My Carefree Encounter with AKB48

Published on January 12th, 2011.

Let me introduce myself. My name is Dean and I’m 21 years old. I’ve always wanted to blog about my ventures through-out Japan as I’ve been lucky enough to travel there twice in the past 2 years. I thought yonasu.com would be the best place to do it.

I’m intrigued by the idol culture in Japan. I’ve been a fan of Hello!Project since I discovered idols a few years ago. I was always sceptical of AKB48 until I started watching AKBINGO. As I started to watch more of the show I became more of fan, no more than 3 months later I was standing outside the doors of Akihabara48Theatre for my first show.

My second trip to Japan was a little different than the first. I had met a lot of European wota over the year at events throughout Europe. Such as Morning Musume at Japan Expo in Paris, France and we’d all planned to meet up later in the year in Japan.

I met someone there with the same passion for all things idol like myself and he introduced me to AKB48. After a few months had passed and I familiarized myself with all of the most popular members and chose my favourite (Oshima Yuko).

I decided to figure out how to get tickets to their weekly stage performances in their own theatre in Akiharabara when I planned to visit. Little did I know that unlike most idol related activities I didn’t have to do much more than write them an e-mail expressing my interest.

A month before I was planning on going to Japan. I wrote them an e-mail with the dates I was available and what team I’d like to see as well as any foreign friends I’d like to bring along as requested. Everything was able to be done in English so it wasn’t much effort. My friend also interested in AKB did the same.

As time drew nearer to my trip and I didn’t hear from them I’d figured I wasn’t considered to receive any tickets but to my surprise, just before I boarded my flight I got an e-mail saying my friend had won front-row tickets to Team A’s stage performance scheduled just a day after I arrived for him, myself and 3 other friends.

As the afternoon fell on my 2nd day in Japan we headed to the Akihabara48Theatre in the one and only ‘AKB building’ in Akihabara. To redeem our tickets was as simple as presenting them the e-mail they’d sent. In order to prove our identification we had to show them our passports. The staff were as helpful as possible. We purchased our tickets for ¥3,000 and were each given a wrist band. We lingered around the many arcade machines in the ‘AKB building’. There was only an hour to kill until we were able to head through the security at the escalator up to the Akihabara48Theatre itself.

We weren’t the only ones there of course but we were the only foreigners there at the time. As you head past the ticket booth the hallways are filled with pictures of all the members in each team and a list of names of lucky individuals that had been able to visit the theatre 100 times. I had felt like I was in a real broadway theatre. As I was a bit weary of being thrown out for taking pictures, I snapped as many as I could with my cell phone. Although I wasn’t the only one doing it I felt like I shouldn’t. Every other idol related event I hadn’t been allowed.

The excitement was already building and the doors to the theatre weren’t even open. As more wota gathered research students started handing out glow sticks with a little message banded around them. As it turned out as a wota who could speak a little English told us it was Chisato Nakata’s birthday. The message was directions on when to use the glow sticks during the performance that her father had provided for everyone.

As it was time to open up the door. A staff member stood on what looked like half of a ladder with a microphone and put everyone in lines outside the theatre. They had told us to stand outside the door.

We knew we had front-row tickets but being the silly foreigners we are were a little worried about what was going on. After the doors finally opened they let us in first to the front-row that was literally 3 meters from the stage. A piece of paper on the seats was labeled ‘Our Foreign Visitor’s’ in English.

The lights dimmed and the performance started. They went through a majority of their stage set-list. We broke our glow sticks and chanted Chi-chan’s name throughout as you would with any birthday concert as well as the famous mix. It was my first time being front-row and I had no idea how often the girls smiled and acknlowedge your atempt at the dances. At one point during Takahashi Minami’s solo she sat down at the edge of the stage right in-front of us.

As many might know Maeda Atsuko is often too busy to attend the weekly stage perfomances with Team-A. As if things couldn’t get any better as Chi-chan blew out her candles and the girls walked off stage for what I thought was the end of the performance.

The lights dimmed and sound of AKB’s latest single Beginner began. I blinked a few times before I realised it was Acchan. My friend didn’t even notice until the wota beside him pointed it out to him. It was amazing being within 3 meters of the most famous idol in Japan. After Beginner ended she apologized for her absence and told us she had just been filming for her first drama Q10 and managed to make it back just in time for one performance.

After the performance ended we chatted a little with the wota around us. No one seemed to be leaving in any hurry. As the adrenaline was rushing through our blood after such an amazing concert we just wanted to leave and discuss it. We were surprised to find a line at the exit of the theatre doors. All of Team-A were lined up outside for a high five. I immediately burst into excitement. The idols in which I had been admiring for the past few months and that I’d just seen front-row was all too much to handle. As I high fived everyone and stared into their shocked eyes of us foreigners, I turned around with my unsteady hand and took as many photos I could. There was too many people in-front for any decent pictures of the girls.

After running around the theatre for 30 minutes we were finally asked to leave. I’d felt welcome there the entire time. They’d let us enjoy ourselves with as little restriction as possible. It wasn’t something I’m used to with idols involved. After exiting the building with the biggest smiles on our faces we headed back to our guest house to discuss everything.

After all, I’d felt very welcome to the idol culture of Japan for the first time. I don’t want to compare AKB to Hello!Project but I’d never felt so accepted by the entire staff and everyone at the theatre. It was something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. I’d like to thank my friend once again for the tickets if it wasn’t for you I wouldn’t have experienced any of it.

It was the easiest time I’ve ever had going about buying tickets and seeing idols live in Japan. If anyone is interested in seeing AKB let me know. I’ll provide you with the information I have. Also if anyone has any questions feel free to ask. I hope you enjoyed my first blog post. I can’t wait to share the rest of my experiences with idols with everyone.

  • http://www.yonasu.com yonasu

    As someone who has not attended any idol events in real life, but with years of “online experience” (so to speak), I find this to be… reassuring. AKB48 seems to be a lot more open to the general public and “normal fans” (not wotas) compared to Hello! Project. And with my declining interest in Hello! Project, I’m pretty sure my first live idol event will be an AKB48 event!

    Looking forward to hearing more about your adventures in Japan, and welcome to the team! ;)

    • http://twitter.com/dean_rainey dean_rainey

      Glad to be on the team. Don’t worry, I’ll be the first to take you :-D.

  • Ye Olde Wota

    Thanks for the report! Great memories! That event was what really sparked my interest in AKB48, and now I am enjoying a daily overdose of AKBINGO!, so we sort of went opposite ways and crossed in the AKB theatre. ;-) I still have the ticket and wristband from that day. Great to see you on yonasu.com, can’t wait to read more!

    • http://twitter.com/dean_rainey dean_rainey

      Your welcome :-). It needed to be reported. It was too epic to keep to our selves. I still have my wristband and ticket as well. AKBINGO is where it’s at. It’s such an awesome show. It’s the best place to learn the girls personalities that’s for sure. It’s unbelievable that my interest in AKB enabled you attended the concert and become a fan as well. Hopefully we’ll be able to attend more together :-D.

    • http://www.yonasu.com yonasu

      TV is definitely the best place to get to know them :) That’s most likely one of the reasons why my interest in H!P has been declining. Morning Musume’s old Hello! Mornings were really awesome.

  • http://twitter.com/cobranaconda Pukovnik Krv

    Dean wrote more than 10 words in a row :o

    *faints*

    • http://twitter.com/dean_rainey dean_rainey

      Don’t be silly. Stay tuned for more ;).

  • http://twitter.com/dean_rainey dean_rainey

    Don’t be silly. Stay tuned for more ;-).

  • http://twitter.com/Ami1982 Amy Miller

    Hey Dean! Welcome! :D
    I love Japanese idols of the male variety :P Johnny’s Entertainment …Arashi to be exact. Arashi and AKB48 seem to always be competing on Oricon lately. :D

    • http://twitter.com/dean_rainey dean_rainey

      Thank you! I like Arashi as well XD. I tried to attend a concert but they were all in Osaka while I was there :-(. They’re my personal favourite at karaoke! There’s no competition on the Oricon when it comes to AKB and Arashi this weather.

    • http://twitter.com/Ami1982 Amy Miller

      It’s hard to see Arashi. You have to be a part of their fanclub in order to get tickets, but to be in their fan club you have to reside in Japan. Even if you are in the fanclub it still doesn’t gurantee a ticket.
      Johnny Jimusho however has started an international newsletter, which I am on. So that is a good sign for foreign fans. :)

    • http://www.yonasu.com yonasu

      Where can I sign up for that newsletter? :)

    • http://twitter.com/Ami1982 Amy Miller

      I’ll make a post of it, so everyone will know :D

  • http://myshashin.tumblr.com TicTaek

    Welcome to the team Dean!

    Sounds like you had a blast!

    I am beginning to think that I should pay more attention to AKB48.

    • http://twitter.com/dean_rainey dean_rainey

      I had such an amazing time. You should start with AKBINGO as well. There’s no stopping AKB. They’ve worked themselves into Japanese culture nicely.

  • http://twitter.com/yaadayaada Loc Lam | ロックラム

    Hi Dean, welcome to the team! Sounds like it was a lot of fun!

    My favorite singer is Mika Nakashima but she wasn’t able to hold any concerts last year due to health problems :(

    • http://twitter.com/dean_rainey dean_rainey

      Hey, thank you! My friend is also a fan. We’d planned to attend her concert in the Autumn last year before she canceled. They all her music around Shibuya or a day or two after the news XD. Hopefully she’ll be back soon :-D.

  • Irvin Sotelo

    This may be the most exciting blog entry I’ve ever read. I love AKB and going to their theater is one of my dreams. You were so lucky! Seeing Takamina and Acchan would be totally amazing. I haven’t had the chance to go, given the fact I am from Mexico.
    Thank you very much for sharing these precious memories with other fans.