Hi, my name is Arthur Marsh from Adelaide, South Australia. I’ve enjoyed the music of anime since the days of Marine Boy, Gigantor and Kimba on black-and-white television, and more recently rediscovered the music of anime through the works of Studio Ghibli (including my first blu-ray purchase, Joe Hisaishi in Budokan – 25 years with the Animations of Hayao Miyazaki), and movies like Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnêamise, Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence and series like The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. The blu-ray box set of the latter included a concert Suzumiya Haruhi no Gensō which included a singer with amazing diction who turned out to be Minori Chihara. That leads to…
Part 1 – Preamble and Travelogue
What do you get when you start an interest anime music, collecting CD’s, DVD’s and blu-ray discs and then discover Animelo Summer Live?
In my case, extensively watching clips on YouTube, and buying previous concert videos, left me interested in going to Japan to see it live. Video clips such as 輪舞-revolution with Minori Chihara and Masami Okui revealed a dynamic that wasn’t a “sausage factory” approach to putting a concert together. The performers enjoyed doing their best with others. The theme songs, particularly those from 2006, 2007 and 2009, also conveyed a feel-good atmosphere amongst the performers. By watching and listening to videos by performers I wasn’t familiar with, and reading the artist lists for the 2011 concerts, I discovered that there would be several performers at each of the 2011 concerts that I really enjoyed. That left me wanting to go. The question would be how to get to Animelo Summer Live 2011 – Rainbow.
Though I lacked any overseas travel experience and knowledge of the Japanese language, I was able to contact a couple of travel agents with expertise in travel to Japan and one of them was able to secure me tickets to Animelo along with flights, accommodations and travel insurance. Although one review of 2009′s Animelo Summer Live I had read (day 1, day 2) mentioned that the reviewer flew in on the day of the first concert (Saturday), I elected to arrive Thursday morning to visit a few tourist locations and then return home on Monday evening.
Anything one can do to prepare for the trip pays off! This includes learning what you can of the Japanese language and politeness customs, route planning, printing out information, and knowing what the weather and food will be like. Also, an encyclopedic knowledge of the music of anime helps. TV-Tokyo’s Anison Plus program is a good source of such knowledge for those already in Tokyo. For me, the Madman message boards, Wikipedia, tvtropes.org anime and Japanese culture sections, YouTube and cdjapan.co.jp helped fill me in. The Visit Japan site on YouTube is also worth visiting.
Armed with all the knowledge that I could cram into such a short amount of time, the adventure began. I travelled light – one carry-on back-pack and one back-pack in stowed luggage, both with a good amount of space to spare. A friend loaned me a waterproof digital compact camera. Because I was on my own I had little need for a mobile handset and did without one, except as an alarm clock. I took cash (Yen) although I believe that I could have used the Seven-bank ATM’s at convenience stores.
Travelling from Adelaide to Sydney was familiar, having attended SMASH on 16 July 2011, mainly to see Memories of Fantasia performed by the Eminence Symphony Orchestra with guest composers Kenji Ito and Hiroki Kikuta. (Getting along to the Japan Foundation Sydney presentation was also very worthwhile). I briefly met Eminence founder Hiroaki Yura and guest vocalist Mari Yoshida after the concert. They seemed to be the only people at the convention familiar with Animelo. I only realised after I had returned home from SMASH that Hiroaki Yura had also featured in the concert Suzumiya Haruhi no Gensō. [I also bought a copy of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya Original Soundtrack just before the concert.]
Sydney to Tokyo was a non-stop overnight flight where one could feel the Japanese adventure beginning. Half the cabin crew were Japanese and probably more than half the passengers were Japanese. I didn’t manage to get much sleep, but having selected a window seat, did see the moon rise, and eventually the sun’s arrival. After sunrise, the ocean looked like the scene from the beginning of Kyoto Animation videos.
As soon as I headed out the plane after landing, the warmth and humidity hit. Air conditioning in large buildings had been significantly reduced because of the power shortages following the 11 March earthquake and tsunami. However, everything was well-laid out and our exit was handled efficiently.
Upon leaving customs at Narita airport terminal 2, I purchased a Keiso line “Morningliner” limited express ticket for about 1400 Yen and after arriving at Nippori station, bought a Suica smart card to use the trains (the Suica poster at a station on the way from Narita featuring Yui Horie might have helped persuade me). I had printed a copy of the Suica card English language network map for guidance on getting from point A to B (it only shows interchange stations and terminal stations, so you may need to mark in other stations like Saitama-Shintoshin and also note the names of the lines you will be using).
The hotel at Yanaka in the old Taito part of Tokyo looked after my larger back-pack before check-in time, and then I was free to head out to Washinomiya Shrine (featured in Lucky☆Star). The shrine is at the edge of a quiet town and is impressive – dating back more than 1300 years and yet featuring the signs of a sustained anime presence.
The historic city of Kawagoe was reachable via a train from Kuki – no need to back-track towards central Tokyo. I had some confusion at first finding the street to the old part of town but maps on display, plus the maps I had printed, revealed the location of very long, relatively narrow street featuring many historic buildings and shops. One could easily spend much longer there. An express train back to Tokyo gave me time to look at Akihabara before nightfall.
On Friday I headed to Akihabara for a replacement mini-SD card for the camera. The first store where someone greeted me was able to sell me exactly what I needed. Then it was out to the Ghibli Museum (pre-booking essential). If Studio Ghibli’s movies mean anything to you, don’t miss going there. One gets to see a short film there, as well as lots of displays and a replica of a robot from Laputa on the roof-top. The museum is a work of art in itself and the exterior of the building is covered in vegetation. (I didn’t realise what effect visiting the museum would have on me until after I returned home and watched Laputa on blu-ray). After that I strolled through the adjacent park back to Kichijoji station but heavy rain in the afternoon left me riding the Yamanote line back to Nippori station and waiting for the rain to stop rather than looking at Tokyo.
On Saturday I headed out just past the concert venue to Ōmiya and Tetsudō-Hakubutsukan stations to visit the Railway Museum – highly recommended. I bought a sushi lunch pack there and headed back to Saitama-Shintoshin station in plenty of time for the first concert. Do look forward to my thoughts on Day 1 of the concert!
Part of the inspirations for my travels comes from various blogs around the internet. In addition to the ones mentioned in the article, here is a review by someone else of day 2 of Animelo Summer Live 2010 in English here). (PS, there is also a review of the first of the 2011 concerts here.)