Kami Watch Over Me (Japan Day 13 – Tokyo)

Thursday, Nov 03 2022 (Day 13)

Table of Contents

ට  Day 0 – Thursday, Oct 20 2022 to Friday Oct 21 2022 – Flight from Edmonton to Tokyo
ට  Day 1 – Saturday, Oct 22 2022 – Tokyo, Saitama, Ikebukuro
ට  Day 2 – Sunday, Oct 23 2022 – Autumn Reitaisai 9, Shinjuku
ට  Day 3 – Monday, Oct 24 2022 – Akihabara
ට  Day 4 – Tuesday, Oct 25 2022 – Hakone
ට  Day 5 – Wednesday, Oct 26 2022 – Kamakura, Enoshima Island
ට  Day 6 – Thursday, Oct 27 2022 – Hanno
ට  Day 7 – Friday, Oct 28 2022 – Shinkoiwa
ට  Day 8 – Saturday, Oct 29 2022 – Akihabara, Matsudo City
ට  Day 9 – Sunday, Oct 30 2022 – M3-2022秋, Moto-Yawata
ට  Day 10 – Monday, Oct 31 2022 – Akasaka, Shimokitazawa, Shibuya Halloween
ට  Day 11 – Tuesday, Nov 01 2022 – Shinjuku, Sophia University
ට  Day 12 – Wednesday, Nov 02 2022Sophia University, Kabukicho
ට  Day 13 – Thursday, Nov 03 2022 – Shinjuku Loft (You are here)

Back on October 19th, just before my trip started, I had been browsing the Experiences section of Airbnb in regards to Tokyo, because I usually like to squeeze in something small from there into my trips — I did a ghost tour when I was in the USA through there, for example, and I tried one from South Korea there before too but it fell apart and I got refunded for it.

There were a lot of food tours, bar hops, etc, and some other more unique things, but they didn’t meet both my lofty bars for interest as well as price at the same time. I fet that most of those things were either things that I could do a variation of for myself, or just wasn’t interested in enough to pay the high asking fee for.

One exception that caught my eye though was this one, from someone named Hirotaka who professed some sort of musical scene experience depending on what type of music you liked (out of a list of genres that he knew about/had connections for etc). I tentatively reached out to him and after some discussion, and a number of videos that he sent as example bands/songs, he floated the idea of an underground idol show in Kabukichō, in a live house, which I liked and accepted. It definitely sounded like nothing that I had ever attended or experienced before, after all. He set the day for Nov 03, as he said that there was a concert that day that he could target, and I agreed.

The page said that weekday versions of that experience tended to go from 7pm to 10pm or so, and weekends from 4pm or so, but November 3rd was a bit odd because it was a public holiday, Culture Day, in Japan, and I didn’t know what that would mean for this event. I booked a reservation for Nov 3rd, marked off half the day on my trip planning schedule sheet, and waited.

In the wee hours of the morning in November 1st, Hirotaka then reached out to me, saying that he had planned out an itinerary and asking if I was okay with it. This itinerary actually started at 11:00 am, and went all the way until 10:15 pm, purely because it was a public holiday and he had the day off from work. Outside of the $50 USD or so that it had cost, I’d have to bring about 2000 yen for tickets and drinks, another 1500 or so for food, and a bit more for a lightstick and maybe some merchandies. That sounded good to me and wasn’t any more expensive, so I agreed to that and bumped another event off my Nov 03 list to make room for this one!

The Meeting

We met up in front of Shinjuku Station at 11 am as promised, and made brief introductions to each other. The entire tour was more or less dne in English, with a scattering of Japanese thrown in once he found out that I could speak a little bit of it. He was very friendly and talkative and told me a lot about himself, as well as answering any questions that I had, and eventually teaching me a few (idol-related) vocabulary words. He was also carrying his phone camera on a swivel stick to take videos and pictures with, which he had requested and cleared with me beforehand, the reason being that he wanted some stuff to possibly put on his Instagram after editing to help promote the show now that Tokyo was opening up again. He had had basically nothing for the past two or three years due to COVID, he said, but now that tourists were finally allowed back in, things seemed to be picking up again for his tour. I was happy to oblige.

Right after we met, we went over to a Don Quijote store to pick up light sticks, one each. He said that he was buying one himself as he didn’t actually have one, this being the first underground idol tour that he had done in quite some time. But he expected to do more in the near future, so he needed one of the sticks too. I paid for his in lieu of the money for the tickets. We then stopped in a convenience store for some drinks (which we couldn’t actually drink in the live house, but he was really thirsty), and then headed over to the Loft, which despite its name, was buried underground down a flight of stairs.

This was the show that we were attending:

Pictures weren’t actually allowed inside once the show started, although I did see a few people surreptitiously snapping them in the throes of passion anyway. I didn’t. I did however take pictures before the shows (plural because there was an afternoon session and an evening session) started:

Neat! Soon, the show started, and it was VERY loud, a couple of the shows to the point that I couldn’t really hear the melody over the booming rhythm, and most of them were at least loud enough that the flooor was always a localized earthquake and the lyrics were very hard to make out. it was also very crowded, although we got good standing spots for both blocks at first as we were on the edge of a little ledge near the back of the room that allowed us to see over everyone else’s head in front of us. We eventually ceded those spots in both acts though because Hirotaka wanted to get us those free photos in the side rooms with the earlier, newer acts that were doing their photoshoots early so they could leave early and not wait for the very end. In both cases, once we got the photos and returned to the main room of the livehouse, the spots we had were pretty bad, especially since there was a big pillar in the middle of the room blocking the view of the stage from half the room (there were TVs mounted on the wall of said pillar for those people though, but that wasn’t quite the same).

I use the word us, not only because of Hirotaka’s presence, but because we picked up a second guest, after the first block of the day (and after our lunch) and before the second block. This second guest was Simon, an American who had flown in the day before on part of a 5-week tour of his own, though his would take him to various countries around Asia instead of all around Japan. He was very nice too, though a bit shy, as Hirotaka lent him his glowstick but he never really waved it about like a maniac. I mean, I didn’t either, but I waved it around a ltitle bit now and then. This set of pictures was from us picking him up and then returning to the live house.

I don’t think the live house was meant to hold so many people, but I don’t think anyone cared. The second block, after lunch, was pretty much the same thing as the first. We all also had a drink ticket in the form of a badge, that we had to buy for $6 each at the reception area of the live house, but he bought mine and gave it to me in return for allowing him to record bits and pieces of the day. Once the second last band had gone, though, Hirotaka and Simon both split, as they wanted to head to a nearby bar to hang out for a bit. They asked if I wanted to come along but I said I wanted to finish up the show (and maybe check out the merchandise instead), so we parted ways there. I’m pretty sure Hiro left because the last group’s name translated to Title TBD and he didn’t realize that that was an actual group’s name, since he asked if there was an encore or something when I was staying. Teehee.

Anyway, i had quite a lot of fun regardless, so I ended up giving him one of my postcards, which he loved.

The Mechanics

The performing groups for each block were more or less arranged with newer/less established groups earlier on, and what apparently were the crowd favourites later on. As re-entry was allowed, people also wandered in and out of the room as well, and toward the end of each block the room became very, very crowded. The crowd also consisted of about 90% males or so, in terms of the visible gender split.

In addition, once the first couple smaller groups were done, they went into the side room for a merchandise/autograph session. So some of the crowd would diffuse into there, leaving the main room temporarily to get a meet and greet session with their favourite girl. Most of the merchandise that I saw were instant photo cards/tickets, which Hirotaka explained were called chika — you bought one, then went to stand in line with your favourite idol (your oshi). You’d get to talk to them briefly and pose for a photograph with them, and they’d then sign it for you.

He arranged a couple free ones for us over the course of the day, though my only mild negative about the experience was that I asked several times about other merchandise (including both merchandise sessions at 3:10 pm and 8:55 pm that we ended up skipping) as I wanted to see what else they had, and he just kind of waved it off with “chika, towels, badges, t-shirts, maybe CD..” and never actually assisted with that. I did try to hang around to watch the 8:55 pm merchandise rush but couldn’t really get close enough to see much by myself. However, I was at least already passingly familiar with this part after my Day 1 adventure in Saitama, and to a certain extent the Day 2 adventure at Reitaisai, and Day 9 adventure at M3 — I had seen and scrutinized the double lines for the chika at that Saitama outdoor concert, except I had not known what it was called back then and wasn’t completely sure of the mechanics or etiquette. And all three events mentioned above used the little signs to indicate where the end of the line was, which the last person would hold up and then pass on to whoever joined the line behind them.

But that didn’t take much away from the rest of the day, which was pretty great. In addition to watching and listening to most of the performances, I was also very much people-watching, and it was neat to see wotagei in action — especially for the more popular groups in the latter part of both blocks, the fans would break out in specific chants at specific points in the songs, and Hiro explained that these were mixes, a thing that the wotagei did to.. honour? idolize? their favourite idols and groups. They were coordinated cheers, and were not actually song-specific but were done the same way for completely different songs by completely different groups too, and he said that it was even a worldwide thing (to the extent that idol groups are worldwide anyway… definitely at least in other parts of Asia, though), And they were yelled by the fans in unison over some songs, usually during instrumental parts where the idols were dancing but not singing, as a thing that evolved over time for those songs, and not something that was fully choreographed and arranged online or anything. Just in person over time from the same groups of people attending the same idol group performances and learning their songs and improvising the cheers until they caught on with everyone else and became part of the song’s lore or whatever.

This page here has a bunch of them, and I definitely heard, and could recognize by the end of it, a few of the shorter general calls near the top, as well as the shorter variations of both the general (before/in the song’s first stanza) and Japanese version (second stanza) of Tiger! Fire! Cyber! etc mixes/chants further down that page. It was pretty epic to see and hear and realize what they were doing.

I definitely had mixed feelings about the idols and the relationships with their fans, especially when some of the idols introduced themselves as being as young as 16 years old and/or in 1st year of high school. Super energetic, lots of practice and hard work memorizing and being able to carry out the choreography for the songs and dances (each band had a 25 minute or so window to perform in and usually did 5 songs or so), and yes, very cute for the most part, but there are certain implications one can easily see (and Hirotaka pointed this out too, how he felt that the younger idols were just too young and he felt like a father seeing his daughter on stage), and there have been many articles and even a book or two written up about underground idols and their relationship with fans. I’m not particularly against it at the same time as long as it’s fully consensual though, which is why said feelings are mixed, and even then there were idols in their 20s and beyond as well, some that had been performing together for 3-6 years. And it was very interesting and entertaining to watch the show itself.

The Music

The idol groups spanned a bunch of genres, from bubbly pop to screaming music to a group that played their own musical instruments on stage to a shoegazer genre group as well (though I think they didn’t perform their more shoegazey or ethereal songs). While it was different listening to them in person versus online, I still did gather up the YouTube channels of all the bands listed in order of performance, and am listing them here for future reference and study.

Morning block:
airattic – Homepage, YouTube
Symdolick – Homepage, YouTube
C;ON – Homepage, YouTube
Oishii Aimai (美味しい曖昧) – Homepage, YouTube
Kolokol – Homepage, YouTube
MIGMA SHELTER – Homepage, YouTube

Afternoon block:
COMIQ ON! – Homepage, YouTube
RAY – Homepage, YouTube
tipToe. – Homepage, YouTube
eisei to karatea (衛星とカラテア) – Homepage, YouTube
Mirror,Mirror – Homepage, YouTube
Ringwanderung – Homepage, YouTube
title mitei (タイトル未定) – Homepage, YouTube

The group I liked best was C;ON (pronounced Shion), the only group that played their own instruments (keyboard, saxophone, tuba) live on stage. They were pretty great! I liked Symdolick from the first block, and the first three acts from the second block, COMIQ ON!, RAY, and tipToe., as well. The latter acts for both blocks were harder to like due to the crowd being more raucous and yelling a lot (so I was distracted by watching the crowd too) and also that we had terrible viewing spots by then in both blocks because we had been summoned into the back room to get our free photographs. There were still a couple somewhat catchy songs in most of the groups’ repertoires, though.

The Merchandise

Though the merchandise part of the event was somewhat unsatisfactory, I did get one free card and two free photos, and that was nice. They are showcased here for posterity.

The first one is Ayase Shuu from Symdolick, who apparently goes by the nickname Bun. She did speak a bit of English and was super friendly. I regret not bringing out the Tigey for her though. The second was Uchiyama Yuua from RAY, the shoegazer band. She was probably the one that made the most positive impression on me, out of the ones I actually managed to watch live and not on TV from behind a pillar, because she seemed to be having a really good time on stage during RAY’s performance, with a radiant laugh on her face the whole time that she was performing. So that was nice.

The third seems to be a picture of Oishii Aimai from a couple years ago. It was given to us (or to Hirotaka, who gave it to me) when we first cleared our tickets and entered the arena and he mentioned to the gatekeeper that I was from Canada and it was my first show. A line he also used to get me the other two photographs (and just one for Simon, since he wasn’t here in the morning for Symdolick).

The Miscellany

The event also mentioned the possibility of a meal in a “local hidden restaurant”, but when I mentioned I liked spicy food (among other things) he latched onto that and brought me to a perfectly normal restaurant called Café Haiti in the middle of the Shinjuku Station underground mall. It was cool hearing that that store was a childhood store for him though, and had moved there from its original location a few years ago. He had occasionally eaten at it when he was a youngster after school, something like 40 years ago. So I didn’t mind this as he had a lot of stories to tell and that was more important than exactly what we ate, though it wasn’t spicy in the least, sadly. It was more savoury than anything. Also it came with a fancy glass of coffee, and the tiniest of tiny cups of milk or whatever that was, to empty and stir into the coffee.

Since I mentioned that I was trying to come here to study next year, he assumed from there that I was in my early to mid 20s and I never bothered to correct him. That’s when dying my hair to get rid of my white strands really paid off, I suppose!

After lunch, before meeting Simon, and in lieu of the merchandise thing, Hirotaka took me to the nearby Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building as well where there were public observatories on the 45th floor that tourists and visitors could ascend and take a look at the Tokyo skyline and urban spread. We didn’t aim for any particular time besides for being back in time for the second block, but our timing was absolutely perfect as we caught a view of Mount Fuji with the very last bit of sunset in the day. By the time the two of us reached the ground again, nightfall had covered the city in her shroud. This was a pretty neat, bonus excursion as well. Though I’d still rather have had idol merchandise.

I did pick up quite a few pictures of other people taking pictures to add to my collection though, which was nice.

After I had left the show, I started to wander around Kabukichō to look for dinner.

But I got accosted by a black man who introduced himself as being from South Africa (in English, after trying Japanese on me first and getting a mystified look in return, though the look was more for “who are you and what are you doing” as I understood what he was saying. He wanted to invite me out for a drink, which I was having none of on the best of days, never mind after spending 6-7 hours underground.

I refused, he kept following me and insisting, not taking note for an answer and being very pushy, suggesting that I was scared (implication: racist) of him and suggesting that maybe I wasn’t a girl after all since he couldn’t see behind my mask (he was unmasked and all “COVID is over” at the start of the conversation) and wanting to at least exchange Line or WhatsApp information with me. I refused everything and he eventually left me alone after more than 5 excruciating minutes, probably to try to find some other lone target to coerce into whatever bar he worked for. Funny, for someone from South Africa who had just arrived, to have Line installed on his phone and a whole bunch of Japanese language contacts already on it.

Anyway I decided to skip Kabukichō dinner and head back to Akasaka instead, as I hadn’t actually had dinner there yet. Disappointingly, most of the supermarkets were closed due to the Culture Day holiday, and the convenience store bento boxes were too expensive for my taste that night. I did find an odd shop, with a sign downstairs on the ground floor saying that they were on the 2nd floor and were open late tonight. But when I went up the stairs… never mind open or closed, there wasn’t even a shopfront on the 2nd floor, nor anyone up there, just a small landing with metal doors that looked like they were hiding utility closets, an elevator, and a hallway partially filled with boxes and a clear plastic tarp and looking like it just led into a dead end anyway. And then another flight of stairs leading back down to the street. There was a shop sign for the shop I was hoping to go to, but it was seated on a chair not far from an elevator and didn’t exactly point anywhere. Those closed “utility doors” were probably really old or unfancy doors to the restaurant/s that I was hoping to go to, or something, but it was still really weird and a tiny bit eerie.

I went to a different local store that was still open to eat instead, a chain store called Yoshinoya. The food was just okay (but extremely cheap) and the restaurant itself was cramped and uncomfortable, and I even spilled a tiny bit of miso soup on the table and my bag due to the tiny table and lack of leg space. It did have a USB charging port for my phone built into the side of the table though, which was interesting at least.

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