Featuring Kuramochi Asuka, Sato Sumire and Yamauchi Suzuran17 August, 2011 by Chad
While Singapore will have to wait until the 27th of August for the next concert, AKB48 continue to keep fan spirits high with yet another special cafe visit last Sunday. Three members of the popular pop idol group, Kuramochi Asuka, Sato Sumire and Yamauchi Suzuran met and entertained fans, some of whom had flown in to especially for this event at the AKB48 Singapore Cafe.
AKB48 are of course, currently Japan’s most popular music artists, having finally found superstar status since their debut almost 6 years ago. Their success, a result of high production values and the unique effort to break out of traditional celebrity preconceptions, by holding frequent events where the idols can interact casually with fans and vice versa.
The group has been routinely holding theater styled performances in Singapore since May this year. And this is the second time members from AKB48 have visited the AKB48 Singapore Cafe as part of their “AKB48 Summer Holiday Special Visit” campaign.
The three visiting members Kuramochi Asuka (Team A), Sato Sumire (Team B) and Yamauchi Suzuran (Team 4) held a total of 4 sessions throughout the day. Tickets for each session were sold in advance at $35 and included a meal.
Refreshments were served promptly and fans dug into their meals quickly, no doubt to focus on the happenings on the mini-stage. Appropriately, a video showing AKB48 members sampling the cafe food during their previous visit was aired simultaneously.
Fans turned up from Singapore as well as Japan, Malaysia, China and Indonesia. It’s nice to note that despite the misconception where such an event would be filled by male otaku, that it wasn’t the case (that would be left for the “Summer Festival” held by Haru House upstairs).
Instead, AKB48 attracted visitors from all walks of life, including many expats, young children accompanied by their parents and a significant number of female fans.
I had the opportunity to talk to one young woman, who was visiting an AKB48 event for her first time and learned that her fascination with the group stemmed from seeing the members in Japanese television dramas (which they now frequent) such as Majisuka Gakuen.
The afternoon event opened up with introductions from each of our own AKB48 Cafe staff members on the mini-stage. But it wasn’t long before the guests-of-honor would make their grand entrance.
Fans cheered excitedly as the three AKB48 members made their way to the stage, where they too would introduce themselves in turn.
No AKB48 event would be complete without live performances. But it was our local talents that wowed the audience with their moves on stage today. The AKB48 members were invited to sit aside while the cafe staff took to the stage to perform their own renditions of popular AKB48 songs.
Two songs were rotated each session, from a total of four new songs: Beginner, Blue Rose, Sakura no Ki ni Narou and SDN48’s GAGAGA. Fans and AKB48 members joined in cheering the cafe staff on as they danced energetically on stage.
After each performance, the AKB48 girls were asked to voice out their impressions. Kuramochi commented on how accurately the cafe girls were able to pull off the songs without any guidance. Sato complimented the staffs’ performances too, while noting the difficulty of the dances and adding that she found them cute.
The hyperactive Yamauchi expressed her excitement in being able to occasionally sneak peeks at the performers’ short pants as they danced, also complementing the girls on their legs and exclaiming that they were cool.
The AKB48 Cafe Special Visit followed an almost identical format to the last, with a Q&A session with the three guests. Lucky visitors were given the chance to learn more about the AKB48 members by having their questions answered personally.
Compared to past visits, today’s AKB48 guests were refreshingly open, answering all sorts of demanding or embarrassing questions in good fun.
Once again our MC for the day was Kai, the AKB48 Singapore Shop manager. He’s loosened up considerably too since the previous sessions, which allowed for some amusing conversations with the members. Needless to say, the AKB48 members entertained the crowd with their upbeat personalities.
One interesting request was for Kuramochi Asuka to assess the other attending members’ ears, since the former is well known for her ear fetish, something that has been publicized on television before. When questioned on who had the best ears in AKB48, Kuramochi nominated fellow French Kiss team mate, Takajo Aki. Even going into great detail in elaborating its texture and shape.
Sato Sumire attracted a surprisingly number of young guests today, who no doubt looked up to her as a role model. One young guest, upon having her lot picked out of the box, voiced her support and requested if Sato could perform her catchphrase which she liked. Sato complied shyly.
Another young Sato Sumire fan, a diminutive 4 year old girl, panicked and broke into tears when chosen, resulting in an adoring exclamation from the crowd.
At the suggestion of a fan, Yamauchi Suzuran demonstrated her golf swing. The young AKB48 member is well known for her interest in golf, having picked it up when she was 8. She had joined a pro-am tournament earlier this year too.
Next up was another mass rock-paper-scissors contest held between the AKB48 members and cafe patrons where visitors had the chance to win exciting prizes.
The AKB48 members took turns playing with the crowd and all but the winning throws were eliminated until only one lucky person remained each round.
Winners received original posters of the event, signed personally by the member that they bested. 3 posters were given out each session for a total of 12.
The event was wrapped up with a meet-and-greet session with the three visiting AKB48 members. AKB48 had popularized such events in Japan where fans could meet their idols up close. While increasingly common, visitors cherished the opportunity to interact personally with the AKB48 members.
Events like this leave an inexplicable atmosphere, where it is difficult for even non-fans witnessing not to smile. Thrilled fans left with wide grins from being able to meet their idols, while the idols appreciated the encouragement from fans. It is with these positive feelings, that the AKB48 members continue to shine in the performances that the fans so love.
Fortunately AKB48 buffs will not need to wait long to meet them again, with members coming down again next Saturday for their 4th stage performance. Visitors to the cafe event were also the first to learn of the 16 members coming for the subsequent concert at the end of the month. The list being as follows.