7th – 9th April 2018: 8º Salón del Manga y Cultura Japonesa. Alicante (Spain)

This was a crazy, crazy weekend that I planned on the go with my friend C*****. It all started when INORAN, from Luna Sea, was announced as guest. She was on the fence as to whether she wanted to come, but not long after that Kenichi Yoshida was also announced, and she was sold. I had already got my tickets and booked a room, but it was fine for two people, so we could bunk together.

I finished work on Friday at around 19:00, made a dash for the local train station and took a commuting train to Madrid, where I took the long-distance train to Alicante, where I arrived at around 23:30. C***** came to pick me up at the station, as she had arrived and already checked in.

The next morning, Saturday 8th, we went to the bus station, and headed off to the venue, the IFA. We found the bus-ticket vending machine and found the deck to wait. We got to the venue and made our plan. We wanted to see the INORAN presentation and his concert, of course.

First thing, we took a walk down the whole space, and got our bearings, specially where the toilets were. The convention was organised in several areas: the commercial stands, the non-commercial ones, and a small “matsuri” with more traditional decorations and shops. After about an hour of walking around (probably even less) we got to “queue” to enter the small hall where the presentation was to take place. We got talking to a group of Japanese girls, including one, E**chan, who was studying Spanish! I met the Japanese me (≧▽≦).

In general, I have to say that the organisation of the event was bad. There were three signing events scheduled, out of which only one ended up taking place. During the presentation we watched the PV of INORAN’s newest song, and he said ‘hola’, and although there was a signing announced for this, it did not happen. The organisation later (after the whole convention was over) said that INORAN had requested two signing sessions to be cancelled. We had brought original material for him to autograph, but there was no chance.

Inoran talking into a microphone

After the signing session, around 14:00 we… had no plans until the concert at 19:00, so we decided to just… wait at the stage, and believe me, we were not the first to think about it. We watched the cosplay contest (and did not agree with the result, by the way) and got all pumped up for the whole thing. INORAN is the guitarist of LUNA SEA, and even if he tried to sing, he is not the best vocalist in the world, truth be told. Other members of the group were u:zo on bass, Yukio Murata on second guitar and Ryo Yamagata on drums. Even if I said before that INORAN lacks as a vocalist, the concert was really good (and hey, by now I’ve seen 3/5 members of LUNA SEA, do I get a membership card or something?). I think it’s really fun when singers try the local language, or at least mangle it. INORAN did so with a very well-rehearsed “¿lo estáis pasando bien?” However, most was Japanese.

Inoran on the stage, playing guitar and looking at the ipad to remember the lyrics

Another note on the organisation. We were the first row, behind the barrier. In front of the barrier sat a bunch of “volunteers”, “workers” and “VIPs” that were there out of curiosity and basically only blocked the view of the fans – two or three rows. Behind the fans there were the curious onlookers. I do wonder what INORAN found himself thinking about the convention.

After the concert came the WTF-organisation moment of the day (it would get even “better” on Sunday though): the autograph signing. We lined for the autograph and we were told that we needed to purchase a postcard (printed by the convention) that INORAN would sign – the workers said nothing else was allowed. And here is when I was mean. I asked the worker if he spoke Japanese so he could ask whether signing anything else was fine by INORAN. And the worker said that he did not speak Japanese – tough luck, buddy.

I paid my euro for the postcard and when INORAN reached out for it, I pulled out one of the CDs I brought and asked him to sign that instead. There was an uproar from the workers, but he had literally zero issues signing my CD. I mean, it was his original material after all (Note to the organisation: you idiots, if I pay you the 1€ and don’t use your postcard, you can use that postcard for someone else who will pay another euro. Seriously). When I was leaving, I asked INORAN to also sign C*****’s CD instead of a postcard, and he smirked. I’m sure that the organisation hated me a lot that evening (again, it would get “better”).

Inoran's autograph

After the signing, we bought some Sumi-e (calligraphy) from the super-talented Mitsuru Nagata (more on that on Sunday). Finally, we went to the non-commercial stands area and C***** bought herself a bunch of things (and some pins for me!), we took a picture with a Mary Poppins cosplayer, and we headed off towards the hotel.

Two Japanese ink drawings. One is a samurai drawing his sword, the other one some bamboo. Also two badges: one reads I speak fluent sarcasm, the other one everything is better with dragons

As we had had a small on-the-go lunch waiting at the stage, we decided to go for a serious dinner. The fun part was that we ended up finding the Taberna El Chapeau, where the band had been the previous night. It was very near our hotel, and we checked the menu for kicks and giggles – it turned out it was not expensive at all, so we ate there! We tried the palm-honey eggplant, a mixture of fried seafoods, a miniburger, and a very sinful brownie for dessert – the lemmon sherbet was on the house.

Dinner. Some fried snacks and a mini hamburger, a pair of lemmon shots, and an ice cream scoop

The morning of Sunday 9th started pretty much the same as Saturday’s morning. We took the bus to the convention centre and walked around. We got to meet with Mitsuru Nagata, and we asked him to take a picture with us in front of his works. Aside from super-talented, he was very nice. He invited us to see his calligraphy demonstration, but we apologised since we were going to see Kenichi Yoshida’s concert. He said that it was a good idea, because he was around more often than Yoshida.

Several hanging rolls of Japanese ink paintings, with samura and a phoenix

Thus, we queued to enter the hall. We actually arranged to queue twice in one go. First we had the Kenichi Yoshida concert, then there was an INORAN Q&A. We made some nice friends at the INORAN queue, so they agreed to “keep our spots” there while we were in the concert, as long as we stepped out – it was fair.

As the doors opened for the concert, we had yet another riff-raff with so-called workers and organisers, as part of the rules were that the hall had to be emptied between activities – as the hall only sat 200 people, this was made to prevent people from “saving” seats and preventing others from attending talks and conferences. Unless you were “friends with the organisers”, then you could just… ignore that – basically, as we queued outside, a group of people stepped out, then jumped back in and claimed “they had emptied the hall”. I called them out and the guy was all indignant. Apparently, he had been asked to translate as a last-minute thing or something, and had brought his friends along.

Before the concert started, we were told that after the concert, Yoshida would be signing postcards – just like INORAN the evening before – but that there were only twenty of them. We were very annoyed at that because, yet again, C***** and I had our own material. Yoshida came along percussionist Yuki Tsuchida, leader of the band Cross Groove Premium. The Yoshida brothers use the shamisen for a fusion of modern and traditional sounds for a very cool result.

Kenichi Yoshida playing shamishen, with his percussionist on the right

Okay, and here comes the… embarrassing part. After enjoying the concert, my friend C***** and I decided that we would try for the autograph… somehow. So instead of “hunger-gaming” for the postcards we… took after him. As Yoshida was climbing up the stairs along the drummer and the manager I caught up with him. I… very respectfully… tried to tell him in Japanese that there were too few postcards and that my friend and I had brought the original CDs, and if he would mind signing those for us.

To my eternal surprise, he said yes. The manager ushered me up to the second floor as C***** went to hold the place in the queue, and I got the CDs signed, along with a sticker. Shaking like a leaf, I went back to the queue. In the end, it turned out that there were enough postcards for all the fans, so we tried again! Yoshida was nice enough to take a picture with us and sign postcards again.

Yoshida's autograph

Then we went to the hall again to see INORAN’s last appearance, the Q&A, which did not have a signing either. The event was carried out in Spanish, English, and Japanese. After watching the PV, the questions came. They focused on INORAN’s thought on Spain, and whether he knew about how popular he is in Spain. Some fans and “press” asked interesting questions about his career, experience and collaborations with different artists and bands – Hide, Tsuchiya Anna, LUNA SEA, Fake? and so on. He was asked how to become ‘big in Japan’ particularly as musicians and he said ‘working hard’. And then I lost it when he called the ‘young’. That almost made me roll on the floor laughing.

Inoran sitting on a chairm with a hat, a scarf, and his jeans rolled up

After the Q&A we headed back towards Alicante, and in the bus I exchanged Lines with E**chan to stay in contact. C***** and I picked our things up from the hotel and walked to the station, where he had a super-late lunch.

Burger, fries, and a glass of coke

We had a shared train-ride to Madrid, and we spent most of it in the cafeteria chatting up. We also got to see a pretty rainbow as it rained on the way. After we made it to Madrid, we separated for the last leg of our journeys, happy to have met up once more for yet another fun adventure.

Dark clouds and a rainbow