I had a better hotel in Kumamoto, but the livehouse was just around the perimeter of the park, a park I bet I could see from my room if my viewing angle was right. This was the second leg of the Kyushu tour of an idol group I follow. ‘Follow‘ sounds such a casual description, though. I’m here in Fukuoka just for this, so I better call myself ‘a big fan‘.
The early afternoon sun, the early December chill, swing music from the cafe across me, some convenience store snacks. I had all these with me on that park, on a bench, where an old man was picking fallen autumn leaves a second ago. He’s retired since to the cafe. He’s now talking to -I’m assuming here- his wife. Scenes of possible Murakami storylines come flooding in. The block was a mix of medium-rise apartment buildings, and shorter buildings with stores on the first floor. Ten steps away from the cafe was a heavy metal clothing shop.
I gave myself an extra day here. I had ideas. Oyster shucking and grilling at huts somewhere remote. Or see the beach you can reach by subway. A buoy of regret was bouncing in my mind, too, but it wasn’t anything I paid full attention to during my trip: I should’ve skipped this extra day, so I could catch more idol shows in my next destination, Tokyo.
There were two livehouses there, one building apart, and I found out later there was another concert that evening. By sundown, one would suspect the sea of black shirts were all out to see the same gig. To the right we see mostly young women. To the left we see a more motley, diverse gathering, but a good number would be my brothers in dance-rock idol. I didn’t bother knowing more about what the ladies were going to watch, but the band/group photos outside the venue had their members with unreal, angled hairstyles, shiny and pointed costumes, and pounds and pounds of make-up.
My ticket stub had a higher number than yesterday’s, and that meant I couldn’t get too close to the stage. I did get to the rail though, though it was far off-center. I’m not tall by any measure, so this is ideal. The performance I witnessed yesterday had me run through a wave of emotions I know I shouldn’t ride again today. My favorite group member stumbling on stage. My favorite member looking like she deserves a hospital bed than our cheers. My favorite member limiting cheki, instant photo tickets, and me not getting one.
She looked better this time. She danced better this time. I felt better, too. Much later in the set, she was off stage when the other members picked up instruments and played an old song from their first album. I would have held a fist- no, two fists!- up in the air, to praise this moment, the same moment I knew when my favorite member was resting. This was an amateurish performance, but I think we all knew the point wasn’t for us to marvel at the musicianship. We call this fanservice.
I deliberately missed the last song from their encore. This was my last chance to grab that coveted cheki ticket, and I don’t think there will be more than 10 to buy. I will not be seeing them anytime soon. I need that picture with my favorite member. Oh I know I already have one from their Taipei gig, that one where my wits almost boiled over from my big head because she didn’t do the peace sign with me, she didn’t do her half of the heart sign with me. She put her arm around my shoulder. Alright, not quite. It was her elbow, but this was far, far better from watching fan-made highlight videos of her during lunchtime at the office, hunched over my phone, every mundane day.
About a dozen people were ahead of me. I was ready for this, this failure. I had a Japanese friend translate something for me, and I’d show it to another member on my phone. About how their group means to me. About how I went to Japan to see my favorite member again. About my birthday being two days ago.
When you see people queuing to meet an idol, try to suspend your tendency to judge about this scene. You are bound to see things, pretty things, like young female fans sharing smiles and hugs and gifts with an idol. Then there would be that person that the idol group staff will single out from the crowd and deal with. And you, idol fan, all that dedication, care, and sure, love, that possesses you, keep it in you, and let it be siphoned into some reasonable, solved word-puzzle when you get to speak to your chosen idol. Pray that even if you don’t have a common language, some semblance of genuine gratitude is passed on to each other. That instant photo you hold only has one special, one-of-a-kind wonder of this Earth, and it isn’t you.
So. The gesture was a misstep. I’m fine. I’ll be OK. I lined up for ramen nearby for dinner, whose instant version was available at some airport shops. I lunched with grandmas at a common table the day after, and wished they told me the pink tube on my tray was something I put in copious amounts to my rice. I went to a city temple, tried my darn best to take like-worthy photos. I met a Malaysian dude who educated me how to eat, what to eat at the yatai, Fukuoka’s famous food stalls, where the stall owner greeted me in Tagalog when I told him where I was from.
The last thing I did in Fukuoka was to send postcards. The post office was a block away. My handwriting is terrible, it didn’t make sense I do this.