This year, as last year, I worked all of Golden Week (a series of holidays usually the first week of May), so had four days off to play with. Last year I spent a week in Tokyo, capped off by the two 10th ANNIVERSARY FES ROUND GR Granrodeo concerts. This year, the Granrodeo Fan Club bus trip fell on May 14-15, so I decided I would combine that trip with a mini-vacation, and visit some places I’ve been wanting to go for a while: Himeji Castle, Matsue Castle, and Izumo Taisha shrine. Unlike past trips, I did very little planning for this one, which worked out perfectly, making for a lovely, relaxed trip.
I took off a little early on Thursday the 12th, slept in on the 13th, then after a visit to the salon, I hopped on a train to Osaka. Met up with my friend Shaina for a nice Italian dinner, then killed time in Shin-Osaka station until time to catch the bus for the fan club event. Was excited to meet up with two of my four roomies from the last trip, and settled in for a long drive up to the hotel in Naeba (Niigata prefecture).
Night buses are surreal, since it’s hard to tell where you are, and the street lights bathe everything in a dreamlike glow. I didn’t really sleep, but it was too dark to enjoy the scenery, so I just relaxed with my mp3 player. I had expected us to travel inland, so was surprised when our breakfast stop was in Ishikawa prefecture, part way between Kanazawa and Toyama.
We arrived at the hotel over three hours before the next set of buses, so we could check in early, relax, and generally have the run of the hotel. It was quite odd being in a ski resort off season, because the lifts climb mountains of lush green grass, and not only is the hotel mostly empty, it’s mostly closed.
We relaxed for a while, then wandered over four buildings to find the only open store, where we grabbed drinks and snacks. On our way back, we noticed a cluster of people behind the hotel, and realized Granrodeo’s lead singer and label staff were filming. Needless to say, we stuck around, as did other fans who noticed. We enjoyed watching him, and later the guitarist, playing around with golf, tennis and other sports/games. The fun ended when the other buses arrived, alas. But those few minutes alone were worth the trip.
There was a lot jammed into just a few hours — we completed a stamp rally, got our photos with the band, had dinner, enjoyed an hour long acoustic concert (last row) and a party (2nd row). I got an enthusiastic “Good luck!” from the guitarist when he came into the audience and recognized me. Ran into friends old and new and got to know my roomies better, despite our language differences (it had to be all in Japanese, as the roomie who understands English couldn’t make the trip). All in all, an excellent day.
Sunday dawned far too early, but there was more fun in store as the band gave away all the photo panels they’d had on display, shook everyone’s hands as we left, and came on each bus to thank us and say good bye. I am grateful that while Granrodeo are popular, they aren’t so popular that they can’t do events like this. And management went all out this time: things were very well-organized, staff was super helpful, there was more to do (the party was superb — some fans will never, ever forget the evening they had) and again I’m struck by how lucky I am to get to know so many nice people because of our shared love of a band. Looking forward to the next fan club event, whatever form it takes.
Before noon, we were on the road again, heading back to Osaka. Made it in super early, thankfully. Said my goodbyes (we’ll all see each other again twice in July) and trundled off to my hotel for a hot bath and some sleep before the real vacation would begin the next morning.
Up next: Himeji-jo, the Yakumo limited express and torrential rain in Matsue.