Paris Japan Expo: Day One

After a little sightseeing and meeting up with Brian at the Eiffel Tower, we made our way to the FNAC store where we found about 3 dozen Japanese and local French fans queuing already. We got there before midnight, but some of the people at the front had been there since about 6pm after greeting Momusu at the airport. 

We sat down on the ground, behind a large group of Japanese fans and looked forward to the next 12 hours of queuing with a mix of dread and excitement. 

Time passed rather quickly at first. I got out my iPhone and would play some tunes - though ReiNa.than and chibilolli weren't pleased when we learned that I'd forgotten to put 10 My Me on my phone and couldn't play Moonlight Night for them. Some of the nearby Japanese fans saw me doing ROMANSU and got a chuckle out of it though, and for the next hour or two they would join in every now and again as we did the motions to various songs like Mikan. A real sense of camaradrie was there, among the 50 or 60 people, but that point, who were lining up overnight just to see Morning Musume - though there were fairly well-defined "groups" and not so much intermingling between them.

Random French people kept wandering by and, noticing the crowd, would approach our group and ask what we were doing. We'd tell them that we were waiting for the fnac store to open, and they would inquire who was going to be there. "Japanese pop group called Morning Musume", we'd tell them, and they would be slightly puzzled, but no less interested, by this revelation. Brian decided to pass the time this way and try to make friends by hailing people of the street with a hearty, "Excusez-moi, parlez-vous anglais?" and would proceed to show off his gibberish French and incredible Dutch charm. One group of girls he hailed over asked what we were queuing for, and he actually managed to convince them that Barrack Obama was signing his book in the fnac store and we were lining up overnight to see him. "Oh my god! Really?" They asked, "No." He then went on to explain Morning Musume, and they seemed a tad dissappointed.

It got to around 2:30am, and people were starting to pass out from fatigue. Most of the Japanese fans around us, probably tired from lining up for so long compounded by jetlag, had fallen asleep leaving a trail of unconsious Japanese wota snaking through the line (which was actually a pretty funny sight to behold - I wish I had taken a picture). Some of our own group had fallen asleep too. Brian was asleep, so was Lolli and -kitsune-. The two Dutch girls, Miekie and Kerichan12 had gone back to their hotel a long time ago and wouldn't return til about 7am.

Those of us in our group still awake had taken small glowstick (of the kind you put around your wrist) and an empty bottle of water and were trying to toss the ring so it landed on the bottle - though if you succeeded but knocked the bottle over it would count as a fail. Yes. That is how tired and bored we were.

Some time after 3am Oroboras joined us in the line. He'd driven a van across England and a motorbike across France, and had just arrived in Paris. Luckily, he brought a laptop with several concerts included on the hard-drive, so we sat and watched them for a while. What happened following is a bit of a blur, I fell asleep for an hour, but when I woke up it was about 7am or soemthing and Miekie and Kerichan12 had reappeared.

Shortly thereafter, X5-2000 turned up. I was supposed to be rooming with him at the hotel, but his flight didn't land til 7pm, and, although we had arranged to meet at the hotel then, I was in the city with the others at this point. He wasn't able to meet us at the fnac store earlier because he didn't know how to get there and the trains stopped running about 1am. We managed to get him to join the line with us. Nimrod appeared just after too, but when Nimrod joined us in the line, some of the fans further back complained and asked him to join the back of the line. X5 was lucky enough that they never asked him to. Not sure why, but he wasn't complaining. 

Everyone stood up and the line tightened as we prepared to enter the store in 2 or 3 hours. Some reporters and camera crews arrived, as well as security. They got lots of pictures and footage of the crowd, as well as a couple of interviews, and we learned from security that we'd be let into the store around 15 minutes before regular opening time in groups of 10, where we'd buy a CD, get our ticket and then come back out and rejoin the queue, before being let into the signing.

Anyway, so that's what we did. Except the whole thing was pretty badly designed. Our group walked down the stairs into the store, right past the stand where we were supposed to grab our CDs, and into the line to pay for the goods, where the Japanese fans in front informed us that we had to go back and pick up a CD. When we went back to find them, we discovered that the group that were let in after us had already grabbed the last ones on the stand, and so we had to let the staff know there was none more - all the while more and more people are crowding into the store. One of the fnac staff brought out 2 or 3 dozen CDs, which she said were the last ones, and so it was a mad frenzy to grab one. It didn't matter what, just anything would do.

I think part of the reason they lost CDs so fast was because some people were buying multiple ones. I saw people leaving with 3 or 4 of them, which wasn't really fair on everyone else as there ended up being a lot of people who didn't get a ticket. I did manage to grab one and get a ticket though. So it was back outside to join the queue.

I ended up being behind a guy in full yellow wota gear while in line, the same guy who had said to me, "Dran! Dude, you forgot your change." when I bought the CD and forgot to collect my change. I asked him who he was and how he knew my name (and I did recognise him from somewhere myself) and it turned out to be CatchFiveBats who I knew mostly from our discussions on #wotachat and MSN. I would join his group from time to time over the coming days - though his group never really became a part of our large one.

Anyway, after more lining up (and Morning Musume arriving, I believe, though somehow I never noticed them arriving) we got to head back inside in groups of 10 or 15 like before and queue up to meet the girls and get their autographs. We were told that they would sign any official item, not just the CD you bought for the ticket, so alot of people were getting photobooks, sports towels and photocards signed. I didn't have anything at this point other than the CD I got from fnac and the CD I bought from lolli, as all my Musume goods at home were from the pre-Love Machine era, and it didn't make any sense getting them to sign CDs or whatever that the current members didn't actually feature in. So I got them to sign the book from the OMNI single I bought from lolli.

When I got to the tables, I was blown away. I still can't remember much about the whole event, I just remember being so close to the girls - closer than I would be able to get to them than at any other point over the next 4 days. I was so starstruck that I didn't actually manage to work up the courage to speak to them until I got to Eri, whom I proudly told in Japanese that I had come from Scotland to see them. She couldn't hear me at first, so I repeated myself. But she still couldn't hear, so she stood up a little and leaned over the table so I could say it into her ear. I was little over a foot away from Eri at this point. She finally understood, and thanked me.  The rest of the session other than that was fairly uneventful for me, though I did make a point of telling JunJun that I was a big JunJun fan, which she was very happy about and thanked me in English.

After the session, we went to a nearby McDonald's to get a drink, and then everyone went their seperate ways. Brian had parked his car nearby, and offered to give X5, Kitsune and myself a lift back to our hotel. That was quite an experience. He couldn't get his SatNav to find the satellite, so we were driving around just about getting hit by other cars while his attention was half on the road and half fiddling with the SatNav. But since he's Dutch we didn't care. If you are going to get killed in a crash, might as well have a hilarious Dutchman at the wheel yelling at French drivers while it happens, right?

Anyway, we got safely to the hotel, and I retrieved my bags from -Kitsune-'s room and we then made our way to our own room, where I met Gunnar, the third roommate. The whole experience must have been a little surreal for him, since he wasn't an wota, or even a Momusu fan. I dunno how X5 managed to drag him along to Paris. Of course, the room slept three people, but one of the beds was a double, so I ended up sharing with X5 - but that was fine, since we were rarely ever in the room anyway. 

After dumping my bags and resting for ten minutes in the hot room with no air-conditioning, we decided to just go straight to the Japan Expo. We picked -Kitsune- up from his room again after he'd had a shower, and walked to the Parc des Exposition. This 4 people would be the extent of our group for the rest of the day, as the others had all gone back to their hotels to sleep (or so I imagine).

We entered the Expo through Entrance 4, which was the normal entrance for 4-day ticket holders. But weirdly enough the staff never checked our tickets. We just walked straight in wondering, "Aren't they supposed to scan our tickets? Oh well."

We went straight for the Hello!Project shop, and I bought a pika pika tour Uchiwa and Berryz concert visual book. The uchiwa was something of a lifesaver, since it was so hot in the Expo - even hotter than outdoors. Constant use did kind of bend it out of shape, but I didn't really care. It still worked, and it wasn't really damaged, you would only notice the non-perfectness of the shape upon close inspection. We found La'Kea lurking in one of the side alleys and she directed us to the JE shop, who then told us we had to go to the signing information desk near the back of the expo to enter in the draw. When we got there the queue was relatively small and we quickly reached the front of the line where the staff member marked our tickets and we drew a piece of paper out of a box with a hotle in the top just large enough to fit your arm in. One after another we all drew fails, but she told us if we rejoin the back of the line we could have another try. So that's what we did, unfortunately the final winning ticket was drawn just before we got our second go.

We didn't know you could watch the signing event at this point, so we wandered around the Expo looking at random stalls and the video games before deciding it best to just head back to our hotel to shower and get some sleep. My first real chance to sleep in two days.


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