Considering that before my trip only four shows had been announced, but while I arrived nearly everyday shows or events were added, I could count myself lucky – and with me all the other fans of Bellring Girls Heart. Today was another of this sudden shows, an In-Store-Live for promotion of their new single Spine EP at Tower Records Shinjuku, so I weren’t able to go for the Predia One Man. I had never took part in such an event with Bellha, therefore it would become a new experience: Group Chekis I did already with them, but this time it would also be Group Handshakes. Luckily only three members were around, so it wouldn’t become too difficult to think of topics to talk about.
After having troubles again to find the right exit for the Tower Records – Shinjuku is terrible – I’ve met with the others, purchased the needed amount of singles (3 Singles = 3 event tickets) and waited in the area, making sure to catch the matinee. The live area was located in the store itself, just being walled in and rather large – such events must be kind of annoying for store staff and casual customers. Anyway live was good, though basically any fan interaction was disallowed. While waiting for the after show events, an earthquake happened (my first!), but nothing to be afraid about. I also used the time to buy me the Kanra Birthday Shirt, which I hadn’t yet.
The events started with the group handshake, all covered their faces with masks to avoid any infection – a wise decision after the recent breakouts – Kanra being first in line. Me was wearing a mask as well, not feeling too well that day, but despite it I seemed to be easy recognisable, as Kanra said something in that way. and I inquired about her health. She was fine and her usual self, wonderful. And then I was already put further to the next member. Although Bellha usually offering extended times at events, for the handshake it was quickly done. Maybe something they changed after the group handshake during TIF 2015, where I also was in the queue, but didn’t get to take part in it due to the lane hardly moving forward. Anyway it was Ayano next, who only mentioned to me “warui” (= You are bad!) in a cheerful way. I didn’t know at first what she meant, but it was because of my note that I gave her the day before and she referred to the pun of hers in it. Hehehe. It went all to quick for me, so when I approached Mizuho that I had nothing to talk about. So I told her exactly that. lol
The cheki session was like usual – seat in the middle for the fan, the members around it. The two missing members Kai and Re-Re were also put into the picture with the chicken dolls. As the members left their masks on I did the same, and so it became a very unusual but unique shot, with Mizuho keeping her closeness again.
I felt terrible today and nearly stayed at the hotel again, but on the last moment I picked myself up and made my way to Odaiba, Zepp DiverCity, for the PiiiiiiiN 3rd Anniversary Live. And luckily I did, as today my favourite but graduated member – Hara Ayano – rejoined the group for this special occasion. Also Riko was present, who due to studies hardly appears with the group anymore.
When arriving at the venue and purchasing the tour shirt as the only merchandise, I saw blue shirts as well – member colour of Hara Ayano. As I didn’t know she would appear (apparently she posted it on Twitter for several days, but I was not taking attention, as I could not even imagine that possibility), I haven’t bought me any shirt of hers. Not really an issue though, as she wouldn’t appear as PiiiiiiiN member after today, I had already a nice collection of fan shirts and I wouldn’t wear any of it to her solo activities anyway.
The live itself was only good in the aspect of all the original members appearing (I disregard the short stay of Nina). What made me the most happy was Ayano performing solo in the encore. As I had arrived late I wasn’t quite near the stage, which brings me to the issues of the show: It wasn’t even close to sold out and you could easily notice that. To make matters worse, the area for VIP tickets holders at the centre before the stage, was stocked with seats. As most of the hardcore fans were in this area and therefore disabled for any decent participation due to the limited space, the atmosphere left a lot to wish for. Probably also the fact of the high and wide venue itself much of the noise was swallowed. The three finalists of the audition for new members were also introduced and had to perform a song of PiiiiiiiN each. I don’t care about any of them and the fact that as of yet, none of them had been integrated into the group for replacement of Ayano or even Riko, makes the situation even more confusing to me. Maybe because of all that no live video was released. Fumika of Party Rockets GT had been present at the live. Seems like we have a similar taste when it comes to idol groups, herself also liking PASSPO.
The events were held in the venue itself, not the lobby. Surprisingly chekis were offered and even signs later on, though I only stayed for the prior, still feeling not too good. When I lined up, the queues were still decent in length, so it was soon my turn for talking to Ayano, of course. She still remembered me, lol. Our chat was mostly me expressing my happiness to see her again, that I liked her solo song she performed on stage and my promise to attend one of her solo lives some time in the future.
For the last member to talk to I chose Ami, simply for the fact of her being that nice to me in November and to show her that I really attended the One Man, as I had told her. Again we failed in really getting a conversation going but, oh well, my goal was achieved.
It was nice to be able to listen and meet with another group again, allowing some distraction instead of the same repeats all over. Of course it is nice to see your favourite group (and idol) so often, but having favourites still includes for me to have other groups I can appreciate.
The day became hectic, as I had to check out from my hotel, for sharing an Airbnb with Allan later. In the meantime I met with Shaun for lunch. He had just arrived two days before but because of his own lives we haven’t been able to meet earlier. I inquired at my hotel for directions to a Yakiniku restaurant, but as it was not the all-you-can-eat type, neither of us became really saturated.
Again another shortly scheduled Bellring Girls Heart In-Store-Live, though this time at HMV&BOOKS in Shibuya. This became more or less special, then as the event space is rather small, fans in the front sat down through out the show and me was one of them. And I must say, it became a really pleasant experience, just enjoying the music without any obtrusions by fans and watching the performance in detail, again handled by the three soon-to-be-graduates Ayano, Kanra and Mizuho. Not much more to tell about the live itself, just that Ayano mistakenly pronounced the Spine EP as Spain EP, a fact that I would remember.
The events were the same as last time – Group Handshake followed by Group Cheki later. Interestingly I always assumed group chekis a hard to get item with the group, but this trip alone would lead to three of them, accounting to five all together. The motion of the queue wasn’t fast, but the talks itself have been. It was the same sequence – Kanra, Ayano, Mizuho. Not sure what I talked with Kanra about, we probably were just joking around. Ayano I asked, in reference to the MC before, if she wants to visit Spain. She caught me totally off guard with her honest reply “Yes, I want to go!”, thus leaving me speechless as I expected a pouting reaction of hers. Only later a fitting answer came to mind, by offering her my service as tour-guide. But the chance was lost. Mizuho I told that her face during the song 2SoundDown is scary. She wouldn’t believe me though. (It really is.)
For the group cheki Ayano this time was staying behind the fan sitting on the chair. She was very touch-friendly, embracing many of the fans. With me instead though she put her hands around my neck, asking me kindly if that is alright with me. I agreed. Then when the cheki was to be shot, Ayano began to squeeze with all her might – her “punishment” for my note I gave her a few days prior. A woman with temperament! Sympathy of the staff was provided to me. lol
A really fun day, which was closed by Batista, Chuan and me with eating out again, this time Ramen. In the night I returned to the Airbnb, where I met Allan in a nearby Denny’s, him having not eaten yet (it was 2 am).
The day that no one really wished for (except for maybe Ayano, Kanra and Mizuho of course 😉 had arrived – New Years Eve 2016, which meant the final performance of Bellring Girls Heart. Chuan was able to attend the afternoon live with PassCode already, but as I dislike that group and most of its fans, I wasn’t envious about him. The real pleasure would be in the evening anyway, at Shibuya O-Nest.
In contrast to most lives the organisation this time became much different: Entry was already at 18 o’clock, with the show being from 21 to 24. Merchandise sales were only before the show as well as the events. Under the circumstances and the emotional inclination something to be accepted. I was only left with a few cheki coins, but Chuan was so kind to hand me some. So I approached Ayano first, by wearing the fan made shirt made by Chuan.
Cheki time was limited in the way that signs weren’t personalised that day. Just the usual signature. Ayano was in a very good mood and obviously happy to see me. She pointed out my shirt immediately, raising her thumbs and saying “Very good!”. I stated the fact of this being the last live and wished her much success for today. Ayano was thanking me and told me to watch her.
I then decided to talk with Kanra, as this trip I wasn’t able to meet her outside group handshakes and her illness at the start of my trip. And it became my most interesting and also most pleasant talk with her to date. Usually we have difficulties to understand each others language, but this time I started with expressing my happiness about her continuation in a new group, as I really like her voice. This though resulted in Kanra frowning and telling me “Watashi no koe ha nisemono poi.” As I couldn’t understand it, she surprisingly said in English “I don’t like my voice. It is fake.” I expressed my skepticism about it, telling her it is perfect. Kanra again frowned, looking down and said “Tobi, usotsuki.” (“Tobi, you liar.”). I refused this comment, replying instead about having already said the same to her back then at our fist meeting. In the end we parted in a cheerful way.
As there was still a lot of time left until the live and I got bored from just staying around waiting. My friends were still queuing up over and over again, so I also decided to queue again for Ayano, despite my usual just-one-meeting principle. When it was my turn again, I explained Ayano this exactly like that. It made her laugh. The rest of our conversation was us not understanding each other, but oh well.
The live: An 3-hour show without any interrupting MC and no encore, as it ended at midnight – The end of 2016 being the end of the group. Fittingly the song selection consisted mostly of their melancholic tracks and after the members all left at the end Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata was being played in the background. Only Butch and Tanaka, the producers, came out afterwards for a short thank you. Much displeasure by the fans about it, having prepared flower bouquets and expecting a real last goodbye. But it didn’t happened, despite a group of them chanting their names for over an hour(!). It was kind of heart breaking, definitely emotional, especially with seeing the Mizuho fans, who had to assume to not see her ever again. (Nothing of her change in plans was known then.)
When we got out the venue around 1:30 am, the streets of Shibuya were filled with people, lots of foreigners among them. Hardly anyone of the fans left and an hour later we were rewarded by our patience, as the members came out to go home. A last farewell was given to them by making a walkthrough, us shouting their names. The foreigners around us must probably have wondered what we did and what superstars the girls were. lol
Then the downside of sharing an Airbnb became apparent then. I wanted to go for a drink with the other fans, but Allan called me, telling me his live did already end and he wasn’t keen on staying out further. So I had to return as only I had the only set of keys.
Finally a day of leisure again. No idol events were going on, so Allan and me didn’t do much beside walking the surrounding area, near Tsukiji, and me cooking some western dinner for him. But damn, small Japanese apartments have terrible small kitchens…
The first day of the two-day New Year Premium Party Festival was taking place that day, with venues being Zepp Tokyo and Zepp DiverCity. The weather was pleasant and I met quite a few friends there, like Shaun and Marty. More importantly though (laugh) PASSPO would be Opening Act and later also Party Rockets GT and PiiiiiiiN would perform. To my luck, all the groups I wanted to see performed at Zepp Tokyo, so no extensive change of venue was required.
For the PASSPO live at Zepp Tokyo I have met with Marty and we watched a nice live, separated in an Idol and a Band part, and with the venue nicely filled. After the show I got me the needed event tickets from the merchandise booth in the lobby. It would became quite hectic later, as all the events were located in the Fuji TV building, which is quite a walk from Zepp Tokyo, and the event of PASSPO and the live of Party Rockets GT happening at the same time.
In-between the PASSPO and the Party Rockets GT performance I went for a coffee at Starbucks in the nearby Venus Fort with Marty. For the live I would be alone, as Marty wanted to head for a show in DiverCity. Nothing too bad, as I met the English speaking fan from November there, who again provided me with a yellow penlight for Ayumi‘s solo part during Dream On, Dreamers. You can see the light sticks in the video, which sadly omitted KASABUTA, for copyright reasons…? At least their new song is included and I can not praise their costumes enough, despite the strange ribbon of course. Also Ayumi‘s surprise in a song before is visible in the video when she had spotted me in the crowd, as I got a place close to the stage.
After the live I rushed to the Fuji TV building for the PASSPO event, but although I arrived in time, according to schedule, the members were nowhere to be seen. Whatever the reasons, they weren’t there anymore and I was left with four event tickets. Luckily they have no time limitations so I can redeem them some other trip.
Nothing to be done about it so I made my way back again for Zepp Tokyo, as the time for PiiiiiiiN‘s performance approached. Their live was not gathering many people, so it became easy, too easy, to get a place near the stage. I still enjoyed it though, especially being more in front again. Still, I don’t feel the same intensity for their music anymore.
Now again hurrying to Fuji TV building for the Party Rockets GT events. Marty was with me again and bought a CD to take part as well. I had already bought my share of event tickets before. I took part in the group handshake – although talking with them is so complicated it is fun to meet them all. Most of the conversation was about each other wishing us a happy new year, them in English, me in Japanese. Marty and me then waited for the individual chekis to begin, with both of our turns at the same time, me choosing Ayumi and Marty – someone else. Ayumi just finished a talk with another fan and was leaving for the back already, so the staff had to call fer her, whereas I tried to stay out of the way of the other members, who partially had their talks near me. So I didn’t take attention of Ayumi‘s initial reaction, but Marty later told me he couldn’t miss her calling out my name, as it was so loud. We then took a cool pose, in using the fence around the event area and then Ayumi told me how surprised she was to see me. I told her I had noticed her surprise on stage, she then asked for details of my trip, but I limited my information to tell her I came for meeting with a friend from America (Shaun), as Ayumi herself is half American. A very pleasant meeting, though much too short.
It took a while until PiiiiiiiN the event, so me and Marty waited outside, with each of us a beer in hand. He wouldn’t join me for it though. For PiiiiiiiN I first talked with Arisa and showed her a photo of the planet Mars next to the moon, that I took outside. She didn’t know about that night’s stellar constellation. For the second turn I chose Rizu once again, her being much more friendly than during our last meeting, but also wearing a mask as she had a cold. Our talk was mostly about the New Years and the One Man Live few days ago. Both times with Arisa and Rizu we were doing the Japanese praying pose. Their suggestions.
After everyone’s lives and events ended, Allan, Shaun and me were eating at a Buffet restaurant in Aqua City, a great place to be and the customers there so much better behaved than a same type of restaurant in Europe or America.
The second day of the festival was entirely about Bellring Girls Heart, or more correctly, HELLRING Otome Parto, as this was the groups name in some manga, where the author, a fan, used them as part of the story. Even the members changed to their manga names for this occasion and staff made sure that fans uphold this fact, as the original group had officially ended already. Ayano was called Ayaka therefore.
Before the Hellpa live I saw Predia, who really did a nice set list. I then slowly made my way to the front, having to withstand the music of Akishibu Project because of it. The live itself became generally great, with a superb song selection, but the amount of PassCode and BiS/BiSH fans was annoying, as they showed no concern for those around them. And Kanra, sorry Kamira, appeared in a bear costume for the first part of the live. But not the cute Ayumikurikamaki one 😉
Full of sweat everyone at the live where heading to the event location then, where we waited for the live to begin. As it was the last performance of the original group, lots of fans were present. So if you wanted to talk twice to your favourite member you would have needed to get an early place in the queue. I didn’t, but I also was not wanting to meet Ayaka twice. Meeting with her became nice. For the occasion I had made a fan shirt, displaying Hellpa and the name of Ayano‘s alias (Thanks to Yuu for providing the design and text). A second shirt I gave to Chuan who also had worn the shirt that day and as he was first to talk with Ayaka, he already told her the story to it, thus relieving me of that task. So the shirt became the point of interest for Ayaka when I approached, she thanked me for it and even adjusted the cheki pose accordingly. We struggled to talk a bit about the shirt, wished each other a happy new year and I told her I will be back. A nice cheki finish for this trip!
After the event a talk event was done upside the Fuji TV building, with Hellpa taking part in it. I usually avoid those as I am unable to understand most of it, but for the last appearance of them I made an exception. Despite us waiting in the cold afterwards for over an hour, the members didn’t walk by, so I went with Chuan to the DiverCity food court for a meal and conversation, later being joined by Shaun.
The New Year Festival was okay, but the Tokyo Idol Festival in the same location in summer, with its outdoor stages and, although hot, sunny weather, is much more fun. It definitely is not a reason for me to plan a trip just for this festival.
Although Bellring Girls Heart basically continues, it is different with the new name and the absence of any member I like. I was never too intrigued by Re-Re or Kai and the new additions are still unknown to me – in contrast to prior member changes in the group. Also stage presences and personalities of idols like Moechi, Kanra, Ayano or Mizuho are very difficult to subtitute. Nevertheless there is no reason not to follow There There There’s now. I follow idols primarily for the music, so it will probably only be a matter of time until I am fully infatuated with them again. Currently though PASSPO and Party Rockets GT rank higher now.
I have to mention that I still consider the situation around Mizuho very ambiguously. First announcing in October that she wants to graduate from idol completely – before she reaches 20 years of age. But then suddenly at the beginning of 2017 joining this strange musical entity Natsu no Mamono. It is good that she continues as she really is a unique kind of idol. And probably her change in mind can be excused by her youth and maybe the fact, that after she quit, she realised what would be missing now (“You only miss something, when it is gone”). But anyway, I am just glad that she never was my favourite. Having to attend shows of her new group would annoy me.
My favourite idol will continue to be Yanagisawa Ayano. She performs solo on acoustic guitar now, under the name CLOCK&BOTAN. As of now I don’t know what to expect of it. I also will follow the way of Hara Ayano, whose singer/songwriter music I find very pleasant and well done. Every other group is more or less a nice addition when I happen to see them, but I am not keen enough right now to search them out.
I hope to be able to get some new insights into Ayano‘s new solo project and There There There’s soon, as I will leave for a two week vacation to Seoul, with a short side trip to Tokyo. A big Idol Koushien Festival will be held on April 2nd at Shinkiba Coast, with both of them present. I should also have the opportunity to see Party Rockets GT and PiiiiiiiN there. The rest of the groups sadly are unknowns or uninteresting. I arrive the day before and could go for a Hanami live by Hara Ayano in Yoyogi Park, but I am not to sure about it, especially as at the same time PASSPO will held their Tour Final in Shibuya. Still PASSPO and Yukimi are very important to me and they will continue to be.
Further plans for the year are plenty, but because of my colleagues it will become difficult, them having their vacations at the same times. Like end of June was my first idea, for the Party Rockets GT One Man Live. Vacation. Same issue with TIF. Vacation of another colleague. Though it is possible to go then anyway, just only for a short amount of time, like maybe one week. Right before the Japan Expo in Paris would be happening and chances are, that Lovely Doll with Yuriko will appear, them participating in the Tokyo Candoll Event. If that happens, I will definitely go, sporting my Yuriko shirts. She will be happy, like at TIF 2015, when she thanked me for wearing my shirt back then in Paris and she saw it posted on Twitter.
So chances are that only the after summer will be an appropriate time for me to travel. Though the colleague, the same who has her vacation end of June, will have an scheduled OP-appointment in September, thus becoming out of work for at least(!) 3 months (As December and therefore Christmas is soon after, I am PRETTY sure she will be out longer.). But I have to take my vacation days. Only possibility could be that I have to limit my trip to 2 weeks. Which leaves me with still one to two further weeks. Maybe a second trip end of the year? I really can not say yet.