Finally, the very last trip report for my 2017 Japan trips: the one to see my oshimen graduate. Though this was a two week trip, I spent quite a bit of time working on a graduation present for Kudo, so it wasn’t nearly as eventful as the pre-grad trip, and I can condense the actual events into one post.
A lot of good stuff happened this trip so parts of it might sound brag-y…beware?
Arrived in Japan around 4-5PM, but getting out of Narita took forever this time. It didn’t help that the Narita Express I took got stopped for 2 hours in the middle because there was a “human-related accident”. By the time I got to my Airbnb, it was already past 10PM. Luckily, my friend had already moved our dinner plans for that night to the next.
Only plan I had this day was to go to dinner with a friend.
The Airbnb this trip didn’t have a desk or coffee table (it also kind of felt like a prison), so I searched for cafes where I could go and work on Kudo’s graduation present instead. It didn’t take long before I found a cool looking place on Google maps and navigated my way there. Walking out of the station, I kept wondering to myself why everything around me was so well-designed…apparently I had brought myself to Daikanyama, the poshest and most stylish part of Tokyo these days.
Of course, I didn’t find this out until I got to the cafe and texted a friend about it. Soon after I finished lunch and started to work on the present (it’s nothing awfully geeky and embarrassing to show in public, don’t worry), the fancy people started rolling in. Next to me was a woman and a man talking about some kind of magazine layout business. All I really remember is the guy repeating “meccha ii” over and over again. Needless to say, I didn’t get nearly as much work done as I wanted and headed back to my prisonbnb.
In the end, working with a chair as my table and the ground as my chair was the best option.
First thing in the morning, I caught the shinkansen to Hiroshima. I wasn’t riding it much this trip, so I just bought it normally instead of getting the JR pass. (yay, Nozomi!) Tried to work on the present in the train, but it was futile as apparently a shinkansen is shakier than a plane.
By the time I got to Hiroshima, most my friends were already there because they came from closer places. I waited for my friend to finish buying goods before we went to search for lunch. Unfortunately this particular venue, despite only being one stop away from Hiroshima station, had close to nothing around. In fact, the venue was a school auditorium. A really nice and big one, but still. We eventually found a little diner that everybody went to because it was the only thing around. Luckily, it was decent tasting.
There were two concerts this day, though I don’t remember much from them anymore. My friend and I had applied and gotten in with her tickets though, so even though the seats weren’t close all the time, it was still tons of fun to go nuts together.
After the concert, a group of us met up to head to Yamaguchi together. I had also been watching Yahoo Auctions like a hawk and finally spotted a seat for Kudo’s graduation that I wanted. Had a brief panic because I couldn’t reach the people I needed at first, but I secured it shortly after arriving in Yamaguchi. (Yay for friends, seriously!)
Because there was an album handshake event before the concert this day, a select group of the insane (obviously including me) got up before 5AM and took the first train to line up at the venue. It was 40 something degrees fahrenheit. And the sales didn’t start til 9AM. After managing to not turn into a human popsicle, we finally got to buy the album and ticket…for the handshake that wouldn’t start for another 2 hours.
It was one of those lightning speed handshakes, going from highest in seniority to lowest, but the pure energy you get from seeing them is always worth it.
Because it was so fast, I didn’t get to say much of anything special to most of the girls. There was this weird moment where I was still shaking hands with Ayumi, but Maachan reached out her hands to me, so I crossed my right arm over to shake hers.
I also do this thing during fast group handshakes where I pick one member I want to talk to most, and plant my feet down when I get to her. So obviously, I did that in front of Kudo.
Told her “I came back!” (I literally only went back to the US for 2 weeks), and got a hearty “Welcome back!” from her.
We had originally only planned to do one handshake, but because there were tickets left and no line, and the fact that we lined up at 5AM for 1 handshake, we looped for a second one.
This time, because the handshakes were ending, there was nobody in line in front of me, so from the moment I started shaking hands with Fukumura, all the other members in line were watching me. And when I got to Ayumi, before I could even say anything, she beamed at me and went “I want to go to New York again!!!”, completely catching me off guard. I did manage to tell her to come and that I’ll be waiting before I moved along.
After being satisfied with my interactions, I went and got lunch with my friend before we returned for the last hall concert of the tour. We were a bit further away again but I’ll be damned if we didn’t have a hell of a good time to make up for it! Even though I’m more than used to going to concerts alone, (as in not having a friend directly next to me) there is definitely something extra special about enjoying a live with a friend.
After saying goodbye to new friends and old (apparently I know a lot of people in Kyushu despite never having set foot there), I headed to the airport with my Tokyo bound friends and took a very pleasant flight back.
Bonus note: For this trip, I was only away from Tokyo for one night, so I kept my Airbnb booking. Sure it was a night of semi-expensive locker, but not having to move luggage around is priceless and definitely something to consider on future trips.
I didn’t have any plans this day as there were no events, so I headed to the Morning Musume 20th Anniversary Museum in Shibuya. There were some pretty cool set-ups there, with member boards and facts about them, costumes on display, PV-themed sets for you to take pictures at, and a VR where you’re in the center as the MM members do their “ganbatteikimasshoi!” around you. For 500 yen, definitely worth it.
After that, I took a walk to Omotesando to go to the Heiroku Sushi that Kudo filmed at for her graduation memorial DVD. It wasn’t a particularly special meal, but a good trip to make as a Kudo wota.
The rest of the day, I returned to the bnb and worked on the present.
No plans this day, so I used what limited time I had to work on the present. Thought I locked myself out after taking a brief break for lunch, but apparently didn’t. My back was really starting to feel it from constantly sitting on the floor hunched over a chair.
There was another album handshake this day, but unlike other handshake days, this one also had a short event! I lined up around noon, got 487 as my first ticket number, so looped again and got 72. Muuuuccch better. After securing that, I went to meet up with my friends at Diver City and went bowling at Round 1. I really suck at bowling, that’s all I have to say. Before heading back to the venue, we swung by the new Unicorn Gundam because my geeky self wanted to see it.
Having a ticket entrance number in the 70s, I was able to be in the 3rd row of the women-only area, and found a nice spot that gave me a clear view between people. They performed 3-4 songs during the event, and split into 3 teams to play some games as well. The event was definitely still short though, and soon enough it was time for handshakes again. Once again, I had gotten 2.
For my first round, I decided to compliment Nonaka on her performance in English, because that girl really has been stepping up her game recently. The funny part was that Haga, who was next in line, overheard me and seemed pretty happy that I had talked to her generation mate in English! (Haga has also been nicer to me than usual since I saw her in the November solo handshakes and told her we share a certain common fondness.
For the second round, I had gotten to Kaga Kaede and said thanks to her like normal before remembering the Gundam I saw earlier. She has also really been into Gundam figures recently, so I blurted out that I just went to see it and that it was cool. Meanwhile, Kudo was next in line and had finished her handshake with the person in front of me. Out of the corner of my eye, I see her turn to see who’s next, and smile the sweetest freaking smile once she realizes that it’s me. (Yes, I am totally bragging at this point. And it only gets better as the trip goes on.)
Satisfied, I went home to happily slave away at her present again. Monster drinks and Real Gold were my friends this trip.
Continued to work on the present. Only left the house to go to MM cafe at night, no members showed up but somehow ran into the same friends I saw the first time last trip.
Sunshine City album handshake event. Which means ungodly early lineup times. Originally, people were telling me that I wouldn’t get a reserved area ticket if I took the first train, but luckily Shinjuku is really close to Ikebukuro, so my first train meant I got there around 5 something AM. Sat in line, and it moved a couple times, but as it was seriously crunch time, I brought the present with me to work on.
Managed to buy two handshake tickets again, before heading back to the bnb and working on the present some more.
I returned later that night and barely made it to get my spot for the reserved area. By the time we moved in front of the stage, I was sardined into the 4th or 5th row of the women’s area. The people in front of me were also juuuust tall enough to block my view, and I had forgotten my kingblades at home again, so things weren’t looking too great for me.
The girls finally came on stage and did their rehearsal performance of Narcissus Kamattechan. Since I already knew where Kudo’s positions are for this song, I kind of gave up since there was a wall of girls blocking that exact spot. (There were also a lot of eardrum-piercing shrieks of “Haruka! Haruka!”) Instead, I watched what I could see closer to the center of the stage, since I figured I wouldn’t be seeing the other members much after this trip.
They did their sound checks and adjustments, and the members left for a brief moment before returning for the real thing. I mean…they call it the real thing, but this was probably the shortest release event of all time, since they only performed 2 songs. So here, I was enjoying my sardined self, when Kudo moves into my narrow gap of view and catches sight of me. And then for the next song, she would look over at me every once in a while, even if it meant looking around other people. (Brag #2)
For the first round of handshakes, I was still on my high from the special treatment, so much so that I managed to get some looks of surprise from the members themselves. Well, it only gets better from here.
Once I get to Kudo, I immediately ask her what my name is, and to my amazement, she responds in a split second. With a cute little gun-finger point and smile too. So THIS is what Cloud 9 feels like. (Brag #3) I was also too happy to remember what happened during the second round, but afterwards I got to go to dinner with a good friend and catch up on it!
Kudo’s Solo Event at TFT Hall. The first round of 3 started at 2PM, but my day started way before that. There were new Kudo goods being released at Hello! Shop that day, so I lined up at 8AM for those. I luckily lined up in front of some newer friends, so we got to chat and the 2 cold hours in the morning weren’t so bad after all.
I’m not going to get into the performance details of the solo events, because that would get unnecessarily long. Instead, I’ll mention some of the points that stood out to me.
- Her singing has improved drastically. It’s honestly a bit of a waste that we won’t get to hear it much or at all after she starts her career as an actress. The only part of the setlist that changed for all 3 shows was the single song she would sing from the MM musicals. Despite her voice breaking down and getting raspy and jumpy, she sounded absolutely phenomenal. I tried to tell her this afterwards, but she promptly denied it.
- The things she felt comfortable enough to say here, but not at Budokan. During the 2nd event’s MC, she let out some rather raw feelings that she later whittled down for her graduation speech. Her words themselves were special, but if you really read between the lines, you can get an idea of what insecurities she also felt at the time, and just how dearly she holds her fans.
After the events, I went to a big drinking party with a bunch of other Kudo wota and we were out til 2AM. Well…specifically I left at 2AM because it was in Shinjuku and I could walk home even if there are no trains. Most of them didn’t get home til the morning.
Serious crunch time. Worked on that present until my back was sore from sitting in the same position all day. For the day before the graduation, I surprisingly didn’t meet up with anyone at all.
I took the first train in the morning and got to Budokan a bit after 5AM, and was around 450th in line. Tons of people had lined up since the night before, and it grew at an exponential speed after I got there. I’ve been to Budokan and lined up many many times, but I’ve never seen them snake the line the way they did this day. By the time I finished buying goods, photos, and gacha, it was already past 4PM, and the venue doors opened at 5.
I rushed to change and meet with as many people as I could, greeted the fellow artists I know, and took as many pictures with friends as possible. Before I knew it, I was already entering Budokan in hopes that I would make it in time to see Tsubaki Factory as the opening act. I barely saw half.
That ticket I bought in Yamaguchi was hard to find, but boy did it get me an amazing seat. I was right next to the substage, where it meets the runway. So I could see the main stage incredibly well, also had a front row whenever the members came down to the substage. At this point, I was surviving off of an onigiri in the morning and a 2nd onigiri after buying goods. So I chugged the rest of the energy drink I had in my bag. (left over from working late on the present almost every night) Normally this wouldn’t be the best idea and I’d advise against drinking energy drinks on an empty stomach, but it was more than enough to get me through the concert.
I had the damn time of my life and felt so incredibly alive. Laughed, cried, had so much fun. During Kudo’s solo of Moshimo…, our eyes met for a brief moment, but it was one of the most precious moments ever. (Brag #4?)
Afterwards, I met up with a bunch of wotas, and we once again drank and partied like crazy. I’m honestly surprised that I could manage all of that while running low on energy and food, and didn’t manage to get sick.
Meeting up with everyone and having fun definitely helped get rid of that post-graduation sadness though. I’m very thankful for them. (I also just now realized the year on the cake is wrong HAHA)
I agreed to meet up with my friend from Kyushu one last time before we both went home, so we went to the MM Museum again, then got lunch with a few others.
I returned to the bnb after that and proceeded to finish the very last part of my present for Kudo.
At that point, the loneliness from the previous day was really starting to well up, so I invited some friends to dinner, where they showed me to an awesome chain of izakaya I’m itching to return to.
After checking out of my bnb and leaving my luggage in a locker near the bus station, I completed my mission by shipping that present off to Up Front. Hopefully it got there in one piece and will eventually make it to the girl’s hands in however many months’ time.
On one hand, I didn’t get to play as much as usual because I was working so hard on that present, but I don’t regret it either. I maximized the time I had with friends while also managing to show my oshimen what she means to me.
What can I say, I am one satisfied wota.