Hi! It’s me! Lily!!!
We leave tomorrow. It’s been really fun and I’m glad I got to meet all the idols and everything… but I’m glad to be going home, too. This wasn’t ever intended to be a big deal, just… something interesting to do. And who knows where it might lead???
Anyway, this morning, Miki’s big sister came over with a change of clothes. I guess they’re…. well, not close, but her big sister kind of dotes on her, which is kind of cute. She wanted to meet us, so we spent a little while chatting while Miki was in the shower. I guess her parents really don’t support her being an idol. They’ve never actively tried to stop her, but they would rather she get good grades in school and get into a good college. Yuki seemed to understand – there’s a lot of pressure on Japanese to perform well in school.
But she is a relatively successful idol – she’s not center ace or anything, but she’s pretty well known, and she does get the occasional modeling job, etc., so she’s not doing too badly. Plus she does get some money for every single she’s in.
It’s a cut throat business, and her big sister seems to see both points of view. She’s supporting Miki because she knows she won’t be able to change her mind, but she’d prefer she take a more traditional path, too.
Anyway, her sister left for home or school or wherever it is she went when she’s not bringing Miki a change of clothes, and we all took care of our business and took the train to the studio.
They did our hair and makeup because, well, we were going to be on camera, and no bad hair and un-made-up faces on camera! But otherwise we all filed into a conference room, and Yuki was told to basically just tell the idols all the things she learned and give them tips on how to be better idols.
And, well, Yuki delivered. The camera people went all around the room getting videos of everyone’s faces as Yuki spoke, but no one was really paying attention to that, not even Yuki. She told stories about her time as an idol, she talked about some of the things she learned, some of the regrets she has, some of her most treasured memories. She took a few of the girls up on stage one by one and showed them how to improve their stage presence, and also told them things they could do to improve, like specific exercises, or whatever.
And then she kind of sat on the desk, and had a heart to heart with them.
She told them that being an idol is fun, and it can open up many doors that they just have to walk through, but at the end of the day, their popularity is manufactured and that they really only exist as idols to sell CDs and give people a parasocial experience. She put it a little differently, but that’s what she was saying. She said that the only thing that really matters are the friendships and relationships they make, both with each other, their senpai and kouhai, and the various other people they meet on the way. She told them to have fun and make memories, but to never, ever forget what was really important in their lives, and that their idol lives were only of secondary importance. Their idol life would fade away, and eventually so would their beauty, and that would be all that was left.
Even the camera people were focusing on her at that point. They knew something amazing was happening.
A couple of the girls looked a little upset, but slightly more of them were sniffling and wiping their eyes. A couple even looked at the girl next to her and gave her a hug. Yuki’s speech really affected them. It affected me a little, too.
After that, we had our “free day”, and we just basically wandered around Shibuya as a large group. We went to game places and played games, we all went to a maid cafe and had some tea and pastries. The maids knew who they were and they were really fawning over them. Afterwards, a few of the girls wanted to pick up some new manga so we went to an Animate and otaku’d out (you’d be surprised how many of those girls are secret and not-so-secret otaku!), and we went to a park and a spontaneous game of tag broke out with some of the local children, which was hilarious. The camera people were having a field day (well, literally, actually), and the girls pretty much completely forgot about the camera, they were having so much fun. Afterwards a couple of the children told the idols they were pretty, which made them blush, and.. that should make for a really funny DVD.
After that we all went to a hot pot place, and… something was different about the group. I think Yuki’s talk affected all of them, because they didn’t seem so much like they were putting on airs, even though there were cameras planted around the table. They seemed, I don’t know, like they were valuing their time together in a way they hadn’t the day before.
I’m glad for that. Yuki has a lot of good memories, but a lot of regrets. I don’t think she wants those regrets for them.
They’re not sisters, but… maybe they’re a little more friends now.
We all went to the studio afterwards, and it was time for Yuki and I to say goodbye.
And I was so embarrassed… Miki had been talking. All the girls stood up at once, bowed, and clapped at me.
The producer wondered what the heck that was all about, and I just said “long story.” He muttered something about “baka joshi”, bowed, told me to keep in touch, and went back to his office. Oh, and he handed me a pay envelope too and said that I’d get a small (very small) cut of all the DVDs they sold. Hopefully that adds up but I’m not too worried about it. Yuki got a pay envelope too, which she seemed really grateful for. Was it a lot for either of us? No. But it was enough to make our trips worthwhile. At least until Uncle Sam takes his cut… For Yuki, it at least paid for her flight and gave her a little extra to boot.
I did have a conversation with the producer about… another matter. What’s that? It’s a surprise!!! But it looks pretty certain I’ll be going to Houston to see the idols this summer.
All the girls said goodbye to Yuki and me. Some seemed a bit perfunctory, a few seemed genuine, and Miki started crying. Aww. I told Miki to find people she could open up to here, and that I’m always available for a video chat if she needs me. She hugged me so hard and said she’ll miss me.
I’ll miss her too.
But I’ll see her again.
And Yuki and I went back to the hotel. Of course, she got mobbed on the train. Sigh.
As I said, we’re leaving tomorrow.
It’ll be nice to go home.
But this was so much fun. I had a good time. And I got at least one more sister out of the deal.
Time well spent, I think.
Oh… remember how I said that Tanagawa Rika seemed to be best friends with Miki? That’s… a bit one-sided, it seems. Aww. Looks like maybe idols aren’t only parasocial with their fans sometimes.
Our flight arrives back in Houston at about 7:30 AM. Sabby will be there to pick us up. And… I can’t imagine there won’t be a lot of sleeping…