Almost missing our flight back24 January, 2012 by Chad
Today was the last day of our new year’s trip to Tokyo. The last minute nature of things meant that we would neither plan nor think through on a lot of decisions.
As it turns out this second Monday of January was the annual Seijin no Hi or Coming of Age Day in Japan. A day typically marked by women turning 20 flocking to temples and shrines in elaborate furisode. We would also learn during our concert visits that SUPERGiRLS were holding a free live and high five session at Yoyogi Park in the afternoon.
Our flight was at 5.10 PM, which meant that we had ought to reach Narita Airport by at least around 4. Considering that the live event started only at 1 and that it would take us a combined 2 hours to get back to our hotel for our luggage and to travel to the airport, we knew we were cutting it close. Still, I was sufficiently intoxicated by their catchy tunes to give it a crazy try.
We checked out early in the morning, leaving our luggage at the hotel counter while we headed over to Harajuku Station. There we grabbed some onigiri for breakfast. Having not reached my quota for strange drinks, I had bought 3 different bottles of strawberry flavored drinks two nights ago from the supermarket. So my other concern was how I was ever going to finish them.
Managed to down the Strawberry Premium Calpis (which was awful) yesterday. While Calpis proper is great, I’ve now learnt to stay away from the Premium series.
This morning and afternoon had me drinking nothing but Sapporo’s Ichigo Soda, that tasted like carbonated sour candy strips (bad) and Bireley’s Adult Strawberry Milk, which turned out to be smashed strawberry pulp (good).
The Meiji Shrine was filled with plenty of visitors this morning, but hardly anyone in kimonos. Maybe we were at the wrong temple, or perhaps too early or late. But we didn’t have time to find out.
Wasn’t thinking properly this morning so ended up making a wrong turn during an attempt to find a shortcut out to Yoyogi Park (we should have just back tracked to the entrance). This brought us to the wrong end of the park and to save time we had to take a train back one stop to Harajuku Station.
Today was indeed a frantic rush. And had I known about the event prior to the trip, would had surely had chosen to stay another day. I tried changing our return flight date after finding about the free SUPERGiRLS live, but unfortunately we weren’t allowed to with our non-refundable tickets.
Another miss, was not confirming which part of Yoyogi Park the live was set to take place at. We spent half an hour exploring the huge park, passing by a few out of place looking youths who were equally lost.
Eventually, we managed to find the venue by following a lost looking grade school girl, who seemed to had figured out where to go after checking her cell. Yes, we stalked a loli and it worked.
As it turned out, the live was to be held outside the park, at a clearing beside the Shibuya AX and NHK Halls. There was a flea market going on this morning too but we didn’t have time to waste, there was already a long queue ahead.
The queue was for wristbands. The staff had started distributing these half an hour ago at 11 AM. These were the same “gigabands” you get at AKB48 theater lives to prevent you from selling your ticket.
If you’re wondering what they were doing giving them our during a free event that was open to the public anyways, these were actually more for the hi-touch session later. To ensure everyone gets a fair chance to meet their idols face to face, the band is required for the hi-touch session and repossessed after your turn.
According to official sources, approximately 4,000 people were gathered here today, though Japanese and sensational online news aggregators claim the number to be at 4,800 and 5,000 respectively. But despite the number of people in line, we managed to get our wristbands within an hour. Since it was a free show, audience here today were a lot more varied. There were not only the typical rowdy wota youths but also office workers who had sneaked off from work, a lot more fashionable young women and an odd middle aged woman who had various pins and keychains of AKB48’s Ishida Haruka.
After getting our bands, we spent the next half hour trying to find a suitable standing spot. Had little luck on the right side. Like before, it was pretty hard getting a decent view with all the tall young people. The stereotype where all Asians are supposed to be short stumpy folk, clearly does not take ethnic Japanese or Chinese into consideration.
We managed to find a clear spot at the center, but was soon obstructed by the ridiculous amount of media who joined and their camera crew. Each time another cameraman set up camp in front of us, the guy behind us would exclaim “うそでしょう”. Like in Singapore, some of them had pretty weak amateur equipment setups but they stood on high chairs which made it impossible to see past them.
The last straw before we looked for another place to stand was when one guy simply shoved Gage aside to get in front of him. Polite Japanese, also only a stereotype.
We eventually settled for looking from further afar at the absolute left side of the stage. There weren’t too many people here so we could get a view, provided we tiptoed our way through.
At some point during an announcement that Akita Eri would not be taking part in the live this afternoon, a pink unmarked coach pulled up unnoticed near us. No one paid it any attention for quite some time, until everyone realized that the only way up the small stage was through the front.
A whole bunch of people came running forth our side as the bus doors swung open. We took this chance to move further up. Decked out in their EveryBody JUMP!! outfits the SUPERGiRLS members, sans Eri emerged, making their way up to the stage.
The girls performed a total of four songs this morning. Opening with EveryBody JUMP!!, they covered all of their singles in reverse order.
There was an interesting mix of audience this afternoon, many of whom were seeing a live for their first time. Some were pretty amused by the wotas (crazy idol fans) up front, who were brandishing light sticks in broad daylight. During the MC, the speaker/manager mentioned that fans from as far as Fukuoka had come down today to see the performance.
Two young adults in front of me were especially amusing. They were high from being able to see the SUPERGiRLS members in person. The one in front kept turning around and exclaiming excitedly to his friend the Japanese equivalent of “Kaepyon is so pretty” and “Amita is too cute”.
When Kano Kaede said her spoken line during Ganbatte Seishun, complied to respond but not quite sure how to, the guy in front shouted back “Thank You!”.
It was already nearing 2 PM by the time the live ended and it was time for us to leave, it didn’t seem like the event was to continue anytime soon either as the media took to the main stage to prepare for a photograph session and interviews. Would have done anything to stay on for the hi-touch session, anything but waste our flight back.
Somehow, we were the only ones who spotted the girls at the back window of the small room behind the stage. We waved at Tanaka Mirei a few times, while she stared motionlessly at us for a while. Eventually, another member shut the blinds, perhaps so they could change. I wonder if the members themselves would had noticed the window had we not waved out.
Rushed back to our hotel to get our luggage. We were delayed for a few minutes when I realized that the strawberry drinks in my bag were leaking. Till now that bag still smells of artificial strawberries.
Only after entering the gantry at Nippori did we realize that we had missed the Keisei Skyliner by 10 minutes and we would have to wait another 30 minutes for the next one to arrive.
Even with the trip by Skyliner taking only 40 minutes, this would mean that we would only reach Narita Airport at about 4.30 PM. We would have probably missed our plane had we attempted taking the limited express.
It would had been doubly stupid if we had missed both the plane and the hi-touch session. Took a break from panicking to get some snacks from the vending machine here. The only other thing we had to eat so far were the riceballs we had earlier.
The two buns tasted about just as good as anything you’d be able to get from a vending machine in a train station. Which is to say, pretty tasteless.
Got off at the end of the line, at Narita Airport Terminal 1 and made our way to the ANA baggage counter. The tall slim ground staff here looked like one of those countryside types, pleasantly cute. Which was good, since it softened any possible annoyance at us. Which was our fault, of course.
She made sure that we returned to the self-check in terminals before giving any human assistance but as the time window had expired, we returned to the counter almost immediately.
Through sheer luck, or perhaps precisely because of us, the flight time had been delayed by 10 minutes. The staff assisted us in taking our luggage to the check-in area before escorting us customs and then to the boarding area, constantly urging us to hurry.
We thanked her profusely and apologetically, before running off to join the last people boarding the plane.
Like our flight here, the plane back home was mostly empty. I didn’t have time to take any books out from my luggage to read on the way here, so would spend the evening choosing from the limited inflight entertainment instead. Ending up watching the amusing Salaryman NEO movie and the predictably cliched Real Steel.
Dinner options were between a Western hamburg set or Japanese rice meal this evening but since we were situated at the far back, there was only one of each left by the time it was our choice. Still, the in flight food this time was probably some of the most decent we had encountered so far.
If I were to continue recounting, I would describe how we landed at Singapore slightly late due to the bad weather and how I had to prepare to return to work on the same morning. But that would be quite a bore. So that’s it for this photo tour series of our winter trip to Tokyo.
Somehow, I don’t have nearly as many afterthoughts this time round as before. Perhaps because most of the trip was spent revisiting past places. Might be returning again sometime soon when the Tokyo Sky Tree finally opens and if there is sufficient funds to do so.
I still have intentions of visiting Nagoya and giving Kansai another chance. And while Tokyo loses some of its charm after repeated visits, it’s still the one place I feel most at home with.
Like in the past, you’ll continue to see the occasional article elaborating on some of the stuff featured in this trip (though most had already been covered before). But regular random scheduled posts will resume again tomorrow.