Throughout my extensive planning of this trip, I’d found dozens of places I wanted to visit. So many, in fact, that I’m not entirely convinced I’ll be able to get everywhere I want to go. So today was a bit of a strange one as I ended up going somewhere I’d not even heard of, let alone planned to visit.
With my evening already planned (I had a hot date in Shibuya at 4:30 with a bunch of idols:), I just needed something to fill the gap in my schedule for the morning and early afternoon. That gap was filled with Aeon Lake Town- a pretty huge shopping mall around half an hour subway ride from my hotel. It’s actually 3 malls rather that 1. 2 regular (but massive in their own right) malls and 1 outlet. Granted I’d done a LOT of shopping already, but this wasn’t the reason I’d come here today.
On a random journey through the internet just the day before, I’d found an ‘events’ section on the Tower Records website. A quick flick through the page and a name jumped out at me- Silent Siren. An awesome 4 piece girl rock band who play ridiculously catchy bubblegum pop. High on my list of groups I’d love to see, and here they were doing a free show and signing just half an hour from my hotel!
So obviously, I headed to Lake Town, bought my CD and after a quick shop I joined the crowd at the stage. They played a quick 3 song set (I didn’t expect much more) and they sounded awesome. Hopefully they’ll make the trip to London to play one day. Once they’d finished, the crowd formed a VERY orderly queue to get their CDs, towels, guitars and whatever the heck else everyone had brought signed! Fortunately, being British I am naturally adept at queuing so I made it pretty close to the front of the queue.
While there wasn’t a lot of time for the band to talk to everyone, I clearly stuck out like a sore thumb, so that when I got to the front the first member made the often heard in Japan noise- “Waaaaah?”. I’ve come to realise it’s kinda like ‘wow’ or at least a sound of disbelief. I smiled and said “Watashi wa Igirisujin desu” (I’m English) and she replied “Waaaaah, Igirisujin!” (I’ll let you work that translation out). The 3 other girls then turned and all went “Waaaaah, Igirisujin!”. The rest of the brief conversation was just me saying I was from Liverpool and that they were “suberashi” (wonderful). Oh and the singer (Su) saw my BABYMETAL T-shirt and pointed saying “Kitsune!” and I pointed out Su-Metal and that she was also called Su (yep, I’m THAT good at talking to girls). I then felt a tug on my backpack from the security, clearly meaning ‘please leave now’!
So off I happily went knowing that I kinda had a conversation in Japanese with someone and made my way to the food court. Now a massive mall obviously has a massive food court and in this case, TOO big. There was just way too much to choose from and because it was a Sunday it was absolutely packed. I walked up and down the whole place 2 or 3 times trying to find something that jumped out at me and had a small queue. And while I’d have loved that to happen at one of the traditional Japanese places, it was actually a little Italian that fit the criteria. And when I say ‘jumped out at me’, a certain item on their menu DEFINITELY jumped out at me. The italian sold pasta, pizza, the usual, but one of the pizzas, called ‘アメリカノ’. Fortunately, my Katakana is up to scratch and I could read that as ‘Americano’. Now apparently Americans love french fries and ketchup. They must do because an Americano was basically a margherita with a big pile of fries on it, smothered in ketchup! I had to give it a go, plus no queue. Fate.
Well I’m pleased to report it was actually really good! So I’m doing pretty well at this point keeping up a perfect streak of really enjoying everything I’ve eaten! My time in Aeon Lake town was drawing to a close, but not before I stumbled on what is my NEW favourite shop (sorry Book Off!)- Village/Vanguard. Their slogan- ‘Exciting Book Store’ doesn’t really cover it. They sell allsorts from Manga to sweets to capsule toys to crisps to DVDs… but most importantly, idol goods! What first drew my attention to the shop was the big sign hanging above the entrance saying ‘Dempagumi.inc’ next to a set of their stage outfits. “Waaaaaah” I went. Inside I found a whole section of tshirts, towels, lightsticks, CDs and loads more for a ton of bands including the previously mentioned Dempagumi.inc, the group I’m seeing on Saturday- Momoiro Clover Z and my recent favourite- Bandjanaimon (translated as ‘Not A Band’). While I didn’t buy anything YET (I’m still budgeting for t-shirts at my 3 gigs!), I’m pretty sure I’ll be back!
As I made my way back towards the train station I did a quick loop of the outlet (which had a small ice skating rink with a HUGE Christmas tree… in March) and then the other main mall where I stumbled on the Capcom cafe! If the french fries pizza hadn’t have been as good as it was I’d have been massively disappointed that I didn’t eat here. But at least I got to see it though.
And with that I was finally done! I jumped on the subway and began my 40 minute ride to Shibuya to head to Tsutaya O-East for the ‘Spring Hinaasobi ☆ 2016’ event! Now this is where I’ll lose some of you. I’m sure a lot of people aren’t that interested in J-Pop and the idol scene, but for me it’s all part and parcel of my Japanese interest (or obsession, whatever you want to call it). So a mini idol festival was right up my alley. There were 4 acts on, 2 I was particularly keen on seeing, 1 of which were pretty much the sole reason I got tickets for the show.
Everyone knows BABYMETAL, right? Of course. What you may not know is they formed out of a group called Sakura Gakuin (Cherry Blossom Academy). Essentially an idol group set up like a school. The students join, are members for a few years then graduate as they would in high school. As with most ‘schools’ they have clubs, with each of these clubs being a sub-group. Among MANY others, there’s Scoopers (the newspaper club), Twinklestars (the baton club), Logica (the science club), Mini-Pati (the cooking club, my personal favourite as I’ll explain in a moment) and formally there was BABYMETAL (the heavy music club). Being a huge BABYMETAL fan, I was really keen to see where it all started. Obviously Sakura Gakuin’s songs are a lot more J-Pop than BABYMETAL, but they are flipping catchy. Songs like ‘Heart No Hoshi’ and ‘My Graduation Toss’ will be stuck in your head for days if you’re brave enough to google them!
So I’m sure you all now have a lot of questions… The first answer is yes I went to this gig to see a group of school-girls. The obvious follow up questions all have the same answer- NO!
The first group to take the stage I’d actually not heard of- Monaminorisa. a 3 piece who came onstage, did 3 songs then left! They were fine, nothing special, but they’d have had to have been to stand out over the next group… MINI-PATI! The aforementioned Sakura Gakuin cooking club came on stage with their chef hats on and the place went nuts! Just to explain why these stand head and shoulders above the other clubs, they sing 8-bit style songs about making hamburgers! How is that not something you want to be a part of right now?!? Needless to say it was awesome. They did 3 songs and were off the stage… wait, only 3 songs? Fortunately that was only Mini-Pati’s set, the rest of the time was the entire group performing songs from their new album. The set was great, I could have left right then… and a LOT of the audience actually did! They definitely got the order of the acts the wrong way round.
The next act up were Palet (the other group I was looking forward to seeing) who are your typical colour coded idol group. They were pretty good, definitely worth staying around for and good enough that I bought their album today… okay it only cost 280¥ (good old Book Off!) but still! The last group however were a little… different. A group called Fudanjyuku, once they walked out on-stage I thought “oh it’s a boy-band’, except it wasn’t a boy band. It’s essentially 6.girls who cross dress as a J-Pop boy band in the style of Arashi or Sexy Zone (yes there’s a boy-band called Sexy Zone). Interesting concept, but unfortunately the songs just didn’t do it for me. Oh well, 3 out of 4 ain’t bad, especially when one of those 3 is Mini-Pati.
So the show ended and I left with a rumbling stomach. But where to eat? Maybe I should continue the theme of the night and visit the TOWER RECORDS X MINI-PATI POP UP CAFE?!? How could I not finish the night that way? I made my way to the 2nd floor of the Tower Records store and headed to the cafe entrance where there was a sign that I couldn’t possibly read. I stared at it for a second while triying my best to work it out when a guy tapped me on my shoulder and told me it was a queue. Not a very long one fortunately, but I headed to the back. Now this same guy was wearing a BABYMETAL jacket and he noticed my T-Shirt. It turned out him and the 4 other people in the queue were all there together after attending the same gig I’d just been to. They asked me a bunch of questions about how I knew the band, was I going to Wembley, were Sakura Gakuin popular in the UK… once again BABYMETAL bringing people together! After a short while both our tables were ready and so I thanked them and headed to my table.
The selling point of this collaboration cafe was the themed menu. Remember I mentioned their 8-bit song about making a hamburger? Well their new album features a song about omurice (omelette on top of rice), so naturally the highlight of the menu was ‘Goo Goo Omurice’! Appropriately decorated with little sakura flowers and swimming in a curry sauce, it was quite surprisingly amazing (especially considering that once upon a time I didn’t eat rice, egg OR curry!). As with most pop up themed restaurants like this there are extra incentives for visiting and eating certain things. The omurice came with a free photo card and a mini-pati coaster:)
Now you may notice in the above photo that I brought my Su-metal pop vinyl with me. I’ve been taking random photos all over Tokyo with her and will post a little album at some point, but this seemed like the most appropriate place to take her out. Just as I was finishing, I felt a tap on my shoulder again and it was the group from the queue. They said goodbye and just as they were about to go I picked up Su-pop and showed them. There was that “waaaaah” noise again, they put up their kitsunes and headed off. Shortly after, so did I.
All in all a pretty amazing day. Tomorrow I actually get to do a lot of that again because I’m off to see Ayumikurikamaki! Just some quick advice, google them and read their bio just to prepare yourself!
I know I’ve said this at the end of each blog but tonight it’s more appropriate than ever… See you!