Three years ago, I was sitting in the common room of my hostel in Seoul and enjoying a cup of tea during the quiet morning hours. On TV, they were broadcasting some kind of music show, and I found myself tapping my foot along to a catchy song. It was “Humanoids” by Korean pop group TVXQ (known in Japan as Tohoshinki). At the time, I had no idea who they were, but for the rest of the day, I couldn’t get the beat out of my head. That night, I went to download the song off of iTunes, and for the next few years, TVXQ would be on heavy rotation. Since then I’ve gotten completely sucked into the world of Korean and Japanese pop idols. Many Asian musicians and idol groups usually only tour around [you guessed it] Asia, but in the case of TVXQ, they played a concert in Los Angeles back in 2013 and I wasn’t able to go. They had come to my home turf, and I feared I had missed my opportunity to see them live. After that, I promised myself if I ever moved to Japan, I’d find a way to go to one of their concerts.
And indeed I did.
For popular idol groups in particular, tickets are notoriously difficult to acquire unless you’re part of a group’s fanclub, but even still, concerts sell out quickly. Tickets are assigned via a lottery system so you have to register for the shows you want to attend and how many tickets you want then cross your fingers. Oh yeah, and you don’t get to choose your seats. If you’re selected, your tickets will either be mailed to you (usually fanclub members only) or you have to pick up tickets at the local convenience store. So for all the effort it takes to see your favorite group, it’s safe to say that going to a concert in Japan is a special occasion.
First, I’ll say that my image of going to a concert in America is something like a Lady Gaga show where people are dancing, singing along, and screaming their heads off the whole night. If I haven’t left blind from all the flashing lights or my ears aren’t ringing, it wasn’t all that great of a show.
The TVXQ concert felt more like watching a theater production or a movie with 30,000 other people. The audience was quiet. Too quiet. There wasn’t much in the way of cheering, loud applause, or singing along unless of course one of the members flashed a smile or winked in your general direction. It was like people were so fixated by the performances that by talking, cheering, or singing maybe they felt they were being disrespectful or distracting to the artist. In that way, the show was a bit underwhelming, BUT on the plus side, it was easier to hear the members talk and hear their high notes echo off the walls. On top of that, everyone had red penlights and wristbands to wave around all night which created a sense of community. And MAN can TVXQ dance. It made me miss my dancing days so badly that I wanted to run on stage and dance with them. Fun fact for those who didn’t know, I was a dancer for 13 years. Ballet, tap, hip hop, jazz, I did it all. Anyway, I was elated to finally see TVXQ live. It was one of the best nights I’ve ever had in Japan so far.
Because there was a strict no cell phones and no cameras policy, I couldn’t take any photos of the concert. By strict I mean staff walking up and down the stands all night to scold anyone who so much as took out their phone to check the time. Anyway, to compensate, here is a beautiful shot of Fukuoka by night (post-Tohoshinki concert). I haven’t spent much time in Fukuoka in the past, but now that the city is only a 1 hour train ride away, that’s going to change. Fukuoka left me with good vibes. Dare I say that Tokyo may have some new competition for the title of my favorite city in Japan.