This was written on 2016.4.30, 19:50
Home from Country Girls handshake event. Never a dull moment. It was held at Cosmo Square, one station over. It’s an entertainment island, last stop on the Chuo Line. Had to take a tram to the ATC shopping center.
Then, well, it was not easy going. Imagine a mall with a museum and office building attached. And all you know is it’s on the 4th floor. Good thing I left myself plenty of time. I went the complete opposite direction for a while, before I doubled back and saw a sign at the info booth I decided against stopping at earlier. After many long, lonely hallways, I was in the right place.
To get tickets, you had to buy the new triple-A CD single (meaning it has essentially 3 A-side-quality songs instead of just one) from a certain site during a certain time window. Then, you’d get a handshake ticket for a random member.
I bought four of them (anyone want a CD?). When they arrived weeks ago, I was a bit bummed that my favorite member (Mai Ozeki) wasn’t among the tickets. But the ones I did have were original members I was familiar with. Then this week, my second-favorite member – Manaka Inaba, who I did have a ticket for – had to suspend her duties due to asthma.
So I asked the worker at the door. Like a lot of Japanese, when encountered by a foreigner – even if they’re speaking some Japanese – he kind of froze. But I got that I could trade my Manaka ticket for a handshake with anyone else.
I went to wait around. Some girls were nearby, eyeing me up. I gave them a smile and a nod. I overheard some things they probably didn’t think I’d hear/understand.
Employees were making announcements; then thawed-out frozen dude told me to step up. Those of us with Manaka tickets even got to go first, though few people rush to be at the head of the line of these things. Maybe they feel they’ll be better remembered or perhaps they are nervous.
Neither is a problem for me. Okay, that’s not true. Even as an experienced performer, I get some butterflies. You can’t help but get caught up in the hype a little. And I embrace those butterflies. I truly enjoy them; they make me feel alive.
So I stand to meet Mai with my Manaka ticket. First in line. They metal-detect me. I bought some Country Girls buttons at the official Hello! Project store the other week: Mai and a general Country Girls one. I was wearing both. Four security people had to confer if it was okay. It was. They made me show hands front and back, then let me behind the partition.
And there was Mai-chan. I feel none of them expect someone like me to walk into their booth. I told her she was my favorite member. She looked amused. Quickly, the two security guards shoved me out the door. How strange. I remember from the past that you get 10 seconds, but it hardly feels like it.
I went to Chisato next, perhaps the group’s most popular member. I told her I was an American living in Osaka, working at USJ, and that I liked the group. Push went the security. I think I got a “Ganbarimasu” out of her.
Next was Risa, the lanky 18-year-old. To her, I said I went to a mini-live two years ago and started to follow the group. She seemed impressed. Push push. (I now remember the mini-live was actually a little over a year ago. Oops)
Finally was Momochi. She was a member of Berryz Kobo for a decade, and crafted quite a bit of fame for TV appearances and her hilarious attitude (and gravity-defying pigtails). At 24, her title is “playing manager.” At the live I saw, she was basically actor/director; it was impressive. I told her so – as well as I could muster. Did I mention 95% of what I said was in Japanese? That was a trip in and of itself. Momochi pointed at my Country Girls button (I took the Mai one off after meeting her), and I did a pec bounce that I had noticed was humorous when I put it on. She got a kick out of it, too.
And then I was done. And it was like 7:06 – a mere 360 seconds past start time. Of those 360 seconds, I’d spent maybe 10% talking to idols while simultaneously shaking their hands.
It’s weird, right? I don’t deny it. Again, I embrace it – especially as the lone foreigner, much less the strapping lad that I am. And I’ll take a handshake event over a strip club any day. Here, there’s no illusion of sex. Maybe puppy-love from some, or a crush. I don’t know why others like the group; it’s not my business. I have never supported an idol because I was romantically attracted to her. I see them as extremely talented, extremely hard-working individuals.
So I’m headed back to the tram to the train station, and who comes up to me but the girls from before! They start to converse with me, and we have a really fun chat about which idols we like, which shows we’re going to, etc. They are Momochi’s age (24): Yui and Moe. They ask for my Twitter, same as the guy at the show last night. So that’s a thing. I look forward to seeing them again (and I do, in a future post). It’s nice to make friends who share common interests. That alone would have made the adventure worthwhile!