It is time for the annual winter trip to Tokyo for another round of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom. After that? Not much else as I have been so tied up in personal business at home that my usual pre-trip preparations have been very much last minute. I am basically going to wing it for the days I do have free so we’ll see what comes of just making up stuff on the fly.
As is customary with these reports, keep it locked here for mostly frequent updates from Tokyo.
January 9, 2019
Last update for this whole thing. I would have added to the January 8th portion but I fell asleep. I’m at work typing up this up still feeling jet lagged and incredibly tired. Overall I’d say this was one of the better trips I have taken to Tokyo. I certainly managed to cram a lot of stuff in to the 10 days I was there, especially from December 31st – January 4th.
To be honest I’m kind of beat up from this particular trip. I got sick on the day I arrived but powered through and avoided staying in bed other than on January 1st. The worst of the sickness has passed and I ended up better off than some of my traveling companions who were put on the shelf.
There was the sickness and some minor pain in my left foot. I always expect some sort of foot pain with these trips but this time it was pretty annoying. Hopefully some time not being on my feet for most of the day will alleviate that.
Other than that it’s another 11 months of saving up to do this all over again later this year.
January 8, 2019 Pt. 2
I landed at Vancouver International Airport just after 10:30 AM. The flight from Narita was uneventful. I spent the majority of my time editing my Wrestle Kingdom photos while watching movies. I got through about 600 of the 1400 I shot. Most were unusable and last count I had when I stopped was around 52 good enough for publishing.
That tedious busy work got me through the end of Rampage, Night School and the Predator remake. All okay movies but nothing overly mind blowing. Now I sit in an airport lounge waiting for my flight home. 12 hours ago I was in a game center in Akihabara. Now I’m not. It’s kind of a let down.
January 8, 2019
Packed and ready for the journey to the airport. It’s time for one last tradition before I leave this place for another year or so. That was performing the annual last rites of eating GoGo Curry as my final meal in Japan before going home. After that killing more time in a game center playing Tekken 7. I started to get my groove back playing several close matches and coming out on top.
As I take the journey on the bus to Narita I take stock of what has gone down over the days that have gone by. I really had nothing planned other than Wrestle Kingdom and everything else was done on the fly. I did end up struggling a little bit in filling time in the last 2 days but I think I managed to find useful things to do. My sore feet will probably thank me for going back home. I really don’t want to leave (as usual) but I do not have infinite cash to sustain the tourist lifestyle for a longer period of time.
I leave Tokyo relaxed. I don’t know what changes lie ahead of me when I get home but I will face them head on. I’ll be back around the same time. I can’t pass up a chance at double Tokyo Dome for Wrestle Kingdom. If funds allow maybe I’ll show up earlier or stay later. We’ll see.
January 7, 2019
My final full day in Tokyo was spent in Akihabara mostly at various game centers killing time before attempting to see Houkago Princess at Sofmap. That fell through and instead I ended up at Korakuen Hall to watch some wrestling to cap off the trip.
After that it was a mad dash through puro fans and Johnny’s crays (a NEWS concert was ending at the same time as wrestling) back to my hotel room to pack.
January 6, 2019
Another free day with nothing on the schedule to do but see my senpai off in the morning before he headed off to the airport. Once goodbyes were said it was off to Akihabara to kill some time playing Tekken 7.
I managed to get a few good games in, even winning some before the game cabinet I was playing on crashed and rebooted itself. I guess that was a sign from the Tekken Gods to stop playing.
Besides taking pics of his art work I also took more pics of Tokyo from above. When I was done at the art museum/Tokyo City View I wandered around Roppongi Hills immediately feeling poor while passing all the high end shops I could never afford to walk in to.
January 5, 2019
This was pretty much a free day. It was nice to sleep in after the flurry of activity that was the 31st – 4th. All I really did was go to Setagaya to visit the Gotokuji Temple. This temple’s claim to fame is having a collection of hundreds of maneki neko near one of the prayer areas.
Getting there is fairly straightforward on the Odakyu line and from Gotokuji Station it is around a 20 minute hike up hill on narrow streets to the temple. When you are walking to the temple you will realize you are basically in a quiet residential area. All the background noise normally associated with Tokyo is gone and instead you get nothing but sweet silence.
So was it worth going out in the middle of the boonies to take a few pictures of some maneki neko? Well not really. However, the peace and tranquility of the temple itself does provide a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. In that respect it was very much worth it to just get away from the madness for a few hours.
January 4, 2019
Wrestle Kingdom day. I spent the entire day around the Tokyo Dome area. The first thing I did was buy merch. I got a LIJ baseball jersey and baseball cap, a Wrestle Kingdom 13 program and some new Japan branded ball point pens.
Lastly I picked up a ¥10000 lucky bag. It turned out to be unlucky as most of what was in it was old inventory. I kept the big NJPW towel, bandana and Wrestle Kingdom 11 program. The rest were t-shirts I had no care for.
January 3, 2019
A second day covering New Year Premium Party 2019 at Odaiba. I did not have as big of a list of acts to check out so I called and audible and just went where ever. These are the ones I checked out on day 2 along with my brief notes.
there there theres
There’s something behind
– caught tail end of set. their songs are fairly catchy.
– worth investigating further
maison book girl
– a lot of artistic qualities to performances (a.k.a. artsy fartsy)
– music is a little left field. definitely not typical wave your sticks in the air kind of songs
– set started kind of slow but built up to end on a high note
– saw most of their set. entertaining.
– music is very close to brj
– great energy, was a lot of fun
– overture has different dude as hype man
– crowd hyped for them
– performed all of their original songs compared to team 8 who did mostly covers
– no kashiwagi yuki present
– good performance, had crowd throughout
– ogino is almost nishino miki levels of spastic enthusiasm
– came in midway into their set
– high tempo genki idol music, a little generic at times
– they have some passionate fans
– good performance overall
– fans were loud, screaming for group before they hit stage. continued to be loud throughout
– Most vocally powerful set I have seen today
– Much like in previous years at NPP their up-tempo material had the crowd going the most. The mid-tempo songs had varying responses
– felt like a dance club during their intro
– very interesting choreography that accompanies their high tempo beats
– music maybe an acquired taste based on your tolerance for non-mainstream EDM.
– crowd very much into performance
– definitely an interesting group to watch. wonder what they would be like with jacked up stage production
January 2, 2019
Spent all day in Odaiba attending New Year Premium Party 2019. I arranged my schedule to minimize the amount of movement between venues. Luckily all the acts I wanted to see were in the same building so it all worked out.
The following are the acts I saw on Day 1 of the festival with some brief notes I made while watching them perform.
– A magic themed idol group
– Were 5 members, down to four after the graduation of their center Sato Rena
– Put on a lively set. Their music and choreography very different from typical idol groups. A lot of the magic theme is associated with both
– Asano Anna’s stage presence is similar to that of PASSPO’s Mori Shiori. Just a big ball of energy.
– Dressed in frilly idol-like outfits rather than robes like last year
– Japanese idol group produced by Akimoto Yasushi
– Lots of members on stage. Looked like there wasn’t enough room to hold them all
– They have some vocal fans
– Obviously very Aki-P styled music. Great if you like his productions
– 40 minute set went by very fast. Overall great performance
１ want you want you
７ 届いてlove you
– Sashihara Rino Japanese idol/seiyuu group
– Their fans are nuts and loud. They mark out at the intro music before members arrive
– Very straightforward idol music. The formula works as the crowd was very into the performance
– Fantastic set. High point of day 1.
04.Change the world!
– 6 member Japanese idol group
– style of music similar to PASSPO and babyraids JAPAN
– very short set to keep time
– performance was pretty good for what it was
Tokyo Performance Doll
– heard their music before. first time seeing them live
– very polished set of high tempo dance pop
– appreciated stage outfits
– looks like they got full stage compared to crown pop
– incredibly energetic performance. pretty much went non-stop
AKB48 Team 8
– crowd hella hype from opening screen showing image of team 8
– lots of A level members, few bench warmers
– mix of AKB classics with more recent material. old stuff still gets people to lose their shit
– as expected from a 48 group a solid performance with no big suprises in the set list. they did exactly as needed for headling group
January 1, 2019
I got about 4 hours of sleep before waking up to switch hotels. Once I was able to check in I immediately went to sleep again. 3 hours later I dragged myself out of bed to hit up Yodobashi Camera to buy a photo album to put my IZ*ONE posters in. After that, a session of Tekken 7 at an arcade until just after 9 PM.
Then off to the konbini for a cheap meal and breakfast for the next day.
TLDR = I slept, woke up late, did nothing of consequence at all.
December 31, 2018
Sadly once I got in most of the regular goods were off the shelves in favor of the BTS stuff. Which made sense but I also felt I wasted a bit of my time getting to Harajuku to leave empty handed. The final shopping stop was back to Shin Okubo. A bad idea as it was close to 3 in the afternoon and it was incredibly busy. I left empty handed again but I’ll go back again in the early morning sometime in the first week of January to complete my K-Pop shopping.
As usual I stuck around for the after show chekis. I only got 3 this time around since the members I knew about were long gone. The Alice Project New Year’s concert is definitely a fun show and it is worth checking out if you happen to be in Tokyo for New Year’s Eve and are struggling to find something to do.
After a post concert meal of gyoza it was a visit to Kanda Myojin. This was my first time taking part in the morning Temple visits. I normally don’t do a lot of cultural experience type things but this was one that was high on my bucket list. I”m glad that I managed to check this one off as completed on the list finally.
I pretty much followed what the locals did as I really had no clue what to do. There was a lot of wandering around the temple grounds taking everything in. Thankfully I had my SLR in my bag so I could take some higher quality pics of my surroundings. iPhone pics would not do this type of event justice.
My New Year’s Eve ended at 7 AM when I slowly dragged myself to my hotel and passed out in bed.
December 30, 2018
Not a lot went on yesterday. It was fairly chill and the only major event was attending a basement idol festival Called Idol Zamurai in Shibuya at a venue called Space Odd.
We showed up near the end of the first set, just before READY TO KISS hit the stage. To be honest 99% of the acts on this bill were unknowns to me. But I was taken to to this event to get an idea of what this tier of idol fests is like. The first thing I noticed is that the venue itself is incredibly cramped. Especially the floor where the tokutenkai was being held.
The bottom level where the stage was located was more familiar territory and it was similar to the other idol events I had attended in the past.
I started to pay attention to what was going on when READY TO KISS started their set. Their music is okay but they are terrible live vocalists. The group who came on after them were much better in regards to stage presence, music and vocals. Too bad I could not catch their name when they introduced themselves.
The best groups I saw were in the 14:00 – 16:20 range. RIOT BABY and eyes were clearly the most polished and well rounded of the groups in that batch of performers. Following behind them were Q-pitch and Oyasumi Sekai who also put on some great performances. Shiraishi Mayumi was god awful when she opened her mouth to sing. That didn’t seem to matter as she managed to get the crowd hyped enough for her.
We left at the start of the 16:45 batch of performers having had our fill of the basement idols. Given that this was a lesson in exposing me to other idols outside of the mainstream overly exposed ones, I would say that my eyes were opened to some ground level groups to keep an eye on in the future. So mission accomplished.
December 29, 2018
It was a busy day. In the morning it was a trip to Shin Okubo in search of IZ*ONE CDs. When you go to that area early in the morning it’s quite nice. When all the shops open it is a different story and the entire area around the main station entrance became packed with people.
Given that I was on a quest for a specific group it made my quest a lot easier. However, there was a lot of tempting merchandise to buy for IZ*ONE and then I got distracted by all the BLACKPINK stuff as well. I ended up spending more time in this shop exploring because I got sidetracked with other K-Pop acts I like. I really wanted some fromis_9 stuff but I was unable to find anything satisfactory to make me part with my yen.
In the end I ended up buying a large Kwon Eun Bi poster for one of the staff members and for myself I got both editions of COLOR*IZ, 2 IZ*ONE lanyards, and a large Poster/Sticker set.
I tried Star Shop shortly after but I found nothing to my liking. They had a lot more general useless merch that you see idol fans buy at concerts so basically nothing that really interested me. Although they had a large selection of Blu-Ray concerts that K*Star plus did not so that was nice.
By the time I was done shopping the area was busier with more people. I was told that the food stands in this area were pretty sweet but given that I was on a time crunch for my afternoon event I could not waste precious seconds waiting in line for food. So it was off a few blocks from the insanity of the main drag to a small restaurant that served up the always good fried meat.
Anyway, I was way up in the nosebleeds but that didn’t matter to me. I was in Japan watching a real Perfume concert. Not the watered down US live house version I was accustomed to.
It’s one thing to see one of their arena concerts on Blu-Ray but the live experience is a sensory overload. I was actually pretty happy to be higher up to see just how much of a spectacle their arena shows are in person. It is a written rule that one cannot reveal the set list for a Perfume concert until the actual concert tour is over (I got a bit of heat from Universal when I did that for my LA report for Perfume’s 3rd World Tour) so I’m not going to reveal it, but I will say they had a good mix of fan favourites and material from their latest album Future Pop.
MC sections of concerts are usually kinda meh for most artists but with Perfume they are just as entertaining as when they are on stage performing. There were some funny bits when A-chan was calling out members of the audience. Audience participation is definitely high at a Perfume show.
The concert lasted just over 2 hours even though it didn’t feel like it at all. When the show ended I hung back in the arena waiting for the first wave of people to get out. Of course that meant going to the merch line which was not as long as before the concert. It was actually orderly and efficient. I ended up buying a concert shirt for my collection, a stationary set and a novelty floppy disk that has zero use in the outside world.
With the concert over I made the long journey back to my hotel where I grabbed a quick meal and passed out.
December 28, 2018
The flight to Narita was calm. Nothing particularly exciting to report on other than the food in premium economy looks way more presentable than the microwaved tin foil stuff economy class gets. Well that and I always seem to get stuck behind the jerk who wants to recline all the way back.
Thankfully I had no one behind me so I could do the same without being a huge asshole.
I watched the rest of BoA’s Live 2018 – Unchained – concert. I fell asleep watching it and woke up just after the last set of songs before the encore. After taking a nap I took a look at IZ*ONE’s Coloriz Color-Con concert. It sure had a lot of filler VTRs. The talk segments seemed ok, too bad I don’t understand a word of Korean.
Getting out of the airport was fun. There were many people in the baka gaijin (foreign passport) line so it took a while to get to the point of picking up my bags and getting on the Keisei Skyliner on time.
Yet food was found and had. And that ended the first night in Tokyo.
December 27, 2018
The drive to Calgary International Airport was uneventful up until pulling up to the departure area. It was all sorts of busy as the morning news had stated.
I dropped off my bag and proceeded through security with no issues. Once I was past security it was off to find the Maple Leaf Lounge in YYC for a quick breakfast and a relaxing wait away from the mass of people gathering at my gate for Vancouver.
I got to witness a couple be denied entry to the lounge. The woman from the pair seemed rather persistent but she got shut down by the staff checking passengers in. They left dejected. I had no issue getting in so yay for me.
The flight itself was boring. I watched some of BoA’s 2018 Live 〜Unchained 〜 to pass the time. I only got a quarter way through before touchdown in Vancouver. As soon as the plane parked peeps were leaping over eachother to get their bags out of the overhead compartments. Most of them Chinese tourists who had to make tight connections to either Shanghai or Hong Kong.
The walk to international departures was kind of a long one but I made it to the Maple Leaf Lounge in time to get a light lunch and again spend some waiting time in relative peace rather than be in the midst of the insanity that is waiting by the gate.
Now all that is left is to get on that plane to Narita.