Oh maaaan this post has been a long time in coming! I’d like to say that it’s because I’ve been out enjoying my summer to its fullest, but in truth I’ve mostly been working or hanging about doing largely uninteresting things. 😛
So with that said, let’s get right into the post. I promise to finish these up before the summer ends!
A note: As with the last post, this one will include few pictures or videos. You can find fan recordings of the concert all over the place now, so if you’re interested, please go check them out! One video that I found amusing was called “Documentary of Sakura Con: An Epic Berryz Kobo Adventure,” if you’re interested in looking something up!
Berryz Koubou at Sakura-con: Day Two- In which I learn wotagei and cry some more
Event: The Concert
This day was the least packed, event-wise. I woke up early and headed pretty much directly to the Artists’ Alley. The area next to the Alley had become a sort of unofficial congregation point for anyone who was at the con solely for Berryz, and even though the concert wasn’t for another 6 hours or so, many people were already waiting there. I didn’t see the point in staying in one spot, waiting for a concert a half day away (and being held in another room on a different floor, for that matter), so I wandered around the convention for a while. Conventions can be very interesting (in both a bad and good way) if you’re not into anime. I was dressed up in lolita fashion (a Japanse street fashion based on Victorian and Rococo style), so at least I felt like I fit in, looks-wise! I mostly killed time by searching out breakfast and other lolitas to chat with.
As an aside, I should mention that the con staff started to get nervous and edgy about the BK fans during Day 2. I think the staff started to freak out over us the day before, when over 300 people were lined up solely to buy Berryz merchandise an hour before the Dealers’ room opened. Because of that, whenever groups of Berryz fans (easily identified by their t-shirts and uchiwa) were spotted congregating, they were split up and sent elsewhere by the staff. Some were threatened with being kicked out of the con, or even with having to deal with the police should there be any misbehavior… All of which was entirely unfounded, since the fans were generally orderly and well-behaved (at least until later).
More time passed, and the fans began trying to congregate around the concert hall about an hour or so before the concert was due to start. I was there and starting to feel very excited/nervous. I was going to see Berryz Koubou! In person! I spent the time drifting from group to group, trying to keep the door to the hall in sight. The staff threatened all of us with banishment, but eventually relented and let us begin lining up early, much to my relief.
Certain hotels were affiliated with the convention, and people who stayed in those hotels were eligible to receive wrist-bands. People with wrist-bands were given a spot in a priority line, and would be the first to get into the concert hall. I didn’t have a wristband (because the hotels affiliated with the con were expensive!), but I did end up at the very front of the regular line… where I proceeded to freak out quietly. Every time another group joined the priority line, I freaked out more. I told myself that they didn’t deserve to be in that line, that most of them were just going to the free concert, didn’t even know who Berryz were, and other fun things like that. None of which mattered, but I needed something to focus on while I sat in line and clutched my Saki-yellow glo-sticks.
Then, after an extremely nerve-wracking hour, a voice came on over the loudspeaker (or maybe it was a man with a megaphone. I was in a nervous haze and don’t remember). The voice explained to us in no uncertain terms that they were going to start letting people into the concert hall. They also explained that we would Walk Nicely. They explained that if we did not Walk Nicely, we would Talk with some Police Officers who would Arrest Us. Very melodramatic.
After all of the priority seating people were led in, it was finally my turn! The concert hall was set up with a section of chairs somewhat far from the stage, and then an open, standing area essentially leading right up to the stage. Non-priority people were pretty much supposed to sit in the sits, but I (and many others) slipped out of the line and into the standing area in the front. There were tons of people there already, but somehow I managed to meet up with my friends. We were on the left side of the hall, about five people in length away form the stage. To my left and right were some of the Japanese fans, including a very quiet Saki fan who, with the air of a master showing a novice an ancient trade secret, pulled two glo-sticks out of his bag. I say glo-sticks, but they were practically light-sabers. They made mine look like pencils! After I admired them, he nodded serenely and put them away just as quietly as he’d pulled them out.
A chant began, which everyone quickly took up. My heart was beating faster and faster- I was afraid that I was going to hyperventilate unless the girls came out soon! Then a video screen came on and everyone grew quiet as the girls spoke about the earthquake and their efforts to raise relief funds. After letting the message sink in, the girls came out and lead everyone in singing Ai wa Katsu. That just so happens to be one of my favorite car-singing songs, so I sang along with all my might. And, of course, midway through the first verse, I was crying again. The girls were just as beautiful as I remembered them, and hearing their voices so loud and clear over the singing of the crowd was like a dream.
The concert began in earnest with Special Generation. I had previously been exasperated with how often that song is performed, but I get it now. The energy in the room was insane. The quiet Saki wota next to me was suddenly shouting and laughing and jumping, and everyone else around me was lit up from all of the lights and power coming from the stage. As the concert was moved forward, the feeling of connection between the fans and the girls onstage never stopped. I tried to spend time focusing on each member, but gave up halfway through Special Generation. Everyone looked simply radiant. Miyabi, Saki and Chinami looked like they were having the time of their lives, Maasa and Risako looked confident and powerful, Yurina looked sweet, and Momoko looked professional.
The setlist was a great mix of old classics like Happiness ~Koufuku Kangei~ and newer songs like Icchoume Rock (which Miyabi performed with so much power!). I had so much fun chanting, although toward the beginning the Saki fan had to explain some of the more intricate chants to me. 😛 The highlight, which has become infamous now, was during the second MC when Chinami disappeared backstage, then reappeared in the fish dress from one of their recent tours, then proceeded to speak English at us! At one point she faltered and the crowd immediately began shouting “kawaii!” and whatnot at her, at which point she smiled and said “thank you” in the most adorably self-assured way. The concert finished with All for One and One for All, the perfect surprise, and finally a long chant of “Berryz Ikube!” (which would’ve been longer if the con staff hadn’t kicked us out to prepare for the next event)
After the concert, things turned a little crazy. I ran out of the concert hall pretty quickly. I was feeling overwhelmed and just wanted a chance to be alone to savor the immense energy and excitement I felt. I made my way out of the concert hall and toward the big open foyer in front of registration. There I sat by a pillar and, inevitably, cried some more. After just a little while of that, I started to hear a thunderous chanting coming toward me. It got louder and louder, and then suddenly the foyer was filled with a veritable parade of screaming, chanting, laughing and crying Berryz fans. Everyone was clearly wound up after the concert and still on a Berryz high, but I found the actions of the crowd to be somewhat mortifying. They were only confirming the opinions that the con staff had of us as dangerous and mob-like. I sat and watched the craziness for a little while, then as it began to disperse, went and met up with another group to go out for dinner. We ended up going to the same restaurant that Berryz reportedly ate at when they first arrived, and through no plan of our own, at the same table!
After dinner I met up with some other friends who had for their part made friends with some of the Japanese fans. The two groups were drinking together (and driving their waitress to distraction, I might add. By the time I showed up she wasn’t even trying to hide how frustrated and horrified she was, which was pretty funny since the group wasn’t being that rowdy). I hung around with that group for a few hours, just soaking up the feeling of being with other fans and chatting with friendly people in English and what little Japanese I speak. Watching the Japanese fans get tipsy was also pretty funny! Then we parted ways and I headed back to the hotel, where the energy that had propelled me through the day suddenly gave out, and I all but dragged myself into bed.
My major take-away from the second day of the convention was finally feeling the true connection between the girls and the fans. There is simply no way to feel it when you’re just watching a concert on your computer. You might recognize it to some degree, but the only way you can feel it yourself in its full power is to go see the girls onstage. Watching Berryz onstage made me understand why a fan would fly halfway across the world to see a bunch of teenagers perform pop songs. The girls exude a kind of magnetism and energy that is practically intoxicating (or maybe it is, if the behavior of the rioting fans is any indication).
Having seen Berryz live, I know for sure now that I simply must see them again. Seeing them on the computer is okay, but it’s a hollow substitute. More than anything now I want to go to Japan and see everyone again in concert.
Up Next: Day 3- in which I meet the girls face to face, and Saki cries with me.