Champion Japan tour journal 2005
Mar 17 – Arrival at Tokyo Narita Airport
We flew into Tokyo in the evening and were picked up by our drivers, Kenta and Daiki from Alliance Trax (who booked the tour). Immigration was a breeze, no questions asked, they stamped the passports and we were through.
While we were in line, however, we ran into another American band… When I say “ran into”, I mean that we were bombarded with questions from the world’s most bro-est dude ever:
Bro: “DUDE! What band are you in?!”
Bro: “Never heard of it…”
Us: “What band are you in?”
Bro: “NEVER HEARD OF IT! HAH!!!”
They were definitely from So Cal. Not only were they loud and annoying, but they were totally drawing attention to us when it would be best to just slip through immigration. These guys were held up for over an hour because of problems with their work papers. We didn’t even have work papers… No problem though, we were granted access to Japan with no questions asked.
After being picked up, we were driven an hour to Hiro from FC Five’s house where we slept for the night.
Mar 18 – Nagoya
We were scheduled to leave at 9 a.m., but I woke up at around 6 in the morning because of pain in my bursitis ridden shoulders. I couldn’t get back to sleep so I decided to shower before everyone else woke up. Unfortunately, the showers in Japan have a separate control panel where you have to turn on the hot water before you can shower. The buttons were labeled in Japanese obviously, so I had to wait until Hiro woke up to help me out.
The toilets in Japan are out of this world! They look like the captain’s seat on a rocket ship! The seats are heated, which is the best idea ever, and they have all these buttons that operate heat and the bidet, which shoots warm water up into your crack.
The drive to Nagoya was about 6 hours. The backseat of the van is ridiculously uncomfortable. Fortunately, our bros in the Promise warned us to take pillows to sit on, because you can definitely feel the metal frame of the seat through the cushion. Even sitting on the pillows you could feel the springs and bars, at least until your butt goes numb altogether. So the 6 hour ride was hell.
The Nagoya show was AMAZING! The first thing I want to say is that Japanese people are the best! Everyone is SO nice and polite and always smiling and bowing. It’s been one day, and I’m already totally in love with these people.
The Venue “OYS” was very small and it was packed! Maybe 75 to 100 kids, who brought the energy of 500. From the start of the opening band “Courage For League”, to the last note in our set, kids went bonkers. It’s awesome to see this kind of excitement from kids, and the support for the opening locals: CFL, No Limit, and Last One Standing (who were all great bands).
When we played, kids lost their minds. Our Promises Kept record had just came out and every kid knew every word to the first song (Promises Kept). The rest of the songs, kids didn’t know as well, but they still went crazy. Cores were stagediving, skanking, and floating on the crowd kicking the ceiling.. it was intense. It totally had that vibe of an early 80’s minor threat video, where there were all kinds of different kids just skanking and smashing eachother, and loving every second of it! At the end of our set, we had to do two encores, because kids refused to admit that our set was over. The second encore, we didn’t have any songs left so we played Promises Kept again, and kids went even crazier the second time!
Afterward, we were swarmed with hugs, handshakes, and “arigato’s”. Autographs were signed, pictures were taken, and I talked with tons of kids about Ichiro, who is like the Michael Jordan of Japan.
I guess Jim was talking to Hiroyuki (our third driver), and asked if there were ever fights at shows. Hiroyuki answered, “Never.” “Never?” Jim asked. Hiroyuki’s reply was, “No, at shows… we are just… happy.”
Amazing. Japanese hardcore rules.
Mar 19 – Fukuoka @ Kiethflak
Today we drove 8 hours. 8 hours of hell.
When we got to the show there was a pack of smiling kids surrounding the van. No matter how rough the ride is, and how grumpy of a mood you’re in, it is impossible to not be instantly humbled by these sincere and happy kids who are so excited to see meet you and are so excited about hardcore. It is something else.
The show wasn’t quite as wild as last night’s, but it was still fun. “Friends Forever” was awesome. “Set Off” was good too.
Our set was fun, the stage was slippery and small, so it was hard to go off, and the drums were sliding all over the place.
After the show we got to hang out a little before we went to the hotel. I learned some useful Japanese phrases, like “Good evening”, and “I’m sleepy”. I always like to learn a few phrases in every country so I can at least say “thank you” to kids in their own language. I don’t know, I guess it’s just my way of showing respect to kids for hosting us and making us feel at home even though we are on the other side of the world.
Mar 20th Okayama @ Tsuyama
When we woke up, the Mariners game was on, so I got to watch a few minutes of that before we shipped off. Ichiro got a double, then stole 3rd base. Beltre knocked him in.
We checked out of the hotel where we stayed on the 8th floor, and went to Kinko’s to use the internet. While we were there, there was an earthquake. It was pretty crazy, I’m guessing somewhere in the 6.’s (*later found out it was a 7.0!). It lasted maybe 20-30 seconds.
When the quake started, I rushed to the doorway, but the door was made of glass, and I just imagines this door shattering and spitting glass at me. There were no empty desks to get under, so I went to stand against an interior wall, but by then it was already over.
It all happened so fast, but there were a few things that I distinctly remember: First I remember thinking, “Whoah! An earthquake! This is cool!”, then I realized, “Wait… this could be dangerous… get somewhere safe!” I also remember the looks on my bandmate’s faces as it was happening. It was a look somewhere between amusement and fear.
After it was all over, I took a few pictures, the Starbucks across the street got rocked! Then, since we were at Kinko’s, I emailed my parents and girlfriend, to let them know I was safe… just in case the news made a big deal out of it.
On the way out of town a van full of adorable little Japanese girls pulled up next to us and started waving at us. We blew them kisses and they all started giggling and waving more. Cutest thing ever.
Our 4 hour drive took all day because the bridge and highway were both closed because of the earthquake. We were stuck on the island for about 4 hours. When the highway finally opened up, traffic was brutal. We got to the show late and missed half of the bands, but we did get to see Notice, My Own Change, and Last One Standing, who were all good.
The Bass Player of Notice’s sister had a young kid, maybe a year and a half old, who had a Champion youth large shirt on. He was so cute it was ridiculous! We all got pictures with him giving the peace sign and high fives.
After the show we drove 2 hours to Kyoto.
Mar 21 – Kyoto
While eating breakfast I found a newspaper that said the earthquake yesterday was a 7.0! That is insane.. I guess we were only about 20 miles from the epicenter. Fortunately, only one person died in the quake.
Kyoto is a beautiful city. It’s large and modern, but still has a lot of traditional architecture and culture. We had a lot of time before the show to wander around and check out all the old temples and cool little shops. I bought a few souvenirs, including a ninja throwing-star! We threw it around a bunch backstage at the venue… ninja practice.
The show was small, but fun. Last One Standing, and Courage For League both played again, and tore it up. Our set was pretty cool. Kids went off. The stage was so hard though, and destroyed my shins. I’ve been suffering through shin splints a lot lately and hard stages, and concrete floors really make them flare up big time. I could barely walk after tonight’s set. Brutal… I need a good soft wooden stage tomorrow, or I’m going to be in major pain.
Mar 22 – Hiroshima
3 hour drive to Hiroshima, then we went to the A-bomb Dome. Basically this was pretty much the only building that was left standing when the bomb was dropped. So Japan has preserved it as a memorial to those that lost their lives. I can’t begin to tell you how sobering it is to be an American tourist visiting this monument.
The show was kind of rough. Lots of technical problems. We played with mostly mosh-core bands. GFN (no idea what that stands for), was pretty good. They sounded kind of like Madball and had a good live show. Our set was pretty sloppy and full of technical difficulties. The monitor mix kept changing, so it was hard to get in a good flow. A few kids were into us, but I think they were more into the mosh-core stuff. They were still tons of super nice kids (and one painfully annoying British dude of the non-core variety).
After the show 3-4 hour drive to the hotel. I got the Japanese water torture. That’s what we called it when, after drinking tons of water at the show, you have to pee real bad, but our drivers wouldn’t stop the van! You would wait until you were about to burst and tell the driver you need to pee… then the driver would drive for another 30-60 minutes before pulling over. This was my first time experiencing this torture, but I have seen both Aram and Andy’s eyes turn yellow on a few occasions already.
Mar 23 – Saitama at Kitanrawa
5 hour drive to Saitama. It seems like every drive is supposed to be a 2 hour drive, but ends up being 4-6… hmmm
The venue was set up kind of weird, but cool. The show was on the 4th floor. The backstage room was on the 5th floor and the merch area was on the 3rd floor. Kids had to take elevators to each floor. Kind of weird, but it worked. Basically, when the elevator opened on the 4th floor, you were right in the back of the pit looking at the stage about 10 meters away.
Tonight’s show was incredible! “Count of Strength” played, which was our driver Hiroyuki’s band. They were really cool and had a Side by Side meets H20 vibe. Really good live show too! It was awesome to see our new friend Hiroyuki on stage rocking out! The man is as good on stage as he is at eating ice cream 24-7.
There was another really good band called “No Choice in This Matter”. They were great live!! So much energy and their singer had a really intense stage presence.
The Venue was really small, and totally packed. It was ridiculously hot, but so much fun. Kids went off when we played. Lot’s of stage dives. Probably the best show of tour so far!
At one point in our set, I kicked Andy for fun. So he kicked me back. Only he kicked me right when I jumped, so I was in the air and he kicked my hip, which kicked my legs right out from under me. I went end over and my headstock smashed into the stage knocking me so far out of tune that it was useless to try to quick tune. I hit the mute button on my amp and dove into the crowd with my guitar.
When we played Glue by SSD, we got everyone up on the stage. It was super rad! Kids were moshing on the stage, then jumping off and circle-pitting around the room and then climbing back on stage… it was such a fun show. Big thanks to Hiroyuki for booking the show.
Mar 24 – Niigata at Club Junk Box
The show tonight was the smallest of the tour, maybe 20 kids tops. But it was still fun because those few kids were all really into it and made it a good time. The bands were really good too. I know I’ve said this about every band, but to be honest, in Japan every band is actually pretty damn good! Maybe it is because of their work ethic. Those kids practice a lot! The first band, I forget their name, were young kids, but played a cool mid 90’s style hardcore similar to Unbroken meets Earth Crisis, meets Snapcase.
The 2nd band was the singer of Count of Strength’s younger brother’s band. They were called “Stand Again”. They sounded kind of like Side By Side. The singer had a real cool voice. Then “The True Path” sort of sounded like Santa Sangre, really good and tight. “Commune” was Japan’s answer to Stretch Armstrong.
Mar 25 – Sendai
Sendai was a pretty cool city. The area we were in seemed like a huge outdoor mall. I got a little bit of shopping done before the show.
The show was awesome. “Break of Chains” was good, like Agnostic Front. Then “Make Mention of Sight” was awesome. Sean O’Leary (our red-headed Canadian roadie) did a stage dive, which was amusing to everyone.
Our set was nuts! Kids went off and even knew the old songs! It was probably the funnest set of the tour!
After our set, I met the singer of “Total Fury” and talked to him for a while. His band is so rad. Nice dude too.
Mar 26th – Yokohama at Club Lizard
This morning we woke up and a huge feast awaited us! So much food!
The drive was supposed to be 4 hours, but ended up taking 8. We had to drive through Tokyo, and traffic was just ignorant.
When we got to the club, I missed “Silence Kills the Revolution” because I was starving and had to get food, but they are playing tomorrow so I’ll catch them then. Nice kids in that band though! One of them had a Rosary (Seattle HC band) shirt on.
The other bands were all mosh core, except “And Believe”, who were really good fast HC.
Our set was fun, the venue was really cool and the kids were into it.
After the show we stayed with a kid named Jun. We watched Ghost Ship, which was absolutely horrible, of course. Jun’s dog definitely wanted a bite of Jim’s sandwich.
Mar 27 – Tokyo at ACB
One thing that needs to be said about Japan, There are cartoons on EVERYTHING. Everywhere you look… cartoon characters. There are even people dressed up in cartoon costumes. Tokyo was a really cool city. I got to do a bit of shopping. I saw a man riding a scooter with a dog…
The neighborhood the venue was in was kind of sketchy. It was a cool club though. The show? ABSOLUTELY REDICULOUS! “FC Five” played, they were great! “Silence Kills the Revolution” was also really cool.
Our set was NUTS. Kids straight lost their minds. There were about 300 kids. When we opened with Promises Kept, the “BREAK!” part was so loud that I almost forgot what I was playing. Jim had his back to the crowd for the “BREAK!” part, and I watched as he turned around to look at the crowd in total disbelief. When the verse started, kids were crawling all over Jim. They were literally hanging off him the entire set, screaming along to every word! At one point Sean picked up some kid and ran off the stage into the crowd with this little Japanese kid raised over his head like a WWE wrestler.
At the end of the set we played Promises Kept again, and again kids went bonkers. It was probably the craziest show we’ve played since Posi Numbers fest and definitely in the top 5 shows we’ve ever played. It actually reminded me a bit of that first Posi Numbers set we played, just how crazy kids went.
After signing tons of autographs we went out and ate with FC Five.
Japan is awesome and the kids there are truly amazing. I’m definitely going to miss this place.
Mar 28 – Day off in Tokyo
We went shopping in the rain and ate Mexican food, of all things.
Mar 29 – Fly Day
We almost missed our flight. The immigration line was pandemonium. It wasn’t even a line, it was more like a mosh pit. We fought our way to the front after about an hour, and after we were through, our gate was going to close in two minutes and it was all the way on the other side of the Tokyo airport. We had to run about a half a mile, “Home Alone” style, clutching carry-ons and pillows. Dripping with sweat, we barely made it. They closed the gate behind us and off we were.