Paris Japan Expo: Day Zero

As I'm sure many of you are aware by now, this last week I have been in Paris for the Japan Expo, and more importantly, the Morning Musume concert and events. This is my account of what transpired over the 5 days that I was there. The highs, and the lows.

I hadn't even planned to go originally. Being more of a Berryz fan, I didn't feel as compelled to go as some of the Momusu fans out there. But then I got a job, and with the income generated from it I did some quick calculations and learned that I could afford to go, though it would be pretty tight. And it was then that I realised that I really wanted to go. The very first Hello!Project concert in Europe? Morning Musume, my old Idols playing as close as Paris, only ~2000 miles away? The chance to meet up with hundreds of other wota? This was the chance of a lifetime, and so I made my decisison and started frequenting the PJX thread on Hello!Online.

Here I later learned that I wasn't going to be the only Scottish fan in attendance. -Kitsune-, a fan who lives less than two dozen miles from me, yet I had never met before, would also be attending. We later learned that, by strange coincidence, we had booked the same flight from the same airport, and would be staying in the same hotel. And so, we both decided to meet up at the airport and fly together, it seemed logical. And if we were to represent a race of 5 million people at a Morning Musume event by ourselves, it might as well be as a unit!

And so, I met him at the airport as planned. I made my way to the gate, and someone walked up to me saying, "Dran?" When I turned around, there was a guy standing there, about the same height as me, with a Hello!Online nametag taped onto his bag reading -Kitsune- (I had a matching one that said Dran. They were designed by Bisso). Despite having never met before, we got off to an incredible start. The awkwardness was dispelled in minutes and we were busy chatting away at the gate, and then during the flight, about various aspects of Hello!Project fandom and Hello!Online life.

So we landed in France, nervous about everything. Neither of us were frequent fliers, so nerves about the whole process coupled with the knowledge that in an hour we'd be within shouting distance of Morning Musume? We had butterflies and adrenaline going around all at once. We got into Paris Charles de Gaulle airport at Terminal 2B, and after waiting for our bags for 10 or 15 minutes, we were finally able to make our way to Terminal 2E, where Morning Musume were expected to land 30 minutes later. This wasn't easy, as we'd just landed, and Charles de Gaulle can be pretty confusing to find your way around for the first time. So we got a little lost, and more than a little confused, but eventually found our way there and when we got there saw a crowd gathering in front of the doors.

So we joined them, and I immediately recognised Nimrod. You'd never believe it from the way he is online, but this is a man of few words. Maybe he didn't understand spoken English all too well, or maybe he doesn't have much confidence in his own ability to speak it, but he barely said a word the whole time we were in Paris. Just a giant German bloke following us around and soaking in everything he could.

I do remember wondering what this large group of wota must look like to other people. I looked up at the walkways above us, and there were security guards and airport staff watching us all very bemused. And then every time a person walked through those doors from baggage collection into the arrivals lounge they would greet us with equally confused looks. Can you imagine walking through and finding 200 wota all dressed in coloured t-shirts and wota gear staring at you with cameras in their hands? Well... I can't. But some walked through and had a little fun with us. They'd strike a pose and we'd all cheer for them and take photos. Then we'd go back to watching the doors like hawks and mingling with the wota around us.

It was here that I heard someone walk up to a short girl standing beside me dressed in a green Gaki t-shirt and said, "Are you chibilolli?" This caught my interest. Lolli is pretty famous and, while I wouldn't have said we knew each other well enough to be considered friends, I'd spoken to her many times online. I turned around with, what I can only imagine as looking like a surprised expression, and said, "Lolli?" 
"I'm Dran!"
And so we shook hands.

Humble introductions. But Lolli became another addition to our group, like -Kitsune- and Nimrod, that lasted very much the entire way through the Expo. Although at this point we only shared a brief conversation. Suddenly the doors opened and huge cheering ran out. Morning Musume had appeared. I was stood in the second or third row, so I only got brief glimpses at all of them, though the one thing that did stick out in my mind most of all was that as she was walking past Gaki looked and waved right at me.

Unlike previous Airport greetings I've seen, we weren't entirely barricaded off from the girls. There was barricades set up in front of the doors which created a pathway that goes to either side of the crowd, but that was it. Once the girls walked the 5 or 6 metres to the corner they would turn into the open arrivals lounge where, in theory, one could walk right up to the girls totally unhindered by barricades or anything.

As soon as the girls had gone past, we all made a run to follow. We had the courtesy to not get too close, and gave them enough room to walk to the cars that were parked in the car park for them. But the whole time we were yelling and waving at them, and they seemed to be enjoying it a little too. They later reported in their blogs that they had arrived in Paris and were happy to see lots of fans there to greet them which, I've been told, was significantly more than the number at Anime Expo last year.

When we got to the car park however, all hell broke loose, wota were scattered everywhere and were cheering the girls. Buses and cars were unable to get through for us and the girls' car. Their windows were blacked out so you couldn't see them, but the windscreen was totally see through, so if you were standing at the front of the car, you could still see Sayu clearly.

Someone was also shouting "Mikitty!" I found that a little confusing, but it was heard alot over the 5 days, so I guess either someone has been out of the loop for the last 3 years, or he was having a laugh.

They finally drove off, and left a bunch of fans hanging around. Some of them wandered off, and some of us stayed put and chatted some more. By this point our group had grown to include Chibilolli, La'Kea, ReiNa.than, mnhuik, Nimrod, -Kitsune-, and myself.

We mingled some more before mnhuik and Nimrod left, and we decided to make a move and do a little  sightseeing. Everyone caught the train to our hotels (which wasn't easy - why can't ticket machines in Paris accept notes instead of just coins?) and we decided to meet back at the station at Parc des Expositions before heading into Paris. My roommate X5-2000 wouldn't arrive for another 3 hours or so, so I couldn't check into the room, so -Kitsune- checked in and I dumped my bags in his room for the time being and we headed out immediately back to the station which was about a mile from the hotel. 

But on the way back we were followed by two girls. After a while, the ran up to us and asked if I was Dran. I still had my nametag stapled onto my bag at that point so the must have seen that, so when I told them I was, one of the girls said she had read my Berryz fanfic only the night before. That was a pleasant surprise. The girls were KeriChan12 and Mieke, two Hello!Online lurkers. They followed -Kitsune- and myself back to the station, where we met up with the others. We introduced our new friends, and were soon on our way. We bought Paris tickets and made our way to the Opera to do a little sightseeing and grabbed a bite to eat at a fast food joint called "Quick", which is actually a misnomer as the service was neither quick nor was the food very good. I recommend sticking to MacDonald's for burger joints in France.

La'Kea had left us by this point so she could go home, and gave us directions so we could catch the trains to the Eiffel Tower. So we went there, and it was only standing there in front of the lit Eiffel Tower at night did it really sink in that I was actually standing in Paris. It was a fantastic sight to behold (though during the day it's rather ugly).

.Brian contacted us at this point after having driven all the way from the Netherlands, and we had arranged to meet him here at the Eiffel Tower, he was waiting for us under the East leg, I believe. So we had to walk to the Eiffel Tower from where we were standing near Trocadéro station and look for him in the crowds. Luckily Brian is 6'11", and easy to spot in a crowd. We continued to enjoy our location, and be bothered by dozens of people trying to sell us Eiffel Tower souvenirs while waiting for La'Kea to turn up. She never did. So we decided to head straight to the FNAC signing session after learning that there were already some local French fans and Japanese fans queuing up all afternoon. We got to the FNAC store around 11:30pm, took our place (around 40 or 50 in line) and began the long process of sitting in the middle of a busy Paris street at night for the next 12 hours so that we would be secured a place at the signing the following morning which only offered around 150 tickets.


adventwriter said...

I wish I could have gone....XD.

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