Archive for 'Music'

Berryz Mansion

久しぶり~

It’s been a while since I last visited the Land of the Rising Sun; and just about as long that I’ve seen my Berryz, having last met them in New Jersey last June. With no concert tour in the fall, I was going through a little bit of Berryz withdrawal, heh. No worries however, as I’ve got my Japan/Berryz fix just recently, by taking the trip out there last week. There, I got to see Berryz Spring tour in Osaka four times over the weekend. I had a great time of course, and I can’t wait to see them again. As per usual, a few thoughts and highlights…

Berryz Mansion - T-shirt

Berryz Mansion – T-shirt

The album songs from Berryz latest I thought were good, but I wasn’t really impressed until seeing them performed live. Succha ka Meccha ka was a lot of fun and had a lot of energy. Chinami and Maasa were great performing Nandakanda de Ii Kanji!, with the 3 little Eggs (Kenshuusei) as background dancers. The dance was really simple, but I just loved it. Momochi and Yurina were great with Otokomae; and Captain, Miya and Risako were elegant performing Koi Itoshiki Kisetsu – I really enjoyed the slow solo lines, Captain’s in particular was the highlight of the song for me.

Berryz Mansion - Chinami Towel

Berryz Mansion – Chinami Towel

Chinami~, ah to see that smiling face again, made me happy. We had as many as little connections as we always do at these concerts with me sitting up close to the front of the stage. She was just looking in my direction at one point during an MC and I flashed a peace sign whilst holding up an orange heart light stick, producing a smile from her in acknowledgement. Little things like that, it’s kind of weird how she makes me feel.

Someone had asked me why Maasa is my number two, and I had a hard time coming up with an answer at the time. In any case, I’m reminded of her Berryz Kamen Red days and all the MCing she has done over the years. As it relates to this concert, just watching her and Chinami interact during their MC was a little reminder of that. I don’t know what it is exactly.

Captain fell during one of her solo performances of Sprinter! Uwaa, I just wanted to rush to help her up or something. I perhaps only mention this, because at a later show, Momochi fell as well. I felt no desire what so ever to rush to her aid, lol. Man that sounds mean, haha, but I’ll say that I’ve got nothing but love for all the Berryz girls. More on the Captain/Momo front, during one of their little mansion skits, Captain was showing some dolls she had got from Disney (eh, don’t trust the summary too much here, my Japanese sucks). Anyway, one of the dolls was wearing an outfit from Berikyuu’s Amazuppai. Captain mistakenly said that it was from Chou HAPPY SONG, which Momochi was quick to correct and scold. It was interesting to see a little friction there.

“Yurushite nyan~” *sound of failure played by the staff* *Chinami raises an arm and cheers* Aw, it seems like I’ve been picking on Momo, but I just find her to be entertaining.

Risako, ugh, she still has me under her spell. She looks at me, I look at her, smile, she smiles back, I run out of the concert hall and jump off a bridge. Ignore that last part, but the spark is still there and every time something like that happens, it makes me want to, I don’t know, hurt myself. Ah, I’m not explaining this very well, haha. Risako is probably the only Berryz who has made me feel, uncomfortable, I guess is what I would say. There’s an expression or something, “so cute, you could die.” Well, maybe cute isn’t the word I’m looking for, but that’s the idea. I’ve written about this before, and she was dancing for me again this time, anyway.

Yurnia was elegant(?), beautiful(?), stunning(?), in her solo outfit. Enough on that. Her MCs were cute and although it does seem she was a bit setup to fail her little challenges, it did kind of remind me of her past displays of airheadedness. She was too cute trying to come up with answers to the challenges, pacing, almost doing a little dance on stage while doing so.

Miya’s voice was on point as per usual, and well, that’s all I have to say I guess. Her voice was just really strong and her performance was top notch.

I really enjoyed the concert, seeing Berryz and friends again. So, until next time.

Berryz in New Jersey

I’ve put off writing this, but I figure I need to get something written up about it.

Berryz came back to mainland America for the second time this past weekend to AnimeNEXT in New Jersey. Of course, I was there, and I thought I’d share a little bit about my experience there. First of all, I will say that it was nice meeting all of my friends there, putting faces to names and all of that. Part of what makes these things enjoyable is the other fans that show up; it’s not every day that we can all get together in one spot.

On to the con itself. There was a brief appearance by the girls at their booth. I was standing on the outside of the crowd so I had a clear view of the girls as they walked in. “Chinami,” I shouted in an effort to get her attention. She turned towards me and as a big smile lights up her face, she waves. She recognized who it was, you could tell by her expression. It was a short amount of time at the Berryz booth, before they split up the crowd and Berryz went on their merry way.

The concert was great as expected. I had a great time in the front row dancing along and cheering for my girls. I was glad to see Because Happiness reformed live, as I didn’t get to see it on their last tour. It was interesting too, the crowd filled in the gaps of Because Happiness with C-ute’s parts, and I thought that was amusing.

During the autographs I didn’t say too much. “Please sign here,” I would say in Japanese, I would then thank them for coming back to America. When Momoko was signing my book, Chinami started talking to me, as the person in front of me had finished. Chinami got a special message of course and it was nice having a few extra seconds to talk with her.

After I got my autographs I took a seat back in front of the girls. I positioned myself so that I would be directly in front of Chinami. During breaks in the line we would smile and wave at each other, it was nice having that little bit of extra interaction with her before the events of the day were done. During another break in the line Risako looked in my direction and I smiled and waved at her, to which she replied with a smile and wave of her own. After that she leaned back in her chair and made this cute face, I can’t describe it. It was like she was being all coy or something, it was adorable. I got the attention of the other girls as well. After trying to get her attention during a break in the line, I was eventually able to get Maasa to wave at us. We also exchanged smiles and waves with Miyabi, Captain and Momoko. It was really nothing special, but for the 50 or so minutes after having got my autograph, to continue to interact with the girls was nice.

That pretty much wraps up Berryz in New Jersey at AnimeNEXT. I had a great time not only seeing my Berryz, but also meeting up with all my friends and other fans. Til next time.

Berryz in Yamanashi

First order of business, I want to say Happy Birthday to my beloved Chinami. 20 years old today, good golly she’s grown. Now, one might have guessed what this post is about even without reading the title, as all of my posts now seem to be about my various trips out to Japan. Here is another as I went to see Berryz, “トラベリーズ.com” in Yamanashi this past weekend. For the third year in a row I have been lucky enough to be able to celebrate her birthday in Japan with her. It makes me so happy to see her smiling face and I hope her birthday is full of happiness.

Berryz in Yamanashi

Berryz in Yamanashi

With that out of the way, I have to say thanks again to those who helped make this trip possible. I’m lucky, as a foreign fan that I am able to go to these fan club events. I couldn’t make it without help. So, a few comments on the events…

After a lengthy bus ride we arrived at our first destination. We were escorted into a room where we would wait for a bit and eventually Yurina would come out and open things up, welcoming us, asking how we were and such. Then eventually everyone would come out and say hi. It was a short introduction, and then we went to take our 8 shot photos.

Some groups who had gone to the 8 shot before us had reported the positioning of the girls. It was supposed to be Chinami sitting in the back center, a position I had become used to her sitting in. To everyone’s surprise however, between coming out to see us and going back, they switched positions. Chinami would be right up front sitting next to me.

Berryz Koubou 8shot 2012

Berryz Koubou 8shot 2012

As you can tell by my picture, sitting right next to her made me very happy. I chose to do a heart pose and well, my heart didn’t really end up looking much like a heart; but whatever man, I got another pic with my Berryz. Afterwards we were given some time to check into our hotels and rest a bit before a concert would be performed.

For the special live concert I pulled a ticket for the 5th row, left of center. That’s not where I ended up sitting however. I’m lucky enough to have had a friend who was willing to swap tickets with me. Her ticket, well it was in the center of the front row. I was so surprised and so grateful. Perhaps that’s an understatement, but I can say that grateful for all of the friends I’ve made during my trips to Japan and everything that they do for me. I was going to be able to see all the girls up front, and as this was Chinami’s birthday concert, I was going to be able to share the moment with her just an arm’s length away.

The concert itself was awesome, even abbreviated it was one of the best I’ve seen. They did a few songs from their 6th album, which I think I might call my favorite album, so I was happy. There were a couple of songs I’ve never seen performed live; it was nice to have those mixed in with everything else even though it’s harder to dance along with them. The dance to Kacchoee was fun I think, the way the girls fan out while dancing to the repeated kacchoee part. There was another dance that was new to me too, a song whose name I can’t recall. In any case the dance had them dancing with their arms crossed at times, which I thought looked pretty cool. They also were throwing up what looked like upside-down peace signs every once and a while, which looked cool too.

I have to mention that Risako and I had our little moments as per usual. I really enjoy the little smiles and such that I get out of her most of the time. I look forward to seeing her on stage for that reason. There’s some sort of connection there I say. And then of course, there is Chinami; so much fun seeing her on stage, she never disappoints. Being in the first row too I was really able to connect with her.

Once the concert was over we would be greeted by the girls on our way out just a quick wave and a thank you. I was lucky however, and ended up getting a bit more than that. When it was my turn to go through saying hi to the girls the staff stopped me and let the line clear out in front of me. I was a little confused by this, but waited a little while before proceeding. What happened next was a series of poppers going off and the girls shouting omodetou to me. I was chosen as a special person in the line. I was confused as to what was going on, but at the same time, I was happy. I was given some extra time to talk with the girls, to wave and say hi. At the end of the line Chinami had a gift for me. I felt special receiving it from her. Still a little bit confused by the whole ordeal I then just walked out of the building. At this point Chinami was trying to get my attention, but I was oblivious, until my friends told me to turn around. Chinami then said in English, “See you tomorrow.” Ah, she makes me so happy. As a friend pointed out to me, Chinami is putting in extra effort to talk with me in English which shouldn’t go unnoticed. I really do appreciate all the special attention that she gives me each and every time that we meet.

A Gift from Chinami

A Gift from Chinami

The second day we went to a themed park. We would walk around to five different stations to get various points for our group. The first and second groups were manned by staff, where there would be cards laid out on the table and we’d pick one up and get the number of points as printed on the card. Pretty straight forward. The other three stations were similar, only this time it was Berryz who were interacting with us. The first Berryz station we went to had Yurnia and Miyabi. It was funny how many groups were shouting “ENJOY!” to Yurina, that catch phrase really has caught on. There were three cards that we were to pick up this time instead of the one, so we let the Kumai/Miya wota to the front to interact with them and pick the cards.

The next group was Momo and Maasa. I got to interact with them this time, since Maasa is my number 2. ”Hello,” Momoko said. Maasa followed with a hello of her own. They tried to explain some of the directions to me in English, which went well enough. It was fun interacting with them.

The third group had Captain, Risako and Chinami. I got to go to the front again to meet with Chinami, yay. When we went up front thee girls said “Hello.” I was so hapy that they were giving me special attention. Chinami continued to say a few things in English. When it came time to pick the cards, a friend asked Chinami to continue to speak in English. “Four cards” in English she said, followed by some Japanese I’m not familiar with, which I can only assume meant “pick up.” It was really fun interacting with this group, obviously because Chinami was there. I stuck around after we were done and got in some more interaction time with Chinami, which was fun.

After everyone completed the little card picking stations that were setup, it was time for a parade. There was a small train that travelled throughout the park, and it was setup waiting for Berryz to arrive. They would eventually hop on the train and ride it around the park. As a friend concurred, it was hilarious watching such a large group of wota run around the park chasing after this little train which was going so slow. After the parade there was a mini fan meeting and that was the end of the park fun.

From there things moved on to and started to wrap up with the larger fan meeting. Berryz introduced themselvs, said a few words about the event thus far, &c. We eventually got to play a quiz game where they would have the last man standing come up on stage. Unlike the last event I went to I couldn’t really understand what was being asked, so I was knocked out early. In any case, it was fun. The last few “questions” were nothing but Chinami playing janken with everybody. With that, things were just about over.

Things ended with a handshake. I felt this go round that we got a little bit more time than usual. I got to say everything I wanted to each of the girls, with some extra time left over even.

Overall it was another great trip to Japan to see my Berryz. See you next time, in New Jersey.

Berryz Station

This round of H!P adventures starts the day before the concert, in Tokyo, where I attended a handshake event for the Berikyuu photobook. At the handshake there was Maimi of C-ute, Risako, Maasa, Momoko, and of course Chinami, the main reason for going in the first place. I originally hadn’t planned on visiting the handshake, but a friend mentioned it to me and I’m glad I did. It’s not every day that one gets to meet their idol, so I like to take advantage of the opportunity every chance I can. I have to say thanks too, to that friend who was able to get the event tickets for me.

Maasa, Risako, Momoko, Maimi and Chinami

Maasa, Risako, Momoko, Maimi and Chinami

The line went fast but I was able to go through three times and ended up saying most of what I wanted to say anyway. My first time through I just said something along the lines of “it’s nice to see you; it’s been a long time.” My second time through I mentioned that I’d see all of the Berryz girls at the concert the next day. This time around Chinami commented on my Japanese skill, mentioning that I had gotten better. I hadn’t said anything much complicated or anything, but it made me happy to get the complement from her. My third time through I just said a little bit, thanked them and went on my merry way.

Berryz Station

Berryz Station

The next day was concert day in Osaka. I first met up with friends for lunch before things started, which is always nice. Before the concert I had bought some goods which I’m surprised that I am able to hold myself back from buying so much. From there it was concert time. I hadn’t been to a proper Berryz concert since the tour previous to the last, Berry Kou Fes, so it was nice to finally get back at it.

There were a lot of new songs played at this concert which turns out to be both a good and a bad thing. Good in that there were songs that I had never seen performed live before, it’s always good to see something fresh; bad in that, at least the first time around, it was hard to dance along to the songs. I’m only able to go to a day’s worth of concerts so it’s hard for me to pick up on the dance moves right away. I any case, even when I’m not dancing along, I’m enjoying myself all the same.

A couple notes about the performances of a few of the songs. “Shy boy” was kind of cool and didn’t really suffer from being overly autotuned. I really liked this song from the album and was surprised to see it appear on the setlist after not making it on the first round of performances.

Atarashii Hibi had a stand out performer in Saki, especially during the music break of the song. In the afternoon Saki had her hair down which looked great (in the evening she had it in a ponytail), during the break she was swinging her head and hair around wildly. There was just something fierce about it. The dance in general, Saki just killed it.

Yurushite nyan~. Okay there is something that’s a bit annoying about that if it’s used too much, but this time, well… Momoko had a whole song and dance dedicated to it and I’ll be lying if I said it wasn’t fun to dance and sing along with. Yurushite nyan~, Yurushite nyan~, oh my goodness, haha. You’ll have to see it to get how cute it was in some spots. I might say she was trying too hard, but I’ve come to conclude that that it just part of Momo’s character and it’s kind of grown on me even if it is a bit over the top sometimes. Also, Momoko is 20 years old? It’s almost funny the way she acts as a 20 year old, but as I said it fits her so I wouldn’t have her chance for anything.

Semi was on the setlist which was good to see. Semi is one of the songs I used to listen to way back when I first got into Berryz, so it kind of brought up a feeling of nostalgia.

Dakishimete Dakishimete with Miyabi dance solos. It really should have been Captain shining and rockin’ out on this one, but Miyabi held her own. While the other girls would pause and or do abbreviated dance moves at points, Miyabi would bust a move if you will. The setup was really interesting.

Rival is my favorite Berryz song, so it’s always good to see it performed here. Other great concert songs include Otakebi Boy and Icchoume Rock!. Overall it was a pretty solid setlist.

Chinami - Berryz Station

Chinami - Berryz Station

To finish things up, a couple of mentions about my interactions with the girls. Chinami and I were connected it felt like throughout the entire afternoon concert. I was sitting in the front row and we’d exchange glances and smiles as the concert went on. It really was great. As the concert ended too, I felt like I got a special goodbye from her as she was positioned right in front of me and gave me a nice big smile and a wave. Really, it’s great and I’m glad that I can sit up so close that these little interactions can take place. I felt that I didn’t have to fight for her attention or anything, I just had to be myself and we would connect naturally.

Now, I’ve mentioned my interactions with Risako in the past and this concert was no different. We have some sort of a connection I feel, I don’t know how to describe it. One thing that really stood out to me this time around though is something that made me feel like we really connected. Risako was up on stage, right in front of me, doing her normal serious pouty face (you’d know it if you saw it) when we locked eyes. Her gaze can be a bit intimidating at times, as it pierces right through you. Anyway, as we squared up I gave her a big ol’ smile. In reaction to this, she returned the smile with sort of a laugh attached to it. It may seem like I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but it felt so great to have that exchange. Little things like this make me feel just great.

So, back to the real world. I had a great time and I hope to do it again sometime. See you Berryz in New Jersey if I don’t catch you all before then.

Hello! Project Festival

It’s not every day that you get to meet all the members of Hello! Project. Yesterday however, I was lucky enough to have done just that. (He says casually as if it’s no big deal). What, it is a big deal! I got to meet all the members of Hello! Project! Today on Thanksgiving, I can say that I am very thankful to have had the experience. Thankful for the experiences I’ve had and thankful that I’ve got friends to help me navigate how to get to these events and such. It was nice seeing a lot of familiar faces too. Thanks all!

Thanks!

Holy long lines Batman. The day started out after my arrival at Yomiuri Land, to which I was greeted with a long, long line. I wasn’t expecting to see so many people at the event. Apparently too, the staff wasn’t expecting that many people either. I should have arrived earlier but I was fresh off a bus from Osaka and didn’t have any extra time. Anyway, this line was about two and a half hours long by the time I got there, and grew quite a bit behind me. This was just to get into Yomiuri Land, once inside we were greeted with another line to exchange our preorder tickets for handshaking tickets. Four hours total standing in line, but I can say it was worth it.

So the handshake groups were broken into five: Mo, Be, Ki, Ma and Su. Each group had the leader of their respective groups in them (with the exception of Be, who had Momo in Captain’s place), along with a mix of members form the other groups. When I got to exchange my preorder tickets, they had already run out of Su group. Bummer, that was Chinami’s group. They had also ran out of Mo, meaning at the time I wouldn’t have been able to see all of the groups. It all worked out in the end however, I was able to get some tickets from a friend and trade a few with some others to get more of the Su group and one for Mo. Once again I am thankful. I ended up with 14 handshake tickets in total, though I only had time to use 10 of them.

Mobekimasu Handshake Tickets

Mobekimasu Handshake Tickets

Before the handshaking there would be a two hour live concert/event. They opened with “ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL.” A great throwback to older times and a great group song, I’m glad to see it performed with the current lineup. Some highlights of the event were S/mileage performing a new song. I liked the beat and instrumentals and am looking forward to its release. Morning Musume performed “Love Machine.” I had never seen that live, so that was nice. Berryz did their audiance participation/a cappella version of “Rival,” which is one of my favorites. Other than that there was a mix of old and new songs performed, culminating with the new Mobekimasu single.

Tsunku made a couple of video appearances during the MCs. One of which he was talking about Saki. He had this long drawn out, filled with pauses, mentioning that Saki wasn’t there. You really got the feeling that he was about to say something big. But no, Tsunku was just trolling; he mentioned that she wasn’t there due to a conflict and that her birthday was the day before. Ah, you really had to be there to get a sense of the atmosphere when that happened. Interestingly, Tsunku made a second appearance too. When Risa mentioned that he was going to say something again, the girls on stage, or rather, Sayumi got really nervous. It’s like anytime Tsunku speaks, you get this feeling for the worst in the back of your head. What he had to say though, wasn’t to do with any graduations or anything, no big deal yeah, haha.

After the concert they prepped the stage for the handshake. There were a lot of people there and even after what, 4 hours, they weren’t able to get through all of the tickets they had given out (with multiple handshake tickets per person).

I first went to handshake the Su group. Leading the line there was Wada Ayaka. This girl seems to have a lot of energy. When I approached she seemed happy, and said “Hello,” as I proceeded to introduce myself.

Next up was Chinami. Of course the highlight of my experience was all of the interaction I had with her. A friend had tipped her of that I was coming a week or so earlier, so I hope she was looking forward to seeing me too. It was so great to see her after six months. All of the lasting memories we’ve built, I am very thankful for the experiences we’ve had. I’ll keep what I told her to myself, but it was a mix of Japanese and English, haha. On the English part, you could tell she couldn’t understand a thing I was saying. Makes sense, lol. Anyway, she told a friend who came up behind me that she didn’t understand, lol, so I later apologized to her. The whole series of interactions, as I went through her handshake line multiple times, was great. She always seems so happy to see me, and I too am happy to see her. What a great experience, and I can’t wait to see her again.

I’ll briefly touch on everyone else. Of course Berryz all recognized me; it was good to see all of them again. Momo in particular seemed surprised to see me. Maimi and Risa were pleasantly surprised to see me too. I do stand out anyway, yeah. It was nice to meet them; Mano too. One handshake that stood out to me was Chisato. Not the handshake itself, but her smile. It was just too cute. Meeting Reina was nice too. Then there are a bunch of the new Musume and S/milage members whose names I don’t know, but they’re all simply adorable. Yeah, way too much for me to recall and say something about each of the [multiple] interactions I had with the girls. I’ll just conclude and say that it truly was a great experience to meet them all.

The past few years have truly been great; so many memories to be thankful for. I almost didn’t come to Japan this Thanksgiving, but I am oh so glad that I did.

So, until next time, whenever that is. I do know though, that I’ll be in New Jersey to see Berryz at AnimeNEXT. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

Discovery

It’s been just over four years since I’ve discovered Japanese music. A life changing event no doubt about it, but I’ve already told that story. The following is instead, a short about my latest trip to Japan. It’s just about Thanksgiving and so it’s time for my annual pilgrimage. I almost didn’t make it out here this year, but the calling from my second home was too strong.

First on tap for this trip was a train ride to Osaka, to see one of my favorite groups, Tokyo Jihen. “Discovery,” well that’s the name of their 2011 tour. As some may recall, this isn’t my first time seeing Shiina and crew, as I saw them on tour last year. This go ’round however, I felt more prepared than I was last time and what can I say, the Incidents didn’t dissapoint.

Got to the concert hall a few hours early after a bit of sightseeing; not too early though I guess, as they already had things setup to where you could buy goods. I had taken a little bit of a peak online to see what types of things they’d be selling, but actually seeing all of it, I was a bit overwhelmed. It’s not that there was a lot more than there was last time, but there was a lot of variety. In any case, I just grabbed a couple of flags, a t-shirt and a keychain.

Tokyo Jihen Discover Tour Flag

Tokyo Jihen Discover Tour Flag

The flags are bright green, with Tokyo Jihen’s logo on them they really stand out. As with last time there would be much flag waving; it’s simple, yet a fun way to be involved with the others attending the concert, at the same time involved with what is happening on stage.

After buying my goods I was approached by a girl who was handing out cards, with an apple and a date on them. 2011/11/25. A note on the card indicated that that was Shiina Ringo’s birthday. Didn’t know that was coming up, so, Happy Birthday! Anyway, I was asked to write a message on the card, which I did; a mix of English and Japanese as I usually do when I fill out things like that. I like being involved with little things like that.

A couple hours of waiting and the doors opened up. My seats were decent enough and I had a pretty good, clear view of the stage. The stage was setup a bit larger than I remember they used for their last tour, and for good reason. I’d say that they were a lot more dynamic and there was a lot more movement on stage this time. This concert had a lot more energy I think.

Things opened up with a big screen where there was some animated, almost meteor like things crashing down. The screen was setup so that you could see behind it, quite clearly, but at the same time the things projected onto it were pretty clear too. So as these things are crashing down, Tokyo Jihem come out and start playing their first tune.

The music selection was awesome. You can’t go wrong with much of their songs anyway, but I feel that the setlist here was pretty great. There were a couple of songs I hadn’t heard before. I think one or two of them, from what I read, were new songs from Shiina. Anyway, just a few songs I wanted to being attention to. Himitsu for DJ – Awesome! The part in particular that I’m talking about is from Ukigumo, the guitarist’s rap. There was a screen brought up behind him, and stairs illuminated showing his name as he and their pianist came down front and rapped a bit about his guitar. After which Ukigumo climbed up the stairs and gave his little guitar solo. The energy and how it was all set up was just great. The audience was really into it too.

The last two songs I wanted to make mention of were during the encore. Gunjou Biyori, one of my favorite songs. It was a little, remixed I guess. This version was interesting, but not so different that it still was unejoyable. After that they played Atarashii Bunmeikaika, another one of my favorites. It was a great song to end the concert on with a lot of energy and cheers. It’s like things ended with the old (Gunjou) and the new (Atarashii), a great selection.

One final note is on the costume changes. There were what, three or four changes from what I can recall. Seemed like many more than the one that they had during their last tour. The costumes were great, and one that stood out was Shiina’s Native American looking headdress she was wearing towards the end.

Overall, great show; awesome show. While their last tour was great, this one seemed to have taken that greatness and made many more improvements to produce a much better show. I had fun and look forward to whatever Shiina Ringo and Tokyo Jihen have in store for us in the future.

Birthday Hour GO!GO

Happy Birthday Chinami! For the second year now, I’ve been able to spend part of the special day with you. Seeing your smiling face makes me happy, and on this day, and every day, I hope that you can be happy too.

A big thanks again for all who helped me out here. I had an awesome time as expected. Just a few highlights and quick comments.

Berryz Hour GO!GO =3

Berryz Hour GO!GO =3

Takoyaki Saki, with her hair in a pair of buns and a big pair of glasses on looked cute. Her style, energy and cool all wrapped up in a neat little package is just great to watch.

More Momoko and Chinami back and forth. It’s so fun watching these two go at each other. Momo’s personality is so unique, it’s cool to just sit back and watch her interact with the others and the audience. As I was in the front row for the second performance, she really was enthusiastic in getting me to dance along with the songs. Fun, fun.

After interacting with the audience for a little bit and making their way through the event hall, Berryz would hit the stage. For the second run of the event, you could tell that the girls were surprised to see me sitting out there in front. On stage, things opened up with a performance of Rival. During the last part of the chorus, with Chinami up front and on the side of the stage that I was, we danced the last part of the chorus together as she looked my way, full of smiles. 1つ・・・さあ行こう〜 Rival being one of my favorite Berryz songs made it extra special.

During the first handshake, “Geoffrey~” Chinami said as I approached, which took me by surprise, as she had struggled with it a bit the day before. Happy! Even tho it’s not that big of a deal, I’m happy that she put in the effort to remember it~. After that, I forgot what it is that I wanted to say, but I eventually got it out, ha. The second handshake was just as fun, and I stalled a little bit to say a few extra things to her as the staff were pushing us through.

King Maasa retains her powerful stage presence which I’ve always enjoyed. During Tomodachi wa Tomodachi Nanda! in particular she stood out to me for some reason. She had some sort of a cool attitude for a little bit which was fun too. She didn’t do the full time MC bit this time around, but in the parts that she did take the reins she was great.

Mayabi had used some English during her turn in one of the mini games they were playing, so during the handshake I said to her a couple of things in English, to which she returned in kind. She also greeted me as Kentucky, as she’s done in the past, with a smile whilst putting a finger in the air, indicating that she remembers me. One other note, as Miya lost one of the games they were playing, she had to make a sales pitch about one of the Berryz goods (whilst wearing a goofy nose/glasses/bow). Let’s just say, SOLD! Good job Miya; she was great on stage.

Yurina took the MC spot from Maasa this time. Her little bouts of being a bit air-headed are still there, wich makes watching her and the casualness of her performances cute. She was sweating a bit during one part of the event and Momo brought her a towel. They didn’t make a big deal out of it or anything, but I thought that the interaction was nice.

Risako continued her coy, umm, you know, “that thing she does.” I’ve pointed it out before, but the way she dances on stage really has improved over the years. Just watch, and while she might not be as sharp &c as some of the others, it’s got it’s own unique flow that meshes well with the rest of the group. Some of Berryz latest songs too, really seem to fit Risako’s style.

So Berryz, until we meet again; and Chinami, Happy Birthday! I hope you had a good one. To all my friends back in Japan and elsewhere, see you when I see you~

Addicted: Three Times The Heroine

I was talking with my Japanese teacher a few weeks back, we were discussing how I work on programs for people who might have drug or alcohol related issues. As the conversation progressed, she suggested that perhaps similar to how some of the people in the program may have issues with addiction, I was addicted to Berryz Koubou. She was joking of course, but it’s an interesting thought to consider, is it not? My teacher and I had talked at length on previous occasions about my interest in the group, so she was familiar with my travels and what not to see them, and it’s fun to chat about my passion for J-Pop with people outside of the wotasphere. On one level herself, being Japanese, it was both familiar and foreign to her. In the past I’ve had similar conversations with people from Japan. The seem to find my passion for the group to be interesting to say the least.

With regards to addiction, there is this sort of high that going to these concerts and events bring about in me, something unique I’ve not been able to find anywhere else. And then, it’s somewhat funny that I have enablers, friends who support and encourage my behavior; in the midst of papers and projects due, I’ve taken time off school and work to go see them; all the money I’ve spent, the time invested, &c, and while it hasn’t come close to a point where I would consider it an addiction, it’s become so much a part of my life. In some aspects, I would say it’s not too out of the ordinary at all; I’ve heard of plenty of people who follow their favorite bands all over the world, yeah. To be so enthralled by this relatively unknown idol group from Japan however, to travel out there to see her, is at least at the foundation, a different story.

Anyway, all that exposition builds to the fact that here I am, back in Japan; to see my Berryz. To feed my addiction if you will. Honestly, at times it feels like maybe it’s a bit much. Ah, but I’m not going to venture down that train of thought. I’m having the time of my life! I know it won’t last forever and therefore I’m going to continue to enjoy it while I can; and hey, it’s okay, I’m a wota.

Berryz Koubou - Heroine ni Narou ka!

Berryz Koubou - Heroine ni Narou ka!

Mini Concert

As I tend to do, I have to first of all say thanks to those who made this possible. The people I’ve met and befriended in Japan really seem to go out of their way to help get me to these events. I am very thankful, and as with most of my words, I really feel that that is an understatement; but it’s really great to have people who support me in this.

So then, the precursor to the main event was today in Nagoya, where I’d get to watch Berryz at their “Heroine ni Narou ka!” release event. Not once, not twice, but three times. The release events are relatively short, but actually ended up a bit longer than I expected. The mini concert opened with Heroine ni Narou ka!, and had a nice selection overall with Maji Bomber!!, Icchoume Rock!, Otakebi Boy WAO! and Rival. All great songs to see and dance along with live.

Since the seats were random, I wasn’t able to get too close to the stage, but still, about 8 rows back and center isle seats for the second and third go rounds gave me a great view of things.

Not much has changed with the girls since I’ve seen them last. Well, it has been less than a month, so what’s to expect, right. Chinami and I had or nice little moments here and there. I really feel a connection with her whenever I see her, and just watching her dance around, goofing off a bit, playing off of the other girls on stage, and all the in between, just makes me smile from ear to ear. Maasa continues to excel with her presence on stage and her MC ability; Captain continues to dance up a storm and have a fun time doing it; everyone was putting in a great effort and I enjoyed watching all of them do their own thing.

I’m happy to report too, that that spark with Risako that was missing in Seattle is back, haha. I don’t think I need to elaborate much, but one point that really stood out for me was when they do that little monocle thing in Heroine (Otakbe too); Risako zoomed right in on me with a big ol’ smile. It’s funny how I missed it in Seattle, and now it’s back, the point of conflict in which I’m in my head telling her to stop, yet at the same time, it’s just plain fun so I just go with it.

Handshake

At the end of each of the events was the handshake. I have to say, I’m somewhat running out of things to say to some of the girls. I mean, there are only so many ways I can tell Miyabi that I love her voice and or like her in Buono! and what not. But even without much to say, just being there, holding their hands and looking into their eyes is enough. Anyway, during the first handshake they really rushed us through so I didn’t get a change to say but a quick thank you and not much else. That said, my interaction with Chinami was a lot of fun as usual. This time as I attempted to convey to her my real name, she leaned in to get a better listen and we repeated it back and forth a couple of times. By the next time I had talked with her, she had lost about half of it, haha. No worries, I’m good with “Kentucky.” It’s got a special meaning and history behind it.

Celebration

After the events, some friends and I headed to Osaka for a little party. Well, just a get together, dinner and what not, tho in celebration of Chinami’s birthday one might say. I made a toast to Chinami, her happiness and her smiles and or some such. We had wine ’round midnight and overall just had a good time relaxing. To avoid sounding like too much of a broken record, thanks all for the comradery, these are a great group of people.

So, one down. One to go. See you tomorrow, or, today. I’m looking forward to it.

Seattle Side-Story
Berryz and a Lucky Penny

After Sakura-con, friends and I were doing a bit of sightseeing and such before heading off to a dinner reservation. We would eventually make our way towards Pike Place Market, where unfortunately there were a bunch of closed stores because of Easter. No matter, we’d drop into the various open shops as we were walking and what not. We had eventually split off a bit from each other and it was left with me and one other. As we were walking towards the market, we saw Seattle Shirt Co. across the street and my friend asked if we could stop in. We weren’t in a hurry or anything, so yeah, why not. As we cross and get to the other side, and begin making our way towards the store…

“Momoko?” my friend says to me. I hadn’t realized it, but Momoko and a Berryz staff member had just walked past us. We paused and turned to confirm, and could see the two walking away. A few steps later and Momoko turns to looks back, we catch a glimpse of each other and she recognizes us and waves, as we then wave back. A chance encounter, tho we were curious as to why she was out by herself.

With that behind us, we headed into the store as originally intended.

As we’re a few steps inside, “Chinami,” I said. I was certain that was her hair I spotted all the way at the back of the store. My friend hadn’t seen anything at this point, so she was a little confused as to why I was saying her name. I repeat myself, after having stopped in my tracks from moving into the store any further. I motion and say, “over there,” or something to that effect. Then I see, Captain is back there too… and Miyabi… and Risako. Wow! High tension.

Still a bit frozen, about now is when Chinami briefly turns towards us, smiles and then turns back to Miya/Rii/Captain. At this point I can’t recall my reaction, but the tension had continued to build for sure.

Just then, “Kentucky-san ga iru,” Chinami says, her voice carrying throughout the store. Berryz know both me and my friend pretty well, and with that they all turn to us, smile and wave. Wow, wow; another chance encounter, yeah. We wave back, I recall saying konnichiwa or some other similar greeting and not much else, then my friend an I went back to shopping around a bit and Berryz did the same.

We walked around to the side of the store, somewhat away from where Berryz were (didn’t want to interfere with their free time or anything like that, you know). As we were walking away my friend asked where’s Yurina (her favorite member). I realized we hadn’t seen Maasa either.

As we turn a corner, what would you know, it’s Yurina. This totally freezes my friend for a step. What should we do? She was facing a wall looking at some stuff but eventually would turn and say hello. We’d continue looking at things and Yurina did the same. My friend was looking at some cute keychains and picked one out, she then proceeds to call Yurina over to ask her opinion of it. She wasn’t too far away, and came over to us to oblige without hesitation. We didn’t tie her up for too long and went back to browsing the store.

My friend decided she wanted to buy the cute keychain and recommended I get something as well; something to remember the experience by if you will. It didn’t take long for me to find something. A lucky keychain. I feel lucky to have had all the experiences I’ve been having over the past years, and that day, I felt so lucky to have had met and chatted with Berryz in such a casual way.

Lucky Penny

Lucky Penny

By this time, Berryz were back to the front of the store, my friend and I were making our way back there as well. What followed as we caught up with them was a few minutes of conversation; Miya and Yurina were checking out at the front desk and eventually joined in. Although I’ve been pretty verbose thus far, I’ll skimp on the details here, yeah. Tho one thing, Chinami ended up pulling out her iPhone, showing it to us and explaining the cute design on the case and such.

Ah, what a great experience. Lucky~

My friend and I said bye to Berryz and then went ourselves to checkout. As we left the store, we noticed Berryz outside going in the direction we had planned on going. In an effort to not follow them, we took an alternate route thinking they’d possibly be gone or inside a store by the time we circle around. As we were now coming up the street, we’d pass the Chocolate Box, where Berryz were inside. We wanted to go in, but wanted to wait until Berryz were finished doing their thing. Anyway, not too long after that, Berryz went off to Starbucks and we continued to shop around for a bit before heading back for dinner.

A nifty little side story to cap off the experience with Berryz in Seattle. The entire trip has been more than awesome.

Until we meet again, Berryz Koubou.

Berryz in Seattle

What a great weekend. Berryz and friends, I had a great time.

Berryz Koubou at Sakura-con

Berryz Koubou at Sakura-con


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