This turned out to be super, super long….
I first read about the bus trip when Ro-gumi staff updated the Fan Club Web site for its second anniversary on July 1st. Buried way down in the Ro-gumi part of the Gurapedia was mention of the FC’s first road trip – a bus trip to Shizuoka. And the band mentioned it at the July 5th show (but not the final show). The form to sign up came with the second 2014 newsletter, and despite the price, I knew I had to go. How could I miss a mini-acoustic live, party and photo op? I couldn’t! Many thanks to Nancy, Shaina, Riko and Siora for helping me figure out what the form was demanding of me (I’m convinced they didn’t do registration online to slow people down from signing up.) Between the five of us, we got it figured out and, armed with a pdf on how to do bank transfers, I made the transfer the following Saturday, and mailed my form off the Monday after that.
And then waited. And waited. It wasn’t until September that I finally got confirmation that I was in group A, leaving from Osaka on Saturday October 25th. Made a hotel reservation near the station in Osaka for the Friday night before and waited for the final paperwork, which did get to me sometime in early October. Bought my shinkansen reservation (no way was I messing with Kansai airport this time!) the weekend before, then spent a few days dithering over what to wear. Ran off to Osaka right after work on Friday, nervous as heck already, got some sleep and was at the meeting spot by around 9:20 or 9:30. Found all the Rodeo Girls and settled in to wait for staff, who ended up starting early, but thanks to the one bit of disorganization the whole weekend, it took too long getting us our badges and loaded on the bus. (Note to staff: sort badges by name, put lanyards on afterward – do NOT have a single bag into which all badges, lanyards entangled, have been shoved). The lapse surprises me, because everything else the whole weekend was so well-organized.
As you can see from my badge, staff had divided us into groups, so we knew which live we would be at (including seat), what group we’d be in for dinner, what party table we would be at, and in what order we’d get our pictures taken. It was all very well done (and there was always staff around to help out) and I was impressed. Particularly in light of how poorly the Lantis Matsuri seemed to be organized. The company that handles GR bus tours and events is called 4 Sight, and they’re rather good, I sense.
We did eventually take off and had a pretty smooth trip there, but our bus was dead last, just getting to the resort maybe 15 minutes before our live was supposed to start. I had just enough time to run to my wing, end up on the wrong floor (some nice RG pointed me to the right floor), show up at my room and surprise my four roomies (I had wanted a room to myself, but that apparently didn’t happen at all – everyone ended up in group rooms), introduce myself and then we had to dash to line up for the live.
The live shows were held in the hotel’s “Music Garden” hall, which is a small indoor venue with a balcony. There were 7 rows on the main floor, and we were in row E, middle section. My seat was the left-hand aisle seat, with a perfect view of Kiiyan’s mic. I should say here that for some reason, since I first heard about the trip, I had assumed it would just be Kiiyan and e-zuka, as with the promo shows they did for the album. But when I sat down, I realized that there was Takita’s acoustic bass, and a percussion set up for Val! And indeed, they were the special, “secret” guests for the weekend. Woo hoo!
After we’d been sitting for a few minutes, and countless pics of the stage (including a bunch of selfies by the girls in the front row) had been taken, the MC came out and welcomed us all to the trip and the mini-live. And then it was show time! Er, except Kiiyan peeked out from behind the curtain at us, then promptly hid behind it again. Heh! His next attempt was more successful, and he and e-zuka, and then Takita and Val came out and sat down. As you might guess … there was a lots and lots and LOTS of chatting. Most of which I missed, but I was enjoying listening and watching.
And then off we went with the Ro-gumi Theme song, which I hadn’t heard live since the New Year’s show 2012-2013. Woo hoo! Followed by more chatting, which I was kind of paying attention to, but my ears definitely perked up when e-zuka asked about kaigai fans. My hand shot up and I went “Hai~” (I was the only one, for a change!) At which point Kiiyan teasingly said “Mata?!?” (Again?!?) and a few more remarks that I missed. e-zuka commented as well (I waggled my finger at him, but I’m not sure he saw) and thanked me. I should note that all this while, the lights, and audience attention were on me (and probably the camera woman’s attention). It was a little more unnerving than being in the relative anonymity of a darkened live house…
In fact, it made me a little self-conscious, so I tried my best to not always focus on Kiiyan during the show, despite having the perfect view of him (it’s very much a game of “Will he catch me looking at him? Hey, wait, he’s looking *my* way! And me promptly looking away. I lose that game every time. Never stare long enough to see if he’ll look away first. Heh.) It was certainly not a hardship to divvy my time between Kiiyan and Ero-sensei, since the latter was looking particularly sharp with his usual unbuttoned shirt and a rather rakish hat.
Right after they finished talking to/about me, it came up that someone had come from Sapporo (I think) and had an extensive bus ride, which somehow led to the guys trying to say a tongue twister involving buses – e-zuka insisted that Kiiyan, as the seiyuu among them, should be able to do the tongue twister. And later he did interrupt Takita and got it out!
The rest of the set list – The Other Self, 変幻自在のマジカルスター, Sea of Stars, 桜色第２ボタン, Can Do
After変幻自在, e-zuka decided to replay the song, singing under his breath, which had everyone laughing, including Kiiyan. He was finally pleased (or fed up?) with the result and stopped, but not until he’d played a good minute of it, at least.
For Can Do, e-zuka commented how he liked the arm waving that usually happens during Zepp shows, so several of us (including me and at least two of my roomies) did keep it up throughout the song, for which he thanked us at the end. After the harmonica intro, e-zuka was realllly out of breath and Kiiyan was clearly torn between laughing at him and picking up the slack by starting to sing the song – but he did finally do the latter. Heh.
After the show we went back to our room and relaxed for a few minutes before heading to dinner. Had a chance to look at the little gift left for us in the room – a set of deco chocolates with Roger and Gina on the wrappers. Don’t know if I can bring myself to ever eat them…. Dinner turned out to be a massive “Viking” buffet, with food from Hokkaido, Western countries, general Japanese food plus drinks and desserts. It was all really good, and I was starving since I had been too nervous to eat earlier. I got to try whelk for the second time, which is very tasty, but I didn’t like the texture at all (not chewy; chewy is fine. It was a lot like whale tongue). When we finished, we headed to the hotel store to buy souvenirs for friends and coworkers. I picked up financiers which I was going to hand out at work, but have decided to hold for Thanksgiving and my next trip to Tokyo/Yokohama.
Then we relaxed in the room a bit and chatted, since we had almost an hour and a half before the party. A little after 7 PM, we headed over to the party room, which was a large room that had been set up with rows of round tables – no chairs, so all standing. Grabbed drinks (juice or tea) on the way in. We were table 17, first table in a row, against the far wall. In addition to us, there were 8 other people at our table, but everyone largely stuck to their groups while we waited.
A little bit after things should’ve started, the lights dropped lower and a spotlight at the back of the room came up, along with fangirl screams. I couldn’t see them at first, so wasn’t sure if they were dressed up or not, or what exactly they were doing, but I quickly realized they were coming through the crowd, high-fiving folks! They walked along the back row of tables, turned the corner and headed up towards the front. However, staff were so NOT prepared for the mad rush that happened when they turned at the end of that first row. The girls rushed e-zuka, who was in the lead, and all but pinned him to the wall. He had to run a gauntlet of girls and seemed very dazed when he emerged and came by our table, the first one on the row staff turned him down. My tablemates and I were good, and didn’t rush, just waited for him to get there. I always forget how danged tall he is, and that $1100 leopard print coat he wore all weekend really was awesome looking up close. Got to high-five him with both hands, and realized he was talking to himself, or the nearest staffer, about the gauntlet o’ girls. (Or so I’m guessing.)
And speaking of said gauntlet, I turned away from e-zuka to see Kiiyan still in that mad rush, with barely enough room to keep moving forward. But he did, and made it to our table – another double high-five! Can’t remember if he was thanking folks, or just moving through. He had his glasses on, which is always a bonus. Grinned madly at the roomie closest to me, then turned to watch the pair make their way down the row and up the next one. And as they did so, I realized my roomies had all snuck away from the table and were waiting at the end of the next row for another high-five. I dithered, and decided I wouldn’t join them so as to not seem like a greedy stalker. But another of the roomies had other ideas, and she came back to the table, put an arm around my shoulders and guided me to the end of the row with them. Just in time to get e-zuka’s high-five! Missed Kiiyan, as he caught my roomie’s hands … but then he took a step back and caught one of mine too, much to my surprise and delight. I know it was just reflex, and not done for me in particular (I assume), but it was a nice gesture, definitely. Especially given that the whole “work the room” bit had to be pretty stressful.
When they made it to the stage, there was much applauding and cheering, of course. And then the MC called out for Takita and Val, who joined them. e-zuka definitely felt this was unfair and gestured from them to the audience, implying they should run the gauntlet too (though one wonders if Takita might make it out the other side, given what happened to his t-shirt at the joshi show….). Once everyone was there, they told us to hold up our drinks, and Kiiyan indicated that e-zuka should lead us in a toast. Which he did, a very short and simple one. Which prompted Kiiyan to complain that it was insufficient. So e-zuka started again, this time giving Kiiyan a bad time about having a beautiful woman in the friends and family section. This prompted amused exasperation from Kiiyan and a “Wooooo” from the audience. Heh. Anyhow, he finished the toast, we all clinked glasses and drank. They chatted briefly and the MC then had Takita and Val leave the stage for the free-talk.
The free-talk section had Kiiyan and e-zuka looking at a variety of photos from throughout the year and commenting on them. Pictures (and comments) included:
- Pictures from the Saitama G9 show, including one of both guys smoking backstage. In the photo, Kiiyan had a cigarette in each hand. He quickly did some math and remembered this was about 15 days before he quit smoking. He seemed suitably appalled at his double-fisted smoking.
- Pics from the 変幻自在 filming. One had all four guys, where Kiiyan commented how they were going for the foreign rock band look, e-zuka made Takita come up on stage to comment on his outfit … and then in the next close-up of Kiiyan and e-zuka, the latter was amused to note Takita had photobombed them in the lower right corner. Heh.
- Kiiyan leaning on the piano while e-zuka played around before We Wanna R&R Show – G9 at Osaka-jo Hall. Kiiyan was like “whyyyyyyy?” and talked a little about his intestinal woes that afternoon.
- e-zuka’s birthday cake from the Osaka-jo show. Kiiyan teasingly asked him how old he’d turned.
- Pics of the stage from the live Motto Mo recording.
- Kishidan pics.
- Magical Rodeo Tour shots of Takita and Kiiyan with their white dwarf eyebrows on where they belonged … and shirtless Val with his dwarf eyebrows on his nipples.
- Pics from Sapporo and Hakodate (Kiiyan had forgotten the name of the club! But he remembered how tiny it was), including Kiiyan and e-zuka enjoying Hakodate the day after the show … and Kiiyan with a squid hat on.
- Danshi show shots of the guys in their mafia suits, and joshi show pics of them as butlers … and some wonderful backstage shots of them as Lovely Stupid. Including an absolutely adorable one of Kishomi and one of Zukami … crossing her legs while sitting down. I still don’t know how e-zuka managed not to flash anyone!
- Filming the Karma to Labyrinth video, including Kiiyan’s birthday cake. He pointed out how it was much smaller than e-zuka’s. e-zuka shot back that Kiiyan didn’t have to represent 47 years on his cake. Pffft.
- Pics from the MUCC and Daigo shows, plus Kishidan Banpaku, the Odaiba Lantis Matsuri and Animelo with Flow.
Val and Takita came back on stage for the Q&A corner – everyone on the tour had been given a form to fill out with our name, where we were from, and a question. I had written a question about what foreign artist they’d collaborate with if they could, but it didn’t get picked. I missed a lot of what was asked, but caught that when asked about their favorite GR songs, Val said Outsider, Takita said Koi Oto and Kiiyan said that at the moment his was Sea of Stars. Didn’t catch what, if anything, e-zuka said. I could tell they hadn’t screened questions, because one directed at Kiiyan (Taniyama-san) amounted to “who do you like right now?” To which he basically said everyone and gestured to the room as a whole a couple of times.
Then came bingo, with e-zuka and Kiiyan calling the numbers and each of the guys handing out prizes. And oh what prizes! One of the Gyuuho cow suits, Takita and Val’s guns from the danshi show. Towels and shirts the guys had worn/used at shows, including a sparkly G9 t-shirt. Signed posters and clear files. A copy of Ero-sensei’s book + the glasses he wore during Y.W.F. I think there were 40 items in all. One girl at our table won, but she was the only one. My card was pretty much a dud, alas. But those of us who didn’t win got to trade our cards for fan club stickers on our way out. Plus everyone got cute FC coffee cups. And before we left, the MC told us that there would be footage from the weekend on the third ep of Rodeo Club, and what I didn’t catch until a little later, that the in-hotel TV station would be running special footage.
And it turned out to be really special footage! At midnight, Rodeo TV came on, with Kiiyan and e-zuka introducing a digest version of the previous Tuesday’s special live at the shangri-la club in Umeda, Osaka. None of us had been able to go, so we were thrilled to see it. There were some technical difficulties, and we sat through the intro 4 times before they got it sorted out, but then we got to see parts of silence, volcano, wonder color and pink phantom. They were all amazing, of course. We watched it four times before we finally turned it and the lights off and passed out. Ah, and in the introduction, e-zuka outdid himself, introducing himself as Zuka Monroe, Chanel #9 model.
We were all up and moving by 7:30 on Sunday, and all starting to get nervous about the photo shoot. Headed to breakfast, then back to the room to get dolled up and packed. We had to drop everything off at the bus about 40 minutes before the photo shoot started, so we checked out early and took our bags to the bus, claiming the very last row for our own. While we were there, we had our tour guide take a few group pics of us in front of the bus, first under the tour sign, then holding it. Those of us with Line connected so we could get copies, and said we’d exchange emails later. I completely cracked up as one of the Rodeo Boys from Tokyo made sure to retrieve a half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels for his photo op. I wonder if he managed to use it.
Right before 10:00, they let us back into the same room the party had been in, only this time it was all chairs lined up facing the stage. We were row A, the very last 5 seats (I was #30, on the aisle). The MC came in to kick things off, then Kiiyan and e-zuka came out, playing at being hung-over and staggering on stage bleary-eyed. Heh. They chatted a bit, about the previous night’s video and a few other things. Kiiyan was wearing button up plaid pants, boots, white t-shirt with a design on it and a dark jacket. And a cute as heck bright red barrette in his hair on the side he shaves. e-zuka was in dark clothes, with the awesome jacket on. He was in fine mettle, spinning around for a us a couple of times – something Kiiyan finally broke down and did, exposing a bit of belly in the process.
Finally they turned to the MC and asked about the process. And it turns out, thankfully, we wouldn’t be taking pics in front of everyone. They had a studio space at the back of the hall, and we’d go one by one. So Kiiyan and e-zuka took off for the back, Kiiyan by the far wall, e-zuka down the middle, doing more high-fives as they went. The video from the night before started playing, and off row A went to the back of the hall. I have to give props to the staff for making the process go so smoothly, even if I’m sure all of us would’ve liked more than a couple of seconds with Kiiyan and e-zuka. What they’d set up was three chairs against a neutral background. Kiiyan was in the left chair, e-zuka in the right, and the middle was for us. We had just enough time to sit down, smile and bam, it was over. They were using polaroids, so you got handed your pic on the way out of the area (I was so nervous I almost left mine behind), and they could swap camera really quickly. It really was over in a flash, and in my scramble to go, I didn’t say thank you, which makes me a bit sad because Kiiyan was thanking everyone.
Headed back to my seat to watch everyone’s pics develop. Was very amused to notice the roomie next to me … well, the other women were centered in their seats, I was slightly to Kiiyan’s side, my shoulder brushing his, and she … looked as if she were about to hop in his lap. There was a noticeable gap between her and e-zuka. And she didn’t even realize until I pointed it out. At which point we all cracked up. Heh.
Impressively, the staff got all 400 of us through the pics in just over an hour. We watched the shangri-la footage a few more times, singing along (boom SHAKA boom!) and clapping when it was all over. Can’t wait to really hear these songs live in person! When it was all done, Kiiyan and e-zuka switched sides and came back up to the front for final thoughts and goodbyes. Amusingly, Kiiyan made them switch back to their usual sides after a minute. He pointed out his barrette, which he’d put back in – they made him take it out for the photos. Boooo! e-zuka joked about people cutting their pictures in two. (No way! Though I did put a sticker over *my* face when I shared it. They singled out a staffer (one who was right by me, and laughing his ass off at them) as being key to making the event happen – we applauded loudly for him.
When it was time for them to go, they tried to head backstage again, only to have that staffer gesture for them to go out the regular door into the hallway we’d come from. I thought it was a bit odd, but was glad for the chance to get a final close-up look at both Kiiyan and e-zuka from just a few feet away. The door closed on them, and regretfully we all turned back to the MC. Who proceeded to tell us of a special surprise waiting for us outside: autographed folders with a spot to hold our photos AND a DVD!!! We were all thrilled, needless to say. I had figured I’d never have their autographs, so was super excited to head out and get my copy.
And then it was time to go. Only … as the staffer opened the doors near us to let us out, I blinked, since I saw both e-zuka AND Kiiyan in the hall. I said “They’re out there!” in English, and then switched to Japanese for my roomies to say that both guys were outside waiting for us. And indeed, there they were, behind some staffers (e-zuka) and a table (Kiiyan) waving at us as we walked down the hall to where the folders were. I waved like mad at e-zuka, then Kiiyan, and, heart racing a mile a minute, decided it was time to recreate my final moments at the Sendai show, only not across a barrier and stage, but from a few feet away, across just a table. So I lifted my left hand, blew Kiiyan a kiss, which, bless him, he blew right back. Grinning madly, I went to get my folder and bounce a bit with my similarly excited new friends.
We headed back to the bus, which took off a little before noon. Chatted a little bit, exchanged emails and phone numbers, then watched the Osaka-jo Hall DVD, which they played part of for us. Made a couple of stops, but were back in Osaka by 4. Didn’t really have formal goodbyes with most of the women – just let them know I was taking off on the next shinkansen. The youngest roomie, who was heading back to Kobe, saw me off to the gate, shaking my hand as we parted, agreeing to see each other again in February at the Osaka-jo show.
Picked up some snacks, grabbed the train and was home before 7:30. Enough time to unwind, watch the DVD (a “rehearsal” for the Ro-gumi theme song that they recorded right before the Tenjin Vivre show here in Fukuoka) and nap before catching the second Rodeo Club episode. It was an amazing weekend, and I can’t wait to see the guys on stage again next month for Animax Musix! (And to see my new friends at next year’s Osaka show!) And definitely looking forward to footage from the weekend on this coming episode of Rodeo Club!!!
Bless Kiiyan and e-zuka both for being such good sports for the whole weekend. I was not surprised at all to see a drunken tweet from Kiiyan after they’d finished with the second day’s attendees. They earned a few drinks for being patient and funny and sweet, definitely. They never even got to try the buffet, since they couldn’t just come out and eat when we did. I hope they did get to relax some, at least, since it was a resort.