Thursday, May 3, 2018

Beer Festa, 2018

I'd seen a poster advertising the beer festa coming up at Amu Plaza, so I knew it was going to be the same weekend as Dai Hanya. The problem was that I'd be working Saturday, and I didn't know how busy things would be on Sunday, so I wanted to hit the fest Friday night, to drink some craft beer and eat meat for dinner. I had a bit of free time Friday afternoon, and I dropped by the plaza to see how the construction of the food booths was coming along. It's now about 2 PM, and the plaza is abandoned. Not a good sign.

The sign behind the stage says that things are supposed to run from 11:30 to 10 PM all three days, but it didn't register on me that the date is for 2017. I come back up to the plaza at 8 PM, after my last class for the night, and the place is still empty. That's when it clicks that the sign was wrong, and that the fest is supposed to be Saturday through Monday (Monday was a national holiday, and is the start of the week-long Golden Week period). Oh well. I go to Tenmonkan and have dinner at an oyster restaurant, and drink lots of shochu.

As mentioned, I had a late class on Saturday, and couldn't get out until 8 PM. That didn't leave enough time to get to Amu Plaza before things would end, so I returned to the apartment to eat konbini bento. I spent most of the afternoon Sunday at Dolphin Port, watching Dai Hanya, until that wrapped up around 6 PM. I got back home, checked e-mail, then went to Amu Plaza at 7:30 PM for beer and dinner.

The plaza was packed, and the only place to sit was along the flower planters along the sidewalk in front of the department store. I got a 4-glass sampler of Shiroyama Hotel brews for 1000 yen ($10 USD), then went to the other side of the plaza to get food.

There were only 3 people in front of me at the ribs booth, but as I was standing there trying to decide what to order, one of the staff started putting up "sold out" signs over the pictures of the food. Every time I picked an alternative dish, that would sell out, too. When I finally got a chance to place my order, all that was left was the plates of peanuts (300 yen), and the half-rack of pork ribs (1,500 yen). The ribs were good, but the peanuts were unsalted. We ended up getting a platter of sushi from another booth, a mojito, and a large glass of Paulaner beer (for another 1,000 yen).

(Steak and ribs)

I was disappointed with the drinks selection this year. Most of the booths were selling shochu cocktails, and commercial Japanese beers (Sapporo, Kirin, Asahi). The only craft beer was from Shiroyama hotel. I was really hoping to see Gen-Praha or Kirishima Brewing. But, not this time. Sigh. What we did get was good, but I think the total came to at least $60, which I knew was going to hurt a bit price-wise.

There were too many people, and nothing was happening on stage, at that time, so I didn't take photos. I did want shots for the blog, so I came back on Monday in the middle of the afternoon. That gave me a little face time with Kuro-buta.

The stage events alternated every hour between musical performances, and the MC leading everyone in the German beer drinking song. At 2 PM, the group was some governmental jazz brass band. Unfortunately, they'd taken a break and the leader spent ten minutes trying to teach the children in the audience how to respond in the middle of an earthquake. I needed to get new running shoes, so I took the opportunity to go to the Aeon department store across the street. They didn't have much in my size, and I came back to Amu Plaza after that.

There's an underground walkway that connects the main train station and Amu Plaza to the hotel and Aeon in the distance. The escalator to reach street level is just to the right of the photo. As I was coming up the escalator, I heard a young woman's shrill voice shouting out over a PA, and I took a detour from the beer fest to see what was going on. At first, it looks like the area here is empty.

Actually, a small stage had been erected at the end, with a sound mixer tent over to the side. On the stage were two members of Southern Cross, the Kagoshima version of AKB-48, talking to each other. No idea why, and no one else was nearby to listen to them.

I continued to the beer fest, where the leader had stopped speaking, and the band was preparing to break out into song again. And, what do they play? An elevator-jazz version of the Mission: Impossible theme song. Oh well - copyrighted music again. I gave up on recording it, and went downstairs to get free Kaldi sample coffee.

When I came back upstairs again, I returned to the other plaza just in time to see one of the other Southern Cross girls stop handing out plastic souvenir bags to passersby and disappear into the mixer tent. A few seconds later, she came back out and joined a few other members of the group, and they started dancing to a song played off a CD. Immediately, fans of the group came from out of nowhere, and pretty quickly there were about 30 people watching and shouting out interactively to the song.

Just as an FYI - AKB-48 was created in 2005 in Akihabara by Yasushi Akimoto as kind of a dinner theater thing that allowed the audience to get up close to the singer/dancers. In Japan, these types of performers are called "idols," and they do undergo strict training for singing, dancing, acting and doing voice work. In my opinion, though, looks go a lot farther than talent does. There are over 130 members in several AKB-48 spin-off groups based in cities around Japan, including Osaka, Fukuoka and Nagoya. The age range is between mid-teens and mid-20's. I think the mandatory retirement (i.e. "graduation") age is 25. AKB-48 has inspired at least 3 different groups in Kagoshima. Each group has its own nightclub it performs at, while the idols also attend other events around the city throughout the year. The Kagoshima groups are: Southern Cross, Seven Colors and Mingo Mingo. Southern Cross is the official spokesgroup for the Tenmonkan shopping complex. They are popular here, and do have a hardcore fan following.

I wandered back to the beer fest, and waited for the drinking song to start so I could take a photo for the blog. A little after 3 PM, the MC got up on stage and announced that they were going to have an unscheduled, surprise guest. This was followed by the Southern Cross girls running through the audience, giving people high-fives, and then going into the exact same song they'd given out where almost no one had been watching.

After this was done, I went to Tenmonkan and did shoe shopping. I picked up a pair of Nike running shoes. I'm hoping these last longer than the last pair did (that pair self-destructed after 7 months. I don't think I do that much walking every week, but I seem to go through shoes faster than I'd like.) The rest of the evening was spent processing photos for the blog and doing work online for another of my schools.

Busy, busy, busy.

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