February 28th, 2005

Dreams Come True in Nagoya

(February 23)

You may have already figured out that my favorite Japanese band is Dreams Come True, so when I heard they would be on tour the same time I would be in Japan for APRICOT 2005, I knew I had to try to go see them. Fortunately they were playing two nights in Nagoya, just one stop down on the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) from where I'd be in Kyoto. I asked a friend of my sister-in-law who has a restaurant in Tokyo to buy a ticket for me, and he was happy to help me out.

I left Kyoto WAY early in case I had any trouble, but getting there actually worked out not too bad. I took the subway from the hotel to Kyoto Station, managed to buy a Shinkansen ticket to Nagoya even though the machine I used was Japanese only, walked out to the platform and was on my way to Nagoya minutes later.

This was my first Shinkansen experience, so it was quite something. The ride is very smooth, but you literally see the buildings blur as you go by, it's so fast. Kyoto to Nagoya is about the same as Kyoto to Kansai Airport, but whereas the latter traditional train takes almost two hours, the Shinkansen takes only 36 minutes. And they run trains every 15 minutes from dawn until midnight. Quite impressive.

At Nagoya station I asked how to get to Kasadera station and was pointed the right way and about 15 minutes later had arrived just a short walk from the Rainbow Hall where the concert would play. I had only bought a ticket through to Nagoya, so I stopped by the Fare Adjustment machine to pay for my trip to Kasadera too. If you're ever unsure how much to pay for a subway or local train in Japan, just buy the minimum ticket and when you get to your destination look for the Fare Adjustment machine, stick in your ticket and it'll tell you how much more you need to pay. (You have to get special tickets for Express trains and Shinkansen though.)

Unfortunately I had arrived WAY early because I didn't have any trouble on the way. And doubly unfortunate, there's hardly anything in the area. I walked around the side where the Rainbow Hall is and there was just that, a sports complex, and a school, and not much else. Eventually looping around to the other side of the train station I found a few small restaurants, but they all opened around 5:30 or so, after the concert opening time. I found a small CD store and browsed around a while and also picked up a copy of the new Dreams Come True single, "Nanda Demo".

Then I found a small coffee shop and decided to get some snack there and hang out until the concert. But first I went back into the train station to buy my return ticket to Nagoya station. If you ever go to a big event in Japan, always get your return ticket in advance, because the ticket machines are often mobbed as everyone leaves at once.

Back at the coffee shop, I bought my quarterly cup of coffee (I don't drink coffee very much, but I didn't really feel like drinking tea) and a slice of cake. Since doors opened at 5:15, I got up at about 5:00 to pay my bill and noticed that two other tables also got up and left right about the same time. Sure enough, they also headed to the concert too.

Outside the hall they had a souvenir stand set up. I bought a CD of the opening act, Naomi Yoshimura, her new one called Aphrodite. I figured I'd give her a listen. Also long time backup vocalist for DCT, Rinko Urashima also had a CD for sale so picked up that too.

Queued up just a few minutes before doors opened and walked into the arena to find my seat. I was so intent on finding the seat that I hadn't taken a look around until I sat down and realized how good a seat it was. It was in the balcony section just above and to the right of the stage. About the only better seat would have been a few rows further down.

Still, it was a pretty big difference from the last time I saw Dreams Come True. That time was in the Fillmore in San Francisco in October 2002. The Fillmore only holds maybe a couple of hundred people, and that time I was maybe 6 feet from the stage. In Nagoya they were playing to several thousand people and my seat would have been further back than being at the back of the hall at the Fillmore. Still, in relative terms it was a great seat.

Next the the seat was a set of flyers for Dreams Come True, Naomi Yoshimura and some other stuff. Also included was a Dreams Come True tour postcard. Before the concert they played short videos advertising JAL trips to Hokkaido, the new Nando Demo single, and the new Ameretto movie made by Dreams Come True.

At around 6pm Naomi Yoshimura came out and did a three song 15 minute opening act. She was pretty good, but I haven't listened to her stuff so don't really know her. After this they played the new video for Nanda Demo.

Then at about 6:45 (15 minutes late -- gasp!), the lights went down and the band begins to play. backup singer Rinko Urashima was there, but I wasn't really familiar with the other band players this time. No David T. Walker, unfortunately.

Masa wore a mariachi type outfit with ruffles on his shirt and purple pants with black stripes down the side. Miwa's first outfit was a pink blouse with pink ruffled skirt and knee-high leg warmers. Later she changed to a puffy pink blouse and long grey pants with a sash. Final outfit a long knee-length yellow-gold silk jacket over white tank top with some kind of jeweled design on it and a ribboned skirt and white hat. The hat and jacket went off pretty soon though.

The stage was designed to look like the top part of a standard brilliant cut diamond with lighted lines to represent the facets. Above the stage were a set of pinkish diamonds hanging above. The stage had a walkway coming up from the rear with part of the band on one side and part on the other, and a raised section above the rear of the stage with stairways up to it from both sides. Band consisted of, Sax, Horn, Drums, Sequencer, Keyboards, Guitar, Rap backing vocalist and female backing vocalist (Rinko), plus there were two dancers. Miwa or Masa introduced each of them at least twice, but I wasn't taking notes, and I really don't remember.

I don't remember the whole playlist, and frankly I suck at remembering song titles. Still, most of the songs were from Diamond 15 until the later part of the performance when they added in some older songs. The ones with best crowd reaction were Hajimari No La, Olá! Vitória!, Winter Song, and Nanda Demo. During one song one of the diamonds above the stage descended and Miwa hopped aboard and it rose up and she sang the song from atop the diamond.

During a break for Miwa, Masa and Rinko and the two dancers played some audience participation games. The first one was where the audience was divided in half and the dancers made up these complicated dances that each side of the audience had to do to see which was better. Then they had a singing contest singing a little song "Hi no ji. Hi hi no ji. Hi hi no ji. Hi no hi no ji." where they had the contest between the women and men. Since there wasn't that many men, the women won that one quite easily.

When Miwa came back out she rose up on a platform to the rear elevated part of the stage with the two dancers carrying Dreams Come True flags. In front of here were three large Japanese style drums and she started out playing the drums for the next song. Unfortunately the mike on the center drum got loose and fell down on top of the drum making a horrible sound. Miwa calmly paused and fixed the mike back onto the mike stand while a stagehand ran up only to find that she'd already fixed it herself. Then she waved the flag wavers back and then mimed coming up the raised platform again and started over. Quite a bit more strength under fire than say... Ashlee Simpson.

After a somewhat long intermission, they played another segment from Ameretto and the segued to the real Dreams Come True walking back onto the stage, except this time they popped out on the floor in the back of the arena and walked to a small stage in the rear part and played one song just Miwa and Masa. When down they walked around and through the arena floor back to the main stage. While they did have a few security guys, it's still pretty impressive that they trust the fans enough to do this.

Then they played Mirai O Tabisuru Harmony with a local Nagoya girls school choir as backup. And finally the closed with the new single Nando Demo, ending at just about 9:30. Overall, a very impressive show, and I'm only disappointed they didn't do Mirai Yosozu II.

Since my seat also happened to be right by the exit, and the exit happened to be the one closest to the exit, I was able to get out right at the end and was with the head of the crowd rushing to get to the train station. I was originally planning to stop by the BellMart convenience store next to the train station for a bento to eat on the Shinkansen back to Nagoya, but since I was near the front of the crowd I figured it would be better to just get on the train and buy something at Nagoya station when transferring.

Unfortunately that was mistake number one of the journey home. When I got to Nagoya station, all the shops were locked up tight for the evening. Second mistake was buying my return ticket. The ticket machine had English capability, and for some reason it was more confusing than the Japanese machine in Kyoto (probably because I triple checked everything I did when I was doing it in Japanese), so I ended up getting just a fare ticket instead of a fare seat ticket, so I had to go up to the ticket window and get the correct ticket. And once on the train even the food cart didn't have any more bentos, so I just had some Ice Cream.

Once back in Kyoto Station, I found a shop open and bought a pork chop bento, mandarin orange jello (mmm, my favorite), and an old fashion donut. After that I headed for the Subway and realized my third mistake. The Shinkansen has special tickets, so you need to exit the Shinkansen part of the station and then exit again through the regular Japan Rail gates. For some reason I had completely spaced out and forgot to collect my tickets again after leaving the Shinkansen gates. I went up to the gate attendants and tried explaining it, and he just waved me through the special gate. I guess dumb foreigners make that mistake a lot.

The rest of the trip back went smoothly, though it was really quite remarkable to make the trip there with no problems only to have all the problems on the way back. Curiously as I got closer to the hotel, a stray cat ran across the road to greet me and then followed me almost back to the hotel door. I guess he smelled pork chop or something. Finally got in at around 11pm and was finally able to eat dinner.

All in all a great trip and great concert. I hope to do it again someday.

Kyoto City Day 5

(February 24)

This was the day for our conference track for APCAUCE's part of APRICOT 2005. We had an afternoon with two sessions, the first one an update of my Tracking A Zombie Army 2005 presentation, then a panel with Dave Crocker, Jim Fenton and Meng Weng Wong talking about sender authentication proposals.

I had come down with quite a cough, and so did Dave, and Meng reported having a cold as well. I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to get my voice through the whole presentation without failing, so I had a bunch of water bottles and cough drops on hand. I came close to losing my voice a couple of times but eventually got in a rhythm and managed to make it all the way through. Dave and Meng managed to make it as well, and managed not to kill each other too.

All in all the sessions went quite well and after some prodding got some good audience questions and comments as well. I was pretty pleased with how it all went.

In the evening they had the closing social with another buffet and plenty of beer. They also had a sake cask opening ceremony and they gave out pine sake cups as souvenirs. It was fun, but I ducked out early so I could pack and get to bed early.

I forgot to mention it earlier, but our Monday meeting was sponsored by Microsoft who paid for the room and refreshments. Thanks! (Please no comments about me selling out.)

Longest Day Ever

(February 25)

Woke up at 7am, got breakfast and met Dave and Suresh in the lobby and headed off for the airport. Took the subway to Kyoto Station and then bought tickets for the Kansai Airport Express train. Just missed the 9:16am train so had to wait for the 9:46am train. This made Suresh's connection pretty tight, but Dave and I had plenty of time.

I gave the checkin the wrong e-ticket receipt, so they almost checked me in for the TPE-SFO flight and then were puzzling over what was up with that. And because they were Japanese, they were going to try to figure it out instead of asking me. Finally they asked if I had another e-ticket receipt and finally I recognized the mistake. That all sorted out, and I was on the way.

Back in Taipei took the bus back home and my cat was happy to see me. He was out of dry food though, so had to go pick up a bag while out getting my dinner. Had dinner, repacked and showered and back to the bus to the airport. Coincidentally got the same bus driver as I had coming in. He must have been surprised to see me back so soon.

EVA doesn't have a special check-in line for Deluxe Class and I don't have mileage status yet, but they do have a Diner's Club checkin line, so I was able to use that and skip the long wait. There was a problem checking in because the Kansai Airport checkin had added a bag to that record and hadn't cleared it out, so I had to explain the whole mixup again and eventually it was sorted out.

Deluxe Class turns out to be pretty much just right. Seats are almost as big as business class, not quite as much legroom, but enough that even I could stretch way out, and the seat reclined pretty far back. All in all, it's the right amount of room I need for the right price. Service was pretty good, and food wasn't as fancy as business class but plenty good enough. I was even able to sleep most of the way.

Getting in at SFO, there was no wait at all in the Citizen/Resident immigration line, quite a change from coming in in the morning where there's a lot of flights all arriving at once. But this meant I had to actually wait for bags to come. Customs check was also pretty quick.

Hertz gave me a GPS unit in my car this time. Kinda fun to play with. Last time I got one was in Denver and the stupid thing sent me on an unfinished freeway that ended in the middle of nowhere. Anyhow, for kicks I entered in my Santa Clara address and it went pretty much the route I would have taken except for my Hichborn shortcut.

Finally was able to get to sleep at around 10:30.

Now spending the next couple of days trying to adjust to the jet lag.