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AKB48 Super Festival June 23, 2013

Posted by ayasawada in Music, Travel.
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AKB48 Wonda advert

So, clearly I’m quite into AKB48 and on my recent trip to Japan I decided to indulge somewhat in what it’s like to be an AKB fan in the motherland. It was a thrill to be there, particularly around Akihabara, seeing the members plastered on every billboard, every public transport TV, appearing on numerous TV shows and hearing their songs playing across the streets and in stores all week. ^^

AKB48 Pachinko parlour ad



109 + AKB

The motherland

Of course, the first place I went to visit was the AKB48 Theatre in Akiba.

Don Quixote Akiba

Don Quixote

To be honest, this was a bit of a disappointment. The theatre is housed in the Don Quixote building and although Don Quixote’s stores of weirdo tat are always fun – this one also has a two-level game center built-in, complete with numerous UFO catchers full of AKB goods – and the elevators are crammed with AKB posters, I was expecting a bit more of a merchandise extravaganza. But there’s only really the single floor ‘shop’ in which everything is behind glass cases or the counter, necessitating an ‘order by catalogue’ model of purchase. They do have every AKB group CD and DVD available, which is a plus, but the actual range of stuff wasn’t quite as impressive as I was expecting (though I’m not really sure what I was expecting. More T-shirts and posters maybe?). The AKB Theatre itself is on the 8th floor but of course, you can’t actually wander in if there’s no performance on.

No performance

The home of AKB

AKB48 shop Don Quixote

AKB48 UFO catcher merch

Far better is the newer and larger AKB48 Cafe and Shop in a more prominent spot right next to JR Akihabara station. As it was general election time, the area was also furnished with a complete collection of the members’ election posters and a big screen showing their election campaign videos.

AKB48 Cahttp://www.flickr.com/photos/keatl/8972824869/#fe & Shop

AKB48 Cafe

AKB48 Cafe & Shop

Night shot

AKB48 2013 Sousenkyo posters


Yukirin, Miorin 2013 general election posters

You can’t actually get into the cafe without booking beforehand (thought there was an interesting, if crazy sounding, show going on while I was in the shop (if my nihongo were better I might be able to tell you what it was!). You can, however, order take-out (I’m sceptical as to whether the food/drinks are actually any good – my experience of themed cafes tells me otherwise).

On the plus side, there are not one but TWO shops either side serving all your AKB needs and these have much more of a range of merchandise for you to browse at your leisure, as well as a few gashopon dispensers. Most of the offerings are of the clear plastic folder and phonestrap/keychain variety, though there are a few books, DVDs, CDs and towels too. The smaller of the two shops seems dedicated to specific member clear files. Again, I wasn’t entirely taken with most of the overpriced merch, but I couldn’t resist a really cute picture of Miorin (Ichikawa Miori). TBH, I was hoping for more Mi-chan (Minegishi Minami) merchandise (she’s my oshimen after all ^^), but I guess most of that got cleared out when she was demoted >_<

AKB48 Shop loot

If collecting photos is your thing, then you’re far better wandering around Akiba as practically every shop trades in AKB photos. Some even have dedicated AKB sections or floors for the stuff, and many trade in second-hand stuff (in mint-condition of course). Over the course of the week, I picked up a couple of books, two ‘Documentary of AKB48’ DVDs, the 1/149 PSP game and a fistful of CDs, mostly second-hand from various branches of Book Off. The Akihabara branch of Book Off has a dedicated AKB48 section.

AKB48 Super Festival

AKB48 Super Festival

But the real highlight of my trip was a pilgrimage to an actual AKB event and being in Japan for the biggest event in the AKB calendar: General Election day. This was a little crazy. I couldn’t get tickets to a theatre event due to the AKB super festival open-air concerts going on that week (and the fact that the application process is a nightmare, especially for foreigners). I was also unable to work out how to get tickets to the Kenkyuusei (trainees) event (featuring Mi-chan!) at Nippon Budokan that very week. But I did know that the big event in the AKB calendar – the 2013 General Election – would be taking place that Saturday at the Nissan Stadium, Yokohama, directly after the concert. And I had planned to visit Yokohama anyway……

Yokohama itself was lovely. But at 2pm I headed straight for the Nissan Stadium to soak up the atmosphere and feel what it would be like to go to a massive AKB event.

AKB48 Super Festival

Sae-chan wota

AKB48 Super Festival

It was a real joy to be surrounded by thousands of other AKB fans. Sure, most of them had tickets but I was surprised at how many without tickets were just hanging around, buying merch, swapping photos and – like me – just sitting outside the arena, listening in. Because the joy of an open air stadium gig is: you can hear it from outside!

Are you ready?

AKB48 Super Festival start!

I had a lot of fun walking around, observing the other fans, visiting the election poster wall, browsing the extensive merchandise stall (though most stuff sold out >_<) and eating a novelty AKB Super Festival bento.

AKB48 bento

AKB48 Super Festival merchandise

AKB48 Super Festival Cafe & Shop

It surprised me how many fans had wandered down with their luggage cases full of photos just to hang out around the grounds. It was also surprisingly peaceful (after the ticketed had gone in) to just sit around on the outskirts listening in and enjoying the sun.

AKB48 wota

Wall of AKB48 sousenkyo posters

As General Election time approached, I had to decide what I was going to do. I considered sticking around or paying to go to one of the bars on the way to the stadium that advertised their showing the election on a big screen. I even thought of rushing back to my hotel to watch the event streamed live on YouTube. But a friend had invited me to dinner so I did the sensible thing and went to socialise.

I had expected the election to be news but mostly of otaku interest, so I was surprised to see my companions checking their phones for the result and having an open conversation about the night’s surprising results, as well as who their ‘oshi’ is. Admittedly, this was a little tongue-in-cheek – as one friend put it, Japan consists mainly of domestic news so anything can get blown up into mainstream interest. I guess it’s no different to us in the UK discussing who won X-Factor or The Apprentice, except with idols :P

Anyway, as we know the results on the night were pretty spectacular. The shockwaves caused by Sashihara Rino’s win saw a plethora of variety show analysis on Japanese TV, as well as her face plastered around the newspapers the next day. And even though I wasn’t right there, I was still there. It was a thrill and a privilege to be in Tokyo during such a mainstay of the AKB calendar. Next time concert for sure!

A full set of AKB-related photos from my trip on Flickr


1. Christina @ Salt Pepper Brilliant - June 23, 2013

This looks like an awesome time! I can’t wait to go to Japan in the future :)

2. Yokohama | Canned Memory - August 26, 2013

[…] Just a 30 minute train ride from Tokyo, Yokohama’s one of those places that I’ve always wanted to visit. Not for any particular reason other than its prominence in numerous Japanese media (a famous chapter in Honey and Clover for instance). Well, okay, maybe this time for one particular reason. […]

3. A week in Tokyo | Canned Memory - August 28, 2013

[…] of my list was the home of AKB48, Don Quixote (see separate AKB48 post). I also wanted to hit the places I remember being reliable for good stuff, like retro gaming mecca […]

4. 48groups pilgrimage | Canned Memory - January 19, 2014

[…] didn’t spend loads of time here, having spent quite a lot of time and money there already 6 months before. And, to be honest, even the Cafe & Shop felt a bit small after  Namba. But I did stop by to […]

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