☆ anime/manga,  ☆ being a dork,  ☆ events/shows/concerts,  ☆ fail!,  ☆ i heart japan,  ☆ i heart travel,  ☆ life,  ☆ photos,  ☆ videos

Living Tall in Japan, part 54

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

I bet you thought I’d forgotten about this series, didn’t you! I never forget– sometimes I just lose steam, but I’m feeling good now, so lots of writing is coming!

So, it was basically my 25th birthday. What did I write in my journal?
It’s my 25th birthday in 3 days! :O So old!!

I can’t believe that I ever wrote that… and also that it’s been more than ten years and I don’t feel any older. If anything, I feel younger! I have grown in a lot of ways, especially in the way that I relate to people around me and in how I take care of my health, and I guess I’ve matured in my general level of fangirlness….

No, wait. I’m still just as big a fangirl as ever, what am I saying? I’m still stalking the KuroKura tag on twitter every day, watching Lucifer mostly to see when he and Chloe are going to kiss or when he’s going to sleep with a guy again… but I digress! Let’s relive my fun first year in Japan instead!

On my birthday, there happened to be a fanclub trip for Nagayama Takashi, the one and only actor whose fanclub I’ve ever been in. I went mostly because my friends A and M were going and to report on it for the internet at large, but it was really, really silly, and really, really fun! Well, silly is basically my #1 criteria for having fun, so that makes sense! We could all use more fun in our lives!

The day started super early, and I was too excited to sleep, so I was dead tired. The event was scheduled to begin at 8:30 just outside of Tokyo station, where 288 girls (no boys, funny enough… actually, it’s not really funny) lined up in groups to get on one of the 7 waiting buses. Before that, we had to randomly draw for which tables we’d sit at, and were given this kind of horribly photoshopped and pixellated picture-card of Nagayan in front of Mt. Fuji that we were supposed to wear around our necks to identify ourselves as part of the tour (I wish that I still had it! How hilarious would that be!). On the back of the card were 4 empty squares and a little explanation that you were supposed to stamp them up along the way. Cool, sure! A, M, and I boarded bus 7 and ensconced ourselves in the back of the bus. It felt like everyone was staring at us, but well… we were the only non-japanese girls there.

As the bus departed, a tour guide welcomed us over the PA explained how things were going to go. She said a little bit about the stamps, and then passed out fliers that we could use to order copies of the group pictures that we’d take later in the day with Nagayan (Wait, what did I do with that? I remember having a copy at some point). She also explained that our destination was going to be a mystery! Which, looking back, would have been a great setup for a horror movie!

And theeeeeeen, we got the video. Oh, this video. Just watch for yourself (sorry for the bad quality, this was before smartphones, guys).

There was a a short introduction from Nagayan, and then the song. And the dance. All of which he had created himself and wanted us to learn! The funny thing was that Nagayan is and was a serious actor. Outside of Tenimyu and Burimyu, his roles by and large were of and for adults. But that’s one of the things that makes Japan so great IMnot-so-humbleO– silliness is perfectly acceptable for adults!

That given, I was still in the mindset of an American girl and in the beginning, my friends and I just sat there mouthing, “What the f—?” to each other. Sorry, Nagayan! It definitely grew on us, though!

At about 10:15, we stopped at a rest stop for a potty break and a scavenger hunt! The tour guide told us to “get out and look for something special,” and that was it. It didn’t take long to find it, though, as by the time we’d wandered to the right location (the side of the building), there were quite a few girls lined up already! At the end of the line was Nagayan, sitting on the ground and wearing a green buddha mask. He didn’t say a word, so we followed the lead of the other girls, lined up, and said our prayers to Nagayan Buddha. For our piousness, we were allowed to choose a Chupa-Chups sucker to keep.

It was so cute! Tell me if there is a single actor in the US who would do this? I doubt it! It’s certainly the kind of experience that you can only have in Japan XD

Some girls looped around to get seconds, but ‘Buddha’ just pretended to be tired, slumping against the wall noiselessly. Btw, my sucker was a delicious strawberries and cream one!!! ♥ I ate it and tossed the wrapper…. which I wish that I’d kept for reasons that I’ll explain later!

A and M on the bus next to me.

We got back on the bus and left around 11:00. From there until the time that we arrived, there was no video, but this is where the IQ part of IQ TaiQ Barbequecame in! The tour guide administered us a timed IQ test on paper…… in Japanese! Er, yeah…. Well, I got one right at least!! Yay! Not bad for only being able to read a miniscule part of it. ^^;; I wrote “yomenai” (“I can’t read it” lit.-“It’s not readable”) in hiragana at the bottom, which later on I regretted doing! ^^;;

The quiet scenery rolling by.

After that, we had a bit of quiet time where I just watched the countryside and lakes go by and fell into a light sleep. At roughly 12:00, we pulled into our final mysterious mountain location! It looked a lot like any mountain location in eastern Washington or Arizona — a bit arid, but lots of trees and hills and of course a nice lake. We were lined up in lettered groups (There was from A to T, I believe. We were in group M) and we got to take the group pictures with Nagayan! It was fun– they had us sit/stand in 2 rows with Takashi in the very middle. Once we were already sitting down, he just kind of appeared and melded in with the group, and it took a while for some people to realize it, ourselves included haha! He asked us all to come closer (no problem!!) and the girls on his right completely freaked out, squealing 😀

Japanese fangirls NEVER die. I love it! Right before we took the picture, Nagayan turned and asked if everyone was ready in Japanese, and then he turned to us and said loudly, “are you okay?” in English! Embvaaaarrrrasssing!!

So, after that it was on to the BBQ! Outside of the BBQ, there were tables where we could turn in our order forms, as well as a special pocket mirror that you could buy with the Strawberry Meet logo on it. We entered the BBQ area, which was basically in back of a small resort, a BIG picnic-type area with numbered tables. There were 32 tables in all…. 32. Wow!

On to the BBQ. To me, BBQ still meant hamburgers and hot dogs, chips and soda. To the Japanese, it meant that we cook our own yakiniku at the table! What a surprise for me at the time! My first time cooking yakiniku. Although I don’t eat meat anymore, I’d like to think that I’m a real pro at grilling eggplant now. 🙂

The three of us were at table 2 with 7 other girls. At first, it was a little awkward, and they didn’t really talk to us much, but they opened up when it turned out that we could understand a lot of what they were saying (A was especially awesome at Japanese), AND that one of them had done a homestay in America, so her English was pretty good. ^^ It turned out that not only was it my birthday, but it was also the birthday of another girl at our table!! Birthday twins!! So, the idea at this point was that Nagayan would randomly draw numbers and come around to visit and cook/eat with each of the tables. Ours came up surprisingly fast (I think we were the 7th table or so that he visited), and before we knew it, there he was, finding a space across the table from me (;_;) and helping us cook. Apparently we hadn’t been cooking fast enough for his liking, since we still had a LOT of meat and vegetables left, and so he started throwing all kinds of things on the grill. We told him that it was mine and the other girl’s birthday and he was like, ‘really?! Congratulations!!’ (He said it to me in English, but the other girl in Japanese) Then he told us that birthday people get priority, and put meat on both of our plates. Umm, yay. XD

Soon after that, he reached over and gave me more and said “Present for me”….. Okay, that was the CUTEST thing I had probably ever seen in my life at the time! We tried to correct his English but I don’t think that he got it since he gave up really fast. He was REALLY cute, and even managed to ask us, “are you okay?” again for seemingly no reason. And then, sooner than we’d have liked, he was gone. ;__;

We spent the rest of the BBQ listening to other tables talk to Nagayan and to the background music, which was of course our theme song. Some girls even stood up and started practicing the moves that had been on the video on the bus. Also randomly thrown in between the renditions were “Kokoro ga…” (his first single), and the other original song that he’d sang at his last fanclub event. After a few hours, we were told that it was time to get ready to leave, and to get back on the buses for the last part of our trip.

Some girls practicing the dance… they were really good!

This last part of our trip ended up being the craziest. They took us to a set of tennis courts (I’m sure this was a conscious choice) where they had us correct each other’s IQ tests. Oh man, this was HARD! But it was fun… if you’d gotten 9 or 10 right, you could get a stamp, although there were only a few girls that did. It seemed that, like me, that most people only had 1 or 2 right………. and they were native Japanese speakers that could read the test. I don’t feel so bad now. They also gave out stamps to people that had chosen strawberry suckers! This is where I wish that I had kept mine, though it didn’t really matter since I had chosen the wrong flavor.

I was better suited to taking video at the time. Now, though, I think I would have just gone for it!

After this, it was dance time! To my utter horror (I can’t dance ^^;;; except at Anime Expo but that’s another story), we had to get up in groups and perform the dance that we’d ‘learned.’ Nagayan led us each time, which was REALLY cute because he was REALLY into it, but it was still pretty nervewracking. It also took a LONG time to get through everyone. (almost 300 people doing it in about groups of 20). There was a lot of idle time.

AND THEN, Nagayan had the best people get stamps and perform again for the little kids that had come up along the side of the tennis courts to watch what was going on! The kids were trying the dance, and Nagayan totally hammed it up for them. It was crazy, and just too cute!! Japan rocks.

Dancing for the kids.

Eventually, we sat down to rest and the people who had earned three stamps received a prize. The choice of prizes were random pieces of clothing from brands that Nagayan likes, whether or not they fit you. Obviously, I didn’t get a prize. XD After this was a photoshoot, where Nagayan would pose and we were allowed to snap pictures! Yeah, not a photo together, but one of him. XD

He was really nice about it and turned and modeled and generally acted silly. My friends and I worked up the courage to shout, “Good job!!” (an old joke) at him, and he returned with an, “oh, good job!!” and thumbs up. XDXD

The man himself.

After this was the handshake event. We were almost at the end since we were on the last bus, but in all honesty, I felt that this was the most special part of the afternoon at the time (looking back, I find the dance most amusing). I don’t remember what Nagayan said to me then, but it was really cute and he tried so hard to talk in English of some form, and that was pretty touching. I got the sense that he really appreciated that we had come on the trip, despite so many obvious barriers. Also, when the manager gently nudged me away from Nagayan because we were taking too long, he kept holding my hand and talking. I’ll always wish him luck in his career, and who knows– maybe we will bump into each other again someday, somewhere!

After this, we piled on the buses and were given a comment sheet to fill out. The tour guide told us that Nagayan would be reading each one personally, so I took a long time filling it out and suggested that he should put the BBQ song on his website or CD. I guess it really had grown on me. We arrived back in Tokyo about 9:00 pm and voila~ the fanclub BBQ trip was finally over!

It was definitely a memorable experience desu. 🙂


Catch you guys tomorrow, nya!

(1,645 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.

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