The Narrative finale of my trip to Japan for SayuGrad starts here! Unedited (meaning I didn’t check for typos OR grammatical problems =P) and raw from my brain to you! See how it ends!
My Sayu Graduation Narrative Part 2
Missed the first part of the narrative make sure to go back and read it if you want to know what happened before the concert!
Chapter 3: Mental Interlude and More Disclaimers
So before I start talking about me being at the concert there are a couple of factors and concepts I want to lay out as a way of helping to understand my mental state and how this next part is going to be written.
First off, in order to give you a good idea of my feelings and expressions at the time I have, and probably will again be watching the SayuGrad footage again. While this may affect the way I “relive” the moment and provide additional insight, it also allows me to contrast how I felt watching it live with how you might have felt it watching remotely. It also helps me remember things that I don’t tend to keep track of after the fact like the song order ^^;. Also there’s only so much I can say about the songs and things so if I skip through some quickly you can know that I was just in the moment and continuing to give it my all.
The second thing is a concept that I’ve referred to as “Concert High” which I fall into very easily. I might have mentioned it before but a Concert High is a very normal experience, especially for someone who doesn’t get to go to concerts very often. Even after watching concerts a lot through DVDs, being in a live setting feels completely different.
When I’m in a concert energy everything feels different; the air is electric, even though there’s an ambient smoke in the air for the lasers and lights, it feels clear. You are next to people who perhaps unlike your everyday crowd understand the weight and the excitement of this moment. As I stood there quickly changing into my Sayu shirt and unboxing my recently purchased glowsticks, I couldn’t look in a direction without seeing someone giving Sayu their support and respect for this graduation with their glowsticks ready and some kind of Sayu good on hand. It gave this sense of group mentality and just togetherness you don’t often get, even in other kinds of concerts, and it makes the experience that much more intense, more hyper-real, and all the more a rush to the system.
Of course there are major drawbacks to the Concert High mentality, and it becomes much clearer not just looking back at it, but also as I look at pictures and clips from the concert. For one thing because you are completely in control of where you’re looking, you’ll find yourself competing against when to look at your oshi directly and when to trust that the big screens will provide you the all-important view. If you’re like me you might also find yourself having tunnel vision, not only at your oshi but for specifics of your oshi, her hips, her hands, maybe just her hair, but you find with the tunnel vision you can easily find yourself missing very important points (which I’ll talk about when I get there).
The counterpoint to the tunnel vision is also that I find myself snapping to the audience occasionally instead. You might be thinking to yourself, “But Invis, what the hell are you doing? Look at the Girls performing idiot!” and you are very much in the correct. But when you haven’t been to many actual concerts (and in this case, no offense to things like AX and NY, but I mean a big concert like Budokan and YokoAri) even the marvel and magic of the large arena full of crowds can leave you star struck. This is more so affected by my position in the arena, able to basically see the entire crowd from where I was. So the Concert High very much leaves you much tunneled focus and very scattered focus in random intervals once you’re in it. In the end, you’ll see what you see, and miss what you miss, but it’ll still be a very one of a kind experience.
That being said, this Concert High concept very much invades the next couple portions of the narrative and might be, for all I know, very odd, just giving everyone a heads up.
Chapter 4: The Concert, SayuGrad, the Sayupocalypse
Z had welcomed me back to Japan, having hung out with me for GakiGrad week as well, and he basically reassured me that it was the right place to be. The lights had dimmed, the show had started, the cheers rise, everyone’s hands are throwing up in the air, and we begin to chant in rhythm. The cameras zoom in on Sayu and my heart is instantly a glow, all the exhaustion, the wearing that had come from hours in line, the run to the seats, and the rush had instantly began melting away. The girls walked down the stage and lead the cheers as they gathered in a circle. Part of me wondered if they were going to instantly pull at the heart strings, showing us Sayu’s last Gambatteikimasshoi, but it was merely set up for the beginning of the concert.
Tikibun starts up, and crowd cheers as they start. I see just as many people throwing their hands up to the rhythm as there are fans trying to do record spinning with their glow sticks. It’s a fantastic way to just get your energy pumping as the song builds. Once we hit the chorus, you can see pods of people getting into it and doing the rocking, adding to the build-up. It felt like a great choice to get everyone revved up coming in from a “cold” and rainy day for a lot of people.
I honestly thought they’d go straight into some cheers to get everyone pumped as they headed back into the main stage, only for Waga Mama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke to start up. Sometime during this Z taps me on the shoulder and asks me to turn towards him for part of the song to do the slapping part. I give a chuckle and agree, why not go full into the spirit of the song, right? Surprised that in the moment from then the girls shift off their white jackets and already we’re into the first costume modification. Cheers are in full swing, and while I’m by no means an expert at chants for songs, I hold my own based memory and experience. We hit the chorus of the song, and the slapping section and throughout this song Z and I cannot decide which person is supposed to fake slap the other, it felt more like two old fashion stereotypes having a kerfuffle with our glowsticks clashing now and again. We can’t help but laugh as the song leads directly to the shout, “AISARETAI!” by which points you probably never would’ve guessed that I was standing for 90% of the day with the way I was jumping.
What is LOVE? Is the same song as always, I feel like it’s become such a strong song, not because of the song itself but because of how attached everyone has gotten the song from this year. Whether it’s the dokkiri itself or the pajama performances that happened after, What is LOVE? Is a pump up song as well, and the third one in a row for what could be considered the cold opening for this concert. Of course everyone loves to shout “WHAT DO YOU WANT!” and will probably echo as a phrase for this period in Momusu history if you were a part of it.
The light go down after this and we hit the opening video, already my body shakes at this. I love the opening videos, it feels so much like the confirmation of a show to me, like the opening sequence to a TV show or the title screen and cut scenes at the beginning of a videogame. The crowd instantly shouts Sayu, to the slow build up. The video starts and the TokiSora tune plays as we see the girls in the video appear one at a time, their names popping out on screen. It looks like several people with x10s or momusu sticks rotate their color to each girl, and everyone else raises the color they have for the girl as they appear. Already I know how this is going to go and how it will probably end, and as excited as I am, the welling in my chest doesn’t stop, “This is the last one, one last time like this, this opening, this Sayu, this 10 member Morning Musume。, this moment…” and honestly I could already feel it building in my throat.
The video ends and we go to TokiSora, Toki wo Koe Sora wo Koe with the concert version of the outfits, the slow floaty musical reverberates even more after that opening video. Without singing, I begin singing part of the words softly as I kecha through part of the song, and I feel the waver in my voice. Though I’ve never said I was a particularly strong man, the fact I was already this shaken was a surprise even to me. One of the things I think is silly about TokiSora is the English, but in the moment the fact that He loves you and he needs it felt more poignant given the situation.
During parts of these songs I tried to use the binoculars, especially during TokiSora getting a good view is difficult, but binoculars come with their own challenges. Movement is hard, and you have to steady yourself from everything to use them properly. This not only limits your freedom, but wears out your body more than you’d think. During those times I balanced as best I can while still trying to throw one hand up in the air to give my support.
I came into the concert never looking at the set list for this tour at all and I still haven’t, but it was a surprise to me that they went into Do It! Now after TokiSora. Do It! Now was a bit before I got into Momusu seriously but it was a strong song even when I did. The nostalgic element and the fact that the chants timing came almost second nature to me help me gather myself after already getting emotional. I loved the variability of movement this concert gave them, earlier the center stage proved to be great, and the main stage draws everyone together, and with Do It! Now they spread themselves out to the audience and we all have someone to focus on. I honestly don’t remember who I was staring at that point, because my eyes darted trying to figure out who was where just out of obsession. Of course Sayu was on my mind a lot of the time though.
The costume changed happened to my surprise, I didn’t even catch that it was under their outfits. First MC, of course she has to mention the live viewing and that this is her graduation concert. The 12ki introductions happen, and while I knew nothing about the set list I had seen the 12ki introductions and things, so it was an opportunity to catch my breath and drink some water. At concerts, you have to be use to taking your rests wherever you can, and if you’re someone like me that wants to be a part of the grand display of fans that seem to make the girls so happy, you don’t stop until moments like these. Sitting down wasn’t really an option with the space we had, my bag was on my chair and soon enough my vest was there as well, too hot already to wear it over two shirts. So I leaned on the arm of the chair, doing my best to shift around so each leg had some time to rest a bit while things were happening.
The leader/sub-leader announcement happens. Fukuchan being leader is a natural yes, though it was more a question to me if they would attempt a rare dual gen dual leader type situation. It was my surprise when Ikuta was called as sub-leader with Iikubo. Thinking about it for a moment then I thought well it makes sense that you can’t not have Iikubo as part of the hierarchy since she was already part of it before, but having Eripon there as well meant you were maintaining that general “here longer means sempai” position. Whether that will change at some point I don’t know, but it made sense to me then and now. Honey is great, Fukuchan is great, and Eripon has moments, I’m sure their growth into their roles will be fantastic.
Album song comes up! And I hadn’t listened to the album as much as I probably should have going into the concert, but the solo piano and the choreography gets me emotional again. Asu wo Tsukuru no wa Kimi is the kind of song that I expect to hear at the end of a concert, the soft and touching melody to calm you down and make you feel loved just a little bit. It’s a lovely song, and I soon picked up on the people around following their hand motions with their sticks, though I was always a bit behind. The moments seeing Sayu’s face on the big screens always make me sigh a little, even now, just her beauty and poise with my personal bias make seeing her kind of touch an auto response I sometimes can’t control.
FANTASY GA HAJIMARU! I really love this song, and to this day I will always say that this is a song the needed a PV back in the day. Something with Halloween Cinderella themes or something, but I digress. Going from the soft touching song to such a heavy power song snaps you into place immediately, and watching the majesty of these girls dancing together, even from far away just became a feedback loop to making me want to shout and jump more.
The music calms, and I know what’s coming. It happened during the NYC concert as well, but it came several times more powerful given the entire situation. I didn’t notice Sayu disappear but I know she did as you see the girls fill out to the walkway leading to center stage. It’s weird to say but I Wish is a song that always makes me kind of tear up, even before now. This time though it wasn’t JUST the song, but the whole implication of it. I Wish is for this tour, this period of time was the “sans Sayu” song, it was a touching song accentuated by it being a strong song for the group to sing without Sayu and was almost a promotional feel to the group without Sayu. For those reasons and more, I began to tear. At this point I knew I’d cry during this trip, but this early was a surprise. And felt the warm streak roll down my cheek and I waved my sticks in the air. Even then who can’t help but smile and wave heavily when the girls wave at you?
Sayu solo coming up, if you’ve ever seen people talk about arcade games, it has the same weight as someone saying “Kill Screen Coming Up”, it’s a moment very special the scene. Waiting for it we’re surprised to see the screen start playing a video. I was immediately worried they were going to show something touching with Sayu and the others to get you already emotional. The footage proved to be more kind than that, showing us footage of the last rehearsal day, with everyone in Sayu shirts and Usachan hair. The joke at the end about if Yokohama Arena would be okay with them like that made me laugh. UFA/H!P, whoever set that up did well to make sure that the concert was balanced in the sad and happy, and I am very appreciative of that.
Shabadaba Du~… I really can’t find the words to saw at this point about seeing it. Partially though binoculars and part just cheering for her. The only thing that deviates from the usual I cheered and was merry routine I guess would be that I had seen how her boots looked like the heel isn’t connected to the base of her heel and it freaks me out a bit. But I never do understand fashion lol. I waved so hard when she was waving to the audience, I fully admit I’m a fool.
Egao no Kimi wa Taiyou sa, I love that it became a song they could just walk around the ring around the arena while we watched, it was nice and refreshing, also since Sayu was in a unique outfit it was easy to spot her no matter if she faced us or not.
Kare to Issho ni Omise ga Shitai. A great song to raise the mood, and very much a Sayu song with everyone being support, which was great even back when it was the paired with KonoChikyuu. Carefree songs where the choreography isn’t as vital is a nice break for everyone, it’s almost like the song where they get to look at the audience rather than focusing on dancing. Of course there was the Sayu kiss that caused an uproar, can’t say much about that, I was one of the people who cheered. Sayu’s always been bold with her kisses, and it being her last concert why wouldn’t she go for broke. The fact that Riho was singing made it the perfect sneak attack!
MC2 and the guests. It was again a good time to catch my breath and rest my legs. Of course seeing Maimi and Reina were a big treat overall, and it was funny watching Yuko, Maimi, and Reina approach their speeches their style. It didn’t really affect me emotionally, perhaps it’s something about the way even Sayu handled it, with cool and loving respect to her sempai, douki, and kouhai. Yuko played funny, Maimi had respect, and even though it probably wasn’t intentional Reina and Sayu combined gave a lot of fun to it.
Special Medley time, this one is where things started getting kind of hard on my mentally. My focus had been so narrow on Sayu, parts of the medley was me trying to acclimate to the concert vibe after the MC. Silver no Udetokei is another great song, and by this point I had come to fully feel that this concert was epic beyond my expectations. No song for me felt like it hindered my enjoyment, and I hadn’t felt any song was what some people would consider a “rest song” where you sit out and recharge cause you’re not into the people on stage or the song itself. With this song I frantically shifted my glowstick color on my evolution stick to match as best I could.
Help Me into Ren’ai Hunter is instant pump up, especially with Ren’ai Hunter having so much jumping and cheering parts of the fans. Though with the remix I wasn’t sure how to follow along, I just kind of went with the flow as best as I could.
It was at this point as Lalala no Pipipi where the noticeable problems being in the audience were harder than for you guys anyone watching the video feeds. I was so deeply in the Concert High, and intent on watching Sayu without it being broken up by other shots that I stared at Sayu both through binoculars and just from my seat without breaking glance. I didn’t understand the position Sayu started in, and thought she was just playing around, but seeing the clips of Lalala no Pipipi it was apparent she was in discomfort by that point. The song continued and I was so focused on cheering, jumping, and watching her with my own eyes, it never occurred to me that she hadn’t been moving around and that her right leg was up. I reflect on it horribly that I hadn’t realized the problem for several moments until she stayed on the main stage while everyone else moved to the center stage.
ABCDE-cha E-cha Shitai started the movement that brought me a lot of unintentional pain and respect. It pained me to see what I felt was almost an attempt at showing the appeal of Momusu without Sayu. At the time my mind was trying to process what I didn’t know. I still hadn’t realized the degree of Sayu’s discomfort and why she had stayed on stage. My focus stayed on her though most of it, but not using the screen it didn’t occur to me that they were adapting on the fly for Sayu’s injury. Looking back on it as they get through WakuTeka Take a chance, they do a very good job at adapting to the problem, but it still holds a weird foreboding feeling to me as we reach half way into the concert that I’m seeing what feels like Sayu beginning to pull away from everyone. Brainstorming happens and I’m still looking back at the group between Sayu focus and admiring their adaptability. It became more apparent it wasn’t planned to be this way with Fukuchan running back to start Suki da na Kimi ga, but at the same time Sayu was displaying more motion again during the song, making it harder for me in my extreme tunnel vision to recognize her pain.
Kono Chikyuu no Heiwa wo Honki de Negatterunda yo! This song is a still a great song and I like that there’s still good spot for fan and girl a like to take part in it, but it holds that spot in my brain that remembers how the PV ended, and it reminds me once again I’m watching a graduation concert. Remembering this great event isn’t just me being lucky to be in Japan, I feel a bit sad but hold resolve. Seishun Collection is the next song, and it’s truly been a long time since I’ve heard the song, but it brings with it a refreshing nostalgic feeling that gods with the nice melody it has. To this day it feels like a song you can just leave the instrumental running in the background with and it’ll be calming.
Love machine is next, and by now the medley has been going for a long time. My stamina is waning but we’re sticking to it, I remember trying to see if I could grab my water around this time, but the song began quickly, and you don’t not participate in Love Machine dancing, even as overused as it sometimes feels. It was also at this point that I noticed Sayu struggling and sitting down, I realized she was hurt, and feel horrible to not notice it right away. But the pace of the song is so strong I continue to cheer.
It’s also at this point that I once again admire the way that they plan out their costumes all the time. I know it’s a digression but the way UFA has costume progression work never ceases to not impress me. I know sometimes it seems like they’re recycling or rehashing ideas, but at the same time, when it comes to costumes sets or quick-change costumes they always have this feeling of either progression, evolution, or release. So seeing the outfit change here, where the white portion is gone but the sleeve remains feels like a cast off of armor and the start of more intensity. Especially moving into Give me Love this was extremely powerful to the second wind that was needed for this concert.
MC3, They ask for cheers, we cheer. Arena and stand area cheer, we cheer. Floor area cheer, we wait. They call for the live viewing to cheer, what do we do? (lol) in the end I think I cheered just cause it was weird.
Aisuru hito wa SAYUMIN DAKE! Shabondama puts my heart back into focusing on Sayu. By this point my second wind is winding up and any restraint I’ve had on yelling or being outrageous has begun to melt away. Why was I holding back before then? What did I think would happen if I gave it my all? I wasn’t certain but I stopped trying to conserve my energy at this point. Screaming Sayumin dake broke any resistant I had left to pushing forward even if it meant I’d not have enough energy for the encore call, I just couldn’t stop myself.
1,2,3 was a great song to follow my disregard for my own stamina, jumping and screaming 1, 2, 3 was a powerful feeling as the buildup happens to Sayu’s lines at the end of the chorus. Then Sayu’s line at the bridge drive me crazy as I shouted during them. I just love Sayu I have to say it again if it wasn’t obvious.
Password is 0, I turn to Z and I make the motion of a half circle to him as it started, he give me a bit of a nod, as we make fools of ourselves doing the 0 in the air together. I’ve mentioned Z is quite tall in stature before, our 0s probably looked more like 6s but who cares? Lol
MC4, when I finally realize Sayu changed shoes. Seriously, the tunnel vision had affected so badly up to this point I didn’t notice she wasn’t in boots until this MC. Sayu’s stumble made my heart stop for a moment. It was truly the first time I had seen her be emotional. Looking back at it now, I’m not sure if it might have been affected by the pain or not, but you know the soul crushing end was coming as soon as Sayu falters.
Be Alive starts, and realizing how tunnel visioned I had been I start looking at the screens more as well, only to see the sad looks and tears growing on their faces. Be Alive is also in that strong, sweet, slow paced songs. And especially with this song, the fact you could see the sadness growing at the near end of the concert while they still gather themselves to smile, just you can feel the tears building up in your system. And with the lyrics on the screen near main stage, I began to sniffle as it was really the first time I had thought about the lyrics to the song. “With you, with my friends, with my dreams, and sweat, this free time when laughing won’t end at any time, a time when bad things blow away I won’t let you be sad,” I mean the exact translation probably doesn’t match but it’s the feeling that I had seeing them perform it and the words across the screen. I started tearing again, my voice shook in my cheering. The end… the real end was coming.
They said we are Morning Musume。 and walked off stage, immediately I knew it was happening. Making sure my blades were all in pink mode we started the Sayumin call. To try to keep in tempo, and give time to drink some water, Z and I alternated calls. It was a slow burn this Sayumin call. You’ve watched the footage, seeing all of us in that arena shouting her name. To break the monotony Z would occasionally change the way he said it and sometimes during these calls he’d joking do something like point to people saying “SAY – YOU – ME” for his Sayumin. It was fun to see him playing with it, as I continued to say Sayumin, while doing different formations with my sticks. Sometimes it was just flicking them forward, sometimes I’d alternate hands with each syllable, but I couldn’t stop. Making Usachan Peace with the glow sticks to rhythm, or doing hand over hand rolling, it didn’t matter what it was, but I need to keep going. Sayumin, Sayumin, Sayumin.
It felt like forever until the lights came back on. I really hadn’t thought of anyone else showing up after the Sayumin call but Sayu, only to be surprised by the appearance of everyone else, even the 12ki. Of course we hadn’t heard Mikaeri Bijin yet. I immediately gasped and help back a cry. If you’ve seen me comment about Mikaeri Bijin before now, I can’t watch the music video without tearing up, and the semi-classic Japanese style to the song paired with the lyrics and Sayu in Kimono, it is concentrated crying. And yet, you can’t just stand there and cry, glow sticks rise to the air, kecha’ing. I mouth some of the words by instinct, as Sayu walks down the middle aisle. At this point I can’t tell whether the solemn look on her face is part of her stage performance, her own sadness, or her attempt to hold back from the pain of her leg. In any case she performs beautifully, we can see smiles appearing as on the screens as she walks, followed by that quiet calm look as she accepts the road ahead of her. You can see how much Sayu wanted to cry in a lot of the shots on screen, but she never lost her focus. And each turn around she did in time was like another arrow shot straight through my heart.
I can’t imagine how hard it might have been for her to hold that fast to her performance, seeing all the pink lights, having heard everyone calling her name for so long, and having to keep a straight, strong face for most of that song. But she did, and with the end of it, we were left in the dark as to what happened. We cried out for her, and then the lights turned on, and all I heard was a crying Sayu plea… I couldn’t tell for what, but in that moment the lights once again fell and we were in the dark. It wasn’t long before everyone once again came together to call for her name. Corner to corner we called out for her, until we saw the lights shift a little, then came all the way on.
At this point the speeches happen, you’ve probably seen them, had them translated by someone far more skilled and confident than I am and found your own touching point to them. I won’t bore you with me listening hard trying to catch every bit. I teared seeing Oda struggle, and Kuduu begin to fall apart. Ma-chan was sweet in her childlike attempt to hold it together. Haruna kept it together like a champion, Riho actually attempting to be frank was charming though you could tell Riho is the type that either knows how to hide herself or has a problem expressing herself frankly. Sayu kneels in pain again and the lights go out. The crowd is unsure of what to do this time, though some of us immediately begin to chant again, it isn’t long before we are once again united in pink glow giving all of our energy. Many of us were probably already spent so much, yet we continued. In the darkness we could see the girls appearing, hands in the air and to their ears calling out to us, asking us to give it everything we had. We were not one to refuse, several people seem to collect any energy they had left as the Sayumin call erupted in renewed strength. The lights came on and we returned to the show, a chair now mysteriously on stage (lol). Ikuta’s attempt at getting Sayu to say one of her many gag catchphrases was cute, and Sayu’s refusal to accept it was equally adorable. Fukuchan voice cracking, seeing Sayu begin to tear on screen, the moment felt like the world slowly breaking.
I couldn’t hold the binoculars still at this point, my hands shaking far too much to focus for more than a few moments. The speeches finish and the music for Mikaeri Bijin begins to play. I mumble to myself probably louder than I wanted to, “oh no please don’t, just don’t.” Sayu begins walking to the steps, her back turned away from us, once again giving us her looking back with strong resolve. She gives a smile and a bow as we give applause, followed by everyone else leaving the stage, taking the magical chair along with them.
Sayumin call returns almost immediately, if you’ve been to a grad concert you know that wasn’t the end, and just had to give it everything you had. By now my voice was already shaking constantly from the feeling like crying, my arms were worn out from waving my sticks, but I couldn’t stop myself. Unlike last time I didn’t alternate with Z in my calls, instead being alongside his calls and doing my own. I alternated hand flicks for each call, trying to ease the pain building up in both arms. It wasn’t something you could stop, for all we knew the next cry could be the last one before she came back, and each one had to count. We kept going, not stopping, not caring about time, or anything, the only thing that mattered was that Sayu could feel everything we had, everything we were giving to her.
During these calls the screens would show the audience. Unlike what I’ve seen from clips from the live broadcast, these cuts were way more emotionally stunning to me. In the audience were signs done in all kinds of ways, glow paint with lights on it saying “Sayumi Saikou”, LED light arrays strobing things like “Sayumi best leader in history” and signs giving thanks for everything she’s done for all these years. Seeing the signs on the screen immediately made me cry, this call, this moment was bigger than any of us individually, it felt like, for at least in some romanticized way, we were making stars for Sayu.
The lights turn on and Sayu appears in her flower dress, the cheers are grand. You can see the emotions she has being held back as she talked. The pauses were small but obvious to everyone. She said she was okay, and even though you know she just meant okay enough to talk, you knew she was feeling it just like we were, it was something you wanted to feel was in the air. Her speech was wonderful, and very true to Sayu, she joined, she survived and became who she is, what we love from her love for Morning Musume。. From the little girl who the big mirror, to this beautiful leader who just paved a path for her juniors to carry on without her, Sayu’s history flash in front of us as she talks about it.
Sayu addresses us fans, the love that we’ve given her. She truly knows how to keep it light, she called us weirdoes for sure. She can’t help but laugh as she says we really are strange, but even then, we love her, and for everything, even with Sayu who couldn’t do anything but be cute, that we love her, we gave her a lot. Hearing her list off everything, that people came rain, snow, typhoon, that we gave her power, courage, love, you could feel her heart pouring out through her words. I couldn’t not be crying at that point, even while she called us weirdoes again, I couldn’t help but smile through my tears. To the very end Sayu love is apparent at this point, for us, Morning Musume as an entity, for her kouhai as people. The love she has spreads as she asks for everyone to watch over everyone too.
As her speech winds down, my mind immediately tries to think what she could be singing. I thought Sayu loves Aruiteru, her last song has to be that for sure. Sayu throws the curveball though, always when I think I got her figured out. She wanted to bring things full circle, her next song was to bring that together, Akai Freesia, the song she that started her life as we know it. Trying to gather myself as Sayu sings, I can’t help but admire the lighting mastery for the people during it, as we begin to chant Sayumin and chant to the song, the lighting lining the stage matches our cheers. The whole arena floor is pink and red.
As soon as the next song begins, my eyes begins to well up, it was Aruiteru, the song that means so much to Sayu through the years, that she loves so much. I can’t help but cry not just because it’s this song, but because for that moment I felt like I understood Sayu more than I ever did. I knew Aruiteru would happen, and that for Sayu this was how she wanted to go. Everyone joins into the song, supporting Sayu. Watching her sing this song with everything she has left, I felt the tears fall from my cheek onto my shirt, it is a wonderful song to start winding down this era and try to comfort you moving forward. As the words say, you aren’t alone, everyone is here with you, and for that moment we, this Sayu energy felt together.
The lights go dark, I’m not sure if it was really the end or not, but I see a figure move in the dark. The light comes on and Sayu has quick-changed, declaring it’s the real last last song. I was surprised, I don’t know how I could have forgotten the last song that had to be there, Happy Daisakusen. I turned to Z and said this is it give it everything, as the song started. There are no words needed for Happy Daisakusen, you know what happens. You join in with the people next to you and lean and cheer together. An arena united and celebrating.
This was the real end wasn’t it? Everyone begins their rounds around the arena waving to the audience. I wave higher and harder than ever as they pass, logic and restraint went out the door long ago. It didn’t matter that I was the furthest away I could be from them at that point, I still saved with everything I had left. Seeing Sayu on stage you could tell she was crying, but still she gave smiles as she waved. They bowed and posed and walked off stage one final time. Sayu being the last, waving at everyone one last time before saying thank you to everyone. Walking off the stage into the darkness.
Again everyone began to cheer, before the video screen came to life. I once again let out another “oh no, not this,” as I could see the video start up. The scene I had dreaded seeing from the beginning was happening, as each member begins walking away from the party, until only Sayu was left. I really couldn’t stand it, and actually still can’t stand seeing it without tearing up. Sayu puts down the book before walking away, and we hear the string from Shabada du~ as it shows her record and the credits roll. The audience is a clapping and cheering with this final showing. 4329 days. The world of Sayu for 4329 days.
The credits end and we begin to Sayumin call again, even though the lights have come on, the announcements already playing that we should leave and try not to forget anything in the venue. Some people begin gathering their things and leaving, but we keep shouting for Sayumin. Several minutes pass without stop, as the recording plays over and over. The chant begins to waver as some people begin to prep to go. We don’t give in for several moments, continuously calling for Sayu. It starts to become obvious that she won’t come out again, logically if not her leg pain stopping her, simply because with all the small delays we were probably way later than expected at that point.
The pink lights shut off and the house lights go up to full. The Sayumin call dwindles, but not being one to forget tradition we begin the next chant, which to my joy was not the usual “Musume Saikou” but instead “Sayumi Saikou!” in its place. I was overjoyed to join in as it happened, gathering my things while turning to shout it. Already packed and back to our outdoor set ups for the trip out, Z and I begin walking down the stairs to leave the area, shifting to “Oyasayumin” calls for a couple of moments before the chants ceased entirely. Z wanted to make sure he didn’t forget anything in our seats and I told him to look for me too as I rested near the door out of the arena. As people passed me I shouted, “Saikou datta!” my voice squeaky and hoarse from all the shouting. People passing me laughed at my shout, as I bowed at them and said “Otsukare” they echoed back before leaving the area. We soon followed, hearts spent but satisfied, returning to the real world outside.
Chapter 5: Leaving the arena, a farewell.
Z and I were lost trying to get find our way out. As we went down the stairs I ran into one of the girls I met in line, it seems her and her friend got separated and she couldn’t get a signal in the arena, unfortunately we couldn’t help her either so we wished her luck before wading through the crowd trying to find the front area.
With the rush to get in I didn’t get to see the flower area in the front, the full display of all the bouquets and flower displays sent in for Sayu’s Graduation. The front of the arena was amass of everyone, it almost felt like chaos incarnate: people trying to get out, find friends, and take pictures. Thanks to Z’s size I followed behind him through the crowd to the flowery display. I tried to take pictures but found it hard to stay in place for more than a moment, much less let my camera stabilize to take a good picture. It doesn’t help that I’m normally a very bad photographer, adding to the blur and shake of the camera with each shot. While we were making our way out I sent out messages to some of the other English speaking fans I had contact with this trip. Both sets of people were outside, though neither could give much specifics other than “outside” with all the people around.
Z ran into a friend at this point, my brain already a wash I barely made coherent sentences in Japanese as I tried to participate. We eventually worked our way actually outside the arena back to the cold autumn/winter darkness. It took some wandering outside with Z in search of people, to find a bunch of English speakers, including the Hello!Base people taking a picture together. I made funny faces from behind the cameraman before they invited me into the shot, Z also welcomed to join in. We got to be in the pic before we talked about the concert for a bit. It was already rather late but I thought maybe we could go somewhere to eat and decompress. An Offkai almost feels like part of the experience at this point, it wouldn’t be a concert without doing something after for a bit.
I honestly can’t remember if this happened before that but , while figuring out what to do, we did run into Alita, who is always helpful when overseas people want to get something. We exchange pleasantries but she had plans for Thanksgiving and needed to get home for it so she couldn’t hand out with us. After the pod of English speakers sans Alita’s party began to head towards the train station, trying to figure out where we could go.
The walk to the station felt both painful and refreshing. Having just gone through perhaps the longest but slowest leg exercises while being emotionally torn asunder, every movement felt stiff and uneasy. I dragged my legs as I shuffled forward, being with other people being a comfort to the solo party experiences I’ve had before this had all started. We conversed as we walked, I could hear my voice coming up raw, still squeaking, with very little reserve. I had no limiters in my system at this point, I felt like I was speaking way above volume but could not help myself. I apologized profusely as we walked, only get to get kind responses in return.
The night air was quite refreshing given the situation. Even though the air was still a bit heavy with light signs of rain showing, it was still clean. As we walked we came across the Hello!Pro Night people advertising their after party. Everyone else seems to know the people involved and they engage in small talk for a moment, but we regretfully cannot attend with it already being so late. Eventually everyone else figures we can go back into the Tokyo area to get a bite, since Yokohama is so far out and most of us were staying in the area. Z lives closer to Yokohama though so unfortunately he can’t join us. He continues to walk with us as we will take different paths at the station. I can’t help but apologize to him for him following us along only to not be able to participate. Z is really a nice guy and says it’s not a problem anyway.
We get to the train station figure out how to get into the Tokyo area easy for everyone and work our way there. Z give his farewells as we head to different train platform. The dark night cut away by the lights of the platform, it felt like the end yet again. We made small talk waiting on the platforms until the train appeared. We walked aboard the train and big Yokohama a farewell.
Chapter 6: Offkai, short and fleeting
As we rode the trains, things were slow and steady. At some point in our train journey I ended up opening the pin-ups I had bought, the crazy run had prevented me from looking at them before now. I had hoped for Sayus, naturally, but really what could I ask for at this point? My luck is horrible when it comes to any kind of drawing, so I had very low expectations. Opening the flaps carefully I find myself in possession of a Kuduu, Eripon, Zukki, and Ma-chan. Not a bad haul of course, but not my ideal haul either. After opening them Icey offered to trade me the Kuduu for an Iikubo. She appealed to an earlier comment I made about liking Honey being a gamer, and I felt like it would be nice if she wanted a Kudou so we made the trade.
The train rides were general train rides. We stood and sat near enough made small talk getting to know each other a bit more. I talked with some people from JPH!P, we all had fun as we came together and enjoyed the company on the train. One noticed HaroSute releasing while we were coming in and offered to share his screen and split the audio. No one else took the offer so I thought why not, youtube decided to be difficult preventing him from watching more than a couple of moments before it would get stuck. We started to laugh at the course, as it just did not want to let him watch things.
Eventually we ended up at Shinjuku and not long after we walked our way over to an elevator leading to a restaurant. The girls head up the elevator first, apparently smoke smell was an issue and they wanted to check it out beforehand. The guys made jokes about taking off while we wait for the elevator, making jokes about it as we head up the elevators ourselves to the restaurant.
The restaurant itself is a nice place, tables with inset seating, touch screen menu ordering, we sat around and talked for a bit as food and drank came in bit by bit. I talked with one person about his goods and his bad luck with random drawings for pictures as well and we decompressed over the night. A toast to Sayu, some fun food, which for me was pretty much the first time I wasn’t eating a ball of rice and fish on this trip, and time to unwind. Unfortunately with the length of the concert, the time travelling back in, and time getting settled it wasn’t long before we had to start leaving for the trains.
I gave my portion of the bill, wished everyone a good night and thanks once again for all of their kindness before walking my way back to the train station. In all honesty my hotel was not that far from where we were, and some people had already settled on taking a taxi, but I’ve never been comfortable with being alone in unfamiliar territory, especially when physically I was not in the best condition anymore. Taking the train back, I reach my hotel, as the rain once again begins to pick up in the area. As I set up to take a bath, the TV plays a commercial showing off the Skypa NYC concert and I chuckle a bit before sniffling a bit. It was a whirlwind day, and I only have part of a day left in this world before leaving once again.
Chapter 7: The Sunset from Japan, more farewells.
The next day felt strange all together. I woke up with barely any long term damage to my system. My muscles weren’t sore, my voice was back to normal from what I could tell, and besides the emotional drain I felt normal. My flight was in the evening so I had half a day to do whatever I wanted to, and I promised myself to go to the H!P store in Akiba since it wasn’t established the last time I was in Japan. Our conversations the day before lead to me find out that Hello!Tribe, the wonderful fan bar was near the area, but unfortunately I couldn’t visit it while it was open. Even then I decided to at least visit the outside while I was in. I also learned that Icey and Bryan were also planning to head to the H!P Shop so I messaged them quick to see when they were going and headed out for some adventure of my own.
Checking out of my hotel single bag was now packed to the brim, all the concert goods in haul and my clothes, it made for a day I knew I couldn’t be mobile for too long without breaks. Still I remember Akihabara from my last trip so it wasn’t so bad. I googled where the new store was and made my way in that direction. Still early I went to an arcade for a little bit looking for interesting I could play but it wasn’t long before the H!P store would open.
I walked for a while before realizing I passed the location. Turning around I found myself just a bit off from Hello!Tribe. I took a shot of the sign before working my way back to the building. Since it was across the street I totally missed it the first time through as I looked at gachapon machines on the street for anything I could buy for other people. Coming back to the building looking up it was quite obvious it was the H!P store, adorn on the side of the building large images of H!P greats and an obvious sign. I also should’ve noticed the slowly building crowd on the ground floor outside the building at the time. The store was yet to open and I was astonished that even on a weekday, people are willing to charge into the store the second it opens.
I couldn’t get myself to stand outright in the line, a hesitation that perhaps this line was for something else and the store wasn’t open yet. Feeling parched on my walk I found a vending machine with melon soda and got myself a can, but ran into the very real problem I have in Japan with trying to find a recycle bin for it. I walk away down the street a bit until I found bin before returning. This time I glanced around and noticed signs of wota in my presence, familiar looking shirts, pins, bands. Once I confirmed the people adjacent to me were indeed other wota, I felt at ease to make my way through the line to the elevator, and up towards the store.
The elevator ride was slow and quiet, opening up to a grand view of a Hello!Project banner, signed by several members. To the left was stands showing releases, and nearby were those Hello!Shop picture machines. It was only a short way to all the clothing display cases, Sayu outfits and Lilium outfits on display. I looked at then in subtle amazement to the proximity. I walked around carefully looking at all the goods around me, the place was rustling with so many people. I took a walk around briefly before turning back to start taking pictures. The cases allowed shots and I couldn’t refuse the opportunity. Of course if I haven’t been clear by now I am horrible at taking pictures so I’ll skip through that process. Moments later I began my rounds looking at the pictures and goods for available purchase.
Looking around it was obvious a graduation had taken place. An area set aside for Sayu graduation goods set up near the middle of the room, key chains and pictures being side features to the 1/3 height Sayu cutouts. Seeing those cutouts in person made me understand just how powerful they are, though I was still fully in control over buying something so unpractical. Taking the rounds it was all the more clear that Sayu goods were already well purchased, spaces on every rack bare near the top. Disappointment hit me hard as I realized even with all the goods available there wouldn’t be much I could do about it. No pens, notebooks, clear files of Sayu were available, and as much as I love pictures, with my bag packed to the brim, I didn’t want to risk damage over something so precious. I looked around taking pictures were allowed, looking for Sayu goods I felt were unique to my trip.
Simple and subtle, something portable. I looked around till I found the Sayu round fans. These little round circles with the hand hole in them, while in no means unique were a prize I got the last time I was in Japan as well. It felt like a good mark for the occasion, and felt very practical as well. A round circle adorn with Sayu, a nice display piece that in a situation would also be a nice cooling fan. I picked up two, so I could keep one near me and one with my other goods. I grabbed a set of small Momusu Sayu tin pins so I could have a subtle item to display. Going to the line to finally purchase my items I was pleased to see Bryan and Icey arrived beginning their walk through the rows of pictures. We talked a bit before being separated, and I walked forward to buy my goods. It wasn’t until later talking with Bryan and Icey did I realize that I was JUST under the amount needed for a bonus picture.
After my purchase I joined Bryan and Icey as they looked around, helping out with whatever info I could give from my time there. They both had a budget far beyond mine as I could see them picking up several pictures on their list for purchase. We eventually sat down and talked while they waited for their pictures to get gathered together. They pointed out that a screen was showing a Berryz concert, one they saw the last time they were in Japan. I coincidentally noticed the other screen was showing Ultra Smart, the concert I saw last time I was in Japan, it felt like a weird moment of synchronization, though obviously it was little more than coincidence. Still I couldn’t help but feel like in some sense the world had aligned across some weird vector.
Our goods purchased, and pictures taken, we left together. With extra time to kill I felt the need to try to find souvenirs for both myself and others that wasn’t just idol goods. As much as a big part of this trip was Sayu, it’s still hard for me to explain it to other people and so it’s nice to have some things other than Sayu to show people ^^;. Bryan and Icey were heading in the same direction and we walked for a bit. They helped guide me in a good direction before they left for their own events and I couldn’t help but thank them more times than I could count. They are some of the best people I’ve met, and I don’t think this trip would’ve felt as safe and comforting without their presence as well.
I’ll spare you all the rest of the story, I found a way to spend the rest of my time before taking the slow train back into the airport. Turbos86 talked with me a bit as I rode the train, letting me decompress from this wild and winding trip. As I rode that train, the sun slowly set in the distance, the sky darkened as I approached our destination, darkness surrounded us as we entered the tunnels under Narita Airport. Going through the usual tribulations of airport check-in and security, I eventually sat near my gate, the last view of Japan and it’s life being an episode of VS. Arashi on the TV. The humor and entertainment of the show easing my sorrow knowing the trip was over, and that Sayu’s graduation was really gone. Loading into the plane almost by procedural instinct, I watched out the window as we taxied down the runaway. My last words while connected to Japanese ground under my breath, “Mata Aou ne”, “We’ll meet again.”
Chapter 8: Extra Thoughts
That is the end of my travels, but not the end of my thoughts. When I started doing this, being a gaijin wota, I didn’t know where it would lead me. One of the first things someone showed me that got me to watch Momusu more intently than just listening to music once and awhile, was from a dear friend of mine I met online, and she had me watch Sakuragumi’s Sakura Mankai. Something that felt both pop and somewhat Japanese caught my ear and eye more than the snippets I had heard before, and I became enamored. Sakuragumi had a lot of beauty in it, but I was charmed by Gakisan at the time. Once I was attached though I couldn’t stop there, I did eventually start watching more and getting in deeper, TV shows, and all that. But I’m digressing again.
The first time I saw something where Sayu stood out and I became attached to Sayu wasn’t from the music video or the song for it at the time, it was a picture of Sayu from Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari. This cute little girl with her braids and beret. That’s really all it took. Don’t get me wrong I still liked Gakisan too, it’s obvious I still do now, but Sayu caught me differently. Filling in my knowledge going backwards I learned about how she was but it was still endearing, still worth following. And so I became a Gakisan and Sayu fan… a Watermelon as I liked to call it.
Since I joined into fandom more intensely, the first time I saw something around the time it actually came out, I downloaded and saw a clip of a song coming out soon, it was for Aruiteru. At the time the world was different, international shipping wasn’t as clear to me or my family, I was still too young to have a credit card of my own. I never bought a copy of the song, but that song meant a lot to me. I was already studying Japanese at the time, not enough to do anything I do now, but Aruiteru still did a lot for me. The fact that in the end it meant so much for Sayu too made the song feel even more important now. I still occasionally listen to Sayu singing the song during one of her DVDs in Guam, a simple sweet melody from the girl who swears she can’t sing, but does better than she thinks.
This has been one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life, to give it my all even in all the panic. NYC was big too, I can’t but admit, but in the end, this SayuGrad was a pledge I had to commit to with everything I could give and it came out probably one of the best ways it could have. My flight could’ve gotten delayed, or got stuck in harder rain. I could’ve ended up with no goods at all, or so tired I missed part of the concert. Or maybe just without anyone to talk to after it was all over. But with all the stress, the fear, and the cash, it was quite wonderful, and I wouldn’t trade it for much, maybe a day with Sayu, but no one’s going to get that lol.
Live concerts are more than you can get from DVDs, or even the lives when they leave Japan. Japan is part of it all, when a group from H!P comes out to somewhere else, there’s so many things that just aren’t the same, and they do their best to give you some of that, in fact sometimes it’s just that fans from Japan follow that gives some of that sense. But it’s still not the same as you get when you’re there. It’s an experience I think everyone who wants to say they’re a wota need to try for themselves. It may take sacrifice: time, money, finding ways to get around work, be away from what you’re used to; but it is fully worth the experience and I feel it’s essential to feeling the pure magic of this thing, these people we love.
Chapter 9: Acknowledgements and Such
I couldn’t have survived the trek on my own, and it needs to be clear that I wasn’t alone in all of the fun. It took a lot of guts to make the decision to go, having to figure out how to get out of work and school and come out unscathed, I had some very supportive friends who helped me focus on what I needed to do. They may never read this but they have my thanks, for basically telling me I needed to go, even though they didn’t totally understand it all themselves.
Z who I mentioned several times was like a guardian to my cause. We got in contact almost as soon as the Grad date and location was announced. He helped me get my tickets, and was there even in my time of greatest panic. I couldn’t have done it without him, and I don’t know if I’ve said it enough but he has my gratitude. Having not only someone you know in Japan but someone reliable and helpful is a blessing.
Going on this trip even then I had friends. Alita, though we didn’t interact much, she still said hello. And she held on to something I bought from her and gave it to me there, so it made it easier not to worry about if I could get goods or not. The people from Hello!Base, Icey and Bryan, they were friendly and didn’t mind me bothering them a lot, I really couldn’t have handled feeling like I was in the way and they never made me feel that way at all. I didn’t get to ask you all for permission to include you in this tale but your kindness and your company I had a great time afterwards.
Even though he wasn’t there Turbos86 from Jicchan.com helped me a lot, getting re-adjusted to Japan and everything. Especially helpful since it almost felt like we tagged in for each other, as he left I pretty much came in, so having someone with fresh experiences to bounce off of really was great.
And now you’re probably curious just how all that broke down so into some statistics!
I spent 5 hours in line for goods for a 3 hour concert, stayed inside a small store for about 2 hours looking at goods and such. The cost of my ticket and goods alone was about 38800Yen. That doesn’t include food, drinks, and transportation, which besides the mess up on concert day I tried to be fairly efficient in my spending. So to generalize, I spent a lot of money for someone in a lot of college & graduate school debt. In the end, it was an experience to remember.
There’s so much more I could say here, but days of working on this my minds all scrambled. Maybe I’ll answer some questions if they come up, but this has gotten really long and I don’t know if anyone would ever really read it. So for now I will leave you with this tale of whimsy and wonder who read it all, and if they enjoyed it. Thank you for your time, even if you couldn’t last to the end, I hope you felt something, even a little bit of how I felt, or maybe a desire of your own to see something first hand. If nothing else, it was fun right? lol