7 – 10 February 2020: Paris, France for DIR EN GREY & BABYMETAL

7th February 2020: Through the Strikes

I had an (amazingly convenient) flight that left at 9am on Friday (and that had cost me 35€), but it turned out to be weird. When we boarded, it turned out that it was a big plane, an intercontinental plane. Which meant it was huge, and more importantly, it had on-board entertainment. Thus, as we waited for the go-ahead, I set up to watch an action film. Then, the pilot told us that we were going to have to wait something between one and two hours to be able to take off due to the strikes. But hey, at least we were flying and I had an action film to watch (the newest X Men, Phoenix one. I did not become a fan).

We took off at 10am and our big plane made the jump in just one hour, as opposed to the 2h10 minutes of estimated travel, which meant we were almost on time! Of course this did not sit well with the strikers, who had us wait first for the parking spot, and then for the stairs. Finally, I made it to the train and was downtown Paris at about 13:00. I came out at the Notre Dame stop to inspect the damage caused to the Notre Dame Cathedral by the 2019 fire. My first impression, looking at the tower, was optimistic, but as I walked round the cathedral, I could see the real damage and reconstruction efforts. Furthermore, it still reeked of burnt wood, probably because they are still pulling out debris.

As it was sunny, I decided to go to the Sainte-Chapelle and see its windows in good weather. The Sainte-Chapelle is a small two-level chapel inside an administrative building in the Isle de la Cité smack in the middle of Paris and not far from Notre Dame. The chapel has a lower early Gothic level, and an upper level with impressive stained-glass windows that I love. As the sun was shining, I got really lovely views and pictures.

The weather was great, and the forecast for the following day was bad, so I decided to just walk along from the Isle de la Cité towards the Arc de triomphe (some 5 km away). On my way I walked by the Louvre, Les Tulleries, the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais, the Alexander III Bridge, and into the Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

Finally I got to the Arc de triomphe, where I took a train to the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur area, where my hotel was. After dropping my stuff, I walked up the hill to have a look at the basilica and I caught a glimpse of the sunset with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

As my last adventure for the day I went to see the Moulin Rouge from the outside (because inside was too expensive to even consider) – and I listened to KAMIJO’s ムーランルージュ.

8th February 2020: Louvre and DIRU

The forecast was accurate and on Saturday weather went down the drain. I decided to go to the Louvre Museum, even if I had been there before. I got predictably lost and I’ not even sure how. In the end, I managed to see everything that I wanted, which began and finished with the Victory of Samothrace, my favourite piece of art ever.

I have a love-hate relationship with Louvre, mostly based on my utter lack of sense of directions and the way the palace-museum is organised, with the exhibits in different wards and floors. In the Classical Greece sector, however, I overheard something strange. I was looking at the Sleeping Hermaphroditus, and I overheard a random guy explaining to a little kid that Hermaphroditus was designed to represent the “most important sacrament of them all, marriage between a man and a woman”. I had a very WTF moment and I was too shocked to address the guy because, seriously? I’m all for Christian art representing Christian beliefs. However, pushing those onto a culture that a) had completely different values, b) was 100% all right with homosexuality, and c) whose goddess of marriage (Hera) was consistently cheated on? I mean, yes, there was a connection between Hermaphroditus and marriage in how they became intersex, but let’s face it here – the Greek mythology had too many erotic undertones to be able to push the Christian values onto it.

As you can see, I am pretty much biased…

I spent three to four hours in the Louvre and then went back to the hotel to get ready for the DIR EN GREY concert, which could have been a better experience if my head had not been hurting and the weather had been nicer – I could have totally skipped the downpour while waiting. Oh, and if the stupid chick from behind me had known how to behave. But hey, it was a great excuse for a much-needed mental break. You can check SemiRandom for the review.

Read at SemiRandom

After the concert I headed off to the hotel to catch some sleep.

9th February 2020: Destroy the Bastille!

Sunday morning felt like 2ºC and it was windy. I lingered in bed for a while and then headed out to see the Bastille monument and its remains. Like, the four rocks remaining. I searched for KAMIJO’s Bastille on the mp3 and hoped that the device lasted another season.

Then, as it was cold, I headed off to the Galerie de Paléontologie et d’Anatomie comparée (Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy Gallery) which was a short walk away. I’m still trying to decide whether it was amazing, or the materials nightmares are made of.

The first floor holds a “Cavalcade of Skeletons”, along with dissected specimens and a “gallery of monsters”. The museum was founded in the 19th century, and it keeps the atmosphere – and the charm – of the old exhibitions. There are stands and wooden cases, and the smell of dust and old paper. It was enchanting, but at the same time deeply disturbing.

The second floor hosts the dinosaurs and other fossils, including a very cool mosasaurs. Most of the fossils are either moulds or reconstructions – I swear I’ve seen that Irish elk at least three times before. Also, the T-Rex skull was adorably flawed.

The third floor is… ammonite-land.

After I was done with the museum I decided to head off to yet another one, the Musée national des arts asiatiques Guimet (The National Museum of Eastern Arts or Museum Guimet), which holds pieces of art from Cambodia, India, China, Japan, Korea and so on. Behold my favourite Shiva (which is not as cool as the British Museum sexy bodhisattva, but still).

After checking out the four floors, I left the museum and walked towards Trocadero to take the underground. I snapped a few pictures of the Eiffel Tower and saw a bunch of peddlers swinging people away from their money (up to 400 quid. Live and learn (O_O)!)

Finally, I decided it was too cold to continue walking around and headed back to the hotel to get ready for the BABYMETAL concert. Truth be told, had I known they would be adding Madrid to their tour, I would not have bought that ticket but as things went, I found that they were going to be in the same venue as DIR EN GREY just a day later, so it made sense to try to stay. It worked out. See SemiRandom for the concert commentary.

Read at SemiRandom

The concert was short, so I was back at the hotel before 10pm. Thus I got a good night’s sleep before I left.

10th February 2020: No bells of Notre Dame

My plane boarded at 10am so I had to leave early for the airport. The weather was rainy again, so I took the underground to Gare du Nord and then to the airport, where the staff was super nasty. In the end, I made it to my plane, where I settled down to watch Jurassic World on the way back. As I was riding the train, I had a nice view of the Paris as it was dawning, but the bells of Notre Dame were not tolling, and my inner child was sad about that.

I only had three days, but this trip was a very welcome getaway, and even if the weather did not help, I got to do a lot of stuff. I had to scratch out a few plans due to the weather (and the stupid headache, I think I might have put in the left contact wrong again), but there’ll always be April… Because yes, I’m coming back to Paris for the Saint Seiya Symphonic adventure and that’s going to be epic. And heartbreaking because I found out too late to get VIP tickets (≧▽≦).

19th & 20th August 2019: Bye-bye for a while

For my last day full day in Japan, I dropped my luggage off at Shinjuku station and met with EfT for lunch to say goodbye for now. I also got to say goodbye to Tokyo Tower [東京タワー] from Roppongi Hills [六本木ヒルズ].

Lunch was a bit sad, but the yakniku was very yummy. After she had to come back to work I met with B. for drinks and wandering around for a while. We mostly sat at Wendy’s, talking and drinking… whatever this is…

And then she took me to Coco Ichiban Curry for goodbye-curry.

Then she came with me to Nippori station to help me carry my luggage to the train. I was so mentally exhausted that I did not even stop for a stamp at Narita Terminal 1. I had booked myself a hotel for the night at the airport because I felt that was the best thing for my mental health at that time, and I am glad I did. It was very handy and the transport to the terminal was very smooth.

I had been worried about my Fuji-climbing stick, but I had been told I could check it in. I bought a suit-cover which I sewed, and had no problems with it – I mean, I saw people checking-in kayaks, for fuck’s sake. My stick was tiny in comparison to that! The flight back was a-okay, unremarkable, mostly.

Walked distance: 19th: 11099 steps / 7.94 km. 20th: 5045 steps / 3.60 km. The displacement was a bit longer though… something around the 11000 km (≧▽≦)

The 2019 trip was a long one, full of awesome experiences that I won’t forget any time soon. I hope to gather experience from what went wrong, but not cling onto the bad feelings. I chose not to write about that, and look for the best in every day. Also, I did not really feel it, but a bunch of Japanese friends told me that my language skills had improved, so that made me happy. Now it’s time to go back to the real world and do adulty things, and start dreaming about the next adventure. また今度ね。

18th August 2019: 500 points at Swallowtail

I asked EfT to come with me to Swallowtail at Ikebukuro [池袋] once more because I can’t do them alone (yet). Hopefully next time. We got a very nice butler who wanted me to choose my teacup as I had already visited five times (500pts), but I always have my tea iced, so I wouldn’t be using a cup. That was a bit of a communication problem (≧▽≦).

I had a great salmon and salad set (though I pushed the pepper away, because… no thank you), and analysed the butler types. There was one so tall that the poor thing had to get backpain all the time from pushing the carts. There were the kawaii bouncy ones, broad manly ones, and one wearing lipstick. I guess catering to every trope out there.

Afterwards we sang some karaoke and then went back home until it was time for dinner. It was a quiet, unwinding day.

Walked distance: 12979 steps / 9.28 km.

17th August 2019: OBURI in Ebisu

I spent the day at Ebisu [恵比寿], where I got to say hi and meet a lot of new new people today. First, I was meeting with E**chan for a late lunch, which unfortunately was a later-lunch as her train had an accident (not with her in it, thankfully) and she had to drive to another line station to get from her village outside Tokyo to Ebisu. I spent the time wandering the malls and the Ebisu Sky Walk, which is basically a long corridor without anything to see. In the end she arrived and albeit late, we managed to find some super-nice place in the Ebisu Atre building, and we were starving so it was amazing!! We both had katsudon [カツ丼] because we just saw the picture on the menu and fell in love.

Afterwards we went to the Oblivion Dust concert at Liquidroom. The report is up on SemiRandomJB, as all should be ☆⌒(ゝ。∂)

After the concert I got to greet lots of friends and we had some izakaya food (damn, that was yummy but expensive).

Walked distance: No idea, I forgot the watch. But most of what I walked was on the Ebisu Sky Walk as I was bored waiting for E**chan since I was early but her train was super-delayed due to the accident (≧▽≦).

16th August 2019: SAITAMA Summer Rock Festival 2019

After developing an unhealthy obsession for discovering fesFE[M] when they opened for JUPITER in Madrid in May 2019 I was very happy to be able to catch their act again in Saitama [さいたま市]. I also learnt a lot about the v-kei scene and how it works.

The event was the first day of SAITAMA Summer Rock Festival 2019 ~Shikokku no Symphony~ pump up!! [SAITAMA Summer Rock Festival 2019 ~漆黒のシンフォニー~ pump up!!] and it was held at Saitama Hall [埼玉会館ホール].

Although fesFE[M] act was not scheduled until 19:15, I headed off to Saitama early because I needed a same-day ticket, so I was there around 12:15. I did not have any issues getting in, as it was a weekday in the morning. I had originally thought that I would just get the ticket and then snoop around Saitama city, but the event was held far away from most interesting stuff, so I decided to stay and see it all. It was, as I mentioned, an interesting experience.

Stuff I learnt:

  • I should have taken earplugs as seven hours in a small hall echoes hard
  • First rows are exchangeable according to which your favourite band is. Nobody bats an eye and people will make room for each other
  • The bands will sell their own merch to make new fans and even chat to you. They will be very surprised if they get two foreigners in their queue and they don’t know each other
  • Some of the bands are really good, some of them are really bad

After each show, the “leader” of the band would come out for a small interview. Some of them had to do stuff like playing with beach balls and stuff, but mostly it was promotion for upcoming band activities and stuff.

Here’s a curated version of notes I took after each act for the ones I attended:

{mid:night}: They are not bad but the vocalist (although tall) needs more stage presence.

ロクダマカルタ: Was not convinced, but the guitar is dressed as a schoolgirl and the furutsuke is fun.

[Ad]: Female vocalist. She’s good, but there’s something that does not completely click. They stayed the longest for selling their stuff and promoting.

マゼラン: They are really, really good, both music- and stage-presence- wise. I’m so glad I had not realised at this point that they would be outside selling stuff because I might’ve bought all the things.

機械人形歌劇団カラクリ: Didn’t like them

エンヴィル: They are the Kanjani 8 of v-kei. They troll each other really hard and they are fun, with passable music. They wear yukata and each has a different footwear. They also watched like half of the other bands from the back row and cheered like standard fangirls.

DARRELL: Not bad, but too yelly for my tastes

GLARD: They were fun. I got to talk to the vocalist and buy one of their CDs. As I was talking to him, another foreigner decided to talk through me, and translate the price for me? No idea, I think she was just trying to get his attention. The poor guy was very surprised when we did not know each other.

ºCellsius: I like them too, they are really fun (and they are wearing… tartans?).

Avilis: They are cute and bouncy

グレン: They look like a band put together for an anime that would later sing the OP

ROMIO: The male vocalist is very pretty, but I managed not to fall into the trap of his prettiness.

Finally it was fesFE[M]’s turn at 19:15. I moved to the second row (not the first because no idea what the furutsuke are) and I enjoyed the show. It was almost the same they did in Spain when supporting for JUPITER, including Doll in Blueberry Jam. I really loved the vocalist Lion (again) how the keyboardist Jun plays the dollmaster cutting all the ropes and bringing the dolls back together. Also, wow Rensa (drummer) for being able to twirl the baton in his hand for three minutes straight without moving any other muscle.

After the show, Lion came out for his interview and he explained that he would be there on Saturday with his “other” band. I felt tempted to come back, but I had plans for that day already.

Then I went outside to buy some merch, including some polaroids, but unfortunately the band did not come out (ó_ò). I would have loved to see them, but at least I got to tweet at them and some saw the tweet ヽ(^◇^*)/. I talked to some other fans who looked at trading the polaroids, but I did not have any Tohru (bass, aka “the blonde”) and he’s popular. I missed the last band while I was waiting, but it was all right. I decided to head back because I still had about an hour’s worth of train ride.

Walked distance (which no. This is 80% furutsuke): 15324 steps / 10.9 km

15th August 2019: Downpour Shinjuku

Once more in Shinjuku [新宿], I stepped out at Tochomae station to go to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building [東京都庁]. To my surprise, there was a line for the observatory! Apparently they have closed the North Observatory for renovations (possibly 2020 preparation). When I got to the observatory there was a piano, and at that time, visitors were allowed to play it. I thought “Wouldn’t it be cool if someone did X Japan?”. And then two guys do 紅with three hands. I was very impressed.

I hoped I would be able to walk around Shinjukucho Garden [新宿区立新宿中央公園] before it started raining.

As I was in Shinjukujunisha Kumano Jinja [新宿十二社 熊野神社], where I got a shuuin, it started pouring.

Thus, I went back to the covered station underpasses as fast as I could and then tried to get my way round the inner passages… with dubious success. I did find the Shinjuku tourist office, because they had Coke packs there, but I could not find one that had sakura and Tokyo bottle in it (ó_ò).

Then I went to Tower Records to see INORAN’s guitar, which was on display prior to his tour.

And then I headed off to Roppongi [六本木]. And you know what I found in the first random vending machine I came across? The freaking Tokyo Coke bottle, which turned out not to be only in Shinjuku!

Afterwards, I met EfT and Ms-san for a nice shabu-shabu dinner.

Walked distance: 10978 steps / 7.85 km.

14th August 2019: The other side of Harajuku

After a sweep around the V-kei shops in Shinjuku [新宿], I dropped by Shibuya [渋谷区] (finally) to go to the big Tsutaya there, along with the Mandarake and Tokyu Hands. And there, in the most random vending machine in a backstreet, I managed to find the Shibuya coke bottle (which I drank with glee as I had approached the vending machine as I was thirsty). Then I walked towards Harajuku [原宿], but instead of Takeshita Doori, this time I turned towards the other side. I wanted to see the LemonEd flagship shop, as the Nagoya one did not convince me (LemonEd is yet another of those things that will eventually have their own entry over at SemiRandomJB).

I went on a little and arrived at Tōgō Shrine [東郷神社], which I really liked. I got a shuuin there too, and almost lost my shuuincho there because the miko would not call my number to give it back (;¬_¬).

I walked from Harajuku back to Shinjuku via Yoyogi, and I pretty much went around the NTT Docomo Yoyogi Building from all angles (and weather backgrounds).

When I arrived at Shinjuku Station [新宿駅] though, I came across… the Salamander God in a Takashiyama Window… I’m not kidding you.

Once I was in Shinjuku I tried to find the Tokyo Coke bottle in another random vending machine… It did not work, but I found the Kabukichō Benzaiten [歌舞伎町弁財天], which I had seen in passing, and wanted to snoop around.

After kuchikatsu dinner, we called it a day.

Walked distance: 19234 steps / 13.7 km.