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Tokyo Winter 2014 Day 13

Braving the suburbs for idols

21 June, 2014 by

While many of our readers tend to have concerts already in mind when visiting Japan, for different reasons each year, we often have to leave it up to fate for events to clash on the days we happen to be there. This year, we weren’t so fortunate with concerts or theater ballots and the only event which we’d make was at the eastern suburbs of Tokyo, where Avex’s flagship idol project SUPER☆GiRLS were having a free mini-live event.

In the morning, picked up the JR Tokunai Pass which gives unlimited rides on JR train lines within Tokyo for 1 day for just 730 yen. It would cover the return trip over to Kasai where the live was being held as well as anywhere else we’d end up visiting in Tokyo today. Given the time, would had liked to visit the Mitsui Outlet Park Makuhari but any further east and the pass would be out of bounds. The Ito Yokado mall where SUPER☆GiRLS were having their live today very literally on the edge between Tokyo and Chiba and was separated from Tokyo Disney Resort by a single river.

We stopped off at Kansairinkakoen Station. From there it was quite a long walk (roughly 2.5 kilometers) over to the Ito Yokado. It’s nice to get to see lesser explored neighborhoods like that though and the weather was good today. This side of Tokyo was home to the city’s projects. While “HDBs” are commonplace in Singapore, subsidized housing tend to be rare elsewhere and are often reserved for the most impoverished. Projects tend to have a bad reputation, but the ones in Japan looked quite welcoming, at least from the outside.

Japanese subsidized housing looked very much like the ones back in Singapore.

Suburbs.

Still nicer than most neighborhoods.

Ito Yokado is a large megamall owned by Seven & I Holdings the parent company of 7-Eleven. It’s sort of a neighborhood mall, but with almost everything owned by a single company. Ito Yokado carries its own house brand of everything under the sun, including food, necessities and even their own apparel labels. Ito Yokado has been a firm sponsor for SUPER☆GiRLS since their conception and probably remains the main reason why they are still surviving. As such SUPER☆GiRLS is heavily involved in the promotion of all things Ito Yokado.

Ito Yokado.

Having taken our time to get to the mall, it was almost time for the scheduled live. There wasn’t any clear notice as to where this was held apart from it being on the ground floor, which happened to be the supermarket level. We went around in search of the live, and eventually found it in a tight space in the middle of the mall beside the escalators. The metal grills that are usually used to close off the mall was used to cordon off a performing space.

Only got a quick snap of the stage before the live started, since the staff here took an active stance against photography. The area on the ground floor was reserved for people who had made purchases of the goods that they were selling. On hindsight, we probably should had gotten something. We went to the higher levels in an attempt to get a decent view but our ill luck meant we end up stuck behind some of the worst behaved fans.

I’ve covered how bad some of the iDOL Street wota were in the past. Not sure if these were the same people. They’d end up squeezing more of their friends who had come later in front of us so we ended up not getting to see much of the performance. They were really rowdy throughout the concert, and shouted gags over the MCs to get the girls attention. This particular group of fans didn’t even let up when a father and his child tried to get a look. Seems the group of fans were somewhat notorious, since the group’s manager would come by later for a chat.

It’s funny how we always end up at SUPER☆GiRLS events by chance, since they always just happen to have lives whenever we visit Japan. The overall turnout for the live was sad, only a 100 or so people. However, SUPER☆GiRLS were as lively as ever, though Gage and Randy felt that Amita had lost some of her shine.

There was a handshake session after the live, but to qualify, one needed to pre-order their upcoming single. Tried messaging Chisa for her address to “borrow” her address, but she was still fast alseep. Disappointed, we took to looking around the shops on the ground floor instead.

We found a Titicaca outlet here and ended up fatefully picking up a nice scarf each, as well as Gage having found a present for his gift exchange. There was one with a cute alpaca design but Randy ended up getting that. Didn’t want to walk around with matching scarves so picked out one with a Monhun-ish pattern. Really liked Titicaca’s tribal and South American inspired designs.

Scarf from Titicaca.

As luck would have it, there was another event after the handshakes were complete. The girls were selling their own “Fukubukuros” for the new year. Though they consisted mainly of past goods that they were trying to clear out, the process involved being able to meet the members up close so Gage and myself got in line.

Tickets for the lucky bags were purchased at 1,000 yen a pop. After which you got in line to go through a series of booths operated by 2-3 members each. At the first point, you picked out strings to determine what type of bag you would win and at subsequent stations fans could get a chance to win a frame filled with autographed prints of all of a particular member’s past photos. All of the frames had been won already though, apart from Saori and Pino’s.

One of the package contents.

The remaining few fans at today’s live seemed pretty closed to the members and they mingled around colloquially. At some point they took to giving out random stuff like the name boards of the members used at the booth. One female fan was ecstatic at having a piece of wood with Saori’s name on it that was being used as a lot.

Just as it was our turn, the members shuffled spots. Amita ended up stationed at the final winning booth to give out the frames, which meant wouldn’t be able to mingle much unless I won. On the plus side Mirei and Rachel my next two faves were stationed at one of the two first lanes which I opted for, while Gage went to the other lane.

The encounter was pretty much the same as always. Somewhat amazement that I had come from Singapore, while Rachel talked about the Singapore Merlion. Regarding the lots, got Rachel to pick out one for me. But it turned out to be a dud so I’d receive the normal goody bag. There was a pass holder, clear folder and some cheaply made trading cards inside. Gage got a normal bag too, though with better members goods. Lucky winners got special bags which had a ton more stuff inside.

Yakisoba.

While exploring the supermarket section we came across some food stands selling some delicious looking yakisoba. I’m a fan of yakisoba, but have had a hard time finding any decent ones back in Singapore ever since Pachi Pachi at Cuppage closed down years ago so I’ve always taken the chance to get some whenever in Japan. It was lunchtime, so Gage and myself got some to share while Randy looked around in search for something else. We also got some drinks from the supermarket. Being Ito Yokado, they were giving out Dream5 magnets with purchases of certain drinks.

Dream5 magnets.

Taking a different route on the way back to the station, we’d come across the long stretch of Minamikasai Gochome Park and the large river that separated Tokyo from Chiba. It was a wonderful sight like those you’d see in movies (the kind where students would pass by on their way to home) and an all round great place to jog or chill out. Immediately on the other side of the river was Tokyo Disney Resort. It was nice having such a great view located right in a residential area, and a poor one at that.

Further down, just opposite from the train station was also the huge Kasai Rinkai Park which is home to an aquarium, bird sanctuary, ferris wheel and observatory in addition to flora and beaches. It wasn’t a good season to visit the parks but it seemed like it was worth a visit in Spring.

River.

Good place for a set.

Kasai Rinkai Park.

Took a train back towards central Tokyo. The rest had no real idea what they’d like to do today, so we’d head over to Shibuya for a look. But first, I wanted to stop by Shiodome, where the new Tokyo Pokemon Center was located.

Tokyo Tower from Shiodome.

The Shiodome Pokemon Center was a relatively new store, where  its previous incarnation was located in Shinjuku. This Pokecenter was much larger than the other outlets we had visited, with a wide assortment of merchandize that we had not seen elsewhere. Apart from lots of children, there were also many adult local visitors, some of whom probably came from a city which didn’t have a Pokecenter, since they seemed especially fascinated, with others purchasing omiyage for their loved ones. Outside, visitors of all ages sat outside the store playing their 3DSes.

Didn’t get anything from the Pokemon Center again. But the main reason for being here other than to check out the Tokyo branch was to download a limited edition Pokemon for the game. The Pokemon Centers around Japan regularly give out special in-game “event” Pokemon every few weeks which can only be gotten physically. It’s an interesting way to tie into a video game, and no doubt an integral part of the Pokemon experience, since it encourages people to visit the stores (and spend some money), while also encouraging children to play together. Unfortunately, this distribution method is not carried out overseas.

People huddled outside.

Pokemon Center Tokyo.

6th generation.

After getting my limited edition Inkay download. We continued onward to Shibuya. Attempted some shopping there in vain. Randy had an embarrassing but interesting encounter at one of the department stores there. After noticing that Takeo Kikuchi had a sale on their bags (they were going for a steal of 15,000 yen), Randy and Gage were somewhat interested so we checked out a TK store.

After learning of Randy’s interest, the lone sales assistant there tried his best to accommodate him, suggesting various designs and taking into account every single condition, while I acted as a translator between the two. He factored in everything under the sun, like Randy’s existing TK bag, what weather he would like to use the bag in, whether it matched his usual wardrobe, what he wanted to put inside, and so on. The sales assistant also basically took out everything the store had to offer in an attempt to make a sale. It was only after 20 minutes or more that Randy finally managed to convey that he wasn’t settled on making a purchase yet. The sales person took it really well and proceeded to put back everything without so much of a sign of disappointment. The level of service in Japan is amazing.

Later we had dinner at a popular looking Hakata ramen shop in the alleys behind the train station. It enjoyed a constant stream of customers. Given the cold weather, we very much enjoyed the warm soupy meal.

Shinjuku.

Hakata Ramen.

Nearby, a group of a dozen or so drunk young adults were mingling outside the adjacent pubs before heading home. Since tomorrow would be a long day (we’d be visiting Hakkejima) we decided to retire early for the night as well.

Spam on a stick.

Terrible.

Stopped by the convenience store on the way back to pick up some snacks though. I ended up getting some savory bites including this slab of spam on a stick. It’s interesting what they have for sale in convenience stores over here. Also picked up some jelly. Was interested in what zero calorie jelly would taste like.

The answer, not good. I struggled to finish it as the whole thing tastes strongly of aspartame, and all of its cancery goodness. What’s more, there were no real strawberries inside, just pieces of nata de coco died pink. On hindsight, should had figured that diet anything normally means artificial sweeteners. If you’re ever on a diet and yet crave for sweets, stay away from such alternatives. It will only make you more depressed.

Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.


Chad

Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.