Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Akiko Goes to Fukui, Or: Unspeakable Practices and Unnatural Acts, Which Is to Say, Here's What Happens During and After a Japanese Ice Show …

Special guest blog today!  The fabulous Akiko Nakata, who has so generously given of her time and talents to translate the Mook Book interviews for all of us, went to see Johnny perform at Fantasy on Ice in Fukui, Japan, ten days ago. This is her wonderfully charming report. Thank you so much, Akiko! :)

On September 12, I went to Fukui. There I was transported to another planet. Half of me hasn't returned yet. I can't describe what the trip was like, though I really wish I could for you. That is totally beyond me, even in Japanese. Instead, I'm going to write about a few things I know about the show.

Johnny’s Costumes

Opening: Johnny appeared to be dressed in the blue costume from the BGJW promo, although all the dry ice fog swirling around the arena made it difficult to see the detail. But he was amazing!

Collaboration with Dima Bilan: Johnny wore a V-necked, long-sleeved black shirt with a gold patch on his shoulder, and the gray, leather-like tight pants that have made all of us swoon. A fan had written in her blog on the 11th (the first day of the shows) that the pants were too tight to look at calmly… She was seated very close to the rink and was embarrassed and didn't know where to look. Having read this, I followed him through opera glasses; but from my seat, I couldn’t see well what she wouldn't see. So don't hate me. Too hot, anyway! Dima Bilan was also awesome! Miraculous collaboration.

Heartbroken: I can't believe it, but this was the first time he had performed this program in Japan. The costume and make-up were the regular ones for this program. Too beautiful and too heartrending to watch without tears.

Finale: Black pants and a black sleeveless shirt (like a vest) with silver mirror-like pieces on the whole front—as if he had taken the mirror pieces from the original PF costume and pasted them on the shirt front. All the skaters were in black. Johnny was the most graceful of all.

At the end of the finale, an official picture of all the skaters together was taken. Johnny wore a red-rose crown on his head and sat on a black chair with the female skaters in the front row. He looked really pretty and graceful. He was the only male skater sitting there, but he looked perfectly natural there. "Johnny, Kawaii [Cute]!!" "Kawaii!!" the audience cried.

Long Lines and Precision Timing

Akiko's program
from the show.
I arrived at the dome twenty minutes before the show. I took some pictures of the flowers at the entrance hall, bought a program of the show, put a gift for Johnny in the gift box for him, and took a few pictures of the shop in the hall. The quality of the pictures is no good partially due to the fog in the rink. As Deborah Johnson commented on the picture of the dome posted on Johnny’s Facebook fan page, the dome looks from the outside "like a hallowed shrine for the king of Weirlandia to skate in." And it felt even more like that inside because of the fog.

All cameras and recorders were banned from the rink, but not from the hallway, as we understood. However, we were continuously asked by the attendants not to stop to take pictures, but to keep moving. Partially thanks to their efforts and partially thanks to the audience's obsession with efficiency and punctuality, around 5,000 people got seated in time, and the show began almost exactly on time--maybe one or two minutes late? Such law-abiding and well-controlled people help create the neatness that Johnny loves about Japan.

The boxes set up to receive
gifts for the skaters.
During the intermission of 15 or 20 minutes, I went to the restroom, as did many others. When I went out to the corridor, I found 10 or 12 women dashing ahead. I wondered if they were going to see some skater--who? Johnny?!--but a minute later, I realized that they were running toward the restroom. Out of some 5,000 fans, about 90% were women. I was lucky that I didn’t have to wait too long. When I came out of the restroom, I saw a line of hundreds of women. The women who had dashed by knew how tough it would be based on their experience the previous day. We saw an even longer line of people waiting for taxis after the show (naively, I didn’t expect that, and had planned to take one back to the station).

Except for the unbelievably long lines for the restroom and taxis, the show was amazingly well-organized. I imagine that they also took good care of the skaters. I hope Johnny and the other skaters felt good about the experience. Sometimes they may have felt overly controlled, but they must already know Japan well. It seemed to me the beginning of the second part of the show might be delayed for 30 minutes or so, but somehow the delay was only 10 minutes or less. I don’t know how.

Fascinating Trivia from a Taxi Driver

I learned some things from a taxi driver who took me to the dome from the nearest railway station. He was not a figure-skating fan, but he had learned many things from his customers:

1) The ice rink was temporarily made especially for the shows, and the quality of the ice was not as good as regular rinks.

Johnny was in his best condition and he skated all the programs perfectly (he may have had slight trouble with a jump in the collaboration program, or maybe it was OK as it was--I couldn't tell). He was exceptional. Several skaters glaringly fell, perhaps due to the quality of ice. The other skaters' falls didn’t spoil their amazing performances, but impressed us that they could perform such challenging moves even in a show; but still, Johnny's perfect skating was really outstanding.

2) That evening after the show, there would be a fans' meeting. Only the lucky fans chosen by lottery were allowed to attend it.
A close-up
from the
show program.
I had known that there would be a fans' meeting, but hadn't known when it would take place, nor about the lottery. I had heard that the meeting was to be held by Ice Crystal, a huge fan club that supports ice skating in Japan, for its long-time members. I wanted to be a member, but they had too many members--more than 10,000--and they would not accept new members for the time being. I had thought all the long-time members would be invited to the meeting, but I was wrong. You not only have to be an "A-rank" member, you also have to win the fan lottery.

As I knew from an internet forum, even if you are lucky enough to win the lottery, you still are not able to talk with the skaters personally. The skaters remain on the stage, and if you are especially lucky enough to be chosen by a second lottery, you can come up to the stage and are allowed to do one of these things:

      1) to shake hands with a skater,
      2) to hug a skater,
      3) to be photographed together with a skater, or
      4) I forget.

You can't choose from these four, and you can't choose the skater either. You are not considered a "real" figure-skating fan if you love a certain skater more than the others. (And what if you end up being the one chosen to hug Evan??) [Note: LOL! I love you, Akiko!] For the rest of the fans who are lucky enough to attend the meeting but not so lucky as to win the second lottery, taking pictures of the skaters from the floor is the only "gift." Maybe too well-organized again? Judging from the video shared by some generous fans who went to the fans' meeting at Niigata, no one seemed to check which skater the fans were photographing from the floor.

As for the impartial love required of figure-skating fans, the audience showered it on all the skaters. Almost all the performances received a standing ovation. But for Johnny, more than 90% stood and the applause was loudest of all.

3) The majority of the audience came to see multiple shows. Many saw all three; many others, at least two shows. The programs are the same, but they are crazy-devoted fans who wouldn’t be satisfied with seeing only one.

FYI, the seat fees were 22,000 yen (about $250), 18,000 yen ($210), 14,000 yen ($165), 9,000 yen ($105). I was impressed that so many figure-skating fans were rich, but actually many of them were not, as I found out later.

Our lovely Akiko
among the night cherries
in Kyoto, Japan.
A young woman sitting next to me said that she had seen the second show the previous evening, and she had been to Niigata as well. A couple of young women sitting on the other side of me had seen the second show, too. Really, in seeing only one show, I was in a minority.

Some were obviously rich, but the others--and they were the majority--were not especially rich. After the show I heard, "Gee. From tomorrow on, I have to work hard again. I’ll save money for the next show," from some girls around me. This warmed my heart. If Johnny and the other skaters--all were fabulous, incredibly fabulous--brought us to another planet this way, it's priceless. I felt that my life had meaning and it was full of pleasure, and I was blessed, even if I often overlook or forget that. That is true. And to experience that three times, 54,000 yen ($630) wouldn’t be too expensive.

But--how could I ever return from that other planet after I had made such a wonderful trip three times??

Bonus news! Johnny is the "lead man" in Kelly Ripa's "High Heel-A-Thon" today on Live! With Regis and Kelly! The women's race will be broadcast live this morning, while the men's race will likely be taped and broadcast on tomorrow's show! But I'm TiVo'ing both just in case! Proceeds from the 2010 High Heel-A-Thon will go toward the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health in support of The Heart Truth® campaign for women's heart-health education and research.

Yes! You can own a fine art print of Johnny
perfect for any/every room in the house!
Prints of artist Peter Jurik's "Showtime!"
are available for purchase from his website.
More info here!

Johnny has been honored with
a Human Rights Campaign's Visibility Award
by HRC's Seattle Steering Committee!
He'll be receiving the award and will be
the featured speaker at HRC Seattle's annual
"asOne" Gala Dinner this Saturday, September 25,
at the Westin Seattle. Yes, the public is invited!
For more info or to purchase tickets,
please visit HRC Seattle's website here.

Johnny Is skating in Yu-Na Kim's fabulous show,
All That Skate, in Los Angeles on Saturday, October 2!
Everything you need to know about tickets
and special gatherings of The Cabal
is right here!
This show is expected to be televised
on Sunday, October 10, on NBC--
check your local listings!

Also on Sunday, October 10, Johnny will be performing
in Skate for the Heart in Youngstown, Ohio!
Tickets are available here,
and there's a discussion page for fans here!
This show also will be televised on NBC
on Sunday, January 16, 2011, at 4 p.m. EST!

Please remember to register to receive
the JW Art Project's email newsletter!
They have great tidbits to offer,
and you get a special sneak peek at an exclusive photo
from the book when you sign up!
The Artbook is expected to be published
by the end of October--can't wait!

Coming up: More in the series
of translated interviews from the Mook Book
courtesy of the fabulous Akiko Nakata!

copyright 2010 / Binky and the Misfit Mimes / Lynn V. Ingogly / all rights reserved


WheresMyKoppy said...

Thank you MM and thank you Akiko for this wonderful Blog, and for a few pictures we haven't seen yet! It's nice to see a picture of your smiling face Akiko!

germansoulmate said...

Thanks to Akiko for reporting your Fukui´s experiences, "life-saving" for the ones who always have to stay home and have to live vicariously through different fan´s experiences.

Thanks to MM also for giving Akiko the place and chance to write about it.

PumaJ said...

Fabulous read as I have my morning coffee!

Akiko, as I read your words, I felt as if I was there with you. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience with us:-) This line had me chuckling, "I followed him through opera glasses; but from my seat, I couldn’t see well what she wouldn't see. So don't hate me. Too hot, anyway!"

I noticed in the vids coming from the show in China, that Johnny skated perfectly there, as well. Unlike the other single men skaters. Thus, I am not surprised to hear he did the same in Japan. Just like he did in the Olympics, also. He is the best. End of story:-)

Binks, thank you for your collaboration with Akiko in bringing her wonderful tale to us:-)

Extra hugs for both of you, today.

Novia said...

Many, many thanks, Binky and Akiko for the lovely, detailed, heartfelt account. I love everything about it, even the dash to the loo! :D And I love how Akiko tells the story like a true, ardent fan. Love that bit about the girls who have to work hard to save to see the next shows. Such expensive tickets! Gotta love the Japanese fans for their devotion, the packed house on every show must have been a great ego boost for the skaters. And the shower of gifts, too. I was close to tears reading the last paragraph.

Thank you so very much for this story!

Anonymous said...

Akiko- thank you SO much for sharing that with us, so amusing and informative! And I so appreciate your Mook translations. I have a copy, would be happy just drooling over the photos but I appreciate learning about the interviews as well.

Binky- thanks for bringing us Akiko!


akiko said...

WheresMyKoppy, Germansoulmate, PumaJ, Novia, BrightonDogwood, thank you so much for your kind, heartwarming words!! I'm really happy and honored. And amazing Binky, thanks very much for your fabulous collaboration, as always!!

aaaack said...

Thank you, all, for another great post. Akiko painted some very good pictures with her words. We are so grateful to both of you for taking the time and trouble.