Today, July 2nd, I attended Sato Ryuji’s photobook event in Nagoya’s Kintetsu Passe Hoshino Bookstore. I had pre-ordered three photobooks, which allowed me a handshake, polaroid two-shot, and the special event photos.
Let me start by saying that this has kind of been a whirlwind relationship because I’m pretty certain that two months ago I had only vague ideas about who he was, and then somehow I started getting into the Touken Ranbu musical and how can you not love that pretty face? Then suddenly there I was standing in a bookstore with a ticket and no money, my heart feeling like it was going to jump out of my chest as I waited in line to meet him.
The lining up part was kind of exhausting because they put us in the stairwell, which had no air conditioning, and the line trailed up and down the stairs. My number was 107, so I figured I had some time to wait. But, the atmosphere was nice. I was surrounded by Japanese fans discussing how nervous they were, externally expressing everything I was trying to keep inside because I was alone and had no one to let it out to. A lot of fans around me had Kashuu’s goods attached to their bag or clothes which made me feel better about my desicion to wear one of his pins on my shirt.
The hardest part about waiting for these things is not quite knowing what is going to happen. I’m the kind of person who likes to know everything in advance, but that’s impossible for these kinds of events. I at least checked up on Twitter to see what it had been like at his event in Osaka that morning, and saw some people’s pictures with him. It was only when I was about four people away that I could finally see Ryuji. It took me a moment to really recognise him because he was blonde and I’ve only ever seen him with dark hair, but the moment I saw him smile at the girl he was talking to, he became that Ryuji I had seen before.
Maybe because I’ve been in some of these things where everything was a mess, the extent to which the staff were super organised made me feel a lot less nervous. They had one staff member to take your bag, one to take your ticket, and then finally the girl with the camera who would tell you to go and stand in the designated spot while waiting for Ryuji to finish speaking with the person ahead of you. I stood, watching the people in front of me go to him one by one, watching him talk to them, trying to figure out what it might be like to chat to him. I noticed that he seemed to be very much the kind of guy to listen rather than talk so much, which made me nervous again because I knew I’d probably have to initiate something.
Then, it was my turn. I went and stood on the cross on the ground as requested and I could hear Ryuji finishing speaking with the person before me. It felt like I was waiting for death. My heart was going so fast and I think I was shaking a little. Then suddenly I turned and he had hopped over to stand beside me. He was taller than I expected and looked down at me with that deadly smile and gave me a “thank you” and then we posed and took picture. All that was going through my mind while they were taking the picture was that it would be finished in a moment and then I had to actually look him in the eye and talk to him.
This is the picture. Look at our matching blonde hair. It’s almost like he did that just for me.
With the picture taken, he hopped back behind the table and I moved in front of it. He took my hand and he gave me this really unsure look and slightly awkward smile and paused for an eternity before saying “……. hajimemashite” (“Nice to meet you”). I was totally staring at his face and I managed to say the same thing back and then I repeated it in English too. He then mumbled it back to me in the most Japanese sounding English I’ve ever heard, and then smiled some more. I told him “good job” and then said to him in Japanese that I really liked Touken Ranbu but that I hadn’t managed to see it live yet. He told me to definitely come next time and sounded really excited and enthusiastic about the prospect. And with that, our time was over.
On the way out, I was given a pile containing my three photobooks, two event photos, and the polaroid we had just taken together, along with a bag to put it all in. My hands were still shaking so much that I had to go aside in a corner and put everything down on the floor so I could get the bag open to put everything inside.
I hadn’t been sure what to expect from Ryuji, having only known about him for a couple of months, but I was really glad I went along. Although our time was short, he was kind and genuine and seemed interested in what me, and the other fans were saying to him. And on a shallow note, he looked so good up close and I really couldn’t get enough of that smile. I really hope I can meet him again some day.
Here are some previews of the photobook and the event photos.