Maeda Atsuko

Around this time last year I landed at Narita airport smack in the middle of the blazing heat of summer in Japan. I have been around that part of Asia in summer before so I expected it to be hot. But when you can feel the heat through the windows of the airport you know it’s hot.

Anyway, the purpose of my trip was to pay my respects to the departing Maeda Atsuko at AKB48’s series of Tokyo Dome concerts. I was also there to meet up with some friends I had made through connections on various idol related sites and forums.

Those folks were Selective Hearing’s own Hiro (who I had met back in Seattle at an after party during Berryz Koubou’s first American appearance) and New School Kaidan’s Dave and Vu. Dave I briefly met in Anaheim while waiting in line to get into the SCANDAL concert at AM2 and Vu I had not met in person until I actually got to Japan, although I did speak to him over Skype several times during the planning sessions for the trip.

Nagiichi

The four of us embarked on a whirlwind 10-day journey through Tokyo with three of us being able to see 2/3 out of the Tokyo Dome concerts. Hiro was the only one lucky enough to see all 3 days and NMB in bikinis live. That bastard!! xD

Greg Tokudane

Dave Meme

The four of us and NSK’s Anthony (a.k.a. monkeyto) also ended up being part of a featured story on Tokudane, a Fuji TV morning program who were covering the AKB48 Tokyo Dome concerts and Maeda Atsuko’s graduation. I’m not going to recap everything here and instead you can navigate through the links below:

Day 0
Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6

You can also refer to the podcast I did with Hiro about the trip and Dave’s discussion about his experiences on the NSK podcast as well.

AKB48 Theater

In the end it was a hell of a ride that renewed my sense of confidence in the idol fandom. During that time the idea of an idol fan “community” was starting to fall apart in my eyes.

After all, I had just abandoned the sinking ship of Hello! Project and was a lone man on an island for my differing opinions on the direction of the once great idol collective. My especially harsh comments on their flagship group did not necessarily win me a lot of friends and in the process I lost a few who I thought were mature enough to accept differing opinions within reason, no matter how offensive they may have been to their ideals.

So off I dove head first into what I used to consider enemy territory. Being the proverbial fresh off the boat rookie in the AKB world I was not sure what to expect out of the trip. My first experiences within the AKB fandom were extremely negative and had soured my view on it all as a whole. Would it be the same being around the Japanese AKB fans?

As I have stated above, it ended up being more than I could have ever expected. The camaraderie formed through those 10 days showed me that some sensible fans that are a pleasure to be around exist. After being around some of the more bat shit crazy, overly emo and just a little obsessive of the idol fans during my experiences; it was truly a revelation.

Obviously I’m over generalizing a bit, but those of you in the know understand that most of what I said is true. I’m pretty sure some of you who are reading this have met some of these more “dedicated” fans during your own travels and are nodding your head in agreement right now.

But that is a discussion for another time and place.

Anyway, it was great to spend some time with my peeps in the mecca of all that we hold close to our hearts. Let’s face it, being an idol music fan outside of Japan is a lonely existence, especially if you’re in a location that doesn’t have a strong enough grass roots fan base to help feed your need on a consistent basis.

Thankfully I have been able to build a network through Selective Hearing to have a few like-minded individuals to talk with and on occasion tour with in Japan. Some of you may not be so lucky and you’ll have to look a little harder outside of your back yard.

I do highly recommend that all of you out there who are J-Pop/Idol fans to try to make the pilgrimage to Japan at least once in your life. If you can go with friends and/or people you’ve met on forums and you’re able to stand being around each other for extended periods of time without killing each other then that’s even better.

Of course there ain’t no shame in going by yourself if you are anti-social, incapable of making friends or scheduling conflicts prevent a group trip. I went alone on my first trip to Japan and had no real problems other than the ability to read a map or street signs properly.

Japan 4

But that is part of the adventure right? Still, travel is a lot more fun with the right people and this was the probably the most fun I have had on a non-family vacation in a very long time. So many great memories with great friends.

As mentioned here in earlier posts, the 4 of us are convening once more to have our hands blessed many times over by lovely young women. I plan to live blog from the handshake event(s) we are attending, but that isn’t really set in stone until I find out if I can get a mi-fi device. But stay tuned closer to our October departure.