Earlier this year, I posted a series of articles going over tips to plan for Japan trips, and how to attend Hello! Project events in general. Though I tend to make a trip to Japan every spring and fall, this fall I was able to make the most packed trip I’ve ever had. It makes a pretty example of how I actually use all those tips I posted before.
I’ll be taking two trips before my oshimen (Morning Musume。’17’s Kudo Haruka) graduates this fall, and these first 3 reports will cover my first trip from October to November, full of birthday events and handshakes and the 10th gen bus tour! I actually had almost 3 weeks completely full of Morning Musume events. You normally wouldn’t be able to do this with a single group, but timing was my friend this trip. To give a quick visual example of my schedule, here’s a simplified view of my whole trip’s calendar.
To put it another way, out of nearly 3 weeks, I only had 4 days where I didn’t attend any Morning Musume events! (Though I kept busy with other things) So as you can imagine, this is going to be a gigantic trip report if I don’t split it into sections.
For this first report, I’ll cover everything that happened from Oct 26 to 31, which includes:
10/26 – Kudo photobook event
10/27 – Kudo birthday
10/28 – Okayama MM concert
10/29 – Takamatsu MM concert
10/30 – Fukumura birthday
10/31 – Halloween
Let’s get started!
2 PM: land at Haneda airport. Went to exchange monies, pick up my JR pass, the usual.
4:30 PM: Arrive at my hotel in Shimbashi. No rest for the weary though, had to get ready to see the oshimen. Freshened up and redressed myself out of the day-long plane travel nastiness.
7 PM: Kudo Haruka photobook event in Akihabara. I’ve never met the members the same day that I’ve arrived in Japan before, so even this was a first for me. I hadn’t known the photobook event would be on this day, but I usually plan on arriving the day before events start, just to be safe.
I bought a couple copies of Kudo’s 4th photobook, partly to redistribute to American wotas who wanted a copy, and partly to loop the handshake. …ok, mainly to loop the handshake. They were really short ones, about 1-2 seconds each, but I had 7 so I got to talk to her about everything from me just arriving that day to my feelings on the photobook. (I couldn’t resist and looked through the first copy I got!) Nothing particularly important, but it’s always a nice warm thumping of the heart when you first get to see your oshimen after a while.
12 PM: Got to Hello! Shop right as they opened. There was already a fair line of people queueing to buy Duu’s birthday goods that released that day. Normally you wouldn’t have this kind of wait at all, but it took me about 10 minutes to get in and write down my order list. Then about 20-30 minutes for the staff to actually get everything to me due to the sheer number of people and orders coming in.
1 PM: I had to go meet up with Michael from No Country for Tall Men to pick up all my concert and event tickets. I had made the costly, but in my opinion, very correct decision of asking him to ship all my CDs to the US instead of picking them up in person. That was a ton of luggage I’m super glad I didn’t have to drag around with me. Also because I had to pick up my tickets, I wasn’t going to be able to line up for Duu’s birthday goods in time. I could already see the line was reaching 100+ people by twitter updates alone, so I had to ask a friend who was already in line to get me my share of goods instead.
3:30 PM: I arrive at Differ Ariake just in time to hand off my goods money to my friend, and then met up with some fellow Morning Musume fan artists. I had a fun time talking with them and sketching for fun as we waited for the doors to the venue to open.
7 PM: Duu’s birthday event starts, and I’m lucky enough to be in the 3rd row, but all the way to the left. The 1st and 2nd rows are shortened though, so I actually have a “first row seat” if you take into the fact that there was nobody in front of me! Even better, the second that Duu entered the room, she did so through the door just to my left. Everyone was looking all over to see where she’d come in from, but all I did was look to my left, and there she was, right in front of me, lit up by this perfect glow of stage lights.
The birthday event itself was half a prank, and half a live corner. This girl has a yearly tradition of getting pranked for her birthday event, and to my delight, it continued again this year. To put it shortly, Haga Akane, her “official stalker”, made another visit to the Kudo house and showed us a nice collection of pictures and commentary that just so happened to embarrass the birthday girl.
For the live corner, she picked a decent selection of rarer, but not super underground songs. If you’ve been a fan of H!P since the mid-late 2000s, you’d know most if not all the songs. She also has a habit of doing one song every year that can’t make it into the DVD due to copyright reasons though! This year we even promised to not spread the song so I can’t even name it, haha.
The one song from this year’s setlist that made the biggest impression on me though, was Buono’s Kimi ga Ireba. It’s a song that I’ve always loved and has held a special place in my heart. To hear your oshimen sing a song that important to you is truly a special experience. Her choosing to do this song really was a big deal to me, and I ended up using quite a few handshake tickets to give my thanks and talk seriously to her (for once) about it.
After everything ended, she saw everyone off one by one, and I used the chance to wish her a happy birthday. Sure, it’s standard, but getting to say it directly to her on her birthday itself makes it special to me.
7 AM: It took a little bit longer for me to get out of the hotel than I had hoped. Had to repack everything and leave it at luggage storage at Tokyo station before I could get on my shinkansen.
12 PM: Because I could only take the slower shinkansens with the JR pass, it took me a bit longer to get to Okayama. Once I did, I immediately headed to a karaoke place near the station. You see, there was a group of Kudo wotas who were planning a special project for her birthday, and I was lucky enough to get asked to take part in it. As this was a small group of the extremely dedicated, I was more than honored to help in any way I could. Once I got to the karaoke room, introductions were quick as everyone’s hands were busy. I immediately got to helping by packing an orange glowstick, orange gerbera (a type of daisy), and an explanation sheet into plastic bags. I think there were 1500+ of each, and the time was ticking down before the afternoon concert. Luckily, we managed to finish just in time and got everything boxed and moved to the concert hall.
3 PM: This was my first time seeing a concert for this fall tour! There were a fair number of new songs from the new 15th album, but it was super enjoyable anyways! There are several blocks of songs that change each concert, so it’s almost like a clock with all the pieces changing. It really covers a lot of Morning Musume’s history and showcased songs from different eras.
5 PM: The afternoon concert just ended and we immediately got together to move the boxed glowsticks into the venue. Special preparations were made so that everyone involved in the project were ticketed early and went in through another door. There was barely any time before the doors opened for the night concert, so we had to seriously rush to set a package of glowsticks and flowers on each seat. Eventually we had them distributed throughout both the 1st and 2nd floor of seats, and there was still a decent amount of time before the next show.
6:30 PM: The night concert began and the Haruka calls felt even louder and more powerful than in the afternoon show. I was in the 2nd row, on the left side of the stage where there was apparently a concentrated amount of orange waving people. Although I only had one row in front of me, of course there had to be ONE tall dude diagonally to my right. I did manage to weave around him though when needed though. There’s a certain song in the setlist where the word “darling” is in the lyrics, and during that part of the choreography, the members point out at the audience. I miraculously received one of these “darlings” without even realizing the value of it. It wasn’t until I talked with friends later, that I learned that it was rather hard to get one of those.
Finally, the concert was beginning to end and our special moment was coming up. During the encore, everyone used their own kingblades and did an orange Haruka call instead of the usual encore. It’s a sight I’ve seen a couple times before but still can’t get enough of. I can’t imagine how much more important it is in the eyes of the members themselves.
Once the lights came back on with the first encore song, everyone broke their orange glowsticks for an extra dose of orange light and held up their orange gerberas. The second that Duu turned around and saw the audience, her expression went from surprise to pure joy. And throughout the rest of the song, I also caught the other members grinning at the sight and meeting each others’ eyes in a way that pretty much channeled their joy to each other. Their expressions alone definitely made all the rushing and hard work (or what little I could help with) worth it.
Once the encore song ended and they lined up for the MC segment, a group of wotas leading the project in the first row held up signs explaining the flowers.
In the language of flowers, orange gerberas mean “You are my sunshine.”
Of course, Kudo Haruka being horrible at English couldn’t read the word “sunshine”. (Which I had kind of suspected would happen) But luckily Nonaka was around to help her out.
This was just the start of the fall tour for me, but it was an incredibly impressionable concert that left me with the warmest and proudest feeling. It’s definitely not something I will forget for a long long time.
And just like that, the orange gerbera has become my favorite flower as well.
5 AM: There was a typhoon rolling in and I was afraid of transportation getting affected, so I took the first train from Okayama to Takamatsu. I ended up getting there super early and wandered around to get some food, eventually stopping at a Gusto to have breakfast and relax. My friends also started arriving one by one so we met up and got a rental car.
9 AM: I know we were planning to eat udon since that’s what Takamatsu is famous for. (Duu also really likes it there and calls it uDuun! all the time) However, I didn’t know that we had planned to eat it at 3 different restaurants famous for it. All one after another. Luckily, I have a semi-blackhole stomach and was able to have it at all 3 restaurants, and all 3 places were genuinely really good. I had wanted to try some of the more exotic versions (butter udon, crazier fried toppings, etc) but even I had limits on how much I could eat.
1 PM: By this time, I had 5 meals already and the concert venue hadn’t even opened yet. Most people were focused on another issue instead: how to get back to Tokyo after the concert. The typhoon was just passing Takamatsu at the time, but by the time the concert ends, would be right over Tokyo. I kept an eye on my flight to make sure it wasn’t cancelled, but nothing of concern popped up before the concert.
4 PM: There was only one concert in Takamatsu this day, but I had luckily gotten a first row seat (through my friend who got the lucky pull). Believe it or not, this was my first concert (in Japan) that I had a front row seat, and I was next to two friends to boot! I definitely made sure to have as much fun as I could. Tried not to be a jerk and jump in the first row, but sometimes you just get excited and can’t stop yourself!
6 PM: The concert ended and a friend who lives in Takamatsu gave us a ride to the airport! However, this is where the typhoon starts causing problems. Our plane that was supposed to take us to Tokyo couldn’t even fly out of Tokyo to get to Takamatsu! The storm was apparently so bad that the air traffic in Tokyo was a mess. Luckily (?) though, instead of cancelling our flight altogether, it ended up getting delayed for 2+ hours until the plane could get to us and finally take us to our destination. By this point, it was so late that a lot of people would have problems getting from the airport to their homes and had to look for capsule hotels to spend a few hours. Having picked a central area, I was able to catch one of the last buses into Shinjuku/Shibuya.
4 PM: Lining up for Fukumura Mizuki birthday event goods. For me, it was mostly the 10/30 version of the FukuDuu picture set that I wanted. The typhoon from the day before had passed but there was an insanely strong and cold wind all day. It probably didn’t help that the event was in Odaiba, which makes it closer to the sea. After getting goods, I attempted to retreat to convenience stores or family restaurants, but the wind got me on the walks to and fro.
7 PM: The event starts and boy am I glad I went. The birthday event ended up being more of a FukuDuu event than Mizuki’s event herself. I’d say Kudo was on stage 2/3 to 3/4 of the time.
When it comes to these two, they’re both long time eggs and H!P wota themselves, so you get a very rare setlist when it comes time for the live corner. They really like to pick songs that are either obscure B-sides or album songs, and I only knew about 2/3 of the songs performed. That being said though, they know their shit and I usually end up liking the songs I didn’t know to start with. During this event, my favorite part was when Fukumura, Kudo, and Oda Sakura sang 2 songs as a trio. One, because these 3 are my top 3 in Morning Musume. Two, because the second song they sang was Koucha no Oishii Mise, another Buono! song that I’ve always loved.
Ironically, the first day that I had no real plans was on Halloween. I took a little afternoon adventure to Shinjuku to visit Sekaido, aka an artist’s wonderland. Spent nearly 2 hours there, constantly in kid in candy store mode. I ended up getting some new watercolors and a bunch of pencil leads. (Why do they have to make the containers so pretty??)
I was staying in Shibuya at this time, so on my way back, I made sure to take as many pictures of Halloween costumes as I could without getting pulled into the craziness myself. Shibuya on Halloween is insane. Insane.
And that concludes my first part of this trip report! As you can see, I didn’t skimp out on any activities, which made it super fun, but I would end up regretting a bit later…