Monday, April 30, 2012

The Japan Trip - Day 16

Morning of the LiSA concert! We woke up early, pushing open the coffin lids into the harsh daylight, and walked a short distance to our permanent temporary residence, the Khaosan Tokyo Annex hostel, located in the bustling city district centre of Asakusa. We checked in and found out that we were on the fourth floor, and unlike Khaosan Kyoto, this guest house had no elevators. So after a number of tiring treks up and down the flights of stairs, we stationed ourselves in the common area to wait for Lou Ee, who would be joining us.

Lou Ee appeared in the late morning, having travelled by himself all the way up from Narita Airport. He dumped his bags quickly, but since we checked in at different times, he got a different room from us. It wouldn't matter though, since our fourth floor had another common area and he would be there playing Team Fortress 2 almost every night.

First stop of the day was the Tokyo Animation Museum. We happily managed to get lost trying to walk our way there. It wasn't a very touristy part of town, and we didn't have a very accurate map, and nobody wanted to ask for directions.

What is it with men and asking for directions?
We finally managed to get to the place, but not before passing an upcoming bookstore, a post office, and a crime scene. No, seriously, there were a bunch of Japanese police and detectives standing around a stairwell to these apartments and looking like they need a forensic. As gaijin, we just walked past them as nonchalantly as possible.

The Tokyo Animation Museum! How many characters can you recognise?

The museum itself was not the sole tenant of the building. In true Japanese space-saving fashion, the museum was housed on the third and fourth floors, where the first two floors looked like the lobby of a hotel. There was a huge grand piano and plush chairs and exquisite marble flooring and everything.

Most of the exhibits were about the history of Japanese animation, and even a couple about the history of animation itself. There was a huge timeline of anime from the original 1950s Astro Boy all the way to 2010, when the wall was last updated. I recognised a couple of names on the list. There was also a large area reserved for the animation creation process. I always knew that animation was a long and painful process, but I seeing it all there made it look so much harder. For say a five second scene of a girl walking on the street with the wind blowing her hair, the artists have to draw a bunch of poses for the walking animation, and a huge panorama for the street, and multiple frames of the hair in motion. Then they put the pieces together on transparency, layer them on top of one another take a photo. That's one frame. Then they replace it with the next pose and next hair piece and wind the panorama a few millimetres to the right and take the next photo. It's amazing. A good thing that computer animation is taking a lot of the strain of these manual processes, and speeding up animation in a good way.

Lou Ee obviously has to try out sketching on the touchpad.

It's a typical artist's workstation. Mine is similar, except without all the paint.
On the upper floors were special exhibitions. There was an exhibit from one of the anime studios, which did Vampire Hunter X or something like that, so it had a lot of the concept art sketches. There was another studio which I did not recognise. There was also an anime library, where you could borrow discs of classic anime to watch on the computers there. I managed to find a copy of Gatekeepers, possibly the first anime I watched, not counting Akazukin Cha-Cha, which was an English dub anyway.

The anime library. Little kids not included.
On our way back to the station, we passed by this large glass building, where the keen otaku eyes spotted a couple of girls in school uniform, ushering a large crowd. The group just naturally gravitated towards it, and when we get to the building, we find out that there was a school band performance that day, which explains the demographic of parents and old people. Ironically enough, one of the parents asked us to help them take a photo of her and her friends, which I thought was so hilarious since for the past fortnight, we were the ones asking people to take photos of us.

A pretty obvious demographic, when you think about it.
We had lunch at a small noodle shop near the station, with the customary vending machine out front. It was quick and tasty and good.

The aforementioned noodle shop. No, I can't read the sign

Holy crap! A mountain of soba for only 590 yen!
After lunch we split ways, since Bryan and I were headed for a LiSA concert and the other three weren't. If you want to know what debauchery and shenanigans the trio were up to on their misadventures, you'll have to ask them.

An explanation is probably in order. Bryan first proposed this idea of going to the LiSA concert while we were in Japan. She's a up-and-coming new J-pop star who rose to fame through Angel Beats and the opening of Fate Zero. This is the first concert for her worldwide tour of her first album, Lover"s"mile. She is freaking adorable. The original idea was for all four of us to go, but JX and XM didn't want to pay. Bryan managed to get tickets through a Japanese auctioner, and it came up to $200 each, which I think is a pretty good price for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The concert was held in an open air amphitheatre in a large park on the outskirts of the city.

Bryan dragged me to the concert three hours early because he said we won't be able to get in before then. I was unwilling to do so, since I didn't think there was any point being there so early. And I was mistaken.

That's all the people in front of us.

Everyone and their grandma was there ahead of us. There was an hour-long queue just to get to the merchandise. I wasn't really looking for anything, maybe just a shirt as a souvenir and memento of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, but judging by the queue, they'd be out of merchandise once we got halfway there.

It was funny though. When we joined the queue we were standing by this lamppost, which marked the end of the queue. As we moved forward, joking about hardcore fans and concert-goers, and discussing about LiSA's more attractive female fans and their fashion sense, we noticed that even though so many people were there ealier than us, we still weren't the last. People were queueing up behind us as we were inching forward, and the funny thing was, the queue never passed the lamppost. We theorised that it was due to some collective sense of shame, that even the most dedicated of fans wouldn't want to be seen queueing for so long; or maybe it was due to some sense of pessimism, that one would realise that there is no way there is going to be any merchandise left at the end of that line.

A couple of hardcore fans.
We finally manage to get to the counter, and realise that all the shirts in our size were sold out. (Heard the joke about the shop which sold out of small and medium sizes?) So we had to manage with the large. We also bought a pack of trading cards each, because hey, money is heavy and LiSA is cute.

Gotta collect them all!
Once we made our happy purchases, we wandered off into the park. And speaking of hardcore fans, we saw a couple of them, decked out in full LiSA fan gear and dancing along to the tunes, rehearsing them before the big show. One guy was wearing a headband and a large, pink trenchcoat, which was the most hardcore of the lot.

LiSA's Number One Fan.

Nearby in another of the park's large open areas, they were having another festival, which turned out to be some anniversary of a radio station or something like that. I was thirsty and Bryan was hungry, but there were very few food stalls around. In the end, we ended up getting some organic ice cream; and since we couldn't read the labels, picked at random. Bryan got apple pie, and I got plain vanilla. We also picked up a couple of free fans, and there was an AKB48 advertisement spread on one side, so that was my first foray into the shady and inescapble world of J-pop idols. Oh yeah, there was also a handshaking event by some group called the Fairies, which I thought was quite hilarious. I tried persuading Bryan to queue up for a handshake with real Japanese idols, but he refused because he didn't even know who they were. Some people.

Concert time!

We get to our seats and are quickly disappointed we aren't sitting next to any cute fan girls. No matter. LiSA more than made up for that. She is so freaking cute and adorable! And the concert was amazing. I loved Crow Song and Ichiban no Takaramono and Jet Rocket and WiLD CANDY. The atmosphere of the crowd is so different from Singapore's, so much more energetic and happening. Even after the concert ended, most of the hardcore fans in the front row stayed to listen to the filler tracks, and kept singing along with them. That is true dedication, or obsession depending on your psychiatrist.

Left-right-left-right back-front-back-front something something...
Another happy funny thing happened as we were leaving the amphitheatre. We were walking along with the crowd, just really happy and high after the energetic concert, and the video crew was standing by the road, and guess who has the great ironic unforgiving luck to be chosen for an interview? That's right, yours truly. Pity I didn't speak A WORD OF JAPANESE and had no idea what the video guy was asking me. When I said I didn't understand, he just waved me away irritably like I was a gaijin. Just think, I almost had a chance to be ON THE LiSA DVD and I blew it because I had no idea what to say. Siiiiigh.

Bryan and I had delicious curry udon for dinner.
On our way back to hostel, we got lost in the dark streets. Fortunately, we met a guy at the pedestrain crossing who was staying at the hostel too, and he brought us back. He looked Japanese at first, but then he was speaking English with an American accent. Turns out he's from Florida, and is called Eddie, and he was staying alone but visiting some friends. He was a cool guy, but I didn't get to talk to him much for the rest of the trip.

Aaaand when we got back, Lou Ee was hooking up his laptop to the Japanese Team Fortress 2 servers and killing people in Japanese.

Our bunk, as modelled by a sleepy JX.

*All pictures in this post courtesy of Bryan.

1 comment:

Bryan said...

Photos by Bryan Ong Photography (C)

hahahah i mean uh what happened to the rest of the trip??