I just got back from four weeks in Japan and there's so much to process and so many pictures to sift through that I thought I'd just start with the one Hello! Project event where I was allowed to take pictures, the Satoyama/Satoumi events of Saturday, March 19 and Sunday March 20, 2016, held at the Pacifico Yokohama, including the opening ceremonies, where I would see pretty much all the current H!P acts, plus several of the OGs (Original Girls). These events coincided with HinaFes, also being held there, where I would see two of the concerts, Morning Musume Premium and Kobushi Factory/Angerme Premium. I will cover the concerts in a later entry.
I got there early on Saturday just so I could attend the Satoyama/Satoumi opening ceremonies and see all the performers. Unfortunately, a piece of inaccurate or misheard information led me to wait outside the wrong hall (Hall B, above) for nearly an hour before it occurred to me that the lack of a line meant I was in the wrong place. (D'uuhhhh!) When I found the right place (Hall D, above), the line to get in was already pretty long and when I made it in, it was in the back of a crowded space and the girls were already being introduced, so I missed getting any pictures of Morning Musume '16, who were introduced first and shunted to the back of a crowded stage. Luckily, the telephoto lens on my digital camera works pretty well, so I was able to get good shots of several of the performers who came out for this event.
Most importantly, I finally got to see and photograph members of MM's 1st and 2nd Gens, the first time I've seen any members of those generations in the flesh. Here are Kaori Iida, Mari Yaguchi and Kei Yasuda:
I also got to see Nozomi "Nono" Tsuji for the first time, the only member of 4th Gen I hadn't seen or met before. I've met all three other members of 4th Gen in the past and even though I didn't get to meet Nono, at least I got to see her. Plus she was onstage with two of her former 4th Gen mates, Rika Ishikawa and Hitomi "Yossie" Yoshizawa. (A reunion with their fourth member, Ai Kago, is highly unlikely but devoutly wished for.)
Also on hand were three other former members of MM, Ai Takahashi, Miki Fujimoto and Koharu Kusumi. I'd seen Ai-chan and Koharu in person before, at Anime Expo in L.A. in 2009, but this was the first time I got to see Miki, the only member of 6th Gen I'd never seen or met.
C-ute was there, a group I interviewed in Paris at Japan Expo back in 2014. L-R, Maimi Yajima, Chisato Okai, Mai Hagiwara, Saki Nakajima, Airi Suzuki:
Plus three members of the now-disbanded Berryz Kobo, a group I've seen and interviewed on two previous occasions. L-R, Miyabi Natsuyaki, Maasa Sudo, Yurina Kumai:
Yurina was singled out for some business with some mascot:
This was my first glimpse of members of Angerme, Kobushi Factory, Country Girls and Juice=Juice, all of whom would be performing at the HinaFes concerts. I'd seen Tsubaki Factory a week earlier when they did a song as a warm-up act just before the start of the Morning Musume concerts I attended in Hachioji.
Ayaka Wada of Angerme:
Moe Kamikokuryou, the newest member of Angerme, and the only one I hadn't yet seen in any form:
She was singled out for some business with Kumamon, the bear mascot of Kumamoto, Moe's hometown:
Including a little song and dance:
She would, of course, go on to become one of my new favorites once I got to see her in action at the concerts later that morning and the next day.
Karin Miyamoto of Juice=Juice:
And four of my favorites in one lineup, L-R, Rena Ogawa, Ayano Hamaura, Rei Inoue, and Minami Nomura:
Am I the only one who finds Minami Nomura to be the spitting image of former S/mileage member Saki Ogawa? This was especially evident in the concert.
And another KF favorite, Rio Fujii, in the center:
I got better shots of them at an afternoon event the next day and will post those in my next entry.
Tsubaki Factory sang "Cabbage Hakusho," the Peaberry song from three years ago (originally sung by Ayaka Wada and the now-graduated Riho Sayashi):
Here's a short video clip of Tsubaki Factory singing:
There was some business with Hello Kitty:
And Makoto was there, the frequent MC of H!P concerts, dressed like the Country Girls:
I would later get a "close encounter" with him at one of the booths:
I saw the girls again at some afternoon events in the Satoyama/Satoumi hall on Sunday afternoon, March 20, after the concert, and got some especially good shots of Momoko Tsugunaga, but I'll cover those in a later entry. There were also lots of photographs of the girls from various Satoyama/Satoumi-related events and art projects done by the different acts to be displayed for the event.
To explain what the Satoyama/Satoumi Movement is, I found a Facebook page that covers the same event I did and offers some sort of explanation:
For those who aren't on FB, here's a description from the page. I think the word they were groping for in the first sentence is "sensitize":
"SATOYAMA & SATOUMI movement is a movement created in order to sensibilise people about the mountains, lands, beaches, oceans, etc. It is important to live in symbiosis with the nature, work in the garden, etc. In Japan, many young people leave the campaigns in order to live in the cities. To avoid the depopulation, it is important to introduce the good aspects of those undeveloped areas."
I'm posting this on April 12, the birthday shared by C-ute's Airi Suzuki and MM 4th Gen member Hitomi Yoshizawa, both of whom I photographed at the above event:
For those interested in my non-J-pop adventures in Japan, please check out my film blog: