Kumamoto

The airport was small. To commute downtown, I had to use a vending machine that dispenses tickets for the limousine bus. There wasn’t much to see on my way to the hotel, but the imaginary, cold pins stayed erect on my skin. It was my birthday, the first of December, and I’ve descended on Japanese soil for the first time. Well, I was in Tokyo first, had a serene half-hour waiting time with my co-passengers -proper, business-attired folk- for the Kumamoto-bound flight. There was a fleet of students off to somewhere else. I was on my second water bottle, and handling new currency added to my heightened senses

The cashier at the convenience store in front of my hotel looked like a foreigner, and I had a reluctant thought that maybe I should strike a conversation in English. No, I didn’t have to, so I didn’t. I had my snack at the hotel lobby, since it wasn’t check-in time yet. Around an hour later, I had my arms around Kumamon, the black bear mascot of the area, who has an “office” at a mall nearby. I bought postcards, went back, and slept.

Past eleven in the evening, I was in line with salarymen at a ramen shop, and had an emotional moment when I was handed a glass of icy water, along with my food. See, I’ve been based in Shanghai for some time, where, say, after hours of apartment hunting, back in their office, the real estate agent will hand you hot water in a plastic cup for refreshment. Every second consuming that bowl of noodles was immensely delightful, and I only had a photo to remember it.

The day after, I was around Kumamoto Castle, and what appeared to be an otaku event was ongoing nearby. Cosplayers, food booths, a stage for performances. A vendor had a sign that you could talk to them in English, and I bought a slab of bacon from them. Yes, it didn’t appear to be a town festival that was on official tourism brochures, but this feels a bit better. I didn’t come for it, but I’m amusing myself that it showed up for me.

Mid-afternoon, I was already in line to buy concert merch. It wasn’t that hard to locate the livehouse. This was the first of the two Kyushu region gigs PassCode will do for their Japan tour. PassCode is a four-member idol group. They do electronic, dance-rock music, with vocoded singing, with screams. I have been a fan for a few years, and today will be my second chance to see them. I traveled to Taipei last time.

Tickets for Japanese concerts are usually numbered, and that will determine when you can enter. I won mine by lottery, and I was sure to be on the first three rows. The concert starts, and my heart is now overworking. The group had a full rock band in tow now. First song. Three members are in sight. My favorite, Yuna, the littlest, the brown-haired screamer, is nowhere. This has happened before -her being not able to perform due to health reasons- and she went on hiatus for a few months. This tour was her comeback.

I know the song well. It was the first track of their second album, their first on a major label. Yuna had a part in it, early in, that the other members masked by shouting, cheering with the crowd. A part of me deflated, and sunk into a well of defeat. Before the first chorus, she was on stage, screaming her lines.

She seemed weak. She stopped dancing often, would be out of step with the others. Her hair would cover her face most of the time. She would step out of stage a lot. Some staff members would have their back at the audience to cover her when she had to crouch, or sit down. No one can say for sure if she was crying, but she was not clearly in a condition to continue. The oddest thing was, she did her lines, screaming incredibly well, as if it was the most natural of (her) human functions.

Idol concerts would typically have a time after the performance when you can have a photo with the group, or even each member. I bought four tickets, but I was again arguing with myself that this didn’t seem right. How can I justify this? I sure can’t know the true conditions of the situation, but the section of my will for reason now refuses to work with me. I was in the line for Yuna, when someone told me I didn’t have the right ticket, that they already sold out the 10 allotted for her. I didn’t use my fourth ticket.

There were two ways back to the hotel. One is a shopping street, one is teeming with adult entertainment establishments. I can’t remember what I had for dinner. I remembered walking for a long time.

I was off to Fukuoka the next day, where I would see the second concert. I wanted to take the local train, but Google Maps suggested it would be easier take a long distance bus instead. There was a stop for it nearby, and convenience won over the tourist experience. My purple luggage’s wheels noisily tread on as a blissfully quiet, Sunday morning happens. I tried to look for the crows I was astonished to see yesterday, floating above the traffic lights. Those were huge crows, but they weren’t out yet.

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