The long blog post title is important.
I was on the flight back from a weekender attending the 3rd WUG bus tour, or the finale of the TUNAGO tour–which is a Wake Up Girls fanclub event that focuses on the seven girls as solo performers. In years past they have always done the WUG solo events as a two-day act, where each of the seven WUGchans would do their solo shows for about 1 to 2 hours, back to back across 2 days. This year they made it fanclub only, and linked the events in weekends during March. Each of the events would run twice a day, a solo act for one WUGchan, and the venue would be at a small live house somewhere in Tohoku.
This is hard for dedicated WUGners because that means they have to traverse Northern Japan for the month of March. It’s kind of expensive especially for fans outside of Tohoku, which is most of us. Local Japanese fans complained, overseas WUGners grinned and beared with it. Having the events being FC-only meant the tickets were more or less available (unless you’re looking for Myu’s show, somehow hers were the most popular (probably because hers was in Sendai and it was the easiest one to get to. Also her new solo song was the best)), despite the smallish venues. To cap it all off is the Bus Tour, which costs 50000 or so yen, plus the optional Nijikai event (another ~6000). It’s an expensive proposition no matter who you are, I guess.
To cut to the chase, now that everything is done and over with, I have a bit of mixed feelings about this year’s WUG bus tour. For starters, it’s very different than the prior tours in terms of activity. This time, the tour was nearly 500 strong, whereas prior tours had maybe half as many. The smaller counts allowed more personal-ish sessions at the earlier bus tours, such as watashikai and autograph events, and seeing the WUGchans more frequently. This time, we only saw them via the special niconama (which was streamed to the hotel rooms) as guest audience, at a greetings event at the hotel, and at the nijikai as surprise guests. And of course, the 5th anniversary live, which was the big event of the WUG bus tour part 3.
The somewhat-mixed, mostly-happy feeling I got from all this is kind of just a personal observation, but one universal part is how those of us in the WUG Love FC know how the prior bus tours went. This one being so different is going to lead to some disappointments. The tour in general is pretty lacking in terms of what’s really good for normal tourism, although the onsen ryokan we stayed at (Akiu Grand) served both as a WUG anime pilgrimage spot (same hotel in the anime) as well as a solid onsen ryokan. The food was a little on the weak side, though.
Well, enough waxing poetry on meta, here’s a blow-by-blow recall.
I landed the day before the tour, and decided to JR East Tohoku Rail Pass my way up from Narita. Narita is weird?
Even here…. pic.twitter.com/72K0rbZkL6
— omo＠WUG5thおめでとう! (@omonomono) March 30, 2018
As WUGLOVE bus tour part III being the largest of them all, a bunch of us foreigners applied, some of us from the old LINE chat, others from Discord. The seven of us were able to get the same room, even though two didn’t fill out the room share application and had to send emails to make it so. Putting all the EN gaijin together is probably the best for everyone involved, anyway. We were in the same bus, too. The TW WUGners I know are mostly in bus 3 and I was in 4.
I met up with a lot of the folks the night before the tour, seeing the Discord guys for the first time. Somehow all but one of us were in Sendai the night before, so we ended up in Luvya, naturally.
Anyways, on the day of, I checked out of my hotel and did some shopping (namely buy IM@S merch at Tokyu Hands and Gamers). We had lunch. The gather point was at the roof of the hotel, so we headed up there one way or another. Since I had to lug all my crap around by then, it was a bit of a pain as the gathering spot was at the roof of the eBeans department store and the closest lockers were at the JR station a block or so away. Plus, the elevator didn’t run all the way to the roof. Up there, there is an outdoor event space actually, and we checked in and what not. Once the two Tokyo-origin buses arrived people started to line up (by 2:30 or so). The WUGchans eventually showed up and kicked off the tour at the stage.
During all this dead time (we were there by 1pm and didn’t get lined up until 2:30) some of the WUGners we met said they ran into Nanamin in the restroom? The rest was history I guess LOL. This is kind of a common thing with WUG events I guess.
Once the talk bit is over, the staff marched us down bus by bus load of people. Not fun again, having to lug my junk 10 flights of stairs. We marched a few more blocks to get to the busses.
The ride was about 40 minutes from the pickup spot to the first destination, which is the ryokan Akiu Grand Hotel. It’s a bit dated (like most large hotel/ryokans in the region) but the condition is good. During the ride our bus guide (Kumagai-san) gave out the details, such as what to do at the room when we check in and out, the meal tickets, the “watashikai,” rules and such. One notable thing is they don’t want us posting it on SNS, and it makes sense. Unfortunately the trip overlaps with April Fools day (and Easter) so I missed out on a lot of the jokes.
As we got off the bus at the hotel, the “watashikai” starts with the 7 WUGchans waving at us as we walk past the door. I was at least aware enough to wave back with my free hand. Needless to say it went by in a flash since we had to get herded off so the bus unloading area empties for the next bus. The herding was pretty strong and they kinda made you take the stairs, which sucked for us because we were in the 5th floor. I guess I could’ve taken a moment and smash in the elevator since they would have left me, but oh well.
It was then free time until dinner. We got accustomed to our large suite (it is nice to get a big group after all) and checked out the video connections and in-room amenities. To accommodate the large group size, the hotel set all the onsen to male only and booked another onsen for the women nearby, bussing them over on demand. I think there were maybe 10-20 women on this tour, which is probably…twice as many as the prior ones, LOL. Our room was pretty big, so the Taiwanese WUGners in our floor, which turns out to be just one room over, came over and hung out as well.
Inside each room was the usual ryokan stuff, like tea sets, that red bean jelly thing, yukatas and vests. There were also meal tickets. Both dinner and breakfast are buffet style in a large dining room. For dinner, they staggered us, but it didn’t feel like things mattered.
The first “surprise” was after dinner, when the PA announced how the second event of the day would be–participating in a special nico nama. We know it from the schedule, but we didn’t know they were broadcasting it inside the hotel using its closed circuit system. The PA told us to tune into it for a surprise, but also breaking us into 7 groups by room number. It meant that the audience cycles every 15 minutes or so and you get to see the WUGchans do some karaoke, by random selection.
I don’t particularly begrudge or find the arrangement irritating, but it felt like I was running in a mouse wheel shaped like a large onsen ryokan. It was kind of neat to see what happens when an entire hotel was watching the same live stream, I suppose. Since you had to queue up outside the “studio” (the place has some large karaoke rooms, and that’s what the nama was filming in) before your group’s turn, we had to go downstairs into the line and watch one part while huddling around other WUGner’s smartphones and tablets until it’s our turn to go in to the studio. Maybe it’s all a silly group-building activity. Anyway, since it is a nico live stream, you can watch it until the timeshift period expires in a week (Apr 7?).
After the karaoke nama, we had a break and then it was time for the nijikai. The term refers to the second party? After party #2? Anyway, we filed into the hall where we had dinner, and it’s set up for a dance party. You had to get a wristband earlier in the day if you registered for it, and they allowed people to do it on site as well. At the nijikai there were some light-weight drinks, basically a soft drink machine, cans of screwdrivers (ran out in 30 minutes), and limited amount of beer (ran out in like 45 minutes lol). It was kind of ghetto but it was what it was. There is a stage at the dining hall in which our DJ Yamada (this guy) spins his usual top hits. It was really freaking good–and that doesn’t even include the fact that the WUGchans made appearances.
The WUGchans sang parts of their new solo songs during Yamada’s set. I was obviously most hyped about Now Is The Time. Leading up to that song Yamada spinned some nice I’ve Sound stuff and I should’ve crawled my way up front but oh well… Anyways, Yamada is relevant here because he worked with Myu during Myu’s solo DJ set part of her solo events. It was just something I really appreciate… Actually, Myu in general kind of summarizes everything I like about this particular subculture, but that’s a story for another time. At the nijikai DJ set, all the WUGchans showed up at random as their solo were in random segments. Other than that, we got Seventh Haven sung by Mayuc and Minyami, which was probably the most lit part of the whole thing. Yoppi also showed up to solo a part of Tachiagare. It almost felt like Yamada was doing it almost adhoc and with what the WUGchans were up for.
At the start of the DJ set, WUG’s main producer from DiveII/Avex went on stage to explain his background from King Records, and the DJ played Bakuretsu Hunter and Blue Seed just because, which got me pretty hyped for no reason… Anyway, the short and long of it was just how he came to be in his role today, and we made jokes about anime producers and getting to know seiyuu, and fantasies I don’t harbor lol.
The night ran on past midnight, and we crashed pretty fast after that. Why? Because we had to wake up mad early for morning exercises with the WUGchans. I ended up getting up at around 5am or so, and went to take advantage of the open air bath at the ryokan. Also, breakfast (pretty average). I wish I had more time to do more dips, I guess.
Morning exercises with the WUGchans–radio exercises specifically–was pretty much that. Everyone basically lined up by their buses, in the parking lot, and the WUGchans jogged into the parking lot to do exercises. Since they are all so short it was a little hard to see them if you are beyond the 5th row (and there are 10 buses). Anyways, after 5 minutes of stretching it was all over, and we went back to whatever people do in the morning in a dorm. I guess that’s my main complaint about my experience at the Ryokan, it felt kind of not-so-relaxing, LOL.
We also had some free time in the morning since a lot of us got up and did everything before the 7:45am radio exercises, so we ended up playing ping pong. The ryokan is kind of stacked in light of that, it even has an arcade… On that note, the gift shop on Saturday was selling these zunda flavored soda, hawked by one of the regional tourism workers (kinda like a locodol?) that some of us saw in Taiwan. It’s pretty funny.
Soon enough we checked out and boarded the bus again, this time to “actual tourism” which just means to a nearby burb of Sendai that was part of the 3/11 rebuild. It was Natori, not far from Sendai Airport. During the drive we saw a DVD documentary showing the devastation of that town, where the tsunami water just ran for miles because that region is really flat to begin with. Buildings, cars, and planes were washed out to sea. What it really meant was we were bussed to a seafood market for lunch. Each of us were given 2 500y coupons to spend, and a free drink. This meant some people bought fresh clams and other shellfish for grilling. I went for the saba (which is a type of mackerel that is a Tohoku speciality) and got some Chinese food. There were some communal charcoal pits that people can use to grill their clams, LOL.
I really enjoyed this part of the tour, because it felt like I was actually doing what I’d expect from a Miyagi bus tour. This is as gastro tourism as it gets, and I had fun. The market itself isn’t that close from to the sea, but its near a bunch of clam farms, so that explains things partly. In the big picture, this was just pre-live lunch.
After about an hour at the market, we were bussed to the live venue which was about 30 minutes away. It’s Sendai GIGS. It’s kind of weird to go to a live and not have to run the hoop that it is attached to normally. I was able to grab what I needed for the live and leave all my other stuff on the bus. We waited in line as the 10 buses got to the venue and dropped off all the WUGners. Then we went in, and marveled at how close the stage is to the seats.
The show started maybe 10 past 2pm on Sunday. The set list is at this page. I’ll briefly describe the overall moments of the live along the setlist. Just a disclaimer but I’m pretty sure I don’t remember some exact details, so if you know better please feel free to correct it.
The closeness of the seats was one thing, but we pretty much were able to walk up to the center stage since it wasn’t blocked off. There were ropes demarking lanes and aisles but they were taped down to the floor and never raised. The opportunity for a selfie slipped, because the center stage had this cool WUG5th graphics on it and I had seats right next to the stage for the full view. It felt like a wrestling ring almost. LEDs rims the square center stage and there were light fixtures at the corners, plus some laser reflectors. My seat was row 9 seat 25, which was next to the right side of the stage towards the back end. I got pretty excited partly because I had originally thought my seat was kind of just OK. During the seat lottery you had no idea what your seat was, just your seat number and everyone else’s’ in your bus as a reference. I was less than a meter away from touching the center stage.
Having a center stage is not normal for a WUG solo event, so that in itself was pretty noteworthy. Having the seats right up to it is extra special, and since the room goes to just row 19, everyone can get quite close. I guess they trusted WUGners to behave? LOL.
The room quieted as the band member do their last minute tuning, and soon the show starts. The main stage was behind a curtain that pulled back to revealed the WUGchans on the top stage, completely with the Higawari cane. Fans cheered for them (and for the band)!
1)HIGAWARI PRINCESS (全員ver.)
3)One In A Billion
They did these 3 in a set, and it’s a good way to get hyped up. Helps that Anisama 2017 on Bluray just came out the week of the Bus Tour so the two anime tie-ins from 2017 are fresh on my mind. It always take me a minute to catch up call-wise to Renai Bokun, but it isn’t too bad.
The WUGs walked down for Koi de ai and performed that and One in a Billion on the main stage. Especially notable was the acapella opening to One in a Billion, partly made possible by the live band.
There was the greeting MC after that song, and they discussed the new outfits for this live. Each of the girls wore a sash across their chests with some EN phrase they’ve selected. Since it was Easter, my mind kind of put the phases together in this tweet:
Halleluja! Hope revived–never give up, try everything again and again:
Always smiling like a sakura.
— omo＠WUG5thおめでとう! (@omonomono) April 1, 2018
Myu: Always smiling
Mayuc: Hope revived
Nanamin: Again & again
Aichan: Like a sakura
Yoppi: Never give up
Minyami: Try everything
I love it when inadvertently WUGchans makes a nod to western culture. It was a lovely coincidence, and oddly appropriate, given the whole Tohoku revivalization theme. It’s a sermon on the idol outfits. On that note, WUGchans began to sing something to cheer us up.
4)7 Girls War
Surprise! The WUGchans walk in from both sides of the venue for the subway song, along row 10. The two for Platinum Sunrise were on stage, and the other 5 on each side of the venue. Half way through they walk to the center stage and climb up to the center stage from the stairs in front. I was trying to figure out which way to look, because Myu was on the far side of the room, but I was literally next to Yoppi who was on stage, and then there was Minyami(?) and Nanamin(?) on the near side of the hallway, literally 2 people away.
There’s another MC here that I can remember, because Myu did her joke again about Morning Musume’s Love Machine… Well, the songs are more cool for the next block. They walked up to the center stage after 7 Girls War and it was wau, but they went back after WUGzoo.
There’s a break here with some video footage from the TUNAGO solo tour. The lasers came out during the cool songs, naturally.
I think there was a break here? Forget exactly.
One more break here, before the last spurt.
18)Beyond the Bottom
We did encore kind of as per usual here. Some of us probably forgot about the candle surprise, like myself, until the encore.
For this part, there was an outfit change, to the 2017 WUG Festa outfit, which I’ll call the Polaris outfit.
I’ve never seen WUGchan boots this up close ever.
They did the soap bubble thing for Polaris, which mimics snow from the anime. It kept in the air for a while and the bubble got into people’s faces. The WUGchans had to battle it like the rest of us. WUGchans were also laughing at the audience who had to deal with it.
Closing MC was here. Everyone stood on the center stage, but during the solo talk part all the other non-talking WUGchans kneeled/sat. It’s yabai! But that allowed the people from the sides to see better. Thank you WUGchans!
Closing MC also got pretty heavy, as heavy as idols can get. I mean after all, they’re 81 Produce seiyuu so that is a significant milestone. Kayatan could barely hold it in, and a few others got teary.
They use mic stands for this in the center stage! Pretty cool.
EN3 ゆき模様 恋のもよう
EN4 7 Senses
After the WUGchans get off stage left there’s a birthday surprise/double encore. During the bus ride to the venue, we were given a cheap button-battery candle light thing, that’s not unlike what you’ll find in a wholesale restaurant supply store. Each of us were supposed to pull it out and sing happy birthday as the double encore. This part was kept secret from the WUGs, and organizers put the cues of it on the screen during the second encore.
As the WUGchans returned to stage we sang happy birthday again, and shouted omedeto(ry. The girls were definitely more shakened up this time, with Kaya and Aichan really trying to hold it back. Actually all except Myu had to take a minute to recompose themselves, which was lols. Nanamin also more or less was OK.
We totally got psych’d out for Gokusmile, but this is fine too. We were invited to sing along in between all the calls, and we did. More waving and cheering happened as the WUGchans beat it stage left at its conclusion. It remarkably felt like 4th live Tokyo again.
Overall the event was contemplative, sincere, fun, and full of people who knew what they were doing. I think the energy level was not as high as it could have been, and I don’t blame them: most of us slept for just a few hours between nijikai and the radio exercise. It was kind of surreal in that we felt really satisfied, despite being kind of feeling meh so far during the bus tour. The sound and production values of the event was very high, and we had great seats for the most part. WUG did some special songs this time, which probably suits a fanclub audience better than a casual one. I’m just glad being able to see Jera live.
On exit, we were asked to sit and wait until it’s our turn to board the bus. The Tokyo-bound buses left first, then the rest of us get a lift to Sendai JR, about 20 minutes away, to conclude the trip. The 5th Anniversary Live was good in ways that are different than most lives, and some of the newer kids are definitely affected. It’s definitely the best WUG solo live by technical standards, and possibly by feels, too. But does that make a good bus tour? I guess the jury is still on on that–not that it matter, I might just go again.
There was a survey that we had to fill out about the bus tour, so I put in some high level things. WUG Love in general is a good fanclub, and I’m not in another better FC. If anything, it’s Avex’s crappy non-export policy that had to be changed, and some better communication about the bus tour, since it would help to know ahead of time that we aren’t going to get that intimate experience. I certainly don’t mind spending ~$550 on a live like this that comes with its own bus tour, however. I was able to spend some good time with other WUGners, from Canada, USA, Japan, Taiwan, and elsewhere. It’s great meeting other WUGners who speak English. It’s also good to finally see some of the more “real” part of Tohoku reconstruction, as things of these natures were. So yeah, I’m happy overall with the time and money I had to shell out for the overall deal, and would definitely consider doing it again if time and resources permit.