22.12.2016 – 03.01.2017
The purpose of this entire winter trip was becoming a witness to the final days of Bellring Girls Heart, the group that slowly over time became my favourite idol group, and to show my support for my favourite member and idol – Yanagisawa Ayano. I am very happy to tell you upfront, that it all went as planned, if not even better. I was in Tokyo for 13 days, Bellha performed on 9 days for 11 shows. I was able to attend 9 of them, including the most important one – their final show on New Years Eve!It became also a grand time with meeting their fan base almost daily, befriending new people and meeting good acquaintances again. It also became my strangest ride through the idol circus yet, in terms of tickets, announcements and circumstances. The only other groups I engaged with were PASSPO, Party Rockets GT and PiiiiiiiN, only the latter for two times. So let’s start the review, shall I?
The first day was supposed to become the most tiresome, with me just arriving in the morning for the One Man Live of Bellring Girls Heart the same evening. But as luck wanted it, I was offered a Business Class seat at Helsinki and it made the travel definitely more relaxing. I wasn’t able to really sleep as usual, but to be able to complete lying down horizontally helped a lot in feeling good and well prepared for the up-coming live. I also befriended a swedish guy, Andreas, sitting next to me, he too sharing the luck of a surprising change to Business Class. Together we enjoyed chatting and drinking beer, well, him mostly, lol. Pity though that our schedules didn’t allow us to meet later during the trip.
Immigration and trip to hotel in Akasaka became easy. As check-in was only at 17 o’clock I booked me a short stay room for a shower and change of clothes and then went to the Blitz, just a 100 meters away. Here I met several acquaintances again, mainly Chuan and Batista, so it wasn’t too boring to wait for the entry. On the contrary there were more than enough things to keep me occupied. I met up with Marty to hand him his ticket for the live, I took part in the merchandise sales for the new released Spine EP and with the help of Yuu acquired tickets for a new announced show on the 27th. This provided me with my second image ticket of the group. As my cheki wall at home was already out of space for new additions I took the opportunity of Bellha selling lovely designed cheki albums. (I replaced the chekis already from my wall into the albums. As expected now I hardly look at them, as it is to bothersome now, lol.) Of course the concert shirt was also on my list. It’s members-turned-into-manga-characters on the front is not really my taste, but the back is nice, displaying the member names and concert date. The addition of group name and maybe City would have have made it perfect.
The live itself became mixed. We gaijin pack took place at front centre and here we met Jaime, another fan from France. We would see him again the next days as well. A very nice guy! After the first few songs I decided to get more in the back, the crowd-surfing became much too annoying for me, with most of them fidgeting around like having a seizure. The set list was of the more avantgarde variety, enjoyable for fans of the group, but not so much for the casual on-looker (Wasn’t it, Martin? lol) The final turned amazing and tiring at the same time, with the refrain of The Edge of Goodbye getting repeated for over a dozen times. To endure that I would have had to prepare myself with some marathons runs for this part of the show. Lots of people have lost there personal belongings throughout the show (mobile phones, hats, shoes, wallets) or broken their glasses, like Chuan. So this should give you an idea of what had happened. If you also want to experience the live: It was recorded and entirely officially released on their Youtube account.
As expected for such a big occasion, the after show events were limited to a group cheki. But as these are rare in the case of Bellring Girls Heart – I should soon be proven otherwise – and me liking group shots a lot, I didn’t minded in the least. The queue was starting at the staircase for the second floor, going upwards, there going the the back staircase and downwards to first floor again – quite impressive. The cheki was quickly done and I was particular happy to have been greeted by Ayano “Hey Tobi!!, while she leaned closer towards me. What a nice start!
It had been terribly raining that day and I was tired enough from the flight and the exercise at the live that I quickly went to bed, after returning Chuan his merchandise he left in my hotel room for storages sake.
That day the evening live of Bellring Girls Heart took place at Shinjuku Loft. It was part of their “Shallow Grave” tour and therefore a second group was there as support, this time being the music band Urban Garde. We met Jaime again and it was fun being in a smaller venue – but this time it was me who broke his glasses. Luckily I was prepared for this and had spare glasses with me. That evening though Kanra wasn’t present because of a cold. She should be away until the 27th, resulting in her Birthday live on Christmas Eve having to be delayed to that day. It would also be the start of a wave of illness hitting the group, but you will see that shortly.
For the cheki Ayano proposed the fist bump pose and of course I didn’t complain. We probably talked about my glasses being broken and yesterday’s One Man, but I can’t be sure now.
They also had some nice merchandise out since yesterday, including posters for the Spine EP as well as photobooks. Not really a fan of the latter, but they do well on display on my cupboard, lol. And as this trip was majorly for the reason of the last farewell to Bellring Girls Heart, it felt 0nly right to purchase these items. It also helped filling up my point card.
Christmas Eve arrived – but no Kanra and therefore her birthday celebration, as she was ill. No matter, than other things kept me occupied enough. At noon it would start with the One Man Live of BAND PASSPO, my first. The plan was to meet Caio and Marty before, but the first came late, only sometime during the show, the latter wasn’t too keen on waiting before the venue. I met Marty inside though and we got ourselves a good place in the centre of the venue, which happened to be Shinjuku Blaze. The show was sold out, so quite a good result. I have only bought the photosets before as no merchandise for this specific event was released. The photosets gave me four tickets for the events, enough to cheki and talk with Yukki.
The live was quite good, but honestly I miss the songs of their output which require more instrumental skills. Nevertheless the set list was okay and fun. But an issue returned again – a very short duration of the show, approximately one and a half hour only. Seems like the old age of the members – in idol terms – takes its toll…
Getting in touch with Yukki became so easy again, as the line for her was not even counting in the double-digits. I feel so elitist with her. It was very nice to experience her surprised joy of seeing me. And it became apparent on the cheki again, with Yukki putting her hand on my shoulder. Also she pointed at my scarf and told me that she has seen me in the audience during the show – which I could not really believe, as I was not in her point of view the most time, taking the static positions from band members into consideration. But she insisted of it being the case. Well, now she just needs to remember my name – the only aspect that is missing with her. Our further talks were basically wishing each other a good Christmas time and me telling her that she looks kakkoi with her guitar. As usual Yukki denied politely.
The time after the show I spent with Caio walking the city until I made my way to Shibuya O-Nest, for a festival on which Bellha would take part in. They were scheduled as the act before last, so I had to experience some groups before them. I think one was Aphrodite, but one of the groups happened to be Guso Drop, still with Saki. Their music was actually quite listenable, but the fans stupid bastards, doing spin wheel kicks and heavy moshing, disturbing even the on-lookers in the audience. I feel elitist again for not taking part in such simple minded actions. The usual crowd was present for the Bellring Girls Heart live, including of course Chuan and Batista, but also Jaime and an American, who just recently started to live in Japan – his nickname on the internet being Philter. The latter being a big fan of the alt.idol scene, with no real favourite group though. He enjoyed the Gusu Drop live and the later Bellha live to the fullest though, couldn’t believe the action and sweat. Thanks to all for the several liftings!
Although Kanra wasn’t present, the fans were still displaying banners throughout the lives, with the group on the other hand showing off a big photo of hers. As the birthday girl was absent, it made made it easy for me to just talk with Ayano, who wasn’t in her best mood that day though. I quickly wished her Merry Christmas and took off, hoping to see her more cheerful tomorrow.
After the show Batista took Chuan and me to a nice sushi restaurant just a few hundred meters away, were we stayed way after midnight. I missed my subway because of it, but luckily my hotel was still in Akasaka, so the taxi didn’t took too long there. Definitely my best spent Christmas so far.
Today my time table was considered to be:
- At 12:00 Bellha live at Shinjuku Marz
- At 16:50 solo live by Hara Ayano at Shibuya Underworld
- At 19:00 Bellha live again at Shinjuku Marz
Tight schedule, but doable, with Shinjuku and Shibuya being quite close. But a sudden announcement should interfere, as you will see.
The noon live was actually for the sake of returning shukudai’s, meaning chekis that were taken home by the idols for its decoration, from the Spine EP release events a week ago. Good for fans of Ayano and Mizuho, than the rest of the group members turned out ill! First a tweet was posted, that Re-Re could appear for the next days, and like an hour later even Kai had to pass. So the live could only be done by two – Ayano and Mizuho, coincidentally the two members who would leave Bellring Girls Heart initially. That was definitely something special. And it also became very funny, them not being prepared at all and having to debate on stage over each of the songs they could perform (the producer responsible for the set lists usually wasn’t present as well). Mizuho especially turning the live more into a comedy show, with some songs put in-between.
For the events Ayano and Mizuho each occupied one half of the stage, with both having a table with bunches on photosets on top of it. I first thought of using the table as a prop, but didn’t want any photos on my cheki. So instead we just did some general pose, which made Ayano looking lovely. I found my verve back with hers also, by first handing her four cheki coins, as I forgot to give her two at the live the day before. She thanked me for this honesty and asked me how long I would stay this time. When I told her that it would be two weeks, Ayano stated that it was a very long time. Hm, two weeks is long? Anyway, I continued by telling her that today the stage had been quite lonely, but that they both done well. Furthermore we were talking a bunch about her “vacation time” at the beginning of the new year. Ayano first put on a thinking pose, then replied with “There will be a little (vacation time)”, but she wanted to use it primarily for sleeping. I supported that thought, telling her about my plans to take the next day free for resting, as there was no Bellha live scheduled for the day and I felt kind of tired after the prior straining days. Ayano expressed her sympathy with that. I also could make her laugh with my prepared joke, that if now Mizuho would turn out ill as well, Ayano would need to held her solo live much earlier than planned. It was fun.
As every Bellha show this trip us gaijin-troup (Batista, Chuan, Me) stayed until the end of the event, which lasted over three hours. Luckily so, as Ayano and Mizuho announced at the end, that before the evening’s show tickets for the final show of Bellring Girls Heart on New Years Eve would be sold – but to avoid buy-outs from ticket re-sellers like with the PassCode Two Man the same day, tickets could only be pre-ordered by fans having tickets for the evening live at Shinjuku Marz today. Incredible news and some chance I couldn’t pass upon by no means. The exact time of the sales was not decided yet, so a bit after 16 o’clock I left straight for Shibuya, intending to see Hara Ayano‘s live. I had to use my mobile phone maps several times to find the place for the ticket sales and the actual live venue of hers, but managed to arrive punctual. Ayano‘s performance wouldn’t start before 15 minutes. It was 16:45.
But then Chuan tweeted me, telling me that Bellha staff had started making a list where fans could reserve their ticket for the later sales. I had to decide quick now, then although it was unlikely that tickets would be sold out soon, I didn’t want to risk anything – It was the final live of the group, with my favourite idol, and on New Years Eve! – so I headed back to Shinjuku immediately. Sad about not being able to experience a Hara Ayano solo live, but I have hope to have the chance another time. When I arrived at the Marz again, I got straight into the queue, got my reservation and then went for some McDonalds – my first food for the day.
When the entry for the evening show started, I exchanged my reservation for the real ticket – so happy! – and bought myself the missing amount of needed merchandise to complete my point card. The live was again performed by just Ayano and Mizuho, but this time a set list was prepared.
The event in the evening was quickly done for me, as the cheki time was shortened and the signing of it omitted, to not overexert the two remaining members, who now had to handle the complete crowd that would have otherwise splitted onto five members. Again only a general pose. I was out of breath and the air-conditioning at Marz was terrible. So when Ayano was asking me something and even hold up her index finger like on the cheki below, I understood this to be her suggestion of a pose. Instead she was asking me, how many chekis I wanted (“Just one?”). I definitely needed a rest after all this commotion!
The fact that they only sold tickets to the fans present – just one ticket per person was handed out and even individualised with the name of the fan – wasn’t ideal, as much as the online sale wouldn’t have been. There seemed to be no better solution though and I was just happy to have been at the right place at the right time – With a little help from my friends (Beatles reference finally!).
The rest was possible on this day. A festival was scheduled with Lovely Doll, Chu-Z and Ice Cream Suicide on the bill, but I was too tired and also developed a cold. So instead I stayed in the hotel for the whole day, only shortly going out for some meal.
Kanra returned! Finally! So tonight’s live at Shibuya WWW X would become her birthday show. It was also announced as wota birthday, so some fans registered themselves to appear on the stage later on. Me on the other hand, who felt slightly better, bought myself a missing piece of a fan shirt I always wanted, but had been sold out – simple design with just the group name on the front and the fans maxim “Good Manners” on its back. I also redeemed my point card, so I can now anticipate a personalized Video Message DVD by Ayano – some time in the future. Probably very far future, when I see that Moechi needed nearly a year for it, lol. On a side note, the live that day was titled under the name “The Final”, so it was very fitting, that with Ayano, Mizuho and Kanra the members on stage consisted of the ones that would leave the group.
They live itself turned out very good, with now three members performing. The birthday fans addition on stage was well done – but what became the most impressive turned out to be the effort that was put into the celebration of Kanra‘s Birthday, with her fans having prepared a huge banner, lots of decoration in the venue, a riding horse and several ballons, that would even light up in the dark. Incredibly well done!
For the after show event I was struggling what to do about Kanra‘s birthday. Would I talked today with her as well again? I decided to first meet with Ayano and then, if time would allow, I queue up for Kanra – so completely the other way around like at her last Christmas live. As today the cheki time for the members was shortened as well, I broke with my usual habit of only one cheki per individual member at each event and instead decided on two with Ayano in one go. Woooh! The main reason being the barriers in front of the stage, for which I had some ideas in my head. I also prepared a little note, an invented conversation between me and Ayano in a joking manner, of course. I wasn’t sure though if I should present it to her and in what way.
Ayano was especially cheerful that day and when I was asked about how many chekis I want to do, I replied with “Two.” I first proposed us looking over the barrier, where Ayano came very near to me. But she would even get more closer during our second shot. Here I just wanted both of us casually leaning over the barrier, but Ayano instead leant against me and put her head on my shoulder. Exciting! I adjusted my pose in return and put my head against hers.I also like the look to the side from Ayano. There was not any time left for communication with her, so I just mentioned the note, wanting to delay it for our next meeting. Instead Ayano was insisting that I hand the note over to her, so I complied. The after effects would become apparent at tomorrows live.
As the queue for Ayano was too long again, the lane for Kanra‘s had already been closed. So I was only left with watching the end of the event from the sideline. But while Batista needed to purchase something at the merchandise table later on and we were waiting there with him, Kanra walked by on her way to the back room and wished us a good night. Shortly after even Mizuho peeked around the corner, as she wanted to leave for home. She did so, greeting us all, and as the gentleman’s we are, we waited for a minute until we took our leave, to avoid any stalking issues.
To be continued in Part 2.