Monday, May 14, 2012

On mixi: Group Karaoke Events

With the L'Arc~en~Ciel 20th Anniversary World Tour Concerts in Japan for three weekends in May, back in April I randomly decided to check out the Japanese social networking site, mixi, for any upcoming events in my area.

Often times for popular rock bands, people will organize karaoke events where people will only sing songs from that band. Of course, with L'Arc~en~Ciel being as big as they are, there have been numerous karaoke events popping up on mixi, but mostly in Tokyo (because of Japan Rule #1: Everything happens in Tokyo).

Every once in a while an event bring organized in the Osaka or Kobe area will come up, but not nearly as often. So it was just my luck that about a week before the event day, I checked mixi and found a gathering for L'Arc-only karaoke in Kobe.

I had seen these before, but I had either missed them or wasn't in the area for them. So this time I decided to take a chance. After carefully reading/translating the information about the event, I added in a comment saying that I also wanted to participate. I had just barely missed the deadline for the dinner after-party, but decided that it was okay, since it was my first time going to one of these events and wasn't sure if I'd want to spend that much time around a bunch of Japanese people I had never met.

The morning of the event, I donned my L'Arc 20th Anniversary Live T-shirt (for a live that I didn't go to; I was supposed to but I had a school event that same weekend) and packed everything in my 20th L'Anniversary Tour bag. I figured everyone would've been dressed in L'Arc apparel, but to my surprise, everyone was just wearing normal clothes. I had to slow down in my tracks to make sure I had the right crowd, which I finally confirmed after I saw the one of the organizers was carrying a L'Arc tote bag from this most recent tour.

The organizers kindly greeted me and asked for my mixi screen name to mark my attendance. The woman with the tote bag then gave me a paper wristband with my name and three letters on it, with arrows in between. She told me that each letter represented a different room, and that I would be in a different room for each session over a total period of about 4 1/2 hours.

After that, I said thanks and just stood there, fiddling around with my cellphone and being nervous about having arrived by myself. Two other girls were standing on either side of me, and while I thought I should introduce myself and try to make friends with them, I didn't because I really wasn't sure what to say after, "Hello, my name is ____." Finally, the girl standing on my right said hello, which led us to start talking to the girl on my left, and we had a short conversation about coming by ourselves as first-time attendees, where we live, where I'm from, etc.

We managed to talk all the way to the karaoke place, and then we all separated into our first rooms. I was asked quite a few times where I was from and how long I had been living here; one of the girls in the first room was shocked when I said I had been here for two years, because she thought I must've been here for a long time based on my Japanese skills.

One of things I enjoyed the most was meeting and befriending Japanese guys at the event. They were very nice, and not shy like most the women. This had become apparent during the final part of the event, when we all gathered into one big party room for one last session.

In order to decide who would sing during the last session, we had each filled out a slip of paper with the L'Arc~en~Ciel song that we wanted to sing/be sung by someone else. It turns out that a lot of women requested that their songs be sung by someone else. So during the last 90 minutes, pretty much every singer was male. I myself had wanted to sing, but my slip of paper hadn't been drawn from the raffle box...

...until the end.

In the last 15 minutes, the organizers emptied out the raffle box and started looking through the papers to choose some ideal songs for the end. I could see mine, and I knew it was mine because I had written in pink marker (which was what they gave me to write with). From these 5 or 6 slips of paper, the last few songs were going to be chosen.

And then, the guy who was holding the slips came up to me, held out my paper to me and said nothing other than "はい." ("Here ya go.")

I was ecstatic. I wasn't sure if he chose me personally because he knew I wanted to sing, or because I was the only foreigner in the room, or because of the song I chose. Or maybe it was all three.

Pretty much any major L'Arc~en~Ciel fan knows that the song "Niji" serves more or less as an "anthem" for the band, because the word is Japanese for "rainbow," which is also the translation of the French "l'arc en ciel." And so I had written the singular kanji on my paper, not thinking that it would actually get chosen.

The girl who had said hello to me before the event was sitting next to me, so I rummaged frantically through my bag for my camera and asked her to record a video for me, since I knew people at home would want to see it.