[Blog] Japan Trip 2018: First Impact

by Garry

The first in a series of blogs covering my 2018 trip to Tokyo, Japan.

Oh boy, here we go guys. First blog of the trip coming in hot, because I know you’ve all been dying to hear all about everything that I’ve been getting up to and all of the idols I’ve been meeting. In reality I doubt many people actually care that much but I’m going to be writing these things so I have a better reminder of what’s been going on than just a bunch of hastily taken notes on my phone. If you are actually interested in these things then that’s awesome, hopefully you enjoy reading this blog and if you have any questions about anything then feel free to leave a comment.

I’ll warn you now, this is going to be a bit of a ramble but I’m going to try to keep everything in order of when it happened. I’m out here for about 25 days so I figure I’ll split this into 4 parts and do 6 or so days in each. I’ll try to keep it all killer, no filler apart from the usual quips and anecdotes that I’m guessing you guys enjoy because you all keep coming back. With that being said, let’s just get right into the action and forget about this stupid intro.

So I arrived in Tokyo on October 30th, slightly behind schedule but I didn’t have any concrete plans for that day anyway so it wasn’t that big of a deal. The pilot of the flight also tried his best to kill everyone on the landing but that’s not something we need to get into here. I’m usually pretty tired when I get to Japan because I’m not one for sleeping on flights but this time I felt pretty good (initially anyway). I met up with Kris who got in about an hour before me and we got the train into Tokyo. Pretty standard day, had to kill time before I could check into my accommodation so we met up with Terry and Ethan in Shinjuku so I could pick up some tickets Ethan had been kind enough to arrange for me.

I eventually got to check-in and have a much needed shower and proceeded to figure out what I was going to do with my evening. There wasn’t really any Idol shows I was interested in so I opted for a wrestling show, a NOAH one to be precise. I don’t follow the promotion that closely but I just needed something to keep me awake until a more appropriate hour of the day to be falling asleep. It was a fun show but I hit the wall pretty hard mid-way through so it was straight home after with a quick stop at the conbini for some dinner before passing out in bed.

The following day I woke up exhausted, despite having had a pretty solid 8 hours of sleep. Ahh jetlag, you gotta love it. I woke up pretty early so I caught up with some social media and such while I waited for places to open. Ended up having a quick scout around the usual haunts in Shinjuku like Tower Records, Disk Union, HMV and the like. Just trying to get into the swing of things at this point more than anything. It was Halloween, I probably should have mentioned that sooner, and the main event for the day was NECRONOMIDOL’s show at Shibuya Cyclone.

I wasn’t going to go initially but Sari announced her graduation and this was going to be one of the last times I could see her so I kinda had to. They were playing with a bunch of bands I honestly didn’t really have any interest in but Kinoco Hotel did end up surprising me with how great they were so that was cool. I also got to meet Derek and several other people from Facebook, Twitter, etc in person which was awesome. Really kinda puts the community thing into perspective. Oh yeah, Sari right? Man, it was nice to see her again but it was pretty sad dude. It was good to be able to wish her well for the future though and I respect her decision to try something new. Hopefully I’ll be able to see her at least once more before my trip is over but I’m not sure right now.

To start the third day of this trip, I decided to head to Akiba to have a look around. Having been to Tokyo 3 times now it’s hard to find new and exciting things to do with your day but for me it’s important to get out and do stuff still. I stopped off at TRIO and bought a few Idol related knick-knack and hit up Don Quijote for a power strip which I’m ashamed to admit is probably the thing I was most happy about buying. I’m pretty jaded to the whole Akiba experience at this point but it’s still worth a look if you’ve never been before. On to the evening and I ventured out to Shinjuku Loft by myself for a taiban featuring Aphrodite and XTEEN (Fujita Ena was also on the bill), two groups I had been keen to check out in person for a while now. Man XTEEN are really great live, it’s just a shame they only have like 10 fans. If you’re into your heavier genres then they’re definitely a group you want to check out.

Aphrodite fared slightly better on the fan count but XTEEN for me had the more interesting musical content. I reserved for the show through XTEEN, which meant I got a signed sticker and cheki at their buppan. Their manager is a super nice guy, who went out of his way to make sure I knew what I was doing even if this wasn’t my first rodeo. The members themselves were also super nice and really left a good impression on me. Just really friendly and appreciative, I’ll talk more about it later but they’ve shot up my favorite group ranking after this trip. Please check them out and support them if you like their music.

Four days in and I’m still waking up tired despite getting what for me would be considered plenty of sleep (I usually get 6 hours if I’m lucky). For some reason I decided to go to Nakano Broadway that day, but my dumb ass forgot that nowhere out there opens until like 12pm at the earliest. I wandered around and had a look in the few places that were actually open but didn’t really see anything that caught my eye. Bit of an amateur mistake on my part but I guess it gave me an excuse to come back another day and also got me out of my apartment for a while. Back to the Idol stuff though, which is probably what you’re here for. That night was BILLIE IDLE’s sold out one-man at Shibuya Eggman.

I went with Terry and Ethan and boy when they said sold out they really meant it. The place was absolutely packed out, which didn’t make for the most comfortable of experiences but BILLIE IDLE were on top form so it was easy to forget about the invasion of personal space for the most part. We got a sneak preview of a new song from their “NOT IDOL” album that I didn’t catch the name of and they announced a new single for early next year too. I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t do “Anarchy in the Music Scene” but I guess their image has moved on a bit from those days by now. Buppan was complete chaos so we skipped out on that, one of the disadvantages of going to see bigger groups I suppose. It was still a really fun night though.

Day 5 was pretty brutal, in part because I double booked myself because that’s kind of what you do when you come out here. You try to see and do as much as possible. It was a bright and early start as Terry, Kris and myself were off to Shin-Kiba on the other side of Tokyo for a Stardom wrestling show. We ended up with seats in the second row at ringside which I was pretty happy about because I wanted the guys to have a good experience at their first Stardom show. It was also a nice change to be able to sit down at something I must admit. It was a hard-hitting, entertaining show but a little bit tame by Stardom standards which makes sense given they were going to Fukuoka the next day. Terry and Kris said they had fun though and that’s what mattered most to me.

No Idol shows of any real interest to me that evening but MASS OF THE FERMENTING DREGS, a band you’ll be familiar with if you read my Non-Idol Roundups, were playing at Shimokitazawa Garage. They played for an hour as part of a 2-man with a band called Gateballers who I must admit I wasn’t familiar with. MotFD played a very intense and high energy set which was complimented rather nicely by the more mellow tunes from Gateballers. I really enjoyed myself at the show and so did the dozen other gaijin who turned up, although I know it would have been a very hard sell to most of you reading this. The trip ain’t all about Idols guys.

Groundhog Day is when you repeat the same day over again right? That’s kind of what my first Sunday in Tokyo felt like anyway as once again it was an early start and off we went to Shin-Kiba again for more wrestling. This time it was for Tokyo Joshi Pro, a promotion that focuses a lot more on characters than the technical ability that Stardom seems to favor. TJPW is much more accessible to people like you reading this blog though, as it has a lot of Idol qualities and even features the wrestling off-shoot group of Up Up Girls extensively. Itoh Maki won a battle royal on the show to get a shot at the promotion’s main championship on their big January 4th show which was awesome to witness happen live, I’m actually really happy for her as a person that her hard work has finally paid off. Not much time to dwell on that though as we were off to Sugamo Lion King for GARUDA’s birthday show straight after.

She was doing pre-show cheki so I got that out of the way instead of after as I knew it would be busy. Yuffie is really nice to talk to, although she’s a bit shy at least in my experience. The show itself was a mixed bag, with lots of different acts and genres of which I’ll mention a few you should be familiar with. 2& was there, so it was good to see Saki again even if I don’t think she remembered me from London. Then you had Fetties, who got Yuffie a gimp for her birthday and had her pour wax all over him and a lucky fan who volunteered his services. Hanako also made an appearance, causing all manner of mayhem and mess, I believe Terry got sprayed in the face with milk tea or something. I’m not sure where the idea that Hanako is scared/awkward around gaijin came from but that definitely wasn’t my experience. She was very talkative and interested in what I had to say and she was even cracking jokes with me and one of the other fans in her line. Definitely did not match my expectations, but in the best possible way.

GARUDA performed backed by a full band for this show, something of a rarity but she looked like she was in her element up there. The mask (both literal and figurative) slipped at the end of her set though and she got pretty choked up. Apparently they sold 130 tickets to the show which is huge numbers for her. I’m sure her other group Melon Batake a go go! would love to do a similar number for their upcoming one-man. Speaking of which, groupmates Rukatama and Run were also in attendance. The former performed solo and with Yuffie as part of their YuffieTama duo and the latter was helping Rukatama serve food to those in attendance. I’m pretty wary of talking to idols when they’re not “on duty” but Terry and I briefly chatted to Run and she seemed really nice. No Nakamura at the show unfortunately but I’ll have plenty of opportunities to see her coming up. This show was super long but just ridiculously awesome.

Okay, that’s enough tales from Tokyo (man, that would have been a good title) for now. I’m going to stop here and let you guys digest all of that and let the envy wear off a little bit too. I hope this was in some way interesting to read and maybe gave a bit of insight into the kind of stuff you can see if you manage to line-up a particularly busy week in Tokyo and maybe also like wrestling too. Like I said, if you have any questions or want me to go into something in more detail then either leave a comment or hit me up on social media and I’ll be more than happy to have a chat with you.

I think it’s just about the start of my 12th day at the time of writing this so you can expect another one of these things in the not too distant future I hope. Not totally sure it’ll be as stacked as this first installment but I’m still burning the candle at both ends, and several yet to be discovered by science so I’ll let you guys be the judge of that when I post the next one. Thanks for reading if you made it this far and you’ll hear from me again real soon.