I should start by saying that in all my over four years attending events in Japan, this was the most interesting yet. The event was a New Year Event, restricted to those who had purchased the box-set of all versions of their debut single (they had 4 such events over two days, so we had been asked to choose which event we would attend). The box would come signed and we were able to get our name and the date written on it by our favourite member at the event. Because of the limitations, there were just under 50 people there, which made it nice and intimate.
The event opened with them randomly choosing an MC for the event (Taishin, as the leader, is usually in charge, but they wanted to give someone else a chance). Kengo was chosen randomly from a box. It probably wasn't the best choice because I don't think MCing is his strong point, but I knew he would do his best at least. Unfortunately he did spend a lot of the time clinging to Taishin who had to help him out, but that's what leader is there for right? I'm glad to see they seem to be getting a long well recently anyway, I was a little worried about their relationship for a while.
Their first task was was to write their new year resolutions with ink on paper in one word, which is a common thing for people to do in Japan at the New Year. They only had space for three members to write at once and so Kengo dragged Taishin aside to stand with him while the others did their writing.
In the mean time, by the way, they had another challenge. When talking, they were not allowed to use any katakana words (basically any loan words from other languages, usually English). The person who failed the most times would have a penalty during their live afterwards. For Hikaru, whose favourite things are bread (パン) and rap (ラップ), it was particularly hard especially because Taishin kept catching him out by asking him about his favourite things. Kengo also struggled with not being able to say "live" (ライブ) or "concert" (コンサート) and was trying to describe these things without actually saying them. Kaoru, who likes soccer (サッカー) also had problems but he made it worse because he accidentally said it, and then yelled "ouch!" when he realised he'd done it, meaning another minus point.
The writing seemed to take them a long time, particularly Taishin who clearly fails at kanji and had to keep turning round and asking the others how to write what he wanted to write. When they were finally revealed Kengo had also made a mistake in his kanji which everyone thought was super cute (I'm sure they would have laughed if it was anyone else but everything Kengo does is cute). I don't remember what their new year's resolutions actually were though, especially since I couldn't read most of the kanji. I know that Hikaru wanted to get better at rapping though.
Once everyone was done, they revealed the loser of the challenge, which was Hikaru (not surprised), with 10 mistakes. Kaoru was close behind with 9. Hikaru's penalty was that during their next song, he had to give flying kisses to everyone in the crowd. By the way, they chose the next song by having everyone raise their hand as to which they wanted to hear, and the winner was Spin the Sky. Hikaru did pretty well with his penalty except that a lot of the time he seemed to be giving flying kisses randomly and so at the end when he asked if anyone had been missed, we didn't really know. But they decided he'd done well enough anyway.
Next, was a Karuta competition! Karuta is a game played in Japan at New Year, where you have to touch the card read out by the MC. The cards can vary, sometimes it's a word, sometimes it's a sentence or a picture. This one had a picture and connected sentence that would be read out. But what made it easier that there was also a hiragana in one corner of each card, and that was the first syllable of the sentence. Thank god for that. We were divided into teams based on our ticket number, and each table also had one of the members. We had Hikaru on our team, and he seemed super nervous about the game. He kept asking us all if we were okay. He was super bad at it and decided to only concentrate on the 5 cards that were right in front of him, Kaoru, who was on the table behind us, was so into it that he kept accidentally kicking Hikaru from behind and stamping on his feet. By the end, I managed to get 5 cards, the winner got 11. I don't think I did too badly since I'm not Japanese and so it was harder for me to read, haha. The winners of each team (Tina was a winner!!) got the new year's resolution kanji paper from the member from their table.
Once we were back in our seats, they did a lottery (using our ticket numbers) to give away some gifts. They had each prepared a "gift" which basically seemed to be things they had grabbed from their houses on their way out, lol. Kengo's gift was his old phone case (but he had signed it, so I feel like that made it a good gift), Hikaru gave one of his shirts, Taishin one of his hats, Kaoru his half-finished aftershave and Shuhei some hairgel. Then finally they gave away a signed poster. No luck for me, but I don't know what I would have done if I had won any of those things anyway. XD
Then it was time for the signing of the box sets. I was super nervous because it was the first time having so much time to talk to Kengo (handshake events usually go by pretty fast) but he's super easy to talk to. He told me, "Hello" and "Happy New Year" and I habded over the addressed postcard we had to give them (they will write a message and mail them to us). He basically read my address back to me, which is kind of creepy lol. I apologised for my bad kanji and he said it was really good and stared at it a bit and then told me there was a stroke missing from my 愛. Oh well. He then started to write my name on the box. He was writing it in cute bubble writing and he was super worried and told me he wondered if I'd be able to read it. But it was fine so I told him he'd done well and he was really happy (he knew he'd done fine... he likes the compliments XD) He then went to write the date and suddenly got distracted, looked at me and pointed and said "High School Student?" Bless you Kengo, it's been 14 years since I was in High School. I told him I was an English teacher at an eikaiwa, and he was a little amazed. He kept asking me where I worked, but I just told him at a kid's eikaiwa. I told him because I'm an English teacher he has to do his best in English (he's in his last year of high school) and he told me he would. With that, our time was up. He gave me an enthusiastic high touch, said goodbye, and off I went.
This is the box:
Finally, we had another mini-live where they sang Hello Hello and Zettai Aishiteru. During Hello Hello when Shuhei threw his towel in the air it somehow managed to get wrapped around one of the pipes on the ceiling so he had to pull it down, which caused many laughs from the other members (it was a while before they could fully contain their laughter while singing) and from the fans as well.
We thought the event had finished, and then suddenly they announced we were going to go and do hatsumode (初詣). Hatsumode is what they call their first visit to a shrine or temple after the New Year. We were super confused, but sure enough, they filed us out 12 people at a time to go with one of the members to Osu Kannon temple which was nearby. We were in Shuhei's group. It was a surreal experience. There was quite a line, so we had to wait a while, during which time it was like Shuhei was on a date with a whole bunch of girls all at once. The girls chatted with him (he did try and English but he told us he couldn't, lol) and it was like we were just hanging out. We also ended up pretty close to Hikaru and Kaoru's groups too so there was inter-group chat going on too. Kaoru was having issues keeping track of all his girls. Kengo was holding hands with one of the male fans that was there. Taishin was wrapped up in a giant scarf despite it not being cold. Once we got to the top of the steps he stood aside to tell us all individually what to do when we went inside (which was nice of him because I had no idea). Basically, you drop money into the box (the staff gave us all 5 yen coins to use) and then pray. We finished, waited for Shuhei to finish too, and then we all headed back down the steps. With that, the event was over. Shuhei thanked us all for coming, and then left us at the temple.
I'm pretty certain I will never have this kind of experience with an idol group again, and I'm super happy that I was able to take part in it. I'd been a little unsure about buying the box set, but I know I would have regretted it if I hadn't been able to attend.
Now, back to reality...