Welcome to the last part of my Morning Musume encounter at Anime Expo, my final chance for autographs (using my priority ticket from the Q&A panel)! The session was scheduled to start at 11:00 AM, so Dae and I decided he would drop me off around 8:00 AM. I actually woke up about 3:30 AM feeling anxious and excited, and drifted in and out of sleep, checking the web on my iPhone the whole time. After I got dressed, at 6:20 AM someone posted on Twitter that the line was starting and 50 people were already there! When Dae jumped out of the shower I told him the news, and he was nice enough to get me to the convention center in record time. The line started outside, and I was really worried that I was too late, but soon as it became more organized and we moved inside, things started looking better and better. Finally we got official line place numbers, and since I was hoping for something lower than 150, I was thrilled to get number 83! All that was left was two more hours of sitting on the floor, playing with my iPhone, talking with Dae (who wasn't waiting in line, but came to visit me), and getting nervous!
Finally the magic hour arrived, and they started taking two people at a time from the line - it seemed to move at about two people every minute and a half, so I had lots of time to freak out before they got to 83! Everyone was getting nervous and taking deep breaths, but before I knew it I was entering the room and there was Morning Musume, sitting at a long table in their "official order", wearing a different set of outfits (just like the one Sayumi is wearing in this photo), and waving at me while I waited in line! It was so unreal that the tears started falling right away - totally happy, crazy tears (and believe me, I was not the only one who cried!). I tried to pull it together so I would be able to talk while I waited, getting my Platinum 9 Disc CD booklet ready to go.
Before I go on, I have to say that the most amazing part of this experience was how incredibly warm and giving everyone was! I had expected them to be a little timid or overly polite, but they instantly reacted like best friends. The only way to describe it is that they made me feel like they had been waiting all day just to meet me (even though it was the other way around)! Although some of this is playing the part of perfect Jpop idols, I know their appreciation for their fans is genuine, and they were actually having fun meeting everyone!
Suddenly it was my turn, and Ai-chan just lit up in front of me! I stepped forward and got a handshake right away. (I had read comments from previous autograph recipients about forgetting to shake hands, so I made a point of shaking everyone's hand twice - once before the signing, and again afterward! All of the girls did that nice two-handed clasp, too!) I was able to say something in Japanese to everyone (there was a translator, but she didn't have to help!), of course starting with a big hello and ending with thank you. I told Ai-chan that I cried when I watched her fantastic performance in Cinderella The Musical. She looked right up at me with the brightest face and said "Oh thank you!" It made me feel like I was the only one who had ever said that, although she has probably heard it a million times - that's how gracious everyone was!
Next was Risa, and I told her that I'm a huge Disney fan, too, so she replied "I love Disney", which was cute. Eri was a little quiet but very warm, and she made a point of asking if she should sign over her photo or on top of the lyrics on the next page. Next was Sayumi, who was too cute for words, energetically shaking my hand and saying hello! I wished her a happy birthday, she said thank you and that she was turning 20 and becoming an adult. I replied "But Sayumi will eternally be the cutest!" She knew what I was going to say halfway through my sentence, since she starting giggling and twirling her fingers on her cheeks, looking up at me with those giant eyes! I thought I was going to die, but I had to move on to Reina, who was also full of energy and happily said hello, although while she was signing, she was pretty focused (since her signature is complex!). I told her that I always listen to Five Stars (her radio show) and she thanked me. Next in line was Koharu, who was beautiful and fun, but when she turned the page in my CD booklet and started signing, I somehow looked down and thought she was on the wrong page. I made a kind of gasp and Koharu stopped signing, then I realized I was nuts and said everything was OK! She was a little confused, but it was no big deal. Aika was very polite and has such tiny teeth when she smiles.
Only a few minutes had gone by, and I was already up to Jun Jun, who is amazing looking in person, and she reacted like she just couldn't wait for me to get there! In case anyone doesn't know, Jun Jun and Lin Lin are both Chinese and had to learn Japanese when they became members of Morning Musume. Because of my own struggles learning Japanese, I mentioned her Japanese and English were both very good, and she seemed excited about the compliment. Lin Lin was sweet as she signed my booklet, and I had to make a joke and ask if she was bacchiri (back when she didn't know much Japanese she would always say she was bacchiri, or perfect), and that got a nice laugh. For the entire autograph session I was totally focused on the member in front of me - there were assistants and cameramen and once the translator asked me if I was crying, but I was almost oblivious to it all!
I left the room feeling on top of the world, looking around at all the other stunned fans, and called Dae to let him know my dream had come true! We had a quick sandwich while I told Dae all of the details (probably over and over again). The rest of the day was spent at a wonderful 4th of July party with Ernesto, but I'll save those details for another post. Although I've been a Morning Musume fan for a long time, I never dreamed I would ever have this opportunity, and I still can't believe the whole thing happened - from the airport, to the concert, to the autographs! Now when I watch them on TV shows and concerts it feels completely new knowing that they actually talked to me and held my hand. I don't care how crazy that sounds, but it was definitely a memory I'll cherish forever, and I'll always be a Morning Musume fan!