I’m in Japan!
An overall travel blog will probably happen after I get home, but I wanted to write about Sunday while it was fresh in my mind.
A few months ago I stumbled upon Up Front Agency’s Kansai branch. I knew they existed, but after SI☆NA disbanded I hadn’t heard anything about other groups. Ten years ago, when I came to Japan for the first time, it was for a study abroad program in Kyoto, so the Kansai area has always had a special place in my heart. If Hello!Project, my first female idol loves and a group similarly dear to my heart, were going to have a Kansai relative, I had to know about it. It turns out Lovelys!!!! are the new representatives of UFA in Kansai, and it’s really a shame more people don’t know about them because they’re fantastic.
Up Front Kansai currently has 4 active idols – Miyazaki Rio, Yagi Saki, and Yes Happy! (Sayaka and Kokoro). These girls do individual activities but also come together to form Lovelys!!! The group has a full length album out called “Hello! girls!! -Maido Lovelys!!!! desse-” (if you can’t tell yet, UFK really likes exclamation points), which includes solos for Rio and Saki and duets for Yes Happy.
Their activities are largely restricted to the Kansai region, but after several years of successful Hello! Project Tribute Lives they were finally able to perform the show in Tokyo this year.
Lovelys!!!! is made up of girls who are all Hello! Project fans themselves, so each year they hold a concert packed full of their favorite H!P songs.
While I would have loved to have seen them on their home turf during my Osaka visit this year, unfortunately the timing didn’t work out – I did, however, get lucky and manage to catch them for the Tokyo Tribute Live.
The concert was held at a small live house in Shinjuku, which made for an intimate atmosphere and a really great view even though we stuck to the back to avoid some of the over enthusiastic jumping in the front. The girls came out in sparkly outfits in their respective member colors and the wrist bands of their H!P oshi members and started right away with a set list jam-packed with high energy songs.
Darling I Love You
Oujisama to Yuki no Yoru
Wakatteiru no ni Gomen ne
Girls Power Aisuru Power
Watashi no Miryoku ni Kizukanai Dokan na Hito (Saki solo)
Romantic Ukare Mode (Rio Solo)
Special Medley (Special Generation, Genkimono de Ikou, Tokaikko Junjou, Tsukiatteru no ni Kataomoi, Ijiwaru Shinaide Dakishimete yo)
Onegai Miwaku no Targer
Watarasebashi (Kokoro Solo)
Haru Beautiful Everyday (Sayaka Solo)
After Sayaka’s solo the girls came back out wearing their favorite member t-shirts – Sayaka in Kamei Eri’s, Kokoro in Michishige Sayumi’s, Rio in Okai Chisato’s, and Saki in Kudou Haruka’s. Because the show was so packed full of songs there was very little room for MCing, but when they did take a breath and talk a bit it was always about their love for the songs, their excitement in watching/hearing the crowd dancing and shouting instead of being the audience themselves, and of course the joy of getting to sing their oshi member’s parts.
Guru Guru JUMP
Dance de BAKOON
cha cha SING
Bokura no Kagayaki
Ichiban Daiji na Koto
Namidacchi always gets me teared up to begin with, but the girls were so moved (probably thinking about Eri/Jun/Lin but also) by the success of their first Tokyo live that they cried throughout the song too.
If you don’t recognize that last song title, it’s because that’s one of Lovelys!!!! original songs.
A few hours after the concert a free event was held at the Akihabara Hello! Project store, so I couldn’t resist going. The girls talked all about their favorite songs to sing and played back footage from the concert, going over the highlights. Though we ended up with seats somewhere around the middle the event space is very small so we could see very well again… and apparently they saw us just fine too.
Kokoro called out to us, saying she saw for the first time ever foreigners in the audience. She asked where we had come from and Sayaka asked if I had flown all the way to Japan to see Lovelys (NO BUT-). I had expected them to notice us and wave, but not directly speak to us! Saki told the other girls she hopes Lovelys can perform abroad someday, and she turned back to me to ask me to come if they ever did.
In between talk portions they performed four of their own songs – Ichiban Daiji na Koto, Superman, OH YEAH, and Anniversary (lyrics by Sayaka). Even in a small setting they were just as enthusiastic as in the live house – Kokoro in particular caught my attention because she kept grinning so widely her eyes disappeared. I made eye contact with all four throughout the mini live, and they always seemed excited that I was singing along. I could tell they made eye contact with a lot of the crowd, which I really enjoyed seeing. I love groups that truly appreciate their fans.
After the main event the girls set up a booth to sell photographs and CDs. Though I hunted down their available CDs online when I first discovered the group I couldn’t resist buying a copy of their album again to get it signed. Since the crowd was relatively small, the girls took their time talking to everyone. The line started with Rio, who excitedly thanked me for coming and immediately hit me with a barrage of compliments – mainly on my hair. When I told her I had been inspired by Risako to dye it purple-blonde, she exclaimed “Yappari!” (I thought so!). She’s a Risako fan in addition to Chisato, so she seemed extra pleased. Saki was next, and she also commented my hair. Though I went in with Saki as my least favorite member (her higher pitched voice is a bit much for me), by the time I left I loved her as much as the others. Her personality reminds me very much of Kamei Eri – light, airy, a bit silly, and totally sweet.
The next was Kokoro, who apologized for calling us out in the audience. No apologies needed! It might be embarrassing to have everyone look at you, but who cares when your idols are speaking to you from the stage. Finally I came to Sayaka, my favorite member. Kokoro and Sayaka are close to my own age, and watching them on stage singing the songs of their favorite groups is especially touching. Sayaka immediately asked if I had followed her on Instagram, and when I said yes she excitedly told me she’d seen my comments. What a sweetheart! As I was waving goodbye, she reached out and clasped my hand one last time.
I know the personal experience might seem like their biggest appeal, but these girls really are talented and have some great songs. You can listen to many of them on their Youtube channel, which also has rehearsal footage and vlogs from Rio. All of the girls have blogs, twitter, and most are on Instagram. If it will get more people to appreciate how funny, charming, and talented these girls are, maybe I’ll start translating their social media!
With love and crescent beams