As Japan Expo in Paris was just the weekend before, I take up on the opportunity to compare this two festivals, who provide the same agenda: Promoting Japanese Pop Culture, including Anime, Manga, Games, Food and Music amongst others. Idols were present at both and of course I will focus this blog post on them. I will leave the obvious advantage of London out of the equation, the english language!
Paris has by far the bigger and better organized location of the two with several big halls, which should also be the result of it running consecutively for the 15th year, whereas London is on a much smaller scale. The fact it takes place in the O2 limits the available space, as many steady shops are situated there. Great was the food court though, which wasn’t present in Paris. There food stalls where everywhere and nowhere. I can not say much about the different exhibitions, as my focus was on idols, but I can say that the range was quite the same, with much more diversity and amount in Paris because of the available space.
When it comes to idols, both venues had its advantages and disadvantages. I don’t need to explain that Paris had of course more idols present because of its bigger scale. When considering the lives, Paris had the most groups and two small stages in the middle of the festival, which featured idols basically non-stop. This offered a great way to spend the time. The live houses were huge, but not suited to idol shows: Karasu was to far away and had bad sound, whereas Ichigo was an only-seated type of venue. In London the live house Building Six was small, like a club, but therefore perfect for idol shows. If they wanted they could easily reach their hands out to fans in first row and casual onlookers had two balconies to watch the show from ‘safe’ distance. Otherwise there were also two stages in the general location of the festival, but there were not held any idol performances. In regards to events, Paris had its schedules for the day openly and in time announced, both on their website as well as directly at the festival. London though seemed to decide on events by chance and on the spot. I will make further notes to that later. The advantage though was it being carried out in a much more free and open atmosphere. For Paris you had to go through an application process, either ‘first come, first serve’ or lottery, and then get in line in ‘fenced’ parts of the venue. For London you just queue up, and if you lucky or demand is low, you can line up again and again. By high demand you can get unlucky though, when the event needs to be stopped because of time constraints. Personally the best experience in both festivals were the events of less popular idols. There was a lot of time they could spent with you chatting, which was also encouraged by the official staff, who turned a blind eye to otherwise no-go behaviour when in Japan, like taking free photos with your mobile or chatting casually.
In London I managed to met some guys I knew from Twitter, namely Julian, Wayne and Peter. We met around the idol events at Saturday noon and drank beer together afterwards with lots of chatting. I use the occasion already to thank you guys. It was a great time and I hope to see you again!
As for me and my sister, we only could manage to attend Hyper Live on the First Session of Saturday. We had to go back on Sunday, as work didn’t allow us to take a holiday on Monday. This was very unpleasant, as Dempagumi Inc. had held two lives on Sunday and even another signing event. But this did not mean we had to abstain from idols in any way, far from it, as you will see. When I booked the tickets for Hyper Live, the idol groups announced for it were: Dempagumi Inc., Tokyo Girls Style, Heisei Kotohime, Honey Spice, Hiiragi Rio. With the exception of Dempagumi, out of these groups I only knew Honey Spice from FiveStars Festival some months ago and Tokyo Girls Style from last years TIF, but as the latter refrain from being called ‘idols’ anymore, I refrain from caring about them further. Too be honest they were not my type back then either. Hiiragi Rio only had a performance on Friday, whereas Heisei Kotohime was a complete unknown entity. At Hyper Japan no information of any events were given before, and when looking at the timetable, the most important group for me, Dempagumi Inc., was not displayed. Disappointment arose.
The first scheduled idol group that day was already Dempagumi Inc. Me and my sister made sure to get there in time and acquired ourselves positions in third row. Something that would be unthinkable in Japan. Just before that I made first contact with Julian, Wayne and Peter. With a bit of a delay the show started and Dempa performed a 40-minute set, of which especially NEO JAPONISM came out as my personal favourite, with the hand waving/head shaking gesture throughout the song! It was a great experience, being so close by and enjoying an idol live again, with all the fun such events contain. After the show was finished and the girls left the stage, an announcer appeared and told us about Dempagumi Inc. doing a sign event shortly afterwards at the exit. Problem was: Which exit did they meant? The place had several. We chose the way we went in, stood some seconds around in the middle of the area and just went for the space, where the “meet&greet” was usually taking place. This was correct, as NOW staff was adding a Dempagumi Inc. Sign Event in the timetable. With us searching a few minutes for the place, a lot of people had already lined up there. The amount of people made it critical and uncertain, if we would be able to get our signs before the event was stopped for time reasons. Luck had it though that right at the moment when I was looking at the front for the display to find some detailed information, a staff member relocated the waiting queue to make room for other people to pass by. This in fact led to me suddenly standing at tenth place or so in the line. I acted dumbfounded in hope people wouldn’t complain – and nobody did! I therefore called my sister over and we both were happy, happy, happy! Julian and the rest where nowhere to be seen. I heard later from them, that they stayed in the livehouse to watch the shows of Heisei Kotohime and Honey Spice.
Not a long time later, the members of Dempagumi Inc. arrived and placed themselves behind the tables, ready for signing. The merchandise table was put before the girls, so that people were enabled to buy official merchandise they would put their signatures on. While the event was on-going I saw some fans that were already at Japan Expo, as well as some Japanese fans. With some of those I exchanged Twitter contacts. The merchandise range was wide: From shirts, to pamphlets, to CDs and light sticks, everything was there. I first thought of buying me a second shirt to let it get signed, but instead bought me the guide for Dempagumi’s “World Tour”, which contains some really great pictures of them and a great double page which was perfect for signing. Additionally I purchased an iPhone case, which caught my eye. Now my phone looks like that:
Soon it was my turn. The problem though was, that I wouldn’t have anything to talk about with them. The likelihood for meeting Dempagumi again is close to zero, as they are too popular already, therefore my motivation for engaging in talks was rather low. The fact of having to talk to six members equally only made it more difficult, as I hate it to repeat the same topics to everyone. Nevertheless the first member I met happened to be Eitaso. Damn, she is exactly as she appears on stage or TV – bright smile and totally hyper! An idol with her personality was a great start. She greeted me with an ‘Hello!’, to which I replied ‘Hello Eitaso!’, leading to a surprised reaction by her. It seems she hadn’t expected foreigners to know them by name. While she began signing, I asked her if she likes London and if she has seen anything yet. In her best English effort she answered with ‘I saw Big Ben.’ Eitaso then wanted to know if I have been to Japan before and was happy when I affirmed her question. She handed me back the guide, we both thanked each other and I continued to the next member, Mirin. Here the fun began, as people before me where still talking to the next girls and therefore delaying the queue. Mirin started to talk in English but had obvious trouble, so I reacted by saying to her that I know Japanese a bit. As this sentence came out easily (for having it used so much already), she surprising ly said that I am very skilled in it. I denied it and instead praised her for her English, more out of a joke though. This led to the interference by unoccupied Nemu, the next member in line, who immediately added a phrase, Mirin said during their live just before: ‘Next Song’ and both started laughing. The situation now got confusing as now I had a conversation with both of them, without realising. My sister, who came after me, later complained about me, as Mirin at first didn’t take notice of her. Anyway I was telling both now that I went to Paris to see them. Another surprised reaction to which Nemu, who slowly took the initiative, inquired further in Japanese ‘You mean Japan Expo?’ After my confirmation, Mirin then asked my nationality, to which I replied of being German ‘doitsu-jin. ‘Ah, Germany (doitsu).’ was her answer whereas Nemu looked at me with big eyes and told me she wants to go there, naming, this time in English, several German dishes she likes: beer, potato, sausage. It was funny. Through all this, and without me really realising, both signed my guide and then staff began to cautiously interfere by pulling the guide from Nemu slowly to the next member, meanwhile smiling politely at me. Completely different to Japan, where this would have led to more direct actions. Moga was the next in line, then Risa and lastly Ayane. I rush these as to my disappointment I hardly talked to them. Basically because I was out of ideas, didn’t want to impose of me going to TIF and them not trying to enforce a conversation. Still they were very nice. Ayane introduced herself as Pinky to me, which seemed to be her standard phrase to the foreigners in the queue. Whatever, I MET DEMPAGUMI INC.!!!
Me and my sister stayed around until the finish of the event and it came like I had expected: The signing session reached its time limit, Honey Spice and Heisei Kotohime were already waiting near to us, and people in line were asked to leave. Amongst them Julian, who was able to buy a towel, but with no use for it – now. Dempagumi did a signing session the next day again and here Julian received his signs. I was happy for him, when he tweeted it to me later! No idea about Peter and Wayne though, or if they even participated. What I am sure of, they had a lot of fun with the events of Honey Spice and Heisei Kotohime. It was interesting to watch their interactions. In the meantime I was engaged in some talking with fans of Dempagumi Inc. and we did a group photo. International Wotas!
As no further idol events were scheduled, me, Julian, Wayne and Peter found our way to a bar outside the livehouse, to enjoy the warm summer weather and each of us a beer. Lots of idol talk started and as often my taste found no counterpart in my conversation partners. But what unites is the love of idols, no matter in what form they appear – unless it something like Pottya of course! Me and my sister had to leave later, as we only had tickets for the first part of the Hyper Japan on Saturday. Nothing major, as no idols appeared on the second part and the festival itself didn’t interest us. Instead we allowed us some sight-seeing in London, to leave for home on the next day.