Hi, I’m Shar. I’m 30 going on 31, I like Japanese boy bands, and I have no shame.
So I’m not the least bit shy in telling everyone that one of the reasons I went to Japan was to breathe, at least for a few days, the same air that Japanese idols breathe.
Except, well…Kat and I are international fans, so we weren’t very lucky when it came to getting tickets for concerts.
Let me explain.
Three of my favorite groups from Johnny’s Entertainment–Arashi, V6, Tackey & Tsubasa–were on tour the whole time we were there. T&T were in Fukuoka a day before we arrived in Osaka or were on their way to another part of the country, if I remember right. V6 were in the thick of their 20th anniversary tour and we were just on time for the Yokohama leg, and if we had tickets we could’ve gone there the day we left Kyoto. Meanwhile, Arashi were performing in Miyagi the whole time we were in Tokyo.
So many chances, right? The thing was, Miyagi was way off our tour map. I was also new to the T&T fandom because of Imai Tsubasa’s Magical Hips and haven’t quite gotten to convincing Kat that it would be hilarious to see them perform live. She was more supportive of my V6 dreams, but when we tried our luck in an online ticket lottery, we didn’t quite make it. And we had no friends who were members of the JE Family Club, so, fat chance, really.
In the end, we were reduced to keeping a tally of ads featuring said idols, buying CDs and random goods, and silently singing along every time we heard Arashi’s “Ai wo Sakebe” blaring inside record stores. (They were promoting the single that time.)
But the highlight of our shameless fangirling was our half-day trip to Chiba-ken, about an hour from Shibuya. We could’ve gone to some nice tourist spot in Tokyo, but noooo. We had to queue for three hours to eat at Keikarou, that restaurant near Makuhari-hongo Station, owned by the parents of one Aiba Masaki of Arashi:
We went on a Monday, but it was also Silver Week, so I guess the people who were in the queue were also on holiday. Most of them were toting Arashi bags and other accessories. We even spotted a car that had “Arashi” stamped on it.
Unfortunately, our Japanese was rather limited so we couldn’t chat with the fans in the queue. We kept ourselves entertained by speculating where these fans came from and daydreaming about what it would be like to see Arashi eating in here. And oh yeah, Kat was upset because of the scandal that Ohno got himself into, so we talked a lot about that.
The menu was completely in Japanese and we didn’t know enough kanji to understand the a la carte items, so we decided on getting the basic lunch set. I’m not really into Chinese food, but the meal was pretty good and satisfying! I particularly liked the beef dish, which explains why it appears that I had already eaten some of it in the photo. Because I actually did, haha.
The restaurant used to display a lot of Arashi knick-knacks from fans, but the family got told off by Johnny’s at some point, so they were taken down. The only things left were the Arashi 10th anniversary plate at the front door, a Kirin ad starring Aiba, a couple of Debikuro-kun dolls, and another Kirin ad with the whole group.
But the more fascinating displays were framed photos of places that the Aiba family visited for holidays, especially the one right above our table:
So this confirmed my friend’s story about the Aibas spending the holidays in El Nido, Palawan! Except she wasn’t sure if Aiba-chan was with them that time.
It did give me an idea on what to say to Aiba’s mother, who was easy to recognize because she looked exactly like him, and she was always behind the cashier. Except at some point, she went around to help her staff. She was the one who served our starters, too. (It took all our powers to stop ourselves from squealing, “OMG AIBA’S MOTHER IS SERVING US!”)
When it was our turn to pay our bill at the cashier, I finally mustered the courage to say something in very broken, very embarrassing Japanese. Of course, I don’t remember everything now, but this was how it went, basically:
Me: Are you Aiba-san?
Aiba’s mom: Yes.
Me: Um, I saw a picture of El Nido near our table. Did you go?
Aiba’s mom: Oh, yes! We went to El Nido, Cebu, Mactan…it was all wonderful. Are you here for the Miyagi concert?
Me: Oh no, we don’t have tickets, it’s difficult to get them.
Aiba’s mom: Oh, I know. Are you university students?
Me and Kat: *trying not to squee* No, we’re already working.
Aiba’s mom: That’s very nice! I hope you’re enjoying your holidays so far.
Me: Yes, thank you.
Aiba’s mom: Have a nice day! (She said this in English.)
She was really so kind and sweet. And she looked exactly like him!
So, in the end, it all felt very surreal. It was not exactly the same as meeting the idols themselves, but it still felt very special, somehow. If we were crazy enough, we would have said something like “Thank you for always giving birth to Masaki” a la Ohno Satoshi. Haha!
Anyway, on to the not-so-numerical ad tally:
Arashi: A handful of Kirin ads in Osaka, an ad promoting “Ai wo Sakebe” in Kyoto, and a shitload of ads in Tokyo that we stopped counting
V6: Concert video promos in Osaka, a video ad featuring Okada Junichi on one Yamanote train car, and another Okada Junichi one at the grocery store near Eifukucho Station
Tackey & Tsubasa: They were all over the JR Yamanote Line. Enough said.