AKB48 performs in Jakarta for the first time03 March, 2012 by Mus
On the last weekend of February, the Japan Pop Culture Festival launched in Jakarta, Indonesia. An event held to both commemorate and grow Japanese-Indonesian cooperation, the highlight of the festival was AKB48’s attendance. It was to be the first time the pop idols were visiting Jakarta to stage a performance and sister-group JKT48 was also roped into the concert, making it also the first time JKT48 had performed to as big a live audience in their home Indonesia.
Not long after arriving in Jakarta, we headed to Balai Kartini where the concert was to be held. Of course, we expected to see people, but we didn’t expect to see people. The lines were split up for the different seating sections, with the result being 4 separate queues. As we were in the block to be seated at the back, we queued in the car-park, along with many of the other fans. The amount of people coupled with the Jakarta heat made for unpleasant queuing, so imagine the surprise when I discovered that some had been there as early as 10 in the morning.
While the queuing environment was not very optimal, the people in the queue were. We expected the queue to be more rowdy and unorganized (considering the ones we experienced in Singapore) but the atmosphere was generally calm and everyone followed the instructions of the security guards.
From looking at the crowd present in the queues, many were first timers to an idol concert. That didn’t turn out to be an issue, however. Clad in coordinated t-shirts (presumably made and distributed by fan-groups), there were people distributing drinks, lightsticks and even giving out free food. Besides the Indonesians, there were also multitudes of Japanese schoolgirls of various ages. No doubt, the daughters of the Japanese stationed in Jakarta.
The stipulated entry time of 4:30pm was missed by about 30 minutes, due to unforeseen delays. Photography was not permitted, as is the norm for AKB48 performances but what perplexed me was that drinks were not permitted in as well.
While this is a rule not uncommon during other concerts, that is usually because the organizers have their own concession stands that they want visitors to purchase from. This however, was not the case at the Balai Kartini venue. What this meant was early entrants to the concerts had nothing to drink for nearly 5 hours; full bottles of water were forced to be left on the tables.
We had already heard that the tickets were for a less than optimal view, but we had no idea of the extent till we stepped into the hall. Needless to say, it was gigantic. The girls were barely visible from where we stood, and all we could see were the screens put up in the middle of the venue. While there were some gripes about the view, it’s not really that different from what you would find from attending a normal arena concert.
Many attendees in Block B were relegated to watching the screen. A common gripe was that only the popular members (Takahashi Minami had the loudest cheers whenever she appeared on screen) were ever given any camera time.
In front of us, Block A, had many rows of seats that were simply left empty. A look at the back showed a full-house Block B; which resulted in a river of silence between the front and back of the hall.
Many songs performed today were also short versions, including the unit songs like Bird and even some of the singles. I don’t quite know why this was the case, as there was certainly no occasion to rush.
The concert wasn’t all bad, however. The AKB48 girls spoke Indonesian, to raucous laughter from many in our section due to the bad enunciation. Nevertheless, the girls all gained a number of fans (Sashihara’s ‘Memancing’ is now a meme amongst fans who attended) as the local fans appreciated the effort.
Surprisingly, the best effort (in my opinion) were from Team K’s Nito Moeno, who spoke with clear enunciation and barely any accent. It was easy to tell that she practiced for it. The JKT48 girls did not disappoint as well. They performed a few songs, including an Indonesian version of fan favourite Kimi no Koto ga Suki Dakara.
The concert ended with a joint performance of Aitakatta and Heavy Rotation by both JKT48 and AKB48 on stage. A poignant end, especially considering the aim of the event, which was to foster Japan-Indonesia relations. Having both the Indonesian and Japanese girls on stage together was a nice image to close it off with.
As the visitors shuffled out slowly, many were stopping to take photos, commemorating the first time their homegrown girls from Jakarta shared the stage with the top idols from Japan. It was then that it finally hit most of us just how full of potential JKT48 was. One only needed to hear the screams and shouts.