Those who pay attention to the site know that I was in Japan in the spring for another round of AKB48 2-Shots, wrestling and a bunch of touristy type things. If you did not know that, you can read all about that trip here. For this second trip I will be in Japan from December 30, 2016 – January 9, 2017.
This time out it’s another go at doing mostly touristy things such as seeing the famous holiday light displays, going to temple during New Year’s Eve, watching Kohaku Uta Gassen in some seedy izakaya and buying the famous fukubukuro bags from various shops as the new year begins.
Of course it’s not all shopping and walking around taking in the culture. There are a couple of special events I will be attending during my 10-day stay:
- Winter Comiket 2016
- Tokyo Idol Project x @JAM Premium Party 2017 – January 2-3, 2017
- Pro Wrestling Matsuri 2017 (Wrestle Kingdom 11 Fan Access) – January 3, 2017
- New Japan Pro Wrestling Wrestle Kingdom 11 – January 4, 2017
- Harajuku Ekimae Stage – January 6, 2016
- Pro Wrestling NOAH First Navigation 2017 at Korakuen Hall – January 7, 2017
There is always the likelihood of more things being added to that list as they come up. Something is bound to happen while I’m wandering aimlessly through the streets of Tokyo looking for stuff to do. Things always pop up at the last minute so I expect there will be more than what I already paid for in advance.
So come December 30, 2016 (Japan time) live vicariously through me once more by keeping it locked on this post for updates from Japan.
January 8, 2017
My final day in Japan was an early one. I was up around 1 AM packing up the remainder of my clothes as best as I could with my limited mobility. You really have to think of some efficient ways to move around a Japanese hotel room with crutches. When I got that all done I went back to bed.
At 7 AM I woke up again got ready and headed down to Denny’s for the final meal in the country. A bacon and egg sandwich with two really, really small sausages. Like pathetically small man. That broke my streak of Gogo Curry being my last meal but given my physical limitations it was not going to be a realistic possibility to get that even though it was relatively close to my hotel.
After that a quick trip to Yodobashi Camera Akiba to pick up some last minute items and then off to the airport via taxi. A 51 minute cab ride cost me $235.00 CDN. Definitely not the cheapest ride yet it was the most convenient way to get there without dealing with the Sunday morning crowds on the train or resorting to using the limo bus from Tokyo Dome Hotel.
Around 14:30 we made our way into the departure terminal. I saw Kenny Omega checking in through security ahead of me. It looked like he was heading back to Canada as well after his 2 nights of intense work at Wrestle Kingdom and New Year’s Dash. Once in the terminal it was a stop in the duty free to get some smokes for the family back home. Then the incredibly long journey to the other end of Narita Airport.
Air Canada departures always seem to be way the hell at the end of the other end of the terminal. After what felt like an eternity we made it to the gate.
Of course being at the end of the damn terminal there wasn’t much in regards to options for eats. Just the regular cafe I see every year that serves some simple stuff like hot dogs and such. Hey, it’s better than nothing.
Due to my injury I got priority boarding and was upgraded to business class. Having only walked by those in business class it was a new experience to actually be sitting there. It certainly is a lot more comfortable than being crammed into the sardine can that is economy class. You get better food, amenities and the pods lie flat so you can actually sleep properly. I would consider paying for business class on a future trip if the price is right.
Of course once the plane landed back in Canada the sad reality of not being in Japan set in. But I gotta get my knee fixed up as soon as possible so that takes priority over any silly travel plans that I may have had made ahead of time this year. I don’t expect to be fully healed until summer at the latest.
Hopefully I’ll be recovered in time to do something next year but I’ll take it one step at a time and see where that goes.
January 7, 2017
The last day in Japan was spent bumming around Shibuya trying to get some last minute shopping done. Yeah, that was it. A guy on crutches with a messed up knee crossing one of the busiest intersections in the world mid-day.
I discovered it is not hard to get around as a disabled person if you stick to the JR stations & do some research as to where the elevators and/or escalators may be. Sure the routes might take a bit longer but it’s better than being holed up in a hotel room watching the terrible that is Japanese daytime TV.
During dinner I think I ate half a cow at some steak place at Yodobashi Camera. It sure looked like they put one one my plate. It was a struggle to finish but it was so good.
January 6, 2017
Mandatory room cleaning forced me from chilling in my room and resting up my knee. So I hobbled out to Akihabara to look around Yodobashi Camera. I looked around for some figures to display at my desk at work. I wanted to grab a Sailor Moon figure or two but none were to be found. I did see that Tamashii Nations started making WWE figures so I kept it in mind should I be able to go back before I leave.
After a late breakfast it was a trip to the AKB48 Cafe for the mandatory over priced coasters. The menu in the shop certainly has become much smaller than I recall and what constitutes as edible food has gone downhill as well.
Other than that it was an uneventful day of just doing nothing.
January 5, 2017
Well today was the day I started packing early for my journey home. I got word from my travel insurance company that they are sending one of my family members to Japan help me get back to the airport and to take care of my luggage and such. So a few other activities such as the Pro Wrestling NOAH show and pretty much any idol show are out of the question for me.
And to be honest Wrestle Kingdom 11 was the last hurdle for me to tackle before the end of the trip and I did it. The rest of my time here was going to be spent shopping so I’m saving myself some cash now that I’m stuck in my hotel room for the most part.
I did manage to go out and slowly navigate the streets of Akihabara. I at least know my way around here to know what places have an escalator/elevator and which ones don’t. That at least helps me not go nuts with cabin fever. And I’m packed up early for once, so no late night bag tetris trying to cram stuff in as much as possible.
January 4, 2017
January 4 was the day of Wrestle Kingdom and the first day after the injury that put me on the shelf. My leg was not in as much pain after a night of sleep. I was determined to go to Wrestle Kingdom no matter how slow I would be getting there.
Of course that meant taking the chance of riding the train two stops to Suidobashi. While not totally treacherous it did enforce the lesson that Japan is not exactly the most friendly to those who are disabled.
Once we got to Tokyo Dome it was packed full of people. We had the understanding that there was a disabled person’s entrance and after asking a couple of security guards we were escorted to the bowels of the Tokyo Dome where I would not have to take any stairs. It also happened to be the dressing room area and we passed Adam Cole warming up.
The overall show itself was great. For me there were some bathroom break moments such as the ROH World Title Match perhaps parts of the gauntlet match for the heavyweight tag team championships. I also thought the ending for the Jr. tag team team titles felt somewhat abrupt as it looked like there was a build to another sequence instead of a pinfall.
The last two matches on the card were both spectacular for various reasons. Naito vs. Tanahashi had the crowd split between allegiances. The section where I was sitting was very pro LIJ with only a few women in the crowd cheering for Tanahashi. When Naito won the crowd in my area popped hard.
For the main event, it was a 46 minute battle that showed Kenny Omega going all out to try to win the belt from Kazuchika Okada. Even going as far as to go through an un-gimmicked table. But in the end he came close but did not win. This match had everyone on edge and the crowd popped like mad when Okada hit any Rainmaker and of course the pinfall provided a happy ending even for those who did not want Okada to win.
Then it was figuring out a way to get out of the dome. Once again we were escorted through the halls where we ran into Tanahashi dressed in street clothes. Everyone in the hallway nodded to him as he passed by so we did the same.
After that a return back to the hotel via taxi and a night of rest letting the hype die down.
January 3, 2017
The last day of NPP2017 started later with a predia live at noon. I knew of them but never really got into the music. But since they were at the festival I figured I’d give them a go. I did like the majority of their songs. They seem to be better at doing the “cool” type of idol songs versus traditional idol ones. Given that this group is older than the average idol group, seeing them try the cutesy stuff felt a little odd.
I decided to try for whatever their buppan was after their set. It turned out to be a 2-shot type of thing. 2 tickets gets you a picture with a member of the group. So I bought 5 2-shots. When I got the buppan area it was fairly well organized outside. Once you got inside it became a bit of a clusterfuck with people forming random lines everywhere.
It took a bit of observation to get an idea of how everything worked. Once I did that I started in on getting pics. However, management stopped the event 10 minutes short so I had to burn a pair of tix. So 4/5 is still a good percentage of completion.
It was a few hours before AKB48 Team 8’s stage so breakfast at a tonkatsu restaurant before heading to Zepp DiverCity to get a good spot for Team 8. As expected the place was packed. The group ahead of Team 8 was Wasuta (World Standard). They were pretty decent overall and their fans are insane. Beside me were 3 wota just going all out.
Once Wasuta there was a mad rush to get as close to the front as possible. We got squeezed into a fairly good position just to the right of the stage. Team 8 were full of energy and I got good views of Oguri Yui and Nakano Ikumi so I left satisfied.
I left to go outside to get fresh air after. When I was returning to the venue I had an accident and injured my right knee. I knew it was bad just by how it felt. So my day at NPP2017 ended with me going to the hospital to get my knee x-rayed instead of seeing SUPER GIRLS.
To make a long story short, I have a partial torn patella muscle in my right knee. So I can bend it to a point but extending or raising the leg is a no go. I ended up getting a pair of crutches and a leg brace and a giant ass bill.
The journey home from the hospital was slow and painful but I made it to the hotel with the help of my peeps. After a late dinner at Denny’s it was to the room to elevate the leg and arrange a journey home to get surgery.
January 2, 2017
I spent all day in Odaiba for the Tokyo Idol Project x @JAM Premium Party despite only having 2 acts I wanted to see. Of course the 2 I had scheduled also bookmarked the beginning and end of the day.
It was an early morning start with PASSPO. I had seen them live on one of my previous trips. But I was way the hell in the back. For this event I was in 10th row and had a great view of the stage. I always had Tamai Anna & Mori Shiori in my line of sight the entire time. Bonus.
At first the group performed a medley of various songs. After a short MC they picked up their instruments and became band PASSPO for the rest of their set. I have never seen them perform in this incarnation so that was a nice surprise. And they actually do sound like a finely tuned band and not some idols who are looking at their hands trying to figuring out what note to play next.
Even though their set was short I enjoyed it a lot. It was a great way to start the day.
After PASSPO there was the long wait until babyraids JAPAN at the end of the night. I filled my time by getting a meal at Aqua City and figuring out the buppan process. It wasn’t exactly clear to my foreign self and much time was spent around the Fuji TV building watching other people go in and out.
It wasn’t until meeting up with one of my fellow peeps that the whole thing was explained in full. It was buying merch at specific venues that got you buppan entry. I passed on buying PASSPO stuff earlier so that pretty much was a wash. However, I was given a babyraids JAPAN handshake ticket. The others had already met them and I was the only one who had not.
The handshake experience was similar to the AKB48 national events. The members are lined up, you get a short handshake and then a tap on the shoulder from staff to move on. The observations I can make are the following:
- They are all a lot shorter than I had expected. Especially Denya Erika.
- Speaking of Denya, I got to touch babyraids JAPAN oshi. She is very fine up close. (IMO)
- Ooya Rikako seems to give off a fisher vibe. She’s also very cute in person.
- Watanabe Rio is as advertised and is a fun handshake.
Once that was done I had another 2 hours to kill just sitting and hanging out near the Fuji TV building waiting for everyone to get their buppan things done as well. Once all was completed it was off to Zepp Diver City.
We arrived fairly late to the venue and the thought was we were going to be somewhere in the back. However, the crowd was not as abundant as we expected and it was possible to move in just behind the ladies only row. In other words we had a prime, unobstructed look at the stage.
babyraids JAPAN live is definitely a high energy affair. They performed mostly new material from their latest album Nippon Chu! Chu! Chu! Again, a short set but a lot of fun. And that ended day 1 at the NPP2017.
Then on to dinner at the Pasela Akihabara to try the famous Honey Toast. If you are going to do this I suggest you not order a full meal beforehand as it is a rather large dessert. Basically it’s an entire loaf of bread with ice cream and other sweets. If that sounds like an appealing challenge to you then certainly go for it.
After dinner I got to do the annual tradition of getting my ass handed to me by a salary man in Street Fighter IV. Since it was so late there was not enough time to find the table flipping game, but I’m still here for a bit so hopefully I can do that as well.
January 1, 2017
Nothing much to report. Slept in until about 10 A.M. Didn’t even leave my hotel room until noon. I Spent the day trying to finish omiyage requests from back home before the insanity of what will be the next few days.
I also went on a quest to get any lucky bag I could get a hold of. Given that I woke up so late the prospect of getting anything really awesome was out the window immediately. I ended up with the AKB48 Cafe Happy Bag and some video game/anime place bag. I wanted the SoftMap bag too but all of them were sold out. So as of this day I have 3 lucky bags total.
After the quest for lucky bags I tried to find a place to eat. Everywhere was full due to the holidays but I managed to squeeze into a Coco Curry in Akihabara. Then off to Tokyo Station to do the omiyage requests. I was successful in getting that done as well. Mission accomplished for the most part.
Lastly, dinner at an izakaya outside Kanda station to finish off the night. Yup. Not really an exciting overall experience it was nice to have a chill day after the insanity of New Year’s.
December 31, 2016
This entire day was spent in the Odaiba area to scout locations for the upcoming idol festival in early January and to do some general sight seeing and shopping. After many tries I finally got to go to the Fuji TV building.
Much of the tour through the building is similar to that of the NHK tour. You can see displays about the various programs the station offers but you can’t really take any pictures unless specified in some areas where it’s okay. Or you just be a sneaky bastard and take pics while the numerous staff are looking the other way.
Once I hit the gift shop I was fortunate enough to grab my first lucky bag of the trip. It came displayed as advertised and was a tightly wrapped orange bag that could have up to 23,000 yen worth of goods in it. The important thing is “up to 23,000 yen”. It could also have a bunch of worthless crap worth way less than that.
While in the Odaiba area I also got to see the giant Gundam one last time before it is moved in March 2017. Given that I probably won’t be back anytime soon in 2017 I made sure I got some day and night shots of it. I also took the opportunity to take some photos and video of other areas of Odaiba I did not have he opportunity to visit on previous trips.
When the evening hit it was a return to the hotel to rest up before going to the Kamem Joshi New Year’s concert at P.A.R.M.S. I knew of this collective through various ads seen in Akihabara and from the idol fans I interact with online. But, I have never been to any of their shows. Their concert is a very high energy affair from beginning to end.
Highlights for me were watching all three groups that make up Kamen Joshi perform the same song 3 times in a row with the crowd getting more hyped with each version. There was also a finale where the crowd parts while a member is carried through them on a rubber boat. Yes, you read that right.
It sounds silly, but it’s pretty cool to see as a climax to the show.
After the concert ended there was a small handshake/cheki event. It took a bit of time for me to get the idea of how it worked but in the end I ended up buying a shit ton of CDs in order to get some 2-shots with the members who caught my attention during the concert.
I ended up with four chekis. One each with Mori Kanon (Alice Juban), Kamiya Erina (Steam Girls) and Tsukino Moa (Armor Girls). I also got a group shot with Armor Girls signed by Kusunoki Mayu.
By the time the show and the mini event were over it was 3 AM. Being very hungry there were not many choices for food at that time in Akihabara. It came down to family restaurant chains and in the end we ended up waiting at Denny’s for a spot to open up. I got a big meal that certainly helped get my energy back up.
When that was done and we all went our separate ways I went straight to bed at just after 5 A.M. I’d say that this New Year’s Eve was the most fun I’ve had in a while. I normally don’t go out on NYE anymore and prefer to just chill at home doing stuff like watching idol shows or playing video games. So to actually be out and about for once was nice.
December 30, 2016
Landed on time at Narita and made it out of there in an hour setting a new personal best for getting into Tokyo since I didn’t have to go and pick up any additional things like a sim card like I normally do.
Once I got into the city I made my way to Akihabra. I was kindly asked by some lady to donate to the earthquake relief fund and I spared whatever yen I could to help out. Then to my hotel which was not very far from the Central Gate exit of Akihabara station.
My room was as expected and it had a distinct nicotine smell to it. For the price I paid and the location, spraying the room with air freshener is a small sacrifice to make. Not much happened this day since it was basically about unpacking, getting freshened up and then doing some small errands such as refilling my Suica card.
Other than that, I took a pictures of Akihabara at night and off to Uobei in Shibuya for the first meal in Japan. When I got back to my hotel I hit the bed and immediately passed out.
December 29, 2016
I woke up very early in the morning in order to get ready. At around 8:30 AM I made my way to the new international terminal at YYC. I had read mixed reviews of the place and I believe a lot of people are talking shit.
It was a breeze getting through security and my gate was a very short walk from the central hub area. So whatever complaints people were making about the terminal seem very overblown to me. After waiting for a couple of hours I boarded my flight bound for Narita. My seat was pretty decent and luckily no jerk in front of me reclining. Yay.
The first attempt to sleep resulted in failure. I gave up and started watching whatever movies were available. The first one I decided to give a go was the remake of Ghostbusters.
The movie is not so good. That is about all I can say about it since I fell asleep near the end of it. Thankfully the first in flight meal came as I started the movie. So there wasn’t a complete sour taste experience. It at least killed some time on the plane.
After another attempt at sleeping (I more drifted in and out instead of getting a good straight hour or so of sleep I once again gave up and instead watched the BABYMETAL Live at Wembley concert. It was a great show. Those Brits go all out in the Wall of Death. It looked like a few venue security guards got caught up in the madness.
Once more sleep evaded me so I went with another movie, Hands of Stone. It is the biopic of legendary boxer Roberto Duran. It was better than I expected it to be and it was way better than Ghostbusters.
The rest of the flight consisted of the 5-star meals that only Air Canada can provide along with the agonizing wait to land.