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December 2015 was the BEST time of the year for me. I got to do many things I wanted to do and have fun with some of the fellow Arashians.

Here is a quick highlight of the month.

1. ARASHI Tokyo Dome Japonism CONCERT!!!! How can anything else beat this? Photos will be posted later...after I dig myself out of my work.

2. Lunch at Keikarou!!! Sure it was a five hour wait but think about it. We ate what Aiba ate as a kid! and we even managed to speak to his mother!!! How cool is that? And of course how can we miss out on the souvenir pin? More pictures will follow.
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3. Meeting up with fellow Arashians!!! Friends that I have made during the Blast in Hawaii concert in 2014, friends that I thought will take me a long time to find the chance to meet again and if ever. Guess what? I managed to meet two of them in Tokyo! One of them is my concert buddy, Jenny, who helped to get the tickets and make the Arashi concert in Japan dream of ours a reality. With that I cannot say enough Thank Yous! The second is Grace and her daughter Tyler, who are willing to go crazy over Arashi despite the rolling eyes of her husband and my boyfriend. It was great spending time in Tokyo together and being on the same wavelength of having to take photos of posters and ads made me feel a lot less crazy. :)

4. Onsen, Disney, food, and new friends made!! Japan is always a wonderful place to me and there are always new things to explore and new places to visit. Each trip I made there made me want to go back again and stay longer. Okay...I think that of most places I visited but more so for Japan. :) Till next time...

One Giant Learning Experience (Part 3)

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My first encounter with Hawaii and Waikiki. Waking up the next morning, I walked to the beach. Why? Mainly because I want to look for the Arashi flags...the ones that people have been posting all over Facebook and I want photos of them! Since I am up and out, I might as well head to the beach. I figured I cannot return to Indiana without seeing the sea and the famous Waikiki beach. Time spent on the beach? Just enough to get the photos and then it is back to walking along the road and looking for the flags.

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Found it! It being the color of my favorite member and guess what? I am still smiling when I look at the photo of the flag.

Meeting up with J and A:
It was great meeting up with them and going to the Arashi shop to get more concert goods and grabbing a quick lunch of ramen and takoyaki! How I miss these two dishes since they are not available back in Indiana. Sigh. It was also great fun wandering around and taking photos with the concert posters hanging around. Really made me feel like a teenager again with all my silly actions. But guess what? It feels great to be able to do all these things with friends who know exactly what you are thinking and why you just have to do it. :) Thank you both J and A for laughing and joining in all the fun in good-hearted humor.

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I will have to stop here because I started on this post a few months ago and it took me this long to finish it. :( But at least I managed to get it done. I seriously missing all the Arashi fans I met when I was in Hawaii. It is nice to feel a connection with people who share the same interest and passion as me. :) and again thank you if you are really the post.

One Giant Learning Experience (Part 2)

The journey to Hawaii:
The flight from Indy to Atlanta was uneventful. Seriously a flight at 6am, what do I expect? I am just glad that there is no changes to the flight time and I reached Atlanta on time. The flight from Atlanta to Hawaii was a totally different story. The flight itself was just as uneventful and I am glad that there is personal entertainment system available on the flight which definitely helped. I thought I should try to sleep on the 9 hours flight but I was still too excited. Although I did managed to doze off for a couple of hours but I digress. What was interesting was about the flight actually took place while boarding the plane. I saw a mother and daughter carrying the Arashi Blast tote bag. My friends who know me, will tell you that I never speak to strangers. Some will even tell you I don't speak to people I know. It is not that I am an unfriendly person but it is more like I don't like spending time making small talk. Hence, even I was surprised when I turned to the mother and daughter asking them if they are going to the Arashi concert. They were so happy and excited in meeting a fellow Arashi fan that I am sure the noise and excitement level in the aircraft increased by several levels. They were on their way to Hawaii for the concert but they did not arrange any rides to and from the concert venue. They were wondering if I would like to share a ride with them. As I have already arranged for my ride, I told them I will check if there is space in my ride. Bear in mind that this is taking place while we are boarding the plane; so in a couple of minutes we will be leaving Atlanta. I immediately texted my friend whom I am riding with and let the mother and daughter know that I will let them know her reply when we land in Hawaii. Honestly, this is not the first time I pick up strangers along my journey but this is definitely the most excited strangers I picked up. Anyway, there is nothing I can do till we land in Hawaii.

Airport to Ko Olina:
Luckily, my friend replied that there is still space for 2 in the car and I got to spend a wonderful time at the airport with the mother and daughter while waiting for the rest of the party to get in from various parts of US. M (daughter) and K (mother) are from New York. What I remember most about M is that she is very fluent in both Japanese and English. Not surprising since her mother is Japanese and speaks only some English. Both of them are fans of Ohno and it was just nice talking to them about Arashi. This is another great thing about the whole Arashi journey. That I can finally talk to people about Arashi, giggle over the guys' cute looks and funny antics, share websites and facebook pages on information about them, without having rolling eyes or blank looks looking back at me. The one hour we spent waiting for J(my friend who rented the car) and A (another friend we made over Facebook) went very quickly. When everyone meet up, the first thing we shared (besides introducing ourselves of course since this is the first time all of us met each other) is who is our favorite member in Arashi and which pairing is our favorite. Mine is of course Nino and Sakumiya, M (Ohno and Ohmiya), K (Ohno and Yama), J (Sho and Yama), and A (Nino and I cannot remember which is her fave pairing). For those who are reading this and have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, now I am sure you can understand the joy I feel that I met people who are speaking from the same page.

Anyway, the drive from the airport to Ko Olina was good once we figured out how to set the car in auto (it is one of those car that you can set either in manual or auto). We started blasting Arashi music in the car, sharing our favorite Arashi stories and singing along the songs at the same time. Again my close friends back home will be so surprise since I am not a person who sings and if I do go karaoke with them I am usually in charge of the system and keying in songs. In fact, to the best of my knowledge, I have NEVER partake in any singing with any of my friends back home. I tend to be a passive observer. Hence no one is more surprise than me when I found myself singing along to the songs that I am so very familiar (after all, I spent 2 semesters listening to them while working on Stats) with even though I do not know all the words.

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Ko Olina - THE Concert:
The first thing on our mind when we got to Ko Olina? Are there still any concert goods left? The Facebook group I was on was very helpful in posting the availability of concert goods at the Arashi shop at Ala Moana. Basically things that are a must have at a concert are sold out. Hence when we reached Ko Olina, we immediately made our way to the concert goods stall and grab everything we need. The key word here is NEED! I definitely NEED a Uchiwa, a penlight (or two), a tote bag (it is reversible!), the towel, and the hair tie of course. As J mentioned, that is the fastest $100 over she spent and all of us paid cash too! Total damaged from my pocket? around $140? Will I do it again? In a heartbeat!

After grabbing the concert goods, we head over to the queue for entering the venue. The line just opened (5pm) and I can see people moving in rather orderly into the venue. We are near the back of the line and were concerned if we can make it into the venue in time. Around 5:40pm, we are still outside the venue but getting closer to the gate when we could hear the helicopter arriving. At this point, the security just open up the whole section and everyone just make a run for it. Sad to say I was still in line for checking the tickets when Arashi landed and started their performance. I only managed to get to my section (D1) during Lucky Man. Not going to make the same mistake tomorrow!

All in all, the concert was GREAT! Everyone was singing to parts of the songs. Sho was fantastic in getting the fans to sing and move to the music. I am truly amazed by his energy and passion throughout the concert. I am not a big Sho fan to begin with but I think I love him a bit more after watching him in action. Another highlight was seeing the famous Matsujun's moving stage. It is really cool to see them singing and dancing on the stage as it moved above the audience. The section I was in was next to the one that is underneath the stage, which meant that we get to see the members who are on the stage really close and of course, this resulted in plenty of screaming, shouting, and waving in trying to get their attention. At this point, I began to understand why the fans took so much effort in making their own uchiwas and putting on them so many personal messages. The members truly looked at the audience and see us. The uchiwas was really good in grabbing their attentions and a smile and a wave from any of the members is a reaffirmation of the fans' presence in their world. At this point, I know. If I have a chance to go to an Arashi concert again, I am making my own uchiwa!
If I have to identify a downside to the concert, it will be the fact that Nino was not feeling well that day. Based on most post concert reports, it was due to the Hawaii heat. He was away from the stage for a long period of time during the dialogue session and although he did make it back, he was certainly less energetic than the rest. The good thing was that as the concert continued, I could see that he was getting better and his energy level improved. However, he did not spend much time near my section. Well, there is still one more concert tomorrow and I will be in a different section so maybe I will have more luck then.

Post Concert:
Getting out of Ko Olina was a long long long wait. It took us around 45 min to get out of the carpark. However, none of us were complaining as we are still running on the concert high and were singing away to Arashi songs in the car while sharing tidbits of the concert.

Hostel and fellow Arashi fans:
I am not going to say much of the hostel as I will likely be doing a review of it on Tripadvisor. As for fellow Arashi fans, it was great meeting up with them after the concert and talking to them about the concert and what they should look out for tomorrow.

All in all, it was a wonderful first day in Hawaii and although I did not see anything about island. After all, I am here for one reason and one reason alone... to see Arashi!

One Giant Learning Experience (Part 1)

Thoughts in my head:

When I first bought the tickets:
What on earth am I thinking??!!
This is Arashi and you only live once!

When I first bought the air tickets:
Am I really doing this?
Yes. How else will you get to Hawaii? and you just spent US$169 on the concert ticket.

After I bought the air tickets:
People who know me will be laughing non stop! Why? With all the excitement, I forgot to check the time of the flight and booked a ticket that departs at 6am! There is no way I am going to get to the airport on time for the flight. I was that desperate that I was thinking of heading out to the airport the day before and spend the night at the airport. However, that is not possible as I have class and will not be able to make it for the last shuttle to the airport. Luckily I had a great friend, Jaret who kindly agreed to send me to the airport. Here is the crunch. To get there in time, he has to pick me up 3:30 am! Yup. He is going to pick me up at 3:30 am, drive more than 1hr to get me to the airport and then drive back. I am going to be in his debt for a long time.

When I bought the ticket for the second concert:
Do I have the money to spend like this? What on earth am I thinking??!!
You have to. The internal flights are notorious for being delayed. What if you miss the concert on Friday? The most compelling reason of all? You already spent money on the air tickets might as well go all the way. You can spend another US$169...

When I realized that I need a place to stay and a ride to the concert venue:
What am I going to do?? Hotels are super expensive. Hotels around the Ko Olina (the concert venue) are mostly sold out. Taxi ride will be US$100 and above.
Thank God for the wonderful and helpful Arashi fans out there. Found a closed Facebook group where fellow fans are helping one another by recommending lodging alternatives (in the end I decided to book a semi-private room at Waikiki Beachside hostel) as well as willing to share taxi rides, arrange for shuttle, and offer carpool options. This is the first amazing act of kindness I encountered through this experience and till now I am still amazed by the people from the group. We come from all over the world and bonded over our common love for Arashi. It is through this Facebook group, that I got to know a fellow Arashi from Texas who is renting a car and is willing to let me share a ride with her for the two days. Yup! What am I thinking when I decided to hop into a car driven by a total stranger and I only know via Facebook for a week prior to the concert? I guess my sense of danger is retarded but I could also be not thinking at all since every brain cells in my head are occupied by the fact that I am going to see Arashi!

The weeks leading to the concert:
Nothing exist but Arashi. Seriously! I still don't understand how I survived those weeks and how did I manage to function in a manner that is expected of a logical sensible grad student. Those days were a daze for me. All I know is that most of the time I was prowling the internet, looking for any information related to Arashi and the concert in Hawaii. Come to think of it, if only I put in as much effort in my studies and research, will I still be sitting here?

The days before departure:
I think people around me must think I am crazy. Why? For the simple reason that I would be grinning to myself and smiling away for no obvious reason. The excitement and joy of being able to see Arashi in concert hit home the hardest during this period. I simply cannot believe that it is going to happen and I am going to use a cliche here but it is really like a dream coming true. In fact, it is better than a dream come through for this is a dream that I did not even think that I could dream. Honestly, my goal of going to Antarctica seems to be more realistic than going to a live Arashi concert.

The day before departure:
I still remember how happy and excited I am. I had to teach in my recitation class as well as attend a meta-analysis class that day. Not sure how I made it through both. I did told my lecturer and classmates that I will not be available over the weekend to work on the project. My lecturer who is a Japanese lady was very surprised that I know Arashi and she wondered how do us international fans get to know a group that does not promote itself outside Japan. All I can say, is how amazing the Internet and the power of Arashi fans are. Anyway, when I get home, I had dinner and finish packing for the trip and guess what? I was so excited that I could not sleep! Frankly speaking, I cannot remember what I did to wither away the time but sleeping was not an option. I was way too excited and still cannot believe that I am going to watch Arashi live.

I am going to stop here. The journey and the concert will have to wait a bit as I think they deserve to have their own entry. :)

ARASHI Hawaii Blast!

I am going to see ARASHI live!!! I still cannot believe that I am going to see them. If anyone told me earlier this year that I will have a chance to see them live in a concert, I would not have believe or even dream that it is possible. Since I know they hardly perform outside Japan and it is impossible to get a ticket in Japan plus how on earth am I going to get to Japan to watch them? In addition, I am pretty sure I am sorely lacking in Japanese to navigate the ticket system and the concert going culture there to be able to get into any of their concerts.
Thus I am so thankful that the tickets are available for residents of US this time round and not just Hawaii. :) This could be my one and only chance to see them.

I am so excited and happy about it now and I am wondering how I am going to function for the next 20 plus days to the concert? How am I going to my homework done? How am I going work on my research? How am I going to focus on my studies? Seriously...