Paris Japan Expo: Day Four

The night before we had decided to head out at around 6am in order to get to the expo queue in plenty of time. And so that morning, Kitsune woke me up and said it was nearly time for us to go. I must have passed out pretty quick the night before. Don't really remember much of it. In fact, I still don't remember ANY of the journey back to the hotel from the restaurant. I remember being at the restaurant, then I remember being back at the hotel, knocking on our room door to see if there was anyone in. The middle bit is gone.

Anyway, either due to all that yelling at the concert two days prior, or the strength of the sake the day before, I woke up in good health, but with a horrible sore throat (which then turned into a bad cough that I had for 2 weeks after I got home). But I got up, fixed my hair, grabbed my bag, and we were ready to go. Couldn't get changed because the bag with all my clothes was in the other room - luckily, though, the t-shirt gained 10 pounds in rainwater the morning before, which kept me cool (and no doubt gave me a cold) for the whole of the day before, and by now it had dried. I also figured that JunJun would be more likely to recognise mnhuik and myself if we were wearing the same shirts - which we were. 

We walked to the Expo, and because it was still early, it was a very quiet walk, and the temperature was very cool - much as it had been the night that Ole and I walked to the Expo after the concert. On the way there we were approached by two other guys who had been following behind us for a bit. They spoke to us in French and we didn't understand at all, but with some awesome explaining that we were Scots and asking if they spoke English, we had averted the crisis. They asked us if we knew the way to the Japan Expo. What luck! We're headed the very same way. I did find it strange, however, that they were only coming on the last day. Clearly they weren't Momusu fans, but all of the better stuff happened during the first 3 days, to be honest. And if they had been there before, surely they would already know how to get to the Expo?

Unlike on Day Zero, when we met Kerichan12 and Miekie, we didn't really talk with them. They followed behind us, speaking to each other in French, and we walked ahead talking between ourselves.After our normal 20 minute walk to the Expo, we finally made it. We just kind of directed them where to go, they thanked us, and we headed off on our own and joined the queue. We were surprisingly close to the front of the line. There must have only been a dozen or so people in front of us - no-one we knew, however. Seems we were the first of our group there - and the only people there for Morning Musume, it would seem. We sat down and did what we had learned to do so well over the last 4 days. We waited.

It wasn't long before other members of our group started turning up. It started with Gina and Mark. Kitsune and I seized our opportunity to comment on the fact that we had met Morning Musume at the Eiffel Tower the night before, and that they should have been there. They explained that the bus to get to their hotel never turned up, and eventually they just got a taxi back and passed out in their hotel room. It was also here that Mark told me that the piece of insider information that sent us into Paris in the first place was a hoax, and it was thanks to his lie that we met MM. True. Although not just the lie. The fact that we had failed to get a signing ticket, catching the wrong train, all the places we stopped at while in Paris, waiting for replies (which never came) from the rest of our group while at the Eiffel Tower, and finally us spotting and watching the UFA staff for a bit just as we were on our way out to find a pub... If any of those things we did had been just a tiny bit different, it would have messed up the chain of events and wouldn't have led to the ending it did.

Our group swelled, and eventually we got let into the warehouse section to queue, which was about an hour of queuing in there before we could move on to the last section. Luckily, Ole had brought his speaker, so we hooked that up to Mark's phone, and started blasting out various death metal bands (just to creep the people aorund us out), and everything from Moon Kana to Morning Musume. All the while watching out for reactions to the H!P from anyone around us. Seemed that there were no fans queuing with us. There was a random in a Morning Musume expo shirt just behind us, but we didn't think she was even a fan, since she didn't seem to recognise any of the songs that we were playing.

We got through, and after I was enjoying the performance by the ouendan, they let us into the expo. We, of course, made a dash for the lottery queue, and started waiting there.

This queue moved, and we got closer and closer. 3 or 4 people in a row in front of us all got winning tickets, then it got to our turn and our luck ran out. Laa'Kea had managed to procure us some spare expo tickets, however, so we were able to go around for another try. My ticket said my name was Stephanie or something, though, this worried me a little. But I just folded it over in such a way that you couldn't actually see the name, and the girl at the ticket booth didn't even bother to check.

After we failed our first draw, we found Orob and Maoh lurking halfway up the queue, and after standing talking to them for a bit, we found the queue moving up with us in it. Essentially we cut in front of half of the queue. No-one seemed to mind, or notice, however. And so, we each got our second go, and I failed again. I had bought a copy of Alo-Hello! 4 in order to get it signed, but failed to get tickets to signing sessions. Oh well. I got to go to the fnac one, and got to meet them at the Eiffel Tower, so I wasn't too bothered. Even Orob, who had queued from 3am at the fnac with us and somehow didn't get to get a signing ticket seemed pretty happy knowing that he got to meet them and got his picture taken with them at the Eiffel Tower and so the signings didn't really matter anymore.

Curiously, I can vividly remember Gina crying over it, which I found weird since she had won a ticket on Day 2 on her first attempt anyway. Oh well, I didn't stick around to find out. The public Q&A was supposed to be starting shortly, and so Kitsune, Maoh and myself left the others to make our own way there to try and get a good seat.

I've no idea what happened to Maoh then. He was with us on the way there, and then vanished when we went to take our seats.

The whole hall, which it took me a while to realise was the same place where we had watched the concert becuase we went in a different entrance, was set up with large "Blocks" of chairs. Three large blocks in front of the stage, which were filling up fast, then behind them there was a raised area where I assume all the lighting and technical stage stuff was controlled from. On either side of this there was another block of seating. And, I think, there was a further two blocks of seating behind those.

Kitsune and I grabbed seats quick, we ended up in the middle of the right-most second block. So the very middle of the hall, I guess. But people in front would move or leave, and we would quickly get up and move seats, until we ended up at the very front of our block.

The questions were all ones that had been sent in online, so unlike their AX conferences, you couldn't stand up and ask one yourself. Questions and answers were in French and Japanese only, so for many of us, we were pretty dissappointed to not understand most of what was being said. And tiredness from the previous days was beginning to catch up on me, so I was fighting hard to actually stay awake.

I didn't catch it myself, but I was told later that they actually mentioned us during the conference. They said that they had even bumped into some fans at the Eiffel Tower the day before. I was pretty happy to hear this. Even if they probably didn't remember who we even were or what we looked like, they still remembered us.

Well, the Q&A ended, and we got up and made our way to the front by the stage where a crowd was building to cheer and wave them off. We weren't quite close enough for them to really see us. But they waved at me. Albeit in a quick, wave-at-the-whole-crowd kind of way.

Well, the signing session was due to start shrotly after, so we left and quickly made our way to the stage where they usually did their signings. Kitsune vanished ahead of me into the crowd. I never expected it to be so hectic on the last day. But it was definitely the busiest I'd seen it all week. I struggled through, and found him standing near a stall looking back into the crowd. I assumed that he was waiting for me, and made it to him saying, "Right, which way was it again?" and when he didn't respond I turned around to see what he was staring at. And there was Sayu right behind me. They were making their way through the crowd, passing little more than a foot away from me. I was pretty startled, and all I could do was wave to them.

Unfortunately, I still don't think they had recognised us. Need to try harder and get a good spot at the signing to wave from!

When we got there, I was annoyed to find that the entire front row had been taken up already. Orob and Nimrod had already gotten a place at the very front, so I decided to lurk behind them. But Nimrod is big, and hard to see past.

The previous act were actually still on the stage, just finishing up with some photos. I actually felt sorry for them, because it seemed that their session had been fairly quiet when suddenly hundreds of Musume fans turn up en masse before you're even finished.

This turned out to be the worst signings of the whole expo. Huge crowds swarming round, and Expo security patrolling the queue forcing anyone with cameras, which the expo staff, Morning Musume, and their management had all been very lax about until now. Orob, in front of me, kept trying to sneak photos in, and then this black security guy would come up and tell him to put the camera away, he'd appologise and ignore him. After the 5 or 6th time, the guy threatened to throw him out, and he gave in and stopped taking pictures.

I saw another security guy yell at one person further back in the crowd to stop taking pictures and when he, presumably because he didn't hear, didn't stop immediately, the guy actually attempted to vault over the fence. Wasn't a clever idea. Those red boundaries in the queue look quite sturdy and made of wood, but it's mostly cloth with a wooden frame.

The atmosphere was tense and heavy. The staff were pissed off at us, we were pissed off at them, and things were fairly quiet. Then, of all people, LinLin helped break the tension. Up until this point, if there was a gap in the line where one of the girls wasn't signing, we would all start yelling and waving to get her attention. But this time LinLin got a free moment and a couple guys in the crowd behind me started chanting "Linlin! Linlin! Linlin!" which eventually spread to most of the crowd.Suddenly we had a hundred or so fans all chanting her name,  and she encouraged us by pumping her fist to the chants. I saw her and her manager exchange laughs about it, and now we had found a way to have fun. We did it once more with LinLin and then we were off. Any time a girl had a break and was free, we'd start chanting her name just like that. Even when there wasn't any girls free, we would start chanting the same Momusu chants that were used in the concert.

One by one, the girls started to recognise us from the night before too. At one point I saw Aika look at us and her jaw fell as she waved at us. I saw similiar reactions from Eri, Sayu and Reina, though theirs were a lot more subtle. I think LinLin also noticed us. She should have anyway, we were standing in front of her part of the stage. And she waved to us alot over that session, as well as the ones on previous days, that I imagine she probably did. Unfortunately for mnhuik and I, JunJun never seemed to notice, or if she did, I never caught her reaction. I wonder if she still has those photos she (and the others) took of us on her phone...

Anyway, the atmosphere became fun, and it ended up being one of the more fun signing sessions of the Expo, despite the first half being the worst.

Eventually the girls all left and, as was normal for previous days, we all moved and crowded round to the side of the stage by the exit, where they normally leave from. Time seemed to go on, though. Usually it'd only take 3 or 4 minutes for them to leave, but we got up to 10 minutes before one of the Expo volunteers came up to us and told us that they had already gone. I've no idea how they managed to get away without us noticing, but the news spread and the crowd dispersed. We wondered around for a bit before going back to Culture Japon. Curiously, on the way there, we noticed that the Hello!Project stall had gone. All of the merchendise had vanished, the staff had gone, and the TV above it that had been playing the same H!P concert for 4 days was now blank. All that was left was a few French stall hands and a damaged poster, which they refused to sell.

It amazes me that they managed to all escape so quick and so stealthily, that I actually believe UP FRONT is a front for some kind of ninja dojo.

We had heard from some Japanese wota that MM's flight was to leave at 7:30pm. And so we were prepareing to go to the airport to go see them off, but Laa'Kea assured us that it wasn't true. It was now close to 4pm, I believe, and she said that they'd have to get back to their hotel, get out of their costumes, shower, etc. They'd probably not leave til the 9:30pm flight. Mark and Dean had vanished off somewhere anyway, so we had to wait for them to turn up. But Orob checked the flight timetable using his phone, and we uncovered that there was no 9:30 flight, only a 7:30. So we found everyone, and made our way to the airport, though Orob couldn't join us, as he had to catch a ferry back to England the following morning.

We arrived at the departure check-in for JAL, and it was empty. Mark decided to go up and ask if Morning Musume had checked in yet. I have no idea how he tried to explain to the guy who Morning Musume were, but he had no idea. And so we sat around waiting in front for them to turn up when Lolli went off to find a store. After 5 or so minutes of hanging around, Kea's phone rang and when she answered it it was Lolli. I cannot stress how comic the timing was on this, but most of us were mid-conversation when Kea repeated what Lolli had said, "Morning Musume are over there?"

We jamp up before she could even finish and started running towards the passport control where, sure enough, we found a group of 40 or so fans all crowded up waving to Morning Musume in the queue.

Apparently they had managed to get here early enough to see the girls actually arrive, but we were presumably too slow. Still, we did get to see them leaving through the gate. Well, I say "see", but I myself only caught sight of Eri.

After they left, we found a McDonalds to eat at. Dean's plane was also due to leave in a couple hours, so we got something to eat. Mark stole his MM poster and hid it in his own bag. And we finished and went outside to get our pictures taken.

Finally, we made our way to the terminal were Dean was to leave, and I suggested that we do the exact same thing that we had done with Morning Musume, and yell at him like he's an Idol as he goes through to the gate. And so we did. He's queuing to get through to the departure lounge, and we're standing at the end waving to him and yelling, "Diinu-sama! Daisuki!"

It was pretty fun, although it was missing something with so few of us there, unlike the 50 we ended up making at the MM one. Still, he seemed pretty embarrased by it all, yet played along. I can only imagine what the other people queuing up must have thought. And so, everyone started to go home. We said goodbye to everyone we'd met, and Ole, Kitsune and I went back to our hotel as the group started to split up.


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