2009 Budokan Daikanshasai Report: Part 2
(Video: The Fukuyama Masaharu Nagasaki Chapter)
With the announcer’s voice, pictures of Masha were shown on the big screen - as a baby in a stroller with chubby cheeks; in Junior High and High School; and then with members of LAR (his High School rock band), etc. There were interviews with 3 of his High School teachers and interviews with members of LAR.
“We feel just like those parents coming to school events and standing at the side, watching over their kids.”
“Hope he becomes someone that even men think he’s cool.”
We even got to see pictures of Masha in his short-lived job as salesman in Nagasaki, after graduating from high school. He really looked ‘kakkoii’ then.
After that came the re-enacted story of Masha and his girlfriend in Nagasaki - how she shelled out for all those tickets to LAR’s amateur concerts and gave them for free to her friends; and the scene at the train station when Masha was leaving for Tokyo. His girlfriend and two of his friends were there to see him off. Looking at her, he had really wanted to say: “I will come back for you one day.” but no words came out of his mouth. And that was how he left his hometown in his 18th summer……..
Watching the parting scene, I couldn’t help but feel the pain of the 2 young people involved. The auditorium was quiet when the clip ended, then the applause began. At first I thought Masha had gone backstage during the video, but in fact, he was there all along, sitting in a chair on the dark stage and watching the film with us. And I wonder…..what was going through his mind as he sat there in the dark, reviewing the clip of his past?
“So free and uininhibited!” The audience laughed and applauded as Masha took a dig at his younger self.
“But I actually didn’t tell anyone that I wanted to become a musician, no-one at all. I said I was going to open an antique clothes store in Tokyo.” We laughed again.
“So I wouldn’t look so stupid if I couldn’t make it and had to go back…..”
Masha also took the opportunity to thank the young actors in the clip, they were both starlets from Amuse (the same management agency) and we clapped enthusiastically for them too.
With that, he went straight into an old song [Tada Boku ga Kawatta] (ただ僕が変わった It’s Just that I’ve Changed). The last time he sang it was 9 years ago at the Inasayama Concert in the year 2000. The guitar sound began but……..Ouch! Loud feedback burst out suddenly from the speakers and he had to stop…….the audience clapped in encouragement. Masha said it was quite difficult to co-ordinate the instruments, with him on centre stage and the band spread out around him.
“But I must say, that was not my guitar!” The whole house burst out laughing.
The guitarist tried again and Masha patiently explained to us what they were doing as they readjusted the acoustics. Cries of “Ganbatte!” (頑張れ！Keep going, don’t give up!) could be heard from all around.
“You’re lucky you get to see our live rehearsals! You don’t see this in normal concerts!” He joked. True! Everyone happily applauded.
The guitar gently started again and we all settled down to listen to this beautiful song. Masha was singing about the story of his girlfriend from the past, his low baritone filling the entire auditorium.
Walking along the stone steps, I hold your hand
Joking as we climb up the slope to the hilltop park
There, you were searching for my heart
And I, I was searching for the map to my future
If we could just keep things unchanged, if we could be together
There is nothing better than that, you understand what I mean
I’m so glad to have met you, I mean it even now
The last scene of the old movie that made us laugh that day, I can see it in my mind.
I have always loved this song (Izumi: me too!), and it was true pleasure just to be able to sit there quietly listening to Masha’s voice live. (Izumi: …….I hope he sings it in the coming tour…*please sing it*…)
At the end of the song, the auditorium was filled with screams of “”Masha~~” “Masha~~” amidst the applause.
“Arigatou~~ Next, we’ll have a look at the second video clip - The Debut Chapter Part 1……”
To make a living, Masha started temporary jobs. The most noteworthy one was the lumber shop in Ichikawa City (市川市). We got to see the actual Yamaguchi lumber shop and what was inside, like the sofa where Masha used to sit before he started work every day. They interviewed the owner, his wife and 2 of their pretty daughters. It appears that the eldest daughter is still single, for she looked straight at the camera and said, “I’m not married yet, if you don’t mind, you can come and take me!” (We all laughed.)
His Boss remembered feeling very lonely after Masha told him he was quitting to go make movies. The Yamaguchi family ended their segment with “Ganbatte! We’ll always be there for you!” while the Boss added, “You can always come back!” (Audience: Hahahahaha!!)
We’re told the next part will talk about the key player who helped Masha revive his dream to be a musician. Who was it?….At this point,…. the QP Half commercial came on. Just like a TV show, breaking for commercials at the climax…..
This crucial character was Masha’s senior at the lumber shop, Nakanishi-san, once a professional Enka-singer. The Amuse staff went to his home for the interview. When he was ready to give up his dreams, it was Nakanishi-san’s words which brought Masha’s heart back into music.
All these clips were really made like a TV show, at times we felt heartbroken for the characters; at times we held our breath in anticipation. The videos were very special and precious, drawing laughter and amazement from the audience. Scene after scene of rare pictures, images and interviews, they were like a surprise present for us. New fans were able to understand more about Masha’s struggles and beginnings, while experienced fans got to cherish this night even more.
And what was Masha doing on the stage all this time? He was watching the videos with us; drinking water while staff were wiping his sweat or fixing his long ‘Ryoma’ hair and clothes.
The next clip was about young Masha going through the Amuse audition process.
Having passed through the first and second rounds, we suddenly saw a pair of eyes looking at us. Young Masha was checking for letters in his postbox. The background music from “Galileo” was playing and the “eyes” became Michi-san (a comedian who mainly impersonates Masha) in a lab coat! When did Yukawa-sensei come in?
We were shown a two-storey building with the captions “The actual apartment building he lived in during that time” (Cries of surprise came from all corners.)
When he didn’t get the final audition notice from Amuse, “Masha” went for a ride on his motorbike to cheer himself up. The captions “The motorcycle he actually used at that time” splashed out. It was incredible that they could still find it and even more so that the bike was was still working today more than 20 years later. And when his muffler fell off on the way, “Masha” could only turn around for home. As he was fixing his bike in the carpark,….the telegram from Amuse arrived. After calling up Amuse, the “Masha” on screen ran and ran on foot, all the way to the audition venue….. racing with the Shinkansen along the way……
This segment was shot in the exact image of a “Galileo” episode, be it Yukawa-sensei’s pet phrases or the soundtrack used, it was very very funny!
Then….. a black videotape appeared on the screen, with the words “Not for Circulation”. Masha’s audition clips!
We couldn’t believe it! Were they really going to show us such a precious video, I couldn’t wait to see it……..But the Debut Chapter Part 1 ended there. How could they stop it now? The audience was buzzing!
“My audition clips with Amuse. I couldn’t stand it myself when I saw it again!”
We laughed. Someone called out, “I really want to see it!!”
“I really don’t want to show anyone!!”
Now more and more people were shouting “See it!” “See it!”
“But because this is a Daikanshasai, so….”
Everyone happily clapped at once.
“I don’t want to scare you away!”
Someone shouted, “Don’t worry!”
“Why don’t I sing you a song before we watch it??!”
Was he procrastinating? We must have been all thinking about the same thing, as everyone started to laugh again.
“Well? Can you all feel the “Love” in our Fukuyama Exhibition?”
We responded with our laughter and applause.
“Our next song was sung live 14 years ago in 1995 in…”
Masha mentioned the name of the concert venue and someone called out, “I was there!” “I was there!”
“…this time, we’re going to play the 21st century version here in the Budokan. This song is called [Access].”
Another round of cheering and applause. We began to clap in rhythm to the prelude. Each time I hear an old song in Masha’s concerts, it always feels somehow new and different. First there is the re-arrangement , second Masha’s voice and skill as a singer have matured everytime I hear him. And this song was no different, I was captivated.
“Domo Arigato~~ (Thank you). Coming up next is Part 2 of the Debut Chapter, yes, the audition clips we were talking about just now………..Please don’t be alarmed by it!………To be honest, I was shocked!”
The audience roared.
“….Why do I have to show you this…..I don’t want you to hate me. Can you all promise me one thing? Please don’t be hate me after you see this?”
His words had taken me by surprise. We could see that he really meant it, he didn’t make any attempt to hide his feelings. Such a lovable person, we laughed even harder.
“…oh really, you people….” Masha sighed.
So unwilling, and yet he had no choice. Seeing such a Masha, we couldn’t help laughing.
“Oh, laugh as you like! That’s why we’re showing it, for you to laugh at………now, for the last video clip tonight. The Fukuyama Masaharu Debut Chapter Part 2, only for the Budokan………” Hearing Masha say that, we clapped as hard as we could of course.
And the much awaited audition clip finally started. Countdown numbers splashed out on the big screen: 10, 9, 8,…4, 3, 2,…..
“The next one is No. 43 Fukuyama Mashaharu, er..no, ……he’s No. 42.” The MC even got his number wrong. Young Masha came up to the mic stand: short hair, T-shirt and jeans with an overly long and oversized jacket. Smiling shyly as he walked out, Masha explained that he had just rushed over to the audition hall. The judges asked, what song will you be singing? Masha was rummaging for something out of his pocket (the backing tape perhaps?) as he answered: “I don’t know the name of the song!” ……………
(As for the images that followed, to be honest if it were me, you’d have to kill me to show someone else ^^)
Clutching the microphone, he almost shouted the song out, his voice a bit hoarse……At the climax, he leaned forward slightly and was so entranced that his eyes rolled back, showing only whites…. (We laughed until our tears came out.)
The next clip was the acting test. Masha had to say his lines with a partner. Holding the script and looking at his partner on the right, “You’re such a nag! Grumbling non-stop!……” Reading out from his script, he sounded quite fluent and natural, until a point where he stopped. He brought the script closer and opened his eyes wide as if he was figuring out what to say…….. (It was hilarious! The audience roared with laughter. We just couldn’t stop!)
Then they showed an incident that happened just before his debut. Straining himself to sing out of his range, he developed a polyp on his vocal chords and had to be operated on. The big screen showed a picture of Masha lying on the hospital bed, staring at the ceiling, expressionless and eyes blank. A piece of paper next to the bed explained that he just had an operation and could only communicate with pen and paper as he couldn’t talk. According to the commentary, this was a period of despair for Masha.
After that, scenes of his career milestones flashed on the screen:- the 1990 debut; release of each single and album; his involvement in the Olympics; his photography exhibitions; his TV shows and the “Yogisha X” movie, etc. The video ended with a quote from Masha, saying that the reason he was continuously attempting new challenges, was because he wanted to repay his gratitude to his fans who have supported and stayed with him all these years.
Applause filled the auditorium.
“Truly, thank you very much everyone!” Masha said.
And in the applause, the music for [Sai Ai] began to play. Masha had changed into another medium length coat, and using his low unpretentious voice, he sang out [Sai Ai] the Fukuyama way. Everyone’s attention was locked on the Masha on stage, our emotions settling down now after having laughed too much, moments before.
It is no easy task to be able to stay on top of this business for 20 years. Just holding on to your dream or target is not enough. Masha has been enriching and fine-tuning himself all the time. While he was continuously improving himself and trying out new challenges, he always had his fans in mind, working hard to produce the best compositions and performances to show his fans and repay them for their loyal support. I am deeply touched by this.
To be Continued.
For a better understanding of Masha’s early history and beginnings, please read the semi-autobiographical Tokyo Tower Series written by Masha himself in his radio blog for All Night Nippon Saturday Spacial Tamashiii no Radio.
Chapter 1 deals with his high school life. He leaves Nagasaki for Tokyo in Chapter 2 and his struggles before he achieved fame are covered upto Chapter 5. The chapters thereafter give us an insight into why he had to stop all entertainment activities (except for his radio) for more than 2 years in 1996-97. A ‘must’ read for any new Masha fan who would like to know more about how he started.