Friday, December 11, 2009

Baka Gaijin - The Tokyo Dome Experience

Sometimes, I still can't believe it was only a week ago that I was circling the perimeter of Tokyo Dome, buying Arashi merchandise while trying to catch the sounds from their concert!

The minute I got confirmation that I'm really going to Japan, I checked Arashi's concert schedule and got the next best news - their Tokyo Dome concert coincided with my last week in Japan! I promised myself I would go there, even if I have no idea where Tokyo Dome is, or how to get there, even if I had to go there alone. :)

So, as it happens, I really went there alone. After the physically punishing (but oh-so-rewarding) pasyal we did (plus, the mentally exhausting work), they have to beg off from my yaya. Me? I'm just as tired as them, but I'm a girl on a mission. Armed with my map and digicam, with my reliable nano for company, I set off from Yokohama to Tokyo Dome.

From Yokohama to Tokyo was easy; we had a lot of practice taking the Minatomirai/Tokyu Toyoko line from Nihon-odori to Shibuya. From Shibuya, I took the Tokyo Metro Hanzomon line, then at Nagatacho station I transferred to Tokyo Metro Namboku line which would take me to Korakuen station, the station nearest to Tokyo Dome City.

It was with much anticipation that I got off at Korakuen. It's not just because of all the Arashi goodies that I'd be buying, or the slight chance that I'd get to hear the ongoing concert, it's also because it was my first time going to Tokyo Dome City and I'm very excited to see the place. While I was exiting the station, I noticed some Japanese ladies lugging around rolled up papers wrapped in plastics of various colors and I know with certainty that those were Arashi posters! (Well, for one the colors of the plastics matched the assigned colors of each of the members). My pace quickened; all the while I was debating with myself whether to buy a poster. I promised I would only limit my Arashi goodies to their eco bag, cellphone strap and notebook. Let's see whether I stayed true to my promise!

And then - I was greeted by the huge stadium, the bright lights, and Arashi fans everywhere! Back in Manila, I don't personally know anyone who is an Arashi fan and now all of the sudden, I was surrounded by Arashi fans. It's kind of a nice feeling. :) And they come in all shapes and sizes and ages! I'm amazed that Arashi is supported by this very diverse set of fans. I was feeling quite gutsy and wanted to chat some of them, then I remembered I don't speak decent Nihonggo and I was overcome by shyness and intimidation. So I just went to find the booth selling the goodies. I didn't have to look long and hard as the booths were quite near the entrance.

Now the challenge: there's a sign with a drawing that means "no photos", but other than that, I can't read the instructions. I made my first mistake: I went in on the wrong side, so the staff tried to stop me and pointed me at the right entrance. I got in; since the concert had started already, there were no lines on the booths and you can flit in from one booth to another. I bought the eco bag, cellphone strap and notebook. As usual, I got what I wanted by pointing at the stuffs. The staff selling the goodies are non-English speaking, but they were very pleasant and helpful and not at all that surprised that a non-Nihonggo speaking idiot was trying to buy their goodies. THEN I also bought a clear file folder, the concert pamphlet (which was actually a photobook!) and A POSTER. The poster I had a hard time buying; it was a spontaneous decision and naturally I don't know how to say poster in Japanese! I couldn't do the point-and-buy method because the posters were not displayed prominently. After much pantomiming on my part, the staff finally understood and gave me what I wanted. Whew. I got the group poster; before I make another spur-of-the-moment decision and buy INDIVIDUAL POSTERS OF EACH OF THE FIVE MEMBERS, I immediately exited the booths. Until now, I'm still justifying that decision to myself. :( I didn't regret buying all those stuffs, I kind of regret not getting the individual posters. Aargh.

After I exited, I soon become aware of the sounds coming out from inside the Dome. And - shoot - I never felt so frustrated in my life than at that moment. I was there, really there, I was near Arashi, and I couldn't even get a glimpse of them. Then I noticed the other fans in the area who were paying much closer attention to the concert noises than I was. Some were subconsciously waving their arms in tune with the songs. Some had their ears pressed close to the walls of the Dome. I realized that if I'm feeling frustrated, then some of these fans would be feeling the same way, if not more.

I decided to walk around. I become aware of the venue and it was a pretty and dazzling place. I love the lights and the yellow autumn trees and the bigness of the area. I took a lot of pictures; I found myself in the Tokyo Dome front entrance and the Arashi anniversary bus was there, and even more Arashi fans. There was also another merchandise booth set up and I was immediately seized by the urge to get all the posters. Must. Resist. Then I clearly heard the opening riffs to "Happiness" and knew I must get away from the Dome. Must. Fight. These feelings of frustration and envy. Envyyyyy...

Tokyo Dome City was really big and pretty. I liked that I was there at night, all the more to appreciate the dazzling show of lights. I stopped at a burger store near the Dome to eat and rest my tired legs. I was leisurely eating a set meal when I heard a buzz outside: the concert has ended. Group by group, the fans exited the Dome and some of them even went to the burger store! Before I go mad with jealousy, I left the burger shop and went to a souvenir shop I saw earlier to buy some Tokyo Dome City souvenirs. I met more fans lucky enough to have watched the concert: most were wearing the Arashi t-shirts and some were cosplaying Uta no Oniisan! At the souvenir shop were more Arashi fans - the store started playing Arashi songs. When "Still..." was played, I stopped for a few seconds and said to myself: I WILL WATCH AN ARASHI CONCERT SOMEDAY. So from that day on, "Still..." will be the song that will always remind me of this experience and my dearest wish to watch an Arashi concert.

Going back to the Korakuen station was slow because a lot of concert-goers were going that way as well. It was quite tiring, but I feel I've accomplished so much. I roamed the streets of a foreign city on my own, I bought the stuffs I wanted (and more!), and found something to aspire for.

So I guess this much is obvious: until now I'm still on Arashi-high. :D I appreciate that the internet has allowed me almost free access to Arashi media, but it's a nice feeling that I get to support an artist I like, even if it's just buying their concert merchandise or a photobook. And to be surrounded by people with whom you share a common passion, even if you can't actually talk to them about it - there's just so much happiness in the air that night.

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