My long-awaited second trip to Japan was at the very least as fantastic as the first one, and it was filled with those big and small moments to remember. I’m very happy that many of them were related to music that I love.
I wanted to get as much as possible out of 16 days I was supposed to spend there. Shortly before my flight to Seoul (my tour of Japan was preceded by a 7-day long South Korean trip), I found out about this fairly small music event (森のホルン) taking place on the 5th October in Nara, fairly close to Osaka. Much to my excitement, Ayano Kaneko was supposed to appear there. She is the artist I absolutely adore, and I’ve been listening to her music for several years now.
I decided to not take any chances and immediately booked the entry ticket. With the assistance of Google Translate I managed to make the reservation, however seconds later I received an email confirmation which stated that I would need to wire some money directly to a specified bank account to finalize the application. It was slightly problematic, so I decided to contact a Japanese friend of mine whom I met 2 years ago. He went above and beyond and actually paid for me (Szymon no problem, you can pay me back when you visit Japan. I’m hoping for some omiyage! – I actually went to his city next day, and brought gifts for him of course!!!).
The event was happening in this banquet/ private wedding venue, with several bands/artists scheduled to perform from 12 until around 8 pm every hour. Kaneko-san was supposed to hit the stage at 5 pm, though I got there around 11 in the morning, because why not. There were few food and drink stalls and some goods stores set up along the pathway. I had a really nice talk with a girl selling socks (she was a fan of Kaneko and Zombie-Chang as well!).
It occurred to me quickly that it is going to take some time until afternoon, so I decided to sit down on a chair and relax under a tree… it surely sounds more poetic than it was.
Atsui desu ne.
I learned that this phrase is quite famous/popular in Japan during those nasty super hot and humid summer months, and essentially just means ‘it’s quite hot, isn’t it?’ The sentence was uttered by a guy next to me, who was changing his seat to one less exposed to sun, and it turned out to be an incredible conversation starter – I decided to respond, being fully confident about my limited Japanese, with ‘atsui desu’.
And so a moment later we’re having this heated discussion about crazy coincidents. I’ve spent most of the day with this dude (I don’t think I should be mentioning his real name) – we had a lunch, few beers, watched some other artists perform, and first and foremost talked about the music that we like (surprisingly plenty of common ground here, or maybe considering my preferences not that shocking), and then some random stuff about our lives and countries.
Around 3:30 pm my idol arrived together with her manager, with the artist carrying the guitar on her back. She was just tiny and adorable! My new friend suggested that we should perhaps hang here and there and try to get an autograph for me, a traveller coming from such a faraway place. The singer was nowhere to be seen though.
At 4 we got into the hall where the concert was taking place and secured the seats in the second row, just in front of the spot where everything was set up. My newfound buddy then disappeared for few moments. It turned out that he was talking to Manager-san about the autograph thing! Ayano Kaneko’s popularity rose quite significantly over the past year or so, so apparently she no longer signs stuff whenever/wherever, and the lovely Manager-san was not able to promise anything, but she actually gave me a Neko sticker as a present and mentioned that perhaps if we stick around after the concert, there might be some hope Kaneko would agree to an autograph. Oh well, I thought.
Even before coming to Japan I was wondering whether it would be an electric show with the band or rather an acoustic solo performance. I was fine with either of course. Seeing the venue in person (and Kaneko when she arrived) it was obvious this would be the latter option.
Around 4:30 pm the singer briefly showed up for a short rehearsal, playing a couple of songs, killing it on the guitar and warming up her vocal chords. Her voice was all too powerful, it’s still ringing in my ears!
The actual concert started at 5. Kaneko-san was barefoot as usual, wearing long laced yellow dress. For some time she had quite long hair, but she had it cut some time ago. At times she was moving like a meter away from the mic, yet the floor was still shaken by her pipes.
She played plenty of old hits, but she also played few songs from the new album, 燦々(Sansan), released in September. At the time I haven’t actually heard the CD in full yet (I had been carrying the album in my suitcase all around Japan, as I bought it in Tower Records almost straight after landing in Fukuoka), so some songs were completely new to me, but man, did they stick in my head. In particular, りぼんのてほどき (Ribon note hodoki) was the one I remembered – Anata wa tsuyoi hito, anata wa tsuyoi hito… Great stuff.
The show went on for around 50 minutes. When it ended, my jaw was still on the floor and I remained in the state of shock. She completely exceeded my expectations, and then some.
Once again, in the hopes of getting an autograph my Japanese friend approached Manager-san (extremely nice people, both of them!!!) after she was done with selling merchandise (I bought a fan as well!). She mentioned that she told Kaneko-san about a fan from Poland and the singer was happy her music is being heard around the world (wow!), but she is not able to arrange anything, though advised that they would be leaving in an hour or so, and if we just wait near the exit path, then maybe…
And so we got hold of some chairs and sat near the way out, like some security staff. After around 45 minutes of waiting, guessing and what-ifs, Kaneko, Manager-san, and the guy we assume was their driver were on their way, and my buddie quickly did the talking, with me constantly bowing all the time. Kaneko thanked for the support and she agreed to the autograph, while my pal snapped a couple of photos. Then, my beloved artist left, while I said goodbye to my Japanese friend and thanked him from the bottom of my heart for his help. He was like ‘Come to Japan again, let’s talk about music or do something fun’. Will do.
It certainly was of one of the best days in my life.
- Find a new friend
- Have a beer with him
- Casually talk with him for half a day – casually but at the same time with a gleam in your eyes, as you discuss stuff you love
- See your favorite singer live in concert
- Get an autograph and have a photo taken with the said artist
- Ayano Kaneko day