Japan Trip 2018, Part 6
I woke up to the shouts of Chinese tourists who apparently didn’t realize that it’s entirely inappropriate to yell down the hallways of a hotel. It was a regular occurrence during my time in Osaka and not just within the hotel. As much as I love that city, it’s hard to enjoy sometimes because it’s become such a tourist destination.
Osaka is called Japan's kitchen, and for good reason. The food throughout Japan is wonderful, but there's something exciting about it in the city at the heart of Japan's second-largest metro area. After checking into my hotel, I went out to walk around and see if I could find anything particularly interesting in the surrounding area and eventually returned to my room to get some rest to prepare for the remainder of the day. My main reason for coming to Osaka was to see Man With A Mission in concert, which was that night, so it was going to be a long night.
I took it easy that morning, the only thing I got was some takoyaki - squid balls - for which Osaka is famous. I got them on Dotonbori from a small booth with its own dedicated eating space. They had a variety option, which is what I went with so I could try each of their flavors.
I left the hotel at 12:45 after a too-short nap. I'd slept 4.5 hours the night before and I’ll admit I was pretty worried about how well I’d fare given my lack of sleep. I knew I was going the right direction to get to the concert as more and more people wearing band merchandise surrounded me. I was hoping to get a Man With A Mission t-shirt or one of those long, narrow towels that are so common in Japan, but I didn't see any outside of the stadium where the concert was being held and, as I'd soon find out, there'd be no chance to look for one when entering the stadium.
Hanshin Railway Koshien Station is located right by Hanshin Koshien Stadium. Pretty much everyone around me at this point was wearing Man With A Mission gear - and there were a lot of people. Apparently this was going to be a huge concert.
Getting into the concert was an interesting process- it was done in with a bureaucratic tedium that would make the British foam at the mouth. I had section A2, ticket 8-something. We were let in by section, then by a range of ticket numbers, then by a smaller range of ticket numbers, then by a smaller range of ticket numbers.... then all of those were joined back together in the section. Seriously. It was the most overly-contrived shit I've ever seen at a concert or any other event. It took over half an hour to get to my designated section and then I waited.
For an hour and forty minutes, I waited.
The Japanese are typically courteous about personal space and understanding when space is tight and people have to squeeze together. It can be unpleasant, but people are understanding - they're all in it together. All that went out the window when Man With a Mission started playing. Bodies pressed upon bodies. The crowd crushed itself forward, then to the side, then forward again. Thank fuck for a well-groomed crowd.
The concert was something unlike I’d ever done. It was the second concert I’ve been to in Japan, the first being my trip with Eric back in 2015. Man With A Mission’s songs have an even mix of English and Japanese. While this isn’t uncommon for Japanese bands, the band uses more English (and better English) than most others. The result of this was that I, the only white guy I saw the whole time, was singing along louder and prouder than anyone else half the time.
MWAM deserves a lot of credit for blending Japanese and English. They went so far as to have English lyrics displayed on the three massive screens to help their core fanbase get through that non-native language. The result of this was, although I was the outsider, that I carried as much of the concert as anyone else. When the crowd got quiet for the English parts of songs, I was there to belt them out at the top of my lungs. As weird as it sounds to say this, I felt like I mattered in that concert. At least… for the people in my immediate vicinity.
As for the concert itself, I have to be honest… it was a disappointment.
The band is phenomenal. The venue was cool. The fans were fun. The sound system, however, was the ultimate let-down. When I go to concerts I want to feel like I’m in the music. Here, I wasn’t in it. The music felt like it was being played at me rather than immersing me within it.
I say it was a disappointment because the concert itself didn’t do the band justice. They’re so damn good but something was missing. The bureaucratic nature of getting in and out of the concert wouldn’t have mattered if all else had been better, but… I… I just didn’t like going to a major concert in Japan.
Funny enough, a month later MWAM played in both Osaka and Tokyo with one of my other favorite bands, Don Broco, and holy shit I can’t wait for them to tour together in the US (if anyone involved with those joint-tours wants to give me an “in” with the bands when they come State-side, or I can go to England/Japan…. hit me up).
I would absolutely see MWAM again - and I plan to - but I just didn’t feel connected to the band during that large-scale concert in Osaka. I’ve been to massive concerts in the US and they felt much more involved. The best I can figure is that the sound system they used at Hanshin Koshien Stadium just wasn’t up to snuff for how good the band is.
Exiting the venue was managed the same as getting in. Each section was let out in due course. The lines for the trains extended out of the station and it was standing room only when I finally - eventually - got on a train. From Namba Station I went directly to an okinomiyaki restaurant. By the time I sat down, I'd been on my feet for a solid seven hours. Not just standing, but walking and jumping and dancing as well. It was brutal and I knew I'd be feeling it the next day.
The okinomiyaki restaurant was on the second floor of a building on Dotonbori. I couldn't decide what I wanted so I got the "Special Yaki" - the one with everything. It was fantastic and was perfect after such a long day. I sat at the bar and looked through the blinds of the window at an obscured view of Dotonbori. My mind wandered too much. A week in Japan and my thoughts still hadn't moved on.
I stopped at a conbini and got a Strong Zero and some random thing in a carton that I didn't know about. The only English on it was the word "energy." Whatever, I'll try anything twice.
Strong Zero is strong, cheap, and simultaneously nasty and delicious. It's like a candied asshole. I love the stuff. I mixed it with the carton drink and passed out hard, not even halfway through the grog.
Click the link below for Part 7 of this article.