I woke up on 31st May with my legs being so sore from the 2-shot the day before, I could barely move. I promised Wayne and Brad that I would go with them for the Live PLUS Festival but I was on the verge of cancelling. There was no idol group there that I know and almost every group is an underground idol group, something I wasn’t familiar about. I remember I texted a friend back home jokingly said that I was thinking of resting the whole day because my legs were so sore. She got really mad saying it was not everyday I’m in Japan so I have to go out and enjoy every single day. She was right, so I fought through the pain and got up.
I thought nothing could beat the whole day of happiness and enjoyment I felt during the 2-shot event. I was about to be proven wrong.
We got every single thing we planned to go wrong for this day to happen. Me and Wayne initially wanted to go to Hokkaido today for HKT48’s concert but we missed the lottery deadline. Then we wanted to go to Passpo’s concert and we didn’t get that either. Brad suggested to go to Live PLUS Festival, but we couldn’t order the tickets online. Even after arriving in Japan, buying the tickets from Lawson seemed like the only possible way to do and we couldn’t even get that. With no hope, we decided to wing it and just go to the event, hoping they still had tickets left.
Clad in their Kamen Joshi shirts and Akiba sandals, I got on the train with them (along with Souchan and Toki who is heading to SKE48’s handshake event) and we head back to Odaiba. It was almost 1pm when we reached the place and it was HOT.
We asked around the ticket counter and lo and behold, we could still buy the tickets! I paid my 5,000 yen ticket and when the guy gave me my tickets he asked me which group that I wanted to see most. I hesitated in my answer as I don’t have any and he proceeded to show me a list of groups that will perform later. My first impression was “Holy smokes, that’s a lot of groups!” and my eyes immediately fell on Kamen Joshi as this was the group that Wayne and Brad was yammering about. I told him I’m here for Kamen Joshi and the ticket guy seemed happy about it.
We went to Diamond stage first and my first exposure to underground idols was Musubizm. I didn’t develop any particular thoughts on the idol groups I was seeing really, I was just watching for the sake of watching. Musubizm ended and followed by sora tob sakana and TAKENOYAMA24. Around 2pm I started seeing a lot of wotas gathered at the Diamond stage for Shibuya Dominion. Me, Brad and Wayne joked around each performance and choose our oshis for each group that was performing. I remember I enjoyed Shibuya Dominion very much but I can’t remember the songs they sang. Next, we kept staying at Diamond stage and watched AngeLip, Maria and loop.
Right around loop’s performances we decided to head to Spade stage where CLEARS was performing. Just listening closely to the lyrics I leaned in to Brad and asked him, “Are they… singing about cleaning?” which was answered by “No idea.”. Turns out, I asked the wrong guy and should have asked Wayne about it because they actually are. CLEARS was an idol group that aims to clean Japan and I thought that was an amazing concept. I was intrigued.
CLEARS’ performance ended at 3.30pm and we headed into the air-conditioned building to have a drink before we head to Heart Stage at 4pm for Kamen Joshi.
At 4pm, when we arrived at the stage and it seemed small. I followed the guys and headed to the front of the stage where we realized that only Wayne and Brad was fully clad in Kamen Joshi T-shirts and Akiba Sandals. It was then we realized we were not at Heart Stage but at Spade Stage instead! We rushed back to Heart Stage and caught Kamen Joshi in time.
The energy was amazing and I was quite impressed. The only song I was familiar with was “Genkidane” because Wayne asked me for help on it when Kamen Gaijin was subbing the video. But I thoroughly enjoyed all other performances as well. I really grew fond of “Alice in Underground” and “CLAP” quickly. Even their MC session was fun.
After their performances I followed them to Kamen Joshi’s buppan, where the cheki session will be held. I lined up with them without knowing any of the members, but their center was the one stood out for me, so I asked Wayne for her full name. When I reached the cheki counter, I asked for Tachibana Anna.
“Wide 2-shot with Tachibana Anna!”
Anna looked towards me and had the biggest smile. I smiled back nervously.
[※Conversation in Japanese]
Anna: You know my name, I’m so happy!
Me: Actually my friend is a fan, he told me your name. That was the first time I watched a Kamen Joshi performance.
Anna: Well, thank you for wanting to take a cheki with me! Did you enjoy the performance?
Me: Very! I had so much fun.
Anna: What pose?
Me: What do you like?
Anna: Let’s do hearts!
*Takes cheki shot*
Anna: What is your name? *while signing the photo*
Anna: Ah, Half-chan. What a cute name! Where are you from?
Me: I’m from Malaysia.
Anna: Oh, we’re having a live in Jakarta next week!! Please come!
In short, Anna’s enthusiasm took over and I made a promise to fly to Jakarta to see her. Before, I only know about underground idols through reading or watching or Wayne hammering about them to me. But after experiencing them for real, watching their live and having a cheki taken together, I get it now. My 1 cheki shot with Anna was more time than I had with all my 2-shot with the 48 girls combine. And not just the issue with time too, the fact that I could converse more with her than I did with any idols I ever had was huge. I was smitten, and I was hooked.
We headed back into the hall to meet Souchan and Toki who had just finished their SKE48 handshake event. Since we still had time before Petit Pas, a group Wayne has an interest in, we stayed at Heart Stage and watched a performance by Stella☆Beats. There was a girl that grabbed my attention but I didn’t know her name then. I never really believe in fate but looking back it was probably destiny that I ended up enjoying Stella☆Beats as much as I do now. But that’s another story for another time.
After Stella☆Beats it was Candy GO GO. There were a lot of fans around and we had 15 minutes before we have to leave to head out to Spade Stage for Petit Pas performance. All the members came out, in leather-clad outfit and I whispered to Wayne, “We can still watch them for a bit, right?”. Wayne points me out to one of the members (who we later found out is called Ai Ai), he leaned in and said, “Nice arse”. I laughed. This is such a stupid moment to even write about but I’ve been harrowing myself that I never did blend with them as well as I did as Half-san. But that comment, as stupid as it is, just reassured me that I was worrying about nothing. That maybe I’m putting “Half” on a higher pedestal than myself. When in actuality, I am Half. And Half is me. I know I don’t really reveal my photos or my personal details much online, but everything that Half does, that’s me. Everything Half says, I say the same thing. Despite how I look in real life. In fact, these people know me better than half of my real life friends know me. None of my real life friends would ever comment to me, “Nice arse” about some underage Japanese girl in tight leather clothes (turns out she wasn’t underage but you never know with these Japanese idols). But Wayne did. Because he knows me. It was something I would find amusing and I really did. He doesn’t know this but those two words reassured me more about our friendship than our adventure this whole week ever did. It was silly, but that was how I felt at that time.
As we shake off our attention from the mesmerizing performance, we head to Spade Stage just in time for Petit Pas. Wayne’s oshi was Kokoro, someone who he has been supporting quite a while in the Cheerz app. And this was the first time meeting her. After Petit Pas, we head back in to Clover Stage for Takenoko, a group that Brad has an interest in. Takenoko was fun and cheerful and I remember liking one of the members, Mai really hard. She was funny and a bit tomboyish, and was really cheerful throughout the performance.
After their performance we head back to Clover Stage and lined up for Petit Pas’ buppan. At first I didn’t feel like getting a cheki but after Wayne and Brad called me over to help them translate something, I found myself in line with them as well.
Wayne was up first to see Kokoro and just watching from the sideline, it was truly an amazing sight to behold. Wayne pointed out to Kokoro that he is Ponchan (his online name that he used in cheerz) and Kokoro just has the biggest smile and basically screamed, “Ponchan???” and hugged Wayne so hard I think he must have felt like dreaming. I remember me and Brad was so happy for Wayne. Kokoro even went to the other members and introduced Wayne to them, “It’s Ponchan! Ponchan is here!” and the other members looked surprised as well. I felt so lucky to witness such an amazing idol-fan interaction right in front of me. Wayne has been supporting her for quite a while now and the fact that she knows who Wayne is, I find that amazing.
Brad was up next and he took a cheki with Kokoro as well. Wayne was off at the side just having a glazed look of disbelief on his eyes, I don’t think he even remembered that we were lined up behind him. I looked over at Brad and he was pointing his middle finger to Kokoro and I was like, “WTF are you doing, Brad. Oh my God.” and keep signalling to Wayne to look at Brad and see what he was doing. Kokoro had a very concern look on her face and keep signaling “No, No.” with her hands until finally they took a cheki, with Kokoro flipping her middle finger to Brad and Brad acting sorry.
My turn was up and I used Wayne’s name and told Kokoro that I was Ponchan’s friend. She seemed so happy and I got a hug as well for using Wayne’s name. It was not a bad day to be Ponchan’s friend.
Brad then heads back into the building for Takenoko’s buppan. I wanted to follow Brad inside but didn’t know why I didn’t. It was such a regret because the group disbanded right after I came back from Japan. At least Brad got a last cheki with them, and also that epic cheki from Kokoro.
I haven’t really eaten properly that day and the Halal kebabs were tempting. Not to mention the guys keeping making fun of me yelling, “Look! It’s HALAL!!” out of pure excitement that I could eat the kebabs. The kebab was magical, it was huge and delicious and probably the best kebab that I have eaten in my life thus far.
But then, something even more magical happen.
Remember when I said I was watching Stella☆Beats earlier? I remember I really enjoyed their performance and jotted down a few notes in my phone to check them out after this event is over. So, while we were eating kebabs, one of the members, Aya, approached us to distribute flyers for their one-man live in Shibuya. She was cheerful, and greeted us when anyone else would avoid a group of foreigners like us.
[※Conversation in Japanese, Italics is English]
Aya: I am from Stella Beats… (shows us flyers)
Me: Sorry my hands are full. (Pointing to the kebabs)
Aya: This is a flyer for our one-man live, please come.
Me: When is it?
Aya: It’s on 14th June.
Me: Ah, I don’t think I could make it.
Aya: It’s okay, you can still take our flyers, here.
Me: Sorry. (points to kebab)
Aya: Then, don’t mind me.
She leaned in, slid her hand over my messenger bag, and slip the flyers in. I don’t know her, but that sudden close contact could make anyone’s heart beat a little faster. I almost chocked on my kebab. It was a subtle fishing, but I was hooked. She kept talking to us after.
Aya: Is it delicious?
Me: So delicious! But then I’m hungry too, haha. By the way, I watched your live earlier.
Aya: Really? Thank you!
Me: Yes, it was really fun. We really enjoyed it.
Souchan: Really fun!
Aya: Thank you.
By this time the other girls starts joining our conversation. Including the girl that I noticed before. But I still didn’t know her name. Brad and Wayne went somewhere else I think to either finish their Kebab or looked at something else.
Aya: Ne, they watched our performance earlier!
Other members: Ehhh, really?? Thank you!!
Aya: Where are you from?
Me: Well, I’m from Malaysia, and these two are from Germany.
Me: And those two over there is from England and America.
Me: We’re from all over the world, haha.
Aya: And you’re friends?
Me: Yeah, I met them online.
Aya: Your kebab looks so delicious.
Me: Sorry if I’m rude, haha.
I went away to finish my kebab because it felt rude to kept eating while talking to her. While I was disposing my kebab wrappings, I saw Souchan signalling me to come help him. Seems like he approached Aya for something.
Me: What is it?
Souchan: I was just asking for their twitter.
Aya: I don’t know if he could search for it, his twitter is in English (it was actually in German).
Souchan: This one?
Souchan: Okay! Follow!
Stella☆Beats: Thank you! Thank you!
They were really grateful that Souchan followed them on twitter. Even their manager thank us (he was there to pay for their kebabs since the girls all craved kebabs after watching us eat lol). I remember turning to Souchan after all the conversation and said, “Did that just happen? We didn’t have to pay anything, right?”. They were so nice even though we were foreigners, who cant even attend their one-man live. Not to mention we didn’t even pay anything, we were just getting kebabs! I’m rambling but that Kebab-Stella☆Beats invasion earned them a fan in me. That interaction really made me interested in them. It was such a priceless experience, to have an idol coming up to you and start a conversation. Then to have all members of the idol group coming over and being in awe in everything you say. If I have to describe that experience in one word, it was magical. Truly is.
In hindsight, it was great that I get to go to Live Plus after the 2-shot event. Not only could I compare both events and feel the difference but also I had so much more confidence in my Japanese after 2-shot. To be able to carry a conversation with Anna or with Aya, I feel proud of myself. All this while, it’s been pretty one-sided. I could get away with translating half-assedly about my idols or their variety shows, but I never really had the chance to use Japanese myself. I don’t have anyone to practice with and my sentence structure was shit. It still is. But the fact that they could find me understandable, I find it reassuring. There’s still a lot for me to learn, it’s never ending for me. But after that day, with all the interaction I made, I was feeling pretty satisfied.
I came back with a new confidence in my Japanese, and a new-found love for underground idols. And I have never looked back since.