3rd & 4th February 2023: Final Fantasy Distant Worlds 35th Anniversary – Coral – in Barcelona (Spain)

3rd February 2023: Mummies, fish, and music

Though I would not have minded to become a gamer back in the day, my joint issues discouraged this. Thus, my relation with the Final Fantasy saga is tangential. However, my sibling is a big fan of one of the instalments, and last year I accompanied them to Final Fantasy VII Remake Orchestra World Tour in Barcelona in 2021. Having had more time to prepare for this one, we got VIP tickets, and I planned a two-day outing.

Our arrival in Barcelona happened right on schedule, and we walked from the station to Caixa Forum Barcelona to see the exhibit Momias de Egipto. Redescubriendo seis vidasEgyptian mummies; Rediscovering six lives, in collaboration with the British Museum. I am not sure whether the items are part of the actual collection over there or are in the archives, because I don’t really remember seeing any of the mummies. The Barcelona exhibits focus around six mummies and how they lives could have been before their deaths. Aside from the actual mummies and their sarcophagi or coffins, there are objects that they may have used in life, and images of what the bodies look like inside the wrappings.

It was at the very same time interesting and creepy, everything we can get to know through technology about these poor souls who passed away millennia ago. There was information about their age, illnesses, and objects they had been buried with – god statuettes, jewellery, funerary miniatures… One of the mummies in display was that of a small child with his face painted on the wrapping, that was more than a bit creepy, to be honest.

A collage showing a a mummy and a turquoise wrapping; a sarcophagus; four canope jars; three statuettes: Horus, an ibis, Thoth; close-up of a sarcophagus, with bright colours; a mummy and a plain wooden casket.

We took the underground towards the waterfront to visit L’Aquàrium de Barcelona, located in the harbour. With more than 11,000 animals and 450 species, it is the largest aquarium dedicated to the Mediterranean Sea. It was inaugurated in 1995 and it holds 35 aquariums, including an oceanarium with capacity for almost four million litres of water (36 metres diameter, five metres high) with two tunnels at the bottom. Species-wise, the aquarium does not have anything out of the ordinary, but the size of the tiger sand sharks is impressive. There are a few sharks, some tropical fish, axolotls, frogs… and a very fun sperm-whale room to keep the jellyfish in darkness.

A collage of the aquarium. Seahorse; swimming sharks; anaemone; baby dogfish shark; tiny crustacean similar to a prawn; sand tiger shark; octopus trying to eat the viewers; penguin showing off; fabulous tiny jellyfish

We grabbed an expensive-but-convenient bite to eat at the aquarium itself during some of the feeding events to make sure the cafeteria was empty. AFter we had finished viewing all the exhibits, we went on towards the hotel, which was well-placed between the auditorium and the shopping centre. Since check in had been so bad when we went to the previous Final Fantasy concert, this time we had booked different accommodation, and it was a total 180 – everyone in the hotel was super friendly, and we had zero issues. We procured some sandwiches for dinner, then got ready for the concert.

The Final Fantasy Distant Worlds 35th Anniversary – Coral – directed by Arnie Roth is a compilation of the background pieces from all the Final Fantasy games, from the first (1987) to the latest to date not counting the remakes (Final Fantasy XV, 2016. It was held at the CCIB – Centre de Convencions Internacional de Barcelona. We had no idea what time doors would open, but I calculated that an hour should be good for queuing for merch and then get to our seats.

By the time we got to the queue, the concert booklet had already been sold out. When we reached the front, my favourite plush toys were also gone. I decided to get the previous year’s CD in order to get it signed later at the meet & greet event that was included in the ticket we had bought. Looking back, maybe I should have asked for the autographs on the tote bag we got for the spending.

The concert had two halves and an encore, and was… strangely not very coral, for something called so. The choir was placed over to one side, and only did three or four songs – they actually did not show up for the whole first half. The set list was accompanied by projected images on the screen and it was super-impessive to see the first 8-bit games at first compared to what the technology of the latest Advent Children (movie from Final Fantasy VII) managed to create.

    First half

  1. Final Fantasy I~III: Medley 2002
  2. Final Fantasy III: Eternal Wind
  3. Final Fantasy IV: The Red Wings ~ Kingdom of Baron
  4. Final Fantasy IV: Main Theme of Final Fantasy IV
  5. Final Fantasy V: Home, Sweet Home ~ Music Box
  6. Final Fantasy V: A New World
  7. Final Fantasy VI: Phantom Forest ~ Phantom Train ~ The Veldt
  8. Final Fantasy VI: Kids Run Through the City
  9. Final Fantasy I~VI: Battle Medley 2022

    Second half

  10. Final Fantasy VIII: Liberi Fatali
  11. Final Fantasy XI: Ragnarok
  12. Final Fantasy XII: Flash of Steel
  13. Final Fantasy VII: Aerith’s Theme
  14. Final Fantasy XIV: Torn from the Heavens
  15. Final Fantasy XV: Apocalypsis Noctis
  16. Final Fantasy IX: Not Alone
  17. Final Fantasy X: 素敵だね [Suteki da ne] (Isn’t it wonderful?)
  18. Final Fantasy Main Theme with Choir ~ The Definitive Orchestral Arrangement ~

    Encore

  19. Final Fantasy X: Zanarkand
  20. Final Fantasy VII: One-Winged Angel

The concert was all right. I did not feel the general chill I had through the previous one. I really liked Liberi Fatali and One-Winged Angel, but I guess I don’t have enough of an emotional connection with most of the games. Aside from the conductor Arnie Roth, we had composer Yoko Shimomura present, and vocalist RIKKI, who is the original singer of 素敵だね in Japanese, and did the live version.

Collage. Three pictures show a classical orchestra with different things projected on the screen behind them - the logo of Distant worlds, several 8-bit screenshots of games, a very realistic depiction of a blond man with a very unrealistic sword. The last picture shows singer RIKKI, composer Yoko Shimomura and conductor Arnie Roth

The M&G was fun, and I got to tell Roth that when I grow up I want to have as much fun as he does at work. They signed autographs and took pictures with people – it was much less stiff than the usual, too. We headed off afterwards for a sandwich, a shower and a good night’s sleep. In general though, not much value for money considering how much more expensive the VIP tickets were, even though the seats were good. Also, the fact that most merchandising sold out showed poor planning.

Collage. The ticket reading the name of the concert, the autographs of the three main artists, and a plush of a Final Fantasy imaginary being, it looks like a white teddy bear with a huge pink nose, a red ball on top of it and cute wings

4th February 2023: Ramen with Friends

We had bed and breakfast at the hotel, and the latter was fantastic. The buffet had both a juice bar and a milk bar – both of which I sampled, of course. I overdid it with the fried egg, I fear, but they were just cooked and it looked just too appetizing not to fall for one. After breakfast, we packed up, vacated the room, and asked the hotel to keep our bags for a couple of hours. We went to the science museum Museu de Ciències Naturals NAT, where we spent a couple of hours. This is the only place where they refused to speak Spanish to us.

The museum is divided in several areas. The first one is “history of the Earth”, where you can see a few interactive exhibits, fossils and reproductions. The second one is the collection of living animals, most of the stuffed, some of them just skeletons. There was another one about fungi – with the edible ones exhibited in tins. Then there was one on plants, and finally rocks and minerals. Not a bad place to spend a couple of hours, but it is just one of those places that takes itself much more seriously than it should, to the point that it felt pretentious. Some items were exhibited over and over again, as if they just wanted to use up the room – I counted at least eight elbaite specimens in different locations, and there were a bunch of reproductions taking up important spaces, you would believe they were originals if not paying lots of attention to the writing, and the blue light made for horrid photographs.

Collage. Four pictures show prehistoric animals in blue light, stuffed animals, a tin of mushrooms along real specimens, a red algae and some shiny rocks.

We transited to Sants train station to drop off my sibling’s bag at the cloakroom there and went on to meet my Barcelona friends E**** and P***o who had offered to take us to eat really-real Japanese ramen. Since I had a feeling that the restaurant would be on the small-ish side, and my sibling’s luggage was a bit oversized since they had cosplayed for the concert, I decided on the Sants detour for convenience.

The restaurant is called KOBUTA ramen i més (Kobuta Ramen and More) and I was amused when all of us made the same choice – tonkotsu miso ramen with an extra of half an egg, and water; then we shared some gyoza (dumplings) and karaage (fried chicken). The restaurant is not cheap, but the food makes up for that, it is very authentic Japanese food.

Collage. A dish of breaded fried chicken, some dumplings, and a bowl of ramen, with the ingredients floating - algae, half an egg, noodles, pork meat and spring onion

Though P***o had to leave early, the rest of us headed off towards the bullfighting-ring-turned shopping centre Arenas de Barcelona. There, we climbed up the terrace for views, then sat down for drinks and a long chat. We also popped into the local comic store, since it was convenient, and eventually we headed off to the station.

Collage. Shopping centre las Arenas, a round building that used to be a bullfighting ring, there are two pictures, one by daylight and another one at night, lit up. There's a picture of the views- two clock towers leading to a palace; finally three glasses together showing brightly coloured drinks - yellow, orange and dark pink

The train ride home was surreal. People playing music on their phones, yelling, talking loudly and making the footrests squeak – apparently there had been some kind of sporting event for kids and a lot of families were coming back home. All in all, not a bad couple of days, lots of laughs, I got to see dear friends and eat nice food, and listen to cool music – in the CCIB, not on the train.

13th October 2022: Serrat in Zaragoza {Aragón & Navarra Oct. 2022}

Joan Manuel Serrat was born in Barcelona in 1943. He is a singer, songwriter, composer, actor, writer, poet and musician, whose long career started in 1965. Since then, he has sung first in Catalan, then in Spanish, and finally in both languages. In 1968, he was involved in a Eurovision controversy as there was a strife about singing in Catalan or Spanish, and in the end he was replaced by another artist – who ended up winning.

Throughout Franco’s Dictatorship, Serrat lived an unstable balance between the media veto caused by the Eurovision scandal, the censorship of some of his lyrics, and his growing popularity both in Spain and Latin America. During the 70s, he became a vocal protestor against the Dictatorship, with his songs, actions and words, which ended up with another veto and an exile to Mexico. In a way, he became the symbol of the discontent of the twenty- and thirty-somethings that had grown in the Spanish post–Civil War, who were then wading into adulthood. Serrat’s song Mediterráneo (Mediterranean Sea) has been repeatedly called the best song in the history of Spanish pop music. The album stayed as number 1 in Spain for weeks despite the censorship – since then, he has collected innumerable accolades and homages.

My parents… I don’t think I can call them fans, but they have listened to Joan Manuel Serrat for a long time – as a matter of fact, my father used to translate songs into Spanish for my mother back when they were young, as he spoke Catalan and she did not. But they are not concert people, so I was slightly surprised when back in April my mother commented in passing that, had tickets not been sold out, she would have liked to attend the Madrid concerts of Serrat’s goodbye tour El Vicio de Cantar. Serrat 1965 – 2022 (Singing is a vice. Serrat 1965 – 2022). I put the Internet machinery to work, and I found tickets for Zaragoza on the 13th of October. At that time, my parents asked if I would be interested, and I said yes, as he is indeed one of the most important singer–songwriter of the 20th century in Spain.

Ticket: Serrat, el vicio de cantar

The problems started when I could not get the day off, so that meant driving there as I left work. I could have got away with leaving half an hour earlier to get to the train as they drove off earlier, but they refused, so we ended up getting to Zaragoza around 17:00. Checking into the hotel took 40 minutes due to the slow check-in process, and luckily we were on the third floor. Funnily enough, it seemed that everyone in the hotel was there for the concert, so a lot of older people not used to travelling nor hotels.

The concert was due to start at 21:30 in the local sports centre Pabellón Príncipe Felipe, and there was a delay of about 15 minutes. To be honest, I did not expect it to be such a powerful experience – I mean, we’re talking about a 79-year-old man here, I did not think he would still have such a powerful voice nor presence on stage. There were a lot of songs I did not know, but the ones I had heard before still retained the vitality of records as old as the 80s! The set list was a remix of his most iconic songs in Spanish, with a couple of them in Catalan language:

  • Dale que dale – “Go on and on”.
  • Mi niñez – “My childhood”.
  • El carrusel del Furo – “Furo’s carrousel”.
  • Romance de Curro el Palmo – “The romance of Curro el Palmo”.
  • Señora – “Lady”.
  • Lucía
  • No hago otra cosa que pensar en ti – “I keep thinking about you and nothing else”.
  • Algo personal – “Something personal”.
  • Nanas de la cebolla – “Onion lullaby”, with lyrics from a famous Spanish poet who wrote the poem in prison, when his wife wrote to him that there were only bread and onions at home, and she had to breastfeed their baby.
  • Para la libertad – “For freedom”.
  • Cançó de bressol / Canción de cuna – “Lullaby”.
  • Hoy por ti, mañana por mí – “Today it’s you, tomorrow it’s me”.
  • Tu nombre me sabe a yerba – “Your name tastes like herbs” – grass, actually, but it sounds horrid in English.
  • Los recuerdos – “Memories”.
  • Es caprichoso el azar – “Fate is whimsical”.
  • Hoy puede ser un gran día – “Today can be a great day” – I keep telling myself this.
  • Pare – “Father”.
  • Mediterráneo – “Mediterranean Sea”, I can totally understand how this is considered one of the best songs ever in Spanish.
  • Aquellas pequeñas cosas – “It’s the little things”, started the encore
  • Cantares – “Songs or Poems”, with lyrics by Antonio Machado, one of the greatest Spanish poets in the Spanish 20th century.
  • Paraules d’amor – “Words of Love”.
  • Penélope – though I knew this song, the lyrics were differetn from the ones I was used to.
  • Fiesta – “Festival”, a bit of a high-inducing song to finish the concert way past midnight!

Serat concert: Stage with signature decoration, and two shots of the concert

It was hilarious to see all these sixty- and seventy- year-olds get out from the pavilion and walk to the hotel, all pumped up and way beyond their bedtime. By the time we arrived at the hotel, there was a queue at the lifts! All these exhausted boomers, hyped up and at the same time with no more energy left. That is when we were so happy to be on the third floor and not something like the seventh or eight (≧▽≦). The bed was comfortable but I did not sleep much.

13th – 15th May 2022: Paris (France) & Saint Seiya Symphonic Adventure

This has been a weird ride in more ways than one. Back when we did not know what kind of hell was breaking loose in Wuhan, I went to Paris for a couple of concerts with the idea of coming back in a few week’s time. Instead of that, Covid turned the world upside down. Four postponements later, and a stupid amount of money I am not even going to calculate, I finally set off to Paris, France, once more, to watch the Saint Seiya Symphonic Adventure. The concert that was supposed to happen on the 18th of April, 2020 finally took place on the 14th of May, 2022, and the promoter handled the postponements pretty badly, which led to a lot of people returning their tickets at some point.

Ticket. Frand Rex 75002 Paris, Overlook Events Presente: Saint Seiya Symphonic Adventure. Les Chevaliers du Zodiaque. Samedi 30 Octobre 2021, 19:30 h. Orchestre Chevaliers Dor. Eur 240,00. Accès VIP. The rest of the information is blurred.

Corny and problematic as it may be, Saint Seiya [聖闘士星矢] was my favourite anime as a child – it was exciting and my parents heavily disapproved of it, the perfect mixture for a pre-teen finding their place in the world. In December 2019, I do not even remember how, I came across the information about the event, described as a fully-immersive live-to-picture symphonic concert with the music from pop-culture […] synchronized to cutting edge video screen, lighting and special sound effects. Similarly to the recent Final Fantasy Remake concert, the idea is an orchestra concert with the original singers for some of the musical pieces, along with projections of the original cartoon. Overlook announced an afternoon and an evening concerts. However, by the time I found out that the event had been planned, tickets had been on sale for a while. I managed to get a fairly decent ticket for the afternoon concert, but and a very bad one for the evening concert as part of Christmas sales (which meant I got both tickets for the price of the normal “good” afternoon ticket). At the time, I was ecstatic, as you may guess, though a tiny bit bummed I had not learnt about the whole thing in time to get some VIP tickets.

Enter Covid-19. One postponement led to another, and then another. At some point in late summer 2021 I entered the ticket page for something, and I could not believe my eyes – someone had returned one of the second-tier VIP tickets, and… I got that one. I seriously could not believe it. One of twelve (with the name of one of twelve characters of the show), it came with goodies, access to the rehearsal, and the autograph session after the show. So I now had a good ticket and a fantastic ticket!

Then the event got postponed again, barely three weeks before. I was… miffed. Eventually though, the promoter got in touch with me and I was assigned a character, I bought plane tickets (again), booked a hotel (again – in this case I booked two, one at the airport and one near the theatre), and… held my breath.

When the Japanese singers arrived in Paris, I realised that it was finally happening. And thus, I booked my airport parking ticket and… held my breath again. Iberia’s check in gave me trouble, but I eventually managed to get my boarding pass (I could check in on the webpage, but only get my boarding pass from the app), and fill in the passenger form to get into France.

The plane left late on Friday evening, and it was a long weekend in Madrid, so I left with time – a lot of time. I learnt two things: one, my planning skills are awesome, and two, my car has run out of air-con gas, as I got caught in a bad traffic jam, and yet somehow I arrived within five minutes of my expected entrance time. The flight to Paris was stupidly uneventful and I was surprised at how nicely the security personnel actually behaved.

Upon arriving in Charles de Gaulle I walked out of the plane into the bus and then to the terminal. There was no kind of health check whatsoever, so I could just walk up to my hotel, which was strangely bustling for it being near midnight.

14th May 2022: Paris & Grand Rex

The organisers had sent me an email that I had to be at the Grand Rex theatre at 10 a.m. in order to pick up my goodie bag. It turned out that the email was wrong, and I was not to be there till 11 a.m. The Grand Rex is an art decó building which, like a bunch of things I saw, was under renovation.

Outside the Grand Rex. It is only a huge scaffolding as the façade is being renovated.

Throughout all the waiting for the different sessions I took a few strolls around the area of Grand Boulevards after dropping off my luggage at the hotel. I ambled round and saw two smallish triumph arcs – Porte Saint-Denis and Porte Saint-Martin.

Two monumental gates in the middle of crossroads. The traffic is horrible.

Also around the area are Mairie du 10e arrondissement, a Renaissance Revival public building, Église Saint-Laurent (Church of Saint Lawrence), a gothic chapel which was also under reconstruction, Église Saint-Vincent-de-Paul (Saint-Vincent de Paul Catholic Church). A bit further away stands Gare de l’Est, one of the six large stations in Paris.

Some buildings, including a gothic church, a neoclassical one, and a 19th century train station.

At 11 a.m. I finally got into the Grand Rex to watch the rehearsal, which lasted about an hour. I had been lucky to find a staff member who spoke English as I was apparently the only non-French-speaker in the VIP group, and he told me that the artists would come to say hello after the rehearsal. He added that as everything would be French and Japanese I’d be lost. I replied that I had better Japanese than French anyway. After the rehearsal we got to wave hello to the two Japanese special guests – popster Nob and soprano Kazuko Ishikawa.

The staff member was very proud to point out the “Spanish person who had come from Spain” to the Japanese staff. Nob said “gracias” to which I replied in Japanese – the standard “we are looking forward to the act today”, which I guess threw everybody off a little, and got me an also standard “nihongo joozu” (you are good at Japanese” that the Japanese tell you when you’ve thrown the curveball of talking to them in their language. At this point, I became noticed.

I left the theatre for a while and came back for the first concert, which started late. The venue was rather empty, and during the break a bunch of people tried to parachute into better seats. I saw some other VIPs who had gotten a complimentary seat. As the lights went out the only thing that went through my head was “I can’t believe this is finally happening” again and again and again.

The inside of Grand Rex. The stage is a great arch with the words Saint Seiya Symphonic Adventure projected on a screen

But it was happening. The recital was divided in two acts – the first one aligned with the first arc of the anime, and the second with arcs two and three, what is call the “classical anime” as the final act was not animated up until a couple of decades later.

ACT 1
Opening
Pegasus Fantasy
The Galaxian Wars
Hyoga and Crystal Saint
Silver and Gold Saints
Zodiac Temples Part I
Ikki’s Wrath
Zodiac Temples Part II
Victory of the Heroes
Eien Blue

ACT 2
Saint Sinwa ~Soldier Dream
The Seven God Warriors
The Fury of Asgard
The Odin Sapphires
Yume Tabibito
Poseidon’s Lair

ENCORE: Pegasus Fantasy

Bluntly put, I loved it, but mostly because of nostalgia. The first one was better than the second, but there were issues with the sound, and the microphones, and at times the orchestra complete swallowed the vocals. The conductor was hilariously into it, bouncing in his platform. The harp was fantastic, and the soprano spectacular. NoB, the pop singer… is showing his age, but did a decent job of getting the audience hyped-up.

The orchestra on the stage. Images from the anime are projected on the screen.

Another of the guests was the voice actor who played the main character in the original French anime version, and boy did he bring down the walls. People absolutely loved him. To be honest, I was rather surprised at the audience’s attitude towards the whole thing, with clapping and yelling and – among everything – parachuting to better seats. I wonder whether this last thing is usual or just due to the stalls being rather empty (after all there was “free seating” in the first-floor paradise).

I went to the hotel between the first and second concert to retrieve my things and get some rest, but eventually I got back to the theatre. There were more people this time around, and my seat was undoubtedly better. It was there when I got “adopted” by the high-class VIPs, who had been very amused at my having been “lost” and then surprised at the fact that yes, I could speak some Japanese. Thanks to them I found my way to the signing session and got my programme signed by both NoB and Kazuko Kawashima. I did trip over my Japanese there, but I should have known I don’t do well trying to learn new words just before post-concert signing sessions.

Merchandise included in the VIP ticket: mug, t-shirt, posters and booklet, all with images from the Saint Seiya anime

A close up of the booklet - showing the signatures of the singer and the soprano, and the VIP badge.

15th May 2022: Angels, Unicorns and Organ Music

I checked in early in the morning and I fought the Paris Metro system to a) find an entrance where I could buy tickets and b) make the machine work so I could buy those tickets. My first destination was the largest cemetery in Paris – Cimetière du Père-Lachaise. This early 19th century cemetery holds the remains of personalities such as Oscar Wilde, whose grave is protected by a glass wall as it became a fad to put lipstick on and kiss it, which was damaging it; the grave looks like a Babylonian bull or angel. Another grave I wanted to visit was that for Jean-François Champollion – the man who discovered the Rosetta stone, whose tomb looks like an obelisk. And after some wrong turns I also found Frédéric Chopin (minus his preserved heart, which was taken to Poland); this tomb features Euterpe, the muse of music, crying over a broken lyre.

Graves at Père-Lachaise: a flying Babylonian angel (Wilde), an obelisk (Champollion), a muse weeping on her lyre (Chopin).

The cemetery was not as well laid-out as I had hoped so after a while wandering around I decided to move on. On Friday I had read that the museum of Medieval History and the old Therms of Paris had been reopened after a long closure. Thus, I decided to skip looking for more “celebrity graves” and headed towards central Paris. The Musée de Cluny – Musée national du Moyen Âge is built in a 1485 “town house” (more like a palace though, usually called a château) that was erected right on the the old Roman Baths that date the city of Paris back into the Roman period. Today it has been refurbished and holds artefacts and artworks from the Upper and Lower Middle Ages that have been brought from over different churches, including Notre Dame and the Sainte-Chapelle.

The most important piece in the museum is a collection of six tapestries, called “The Lady and the Unicorn”, dated from the late 15th / early 16th century. Five of them represent the sentences, and the sixth is a mystery (theories include “love” and “free will” – I’m a fan of the latter). They all feature the same medieval dame in a red background, accompanied by a golden lion and a white unicorn, and they are marvellous.

Collage: The foundations of the manor; an ornate church entryway, carved on the stone; a Virgin Mary statue; the tapestry of the lady petting the unicorn, with plants and a red background

A piece of art in its own right is the chapel of the town house. It was built around the same time of the house in the Flamboyant Gothic style. It contrast with the stark outside of the house, with its sever walls.

The ceiling of the chapel, which looks like a star fractal, and a view of the whole manor

I still had some time, so I decided to head over to the church Église de la Madeleine, a catholic church that looks like a classical temple (believe it or not to hail the Napoleonic army). It is built in the Neoclassical style, and it is enormous. However, it was also being renovated, so the outside was covered in hideous publicity panels.

Church of La Madeleine, it looks like a Greek temple, all columns with a triangular front, and the inside, showing Mary surrounded by the saints and the angels.

Finally, I went back to the hotel to pick up my things and walked back to the station – I did not want to carry my luggage around because I worried it would damage the posters I had got at the concert. I actually arrived and left from different airports, so I had to head to Orly this time. However, RER B joins both airports, so the closest station for arrival, Châtelet–Les Halles, was also the closest to leave. Upon coming out on Saturday I had caught eye of a small gothic church, and as I walked past this time I noticed that there was an open door and people went in and out. It was the church of St. Eustache, Église Saint-Eustache. The structure is Flamboyant Gothic, and the decorations are Renaissance and classical. It has one of the largest organs in France, and I was lucky enough that it was being played when I was there. It felt pretty magical, to be honest.

Top: A gothic church from the outside, with lots of windows. Bottom: the same church inside - high columns look like a forest, and the light filters through all the windows outsde, like water from a fall.

Afterwards, I hopped onto the train and headed for the airport. I got there earlier than expected, too, as I had planned according to some traffic restrictions that did not happen in the end. I debated some food, but everything was so expensive! The return flight was plagued with turbulence, and I got home exhausted and with a migraine, but it was well worth it! Also, travelling through Covid-19 was… weird. While I kept my facemask on most of the time, including the plane rides, the concerts, and whenever I was inside, most people would not – even the still-compulsory places. I was also happy to skip the “health checks” because I swear, the way I was feeling after landing, I don’t know if I had been running a temperature, and that would have been… awkward.

A view of Paris from the plane, also showing the wing

11th & 12th December 2021: Final Fantasy Remake Orchestra World Tour, Barcelona (Spain)

11th December 2021: El Triángulo Friki

When the tickets for the FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE Orchestra World Tour first came out, 2020 promised to be an amazing year. True, we all know how that turned out, but the point was that I did not have enough fun funds at that moment. So I just looked at the Barcelona dates, sighed, and never bought tickets because I decided that it was a low-priority event for me. Then, what happened happened and the tour was pushed forward to 2021. By chance, back in summer this year, I saw that it would take place on a Saturday, the 11th of December 2021. My sibling overheard me mulling whether I wanted to try to go or not this time over, since I had not done much on the nerdsphere for a while, and the low priotity was conflagrating with higher priortity and the still lacking fun budget. They didn’t know about this, though, and they proposed we went together. I thought it was a good opportunity for a weekend out, so I did some checking. We found some tickets that had been turned back, in an amazing place, actually – row #5 on the stalls. We booked a hotel and trains, and just went on with our lives.

The train left around 8:00 and arrived in Barcelona short from 11:00 – both of us had been in town before and were looking for an “alternative” plan. I had been checking out different options, and by pure chance, on Thursday, I found out that there is an area in Barcelona called Triángulo Friki, something akin to “the nerd triangle”. It is an area near Arc de Triomph that holds a bunch stores which specialise in comics, manga, figures, merchandising and so on. I thought it could be a fun thing to see, as Japanese stuff a hobby I share to some extent with my sibling.

We took the commuter train to the area (commuter train tickets are complementary with long-distance ones, which helps, as the Barcelona public transport is very expensive) and wandered around a bunch of shops, under the agreement not to spend too much money nor to buy anything that did not fit in our backpacks. We… failed the mission successfully. On the sixth or so shop I got myself a Christmas present that sure as hell did not fit in the backpack.

A collage showing the entrance to a bunch of comic and gaming stores. Most of them have a window showing Funko pops

One of the shops we visited was Tsume Store, in association with Global Freaks. Tsume is a business that 3D-prints statuettes from anime designs, and Global Freaks is a merchandise shop. They have a partnership and Tsume is selling some of its statuettes through Global Freaks – we saw one of them, priced at 1400€. Most of the figures were just for show. On the other hand, Global Freaks had several things we bought (remember the “mission failed successfully” comment? We spent way too much money on stuff that did not fit in the backpacks). Furthermore, they had a reproduction of a motorbike from Akira (アキラ), a famous manga / anime – a cyberpunk action story whose main character, Shōtarō Kaneda, rides it through Neo-Tokyo.

Tsume / Global freaks store in Barcelona. There are different pictures of resine statues of different sizes (and prices), and a reproduction of an anime motorbike.

We walked towards the area where the basilica designed by Gaudí, and consecrated to the Holy Family, Basílica de la Sagrada Família, which had been decorated with a new twelve-point 7.5-metre 5.5-tonne star. As there was a Christmas market around the basilica, I thought that the start was just for Christmas, but it turns out that it is there for good.

A modernist cathedral. It looks a bit like it's melting. It has four towers, plus one with a star, and a triangular façade

We took an underground train to the area where the venue was, and we were there around half an hour before hotel was open to check ins so we decided to have lunch first in the adjoining shopping centre. We ended up at an Udon, a wannabe fancy noodle bar chain. This was our first time getting our Covid passport checked as it’s not necessary where we’re from. The whole process was fast – open the PDF, zoom in, get it read with a device, and a green light with our names on it lit up (eventually I just screenshot the zoomed-in QR). I still felt a little uncomfortable due to the amount of people in the restaurant, so we ate as quick as possible before heading off to the hotel.

A bowl of ramen and a peek of a tempura plate in the background

It was the worst check-in experience ever. First of all, I think it’s stupid to demand a payment deposit on an already-paid booking. Second, they tried to charge me for the room again, we were given one card key for two people which didn’t even work, and we were “upgraded” to a room with a city view (16 € more expensive than our booking), but that only had amenities for one guest. We needed to get off the lift to request another card in order to get to the 21st floor, and we finally got two working cards. Oh, and the hotel was hosting a bunch of teams for some kind of handball championship who thought masks were for lesser beings and got away with it, despite the super-strict Covid-policy the hotel claimed to have, and with the obvious blessings of the clerks, despite other guests’ complaints.

Two views of Barcelona from above, one with daylight, the other one at night. The buildings are apartment blocks, rather regular, and you can guess the long streets that separate the different areas

We stayed in the room, just chatting and taking in the astonishing views (nah, I’m not being sarcastic (≧▽≦).) The FINAL FANTASY VII REMAKE Orchestra World Tour concert was to start at 20:00, but doors were at 18:30. It took place in the convention centre CCIB – Centre de Convencions Internacional de Barcelona, which… actually turned up to be the auditorium of the local Natural Science Museum. That was confusing for a minute.

We were quite literally across the square so we just had to go down. It took just a few minutes to enter, and then we went into the goods queue, because my sibling absolutely needed a chokobo plush. We were in line for about half an hour, as we debated how expensive everything was! They decided that I needed a chokobo too, so I’m the proud owner of a Chokobo Black Mage now.

An adorable chokobo plush with a mage cape sitting on the leaflets we got from the concert.

After we had all our goods, we headed off to our seats – which had been occupied by two different people who had bought row five on the dress floor – but had tried the main floor stands, never mind that a lady told you which door you had to use when you went in, in order to avoid these “mistakes” . I decided that I did not care about causing a scene, so I just grabbed an usher and had her clear our seats. The guy on mine took my flyer too, but I found some more when the concert was over. I’m amused though that someone would buy a ticket on the first floor and then happily stroll down to the fifth row on the stalls – more than double the price.

Let me start by saying that I’m not a video-game player, that’s why this event was originally a low-priority one. When my wrist problems started, I was recommended not to play them any more. But I love video-game graphs and Final Fantasy VII designs more than any. I mean, I own the Advent Children DVD just because it’s pretty. I have to admit though that the concert blew my mind. The stage was full with a complete orchestra indeed, and a choir – the Ensemble Symphony Orchestra & Chorus. At the back of stage there was a screen that projected scenes from the game, both animations and gameplay. In the little emcees by conductor – and producer – Arnie Roth we also got messages from composers and producers from Japan. Furthermore, the composer Hamauzu Masashi was in attendance. We did not get Yosh Morita, from The Prophets, as it was originally announced, but singer Ricardo Afonso did a very decent job out of the power ballad Hollow.

Empty stage with chairs for the orchestra. There is a screen in the background reading Final Fantasy VII Remake Orchestra World Tour in front of a futuristic cityscape

    Part 1

  1. Prelude – Reunion –
  2. Opening medley
  3. Mako Reactor 1
  4. Flowers Blooming in the Church
  5. The Turks’ Theme
  6. Tight rope
  7. Stand up
  8. Words left unheard
  9. Tifa’s Theme – Seventh Heaven –
  10. Those who fight – Battle Medley –

    Part 2

  11. Anxious Heart
  12. Hurry!
  13. Jessie’s Theme
  14. Shinra’s Theme
  15. The Arsenal
  16. Those chosen by the Planet – Fate’s Calling –
  17. Arbiters of Fate – Singularity –
  18. Hollow
  19. Final Fantasy VII Main Theme

    Encore

  20. Aerith’s Theme
  21. One Winged Angel

I loved the Those who fight – Battle Medley –, and I’d say that one of the highlights was the song Hurry Up. Apparently, during a specific part of the game you have to put the rather-uptight main character in a dress and teach him to dance in a night club. I also really liked the choir interventions. The concert ended on a hype – for a second I thought it would end in the slow song, but no, we got the fantastic theme for the bad guy Sephiroth, One-winged angel.

The stage again, this time it is full with the orchestra and the director. The screen shows the main character of the game, Cloud, with blond spiky hair and a ridiculously big sword, holding a bright ball in his hand.

The concert lasted for two hours and a half, including the intermission – in which I got to see (and hug!) friends. After the ending, we tried to go and grab some sushi at the shopping centre, but they were already closing down – so in the end we just got a salad and some chips at McDonald’s and took it to the hotel – then we showered, rearranged luggage and purchases, and went to bed.

12th December 2021: Walk by the ocean

Our original plan after breakfast was to take a walk by the beach, then check out and ride the underground, but we realised that we had a train station about 20 minutes away, and we could get a detour by the seaside and make it a bit longer – and if we took the train, we had a free ride.

When we checked out we got the same person who had checked us in. They still had to charge us for the tourist tax, and I had that ready in cash. They insisted that they had to deduct that from the deposit and give us the change, they could not give us a fifty-buck note. They had to give us the change. With lots of coins. They did not even check the room for damage, so what was even the point of the deposit?

We left the hotel, and walked towards the station. We spent a little time at the beach Platja del Fòrum and the mouth of the river Río Besòs before we reached the station – lots of people walking their dogs, and lots of happy dogs playing on the beach and with the waves. In the background, the former thermal station with three chimneys looming over the sand – Central Tèrmica de Sant Adrià de Besòs. Had we had more time, we would have taken the time to try and get to it, but due to external reasons we had tickets for the noon train and it was already 10:45 – and I am paranoid about schedules.

A sandy beach with a factory building in the background, it has three chimneys made of brick. The waves are coming in gently.

We took the commuter train, then the long distance train. When we arrived, before going home, we made a short stop to have some make-up sushi for the one we could not get the previous night. And some side Chinese dumplings.

Sushi and bao plate

Walking distance Saturday: 9.05 km
Walking distance Sunday: 5.54 km

7th – 10th February 2020: Paris (France) for DIR EN GREY & BABYMETAL

7th February 2020: Through the Strikes

I had an (amazingly convenient) flight that left at 9am on Friday (and that had cost me 35€), but it turned out to be weird. When we boarded, it turned out that it was a big plane, an intercontinental plane. Which meant it was huge, and more importantly, it had on-board entertainment. Thus, as we waited for the go-ahead, I set up to watch an action film. Then, the pilot told us that we were going to have to wait something between one and two hours to be able to take off due to the strikes. But hey, at least we were flying and I had an action film to watch (the newest X Men, Phoenix one. I did not become a fan).

We took off at 10am and our big plane made the jump in just one hour, as opposed to the 2h10 minutes of estimated travel, which meant we were almost on time! Of course this did not sit well with the strikers, who had us wait first for the parking spot, and then for the stairs. Finally, I made it to the train and was downtown Paris at about 13:00. I came out at the Notre Dame stop to inspect the damage caused to the Notre Dame Cathedral by the 2019 fire. My first impression, looking at the tower, was optimistic, but as I walked round the cathedral, I could see the real damage and reconstruction efforts. Furthermore, it still reeked of burnt wood, probably because they are still pulling out debris.

Collge of Notre Dame showing the cranes and scaffoldings in the repairs

As it was sunny, I decided to go to the Sainte-Chapelle and see its windows in good weather. The Sainte-Chapelle is a small two-level chapel inside an administrative building in the Isle de la Cité smack in the middle of Paris and not far from Notre Dame. The chapel has a lower early Gothic level, and an upper level with impressive stained-glass windows that I love. As the sun was shining, I got really lovely views and pictures. It is a UNESCO Heritage Site.

Collage. Sainte Chapelle: outside showing the spire, inside with some colourful windows and pointed arches

Collage of the upper floor of the Sainte Chapelle. It shows different angles of the long gothic windows, covered in colourful glass

The weather was great, and the forecast for the following day was bad, so I decided to just walk along from the Isle de la Cité towards the Arc de triomphe (some 5 km away). On my way I walked by the Louvre, Les Tulleries, the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais, the Alexander III Bridge, and into the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

Collage with different landmarks of Paris - the river, neoclassic palaces, Luxor obelisk, Champs Elysees...

Finally I got to the Arc de triomphe, where I took a train to the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur area, where my hotel was. After dropping my stuff, I walked up the hill to have a look at the basilica and I caught a glimpse of the sunset with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

A view of the Sacre Cour with a classical carousel in front of it

A profile of the Eiffel Tower in a blurry sunset in orange tones

As my last adventure for the day I went to see the Moulin Rouge from the outside (because inside was too expensive to even consider) – and I listened to KAMIJO’s ムーランルージュ.

The Moulin Rouge cabaret, all lit up in bright red for the night

8th February 2020: Louvre and DIRU

The forecast was accurate and on Saturday weather went down the drain. I decided to go to the Louvre Museum, even if I had been there before. I got predictably lost and I’ not even sure how. In the end, I managed to see everything that I wanted, which began and finished with the Victory of Samothrace, my favourite piece of art ever.

I have a love-hate relationship with Louvre, mostly based on my utter lack of sense of directions and the way the palace-museum is organised, with the exhibits in different wards and floors. In the Classical Greece sector, however, I overheard something strange. I was looking at the Sleeping Hermaphroditus, and I overheard a random guy explaining to a little kid that Hermaphroditus was designed to represent the “most important sacrament of them all, marriage between a man and a woman”. I had a very WTF moment and I was too shocked to address the guy because, seriously? I’m all for Christian art representing Christian beliefs. However, pushing those onto a culture that a) had completely different values, b) was 100% all right with homosexuality, and c) whose goddess of marriage (Hera) was consistently cheated on? I mean, yes, there was a connection between Hermaphroditus and marriage in how they became intersex, but let’s face it here – the Greek mythology had too many erotic undertones to be able to push the Christian values onto it.

As you can see, I am pretty much biased…

A collage with several Louvre pieces of art - Winged Victory, sitting scribe, the three graces, Diane wasing her hair, Hermaprhodite sleeping, Psyche and Eros kissing, Liberty guding the people, Venus de Milo

I spent three to four hours in the Louvre and then went back to the hotel to get ready for the DIR EN GREY concert and VIP experience in Élysée Montmartre, which could have been a better experience if my head had not been hurting and the weather had been nicer – I could have totally skipped the downpour while waiting. Oh, and if the stupid chick from behind me had known how to behave. But hey, it was a great excuse for a much-needed mental break. DIR EN GREY or “Diru” is a Japanese heavy metal band formed characterisede for its dark themes and scenography that I thought I needed to check at least once. I don’t think I’ll need to repeat the experience, though I don’t regret attending.

A dark stage with a drumset. Letters projected on the screen behind the stage read Dir en Grey Tour 20 This Way to Self-Destruction

After the concert I headed off to the hotel to catch some sleep (I had booked a very close hotel because I remembered the area being rather… unfriendly from the 2015 trip).

9th February 2020: Destroy the Bastille!

Sunday morning felt like 2ºC and it was windy. I lingered in bed for a while and then headed out to see the Bastille monument and its remains. Like, the four rocks remaining. I searched for KAMIJO’s Bastille on the mp3 and hoped that the device lasted another season.

Monument to the French Revolution

A few brick stones forming a circle, considered the last remains of the Bastille

Then, as it was cold, I headed off to the Galerie de Paléontologie et d’Anatomie comparée (Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy Gallery) which was a short walk away. I’m still trying to decide whether it was amazing, or the materials nightmares are made of.

The first floor holds a “Cavalcade of Skeletons”, along with dissected specimens and a “gallery of monsters”. The museum was founded in the 19th century, and it keeps the atmosphere – and the charm – of the old exhibitions. There are stands and wooden cases, and the smell of dust and old paper. It was enchanting, but at the same time deeply disturbing.

The second floor hosts the dinosaurs and other fossils, including a very cool mosasaurs. Most of the fossils are either moulds or reconstructions – I swear I’ve seen that Irish elk at least three times before. Also, the T-Rex skull was adorably flawed.

The third floor is… ammonite-land.

Shots of the museum. Skeletons of animals - fish, oxen, crocodiles, elephants, whale. Fossils: Dinosaurs, fish, toothed whale, shark teeth, snails

After I was done with the museum I decided to head off to yet another one, the Musée national des arts asiatiques Guimet (The National Museum of Eastern Arts or Museum Guimet), which holds pieces of art from Cambodia, India, China, Japan, Korea and so on. Behold my favourite Shiva (which is not as cool as the British Museum sexy bodhisattva, but still).

Different pieces in the museum: Dancing Shiva, sitting Buddha, Caligraphy in the shape of a dragon, ellaborate kimono, samurai armour, Indian goddess

After checking out the four floors, I left the museum and walked towards Trocadero to take the underground. I snapped a few pictures of the Eiffel Tower and saw a bunch of peddlers swinging people away from their money (up to 400 quid. Live and learn (O_O)!)

The Eiffel Tower in front of a cloudy sky

Finally, I decided it was too cold to continue walking around and headed back to the hotel to get ready for the BABYMETAL concert. Truth be told, had I known they would be adding Madrid to their tour, I would not have bought that ticket but as things went, I found that they were going to be in the same venue as DIR EN GREY just a day later, so it made sense to try to stay. It worked out. BABYMETAL is one of those insanely-profitable Japanese marketing stunts involving cute girls that had never really been in my radar until I found a cheap ticket to see them. The crew was quite different from DIRU’s, including good ol’ metalheads and families with little girls. It was entertainingenough, and it seemed very lucky timing.

A group of girls dressed in black dancing in front of a logo that reads Babymetal

The concert was short, so I was back at the hotel before 10pm. Thus I got a good night’s sleep before I left.

10th February 2020: No bells of Notre Dame

My plane boarded at 10am so I had to leave early for the airport. The weather was rainy again, so I took the underground to Gare du Nord and then to the airport, where the staff was super nasty. In the end, I made it to my plane, where I settled down to watch Jurassic World on the way back. As I was riding the train, I had a nice view of the Paris as it was dawning, but the bells of Notre Dame were not tolling, and my inner child was sad about that.

I only had three days, but this trip was a very welcome getaway, and even if the weather did not help, I got to do a lot of stuff. I had to scratch out a few plans due to the weather (and the stupid headache, I think I might have put in the left contact wrong again), but there’ll always be April… Because yes, I’m coming back to Paris for the Saint Seiya Symphonic adventure and that’s going to be epic. And heartbreaking because I found out too late to get VIP tickets (≧▽≦).

9th – 11th October 2019: Flash Barcelona (Spain) for Miyavi (and friends)

This was another of those flash trips, and it worked miraculously somehow. MIYAVI‘s concert was on the 11th, which was a Thursday. It’s not normally something I can do, but I managed to get away from Wednesday at noon to Friday at noon. So I worked on Wednesday morning, and in the late evening I took a train to Barcelona, where I met my friend C***** and we headed out to the hotel, which… turned out to be pretty bad. It was the closest we found in the general area of the venue for a different price but I draw the line at cockroaches, no matter how small they are. The bed was too soft, it was too hot and in the end we were both up at 6am to the point that we decided that we could get to the queue already.

Our tickets were VIP so they included a Meet & greet and a picture before the concert, which is one of the most fun I’ve attended lately. However, the road leading to it, and the organisation, was a bit of a chaos – there was a late-announcement of an opening act, the M&G time was changed and nobody really know what time it really was… It added a lot of unnecessary stress, as bad planning usually does. But in the end, MIYAVI is an amazing human being and made up for it all. He greeted us when he came in, and when he left, and he gave his best on stage.

Miyavi kneeling on the floor playing guitar. He is wearing white trousers and a sleeveless black tshirt that reads No sleep till Tokyo

However, I’m going to use this platform to say this – Miyavi is adorable (and huge) and I would die for a hug from him. The M&G was over super quickly but he had a smile for everyone and that’s a super nice detail.

We went back to the hotel to catch some sleep and the next morning we met our other friend E****, who had not attended the concert, for breakfast. I took the early afternoon train and I was home for the afternoon-evening shift, so it worked.

Cup of coffee with fern art.

17th August 2019: OBURI in Ebisu {Japan, summer 2019}

I spent the day at Ebisu [恵比寿], where I got to say hi and meet a lot of new new people today. First, I was meeting with E**chan for a late lunch, which unfortunately was a later-lunch as her train had an accident (not with her in it, thankfully) and she had to drive to another line station to get from her village outside Tokyo to Ebisu. I spent the time wandering the malls and the Ebisu Sky Walk, which is basically a long corridor without anything to see. In the end she arrived and albeit late, we managed to find some super-nice place in the Ebisu Atre building, and we were starving so it was amazing!! We both had katsudon [カツ丼] because we just saw the picture on the menu and fell in love.

Katsudon lunch set: miso soup, a bowl of rice with meat and egg on top, a cup of tea and grated cabagge to share between two people

A scoop of vanilla ice cream and a cup of green tea

Afterwards we went to the Oblivion Dust concert at Ebisu Liquidroom. A very fun and intense concert, even if Oburi has too much of an active fandom for me (≧▽≦). Unfortunately, KAZ had broken his hand early during the year so he was not there. The replacement was not bad, but not really him, you know?

After the concert I got to greet lots of friends and we had some izakaya food (damn, that was yummy but expensive).

The logo of Liquid Room, styled to look like an organic chemestry molecule, with hexagons for Q nd Os

Walked distance: No idea, I forgot the watch. But most of what I walked was on the Ebisu Skywalk [恵比寿スカイウォーク] as I was bored waiting for E**chan since I was early but her train was super-delayed due to the accident (≧▽≦).

16th August 2019: SAITAMA Summer Rock Festival 2019 {Japan, summer 2019}

After developing an unhealthy obsession for discovering fesFE[M] when they opened for JUPITER in Madrid in May 2019 I was very happy to be able to catch their act again in Saitama [さいたま市]. I also learnt a lot about the v-kei scene and how it works.

The event was the first day of SAITAMA Summer Rock Festival 2019 ~Shikokku no Symphony~ pump up!! [SAITAMA Summer Rock Festival 2019 ~漆黒のシンフォニー~ pump up!!] and it was held at Saitama Hall [埼玉会館ホール].

Schedule of the Event, in intervals of 25 - 35 minutes

Although fesFE[M] act was not scheduled until 19:15, I headed off to Saitama early because I needed a same-day ticket, so I was there around 12:15. I did not have any issues getting in, as it was a weekday in the morning. I had originally thought that I would just get the ticket and then snoop around Saitama city, but the event was held far away from most interesting stuff, so I decided to stay and see it all. It was, as I mentioned, an interesting experience.

Stuff I learnt:

  • I should have taken earplugs as seven hours in a small hall echoes hard
  • First rows are exchangeable according to which your favourite band is. Nobody bats an eye and people will make room for each other
  • The bands will sell their own merch to make new fans and even chat to you. They will be very surprised if they get two foreigners in their queue and they don’t know each other
  • Some of the bands are really good, some of them are really bad

After each show, the “leader” of the band would come out for a small interview. Some of them had to do stuff like playing with beach balls and stuff, but mostly it was promotion for upcoming band activities and stuff.

Ticket. It reads the names of the bands and the number F001

Here’s a curated version of notes I took after each act for the ones I attended:

{mid:night}: They are not bad but the vocalist (although tall) needs more stage presence.

ロクダマカルタ: Was not convinced, but the guitar is dressed as a schoolgirl and the furutsuke is fun.

[Ad]: Female vocalist. She’s good, but there’s something that does not completely click. They stayed the longest for selling their stuff and promoting.

マゼラン: They are really, really good, both music- and stage-presence- wise. I’m so glad I had not realised at this point that they would be outside selling stuff because I might’ve bought all the things.

機械人形歌劇団カラクリ: Didn’t like them

エンヴィル: They are the Kanjani 8 of v-kei. They troll each other really hard and they are fun, with passable music. They wear yukata and each has a different footwear. They also watched like half of the other bands from the back row and cheered like standard fangirls.

DARRELL: Not bad, but too yelly for my tastes

GLARD: They were fun. I got to talk to the vocalist and buy one of their CDs. As I was talking to him, another foreigner decided to talk through me, and translate the price for me? No idea, I think she was just trying to get his attention. The poor guy was very surprised when we did not know each other.

ºCellsius: I like them too, they are really fun (and they are wearing… tartans?).

Avilis: They are cute and bouncy

グレン: They look like a band put together for an anime that would later sing the OP

ROMIO: The male vocalist is very pretty, but I managed not to fall into the trap of his prettiness.

Finally it was fesFE[M]’s turn at 19:15. I moved to the second row (not the first because no idea what the furutsuke are) and I enjoyed the show. It was almost the same they did in Spain when supporting for JUPITER, including Doll in Blueberry Jam. I really loved the vocalist Lion (again) how the keyboardist Jun plays the dollmaster cutting all the ropes and bringing the dolls back together. Also, wow Rensa (drummer) for being able to twirl the baton in his hand for three minutes straight without moving any other muscle.

After the show, Lion came out for his interview and he explained that he would be there on Saturday with his “other” band. I felt tempted to come back, but I had plans for that day already.

Then I went outside to buy some merch, including some polaroids, but unfortunately the band did not come out (ó_ò). I would have loved to see them, but at least I got to tweet at them and some saw the tweet ヽ(^◇^*)/. I talked to some other fans who looked at trading the polaroids, but I did not have any Tohru (bass, aka “the blonde”) and he’s popular. I missed the last band while I was waiting, but it was all right. I decided to head back because I still had about an hour’s worth of train ride.

Walked distance (which no. This is 80% furutsuke): 15324 steps / 10.9 km

3rd August 2019: Higashiyama Sky Tower and ELL {Japan, summer 2019}

In the morning I headed out of the Nagoya centre and to Higashiyama Sky Tower [東山スカイタワー]. This was a bit far out and I had slept in – did I mention tiredness catching up? I also considered the zoo/aquarium but in the end I decided against it.

A collage of the Higashiyama Sky tower, a rectanglar building with a cilindrical core, mostly built in glass and metal. The smaller pictures show the view of the park, and the earthquake damper

I had an amazing lunch set in the shopping mall underneath / connected to Nagoya Station on my way back.

Lunch set: cold soba, white rice, breaded prawns, pickles, and green tea

Then I headed out for Electric Lady Land because my second KAMIJO concert of this trip was held there. Bought goods, waited around, enjoyed the concert. ELL is a small venue and we were not many people there for the concert – it was strange that there were so much people in Tokyo to fill up the Blitz, but not enough in Nagoya to fill ELL. It was a more humble concert, with a smaller screen for the projections, but it was fun none the less. I was able to stand close to the stage, but I chose the wrong side – I stood left while KAMIJO donned right. I shall learn from that. The set list was the same, which gave me the chance to appreciate the new songs even better. Glad I got to attend both concerts, never mind how different and similar at the same time they were.

Notice reading ell. Fits all. Japan Tour 19 Persona Grata. Kamijo. Open 18:30, Start 19:00

Walked distance: 16231 steps / 11.6 km. We don’t trust this measure either as it counts the furutsuke as walking (≧▽≦).

26th July 2019: KAMIJO’s Persona Grata {Japan, summer 2019}

I headed off to Tokyo [東京] to freak out about the tickets of KAMIJO’s 2019 Japan Tour Persona Grata, which was a total blast. That was basically the highlight of the day, aside from lots of train rides until I got to Tokyo and some delicious yakiniku.

Lunch set. Salad, white rice and some raw meat for the grill, along with the sauces to dip

As KAMIJO’s fanclub has a European chapter and allows for very real benefits, I was able to ballot for tickets for the Japan tour, and I actually hit for Premium tickets for Persona Grata’s opening night at Mainabi Blitz Akasaka. The tickets included “seating in front of the stage” and special presents – the seating turned out to be first row, and enough presents, including an autograph, to more than make up for the money.

The tour doubled as an introduction to the new songs for the upcoming singles and I enjoyed them a lot. I discovered a couple of songs I really liked (I ended up getting most of KAMIJO’s discography in different Book Off trips this year), and it was really fantastic. I enjoyed every second, and having a chair really helped to get some rest when he was off stage and we had the “film” instalments. Unfortunately, the fandom is not too open so I did not get to make any new friends. Nevertheless, it was probably one of the most powerful concerts I’ve ever attended.

Night view of the venue, reading Mainabi Blitz Kamijo

Walked distance: 13515 steps / 9.66 km. I don’t believe this for a second, the watch is totally messing up between moving arms doing furutsuke, and walking.

25th July 2019: Sekigahara {Japan, summer 2019}

I was staying in Nagoya for another of the HYDE concerts, but I had a free morning, so I decided to take a train to Sekigahara [関ヶ原], which is a nearby little town, which is really only in the books because in October of 1600 a huge battle in the mountains over there decided the establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate, which shaped the history of Japan for centuries. It is known as the Battle of Sekigahara, Sekigahara no Tatakai [関ヶ原の戦い]. Basically there were a bunch of samurai clans warring with each other and Tokugawa managed to convince, bribe and slaughter every one in his way until he was the de facto ruler of Japan.

A vermillion gate with trees in the background

I found a map with a route to follow and thus my first stop was the Higashikubidzuka [東首塚] Mound, where a bunch of samurai were beheaded – this was off to a bloody start. Within the same area there were several monuments signalling different events and encampments – which was to mark how most of Sekigahara is laid out.

Collage of the park, showing a marker, some flags and a torii

Then I continued on to Jinbano Koen [陣場野公園], where I could see the Site of the Battle Camp of Tanaka Yoshimasa [田中吉政陣跡], the Site of Tokugawa Ieasu’s Final Encampment [徳川家康最後陣跡], Kibune Jinja [貴船神社], Mitama Jinja [御霊神社].

Collage of the park, showing a marker, some flags, fences with spikes, and a torii. There are trees and overgrown bushes in the background.

It was hot as could be, so I was not going to do the 17-km route, but I did go to the main area, the Site of Sekigahara Battleground – Sekigahara Kosenjō [関ケ原古戦場], along with the Site of the Battle Camp of Shima Sakon (Sasaoyama) – Shimasako-jin ato [島左近陣跡].

The logo of the city of sekigahara. It can look like the moon coming up from behind a mountain, or a samurai helmet

After that, I backtracked to the Sekigahara Town History and Folklore Museum Sekigahara-chō Rekishi Minzoku Shiryōkan [関ケ原町歴史民俗資料館], which I had missed at first because there was construction in the area. There I could see some weapons and armours and get the whole collection of samurai clan stamps and enjoy the air conditioning.

Samurai armours and pennants

I would have liked to go to the Site of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s First Encampment [徳川家康最初陣跡], but it was too far away to walk, so I had to take picture from the train.

A clear in the forest with some white flags

As an interesting anecdote, I found a Thai coin in the battle site, something I would have never expected.

A Thai coin

Once in Nagoya [名古屋], it was HYDE concert time at the Zepp Nagoya again. As the previous day, it was a fun concert – I stayed at the end of the venue because my entry numbers were so high I had zero chance to find anything mid-venue, but it was all right, it’s not like I’m ever going to do first row in a HYDE concert in Japan. I have accepted that. I had fun anyway, and that is the most important thing.

Walked distance: 14683 steps / 10.5 km.

24th July 2019: Morning in Kyoto, afternoon in Nagoya {Japan, summer 2019}

After waking up early again (what can be done? Early night → early morning) I walked out the hotel and took another stroll in Maruyama Kouen. Only this time, instead of heading towards Yasaka Jinja and Gion, I continued straight and I found Daiunin [大雲院].

The roof of a pagoda, in oxidized green colour

I continued on to Nene no Michi [ねねの道], which has temples left and right. These temples have little statues that you have to touch for luck, wealth and so on. As I have been feeling so lousy this last year, I decided to find the health one.

Statuettes of the Buddha and local gods

On my way I climbed up the Daidokoro-zaka [台所坂], a bunch of gentle stairs that lead up to Kōdaiji [高台寺], a fun temple with a lot of yokai folkore. It also held some healing sutras, so I took the liberty to make them spin.

Temple with funny-looking lanterns decorated with yokai and ghost faces

From there, I went to Kongoji (Yasaka Kōshindō) [金剛寺(八坂庚申堂)], which is a temple with… colourful balls where people write their wishes. They are supposed to entertain the ‘good faith monkeys’ (Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil) that guard the temple, I guess.

Buddhist temple with a decoration of thousands of brightly coloured pompoms

After that, I walked towards the Hōkanji (Yasaka no Tou) [法観寺 (八坂の塔)], a five-story pagoda.

Five story pagoda

A bit farther, I also found Rokuharamitsuji [六波羅蜜寺].

Buddhist temple exterior

I went down towards the river Kamogawa [鴨川], where I saw some more wildlife – ducks, cormorants, herons (cranes? Have I told you I can’t tell cranes and herons apart?).

Black cormorant standing in the river

Finally – for my Kyoto trip – I walked down the Pontocho [先斗町] Alley before I headed for the station. It is renown for its restaurants, but everything was too expensive for my budget.

Narrow alley with restaurant lanternsand signs

Then I took a shinkansen to Nagoya [名古屋] as I was going to attend HYDE‘s Live 2019 that afternoon. As I arrived too early for 3PM check in, I headed off to Zepp Nagoya to see whether the goods were out. They were. A girl passed out at the queue a bit behind me due to heatstroke, and that was a bit creepy, but the staff took good cafe of her.

After the goods I went to leave my stuff and have a shower at the hotel, then I met up with several friends and even new friends. The concert, in my opinion, was considerably better than the 2018 tours – at least he finally has a whole album to make a concert from. It felt more coordinated than the previous one. The album was good and the concert was powerful, though I am still not too keen on how the VAMPS’s songs sound. HYDE put masks on his musicians and enjoys all the spotlight on himself. He jumps and rolls on the floor and enjoys being the only one people focus on.

Zepp Nagoya logo

When the concert was over I met up with Sr-san for dinner. We had misokatsu [味噌カツ] in a famous shop, and had a long conversation about the concert and HYDE’s new songs.

Dinner: breaded pork on rice and shredded cabbage

Walked distance: 23305 steps / 16.6 km.

21st July 2019: More Kawagoe. 戦国時代-The age of civil wars-: アコースティックライブ&CDサイン会 {Japan, summer 2019}

Sengoku Jidai -The age of civil wars- [ 戦国時代-The age of civil wars-] is a visual kei band I’ve quite actively been trying to avoid – because I know that I would like them, quite a lot. However, I was following one of the members, bassist Ju-ken, on social media – he used to play with VAMPS, and with GACKT before that, and I have one of his picks from the Barcelona VAMPS concert . Not long before my trip, Sengoku Jidai released a new song, which I learnt through Ju-ken’s Instagram. So I went down the YouTube rabbit hole, and somehow ended up on the webpage. Over there, I found out that there was a free event in Kawagoe today as part of the new single promotion. And that is why I decided to come over and try to attend.

Around 10 am I showed up at Kawagoe Pepe shopping centre. The event was a “sain-kai”, which is basically a “meet and get an autograph”. From 11 am, you had access to a booth to buy a number of CDs of the last two singles: Yotogi no Hana [夜伽の華], the last one, and Sengoku Enka [戦国演歌], my favourite. The band would hold a small concert, after which you could shake their hands and get your CDs signed, one at a time – furthermore, by participating you would be guaranteed a seat inside a small restricted area to watch said concert. I ended up being the 18th person on the line, as my entry ticket said so. It took about an hour to complete the buying part.

Admittance to the concert (one, printed in yellow with number 18 on it) and the Meet and Greet (two, printed in black)

In between the two parts of the events, I made a little escapade to Kawagoe [川越大師]’s Seiya-san Muryōshuji Kita-in [星野山無量寿寺喜多院], which is a Buddhist temple dating back from the 830 AD. It is noted for its hall and its pagoda. It also has a small graveyard with “the five hundred disciples of Buddha”. I was not sure whether last time I had actually been there or not, because I arrived by the Delijah TM method of getting lost, so I wanted to make sure, and I had a bit over an hour to kill.

After walking the temple for a while I went back to Pepe for the second part of the Sengoku Jidai event. “Doors” to the seated area opened at 13:30, and the live started off early, around 13:45. There were many people watching from the sidelines, too, that was good to attract new fans. The acoustic was very interesting – I had never been to one, except for a couple of songs at the VAMPS’s Beast Party, but this one was also an unplugged. The live lasted about an hour, with four songs and a lot of talk, except on Ju-ken’s part, who plays a persona called “Date” and never speaks – he is very strict and serious – so he just explained, via gestures, that he liked fishing in summer. The whole persona thing will be important later.

The fun part came during the actual signing – the first one to see me was the drummer whose eyes went wide – he has no poker face at all and completely went (O_O)!, wondering what a white person was doing in their event. I informed him that I was the foreign factor representation. Then I got Ju-ken / Date – I told him about having his pick from Barcelona. His eyes went even wider and the only thing that he said was “sank you, sank you, sank you” shaking my hand. I actually… chatted a bit with all four of them. I had bought two CDs so I could go through the process twice, and they remembered me for the second time. Honestly, if there had been more CDs, I would have bought all to get them signed.

The band shaking hands and signing autographs

Signed CDs

After the event was finished, I went back to Tokyo [東京]. I kinda got lost so I wasted about an extra hour and a half, and thus I was not at the next hotel, in Shinagawa, until late. It had a huge TV (that’s a 135cm-wide bed)!

The TV at the foot of the bed is almost as wide as the bed itself, and the bed would fit two people

I got dinner on the way. One of the items I tried were the conbini boiled eggs.

Soft-boiled egg box

Walked distance: 19468 steps / 13.9 km. However this includes the little furutsuke that Nao-A made us do, and that was recorded as pacing, and getting lost and walking for an hour coming out of the wrong exit of a station.

15th – 17th June 2019: Cologne (Germany) for the Gazette

Getting from Madrid to Cologne was stupidly difficult and expensive so in the end I took an early Saturday-morning flight to Frankfurt and then I booked train tickets (an ICE and a suburban train) to the hotel area in Cologne. My plane took off at dawn (literally) and landed at 9:40, so I thought about booking the train at 10:30.

Sun rising under the wing of a plane

On a whim of distrustfulness, I decided to get the train for 11:00, which was lucky. While we did land on time, it took us an eternity to get to the terminal, and in the end I arrived in the station just past 10:30. Since I had a bit of time, I grabbed a Frapucchino and a bagel for some ridiculous price, but that kept me going until the evening.

Bagel and ice coffee latte

The great European Meadows - a very flat prairie in yellow-green and some greyish clouds in the sky

I reached Cologne and went on to the commuter to the venue area, where my hotel was, a short walk away from the station. After checking in, I dropped my things off in an amazing room, and had to do a double take – for a second I was not sure they had given me the right room, because it was way too nice for the price I was paying.

Huge bedroom with two beds and complimentary chocolate on them

After changing clothes, I grabbed my bottle of water and off I went towards the city centre to visit the Cologne Cathedral, Kölner Dom. The cathedral has been a World Heritage site since 1996. Its construction started in 1248, but was halted in 1473. The building remained unfinished until the 1840s, when the work was picked up again, following the original Medieval plans, and the church was finally completed in 1880. While it was badly damaged in WWII, it withstood the bombings and ever since then it has been in a constant state of small and not-so-small restorations and repairs.

Cologne Cathedral. One of the towers is being repaired. The building is German gothic, dark, and very spiky.

From the Cathedral I walked towards Cologne Zoo or Kölner Zoo. Although it had been drizzling before, at that point it was sunny again, and the walk was nice.

Street. Houses are made out of brick and some of them are painted in bright colours

I decided to go to the zoo because it was the only thing that seemed to be open for long enough to mean value for money. The weather had warmed up and the bunnies were roasted *coughs*. I got to see some animals I had never seen before, such as Przewalski’s horses, snipes, or a grizzly bear. The zoo has a huge enclosure area, a petting zoo with domestic animals (and cheeky cows), an aquarium and a terrarium with both reptiles and creepy-crawlers *shudders*.

Collage of animals from the Cologne Zoo: lizard, lionfish, zebra, horse, orang-utan, hippo, cheetah, crocodiles, peackock

Then I walked back to the hotel, stopping by the supermarket on my way – and here I discovered my undoing. The triple chocolate cookies which wrecked my trying to eat healthy stroll. I shall try to find them again in my next Germany trip though. However, I have to say that I had learnt from my being stupid for MIYAVI in London and not eating well through the weekend.

Iron structure holding a bridge up

Triple chocolate cookies packet.

I was exhausted, so I think I was out at 22:00, which helped being awake at 7:00 the next morning. Thus I just headed off for the venue, E-Werk, and settled to queue.

While The Gazette is not a band I usually listen to, I really wanted to check them out, and this was the opportunity. They’re fun live, but not a band I need to follow up on, either on CDs or concert-wise, so while I may consider attending another concert if it happens close to me, I won’t spend too much money on them. Also, I had purchased “VIP” tickets which included a handshake with the priority entry – that ended up having to line up all day, anyway.

I have to say that the line was the most organised I’ve ever been to, but unfortunately the venue staff was averagely unfriendly

Music stage. The curtain reads The GazettE

On Monday morning my paranoia had me early at the station, and that was good because apparently my suburban had been cancelled, and being early I was lucky enough to be able to catch a completely different one, but I was able to make it to Cologne station without any further stress and catch my ICE. As the station is located next to the Dom, I was able to say good-bye.

Cologne cathedral from the train

I also had quite a few nice views from the plane.

View from the plane - a turquoise lake in the middle of the mountains

18th & 19th May 2019: Madrid (Spain) for Jupiter (and fesFE[M]!)

Believe this or not, we this weekend started at super-early on Saturday, when I took literally the first bus out to Madrid, and I think I was there around 7:30 or something to meet my friend. She had been having a rough time and she had asked me to “keep her head off things”. Up until a couple of days before, we did not even know whether she’d been able to come to the concert, so I had a whole plan up my sleeve. Unfortunately, a couple of steps backfired (^◇^;)

First we had breakfast at the coach station where we met, to catch up and to give shops and so on the time to open up. When it was a decent hour we took the underground to drop our luggage at the hotel (the lovely EXE Moncloa, even if I’ll be forever traumatised that the terrace was not open 。゚(゚´Д`゚)゚。). Then we took the underground again towards the neighbourhood of Chueca, and I had looked up a bunch of Goth apparel shop that… did not open at 10:00 as expected, but at 12:00 (≧▽≦).

Fortunately, some make-up shops were already open and we were able to pass the time amicably before we ended up at the TeamLab exhibit – that I had already seen, yes, I know, but she had not ☆⌒(ゝ。∂)

After playing out in the exhibit for a while, we moved onto the Callao Gourmet Experience for a snack. I wanted to introduce her to the Niji Mochi shop, and we also shared a chocolate ice-cream shake.

Afterwards we were shopping for a little before we moved on to have lunch. I had a surprise for her. While I care little to nothing about Korean food, she is a fan of everything Korean, so we hit one of the best Korean restaurants in Madrid, called Seoul. I gave her free reign to order for both of us and we shared. In my not so humble opinion as blog owner, the best was the green tea at the end.

Once fed, we went on and found an underground station and we rode towards the Museo Arqueológico Nacional, National Archaeological Museum, although we had not realised that it was museum day so instead of a quiet exhibition we had to deal with a ton of families!

After that, my friend was tired from spending all night in the bus, so we went to the hotel to finish our check in process. On the way we stopped and bought a few snacks for the following day because you always have to be ready for a post-concert low.

We found out that we had not one but three Japanese restaurants in the area where we were staying, and we happily went to have dinner in one of them, called Naniwa. We had some decent sushi and takoyaki, and ordered takoyaki seconds because we had a discount (≧▽≦).

The next morning we went to the venue door around 9:00 and upon seeing nobody queueing yet, we went to have breakfast, then walked around the Moncloa park area, mostly chatting, until we went back to the venue. And went back to the venue. And went back to the venue again, just to find there were still no people in the queue.

In the end we ran into the supporting bands went to have lunch in a second Japanese restaurant in the block, Morikaen. On our way there we walked past a family all clad in “Sunday clothes”, and their little girl wearing aaaall white who just stared at us – in rock-goth black – with pure envy in her eyes. Here’s to you, little one. You’ll get there too.

After lunch, I decided that I was too tired to go up and down the streets and we stayed back to wait for the venue to open before we got into the chaos that was the concert. Honestly, I think this has been the worst-organised concert I’ve ever attended. My friend C***** and I had Premium tickets (there were five of them on sale), which included a handshake with the band, a picture with a member, autographs from all, the opportunity to purchase a Polaroid with the whole band (well… and either a backstage or soundcheck pass that never happened).

Jupiter is a Japanese heavy metal band with a very distinctive visual-kei style, and honestly we only decided to go because it was… easy and convenient, well-communicated and an opportunity to spend a weekend decompressing somewhere. As the time drew near and we could access more stuff, the excitement built up – I also managed to find the album they were promoting and it sounded really well, actually.

There were two support bands, a German one called VII ARC, and a Japanese one. As we went in, I sent C***** to the first row to save my spot and I tried to find out whatever was going to happen with the VIP extras because communication seems not to be the promoter’s first language. It turns out, the experience was throughout the supporting band’s act. Good thing I had asked, else we would have missed it (as someone did! One of the Premium tickets did not show up, and most VIPs never got their chance to even buy the Polaroid).

I got to talk to the support bassist as we waited for the picture, because the had been kicked out from backstage for the pictures – poor guy. Then I had my picture taken with Teru, my favourite member (I swear that if I ever get to do this again, I’m choosing Hizaki cause he’s just amazing). The problem with placing the experience there was that… well, we lost our spot and missed half of the Japanese support band’s acts – fesFe[M], who in the half concert I watched blew my mind. I mean, absolutely blew my mind. They are also a V-kei band, and they’re currently running with a “doll” theme and they were just fantastic.

The Jupiter concert was as expected, very energetic and fun. Even if we had lost our spot, the venue has some lateral raised spots, and I found a good place at a low staircase that allowed me to lean back and not be in too much pain – basically we watched the concert next to the fesFe[M] bass (≧▽≦). Kuze, Jupiter’s vocal, was really good live, more than expected.

After the concert, we bought fesFe[M]’s autographs and got our pictures with them, when we headed back to the hotel and had some dinner, and the following day we parted ways, a bit sad but happy that we had had the chance to meet up and have a fantastic weekend!

The report of this is of course at SemiRandom.

Note: there is a longer commentary of the concert and the experience over at SemiRandom.

16th February 2019: A day at Japan Weekend (Madrid, Spain)

Having nothing else to do, my sibling and I headed over to IFEMA to spend a few hours in the Japan Weekend convention of “Japanese culture and other stuff” that was taking place in Madrid over the weekend.

First, we attended a matcha workshop / tea ceremony mock-up to mix our own our own matcha. It was carried out by the tea shop Punto de Té. The tea was really good. We did not want to be carrying around stuff all day so we left it for later. Fortunately for the shop, when we came back the had sold most everything!

Then, we watched a kendo exhibit for a while. It was not a competition or anything, but those people were living the fights. That was cool.

One of the things I was most interested in was watching the act of a pair of Japanese brothers who call themselves Kuni-ken: older brother KUNIaki and younger brother KENji. They play traditional Japanese instruments to create modern rock music. It was an interesting act, and afterwards I bought one of their CDs and got it autographed (after a stint with a suitcase that would not open).

Finally, we stopped at AKKOGORILLA’s concert. She is a Japanese rapper who is all about girl power, and moves as if she had batteries or something. I would have bought a CD if she had brought any, so I got a zine for a signature.

I think I’m getting too old and cranky to hang out with the younger crowd though. In the end, I don’t care much about the shops – having credit cards, I don’t need a physical stand at a convention to buy stuff, and I avoid bootleg merchandise… Going to this kind of places for short live music displays… is starting not to cut it.

3rd November 2018: Samurai Spirit in Madrid (Spain)

The event took place in the theatre Teatro Fernando de Rojas in the Círculo de Bellas Artes, in Madrid. A friend sent me the info for it a few weeks before, and I bought my tickets immediately.

Kamui x Mika Kobayashi: Utakatana Sekai – Samurai Spirit is a joint project between the musician and singer Mika Kobayashi and the Samurai artis group Kamui, a troupe lead by the sword expert and fight choreographer Tetsuro Shimaguchi. Through acting and music, the show represented a story about the old samurai ways giving way to a new world.

Pretty cool, if you ask me. Next time, though, I’d need a better seat, as my angle made me see all the stunts… stunty (≧▽≦). Then again, I managed to get pictures with the crew, and Mika Kobayashi’s autograph on her CDs…

29th & 30th September 2018: Japan Weekend Madrid (Spain)

The “Japanese culture convention” Japan Weekend was held in Ifema, Madrid, over the weekend. The big problem with conventions tend to be the organisers. At some point they bestow on themselves an importance they lack, and decide to either micromanage everything, or act as if they were the reason why people visit. It’s amusing looking back, but annoying when you have to deal with them (such as m mini riff-raff at the Salón del Manga de Alicante). Japan Weekend in Madrid is not an exception to this trend

The reason why I wanted to attend this event was the presence of a Japanese comedian Kazuhito Kosaka characterised as his persona Pikotaro, a “singer” known for his histrionic personality, flashy clothing and a silly song which parodies English teaching in Japan, PPAP (Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen) (I actually have not confirmed that it is such a parody but I’ve heard enough from English teachers in Japan to be quite convinced). After a joke or three among friends, I decided to attend, under the premise that “you wouldn’t dare troll Pikotaro”.

Japan Weekend spanned over the whole weekend. I attended both days, and on Saturday I brought my sibling over. The acts and activities we attended were:

Mitsuru Nagata’s sumi-e show: Mitsuru Nagata is a Japanese-born, Barcelona-living artist who creates pieces of art and calligraphy using traditional Japanese ink techniques (sumi-e).

Wasuta: The World Standard concert: A girl band of cute bouncy girls who aim to “spread kawaii (cute) culture around the world”. There used to be a running gag back when I was young that “cute things kill people”.

ITSUKA (Charisma.com) concerts: A lady-rapper and techno artist with a really strong presence that I really liked.

Pikotaro concerts and Meet & Greets. The whole point of attending the convention were these two events. The concerts were amusing to say the least, though truth be told, Japanese personalities who sing are not the most musically inclined sometimes. There were paper masks handed out, that could be used during the M&G for autographs. There were four or five songs, of course one of them was Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen, Neo Sunglasses (which made me laugh out loud), and Can you see? I’m sushi, which is the one I used for the first M&G. I put some sushi badges and pins on my neck scarf and told him the same. He found it hysterical. The following day I printed out the picture we got together, signed one copy for him and asked him to dedicate the other one to me. Also, shout-out to the translator who remembered me from one day to the other and left me to my own devices.

21st & 22nd September 2018: The Vampire Rockstar in Barcelona (Spain)

I organised a tiny getaway to Barcelona to see KAMIJO, a Japanese “visual kei” singer – visual kei is a style usually similar to rock that also dons a particular style or visuals, usually associated with some kind of fictional backstory. In the case of KAMIJO, that is a French vampire, though the poor thing’s French is worse than his English, no matter how much he tries.

To be honest, the only reason why I decided to go to the concert was convenience – it was over a weekend, in Barcelona, I had a good connection and it was not expensive – and the tickets came on sale the day before my birthday. I had VIP tickets which included a handshake and a Polaroid. Also, when I arrived at the line I was the sixth person – and I made some nice acquaintances at the queue who held my spot when I ran to the hotel to check in.

The concert, Sang Europe Tour, was held in Sala Apolo, a venue in the centre of town. It was really fun, even if (or because?) we were few. I was first row, basically dead centre, and this was the first time that an artist has sung to me. I know that it’s something that many people say, but… hard to deny when he leans over, grabs your chin and looks into your eyes as he sings. Yeah. Well. Happens.

After the concert, I walked back to the hotel to have a shower and sleep, and the following morning I went out to meet my friends E**** and K*****, who live in Barcelona. We went to an Asian restaurant and ate some really great food, with very good conversation before I had to go back to the station to take a train home.

Note: there is a longer commentary of the concert over at SemiRandom.

4th September 2018: また今度 with a red rose petal (HYDE LIVE 2018, Strike 3) {Japan, summer 2018}

First thing in the morning I got packed (hoping that my suitcase did not get lost again) 。゚(゚´Д`゚)゚。. Then I went to Odaiba [お台場] on my own as D****e was working and there was my last HYDE live for the season. There was wind and rain, but it was not bad especially considering that there was a super typhoon in Osaka that slammed a ship against a bridge and cut down communications to the airport (O_O)!. I mean, compared to that I won’t even complain that my hairdo went to hell because woah there.

I checked out the Venus Fort to check if there were any new goods, but as there were not, I moved on. I took some pictures of the Megaweb Toyota City Showcase [メガウェブ トヨタ シティ ショウケース].

And History Garage [ヒストリーガレージ].

It was at this time 12:55 so I hurried to the Gundam to check whether it moved at 13:00 and I was lucky. It changed its helmet and all (≧∇≦).

After that I went to eat ramen. I could not read the super long name of the ramen to save my life, so I just said the number. The girl just turned to the kitchen and ordered ‘tamago’ (;¬_¬). seriously.

After lunch I went to see the waves.

And I got a drink at Starbucks.

Then I joined the people wait for HYDE to come in, waved at him, and thought that he did not look it awake. Once D****e made it we went inside.

Because I had not spent enough in this trip (sarcasm), something that I did before the concert, however, was get the STARSET CD and M&G experience that included a handshake and an autograph. I felt that they had done an awesome job and deserved the credit and the cheering. So after the concert I went to meet with them, and they were were extremely nice.

One of the things I like about Odaiba concerts is that they keep the barriers up, so I can hold onto something and I don’t need to stay back to have something to hold on to, so I can get rather close even when I’m tired or sore. This time it paid off because I managed to find a petal from one of the roses HYDE threw as I was leaving.

Finally we got home and D****e helped me so I got my trains sorted out to go to the airport the following day.

Note: There is a longer commentary about HYDE Live 2018 over at SemiRandom