☆ i heart japan,  ☆ life

Living Tall in Japan, part 28

☆ To see all of the parts in this series, click here


Day 3. My friends and I all got lucky and won lottery tickets for the morning show, so I finally, finally got to see the show, and I fell in complete and total love. Not just with the show itself, which was appropriately gay and exciting (feminine-y guys dancing on stage and playing tennis with a ball of light. Come on.), but with what happened after.

We were feeling hungry, so we lined up at a burger place across the street, called MosBurger (think of a McDonalds with a lot more choice and about double the price), and suddenly Ale looked behind us, and then turned back to me. One of the actors was standing right behind us!

And then, Eda noticed that further back, the actor whose concert we had gone to see the night before had just come up to stand with him!! We were trying to ignore them to be polite, but then he tapped me on the shoulder, and there was nothing left to turn around!

If you ask my friends, he spoke to me in Japanese, but I swear, swear, swear that it was English. That he said that he’d seen us last night.

Maybe it was one of those things where there is just such a strong connection that you can telepathically tell what the other one is trying to say? Or, more likely, I imagined the entire conversation. Whichever it was, I was completely in awe because we spoke…. he’d tapped my shoulder and we’d spoke and it had been right there, and it felt like fate!

Day 4. We all got lucky, and got drawn for tickets to the morning show, and for the afternoon show, none of us got in, but some Japanese girls with extra tickets sold them to us, since we stood out looked really pathetic and out of place. :3

So, we were all really lucky and saw the last two shows ever for the first cast, and I, personally, felt completely and totally overwhelmed. Completely and totally in love.

If I had to sum up my feelings about the last show, there are two things that I would say — “Amazing,” and “Moving.” Moving in so many more ways than even the morning’s performance had been. It was so painfully obvious that Yanagi was giving this his all. With all of the other performances this week, he’d been barely able to sing, and was usually off key and/or low, or fading out. He had a hard time projecting for a long time and would fade up and down. But with this performance, while it was still not the beautiful fluid voice that he’d had before the accident, it was loud, clear(ish… he obviously has trouble speaking and kind of slurs some things now), and just so… obvious that he was giving it everything he had. When he sang “doubles deshou” with Momo, I started crying.. T_T And even more so when he sang “Ore wa Number 1” with Tezuka… not only did he sing so loudly, instead of kneeling like he did for the other performances, he completely lay on the ground looking broken. I think almost everyone was crying at this point. And when he got up, you could just see how hard he was trying.. so beautiful. I admire you so much Yanagi.

I should explain something. It’s probably a fact lost in old, old Tenimyu lore now, but the first actor for Ryoma (my favorite character, as you know) was a boy named Yanagi Kotaro. Just two weeks before the second chapter of the musical was supposed to open, he was walking home alone at night from practice, and was struck by a car. The doctors said that he would probably never wake up, and even if he did, he would be paralyzed with permanent brain damage. But, miraculously, on his birthday a week later, the fans were told what happened at JUMP festa, and they all sang him happy birthday. That day, as if the music reached him, he opened his eyes for the first time.

Kotaro worked hard, and over the year, he was able to regain the ability to walk and talk, but his muscles remain permanently damaged, so he walks only with difficulty, and his speech was slurred. I spoke to him once a year or so later, and he was funny and engaging, seemingly well-recovered, but much, much later, when I was at the Tenimyu with Sensei that I attended as my going-away party, Kotaro was there, and he could barely speak anymore, and walking was almost as bad. People whispered that he would only continue deteriorating from then on, but he has never given up. He is still acting, even though it’s not very often, and still making a life for himself.

During this musical, the first one that I saw, Kotaro had been invited back to play the role of Ryoma for half of the shows (the other half would be performed by his replacement, Endo Yuya), and even though he didn’t make the best Ryoma when it came to singing or dancing, I learned of his story from my friends, and he became my hero.

Here is a clip from the actual show. He’s the one in the white cap that comes in about 3 minutes in. You should be able to tell.

It was part the show itself, based on an anime/manga that I loved so much, and was just hilarious in concept, but also part Yanagi’s story that made me love it so much. I’d never cried as much in any movie as I did during the last show of that musical. It made a huge, huge impression on me. I loved it, I made new friends, and for the first time, I thought, “I think that I want to stay in Japan for a long, long time.”

Here are the notes that I wrote down at the time about the last performance, and how it made me feel. Don’t worry if the names make no sense to you. Instead, try to look beyond the names, and at the emotions below. A musical, that I’d only barely cared about days ago, made me feel this powerful. It made the cast feel this powerful. It was a bit of magic, and that is something that I truly believe.

Kimeru managed to keep his cool during ‘You Got Game,’ but he was almost the only one. You could see that he was having a hard time, but Yanagi (Kotaro) had the hardest…. He started sobbing several times. Openly sobbing, dropping his head and crying. Endo hugged him tightly, and so did several others. Then was the lineup/graduation. Yukio (Nanjiroh) gave the departing regulars graduation certificates on stage and they gave him roses.. it was so moving. Although, uh, Nagayama had put his IN HIS POCKET. ^^;;;;;; It was bent.. Uh….. LOL And Kimeru’s broke and he had to put the bottom part back on (to keep it wet, I think). Abe’s speech was really long and really moving. MoriEiji couldn’t even make a speech.. he barely got out “arigatou minna-san” before stopping, and breaking down in tears. He started to say something, but couldn’t. He just turned around and started holding his face. T___T OMG… no way was there a dry eye in the house. In case someone with no feeling was resisting the urge to cry, Kimeru made it impossible for anything remotely human to not cry. Especially not a hall full of huge fans. He made a really really long speech about the cast, and especially about how Yanagi was an inspiration and how the accident affected him and everyone. How sad he was last year when he got the call that Yanagi was hit by a car and in a coma, and cried for hours. He broke down crying, too. He was completely bawling, sobbing.. No way that someone could not cry. It was so moving, even for me. The whole cast had tears in their eyes.

And after that, for the final goodbye, everyone was hugging everyone. So much hugging, and so much of cute little Yanagi breaking down in tears. They stood there in a line, but he (and Endo also!) were hanging their heads the whole time, crying. So touching…

Then about five minutes of waiting, and they came up to our hall again for the final speech. Yanagai walked in on his own this time, and this time the cast was trying to make us happy. But we cried anyways, and laughed. Highlights include them thanking the foreign fans (wai!), Yanagi telling the entire audience the japanese equivalent of “shut the fuck up!” (with a smile) when they wouldn’t stop shouting out about how cute he was, and Yanagi making fun of Tuti while he did his speech with little “nya nya nya” sounds and such. They tried really hard to leave us on a good note. And then it was over. They waved goodbye, and Yanagi popped his head back into the room to shout “shhhhhhh!” again. He only gave it one try, then waved as if it was no use. It wasn’t. We all loved seeing him too much.

There were so many people still wiping their eyes. Even though it had been funny, we’d ALL cried. Both girls on my sides were crying (on my left the girl was crying almost from the beginning). Everyone had been. There was much talking.

Prince of Tennis is love. Tenimyu is greater love. I can’t wait until this DVD comes out in March, but until then I will revel in my memories of this time. I’m so glad that I went, and that I got to meet Miyu. I think it was truly one of the best weeks of my entire life, so far. It was amazing.

We, of course, stayed to do demachi, and say goodbye to the cast. After all, who knew when we’d see them again? I do have a few pictures to share, and that will be my good night to you.

Ummmm…. I’m totally ashamed at taking this picture, but it was the window to the cast dressing rooms, and they kept poking their faces in the steamy(!) window, and making faces! It was insanely adorable, and I wish that I’d caught that part on camera. XD

Some of the cast smiling at us. 🙂

Remember the guy that I saw on the train? Yeah, it was this guy. XD;;

Endo Yuya, the actor who replaced Kotaro as Ryoma, walking away quickly, lol.

Yanagi, looking happy. He was a huge, huge inspiration to me, and still is. I’ll wish him the best,  no matter where he goes! I have a photo that I took with him (and Endo and some other cast) and five months after this, and I’ll post those when that time in the story comes! 🙂

Ang, Eda, Ale, and me after the musical was over. Lifelong friends. <3

I’m ten minutes late with this post, so I’ll get it up now! Tomorrow, you’ll get to read about my return to the real world, and out of the week of fangirlism that I’d been living in, constantly surrounded with people who had the same interests as me, drowning in musicals and doujinshi and manga. It was the best week of my life so far, and I didn’t want it to end! No way!!!

(848 geeks have read this)

Hi! This is Jamie Lynn Lano! I am a Washington State (USA) native who: ☆ Holds a Bachelors of the Arts in Media Arts & Animation from AiPx. ☆ Worked as an assistant mangaka in Japan for Konomi Takeshi on The Prince of Tennis. ☆ Was an essay columnist for Asahi Weekly from 2008-2013. ☆ Was the star of Asahi Pop'n Press on Asahi TV (Japan) from 2009-2013 ☆ Was a write for Metropolis magazine in 2010. ☆ Has kept a blog foreeeeeeeeever! First and Current blogs.


  • Audrey

    omg 1st cast is definitely my favourite! You’re SO LUCKY that you got to see them more than once!

    Poor Yanagi 🙁 Seriously. I really hope he can continue to live a long and joyful life.

    Who were the actors behind you at Mos Burger??? If it had been someone like Shirota Yuu I would have peed my pants and died or something.

  • Victoria

    Yanagi’s story is truly touching! Reading this almost brought me to tears (the feels) ironically I could never cry at the end of titanic or anything, but then I go and cry at the end of pokemon movies and this. I hope that one day I can go to see these shows! (Demachi sounds like it’s a lot of fun!)

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      I doubt that Yanagi will ever do a play again, though I hope so! Back then, Demachi was a really neat way to personally connect with the cast– not the same way as a meet&greet, which happens at a lot of plays abroad, which is unfortunate, but just getting to say “good job today!” felt really nice. 🙂

  • Willeke4439

    Randomly being offered Tenimyu tickets while waiting in line for the lotteries has happened to me a few times as well, it’s one of the times when looking out of place totally works in your advantage, isn’t it? XD

    I’m so sad that demachi for Tenimyu isn’t a thing anymore now (at the new venue you can’t even tell where the staff exit is ><) , I would've loved to experience it sometime.

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      It totally is! I was happy to stand out back then. 😀

      Oh wow, there is no more demachi? I know that for a while it was really discouraged because there were just to many girls, but I had no idea that they’d completely discontinued it. I guess it makes sense. Tenimyu was big, but nowhere near the size that it is now. Oh, but if you go to the smaller shows, like ones that individual actors are participating in, it’s still going on afaik. 😉

      • Willeke4439

        No, apparently there’s no more demachi at all. I can’t find any official source for this right now, but some girls from my anime club told me that it’s been forbidden after an incident (or maybe multiple?) where Tenimyu fans behaved badly.

        • Jamie Lynn Lano

          Oh, wow, that’s sad! I believe it, though. It isn’t a Tenimyu story, but years ago on the news, I saw that someone leaked information that certain Johnny’s members would be getting on a shinkansen at Tokyo station at a certain time, and so many fangirls swarmed the platforms that someone got pushed onto the tracks. That might have had something to do with it. And, I mean, we were chasing after the members, and being chased after when I was with Sensei later on, and it all felt like good fun, but I can see how it might turn bad really quickly.

Leave a Reply to Jamie Lynn Lano Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.