One of the great things about visiting Tokyo is the chance to get Hello! Project releases without paying the exorbitant CDJapan shipping costs and the chance to get all sorts of other H!P and J-pop goods by simply walking into a store.
On my first full day in Japan, I went to Shibuya to take care of business getting tickets for different events, renting a pocket wi-fi and getting some accessories for my smartphone. On my way I passed a store that featured an ad for Kobushi Factory’s latest single:
I certainly wasn’t going to see something like that in any of Manhattan’s shopping districts.
While in the area, I also visited Tower Records which has a whole floor devoted to J-pop. How great was it to see a Country Girls display as soon as I got off the escalator?
They have a whole Hello! Project section…
…and I was able to pick up some new releases including the Angerme concert with Kanon Fukuda’s graduation, the then-most-recent Morning Musume concert DVD (Prism), the newest C-ute album, and singles from Country Girls, Kobushi Factory and Angerme. It felt good to actually contribute to the Japanese sales figures.
They also had Polaroid photos of the H!P girls during their visits to the store posted up around the section, complete with autographs added after the photos developed.
Also, while in Shibuya, I got to eat at a restaurant that was once featured in a Magic Restaurant skit on “Hello! Morning” and eat the exact same yummy dish that Rika once ate and so enjoyed:
Later in my trip I went to Akihabara, where I got to visit the official Hello! Project Store, which has full displays of H!P memorabilia, as well as goods for sale.
At the store, I got to meet the husband-and-wife team, Michael Rigoni and Alita Schratweiser, who run a business providing tickets and assorted goods to westerners. (Alita used to post comments on this blog.) In fact, it was through them that I got my tickets to the Morning Musume concerts in Hachioji and the HinaFes concerts in Yokohama. So I got to thank them in person.
The reception area of the store functions as both a screening room for ongoing showings of recent concerts...
...and a mini-museum featuring H!P costumes:
They also have a wall of autographed Polaroids of the girls during their visits to the store:
I especially liked the life-size cut-outs of Kobushi Factory with autographs and messages on them:
My four favorites in KF were all grouped together and they even signed their names in English:
While I was there I purchased a copy of Ayaka Wada’s newest book on art, "Bijutsu de Meguru Nippon Saihakken ~Ukiyo-e・Nihonga Kara Butsuzo Made~" (English title: Rediscovering Japan Through Art: From Ukiyo-e and Japanese Paintings to Buddhist Sculptures). It’s in Japanese only, but it has lots of pictures and serves almost as an H!P photobook with an art theme. Besides, I want to support the young author.
A picture of Ayaka came with the book:
In addition, I got reproductions of autographed polaroids of some prominent visitors to the store:
Elsewhere in Akihabara, I found a Trio Shop devoted to J-pop goods, mostly AKB48, but with a good supply of H!P...
...so I bought a number of photos of now-graduated favorites:
Akihabara offers a wealth of establishments catering to fanboys and fangirls of various stripes:
At another point in my trip I went to several branches of Book Off and purchased some single videos. In one store, I noticed a copy of the very first H!P concert I ever watched:
And one of many random surprises, here’s AKB48’s Sayaka Yamamoto in a subway ad in Tokyo:
And again in Osaka:
And next door to my hotel in Osaka was a CD/DVD store that had a Hello! Project section also:
Now that I'm back in New York, I have to rely on CDJapan again.