Saturday – the day for the first real highlight of my Japan trip this time: Idol Koushien at Akasaka BLITZ, promised to be even better than my last, as it featured a mass of groups, known and unknown, I wanted to see and meet:
Of course the best there is:
Bellring Shoujo Heart (I basically jumped for joy after they announced their participation)
Party Rockets (Best time for events with them, as they are not that crowded than during their Showrooms)
Several groups on the verge of becoming my new addiction:
Lovely Doll (Ah, fresh love…)
Kamen Joshi (Though only with Armour Girls and Steam Girls members. I don’t care about them. Still the music is the same greatness.)
Some others I want to see again:
じゅじゅ (I can not forget about them)
Pla2me (‘Plastic 2 Mercy’ was the BEST song during TIF)
Those that are a fine listen, if stupid itunes deleted every other group on your iPod:
Luce Twinkle Wink
Shizukaze & Kizuna
Groups, I have never seen before, but are promising:
And maybe some surprises (I spoil it for you, you impatient rascals):
This amount of groups should tell you one thing: Overlaps for lives and events are inevitable – and so it came. That is the downside of idol festivals. Be curious how I tried to manage anyway!
The day started – cold and cloudy, with occasional rain. Luckily the BLITZ is just besides the station. Here we had a surprise: Directly next to the venue was a German style ‘Oktoberfest’, a great way to get us something to eat for lunch (curry sausage or better sauerkraut?) and choose from the wide collection of German beer – if it had opened already! The Koushien already started at 11:00, but the ‘Oktoberfest’ would only open its doors at 12:00. What a bad scheduling. Even worse: When the Koushien would finish (according to the plan at 22:00), the food stalls would also be already closed. As my sister didn’t want to miss any minute of the Koushien, even leaving in between (re-entering was possible) was out of the question. And me, with all this groups on my own schedule, wouldn’t have found time for it anyway. Between your health and idols you have to make a choice – but being a serious idol fan there is no choice! What do I care about my health in a few years time? Most idol groups won’t even last that long! *total devotion* So what we did: The subway (=metro) underground had a Subway (=food chain); you know, the ones, PASSPO always makes covered advertising for – according to this.
Too bad though: No disguised PASSPO member in sight. Well, we got ourselves our sandwiches, ate it in a nearby park and luckily already bought ourselves some bread in the morning, as we are adaptive – learning from our mistake during the Idol Generation Festival from Tuesday. Hm, tasty bread filled with chocolate. I like Japan. Prepared and saturated like that we finally entered.
First thing I did was check the venue for the later event places. They had 6 stalls, named Booth A, Booth B, Booth C – well, you know the drill – up until Booth G. Far too many for this little and narrow space. Even worse: From A to G are SEVEN stalls. Damn it. Couldn’t they have named it Booth 1, Booth 2, Booth 3,… you know how this will go on – up to Booth 7? Would make things a lot easier instead of making me look like a dork. I hate Japan. Anyway, SEVEN stalls, narrow aisles, hordes of crazy wotas – Idol Generation all over again – besides the bread in our bags. But this time no way, I would refrain from participating! Need some distraction. Where is the bar? This one was nice, having cold beer and even milk coffee. I would be there time and again later. Only downside: It was surrounded by the booths, so no pleasant drinking in a cozy cafe atmosphere…
Time to go in the venue now, which in contrast to my last Koushien, was filled completely. As I could make out there were a lot of fans of nanoCUNE and PassCode. Luckily I have been warned by Caio to not approach them. So again no place for resting. We therefore decided to take a place at the back of the hall, which was one step higher and allowed us to have a perfect view over the audience and onto the stage. And this happened to be a good decision, as some crazy wota actions in the crowd would amuse us later on. And to come back to my Korea – Japan comparison I started some posts ago: In idol terms Japan is by far superior. Contact with idols is very easy, the audience (in general) is much more active and diverse, which coincides with the idols themselves: The output of the groups has an unbelievable variety in style. Take this Idol Koushien for example: Featuring regular pop idols (GEM, Idol College), Heavy Metal units (Fruitpochette, PassCode), rock idols (Party Rockets, Bellring Shoujo Heart), HipHop (Lyrical School), Electro (Pla2me) and something in-betweens (nanoCUNE). The strangest thing – you will enjoy most of it, although it doesn’t suit your style in general. But the liveliness of the idols on stage is infectious. Of course these arguments are only relevant to me. I can understand others who like the more professional attitude of Korean idols on stage or the more adult look and performance of them as well. But hey, this is my blog! So ‘Go, Nippon, Go!’.
After some general groups, like Ange Reve and DIANNA SWEET, and seeing Stella Beats again, the first metal units appeared: Fruitpochette! Although I am not very fond of their metal style, the two members are really cute and feature a great performance. It was nice seeing them for the first time.
But the downside of most metal units: The fans get wild, but too much. They start performing moves known from Punk Rock, like moshing or the ‘Wall of Death’. Sorry, I know there enough people who think otherwise (Hello Julian!) but this is something which doesn’t belong into an idol show. If you want to do that, attend a REAL Punk or Metal Band, but not go crazy over cute girls who, when off stage, rather listen to Justin Biber or Lady Gaga. Idol music, as enjoyable as it is, is just that. They don’t incorporate what the music actually stands for. I can imagine Sid Vicious rotating in his grave when seeing guys rock to those with the same intent. I over exaggerated a bit here, but just to make my point clear. Not that I don’t enjoy it: I headbang too, dance around if there is space for it, and take part in moves like during PASSPO‘s ‘Step and Go’ or Bellring‘s ‘C.A.N.D.Y.’ but simultaneously try to not disturb anyone. I wish others would follow the same approach. But as reality is different, when seeing such groups I stay out of line, keep to the sides or even at the back. I feel no enjoyment in getting touchy with random guys, getting hit or am proud when bleeding. But there is some fun to it: I openly smile when I see guys like that getting hurt instead, something I would witness a lot today. Here is a video, where you can see (a bit) of what I mean (The sound is bad though):
After that came nanoCUNE, a group of lolis who play a mixture of Electro and Rock. Not really my style, but as a good part of the audience were their fans, they participated a lot, even starting some first moshing and crowd surfing. Followed after them came Shizukaze & Kizuna, a group that made a good impression on me during TIF. But here the just seemed boring. Don’t know why, but their songs were plain and well as the girls. The sun at TIF must have played tricks on my mind, a fact which already led to a victim. As the group was boring, I took my first step in the direction of the events tables for Fruitpochette and immediately turned back to the hall – the aisle was filled, walking wasn’t possible and taking an effort for a group I don’t really like the music of – No way! I just wanted to buy their albums and maybe a shirt anyway. No interest in a cheki. Only photos with girls which mean something to me!
Good thing I came back as now PassCode came on stage – and the fun began: Serious moshing was starting, as well as crowd surfing. There was this guy who got on the barrier and – removed all his clothing except of his underwear. Even better – he tried to crowd surf later on, let himself fall – but no hands to catch him as everyone turned away. I had to subdue my laughter! The group itself was okay, I would have really wanted to buy their shirt and album, but refrained from it. Being an idol fan is bad enough in public opinion but to be associated with this type of fan group – Never! No time for regrets anyway, as now じゅじゅ arrived, acquaintances from my last Koushien. And here again some fan was rather interesting: He was standing on the barrier, held by friends and people around him, holding up a self-made pentagram, fitting for a metal unit, built from lightsticks! Nice idea. But – he got confused or wasn’t taking attention during history or geography lessons, then as a German I immediately realised: This was not a pentagram, instead it was the Star of David, the symbol of Judaism which you can find on the Israeli flag. I have to respect his effort though. Why should a Japanese care for European history. This is idol! I even found the video of it on Youtube, so you can see for yourself.
With the end of the じゅじゅ performance, the ‘metal unit block’ at Idol Koushien ended as well. It was a hell of a ride and much fun, the music much more enjoyable than the constant generic idol pop before. But I was also happy for the appearance of more toned-down groups now as diversity can be a bliss. My sister also looked forward to some ‘lighter’ and more colourful music. Now I was in for a surprise. I stayed in the hall as going out for events was not necessary anymore, as none of the groups so far impressed me or turned out bad in one way or another. Then a before-unknown group appeared on stage and blew me away with their performance, the first time I experienced such thing with an idol group: PiiiiiiiN. The group name is terrible, but the music reminded me a lot of early PASSPO. I also immediately focused on a girl and declared her my oshi right away: Hara Ayano, again a first experience! I found some videos of the group. Ayano is easy to spot as she is the tallest of the bunch, another similarity to PASSPO. (She is the center in the beginning of the first video.)
PiiiiiiiN is actually some sort of sister group to PPP!PiXiON, not that this makes it any clearer as I never heard of them before as well. They didn’t have much impact on me though. So my plan stood: As PiiiiiiiN was having their event shortly after their live I now took the effort and went out for my first event this day, for a group I only know the name of and that I had heard for the first time just minutes ago.
It was great that their booth was right at the exit so I didn’t have long to go. But I had to tread carefully as the frail looking idols of Fruitpochette, じゅじゅ, nanoCUNE and Shizukane & Kizuna were walking by, right next to me. One wrong touch and they would have broken in pieces. The sales table was already open, the group itself was still missing. I queued up, although that is an exaggeration. I was the second in line. But don’t let this fool you: Apparently most of their fans already went out before me, supplying themselves with cheki tickets. As I didn’t know the members and wanted to avoid embarrassing myself by showing that fact to outsiders, I just decided to buy their two singles, as their shirt was turning out pretty plain. But as PiiiiiiiN was a new group in the need of gathering fans and this was Idol Koushien, I received two cheki tickets – for their old single one ticket for a simple cheki and for their new single one for a cheki plus sign. What now? In the meantime both groups, PiiiiiiiN and PPP!PiXiON, had already appeared and the event was on its way. I took a deep breath and – lined up too. When it was my time in the line and the staff was asking me which girl I want to go to I pointed – with my finger – at Ayano (luckily she was still engaged with talking to another fan). The staff then asked me “Ayano-san?” and I nodded, in the hope that was her name. Damn, my head must have been glowing red from embarrassment. After the other fan was leaving I was called by another staff member whom I gave my cheki plus sign ticket to and then talked to her, the girl supposedly named Ayano which turned out – lovelier than I imagined as I only saw her on stage from quite far away! In my mind I patted myself on the shoulder as praise for my instinctual right decision. Ayano was actually surprised seeing a foreigner and asked me if I understood Japanese. I confirmed that I know a bit. After asking my nationality she told me her name (finally getting confirmation on that) and asked if this was my first time. I affirmed her question and added that I really liked their performance on stage. She thanked me and then asked if I like Bellring Shoujo Heart, as I had their fan shirt on. Bonus Points! Very nice interaction with her. Some time in between we even managed to shoot the cheki and getting her sign on it. With my name she wrote the simple version – in katakana. As you can not see on the picture though – I have my eyes closed on it. $@&%! But this just means I must see her again, a fact that already built up in my mind after this great experience.
But there was still a second cheki to use. As I didn’t take a look at the cheki with Ayano, I hadn’t realised my closed eyes. Instead I made the approach for a random girl now, doing the following: The staff formed lines for the girls, putting boards in the hands of the fans with the name of the girl, they line up for. Something like Bellring did during Idol Koushien in Zepp DiverCity. The first board, which was readable for me, as the name was written in hiragana, turned out to be for the member Rizu. So after being asked again by the staff which girl I want to go to, I proudly said “Rizu” and was led right to her. She turned out pretty cute, actually looking like a girl who could be liked by Shaun. With her the procedure was much faster though: After greeting each other she asked what pose to use. As I don’t care about that I led her decide. She was then proposing a hand sign, which was her trade mark, so she was telling me. That we did.
The timing of the PiiiiiiiN event turned out perfect as it soon was time for Kamen Joshi to perform. Those sadly only appeared in small number: Four members each of Armour Girls and Steam Girls. But the show was great and was the first performance that day where I joined the audience in participation. This was made possible as a bunch of fans already left the venue, mostly those of units like PassCode and nanoCUNE, who already finished their lives and events. This made the general participation much safer, as their fans were majorly responsible for the more violent actions. It also generated some space in the hall, finally, to take a breather, also allowing people to go to the front when their favourite groups perform and leave again after they are finished. But back to Kamen Joshi‘s performance: It was very similar to that at PARMS, having girls waving the huge Alice Project flags, toilet paper guns and even the boat, that was carried through the audience, with Sara in it. It was the first time I saw this live in person, as in PARMS they only do this during weekend shows. There were also a lot of fans of Alice Project around that supposedly also left the venue after the show and the event afterwards. For me there was no need for the event, as all the girls present didn’t interest me.
After a bunch of groups I had no interest in, the best part of Idol Koushien for me began, including many groups I care most about. But this also started the first scheduling problems, as live performances and events I wanted to attend now got crazy, going hand in hand, with few to none breaks. Party Rockets were first on stage. They did a great show, performing ‘Kasabuta’ and ‘Miraie’. As for this I stood in the middle of the hall with other fans, I could enjoy it much more than the showcase at AKIBA with its line of benches and therefore its less fan participation. After the show ended I immediately went to the event booths, as the girls of Pla2me and Bellring Shoujo Heart already began theirs, the same time Party Rockets performance started. Good thing, that now on stage were uninteresting groups, allowing me to take my time. I was thinking of doing the Pla2me event first, but as the lines were pretty long I got anxious of missing Bellring, so I decided otherwise, catching a last good eye full of Saki and Mari and went on to the Bellring booth instead. They had the place right next to a staircase, so this time you had to line up on the stairs and the staff would go up and down, asking about your member you want to meet, and then gave a sign if that girl was available. I first decided on a cheki plus sign with Ayano, the smiling hyperactive girl, this time looking perfectly styled as the event was now before the show, not after. The prices fortunately were still the same, 500 Yen for each, so in summary 1,000 Yen. So cheap. My meeting with Ayano was nice, though she couldn’t recall me, as her first question made sure: “Your first time seeing us?”. I told her about the Idol Koushien in Zepp DiverCity, but it was fruitless. Well, expected nothing anyway. We talked some casual stuff, when in the meantime she signed the Polaroid, which was funny to see, as she was trying very hard to remember some english words. She then decided on ‘Welcome’. Not exactly fitting but it is close, right? The downside of the picture is the pen she used: You can hardly see her autograph on it because both of us wore dark colours. But damn this girl is nice, and now one more reason to talk with her again.
I wanted to do one other cheki, but still couldn’t decide, with which member. I already have an autographed Polaroid by Mizuho and was therefore thinking of Moechi, as she was the most excited the last time. But then I saw Yuka idling around, as no one was talking to her that moment. After she saw me too, I was bold and waved at her. She automatically waved back, then, obviously taken aback, instantly approached me – and told me “I remember you. Idol Koushien at Zepp DiverCity?”. Imagine my surprise – and happiness: The first idol who actually remembered me after months AND approached me with it, after only having met once! (NOW Yuka is the closest to what I can call an oshi in the group, of course.) She then started to talk some more until I told her to wait, as I now knew that my next cheki will be with her! I am not sure if she understood me as she made a sad face after I queued up, maybe thinking I wanted to meet another member first. But it lighted up again as soon as she realised I was lining up for her. We then talked a lot about my home country, as you can also see in the Polaroid taken with her, asked me about typical German food. I mentioned ‘Sauerkraut’ and ‘Curry Sausage’ but she couldn’t understand. I then told her that right outside is a German style festival and she should check there. As my Japanese explanation was hardly as smooth as I have now written in English, I doubt she understood either. My last resort was then mentioning ‘Beer’. THIS she understood. Though in retrospect I think it was wrong talking about beer with a 16-year-old Japanese girl. But I am sure she already met Morishi during festivals. If she can withstand her… Anyway, Yuka was very enthusiastic the whole time, really trying her best. She will be the one I talk to every time now, when I happen to see a show of Bellring Shoujo Heart again.
As a side note, in the past Yuka has been the member associated with the colour yellow. As in most cases, the yellow idols always draw a positive attention to me, though not necessarily being my oshi. Need prove? Here you are:
PASSPO – Morishi
Chu-Z – Asuka
Lovely Doll – Yuririn
Super Girls – Rina
Alice Juuban – Now Maari, in the past Amu
Party Rockets – Akari
Just to name a few examples. Caio told me once he made the same experience, only his colour being orange. Does idol colouring actually follow a scientific evaluation process? Have to ask Shaun. He always knows such crazy stuff.
When finished with my chekis with Bellring I also saw Kai. I have a thing for the girl as she, opposite to other idols, has a more timid, even dark character. If there would be a bet, on which idol is the next to commit suicide, I would rank her first place. But I like broken people (why I hang out with Caio – jk) and as her persona fits Bellring‘s image perfectly, she has grown on me the more I see her. I smiled at Kai and received a totally atypical bright smile from her! I should have gone for a cheki now, but I wanted to take a look at the Pla2me booth, checking out, if I can meet Saki. But – I was too late. The merchandise was still there, but the girls already away. I at least got me their fan shirt as I like the huge writing ‘IDOL’ on it. When turning back to the Bellring booth to queue up again for a cheki with Kai – the girls were away, too. Arrgh!! Next time be more spontaneous!!!
Nothing to be done about it so I headed back for the hall, coming right to the show of Lovely Doll. They did nothing unexpected, performing in their usual orange outfit and promoting their soon-to-be-released single. My stay in the hall was short though, as Party Rockets had started their event already and Lovely Doll would soon hold theirs too. That’s why I sadly missed Palet and GEM. (Yes Shaun, I missed them. But I obviously had no choice in the matter!)
But everything turns pleasant again, when I see Akari‘s smile – who wasn’t there. Only the merchandise table was built up already. This at least gave me some time to talk with the staff, as I needed to figure out what I had to do for a single cheki. He first was telling me about akushukai tickets, but I politely declined, with the justification of my bad language skills. After some back and forth I was finally able to find out that I have to buy a photo set for 3,000 Yen to get a cheki with one member! 3,000 Yen!!! PASSPO prices already, although not having an album or a national tour yet. But I love Party Rockets, so who cares? I bought the photo set (Has a picture of each member + a group shot) and a towel (which I probably will never wear again as it is pink), then stood back in the aisle to wait for the arrival of the group. It took some minutes but then they appeared, starting right with the regular group akushukai. The attendance was pretty low though – hardly ten fans around for them *sniff* Soon the chekis began and the staff remembered me, waving me to get in line. Good again to be a foreigner! Akari remembered me as well, which is no big accomplishment, as we only saw each other a few days ago. The first thing she did was complimenting my present to her from that day. At least I hope she was saying that as my mind was occupied with concentrating on the cheki. Why do idols always talk during the process of photo shooting anyway? How am I supposed to answer and smile at the same time? Tell me Maari! As all males I am not able in multi-tasking.
After the shot I already had to leave, as Party Rockets don’t allow you much talking time. Which basically is a good thing, when you are not able to talk much anyway because of the language barrier. Let’s see if Akari remembers me the next time. Or Haruka and Fumika, as I managed to wave them while leaving (Am I great? I WAVED them! Awesome).
Now I just made a short stop in the hall again to get my sister. She finally decided to take part at her first ever Japanese idol event, getting a cheki with Maja from Lovely Doll! (The Babyraids High Touch doesn’t count as this was mandatory.) This event was pretty easy. I basically told the staff that she wants a cheki ticket, she bought a photo set as a result and then lined up. Here the attendance was much higher and it took a while for her, where as I waited farther away. I was hoping to get eye contact with Yuriko but she was occupied non-stop. Doing a cheki again would have been a waste. I already had one few days ago and didn’t have anything to tell her. Not a bad thing, as I could therefore watch the other members who had less to do, surprisingly one of them being Yuki. She looks gorgeous though and I felt pity inside and the wish to relieve me from it with doing a cheki with her. But I withstood. Instead I observed my sister during her meeting with Maja. Nice to see another person conversing successfully into an idol follower. She was proudly holding to her cheki and it will be interesting to see, what she will do at her next similar event.
The events for today were finished now, at least for me. But there were still some great lives to come. The fans inside have become less and less. This allowed me to go to the front, right side, in preparation for Bellring‘s performance later on, and enjoying the show now with all enthusiasm. The first group I saw up close was Lyrical School, a first for me. Not only did I never see the group before, it was even my first experience with HipHop idols, which I surprisingly enjoyed. Most likely because the style was 80s HipHop, a more listenable variation and the girls being quite cute, providing enough visual distraction. Next came Pla2me, now doing a set with various songs, opposed to TIF, where they just sang one number, repeating it to fill the set. I must admit, that I wasn’t impressed by most of their songs, they sounded either generic or were too similar to their other sings (‘Too misery’). My favourite song by them, and in my opinion the idol song of the year, ‘Plastic 2 Mercy’ was great though and perfect for jumping!
But soon my personal highlight of the evening appeared: Bellring Shoujo Heart, and it became a fantastic time! It started right from the beginning, as the opener was ‘C.A.N.D.Y.’, putting me right in the mood, as here you had a similar fan movement from left to right like in PASSPO‘s ‘Step and Go’. Then it became special as they also did two new songs, one their typical psychedelic style, reminding me of carnival music and the other a heavy rock song, which led to ecstatic behaviour on stage as well as in front of it. During ‘The Edge of Goodbye’, which featured the regular spitting of water on the fans, I was also a ‘victim’, getting spit on by Juri voluntarily. How fantastic, after TIF, where the same happened to me with Ayano. Now my life is complete and I can happily lay my body to rest eternally. Oh, and they sang in the middle of the crowd again, like during the last Koushien. This time however it was a few meters away from me. I never realise when one of them leaves the stage to get in the crowd. Why is that? Anyway I post a video here I found on Youtube from a set, they had a few days later, featuring their new heavy song.
This concluded the Idol Koushien at Akasaka BLITZ, with over 30 minutes over schedule, at 22:35. I was wet from sweat (and the spitted water), my sister was happy about the whole event with all its diverse groups and her first ever cheki and me satisfied, being able to see such a festival with some of my most favourite idol groups. We wasted no time to get back to the hotel for sleep, as tomorrow would be PASSPO, with two One-Man-Flights at Shinjuku BLAZE plus event. I cite PASSPO‘s song ‘U-Hae’ here: Happy Day!