I: Welcome to today’s interview!
Me: Thank you. Pleased to be here.
I: We want to talk about your idol activities you have done on the 2nd of May. But before that, tell me about yourself. How come you became a wota (idol fan)?
Me: Well, few years ago I was struck by a serious illness. I was nearly 1 year out of work and needed some time to adjust again. This made me revaluate my former life, as friends, family, girlfriends, TV, whatever didn’t impress me much. It was then in October 2013, when I, a fan of Asian Drama TV, was searching Youtube for new shows or something, during which one of the videos in the recommendation list that was displayed turned out to be the Next Flight MV from PASSPO. I was hooked immediately, as all the videos I found further about PASSPO were straight rock songs, something I would never have believed to be possible, as the connection between a girl group and Rock Music is unthinkable in the “West”. It was another revelation for me, when I found out what the term of “Japanese Idol” in terms of PASSPO meant, with its basic pattern of cute girls, good Rock music and the direct contact with the idols itself! It really was a revelation in a kind, as I always missed the bond between fans and musicians. They both seemed so far apart, though just being meters away from the stage. Therefore, combined with my general appreciation for music and Japan – I had travelled there two times already in the past – I finally found what I was looking for. (enthusiastic)
I: So instead of falling back into the secure net of family and friends, you turned to the shallow idol glitter world.
Me: Completely. Idols provide me the perfect distraction from daily life. Nothing else before had such an effect on my happiness. Family, friends, girlfriends – all were more or less just annoying to me. Additionally we don’t share much interests in common and the things, people of my age usually like, left me just unimpressed. Disco, late night drinking, cars, later children – bores the hell out of me out. I am more like the guys in this video:
I: Sounds reasonable. Tell me how it continued after your discovery of PASSPO.
Me: Sure. As I already mentioned I looked up infos on the group, but those were hard to find. Apart from the most basic information, news or reports about them were rather sparse. But eventually I came upon two idol blogs that frequently mentioned them, and also other idol groups: They were run by QwiksXnd and Tsutomo. Later I also found the blog by Infzer0. All of these provided me the necessary backstory of what I wanted to know and it also gave me the opportunity to hear about a lot of other idol groups. The best example here is Tsutomo‘s blog. In one of his reports he gave a link to a group he actually despises, but for me it would soon became my favourite of them all: Bellring Girls Heart, with their song Ice Cream. But the most important information I got from those blogs were the travel tips and the reassurance that I can do an idol trip some time. This would become reality in summer 2014. The rest is history.
Me: Because of this importance I linked the three blogs on the starting page. It may also be of interest, that I met all three of them, curiously even all on my first trip, and two of them I consider friends.
I: (tearing up) But you not only met the three blog writers that time but also many of the groups you still like today, haven’t you?
Me: Definitely. PASSPO exceeded all my expectations but only my first meeting with Bellring Girls Heart really showed me how great idol events can be, with them handling it in a more casual atmosphere. Other groups I had met were Party Rockets and I saw JyuJyu for the first time, though I didn’t talk with them back then. Obviously I didn’t had the experience yet for idol etiquette and was still reluctant to talk to them. Also it was still difficult to understand how the whole idol business was operated and what was important to me. Back then my focus was clearly in seeing as much groups as possible on stage.
I: Oh, an interesting point! Isn’t that the main point, in seeing your favourite music groups perform live?
Me: Well, not necessarily. Back then I made the mistake that probably many people from overseas will do, who for the first time come in contact with idols – something they never had experienced before, as something comparable doesn’t exist in other parts of the world (to my knowledge). Even the idols in Korea are different, for example focussing much more on the looks and attitude of the idols and also limiting themselves to certain music genres. In contrast Japanese Idols appear in much more diverse form and, most important to me, perform to some great Rock music. So being exposed to something so different you start to take it all in, in part for getting a better understanding of it all. It is why in my opinion many people turn into the infamous DD then.
I: And this is not the case with you, or at least not anymore?
Me: Well, this depends on the individual opinion. (laugh) Like everything, from society to religion the idol fandom developed some ridiculous amount of contradicting rules and opinions, which do more harm than good. Some of them I consider downright stupid. My personal “favourite” being the limitation some people put on themselves in just liking one specific idol or group. To me it is just hilarious. I can – barely – accept this for theatre groups like AKB, as here there are constant popularity elections, that decide the future of its members. Probably why I never cared for them. But for everything else? Do people limit themselves to just one TV show, or just one type of food? Or to get closer to home: Would someone only listen to just one specific musician? Those type of “fans” are far to obsessive for me and I am slightly afraid of them. Luckily I am tall. (laugh)
Why should idols be treated differently? Just because they involve girls? To me they are not girlfriends or anything. I realise they are basically nice to you because of money. It is a business, a nice fantasy world. So I see no harm in listening or talking to other idols. You can focus on one specific idol – nothing against that and even recommended for the stronger mental bond I mentioned before – but you should never disregard other idols just for the reason of this seeming inappropriate or being some sort of betrayal or mistrust. Just enjoy idols the way you like it and don’t concern yourself with other peoples thoughts on it.
I: So what I take from this rant is you are still liking several groups or individual idols evenly?
Me: Neither yes nor no. I still like several groups and Idols. What changed are my priorities. Back then all of them had basically same attention level from me, apart from PASSPO apparently. But I this is something that slowly changed over time, as it became to difficult to uphold such kind of behaviour, with idols performing like every day in Tokyo. Instead I focus now one my two favourite groups – PASSPO, as they were practically my first idol love. You never forget your firsts. (laugh) – And Bellring Girls Heart, who I probably like even more now, as I came to appreciate the different atmosphere around the group. Difficult to explain, but with Ayano they also feature my favourite idol of all. My trips are generally scheduled around events by them – in part as I would never be able to decide on a date otherwise. (laugh) Nevertheless I make sure to not neglect other groups that impress me in one way or another. Be it Party Rockets GT, JyuJyu, PiiiiiiiN, Chu-Z or whoever.
I: Much diversity is still at play. (laugh)
Me: No disagreement! (laugh)
I: So on the 2nd of May, you visited a small festival in Shibuya, right?
Kus Kus / Kin♡Gin♡Pearls / リナチックステイト / キャラメル☆リボン / With Love / clipclip / 中村 綾 / 小熊 あやめ / LONDON BLUE / KATA☆CHU / 地球人 / Flying Mermaid / 東京ロケッツ
Me: Right, at Shibuya Glad. And you kid not: It really was one of the smallest venues I have been so far. Though I have to correct myself: It was big enough to loose my way in it, which made it necessary to ask for the exit. (laugh)
I: You haven’t found the exit? Seriously?
Me: This venue is super small when it comes to the stage and the area for the attendees. But it is super complicated when it comes to getting there and back. Stairs, corners, people,…
I: Hard to believe…
Me: This tells me you have never been to Japan. (laugh) The issue that let me get lost was the idols having put up their booths after the show, with people queuing up to participate in it. Yes, and one of those groups put theirs right before the exit, which I believed to be against common sense. Well, apparently not. (laugh)
I: Okay, this sheds another light on the topic. But this happened after the shows. Tell us more about the beginning and how you got there.
Me: It was already the last day of my trip and I used the daytime for some sightseeing around Ueno Station, especially for Ueno Park. This way I could do something together with Andy again, a friend of mine who had accompanied me this trip.
I: Oh, does he likes idols, too?
Me: The answer is an absolute NO! (laugh) Although being a fan of music and attending concerts, he couldn’t get used to the idea of idols. The age for some of the girls, the quality of their songs and performances, the fans behaviour, the surrounding events where you have to pay many for interaction and other things that many foreigners can’t comprehend. He was okay with some of them though, like PASSPO and expressed some appreciation for Party Rockets GT‘s Haruka.
I: At least he displayed some taste then. (laugh)
Me: Well, he also liked Nachu of PASSPO…
I: I take back my last comment. But back to topic: Were you both at the festival?
Me: No, after we finished with Ueno, Andy was doing something else and me went to the Glad. There wasn’t many good groups present, actually I knew only one of them, but those I have never seen perform live and I wanted to finally change that: Tokyo Rockets.
I: Aah, I remember you having mentioned them here in the blog already. You met them some time ago for just the after show event only, right?
Me: Correct. I missed there live back then as I didn’t know they performed there.
I: So did they perform early?
Me: Of course not. They were the act before last. (sigh) So I had to endure quite some groups before. And I didn’t like any of them. Except for Tokyo Rockets, who really put on a great show. They have a far more sexier style than their sister group.
I: Although much younger. Something smells wrong here…
Me: Only from where you at… (smirk)
I: I know, idols have to be seen apart from any context that is established in the “West”. But you told me, that Tokyo Rockets haven’t been the only group you later took part in at an event. How does this comply with your statement of not liking any group there?
Me: This actually is quite funny, though I didn’t like it back then. See, the festival was in parts moderated by an … well, moderator. He interviewed every group shortly after their live. During the last act – some Ayame girl, a solo idol – it happened them seeing me in the audience. Just because of another idol, Ryoko from the group ClipClip, who stood directly behind me during the live of Ayame, watching the show. Because her uniform was glitter all over, it reflected the spotlights very well and caught the attention of Ayame – and in that instance, also made me becoming noticed. So a small conversation spun out between us four – Moderator, Ayame, Ryoko and Me – with bad English from their side and evenly bad Japanese from mine. As the conversation was understandably problematic, Ryoko sometimes helped me out by translating. Not that her English was any better than that of your average idol. (laugh)
I: Aww, that is so kind and sweet.
Me: Yes, it was. It is always quite nice to engage with idols in a very free manner, aside from paid events. The pleasures of a small festivals with (still) unpopular idols. The downside though: The whole “conversation” took part with the whole audience listening to it. That embarrassment… (laugh) Even better: At one point, the moderator asked something in Japanese, to later rephrase in English the question ” She (Ayame) is a crazy girl, right?” To join the fun, I agreed to that statement. This instantly led to Ayame slowly showing me the middle finger, which in turn made me stick out my tongue. Everything business as usual. (laugh)
I: And this with you who usually tries to avoid any attention, if possible. (laugh) How was the event then afterwards? You started with Tokyo Rockets?
Me: Tokyo Rockets became a bit of a disappointment. It is not the girls fault or anything. But when I met them, they were clearly in fishing mode, allowed to freely talking to you. But now it was an event with strict rules, so no friendly atmosphere at the whole. A nice touch became me noticing, while I bought a shirt and an all-member-cheki, how Miku was explaining to the other members who I was. Momoko, who wore the same shirt as the one I bought, also displayed hers to me for size reference, I guess, as she told me it was L-size as well.
I: A damn fine design I must admit. How about the cheki?
Me: Oh, it was lovely. First: It is a wide cheki. I love those. With group shots you can better fit all the person in it and for individual ones, you have a much better resolution. And second: It is also signed by each member, something unthinkable for a regular sized Polaroid.
I: But I heard people complaining about wide chekis, as there are no real storage possibilities for it.
Me: Doesn’t concern me, as I plaster my apartment wall with it, to hide the holes. (laugh)
I: So for everyone to see? You are quite open about it.
Me: It is something I love. If I would feel the need to hide it, that would be worrisome. Still it is quite funny to see reactions by people, like craftsman.
I: Now show me the cheki finally!
Me: Here it is. Of course, like with every idol cheki, dark background or shirts sucks.
I: Okay. Maybe some final statement about Tokyo Rockets and then let us talk about Ryoko. (wink)
Me: Musically Tokyo Rockets are definitely to look out for. I just hope they will release something new anytime soon. They have some nice unrecorded songs in their set list. But with Tokyo Rockets it is quite difficult to see lives by them, as it seems that they only perform on weekends, in very small festivals with lots of unknown groups. Probably won’t make the effort again to go to some of those. As I implied I am not out for finding new groups but rather try to maintain good relations with the groups I like now. So listening to unrelated groups can on the one side turn out dangerous in terms of money, if you come to like them, but otherwise listening to groups I have no fondness of makes me neither enjoy the music nor the performance.
I: So there was not one single song from one of the other you came to appreciate?
Me: For me developing appreciation for a music group I need to like their whole discography. It is why I generally hate it, when a group tries to change its usual style. The same with songs. When I hear a good one for the first time, my first reflex is to find information about the artist. If I don’t like it, the song is dead to me. For example the famous White Stripes song you hear now in football stadiums all the time. Can find no bond with it, so I can not like it, no matter the quality. I was therefore never a radio listener. I prefer listening to whole discographies in shuffle mode. MP3 has been a great invention!
I: I wonder if many people feel that way with music? But anyway, Ryoko!
Me: This is interesting, as right before I went for the Tokyo Rockets booth, Ryoko was running around, distributing flyers. Of course she saw me and we talked again. She displayed me the Flyer, told me about her being a new member and even marked her Twitter with a pen on it, to make sure to follow her. Which I later did, out of courtesy.
I: But you haven’t taken a cheki with her yet.
Me: No, but after all this coincidents with her helping me out during the show before and then running into me again, I felt kind of obliged to do it. I am such a gentleman.
Me: I therefore went for the booth of ClipClip, to make sure how the event is handled. Staff and fans were occupied so I had to talk with one of its members. Don’t ask me which! I inquired for a cheki with Ryoko and the idol I already forgot told me about simply queuing up, as buying merchandise wasn’t necessary. So I got in the queue. The participation of a foreigner by a small unpopular group like ClipClip seemed so surprising to their fans, that I was immediately led to the front, being the next in line for Ryoko. I actually don’t like that form of courtesy. Don’t get me wrong, it is very nice by them, but I don’t like being treated special. Getting some help from fans, staff or even idols during the live or event is very much appreciated though, as this can be quite difficult for oversea fans.
I: I assume fans are very helpful over there in general?
Me: Definitely. If you really need help or ask for it directly, they always try to help you out, even if you don’t speak English. Sometime it goes as far that they try to make conversation with you even. Those can get quite funny, with neither side really understanding a thing. (laugh)
I: But back to Ryoko…
Me: She was very pleased to see me and in general did a professional job during our conversation. Most surprising part was the cheki shot itself, as she grabbed my arm and got close to me for the shot. Definitely a nice ‘touch’. Ryoko also made a witty comment in her sign, thanking me in it for coming from a far away place to see her.
I: Was there any additional conversation?
Me: We actually talked for quite a while, more than two minutes at least. I noticed Ryoko being quite tall and expressed my appreciation for it. We talked about Osaka, as she stems from there and me having visited it quite often. Embarrassing moment was when I had to swipe my nose in between. When I was about to leave she also handed me her business card, displaying further information to that of the flyer.
I: I can definitely see some nice ‘additions’ there. (smirk)
Me: (laugh) This is something I only became aware of later. As some further coincidence Julian tweeted about having also seen ClipClip that same day at another festival, joking about fans of different groups taking part in their event. When I told him that I did too, he was surprised and Julian even asked about the name of the idol I took it with. Hearing it was Ryoko, he laughed (virtually), as he explained to me that she is an already popular idol, being known for her cup-size. Well, her uniform covered that quite nice.
I: So will you see Ryoko again?
Me: Maybe if she is at the same festival I am at and there is nothing else to do. As I explained, her group didn’t impress me and I wouldn’t know what to talk with her, that would interest me.
I: I see. With this being your final report for this trip: Has your approach towards idols changed in some way? Your next trips(!) are already scheduled.
Me: I noticed me being much calmer now, when I had to pass on a show and that on future trips I will put even more priority in seeing PASSPO and Bellring Girls Heart. It also didn’t bother me that much anymore for not being able to see other groups I usually try to meet. For example I didn’t make it for Chu-Z, though that mostly for them performing in the Kansai area at the time. Or Predia, who made some release events, but always at times I had to walk around with my friend. This actually bothers me still. First that I missed Predia and my chance to meet with Runa, who soon after this became ill and is in hiatus since then. And second: Never travel with a friend again, who is not into idols and new top Japan! It only complicates things.
I: Well, thank you for the interview.
Me: Thank you for welcoming me for it.