Cheki M.I.A.

This day would become another one of those “running around from one venue to another all over Tokyo” days once again. It also made me realise that in Japan the second Christmas Day (Boxing Day?) isn’t considered part of Christmas. Idols didn’t appear in Christmas dresses and no-one was wishing ‘Merry Christmas’. I also haven’t met with friends today, as each of us had our own idol schedule. So I started alone, making my way to Akihabara for Twinbox Garage already before 12 o’clock. Tsuzuki Kana had made a late Twitter announcement of appearance there, which played into my plans.

I have never been to the Garage part of Twinbox but immediately liked it better than the regular venue. Not necessarily the stage and audience space, which are very small but sufficient to the groups there performing. It is also good, that the stage is wide and the audience space not very deep. No, what makes this venue superior is the event area, the ground-level-located hall just before, that also let’s you easily go outside and back inside again. Crowds are easily avoidable.

When I arrived I found there not to be many people, which was to be expected: Early in the day and groups less popular. But one of the groups I saw caught my interest: フリカケ≠ぱにっく (Furikake Panic), a very fresh group, with not even a single release until then. Their performance became very long, as one of the members had her birthday that same day and for over 15 minutes they just talked, presented a cake and stuff like that. Fans around though stayed very patience and applauded once in a while. I like that behaviour during idol shows. Nevertheless, the general appearance of them was very average idol stuff, but one member had striking bleached hair and one song in particular caught my interest, which was named something like Bee-Po (acoustically).  A strange tune, which reminds me a lot of Beastie Boys flavoured Heavy Metal. Anyway much fun. I finally even found a (low-quality) recording of one of their performances on Youtube. The song in question is the second, roughly starting at the 6:10 mark.

Afterwards it was already time for Tsuzuki Kana to perform; this time me having even more confidence in participating the right way, after the last live of her just a few days ago. And it was very fun. Because of the low attendance there was enough space to move around and the general movements and chants were still fresh in my mind. Her set list this time consisted in parts of some Anime songs (which of course I didn’t know) and my favourites from the Paris days, already included in my last post about Kana. Hideki was also present and lead the crowd, as usual. A good start in the day, with the right amount of action to get in the mood.

After Kana‘s 20 minute set ended, I soon went out to wait in the hall for the event to start. Furikake Panic was already there, but as I saw no CD for sale I refrained from participating. Who knows what path the group will follow in the future, with songs as diverse as the current three. It took quite a while until Kana arrived so Hideki, after a quick chat (he speaks close to none English and we often misinterpret our Japanese), asked me to contribute for Kana‘s birthday one month later, by writing a small note on a prepared piece of paper. As I had more leisure this time than with Asuka and Yuriko, I again used some basic English expression, but also wrote something small in Hiragana and my name in Katakana. This was hopefully presentable enough as a birthday wish.

With Kana the amount of fans this time has increased in comparison to my last event with her. I again bought myself two copies of her CD (by the way, I gave most of my copies away to friends the forthcoming days) and even thought of a pose, which I wanted to try out for the first time. An embarrassing one: Us holding hands, while looking each other deep into the eyes. And it was embarrassing. Kana is such a lovely girl. As I mentioned in my post here, I wrote her a Tweet some days before, explaining the situation with the name of my sister during the CD sign. Kana started the topic right away, by telling me she read it. We had a good laugh. Nice continuing conversation, lol.

To my disgrace my memory ends here. Well, it was over two months ago already. I should really try harder to blog on time. But nevertheless, a great start in the day! I then had to go ahead for the next venue at Shibuya Glad. Here a small festival was held, but for the entrance fee of 4,500 Yen + drink ticket! That’s daytime robbery! Whatever, I arrived to only see the last few minutes of Stella Beats performances, but I wasn’t coming for them that day anyway. Instead, Bellring Girls Heart was on the list, with a 45-minute live set! Not only that, because it was early in the day, the amount of fans present was relatively low, despite it being a Saturday. This led to good space before the stage and I easily acquired mine on the right side. Even front row was possible, but with all the lifting and moshing during certain songs I refrained from going to close.

So my first time seeing the Bellha members from close this trip, without people obstructing my view to the stage (Damn lifting! *grrrr*). The setlist again was very diverse, but the more experimental songs like Karma dominated.

the Edge of Goodbye
World World World
The Victim

I was surprised them starting with the Mizuho-Rap song, rarely performed these days, but because of that so great to hear again. Also a song with extended fan choreography, part of it requiring you to sit down. As I never saw the song live I refrained from participating here. Another point in favour of the sideline position. A pity, that The Edge of Goodbye was so early. With the subsequent songs I doubt that Bellha won the neutral fans over for them. But quality rarely lies in Mainstream.

Bellring Girls Heart were the last performers, so after the show I first went for the bar to redeem my Drink Ticket, which would allow me to figure out, where the event would take place. To my amusement they put the merchandise table right next to the usual entrance for the Glad and let people queue up outside the place. Not that I minded, on the contrary – that way the place wouldn’t be overcrowded, like the time I went for my first JyuJyu  event at this venue. I gave back my cup and went for the toilet. When I came out, the first members of Bellha were already present and I exchanged waves and smiles with Moechi. This in fact would be my only interaction with her this trip. Her lanes, because of her upcoming graduation, where just too long every time.

Nevertheless before I could go out I was approached by another foreigner, an American who was a big fan of the present group Draft King, which I never heard of. He even comes to Japan frequent times in the year, to see them and even spoke Japanese. According to him, the members of the group saw me and told him to talk to me – they wanted to know where I am from and I was going here, lol. We talked some further and when we reached the topic of Bellring Girls Heart, he just admitted that he had no idea who they were. He didn’t see their performance, as he was already out for the Draft King event. Now we were quit. We should have exchanged Twitter, but as I wanted to line up, I was in a hurry and forgot about it. Actually I hate random follows. I already have to many people in my list, with whom I never talk with. I still majorly only use it for receiving idol schedules.

When outside I needed a bit to recognise there being two lanes, one just for Moechi and the second for the rest of the members. See, I didn’t exaggerated before. It didn’t take long to get approached by some of the fans around. We managed some little talk and I earned acknowledgement for frequently traveling to Japan for Bellha‘s shows. Some fan in the Moechi lane wanted to exchange Twitter, but as my lane continued to move we decided to do that later – but forgot… Approaches didn’t end here though, as now some fans from the Moechi graduation commitee came forward and asked me to let them photograph me for Moechi‘s graduation album. Luckily a message wasn’t needed, just posing for a photo together with a board displaying my name and favourite member on it (I wrote in Japanese!) and another photo with me doing a pose, the latter obviously being the hardest, lol. So now finally enjoying some peace while waiting in the queue. Forget it. Nozomi of Stella Beats came out now and advertised her group. She totally neglected me – was it for me being a foreigner? In her favour I will just assume she remembered me from the event some days ago, where I talked with Mana. Anyway, she positioned herself directly next to me, so no peace and quiet for a while again – How do idols endure all that constant attention to them? I know I can’t. It has to be mentioned that not many of the regular fans (that I recognise) were present. Apparently the Saturday noon is really bad for idol events.

Later further down the line, and although many free members names were called, I hold out until I could go for Ayano – about time me finally talking to her. I was lead in and had to wait for the fan before me finishing. This made me realise how much time you had today, all members easily exceeding two minutes each time. Anxiety rose – what to talk about. But I was calmed down by receiving a smile by Mizuho, who saw me grinning about her eating an onigiri in-between. Now to Ayano, who today for an unknown reason wore a hair-band with bear-ears. We greeted each other by waving, I called her Kuma-san and then, to not forget about it again, handed her two cheki coins already. Wrong timing, as this lead to some confusion, which was luckily soon resolved. Me in good condition came up with a wild animal / roaring pose and then continued talking. As I couldn’t figure out if Ayano remembered me (there were no visible signs or words like hisashiburi) I blatantly asked her. To my relief she confirmed it. I started by telling her that I was present at their show on Christmas Eve, which lead to no certain reaction – Ayano deep in the process of coming up with some English word to sign my cheki. But she must have listened as she then asked me if I stay for the show at Zepp Tokyo. Happily I could reply that this live was my reason for coming to Japan. Her reaction was priceless, asking me with big eyes if I was serious. I thought about adding that I came for wanting to see her again, but I didn’t wanted to completely overwhelm her, lol. Anyway she expressed her joy about it and her hope that I would have fun. After the smile I received from Ayano there wasn’t a chance for it being the case. I felt pure bliss.

Even if my text doesn’t make it obvious but we were really talking way above two minutes, me didn’t feel rushed at all. Not even the staff was putting pressure on us. Here the Saturday noon shows its advantages, at least for foreign idol tourists 😉 Now back in line for talking to Kanra. I was dying to know if she already had opened up her birthday presents. Seeing me I was received by a her wide, typical Kanra-grin. Giving her my coins again went badly – I think I should stop it. The girls are not used to it receiving those at the start of the talk. Anyway, cheki was done – after my pose suggestion again (Woohoo!) which was basically a rendition of the pose I did with Ayano (Boooh!) – and now the complicated part began: She made the notion of keeping the cheki, but I didn’t understand for what purpose. She tried to explain – I failed to understand. She made gestures – I failed to understand. She was swearing impatiently for me being such a fool – I didn’t understand. But I assumed she offered to take the cheki home to decorate it there. Or she wanted to keep it to throw it away? What the hell. The result was: I led her keep the cheki and hoped the issue would resolve itself. To spoiler you: So far it didn’t. She didn’t mentioned my cheki at latter meet-ups again and I was to afraid to ask about it, for the reason of not knowing what was going on with it. Struggles of an idol fan… At least the further conversation went much better, as Kanra continued with what I wanted to talk about. She thanked me for the present and praised its decoration with the Disney figures. Phew, the effort wasn’t in vain. She mentioned the cookie box; didn’t say if she liked its design, but said she already ate the cookies and said they were tasty. I asked back if that was really true and she strongly confirmed again. Me therefore explaining that these have been German Christmas specialities. Now Kanra brought the calendar in discussion, so I immediately interfered by calling it a “joke present”. She was laughing mischievously, repeating my words clearly and I added, that it was in reminiscence of our conversation in summer. An acknowledging grin followed with the mention of castles. Not sure what followed then but our talk went even longer than that with Ayano. I would really like to post my cheki here, but you read why it is impossible. Maybe I can show it to you after my next trip? Who knows…


Kanra place-holder

I still had far to many cheki coins with me so I decided to talk with another member. Moechi was out of question – seriously, those lane for her… Kai was too risky, as my last conversation with her was terrible (on my part). So I thought of choosing Mizuho, as she is always a pleasure to interact with. Her voice and behaviour are adorable. But as I never so far spoke with Reina (formerly known as Kari-chan) I chose to speak with her, having in mind my regrets of never having been able to talk with Anna – especially after I found out that she has ancestors from Poland. When approaching Reina, I recognised for the first time her super-long hair, which reaches her hips. I have never noticed before! She seemed very euphoric seeing a foreigner, asking me right away if I understood Japanese and after we did our pose – my idea again – a great flow in conversation started with me beginning the chat with a ‘Hajimemashite’ and calling her by her name ‘Reina’. She happily replied that I am correct and taught me her nickname, which is ‘Re-Re’. I repeated and continued the ‘name-calling’ by adding that she formerly was known as ‘Kari-chan’. She confirmed and inquired my country, telling me how she loves foreign countries. This brought me to mention the groups excursion during the current year, which led Bellring Girls Heart to Taiwan and Vietnam. Again happy confirmation from Reina‘s side. Here I added the fact that I was also present during her first performance as a member of Bellring Girls Heart. While I had to think about the right way to tell the date – always a problem for me – Reina simply interfered by saying Shimokitazawa, to which I, relieved about sparing me from thinking further, added the name of the venue (GARDEN). She expressed her joy. Then we had to part, as the talk already went too long again, so I left by saying we see each other again a few days later at Zepp Tokyo. A wonderful first encounter is has been, definitely.

Still in the possession of cheki coins I nevertheless refused from lining up again. Not only did I have the impression of the event closing – which turned out to be the case, but most importantly I felt I would be overdoing it by getting in queue once again. Some things have to be enjoyed in small portions! Therefore, after observing the event from a far for some minutes, I took off to my next – and last – venue: The Morph at Roppongi Hills, for the birthday live of Asuka from Chu-Z. I have never been at this venue before, so I was glad to still have a lot of time left to check out its location and find me something to eat. Finding the venue was easier then expected, but getting out of the subway was difficult, as it was really big. I had more luck with the fact, that just right opposite to the Morph a Starbucks was located, so I killed my time there until the entry for the show began. I wasn’t in a hurry or need to get me an early ticket, so I got in as one of the last people. To my surprise the place was basically sold out. Moving around became difficult, as it also only had a small lobby. To imagine that PASSPO performed their first lives here though added a special feel to it. I skipped some time with using my drink ticket, but as soon as the queue for the merchandise table was less overrun I bought myself five CDs. I got lucky: Three 2shots! The two solo-chekis I later exchanged for one of Maia and one of Luna, as present for each of my sisters, as I have absolutely no need for such, no matter which group or idol. The female staff present was the same from last trip and remembered me. So when pulling out the Maia photo and me telling her the reason for my choice, she even recalled my sisters fondness for Maia. I also met Yutan again, who as one of the major Asuka fans, was part of the birthday commitee, of course.

Soon the performance started, resembling that of Kana a lot. The same as in summer all the members appeared in versions of Asuka‘s uniforms, so all wearing yellow. The set was around 45 minutes, missing most of my favourite songs again, but included some longer MCs, the announcement for their new upcoming second album (to quote Shirai of JyuJyu: Ureshii!) and the usual stuff. Too bad I couldn’t really make out what Asuka was saying in her thanksgiving speech, as in retrospect maybe there were already hints for her graduation she announced just a few weeks later. Much to Luna‘s dismay, as I have heard. Me too find the timing for such a decision quite inappropriate. A new CD, not just a single but an album, is released – in my perception this is equivalent to a new phase for any group, and its fans. But no, right before it they leave, instead of finding the motivation to explore new levels. So many idols do it by the way. Sakotee of PASSPO comes to mind, or more recently Shirai of JyuJyu. But I will talk more about the latter in my next post. So now I can just emphasise my displeasure with it all.

When the events were prepared, the big crowd became even worse a problem as a lot of room had to be made for the later appearing members. I found it hard finding some space to wait in and especially detecting how the whole event will be organised. In my attempt to get a better overview I stumbled into the queue for I-don’t-know-what and earned some displeased reactions. Damn, so much for staying low-key. Finally I was able to squeeze myself out for the lobby where there was much more room to breath, though barely. I felt how this whole situation made me uncomfortable and took a considerable impact on my motivation. After some time had passed, to my surprise the members one-by-one were suddenly appearing in the bar area to make their way for the stage area. How did they get from the stage to the direct opposite site of the venue before? There must be some underground way. Whatever the case, the members lined up, the fans did the same according to their choice, while me was waiting in the back to let the whole atmosphere tone down a bit.

When I finally made my move by realising Asuka‘s lane to be still very long and looping, I looked out for the queue for Luna, my recent favourite member of the group. Good timing in retrospect because of Asuka‘s foreboding graduation by the way. Still there is an internal struggle with me between Kana and Luna, as both provided great interaction. But as Luna is the less popular member and understands some English, my position is decided, mostly 😉 I am also not certain, what the members think of me in regards of oshimen but they probably regard me as DD with Chu-Z, which wouldn’t be to far off. Otherwise it should be obvious to them, that I like Maia, Kaede and particularly Miku to a lesser extent. At least those three definitely know this fact, if I correctly interpret their usual reaction towards me. I wonder if it would be alright to tell Luna about my preference for her or if that would have an detrimental effect. But right now Chu-Z has just released their second album and finishing a small tour, with Asuka graduating after it. I should probably await the outcome of the current situation, until I act further.

I digressed in contemplation, so back to topic. Luna is one of the members that more or less always happens to have one of the shortest queues, easily surpassing Maia and Kaede though. A nice advantage for its respective fans, as short queues are the easiest to find – and the fastest 😉 Not so much for the idol in question though. I always feel pity for Kaede, whose lane phases out the quickest, which leaves her no other choice to stay around bored, watching chats by other members or even ends with advertising Chu-Z by handing out flyers or calling out to fans of other groups during festivals. Her personality it seems doesn’t work well with the mindset of the general Japanese fan, it seems. Though on the other hand I am still unable to fathom idol preferences of fans – what makes an idol popular and what isn’t.

Okay, but NOW back on topic: My meeting with Luna. We had to decide on the cheki but as I overexerted myself in that department with the Bellha girls (lol) I let her take the initiative. Luna suggested some neko/pyon pose for no specific reason, so yeah, that is what we did. I brought her first performance in Nagoya few days ago as an solo artist to her attention and asked her how she felt. I didn’t understand her reply, so she tried in English, but in vain, as I failed to get her pronounciation. But Luna wasn’t at the end of her wits, looked for a piece of paper and wrote down the English word ‘nervous’. Now we were talking. We talked some more about it and her wearing the yellow uniform, but then had to finish.

I decided to next talk with Kana, of course. As she belongs to the most favourite members (I believe Kana, Asuka and Miku to roughly have the same amount of fans) her queue was actually even passing outside into the lobby. As the whole event with the exception of Asuka was done as usual – cheki, sign, akushu – all in one – moving forward took quite a while. I was received Kana-style, cheerful and with bright smile, being called by my name. She also adopted the same pose as Luna before so I assume this has something to do with Asuka? They probably told me, but I forgot. As there was still an unresolved question from our last meeting I asked Kana what she meant with first anniversary back then, adding my assumption that she meant our first encounter. This by the way is also some issue which makes me doubt the before mentioned perception of the girls from me. For Kana specifically I called out her name during our first meeting as a greeting and she had been the first member whose birthday live I have attended. But other reactions by the members contradict this thoughts. Makes my contemplate about just keeping my role as a foreign fan of Chu-Z, without further specialisation. Anyway, Kana confirmed it to be the anniversary about our first encounter, so I praised her memory. I was contemplating about talking to her about her gravure activity, as there was some Twitter event going on about that time, with her as a participant. But I dislike such topics, so skipped it entirely. Anything else is hidden in the fog that was her smile!

For the birthday girl Asuka, already one of the most popular member, the event was changed for her. To cope with the demand of fans, only a cheki was done, with a short amount of time for a talk. Signs were omitted. This I would soon be made aware of very directly. When it was my turn, I was led directly to Asuka, without them giving me the choice to choose between a regular or a wide cheki, as it was done with the other fans. But maybe there was a specific requirement for it, as I never saw wide chekis being used by Chu-Z before. Asuka held a big flower bouquet the whole event that day, kind of as an accessory, which gave the whole picture a nice touch. Despite having dealt a lot with fans already that day, Asuka was still in great mood, but as the staff demanded to take a picture right away, we had to do accordingly, leaving us no time to decide a pose, hence the terrible posture of mine. Only then was I able to congratulate her for her birthday and she thanked me kindly. The cheki was then handed to me and now Asuka wanted to tell me something about the sign, which I couldn’t really understand. She tried to say it again, asking the staff, but to no avail. What came next was made me laugh: She looked around the crowd, mumbling to herself ‘English. Where is Yutan?’, but failing to spot him she began calling out for anyone able to speak English. Surprisingly fast someone came forward and explained to me that today signs won’t be done, but I can make up for it the next time. Of course I agreed. Not only was my next participation at another Chu-Z live already decided, but I also didn’t care too much about it, as I already have quite a lot of her signs and therefore not in the need to get one.

This also ended our meeting and after some further observation of the event I started to leave for my hotel, being very pleased with my endeavours that day.


2 thoughts on “Cheki M.I.A.

  1. That’s interesting in your “boxing day not part of xmas” thing, were your idols dressed as idols on xmas day? Mine weren’t… it was most disappointing after 3 different xmas outfits on 23rd (2 shows) and 24th… being so plain on actual xmas…

    Funny how that same evening, me and Marty went to see Bellheart, well, we drunk outside at the combini instead with all the random foreign fans who were present… oh… that was also the day an idol took home my cheki and never returned it… I’ve met her at least twice since then (and on different trips) but I doubt I’ll ever get it back! At the time I thought it was the best cheki I’d ever taken as well…

  2. Seems you haven’t read my former posts 😛
    On the 22nd, Idols started wearing Christmas outfits. This lasted until the 25th. But as I have written there somewhere, I didn’t care about it. I prefer the usual uniforms.

    Would have loved to see the show at that evening, but I had/would go for plenty of great Bellha shows this trip, so turning up for the birthday took priority, especially when it concerns a member of Chu-Z.
    Makes me wonder about the foreigners though. But well, not really, as they obviously weren’t fans of Bellha, drinking outside instead 😛
    The missing cheki with Kanra is one issue, but I will soon add another edition of a similar story, which is even more complicated.

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