We kicked off our four-day birthday celebration extravaganza for Kuniko last night.
It all started with Kuniko’s (as well as my) first ever K-pop concert. After work we met in Sannomiya for a quick sashimi dinner, and then caught a train to Port Island to see the teen singing group “Seventeen” performing at World Memorial Hall. The place was sold out (capacity of 8,000) and I think I was the only male paying customer.
Just joking – we did walk past a guy once or twice on the way to our seats. But I think the other 7,998 people were young women, mainly high school and college aged. I didn’t mind – I’m used to being a minority here in Japan anyway – and it turned out to be a spectacle that I will remember for a long time. I’ll never forgot the long, long lines of around a hundred women waiting to use the bathroom, and the men’s bathrooms sitting there open and empty.
Almost every one of those 8,000 people held a modified flashlight, so that they could wave them in time with the music. We neglected to buy one for ourselves, so we ended up enjoying the concert as individuals rather than as a group. The lights had a cool effect when the overhead lights were cut for the show. Kind of like stars across the sky – each star clutched by a breathless love-struck teenage girl.
The show itself was very well done. We sat above and to the left of the main stage, so most of the time we were close to the action. The performers were not shy about lip syncing – most of the chorus and lead vocals were piped in through the audio system, but the boys danced like crazy. I could see why the lip sync was necessary because I’m sure they could barely breathe after dancing for two hours like maniacs.
The stage was also set up so that it could rise and float over the audience, bringing the talent to the people in the back of the stadium and sharing the love. It was the first time I had seen something like that, although I haven’t been to many arena concerts lately and I’m sure they have been doing something like it since Motley Crue in the 1980s. It was cool to see, and luckily nobody fell off the giant moving platform floating through the starry sky.
After a big concert I expect that the speakers will cause a little bit of hearing loss, but it turned out that the speakers were the least of my worries – I was surrounded by nearly 8,000 screaming teenage girls and that was what caused the real damage. It felt like Ed Sullivan and the Beatles out there.
Kuniko and I both really enjoyed the show (probably for different reasons) and we left right after the last song before the encore, ensuring that we could catch a train off Port Island without any hassle. Success!
To celebrate and recap the concert we decided to go visit a new brewpub that opened up in Sannomiya (actually Ninomiya) called “In Tha House Brewing”. We liked the pictures on the website and they made their own beer, so it was a natural destination for us. The location was interesting – it was down an old shopping street that was mainly shuttered now, and they must have gotten a great deal on rent because there was nothing else nearby.
Inside the interior reminded me a little bit of the brewpubs around San Diego – lots of wood, stainless steel and spot lighting. We ordered four of the six beers on tap, and shared them between us for evaluation.
The good news was that they had a couple of really well made beers – a White IPA that I really liked, and a pale ale that was quite tasty as well. One beer, called Funk Ale, was just that – it tasted one dimensional and unfinished. It is a new place, so I could excuse a bad beer now and then, but it was a little disappointing that they thought they could sell it to customers.
The real bad news was the prices, the food, and the furniture. The furniture we sat on was cheap plastic and it felt like it. I don’t mind sitting on cheap plastic seats when I am eating street food in Thailand, but when I am paying premium prices for homemade craft beer in upscale Kobe? The beers were priced on the high side – we chose a 300 mL size (they called it “medium”) and we paid around 600 yen a glass. A pint glass was around 1000 yen, so that is a lot to spend for a beer place with no reputation at the moment.
Finally the food was really disappointing. We only ordered two dishes so I can’t judge the whole menu, but we had fish and chips that ended up being two small pieces of overfried fish and a couple of potato wedges that were underwhelming, and we also ordered a Caesar salad that was just a few pieces of iceberg lettuce, a dollop of bottled Caesar salad dressing, and some shaved Parmesan cheese on top. Some black pepper? An egg? A little bacon? One tiny anchovy? Sorry, nowhere in sight.
So we were pretty disappointed overall and I doubt we’ll go back. Maybe we set our standards too high, but that’s the way it goes when you try new places. Sometimes you win and sometimes you eat iceberg.
Next on our four-day birthday celebration extravaganza is dinner in Osaka after work tonight. Kuniko selected a restaurant for dinner and so after work I’ll meet her in Osaka and we’ll try to find a new favorite restaurant. Let the celebration continue!