At this point it’s starting to become kind of a routine for me.
Stock up on glowsticks (green for Team K; yellow for Team 4) and stuff ‘em in the bag.
Come up with some homemade signage that will obnoxiously grab the attention of the celebrities in question (as well as passers-by).
Pack an absolute minimum of clothing and necessities in order to travel as light as possible. This was, quite literally, a one-night trip, so all I needed was a change of clothes in a backpack.
Then stay up all night and leave the house at 4 a.m. so I could catch the first flight to Baltimore, a nonstop trip that would land me there in the middle of the afternoon.
This, then, was the travel plan for AKB Quest III, a surprise performance (2 weeks’ notice? SURPRISE!!) scheduled as part of Washington’s Cherry Blossom Festival. It’s been a hundred years since Japan first sent a batch of sakura trees TO AMERICA, but more importantly, it’s been almost two years since I went to an AKB48 show, so—wallet and travel time willing—I had reasoned myself into believing this was another can’t-miss event.
After all, MY WIFE would be in attendance.
My plane touched down in Baltimore right around 2:30 pm and I transferred from shuttle to train to subway to reach the Lincoln Theater, where I arrived right around 5:00pm … meaning that everyone attending the afternoon show was still inside the building.
Which also meant I could grab a spot very close to the front of the line.
And don’t think you’ve heard the last about these Kaspersky-campaign-inspired masks, because basically my plan was to IRL-Photoshop Miichan’s floating head onto myself as part of the crowd and thereby catch her eye. Of course it also helps to be in the front row.
Did I say front row? Because YEAH I WAS IN THE FREAKING FRONT ROW.
Let that sink in for a moment. Here I was for a performance of AKB48, who are so popular now that they have to lottery off the tickets for their performances back home, and even then you need extreme luck to get seats that close, and all because of how I had timed by trip into Washington I was IN THE FRONT ROW. ARARARARAAAAA.
I was sitting next to a guy who was there to support Sae, and this was the absolute first time he was seeing an AKB concert live (he didn’t go to the afternoon show), so I’m just like … “Boy are you in for a treat.” You know, even after getting used to the Overture routine and chanting in accordance, I still get awestruck at the very moment they take the stage.
Of all the different configurations of Flying Get I’ll never forget the one where Asuka Kuramochi has the center position. Why? Because that’s the one I saw in person. Sure, the Miichan48 joke version is the “best” version, but this is the one that sticks with me, a part of my memory. Right after that is Erry Erry Erryday Kachuusha, at which point I’m so dazzled I was just waving my lightsticks and cheering for whoever. (Note: I’d never seen any of these songs live; remember that AX10 was back when Ponytail had just come out so there’s been a ton of million-selling hit singles since then!)
And then came the MC portion, which is when the real fun started.
As soon as Miichan stepped forward for self-introductions, my mask went up, and BOOM—she did a double-take, raised her hand to her mouth in mock-surprise, then giggled and waved at me. You guys. YOU GUYS. The Miichan virus caught her attention. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Well …… part of it anyway, because I was hellbent on spending the rest of the concert trying to distract her and being a doof. Wahaha! Not ONLY but ALSO, I had also lent Tron a mask to use in the concert, and between the two of us being on opposite sides of the row it was like there was a FRONT ROW MIICHAN CHEERING SECTION, which I really really REALLY hope made her feel loved and appreciated. (Funny fact: while waiting in line, I overheard the Japanese folks in front of me mention something like “hmm the foreign fans really seem to like Miichan” which I would like to say is TRUE AND CORRECT.)
Now, credit her for having years of experience and being totally pro at this—I wasn’t able to catch Miichan’s attention at all during her unit song (“Gyakuten Ouji-sama”), and I bet she was purposely NOT looking my way because she knew she’d get distracted and crack up if she saw me flashing the mask at her. HowEVER, I did get a good 20 seconds of eye-flirting with Ricchan (Rina Kawaei) on the previous song (“Kiseki wa Maniawanai”) for no other reason that she’s still kinda-sorta trainee level (just got promoted to Team 4), and basically was looking straight ahead. At me. And she wasn’t sure where else to look. Except at me. (Or she could’ve been looking at the row behind me or the guy next to me I DUNNO.)
But oh, the MC portions. In addition to Aki Takajo’s “LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT MY DOGS” (proceeds to describe her puppies in excruciatingly detailed Engrish), and Miori Ichikawa’s “DO YUO LIKE FRUITS? LEMONADE??” and saying in English “I wanna be a fresh lemon,” and Takamina doing a KamehamehaaaaAAAAaaaa it was a lot of high-spirited goofing-off. Like when Rina Hirata, bless her valley-girl-English-speaking heart, did a Q&A with the audience and then at the end said “Thanks for asking” when I think she meant “Thanks for answering,” so I’m like, “No, thank YOU!” But she was really sweet. And being so close to the stage I could yell out random crap and be heard, so when Takamina was talking about how everyone should come to Japan and eat sushi, I blurted out “Tempura!” and I think that derailed her for a moment trololol. And Miichan was just standing there, so when it got quieter I yelled …
“I LIKE SHRIMP!”
And Miichan’s just like 8DDDDDD and gives me this goofy grin and a big thumbs-up and I waved to her like a loon because LOLOLOLOL SHE LIKES SHRIMP. And yes, I think we’re all pretty sure that “I like shrimp” is the only phrase she knows in English. Ahhhahaha that was great getting her attention again. I can’t remember how many other waves or glances I got from her besides that? I dunno, I was waving the mask around every now and then but I didn’t want to be TOO obsessive-compulsive about it. But you know, these front row seats. You can’t HELP but catch the performers’ eyes a lot of the time.
By the time they took their final bows, I remembered to yell out the one thing that I’ve yelled at every AKB show, which is “MIICHAN! MARRY ME!” and to be frank she STILL hasn’t responded. Well I’m sure she’s just weighing out her career and financial options before the two of us settle down together. :p And, because I’m a doof who DIDN’T stay around to see the girls leave the theater (why did I forget that??? oh it was because I was hungry and planning w/a bunch of people where we were going to eat), my last memory of her is as she exited stage left—just as Miichan was about to disappear behind the curtain, she turned around one last time, and in that brief glance, I waved her goodbye.
It may be wishful thinking, but I wonder if she turned around in hopes that I was looking her way …
And, in the end, only the sakura-pink lights and microphone stands remained.
I really should tell the story of all the other Awesome People I got to meet. But that would take up a whole other post and then I have to talk about how I ordered Lemon Chicken at the Chinese Restaurant in honor of Miorin IN AMERICA. Out of respect for word counts, and because it was a such quick trip before heading back home, I think I’ll stop here.