With a headache that was spoiling my third day in Tokyo, I went with Akiko to the Ghibli Museum on a Friday morning. It was her first time going there, too. Before I even set foot in Japan, I had to ask her to book tickets for us, since there was an admission schedule we had to follow. The scene replicas from the anime was a treat, among all else. I wonder why this wasn’t the sort of place I see people on my social media rave about.
Later that day, I was in line for another show at Zepp Diver City. Akiko went with me, and thankfully so, since it looked like navigation from where we were to the venue wasn’t easy to manage. Once I settled, I was by myself, along with a hundreds of idol fans, and not the sort with capes and light sticks, but in the trendy, streetwear inspired garb peddled by management, often with puzzling, sometimes crude text on it.
My entry number was 232, which did cost me more when I was liaising with a specialized for-foreigners service, that will join ticket lotteries for you. This time, I had them get me a ticket for a sold-out concert from auction sites. The lower the ticket number, the sooner you enter, the nearer you are the stage.
As before, I looked for an obvious foreigner, to find out if they knew more about the event than me. Found one, and despite being a white, blonde dude, when I told him where I was from, he started conversing with me in Tagalog.
The hotel I settled for was near the Hatagaya metro station, and was away from what I expect a feverish Tokyo city vibe would have. The room was more than satisfactory, and I had my mini-tub. There was a reason to hurry just after checking in though, as I needed to figure out how to go to an idol show that weekday December evening.
The map lead me to a building around Taitō-ku. I found the concert from a Twitter post, and there were a handful of idol groups slated to perform. The venue was at an upper floor, and when elevator doors opened, I had seen something that had me re-assess if I was at the right place: a 50-something salaryman, a divine smile stamped on his face, was speaking to a young teenager wearing a very short, sparkling gold costume. Went back down, checked my reference tweet, checked my location, and yes, I was where I was supposed to be. This was the Tokyo Kinema Club. I went back, purchased my ticket, and marveled at the venue’s grandness. This was an old, dimly-lit space, that had stage curtains I would like to think had seen cabaret shows in its earlier days. There were about a hundred men, eager to partake the same air as their favorite idols. I’ve been to events like this before in Shanghai, but this feels so different there was unease, but so familiar.
The group I wanted to see was NECRONOMIDOL. They were popular with my online social circle who share this niche interest, even in idol. They sang heavy metal songs, they sang songs you can dance to. I knew they were all set for a US tour that time.
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.
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.
When Yennung handed me over my gig ticket last Sunday, the big relief that came wasn’t the overwhelming sort, maybe because the physical fatigue I’ve went through to be there (spent the night at the airport for an early morning Shanghai to HK to Taipei flight the day before) was still very present. More than a week ago, Yennung was an internet stranger who heeded my call when I showed interest in going to a concert in Taipei by posting on a Facebook fanclub. I wasn’t asking for anything specifically, but about 2 days after we chatted, I was looking at a photo of an electronically printed piece of paper that, figuratively, had my name on it.