Perfume city Tokyo January 2, 2014Posted by ayasawada in Japan, Music.
Tags: #prfm, Japan, Japan travel, Jpop, Perfume, Tokyo, Travel
The last year or so has been, without a doubt, the best 13 months of my life. Capping off what can only be described as ‘Perfume year‘ was the holy grail: a pilgrimage to see the group in the motherland of Japan.
The date: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The location: Tokyo Dome – the capital’s legendary baseball stadium and one of the biggest venues in the country. Perfume played here once before in 2010, but this time returned for 2 days, part of a 4-date ‘4th Tour in Dome’ that including a couple of nights previous in Osaka’s Kyocera Dome.
Yet it was Tokyo that was the ‘homecoming’ of sorts, and the one that most international fans decided was the one to gather for (probably in no small part due to the coinciding Christmas holidays). Thanks to the World PTA fan club, for the first time we had a relatively easy way to purchase tickets to a Japanese concert. It was a lottery, but though many of us worried, practically all got tickets (and for those that didn’t, most of us had spares). I was lucky enough to draw a pair for both nights and booked my flight right away.
So it was that after a week of December travel in Japan (some of it with fellow fans), I arrived back in Tokyo ready for a solid week of Perfume-related activities. And boy was there a lot. The Japanese fans had gone all out: there was a fans meet up on the Sunday before, followed by a day-long pilgrimage tour to key Perfume-related Tokyo sights on the Monday, plus fan dinners, after-parties, and more throughout the week.
I did Perfume karaoke with friends, attended a Perfume-themed club night in Shinjuku (8 screens all around the room, fans and DJs all dancing to Perfume all night) and even went with fellow fans to see the legend that is Perfume producer Yasutaka Nakata play two club nights in Shibuya and southeast Tokyo’s Club Ageha (he played plenty of Perfume of course – Party Maker at a club with lasers and hundreds of other fans is an experience I will never forget).
Spending all my time (and money)
When Christmas Eve arrived it truly felt like the best ever with the most amazing present to look forward to at the end. Staying less than 15 minutes walk away from the Dome, I woke early and headed in with some of the Singaporean fans in the same hotel to queue early for goods. It was a glorious, crisp, blue-skied day and nothing felt better than walking in to that Dome complex and seeing that Perfume banner for the first time.
We were there early because we were somewhat worried about key stuff (particularly T-shirt sizes) selling out, but in hindsight they had plenty of stock and plenty of staff to take our money.
And take our money they did – it was all good stuff, from the expected (T-shirts, pamphlet) to the unusual (limited edition Pure Gummy, Kids Set, Level 3 CD-styled handkerchief, phone battery chargers, a pass case that lights up on RFID touch) to the pricey (cardigan).
I have to admit, the quality of the merchandise was much better than I expected. The tote bag was solid with an inside zipper and multiple compartments, the T-shirts were of good stitching, even the cardigan was softer and warmer than I’d anticipated. I made sure to get my fill. Er, perhaps too much.
By 10.30am we’d spent all that was in our wallets and spent the rest of the day soaking up the atmosphere. Dome City, being what it is – an entertainment complex – had roller-coasters, a Ferris wheel and other theme park rides, plus restaurants and shops. Gradually more and more people filtered in and it started to feel like a carnival.
The Perfume-ness of it all was increased by the presence of not just the long stretch of official merchandise counters along one side, but two PTA desks enticing people to join up to the fan club, playing messages from the girls and episodes from the PTA DVDs on-screen.
The regular Dome shops had Perfume books and magazines displayed prominently at the front. Then there was Daito Manabe‘s ‘whole body 3D scan’ – the true purpose of which would be revealed later.
I took my stuff back to the hotel, then had a pleasant walk around the Dome area, hanging out with my fellow international fans before our ticket collection at 3pm. By that time, things had really taken off. Doors to the live opened at 4pm (for a 6pm start) and by 3 o’clock there were thousands of fans on deck, milling around, buying merchandise, queueing for the scan or just taking photos with each other. Many had come in Perfume cosplay. Even those that hadn’t, I’ve never seen so many people wearing the same T-shirt and cardigan, sporting the same tote bag, before in my life.
We did ourselves justice of course. I haven’t heard the official numbers, but estimates were of several hundred international fans arriving from Australia, France, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, the US and the UK, among others. Substantial, though still a minority of the 45,000 packed into the Dome each night.
Time passed so quickly. It was such a rush catching up with people I’d met in Singapore, Germany, France and London – plus those I’d previously only known through the Internet and Japanese fans – now all here, in Tokyo, together at once. And then it was time for the main event.
Enter the sphere
Because our WPTA tickets were balloted, we had no idea what seats we would get. I was lucky, drawing a set of decent tier 1 seats by the track for the first day and two amazing arena seats right next to the main stage for second. It was the best Christmas present I could have wished for.
The tickets themselves were lovely too, presented in a custom PTA envelope and properly printed with a photo of the 3 girls – full body for the first date then close up for the second.
Both nights it took us a little walk around the Dome’s circumference to find our entrance gate. Security check was present but minimal (“Do you have a camera?”, “No”, “OK”) followed by someone pushing the carousel doors for us. When we got in we were greeted pleasantly by the staff and presented with flyers advertising the forthcoming WOWOW broadcast of the Dome footage. And then there were the rows of stalls – I’d almost forgotten this is usually a baseball stadium so comes well-stocked with food and drink counters serving takoyaki, yakitori, beer and oolong tea mixers – not to mention cute Japanese girls who bring you beer to your seat.
We’d entered around an hour or so early to get settled and soak up the atmosphere, watching Chocola BB ads on the big screen.
We passed the time catching up with friends sat near to us, staring at the stage complex and just taking in the vastness of the space. We speculated on what the setlist might be. “I really hope they do Jenny ha Gokigen Naname,” said my friend Andy. “They’re never going to do Jenny,” I said, “those days are long gone”. I wanted to hear One Room Disco live at last.
At around 6.15 (unusually late for the Japanese?), the lights went down and a message from Perfume began.
We are in a dream
It is made of love
We are here accepting it
connected and united
We are in a dream
It is made of thought
We accept and convey
fear in the past
confidence as of now
all in the future
To say this was one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen doesn’t really do it justice (particularly since I seem to say that about every Perfume concert…). But I’ve genuinely never experienced anything like it: THREE hours (each – BOTH nights) of grand-scale technics, heavy-bass, huge screens, rotating, levitating platforms, inflatables, ribbon drops, balloon drops, moving floats, side-stages, huge transforming dance platforms, smoke, lasers, glitter – all to the tune of Perfume’s choreographed electropop honey.
01. Enter the Sphere
02. Spring of Life（Album-mix）
03. Magic of Love（Album-mix）
07. Furikaeru to Iru yo
08. Sleeping Beauty
09. Party Maker
10. Spending all my time（Album-mix）
11. Computer City
12. Electro World
13. Jenny wa Gokigen Naname
14. One Room Disco
15. Mirai No Museum
18. Chocolate Disco（2012-Mix）
19. MY COLOR
20. Dream Land
They opened, appropriately, with Level 3’s opening track, Enter the Sphere, appearing high up on the Pac Man-like central globe, disappearing after the first vocals before exploding back on stage post-instrumental on separate, designated platforms (the ‘triangle’ so often used in their lives, featuring the same quick-disappearing trap doors you may have seen from behind-the-scenes documentaries aired on NHK and the DVDs). Given that the Global Site Project was what opened World Tour 1st, to hear this song now in its entirety felt like a full-circle for me.
Yet this was very much a Level 3 gig, the setlist almost entirely from the latest album (everything bar Handy Man) and the opening songs following the album order faithfully before the first MC segment marked a switch to 1mm and the spectacularly choreographed Clockwork (with an amazing cog projection in the background). Several songs were sung live (e.g. Furikaeru, Dream Land), matched with slower (if any) choreography, soothing lighting and eye-catching costume changes – the angel-wings for Dream Land particularly outstanding.
One thing that really impressed me was the lengths the show planners had gone to to make use of the space and especially to give all fans, no matter where they were sitting, a chance to see something. ‘Point’ proved the first example of this, as the girls were suddenly hoisted in the air by crane platforms and lifted high around the Dome, waving to those in the balcony seats and below (had to avert my eyes to stop looking up Kashiyuka’s skirt at times ^^;). This was followed by good alternating use of the three designated stages at the left, right and front (Kashiyuka, A-chan and Nocchi respectively) and then a spectacular moving float part reminiscent of their JPN tour gigs, with the group travelling a 180 degree trip around the stage, throwing out signed tennis balls to the old-skool fan call-out favourite Jenny wa Gokigen Naname (yes, they did Jenny :P). A brief stop on another smaller central stage allowed for One Room Disco (yes!) before a comedy MC-skit led into Mirai no Museum for the final leg back to the main stage.
There was a musical interlude to Sleeping Beauty, with a nod to the girls’ international travels that year (cue cheers all around whenever our countries were mentioned!). That segment also marked the true reason for the 3D scan – models of the girls made up from each of the 45,000 people in attendance that particular night, a zoom through a virtual representation of the dome crowd and a few lucky people ‘plucked out’ by the girls during the video and shown on camera on the big screens.
Yet for me, nothing compares to the spectacular put on for my favourite track, Party Maker – this year’s FAKE IT – opened post-Sleeping Beauty with an ‘Are you ready?’ and a transforming three-level stage reminiscent of the One Room Disco PV– with lasers. And 45,000 people headbanging.
We sung happy birthday to Kashiyuka (her’s was on the 23rd) and of course, it being Christmas, we got to celebrate it both nights with a Christmas costume change (“Nocchi is Santa!” said A-chan), sing-alongs to Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is Coming to Town (Japanese version) and A-chan’s hilarious ‘Santa, reindeer, Snowman’ dance-along routine, which we all (especially Nocchi) struggled to keep up with.
There were so many memories from both nights I really struggled to try and remember them all. In no particular order, here are a few of my other favourites – do add in the comments any of your own that I may have forgotten.
- <A-chan in comedy voice> “…sponsored by Chocola BB.”
- Kashi’s extended Doraemon baba voice before Mirai no Museum
- The crowd-talking MC segments – some very cute cosplaying kids, a trio of Nakata-cosplayers, a couple who’d literally go married that day and come straight over to the live, and another couple who weren’t married, but who A-chan damned tried her hardest to make sure they will be in the near future.
- A-chan getting everyone to wave their hands in synch then Nocchi (?) remarking, “It’s just like Nausicaa!”, before humming the Nausicaa requiem.
- The girls spotting the Nakata cosplayers and humming Capsule’s Jumper in response.
- A-chan’s reaction to the first roars of the crowd: “It’s like hitting a home run!”)
- The inevitable tears at the end of the last night – not just from A-chan but from Yuka too (“Sorry Nocchi, your friends are so weak!”, said A-chan).
- Release of ribbons during Chocolate Disco (I think?) and then balloons with 3 types of printed messages from girls during Dream Land – then the stewards collecting loose ones and distributing to fans afterwards. You don’t get that at a UK gig.
- The ‘Sonic boost’ exiting the inflated Tokyo Dome.
As the final chords of Dream Land washed over us and hundreds of white balloons soared down on the rapt crowd, I couldn’t quite believe it. A tear rolled down my right cheek as I thought back on the fortuitous series of events that brought me there – buying that CD in Singapore, winning the live ticket, joining WPTA, attending all of World Tour 2nd, meeting fellow Perfume fans, meeting Perfume, and finally arriving in Japan to enjoy it all with everyone. I can’t express how incredibly blessed I felt. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: just over a year ago I never thought I’d see any of my favourite Jpop groups play live, let alone my favourite. To have now seen Perfume perform six times – from intimate European venues to an all-out stadium spectacular – is a dream come true. To have made so many new friends sharing the same passion is beyond. It’s ecstasy. It’s heaven. It’s pure joy.
Dream Land Dream Land 夢の中
oh lose control lose control
負けないで ねぇ come again
Credits to Motonari Udagara and Lily Ann on the Perfume Fans Facebook Group for the live opening message and setlist, Choy Kaifon for the International fans photo. And thanks to all my Perfume friends for making the experience, and this whole year, one amazing adventure.
Read previous Perfume posts:
- Hanging out with Perfume on Google+
- Perfume World Tour 2nd: Dreams are made of this
- Perfume LIVE: a dream come true