Life is a stern teacher. And some of the hardest lessons life can give come in the form of missed opportunities.
All right, enough with the melodramatic lead-ups. Here’s the dirt on what happened just a short while ago.
(A word of caution: long, rambling rant up ahead.)
The latest episode of NHK’s imagine-nation programme turned the spotlight on the Japanese voice acting profession. To illustrate the many tasks expected of seiyuu in this day and age (apart from acting out roles in anime), two correspondents were sent to join 9,000 eager otaku for a show featuring the cast of Lucky Star. I was busy with something else at the time so I missed parts of the coverage, but I did see members of the packed audience cheering like madmen and waving multi-coloured light sticks as the Lucky Star seiyuu were trotted out onstage in cheerleading outfits for a recreation of the famous OP dance sequence. Though I’m not the sort of lad who jumps at the chance to attend live performances, the electrifying atmosphere I saw on the telly made me wish I was there to share in the fun. Still, it was no more than a passing fancy: like most otaku based outside the Land of Raw Fish on Rice I’d long resigned myself to the fact that while the Japanese can enjoy events of this kind throughout the year, the best I can ever get is a concert DVD.
I put it out of my mind and went about my business. Later in the day (less than three hours ago), I was skipping channels and came across a replay of the programme. This time I was able to watch the whole coverage, including the part when the correspondents were doing the usual pre-concert interviews outside the venue. Above the doors was a large sign that bore, among other things, the date “3 29” in bold letters.
My blood turned cold.
No. No, that can’t be right. It just can’t.
Shortly after watching the programme, I dove into the internet and went on a research rampage. My worst fears were soon confirmed: the Lucky Star event featured on imagine-nation was held at the Budoukan on the afternoon of 29 March 2009.
Now here’s the crux of the problem: I came within a few metres of the Budoukan on the afternoon of 29 March 2009.
I was taking a walk along the famous Chidorigafuchi moat, one of Tokyo’s most popular hanami hotspots. The Budoukan’s roof with its bulbous tip was on the other side of the moat. I ignored it and gazed happily at the blooming sakura, blissfully unaware that just a few hours later, the Four Lovely Ladies from Saitama (sans Miyuki) and the rest of the gang would be partying late into the night with a legion of adoring fans.
After learning all this, something that’d been bugging me since that day finally made sense. About a couple of hours before the start of the event, I veered away from the Chidorigafuchi moat and started walking around the side-streets of Chiyoda-ku not far from the Budoukan area when I spotted two people ahead of me – both carrying Lucky Star-themed shopping bags. Now that was an incongruous sight if I’d ever seen one: we were in the historic centre of Tokyo, in a posh-nosh district not far from Japan’s version of Capitol Hill and a stone’s throw from the Imperial Palace, miles away from Akihabara or any other well-known otaku playground. Heck, I visited Akihabara itself three times when I was in Tokyo and not once did I see anyone with a Lucky Star bag. If the streets were teeming with people it might not have mattered (one sees all types in a crowd), but it was a Sunday afternoon and the streets of Chiyoda-ku were eerily silent, with few others around to balance the impact of the encounter. They seemed so out of place that I was seized with the temptation to snap a picture; only the fear of them turning around and catching me in the act stayed my hand.
Had I been aware of the event, I wouldn’t have puzzled over those two and their Lucky Star bags. Had I been aware of the event, I would probably have joined them and the thousands of others who crowded into the Budoukan that day, abandoning all shame and reserve and screaming like lunatics as Chihara Minori-sama and her underlings belted out mercilessly addictive songs for the enjoyment of their fans.
A couple of things. First, it was a Sunday – and there are some things I just don’t do on Sundays (pop concerts and similar activities among them). Second, tickets were being sold weeks in advance so I probably wouldn’t even have gotten in. If the footage of the event is anything to go by, the place was packed to the rafters.
So contrary to the impression that everything I’ve written so far may have given, I’m not beating myself up about missing the Lucky Star show. (Not too badly, anyway.) But there’s a point to all this: even after the meticulous, months-long travel research I carried out before flying to Japan, I had absolutely no idea that something like this was cooking. Never mind that I would have skipped this particular show anyway; if others were scheduled to take place on other days and with enough of a chance to secure admission, I should have sought them out and made the necessary arrangements. (The only otakuish event I took serious note of was the Studio Rikka screening of 28 March, and due to various circumstances I had to skip that one as well.)
And I’m glad I finally solved the riddle of The Two Out-of-Place Lucky Star Bags in Chiyoda-ku.