Concert day was a test of endurance, stamina and patience. First thing in the morning Dave & I went to stand in line for concert merchandise and when we arrived the line wrapped around the Tokyo Dome. Given that it was a Friday it was logical that there would be more people but it didn’t make the whole waiting thing suck any less.

At first it was okay to stand in line since the weather was fairly calm and the full heat of Tokyo Summer had yet to kick in. But as we got closer and closer to the front the heat started to intensify. Word was that a young woman in line suffered heat stroke that caused a delay for purchasers.

After about 2.5 hours of standing in line we finally got to pick up merchandise. Dave filled his orders from various social networks and I did mine as well along with picking up a few extra things to give away on the site. Yes, I am giving away the AKB goods that I don’t want. So depending on how you look at things you’re getting my cast-offs.

Whatever right? Free is free. Of course all of you are going to have to work at it for my sacrifice of burning my ass off in +30 degree weather with massive humidity.

Anyway, when the purchasing of goods was completed we met up with Dave’s friend Satoshi and Vu and his friend Ahmed and ended up at the back of the Dome to allow Dave to get the Mook and photo books. If you don’t know what a Mook is, it was explained as a cross between a magazine and a book. That doesn’t exactly help me but maybe that can help you.

When all goods were purchased we decided to drop them off and meet up to go to Yodobashi Camera Akihabara. Having been used to a rather peaceful stroll down this familiar area I forgot how extremely stupidly condensed it can be when everyone converges in the same place.

Obviously that should come as no surprise but it’s still rather shocking to see just how insanely busy one place can be.

Along the way we found a few of Maeda’s AKB uniforms being displayed. She’s a tiny girl that’s for sure. The outfits are derivative of the schoolgirl look but they are pretty nice up close. With Yodobashi out of the way it was the short journey back to Suidobashi station to drop stuff off and go ASAP to the Tokyo Dome.

I would like to note that by this time my feet were burning up a storm and any opportunity to sit down was welcome to me. I actually soaked my feet in hot water to get the circulation back to normal.  That made me feel a little better and I managed to survive enough to make the walk to the dome tolerable.

Getting into the Tokyo Dome area wasn’t too bad as things were clearly marked and for the most part the massive sea of people weren’t being complete pinheads and stopping in the middle of nowhere for no reason. I was paired up with Hiro for this day and after parting with Dave & Vu we went through bag checks and for this time, no random ID screening.

Walking around to our seats we could peek through the curtains and see the stage set up. Once we got in we discovered our view was pretty good. Lower section, near the 3rd base area I believe. Across from us was one part of the extended stage and to the left side the main stage area. To the far right, the whole cake thing that was leaked online earlier in the day.

We took our seats and soaked in the ambiance of being in the Tokyo Dome. The place is frigging huge. The only other baseball stadium I’ve been in is Safeco in Seattle and while Tokyo Dome is rather old, I thought it was more impressive just because of the grandeur of what we were about to see.

While waiting a couple of young Japanese boys started talking to me. I don’t think they had ever seen a foreigner at an AKB concert before. They were as giggly as schoolgirls as they asked me questions in English & I responded in Japanese. I think we were both using each other for practice.

It was strange because they would be texting their friend and show me their iPhone asking me to answer questions such as:

What is your name?

Where are you from?

Who do you like more, Oshima Yuko or Kashiwagi Yuki. I picked Yuki even though her sandwich at the Café was not as tasty as its creator.

Do you speak Japanese?

While waiting for the concert to start Hiro & I discussed the demographic surrounding us in our area. Excluding the extremely old guy behind me we were probably the next oldest people there. We figured the average age of the young people around us was probably 18 – mid 20’s.  And there were lots of cute girls everywhere. (I had to point that out man.)

Around 18:00 the school bells rang and Takahashi Minami did the post concert announcements. You know, don’t take pictures or video with your phone, stay in school, train, say your prayers, eat your vitamins (Brother!), etc. etc. and a few short minutes later the lights dimmed and it was on.

A sea of glow sticks lit up the Tokyo Dome and the overture blasted on to the speakers.

I would like to make one thing clear here. I am still very much a super noob in the world of AKB and their idol fan etiquette. So during the mix I just did the glow stick motions like everyone else. I had no idea what they were screaming. Something like “Tiger, Viber, Finger, Lickin, Chicken” Well whatever rhymes right? =P

But unlike North American fans who take every little detail so fucking seriously, the Japanese could give two shits if you’re saying or doing anything wrong at all.  It was rather refreshing to just do your thing without feeling the heat of a thousand eyes saying you’re doing it all wrong noob!

Granted there were points in the concert where you kind of had to do the proper wotagei, but from what I observed people were just free styling. Hiro mentioned some crazy dudes behind us who were cracking their endless supply of ultra bright orange glow sticks on the chairs loudly & going to town after.

Anyway, I stood in awe as the show gathered steam. The production value of an AKB concert is extremely high and it shows they really put a lot of effort into something this momentous in their history. I’ve seen many of their big concerts on DVD and such but seeing them live is something that is so hard to put into words.

The one thing I was wondering this entire time is whether they actually do sing live during these concerts. And the answer is mostly no. It’s blatantly obvious that even though their microphones are on, they aren’t actually saying anything into them until the MC segments. It’s exactly like watching a Perfume performance.

For example, when Itano Tomomi came out and did her solo, that was live. From our vantage point we couldn’t see her at all, but we could definitely hear her. To be honest I was impressed. I know I always make fun of her for not being able to sing, but she can hold her own vocally and there were only a few cringe worthy moments where she fell off.

I’ll give credit where credit is due and I will admit that Itano can sing.

Other moments I found memorable:

Shinoda Mariko’s solo

Damn that bitch is fine and she’s got legs for days man. Her performance reminded me a lot of Itano’s Dear J but with male backup dancers.

Blue Rose

Sucks that there was no Masuda there but man, Kuramochi, Takajo and Kashiwagi were smoking hot in those leather outfits. I don’t really have a fondness for Kasai so I wasn’t really feeling her. But the other 3 more than made up for that.

Oh and the song is really good too.

The Team Performances

Team B in particular were pretty damn hype and Team B Oshi was definitely made to be performed in this kind of environment. Their song made use of the rising pillars on stage and the big screen in the back.

On the pillar you can could see the lyrics to the song scrolling around and on the big center screen you could also see the lyrics being pow in your face like old school Batman TV series style.

That was a hell of a lot of fun to do the entire glow stick movements and chanting to.

SKE48’s rendition of Bingo

Many of the sister groups did older AKB songs and the one I liked the most was Bingo. Of course any opportunity to see J or Yagami Kumi is basically going to default me to liking anything involving SKE.

Bingo was also one of the first older songs that I really got into after discovering this group so late into their idol evolution. So that also helped in making it memorable for me.

Ue kara Mariko

There were some giant floating airships dropping giant balls with Mariko’s face down on the crowd. I was hoping she would be flying over the crowd but perhaps that would be a little too hardcore for a big place like Tokyo Dome.

None of the balls reached our section unfortunately.

River/Beginner

I’m not a fan of River but it does make for a good stadium type song. What was interesting about this pairing of songs was the waterfall in the background. There was a bit of a Flashdance moment with the girls dancing as the water poured down on them.

It was funny watching Beginner because you could see the stage crew mopping up the water after the end of River

Team Shuffles

So this was unexpected, especially in the middle of the concert. I wasn’t expecting anything huge until the 2nd or 3rd day. But shit happened.

Seeing it live is rather interesting and to explain to those who don’t know how this works,no they don’ t shuffle all 100+ girls at the same time. Only certain members are moved. This shuffle seemed to be more strategic and possibly had something to do with the foreign exchange program as well.

In essence Team 4 was dissolved and absorbed into the various AKB teams and those who probably asked to be part of the exchange program got their wish. I was surprised that those transfers involved Senbatsu members. I was thinking it would be unranked girls or those from the sister groups who would get the opportunity.

There was also the promotion of my girl Takamina to queen bitch of all that is AKB in a GM role and the changing of captains for each team. Shinoda (Team A) “The real woman” (TM basugasubakhatsu) Umeda (Team B) and Oshima (Team K).

Obviously I’m not as butt hurt about this as some of the fans in the arena and online. None of my favorites really were affected negatively.

I did feel bad for the cute NMB girl whose name escapes me. She immediately broke down crying on the floor & didn’t even make it across the stage to her new team. Her & Mayu who was left out & had to ask what team she was on.

Overall I was extremely happy with this first day concert. It was more than I had ever expected. And for my first REAL idol concert in Japan it was an unforgettable experience.

When the concert ended I noticed that no one was moving. Normally it’s a free for all to get the fuck out but the Japanese call seating sections on the PA to leave. That was pretty neat and much more organized than what I’m accustomed to.

Of course getting out of the Dome area and meeting up with the rest of our crew was another story entirely but we managed to find everyone and head to an izakaya for dinner to bask in the aftermath.

After that, straight to bed to rest my weary, throbbing and pain filled feet. What a crazy day.

 

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