Ichikawa Miori’s birthday celebration16 March, 2011 by Chad
The plan today was simple, to visit Yokohama in the morning and early afternoon for the Ramen Museum, then return to Tokyo for Ichikawa Miori’s birthday celebration back at the AKB48 theater. せーの~ フレッシュレモンになりたいの!
We headed over to Shibuya in the morning as it is cheaper to take the Toyoko trains here to Yokohama rather than the JR lines. But first wandered around the area looking for a Citibank so that Yan could draw more cash. He was planning to splurge quite a bit at the Ramen Museum later.
It turned out he had a Cirrus card so we ended up just getting the cash from the nearest 7-Eleven. Both Wilson and I painfully drew out some spare cash too, since there was no way our coffers could last till the end of the trip.
People were still making their way to work when we passed by an empty Krispy Kreme. It’s been quite a while since we last had some and also the first time seeing any branch without a long queue outside so we took this opportunity to get some breakfast.
Comparatively, Krispy Kreme donuts are overly sweet, dry and just not fluffy. Wilson and I concluded this morning, Mister Donut > Krispy Kreme.
Back outside the station, we dropped by the Hachiko statue. It’s always completely obstructed by the hordes of people in the evening, so Yan ended up missing it during his last trip.
At some point while we were there my camera slipped out of my side pocket, meeting with the floor and damaging the battery hatch for the third time. I had last paid $130 for the repairs and only got it back from the workshop a few days before the trip. Don’t think I’m going to fix it up this time.
Squeezed the broken hinge back and put the camera on the cold ground a while so that the metal body contracted and held it in place, though barely. Fortunately, it still shot pictures.
Made the same mistake as before and got off at Yokohama instead of Minato Mirai. The distance would have to be covered by foot. Well at least we saved about 3 bucks for the difference. Transport in Yokohama is crazy expensive. Like in Tokyo, you could get a day pass here too but the Yokohama pass covers only a very limited area.
The initial plan was to visit the Yokohama Landmark Tower, which at almost 300 meters high was the tallest building in Japan (though still overshadowed by the the two towers). But we ended up reconsidering after learning that it cost 1000 yen ($16) just to enter the observatory there. But Wilson decided to return later in the evening for the sunset. He had been yearning to catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji which he missed during yesterday’s visit to the Metropolitan Government Building.
From the Landmark Tower, it was another long walk over to where we were headed next. Clear skies today but it being the coast, the winds here were really strong. Even if there were tall buildings to hide behind, it wouldn’t had helped as the winds came from all directions. The only thing keeping us warm was all the walking.
The Akarenga Soko are a bunch of decade old shipping warehouses that have now been converted into a up class shopping and banquet area. Much like the other buildings around Yokohama, there’s a distinct Western influence owing to Yokohama’s status as a port. On a weekday like this, it makes for a perfect chill out spot for those who live the good life.
We decided to head toward what looked like a large pier jutting out into the sea, for a better view. On closer inspection, the “pier” turned out to be the much talked about Yokohama International Port Terminal.
The entire Yokohama International Ferry Terminal extends about 400 meters out of the coast, seemingly built into the terrain itself. The roof of the building served as a scenic lookout of Tokyo Bay but hidden beneath the wooden shell were two large halls. One was for holding functions and the other serves the terminal’s primary purpose, namely the arrival and departures of cruise ships.
Pretty amazing architecture but at the same time it was really tiring to scale the curves and bumps that made up the long structure.
The elderly woman in the photo went up to Yan and repeatedly exclaimed that the hall was closed, finally walking away when it was certain she wasn’t getting a response from us unfriendly/confused tourists.
It was about time to visit the Ramen museum for lunch, so we headed over to Shin-Yokohama station. Though I roughly remembered the way there from our last time in Yokohama, Yan was a little worried that we might had been lost when he saw no familiar sights. We made it there just fine. Turned out that he had came from a different station previously.
The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum was something like Disneyland for our friend so I’ll leave a more detailed impression up to him in the future.
Entry into the museum cost 300 yen, after which you are able to select from a variety of ramen shops hailing from different parts of Japan. The interior of the building is themed to a post war Japan, complete with a kind of eerie reddish sky.
First shop was something lighter that I was able to palate, a more Chinese styled chicken broth noodle complete with wantons. Later Wilson and Yan headed for a second round of tsukemen, with Yan braving a third final bowl on his own.
On our way back upstairs, we came across these cut-outs that Yan identified as the ones featured in the first episodes of Shukan.
There’s a souvenir shop on the first floor of the museum which sells an assortment of ramen themed goods, as well as actual Nama Instant Ramen for you to take home. We left Yan here to his own amusement.
Outside, there were these Ramen Print Club style machines which printed photos for you to slot into the nama packaging for your own customized ramen. Wilson commented that at 500 yen each, these were pretty affordable as far as touristy photos went.
If you understood the Japanese user interface, you could enter your own words in the title to name the ramen after yourself but sadly there was only one cheesy option for non-natives.
It was pretty late by the time we were done at the museum and would barely make it back to Tokyo. We left Wilson up to his business in Yokohama and rushed down to Akihabara to get our tickets.
The odds of us seeing an AKB48 show, much less two in a row was pretty astronomical. And getting to attend a birthday show was the wota equivalent of winning the lottery. Today was the birthday celebration for Ichikawa Miori, affectionately known to most as simply Miorin or Fresh Lemon. The Kenkyuusei were currently performing the B5 stage songs, which was another win. I guess all the time spent donating to temples eventually paid off or was this the prophesied “Great Good Fortune”?
Anyways a quick stop downstairs to grab a yellow glowstick which I had almost forgotten about. But I’d soon learn that I didn’t need it.
There was a fan club for Miorin assembled here today, decked out in T-shirts that they had designed themselves. They were lead by who I presume to be the biggest Miorin fan ever, who was allowed by the staff prior to the show to make an announcement using the loudspeaker to request everyone’s support. I later inquired regarding the T-shirts, to which they explained was privy only to their clique. But the Miorin fan agreed to grace a photo.
The fan club also gave these free to anyone willing to support their cause (Miorin of course). Two “sairyuumu” as they call it in Japan (which actually makes more sense than you think).
The purpose of the sticks were explained by the instructional sheet that accompanied them. A pink one to light up during Ichikawa’s part in the song “Candy” and another yellow stick for “Honest Man”. In between the songs, the sticks were to be hidden for maximum impact. Also, the encore was to be replaced by a “Miorin call”.
Those familiar with the theater should know that other than the special tickets, the seat order in each show is determined randomly by the staff spinning a Bingo machine. On account of the special occasion, there were no Super Enpou, Family or other special tickets as they knew better than to waste spots for some unenthusiastic guests.
The combination of this and the fact that it was a kenkyuusei show meant that the crowd was far more spirited today. But sadly, not all of the Ichikawa fans got in.
Our row was called in 5th. Without thinking we got seats on the second row beside the notorious “pillars of death”. Normally it would had been fine but today there were extra cameramen hanging around the pillars, blocking our view more so than any pillar. Still, this eventually turned out to be a blessing rather than a curse (continue reading to find out why).
The first song “Yuuki no Hammer” (The Hammer of Courage) opened up with Miorin looking adorably ridiculous in the over sized jacket. Despite it being Miorin’s birthday celebration, the cheers for her weren’t the loudest. Shihorin (Suzuki Shihori) and Izurina (Izuta Rina), who took Mayu’s spot, had the craziest fans present.
Oba Mina was performing today too, which was great as I had come to learn of Minarun’s awesomeness from Haruna’s variety show with Ariyoshi. As the oldest, she took on sort of an unofficial captain role among the research students and also Kashiwagi’s spot on the stage. Strangely though, in spite of her bad-ass demeanor and deep conversational voice, Oba had to push a falsetto for Yuki’s solo.
Miorin was the opposite though. Her tiny frame hiding a lower singing voice. In fact, she took Masuda Yuka’s parts. Which meant that she’d be hidden somewhere in the back for most of the concert.
Shimazaki Haruka, Yamauchi Suzuran and Mori Anna stayed on our side of the stage most of the time. And by the time the concert ended, Yan was offering to take any Shimazaki photos off my hands. Ranran was another fan favorite, exciting lots of cheers from the crowd. She performed energetically and made lots of eye contact. In the continuous string of good luck, Miorin was also placed in front of us for all the later songs.
Being a birthday show, most of the MCs revolved around the topic of age. Some of the girls chastised Miorin for being well…Miorin. Her impish looks and nervous stuttering do little to hint that she was one of the oldest research students and deceptively the most experienced in the industry. One of the younger girls (Marina if I remember) trash talked that Oba’s era was over, to which the rest of the crowd cheered. Mildly irritating.
Miorin’s number one fan made a short speech when the lights blacked out for the usual encore and the crowd sportingly chanted “Miorin” instead. All of the new stage shows follow a simple formula, an over the top introduction and an ending ballad where the girls throw something at you. Team A toss roses to the audience. And we learned yesterday that Team K threw streamers.
During B5’s last song “Bokutachi no kamihikouki” (Our Paper Planes) the girls took out paper planes of different sizes and messed around with them for a while. Miorin did her Fresh Lemon thing with Suzuran at our corner. Then sure enough, they threw the paper planes into the audience at the end of the song.
Suzuran’s plane scrapped my arm and landed on the unfathomed guy beside me who had sat silent and motionless throughout the whole concert. I swear she looked a little disappointed in that brief moment. But I wasn’t, because I ended up with something else instead…
For a Miorin fan, catching her paper plane on her birthday show pretty much made the poor seats worthwhile. And perhaps, even null all the disappointments of the past week. Who knew one could be so happy over a paper plane.
Just as Team K had done yesterday, the research students performed their own rendition of AKB48’s Sakura no Ki ni Narou to promote the new single. After which Oba interrupted the MC to congratulate Miorin on her birthday and everyone joined in to sing her a birthday song. No cake for the kenkyuusei though.
Lemon-san emphasized that now that she was older she didn’t want to be known as just Fresh Lemon but wanted to be recognized as Ichikawa Miori instead. She also spoke about her shyness and poor MC ability thanking everyone for their ongoing encouragement as well as tonight’s show of support. Then the show ended with Miorin, together with the other members and audience doing one last final “Furesshuremon ni naritai no”.Click here to search CDJapan for official AKB48 goods.
Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.