Together with Tsutomo I made a trip to South Korea. It was his idea, as he became a fan of Korean Girl Groups, although they offer so much less interaction. This fact is totally unfathomable for me, as I became a Japanese idol fan because of the extensive offering of interaction with the members and the much much more wider array of music genres. But to each his own, I guess.
At first I was certain to not make a trip for Japan, as it was Tsutomo‘s first oversea experience, despite it only being a 2-hour flight from Seoul to Tokyo. I even was prepared to miss out on the PASSPO Tour Final. But then the announcement of Ayano came through, with her debuting as her new solo project CLOCK&BOTAN. Even in the surrounding of an Idol Koushien, with performances of Party Rockets GT, PiiiiiiiN and There There Theres, amongst others. This way it was possible for me to see all my current favourite idols, even PASSPO as their Tour Final was scheduled just the day before, and I would be able to meet the members of PiiiiiiiN for the last time before their disbandment in May. So quite a perfect schedule for just two days. Additionally my two sisters would also be in Tokyo at the same time and they were both eager to join me for the idol shows.
My trip started in the early morning from Gimpo Airport to Haneda Airport. I booked the more expensive flight to use these airports specifically, as they were each closer to the city and would allow me to use my time more effectively. It is why I also booked me a Capsule Hotel near Hamamatsucho station. I was travelling lightly with my shoulder bag anyway and was in short distance to either Shibuya (for PASSPO) and Shinkiba (for Idol Koushien).
Flight went well and after check in at my hotel I was able to arrive in Shibuya at 11:30 to meet with my sisters. This enabled us to take a quick peek into the Tower Records and eat at the nearby McDonalds, until the first part of the sold out PASSPO One Man – as BAND PASSPO – would begin. Due to some misleading tweet from the official PASSPO Twitter, we arrived 10 minutes too late at the show, which made us miss the first two songs of BAND PASSPO. We therefore had to stand near the entrance. But the venue, Shibuya WWW, with its 3 big columns right in the middle of it, has a bad viewing area anyway. Only if you managed to get a place near the stage you would be able to see the stage in its entirety. But it wasn’t too bad were we stood. I gave me perfect (and only) view at Yukimi, whereas my sister could position herself perfectly to watch Morishi. My other sister doesn’t care too much about specific members, so she was fine with just enjoying the music.
The repertoire of BAND PASSPO songs increased a lot, as well as the instrumental skills of the members. Naomi actually impressed my the most again, putting out some nice solo guitar work. Yukimi‘s pleas in the middle of the show for fans to give her money were funny – she lost some because of booked trip at some travel agency, that went bankrupt. Also the set list was much more diverse than for their Christmas One Man, for example. It is always a pleasure for me to experience a show by BAND PASSPO.
The event after was consisting of individual handshakes and signs. As I had many event tickets at hand – I wasn’t able to use 4 from my last trip and my sisters bought a bunch for me, that they wouldn’t use – I spoke several times with Yukimi. I prepared a present for her, some chocolate from Germany, in part for her upcoming birthday, which would be in a bit over a weeks time. The rest of the meeting was about me telling her about me being in Korea on vacation.
The next talk was with Morishi, who had just talked to my sister some minutes before – My other sister wasn’t taking part in the events 😦 Morishi was quite cheerfully receiving me, showing me and praising the present of my sister to her. I then told her about me liking their new album very much – I compared it to JeJeJeJet! Morishi seemed very happy to hear it.
Again I was queuing up for Yukimi and met Adrien that way. He was now on a working holiday in Japan for a year and it was nice to meet him. Of course he was spending all his tickets for Yukimi. For the event this time I was doing the sign session and let Yukimi sign my ICOCA Card, which featured an old sticker with her counterfeit. She felt nostalgic about it. lol I now have to find a way to carry it with my, than without some protection I am certain that the signature will disappear. Furthermore with Yukimi I also praised the new PASSPO album.
The Tour Shirt finally improved in design aspects to the former releases. Although I am not so much a fan of an Anime design, it at least looks kinda decent with the drawing style, the flames and the much better logo. Also the backside features the tour dates again, a detail I was missing from the prior releases. Would have been better though to include the group’s name as well. I wasn’t able to buy the amazing birthday shirt, which featured Yukimi and Naomi – their birthdays are only few days apart – as it was sold out the weekend before. Definitely not happy about it.
Until the second part – as Idol group now – began, we went out for a coffee shop. It took quite a while to find some that wasn’t crowded, but we succeeded and killed the time while talking with Adrien. He wasn’t able to join for the second part, as he had no ticket for the sold out show. Me and my sisters on the other hand made sure to arrive at the venue in time and were rewarded with one of the best shows I experienced by the group. The set list with the inclusion of all their new songs was amazing – I liked the whole show much better than their 7th Anniversary’s last year – and also featured some nice older songs. (Just disliked the fan favourite Pretty Lie, as always.) It became also the birthday live for Yukimi and Naomi, my first for my favourite PASSPO member, though it was nothing special really.
For the event it was now the same as before, but this time with the addition of an individual cheki session. Of course I took my picture with Yukimi (she wore the birthday shirt), without congratulating her to her birthday, as it was still over a week ahead. It would just feel – weird. What was amazing though was Yukimi telling me without me asking before that she tried my chocolate and that it was delicious. Unexpected, really. I can now see the advantages of a two part live! hehe
I was still left with a bunch of tickets but couldn’t decide how to use them. Then I noticed that Annya‘s queue was already not existing and the staff was doing the final calls for anyone who wanted to have a cheki with her. It’s been some time since I met her individually, so I took this rare chance. Annya was cool as ever and right away suggested the Rock hand pose. After the shot was done, I was only able to tell her that I found today’s setlist incredible good and Annya – obviously intrigued by my statement – asked me seriously, if I really meant it. I could only nod, while the staff sent me away. It was lovely meeting her though. Annya is one of a kind. She has really grown up!
After the live I took the same train as my sisters and parted with them at my station. We would meet again early the next day.
Today was the day of a big Idol Koushien. It was held at Shinkiba Coast, with like 140 groups. Most of them small ones, which weren’t of any interest to me, but it featured a bunch of groups I currently favour the most. It would be the first time I would be able to see There There Theres, the reincarnation of former Bellring Girls Heart. Further Party Rockets GT, maybe the group I enjoy the most currently. Important would be a meeting with PiiiiiiiN, as the group will soon stop to exist (disbandment in May), so it was maybe my last chance to see them and talk with the members. But the most interesting aspect of the whole festival would be my favourite idols debut live, Ayano performing solo as CLOCK&BOTAN – the reason I decided on this short trip.
The schedule for me was near to perfect. Lives and buppans hardly interfered. Just the performance of Party Rockets GT would be right at the start as the PiiiiiiiN buppan, but ending soon enough to take part in the latter. Annoying though was the fact, that Ayano appeared already at 11 o’clock and There There Theres as the last group of interest, at 20. Killing time in between wasn’t the problem, as PiiiiiiiN and Party Rockets made up for it, but the hope of taking a leisure break outside Shinkiba Coast was made impossible by the prohibition of re-entering. After an early flight and late night yesterday, together with today’s early start and long lasting live, this would really make it tough to last through.
After I met with my sisters at Shinkiba station around 10 o’clock, we stopped shortly at the nearby Seven-Eleven and then entered the festival area, to get us accustomed to and be there in time for Ayano‘s performance. I saw most of the usual Bellha fans already being present as well, supporting all the affiliates (Yanamyu was also performing that day). Meeting with Chuan and Batista in front of the stage we watched Clock&Botan, which is definitely different to Ayano‘s former group. She performed some songs on guitar (also covered Asthma) and some more idol-like songs, like the B-side to her single Twinkle. I have to admit that I am still not convinced of her new music, but it was a good start and of course Ayano should be given time to adjust as a solo idol.
The event was one hour after the performance. The system hasn’t really changed to before. In exchange for the cheki coins I now got printed paper in 500 Yen amounts and you had to take a cheki with a mandatory sign for 1,000 Yen now. I have heard though, that the agency is working on a new system for all the groups under their roof, probably a new version of cheki coins maybe. I have made sure to get in line early, as today T-shirts painted by Ayano herself would be sold. Luckily I did that, as I got the last L-size version of it. As the paint would very likely to disappear when washed, I will probably never wear it though. But now I have Ayano‘s hand print and a nice wordplay of Japanese.
The talk with Ayano was nothing special, but she received me well. Again she mumbled my name during our talk and we tried – more or less successfully – to chat. First I handed her a present of German and Korean chocolate, together with a self-written letter in Japanese. I mentioned me being in Korea the last week, so she shouldn’t wonder about it. Ayano inquired something then, which I wasn’t able to understand. Instead I changed topic and congratulated her for the debut. Maybe there was more, but I already forgot about it. It was obvious though, that that day Ayano was very anxious for performing the first time alone before a bigger audience. I hope she had been happy about my support. I deliberately did not tell her that I was only in Japan for a short time, and mostly for her performance. This would be just bragging.
The break now was short as PiiiiiiiN would soon be on stage. So me and my sisters bought us something to eat and then got ready for the show. As expected it was not difficult to place ourselves near the stage. PiiiiiiiN performed with six members again, as Riko joined the group after her hiatus because of studying. It felt a bit nostalgic and also melancholic to see them perform for the last time. I wonder how the individual members will continue – if they continue. I was happy for my sister though, who was a fan of the group (Ami her favourite member) and therefore able to see them again.
Now there was another break for me, until the performance of Party Rockets GT, probably my most anticipated live that day for the energy involved with it. They started with performing their new song Ima Start, which would be released in May. It is some more idolly song, not as powerful as some of the tracks they have been released prior to this. Though I guess that was the intention. Party Rockets usually switch between heavy rockers and pop rock in their releases. The second song though became KASABUTA, my favourite (and of course omitted from the video for copyright reason – again), later also Dream on, Dreamers was performed, so I was quite happy with the live. Also my other sister, who is a fan of the group.
After the live, we hurried for the sales area, as the event of PiiiiiiiN was already on its way. To make it easy I just purchased 4 of the DVDs they sold there, not caring about the price or the amount of tickets I would get. My intent was to meet with all of them anyways, if possible. Additionally 3 of the DVDs came together in a Box Set, with live recording of several shows of PiiiiiiiN in 2015 – definitely a must-buy for me! The result was getting 17 event tickets. Some of them I handed to my sister, as she would use them to meet with Ami for several times. As the system was again first half hour chekis, second half hour talks or signs, I had to decide with whom I would take my last cheki with, as there wasn’t any time for more than one. The choice was between Ami and Arisa really, but as my sister was already talking to Ami, I chose the latter instead. And I am glad I did. Arisa is always fun to talk too, as she really tries to include some English into the conversation. I was also lucky that the staff was too occupied with the other members, therefore allowing me a talk of nearly two minutes with her, instead of the usual 30 seconds. Arisa received me cheerfully with calling my name and we first debated on our pose. She suggested some of the standards (PiiiiiiiN pose, heart pose), but I refused. So I came up with the leaning-on-the-wall pose, which she commented with a “Kakkoi!”. After the cheki was done I mentioned the soon disbandment of the group and asked, if she would continue as an idol. Arisa said something which I couldn’t understand, than thought for a few seconds to state in English: “Not decide!” Very nice Arisa. She expressed her hope to meet again, which I share. Arisa also thank me for the support during the years, and of course I replied the same. Well, I tried to, as I had trouble finding the right words, but it was major fun with hers.
Now the talking time was starting and it became soon apparent that there wouldn’t be enough time to talk with all of them. So in the end I was not able to meet with Runa. A pity really. The other talks were quite nice though and – as I didn’t had anything to say really apart from thanking them for their time and effort while being a member of PiiiiiiiN – most conversation started the same way.
Rizu was nice to meet, but as usual she appeared to professional nowadays and talks much too fast, lol. But she asked me if I would be able to come for their final live, which I sadly had to deny.
With Emiri it was funny. She often acts very idol-like, but when she comes to know you, she really improves in the interactions. Nevertheless I can’t remember the details of our conversation that day, just that she still knows my name and that I enjoyed the talk.
Ami was very pleasant, making a lot of faces and was even more happy after I brought the conversation to my sisters appearance. She was sad to hear, that we would only stay for today. When I had to leave, she farewelled me with “I love you” (in English). I replied that she is a liar and Ami was just “No, no, no! I love you!” What was that PASSPO song again, that I dislike the most? Ah yes, Pretty Lie, lol
Last member I was able to meet was Riko, which I chose in part for Runa having still a too long queue. But anyways I wanted to meet again with her, as my last talk was actually over 2 years ago! For this case – and for the assumption she wouldn’t remember me – I showed her one of my chekis with her from January 2015. Riko immediately asked from when this was from. When I added that I was a fan of Hara Ayano, she actually replied that she knows. What a surprise! But I can not tell if it was honest. I also thanked Riko and told her that I had enjoyed PiiiiiiiN very much and even went for their Anniversary live last year.She thanked me in return. This time it felt real.
This was my last interaction with PiiiiiiiN. I wonder if I will see any of them again and if I will like what they do then. Remember Kanra of Bellring Girls Heart? She left the group and joined a new founded one, named MIGMA SHELTER. The music they do is absolutely NOT my type and I have trouble to adjust to it (It is some GOA / Trance thingy?). It will be difficult to meet with Kanra, or rather Yoneko, her new idol name, as enjoying the music and performance is the most important requirement for me. Maybe for its enjoyment I should do drugs, as most fans of this genre? Anyways I will probably only have the chance to see them, when they appear in the setting of a festival. So the same could happen with the PiiiiiiiN members. My left over event tickets (maybe 7) I handed to a nearby fan of the group which I know to be a big fan of theirs. He was very about it.
Not long time later Party Rockets GT would appear for the event. Now I took part in it with my other sister, lol. I learnt later, that no signs were available and the ticket situation was more difficult, as I couldn’t just buy some random high priced merchandise. Therefore I had to take part in two All-member-handshakes – one at the start of the event, and the one at the end. In between I took two chekis.
During the first handshake Nanase was the first in line. Strange, she appears to be the first every time, whereas the other members seem to not have a specific place. Anyway, cheery as ever, she asked if I enjoyed the show. I did and told her so, especially as Kasabuta was performed. Nanase repeated “Oh, Kasabuta!”, more to Ayumi though, who was the next member. Ayumi immediately switched to English and claimed of having wanted to see me! As if I would believe that. To Fumika I did something I hardly do – mentioning a different idol group. But as she is a huge PASSPO fan and idol wota as well, it should be alright. And it was. I mentioned of being at PASSPO‘s Live yesterday and Fumika excitedly inquired if I meant their Tour Final. She was jealous. Himeka, as I had nothing to say to her, I just asked if a cheki with her later would be okay. She does well in being an idol and told me she waits anxiously for our meeting later. My energy was drained already, when I reached Haruka. I just know that at the end we told each other “Ganbarimasu”. lol
Time for a break, time for chekis. As I announced I chose Himeka first. She greeted me again, this time using my name. Probably asked Ayumi about it. As I had no clue about a pose again, she suggested the cat pose. Well, not perfect but time is short. After the shot was done Himeka explained, that she chose this pose, as she likes cats. I shared her opinion and added that I dislike dogs, for always drooling and dirty in general. As I could tell her in proper Japanese, I wasn’t sure if she understood. Himeka must have felt this and told me, in English that she knew what I mean.
Next and also last member to take a cheki with: Of course Ayumi. We had most of the fun while I tried to explain my pose idea to her. She stood wrong, when I corrected her, she did the opposite and it repeated itself all over again. Ah, so nice to interact with an English speaking idol. Ayumi then inquired about my stay, and I told her that I was flying home (*cough* Korea) the next day. Our talk about it would continue later during the next group handshake.
Again I started with Nanase and we just joked around. Next was already Ayumi and I added that I have been to Korea the last week. Himeka seemed to have heard it (the fan before me in line was already gone) and inquired right away, so Ayumi explained it to her and that I would leave tomorrow already. Fumika became cheerful when she saw me again, thanking me for supporting the group every time. With Haruka it became interesting. As I wanted to interact with her better than last time I prepared a cheki on my mobile phone again, the first cheki I had with Party Rockets, back than still as a trio. This was exactly what Haruka mentioned first “Ah, san-nin!” (roughly translated as three members here). She then made sure that she remembered my name correctly by repeating my name again. I just needed to nod. Her question and interest in me took me by surprise. Seems like I finally achieved recognition by the group *sniff*. Took me long enough.
My sister had fun with Party Rockets GT as well and was praised by Haruka for wearing their fan shirt. After the event my sisters left the festival already, not wanting to stay any longer. As it was 19 o’clock already I could understand them. I just decided to watch There There Theres live later and then leave for my hotel, without taking part in their buppan. I was just too tired as well already. The live was very good and it felt awesome to see the group again. But the downside of associating an idol group with specific members is that as soon as your favourites leave, the intensity is not the same anymore. So far I see no member that impresses me. Their music and performance style though: Still one of the best in idol world!
On a side note: I talked with Chuan in the middle of the festival and he introduced me to a group named 病んでる私とヤまない雨, in short YameiAme. One of the members, Imoko, told me the complete group name, but it was far too long to remember. I haven’t seen the group during the festival, so I was unable to take part in their event. The trailer movie the group released on Youtube though doesn’t sound too bad, so I may probably check them out some time.
When will I do my next trip? Difficult to say. It bothers me a lot that this year I won’t be able to be there that often as I usually am. Currently I favour a trip for 3 weeks in September, then being able to see PASSPO‘s next big One Man / Tour Final. It also promises to have the best weather and I would love to be in Japan during warm, sunny weather again. This time though I would prefer to see a much wider variety of groups again, with a slight focus on Ayano and Party Rockets GT. But being able to see Hara Ayano, Chu-Z, JyuJyu and many more would really be awesome. We’ll see.