


My original schedule included a show at Shinjuku ReNY with drop, Houkago Princess, and Maneki Kecak the following day, but that listing turned out to be a mistake. The lesson here is to not automatically assume everything on idolscheduler is accurate!

I didn’t want to go to that show anyway!! *sobs into a pillow*

The End