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Rollercoaster of Emotion : A Keyakizaka Story

The “Republic of Keyakizaka” concert took place the week end of 22-23 July, in FujiQ conifer forest. With a schedule matching mine, i had the privilege to attend the two days full of keyakizaness, from unique scenery inside the park to the sharp performance of the girls. I will attempt to bring as much anecdote from the inside as i can, and yes there’s a lot of things to say!

The concert took place near the popular attraction park FujiQ Highland.

Getting tickets as a foreigner might be an hassle. I had to create a Rakuten account, an EMTG account, have a credit card that works, a japanese phone number and address. You can get the last two by submitting to tenso, a japanese service specialized in shipping Japanese goods. After that, it was first come first served so web servers were saturated from fans multiple connections, disabling the service for those who have poor internet. Fortunately the venue capacity was big (12 000 seats) and some gave up because the venue was too far from tokyo (2 hours from bus/3 from train). 6 hours after the start of the selling, i managed to buy 2 tickets (i didn’t choose seats). Something hard, was also to book a bus ( most japanese fans rushed to this service as well) and all hotel were book. I got lucky to find a very affordable airbnb (guesthouse online service) and managed to secure a super early Bus from tokyo to the venue. Vacations were finally starting!

A sneak peek of the queuing line for Keyakizaka goods. There’s three of them.

There’s a reason i wanted to come early: exclusive goods! I wasn’t satisfied with the towel available on the official online store, but the one sold at the venue was a real “coup de coeur”. Hirate Yurina being a very popular member, i didn’t wanted to face a sold-out situation. I arrived at 10AM and the show started at 5PM(afternoon). But there was already a massive line worth 1.5 hours! Easy to tell that Goods are really popular items of collection. I thought i was going to wait in hellfire, but weather was cloudy and the forest around were kind of absorbing the heat. Also we were waiting below the fujiyama rollercoaster so it was fun to see people getting scared 60m above our line. What surprised me was how disciplined fans were : patiently waiting their turn, and quickly purchasing their goods. What looked really long actually moved quite fast. Aki-p was also prepared : there was a huge amount of package behind the selling staff to fulfill everyone’s otaku needs. Thumbs up for japanese neat organization!

Exclusive goods were affordable and high quality.

i was positively surprised at the goods prices. 3000Y 100% cotton T shirts, 3000Y lighsticks and 2000Y the god of items, the oshi towel. Aside from the oshi towel, the biggest value for me was the exclusive fanclub keyakizaka bandana (the one on my bag) with the unbeatable price of 300Y. There was also this 4500Y exclusive T shirt with handmade blazer “humility, kindness, bond” but i skipped due to budget reasons. The highlight was also keyakizaka photoset : for 1000Y, they give you a set of 5 random pictures, either from special silent majority (kohaku version) to futari season (gold uniform). I had a good pull with yuipon, moriya, shida manaka. When i got out, there were hundreds of fans trading like crazy to complete their sets! Some had 30 000 Y worth of photos, just to get a chance to have their oshimen sets complete. As you can expect, a lot of fans keep popular members set for their own collection, and to trade them is very rare. The trading was a raging battle and with my poor 5 pictures, i didn’t tried to join the fray. Even though i could probably catch  Yurina… let’s hope for another chance in the summer tour!

There was so many keyakizaka fans that the park could have been renamed Keyakizaka land.

Keyakizaka performing in Conifere forest was undoubtly a big collaboration with FujiQ Highland. Sony management get a big venue and promotion from FujiQ, while FujiQ ultra boost its attendance rate with all the wota coming to have a good time in the park. I won’t be surprised if they do it again. The scenery was unreal : almost 70% of the park customers were wearing their oshi towel and keyaki T-shirts. After all, the 1500Y admission pass was free for those who had concert tickets (but you have to pay the biggest rollercoasters). It was a great opportunity for group of friends to attend both fujiQ and keyakizaka GIG, but also couples and families. There was members panel scattered over the whole park and fans had to search for their oshi (see above). You could see who were popular according to the lane of fans waiting to get the perfect shot. Zuumin, Monarisa, Neru always had a lane. Techi was very well hidden (at the near edge between 2 rollercoaster) and had like 100 members queuing for her! It took me 1h to find the panel and take a picture, but the hide and seek game was fun.

About the sociology : after a lot of observation, i would say the ratio is 75-25 boys/girls, and most of them were very young 15-20 years old. They probably didn’t lived the Acchan era, and that explain why AKB is declining : AKB didn’t managed to appeal to this new fandom; Nogizaka and Keyaki did. I haven’t seen goods related to other idol group, even from Nogizaka. It was really all about Keyaki. I’ll be honest, it was hard to connect with fans. Langage barrier, also they were already hanging in groups of friend/Focus on trading. I chatted a bit with fans when i was queueing in Fujiyama rollercoaster, and they were surprised i came from France, but that’s about it. On a side note, Fujiyama has nice attractions like Eee janai ka (see videos on youtube) so please check it out for one day (you don’t need more, and go on weekdays) if you have the opportunity to do so!

The actual venue, with a big stage looking like a castle with flags ornaments.

The actual venue was very convenient. There were a lot of staff guiding fans and you just had to cross the bridge to be at the concert. Lot of policemen, security was strict, checking bags and ID. Impossible to resell ticket thanks to this, even with accompany status (the concert didn’t sold out anyway). How it was organized : seats were spread through blocks. For example, if you get A block, you’re very close to the stage, and if you get the number 7-9, you are in the center of the venue. Kami seats were not A1(on the edge, but still good), but A7 (sooo close). Since i bought ticket late, i had F2, which is quite bad, but i was already glad to be there. I had the big left screen to follow the concert (picture above). You were given a balloon to use it during Sekai ni wa ai shikanai. Saturday i would say was filled at 95%, and Sunday was 90%. Mission accomplished.

The girls appeared in brand new horsemen-inspired costume, holding (*cough* confederate *cough*) flags.

The show was finally starting! Big new instrumental intro to lift the atmosphere, again with the army style. People wavering their greenlighstick, all standing up. Techi was standing in the middle with her badass stare like the leader of the army. After this intro, they played Overture and followed by the 3 first singles. First thing i wanted to confirm : No zuumin (imaizumi Yui) also Yonetani nanami chose to focus on her studies in the meantime. Anyway choregraphy went smoothly and the crowd was cheering and doing the mix (wota chant). It’s our way to tell the girls we’re enjoying our time and mutually motivating ourselves. It’s our way to communicate! Overall members had good expressions, like Moriya, Yuuka and Neru, but also Satoh shiori and uemura rina that were dancing on my side. Others like Berika and Techi were kind of warming up, trying to avoid making mistakes.

There were a lot of interactions between fans and the group. Shida Manaka particulary enjoyed shooting on fans but also members.

Aozora and Bokutachi no sensou were pretty original : they put the crowd into work sending big floating air balls that we were bumping around the venue, and girls had waterstream to shower the first lanes. Other members had waterguns. It was really festive and even though bokutachi no sensou is not my favourite song, people were having fun. Aozora to marry is a fan favourite, as the calls were very strong.

Techi entering the scene the coolest way possible

Techi was singing live, with a playback running behind. A double edged sword as if her pitch was off, it could be distinguishly heard, so she focused a lot on her singing. Her voice is more girly than the studio version, which was cute. However, because she wanted to do good, she was restraining herself and her moves lacked expressions. She didn’t interacted much with the crowd, making her cold. As if she was aware of her mistake, she did significantly better Sunday and she felt much more natural. Hearsaying on my way home, a lot were satisfied with her performance, as her aura is “yabai” (so impressive)

Yurina’s performance was followed by Hiragana keyaki 2 songs, “hiragana keyaki” and “boku wa tsukiatteru”. I was pleasantly surprised at how genki, smiling and fluffy the girls were, lifting up the crowd even more. They were so much more expressive than Kanji singles it kind of woke up everyone. The song in studio is standard orthodox idol, but it is a killer during live performance because the lyrics are easy to remember and moves easy to mimic. Very good surprise, i saw myself tagging along, leaving behind all regrets to look ridicule. At the end, Sasaki kumi took charge of the MC. I can see she is comfortable with talking, but topics to talk about could be improved. Other girls were short to comment.

Waterworks  were giving density to the rare performed “Otona wa shinjite kurenai”

Kanji are back with the great “otona wa shinjite kurenai” and the very anticipated “eccentric”. Very solid performance, very sharp and powerful. The girls are in their element and Techi is finally unleashing the darkness within her. We don’t have mix in this song, but people were amazed and couldn’t speak much. It gaves a stronger feeling than Silent majority. Less mainstream, much deeper. I really liked it. Great follow up with Eccentric, people argued the choregraphy was a hit or miss, but i would say definitevely a hit! If felt like the girls were having erratic spasm, but did synchronized move as well. Very technical. The song itself is good, and i saw myself doing the wakame dance (waving my arms), shuffling my towel (while they use their shoes) and shaking my chest. (that was weird).

Something i noticed too in Hohoemi Ga kanashii and Wareta Smartphone. Because Techi is a little bit cranky and mechanical, the chemistry with Neru is not perfect. Techi shines in dark songs, but on her path to become a great idol, she needs to express herself more in normal situation. It feels like Neru is assisting her rather than being a balanced pairing. On the other song, Berika is reminding me of Paruru, doing the barely minimum during performance. I know it’s funny to put someone awkward in a sexy song, but i don’t think it’s helping her to grow. The contrast with the sexyness of Moriya is making her look bad. She looks more comfortable in songs like Aozora ga chigau. In the meantime, Mona risa are fooling around while Yuuka try to focus on the choregraphy. I personally like Wareta smartphone.

Sometimes the wota culture can be misunderstood. 

We reached a climax with the 3 last songs, “Kataru nara mirai wo”, “Takaku tobe” and “Te wo tsunaide Kaerou ka”? Kataru Nara is an absolute jewel of choregraphy and the mix were really strong. Before that we had a Hiragana and Kanji dance medley very similar to what happened in Ariake. Some moves were recycled, but i don’t mind as the girl had little time to practice. Special shoutout to Suzumoto Miyu who is by far the best dancer of the groupe. Saito Kyoko dance battled with her and she was very decent too. As people were hyping, they send Takaku tobe which once again blowed me away at how popular of a song it was. Perhaps the instrumental got changed to sound more upbeat, but everyone was tagging along with the moves and quirky mimics. Hiragana songs are really popular! To answer to that, Kanji Keyaki used Te wo tsunaide, another popular song that worship the yuukanen pairing. People were warming up at Yuukanen chasing each other, in a very cute way. The cheering was pretty even with Takaku tobe.

The Encore escalated quickly, with loud screams and fireworks.

To me the big highlight was the encore, Fukyouwaon. People knew it was the last powerful song so we kind of put everything to it. The girls exploded and the pyrotechnics made it look like a warfield. It was so funny i shouted “boku wa yada” with Techi similar to if i was in hellfest, surprising people next to me (i thought it was part of the mix , sorry). Anyway, people did their best mix and you couldn’t hear the rollercoaster next to us. Fukyouwaon went from the “weakest” A-side to “best A-side on stage” haaands down. It was truly marvelous and you could see the girls were enjoying the crowd hype as their moves were growing in power (Techi was smiling from enjoyment).

Finally we finished with our anthem kanji/hiragana together, Keyakizaka no Uta. We kind of let loose after the final rush and enjoyed the last bit of time together. We had fireworks and it almost felt the girls weren’t aware. Since we were around 7PM, it was night and you could completely see the fireworks. People were having a blast. I heard “sugeee” “yabaaai” “majiiii de” from everywhere when it started to lighten up the sky.

Aki-p used credit card platinum. It was very effective.

In conclusion, it was a great experience to live as a fan. You could either skip Saturday or Sunday as it was the same setlist. Unfortunately, Yonetani and Zumiko absence were quite heavy, leaving their fans bittersweet. Also there was only eccentric as new song, making fans craving for more. That’s why it can’t beat Ariake coliseum yet. But fear not! Because Keyaki summer schedule is very busy; they still have to perform the summer tour, handshakes, summer sonic, fuji rock and Tokyo idol festival. I think Zuumin will come back avoiding the hectic schedule, just in time for their biggest stop, Makuhari Messe. Keyaki story is not over yet!

I was impressed once again by japanese crowd control. They brought special train for people to come back safely to tokyo. The guideline was perfect, and they regulate trains so people don’t overcrowd it. Also it was free, so i only paid 500 yen to come back from Fujisan to Chiba! They really do the maximum for the fans and i’m really grateful.

It’s not all the time you see a town full of wota, wearing their oshi towel like it’s pretty standard; to see fans helping each other to take turns of 2shots, praising their respective oshimen quality; a young daughter refusing his also-fan dad to accompany her in handshake to not be embarassed in front of her oshimen… Now i realized what the true meaning of “republic of keyakizaka” is : people bonding, having fun together, enjoying life around the positive energy that brings the group.

- Gocchisama

En route toward new keyaki adventures! Thanks for reading.