[Blog] An (Scottish) Idiot Abroad: Tokyo 2016 Pt. 2
The first of 3 blogs covering my trip to Tokyo.
Okay, so like I said above, this is going to be the first in a 3 part blog series where I kinda recap my trip to Tokyo that happened over the last couple of weeks. I know it’s not going to be a review of whatever the latest idol release is (that’s why most of you come here, right?) but hopefully it’ll be interesting enough that some of you will stick around to check it out. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be going over each day in excruciating detail or anything like that. I’m sure most of you couldn’t care less what I had to eat, when I went to the bathroom or any other weird stuff like that. You guys just want to hear about the cool stuff I bought, the shows I went to and any other interesting stuff that happened. That’s what I’d want to hear about anyway.
So I guess we should start from the beginning. I don’t have the fortune of living in a city with a major international airport, so I had to catch a 3 hour train ride to Glasgow the night before my flight to Narita, via Amsterdam. As luck would have it, it was snowing something fierce (this detail will be very relevant in part 3) so my trip was already off to a somewhat suspect start. Snow aside, it was a pretty straightforward journey. I have to make it every time I want to see pretty much any band I like play, so I’m pretty used to it at this point. Anyway, I got to Glasgow with little incident and basically chilled in a budget hotel for a few hours before I had to head to the airport for my flight.
Small tidbit of information here, but I’d only actually flown once before this trip and it was only to London. Flying doesn’t really bother me though, I kinda made my peace with the fact there is a percentage chance that I could die or something, but it’s not any higher than stepping out my front door every morning. But yeah, flying from Glasgow to Amsterdam was fine even with me being in economy class. I had plenty of time to make my connection when I landed so everything pretty much went off perfectly up to this point. The flight from Amsterdam to Narita was pretty brutal though, I don’t think you really appreciate many things until you have to sit in a confined space for 11 hours straight.
11 hours did eventually pass though, and there I was in Japan. I dunno if I’m just super jaded or something but I wasn’t overcome with some weird emotion over finally making it to the promised land or whatever. It might also have been the 11 hour flight to be fair. Anyway, I managed to pick up my WiFi from the post office and we were in business. As I mentioned before, I was staying in Yoyogi so I had to negotiate a few changes of train and what have you to get to where I needed to be. I also kinda got lost trying to find the place which didn’t help. I eventually found it though so it was all good. It was actually a pretty decent little apartment I’d managed to set myself up with. If you’re used to luxury hotels or whatever then maybe you’d disagree, but for me it had pretty much everything I was going to need.
I’ll be honest here, arranging to go to a concert my first few hours in the country probably wasn’t the best idea in the world in hindsight. Mass of the Fermenting Dregs were playing though so I mean, it was kinda hard to turn such an opportunity down. It was part of this “Next Music From Tokyo” thing that I’m sure anyone who is Canadian and reading this is probably at least a little familiar with. 5 bands for like £20 is a pretty decent deal where I’m from so even if I did arrive a little late, I think you’d struggle to find a much better deal than that. Of course I was only really there to see Mass of the Fermenting Dregs, but I love music and I’m always open to discovering new bands.
I can’t really remember the running order or anything like that at this point. It’s probably out there online somewhere but all you guys really need to know is that I thought Regal Lily and Gozen Sanji to Taikutsu were both really good and you should definitely check them out if you have the time. Mass of the Fermenting Dregs headlined the show, I remember that much. Since there was 5 acts, everyone had pretty short sets which was my only real complaint about the whole event. Mass of the Fermenting Dregs absolutely lived up to my expectations and I also ended up discovering 2 new bands that I enjoy. That’s pretty decent going considering I’d probably been in the country for around 12 hours at that point.
November 11th was my first proper day in Tokyo, and I actually managed to get up at a very respectable 10am. Granted, I pretty much came straight home and passed out after Mass of the Fermenting Dregs the night before. Not getting enough sleep will do that to you kids, although I have to say that jetlag definitely did not hit me anywhere near as hard as I thought it might. I actually managed to get into a pretty decent rhythm right off the bat which was good. I guess my biggest problem on my first day in Tokyo was figuring out exactly what I wanted to do. That’s the problem when you’re like “I’m going to go to Tokyo” but have pretty much zero plan after that part. There’s simultaneously so much to do and also not enough knowledge about what to do.
In the end, I did the incredibly boring but adult thing to do and went shopping for the basic supplies that one needs when they’re not staying in a hotel where pretty much everything is provided for them. I know you guys were probably expecting me to go out and pay for hooker at the very first chance I got, but I’m much too boring and responsible for such things. Instead I stocked up on food and all the other boring stuff like that which probably has a number of you screaming at your screens right now, but I was going to be there for like 2 weeks so I figured getting this stuff out of the way would mean that I had all of that other time to go goof off and have fun. Speaking of fun, my (technically) second day in the country I went and saw BiSH live.
So I made my way out to Daikanyama UNIT, which is a pretty nice concert venue actually, to see BiSH as part of a 2-man live with some other Avex band that I’d never heard of before. I was just there for BiSH, as was much of the crowd if the number of BiSH shirts and towels were anything to go by anyway. The guy on the door seemed pretty surprised that some white dude with a weird accent was there to see BiSH, but I got in with no problems. The show itself was pretty great, don’t let anyone tell you that BiSH shows aren’t rowdy anymore. I saw plenty of moshing, jumping up and down, crowd surfing, etc. Hell, even Lingling crowd surfed at one point. Much is made about BiSH not singing live, but I’m pretty sure they were here, at least for the most part. Unless people missing their cues is something that’s pre-recorded too, but I doubt that.
So I woke up on my third day in Japan, and at this point I was getting kinda used to how the trains worked. I noticed that Shinjuku was only one stop away on the Odakyu line so I figured “That’s what I’m going to do today”. So I hop on the train and I manage to get myself to Shinjuku without getting lost. As some of you probably know, I’m pretty big into my music right? Well, there was a couple places I wanted to hit up in Shinjuku to see what kind of weird and wonderful CDs and Vinyl I could buy. Of course Tower Records was on the agenda, as well as Disk Union, which was a place that I had heard some pretty good things about when it came to used vinyl and things of such a nature. I just had to find them first.
Google Maps is great and all, but it really probably could have mentioned that the Tower Records was inside a shopping mall type of building. I’m sure I looked like a pretty big idiot trying to figure where the hell it was. I found it eventually though, on the upper floors of the Flags building. I had a look around and I did see a few things that caught my eye, I didn’t buy anything at that point though because I figured I should at least check Disk Union’s Used section first. I’m glad I did too, because I managed to pull out some pretty nice copies of Momoiro Clover Z’s “5th DIMENSION” and the “DiS” record that BiS put out way back in the day. I also went to a few other places, but that was pretty much highlight of that particular shopping trip.
In the evening, I found myself heading out to THE GAME in Shibuya to see Yukueshirezutsurezure. This show was a one-man birthday show for 3 of the members of the group, so that was pretty cool thing to be able to experience. I also got my first real interaction with some idols at this show, and I’m eternally grateful to Shidare from Yukueshirezutsurezure for putting up with my horrible Japanese and being very understanding when we had to bust out Google Translate so we could understand each other a bit better. The show was awesome of course, even if it did feel a bit like some people there were a bit put off by my presence. Who knows, maybe they were just jealous that Shidare had her arm wrapped around me when we were conversing via Google Translate. Yeah, that might be it.
My first Saturday in Tokyo was pretty packed with idols, mainly because I decided to double-dip and go to one event in the morning and another in the evening. Look at me, being all professional wota over here right? Anyway, in the morning I headed back to Shibuya but this time to the Village Vanguard shop for an in-store live. The group I went to see were Zenbu Kimi no Sei da, who are on the same label as Yukueshirezutsurezure, so I guess you could say I was keeping it in the family on this one. The live was free, which was cool but if you bought their new album at the Village Vanguard store you also got an event ticket which entitled you to various things. I can’t remember all of them but I ended up getting a 2-shot and my album signed by all of the members.
The live itself was pretty good, I got there pretty early so I ended up being in about the third row. The only real downside to this was that it made it pretty painfully obvious that none of them were singing live. It was still fun though, and it’s not like I expect every idol group to sing live all the time. After the performance I got my album signed by everyone which was cool and I got my 2-shot with my favorite member Mashiro (the white one). We made some small talk which was nice, neither of us is very good at the other’s native language but it was nice to be able to tell someone they have a fan from somewhere that isn’t quite as common as America. Definitely a great experience.
So that evening, I took the train across to Shinjuku because Gang Parade were having their tour final at Shinjuku BLAZE. This was also to be the show where the 3 members of what used to be SiS were going to make their debut as the newest members of Gang Parade. While hanging around before doors opened, a couple of guys from the earlier Zenkimi live came up and chatted with me, which was cool. I then quickly discovered that you need to know what your ticket number sounds like when spoken in Japanese but that’s not something to dwell on. The show itself was alright, although I have to admit that I had a bit of trouble getting into it. Shinjuku BLAZE is a bigger venue than most, and the stage is also really big for some reason so the atmosphere does take a bit of a hit in my opinion. It was fun though and it was good to see the new members make their debut.
I honestly can’t remember where I went during the day on the 14th. I went out to do some shopping, I know that much at least. I also remember being pretty disappointed because I ended up coming back with nothing to show for my efforts. I want to say I went to like Kichijoji or something insane like that, because I heard there were some decent music shops out there. Well, evidently there weren’t because like I said I came back empty handed and a little bit ticked off that I’d wasted the better part of half a day there. It also didn’t help that my dumb ass took a Local train out there, which basically stops at a station every 2 minutes and takes twice as long as an Express train.
Anyway, after I got back from that failed adventure I was able to console myself with that fact that it was Monday and Guso Drop were doing one of their regular (kinda) Monday night lives in Meguro. I pretty much had zero idea how to get there, but Google Maps can at least get the trains right, so I managed to get myself out there in plenty of time before the show started. However, I had a bit of trouble finding the venue itself, and might not have found it at all if Jul hadn’t provided me with a photo of the outside of it. Thanks buddy, I really owe you one. Once I got there, I randomly met someone from the Guso Drop fanpage on Facebook which was pretty cool because up to that point I think I was the only foreigner at any of these shows. None had come up to talk to me at least.
I had a rough idea of how the evening was going to go, although I definitely didn’t expect Guso Drop to turn up dressed like Yankees so that was a surprise. They did their talk segment to kick things off, which was pretty much just them sitting around and eating what I’m assuming was their dinner. At one point they called the as yet un-debuted new members up on stage and bullied them a bit which was pretty funny. The actual live started shortly after and it was pretty hype considering there wasn’t many people there. I kept out of the way of the guys doing spin kicks though, not my scene. Highlights of the show were getting water spat on me by Yurapiko and getting a 2-shot with Saki at the end of the night. Would definitely recommend one of these shows if you’re looking for a cheap night out on a Monday.
So that’s pretty much how the first 5 and a bit days of my trip to Tokyo went. Hopefully I didn’t include too much boring stuff in there and kept it as interesting as possible. It’s already pretty nuts just based on all of the groups I’d seen up to that point, right? I thought so anyway, but I guess if you’re not into this kind of stuff (why are you even reading this site?) then you’d probably disagree. Considering it was my first trip, I think I’ve done pretty well so far. I mean, at least I didn’t get totally lost once yet. I’ll take that as a minor victory.
Like I said, this is probably going to end up being in 3 parts. I’m going to try to get the other parts out as quickly as possible but I have a bunch of real life stuff to catch up on as well as a bunch of reviews that are stuck in the backlog so I guess no promises. At the very least there should be one of these a week until we’re done with them so two more weeks at most until you guys get the full story. Many thanks if you’ve managed to make it this far and hopefully you’ll check out the next installment.