Had it really been almost two years since I attended Ji Chang Wook’s last fan meeting in Southwestern Japan in June 2014? Somehow, I found myself returning to Osaka for yet another appearance, this time for his “JCW in OSK 樂ruck CONCERT” held at the Osaka Convention Centre on 17 April 2016. (Note: Due to the high level of security, I was unable to take any photos or videos during the live concert.)
I arrived the night before to get settled into the hotel and meet up with a few members of the Ji Chang Wook Japan Fan Club for dinner and drinks over some of Osaka’s representative dishes. (Okonomiyaki pizza, yum!) Upon hearing about Wook’s flight delays due to his drama filming in China running overtime, we rushed back expecting to catch a glimpse of him and his crew arriving from Kansai International. (We assumed that Wook would stay at the same hotel where many of us fans were staying because of its proximity right next door to the Osaka Convention Centre.) Midnight came and went; then 1:00am, then 2:00am… Eventually we called it quits around 4:00am and gave in to sleep instead. (We still never found out where he was staying. Go figure.)
Since there was no merchandise for sale at Wook’s last Osaka event, fans showed up en masse for this opportunity: concert attendees were allowed to purchase their JCW fan merchandise ahead of time, which was a great idea so as to not have to cart all those goodies around during the show itself.
On offer for this concert were the following goodies:
Attendees who purchased the full package of JCW items (total cost 10,000 yen / $117 USD) were able to participate in a lucky draw for a chance to win one of 15 spots for a meet-and-greet before the concert. I had later heard from fans that the full packages available at the pre-sale had sold out about 45 minutes after the doors opened. Instead, I opted for a few small purchases (the lightstick and document envelopes). An hour and 26 minutes after I first entered the line, I was clutching my purchases to my chest and headed back to my room for a quick nap before the festivities started.
Upon arriving at the venue for the concert, the lobby was already packed to the gills with fans still purchasing their merchandise, and a ticket counter that sported a lonely sign saying “SOLD OUT.” *squeeeeee* We hung around a bit before going upstairs to our seats, checking out the number of flower support displays which were sprinkled around the lobby:
Four large posterboards showing never-before-seen Ji Chang Wook selfie shots were stationed close to the escalators. Several other very large posterboards were also on display, which showed five photos of Ji Chang Wook and provided red dots to vote for our favorite as the “Best Ji Chang Wook Candid Photo.” As expected, several security guards were posted to keep fans from taking pictures.
We were lucky to obtain seats smack-dab in the centre of the ground floor of the auditorium — just high enough to see all the action, but close enough where binoculars were not necessary. Before the concert started, several admonishments were played over the loudspeakers in Japanese, Korean and Chinese to make sure all cell phones, cameras and other video-taking devices were stowed away. As I have witnessed at previous Japan fan meetings, ushers were constantly patrolling the aisles throughout the show to ensure that edict was followed.
The house lights went down, and a montage of scenes from the “Healer” and “Empress Ki” dramas were flashed on the screen behind the JCW Band as the musicians took their places on the stage. Hitting the stage in a long black overcoat, a black v-neck sweater vest, white short-sleeved t-shirt and black pegged jeans, Wook led off with “La Rose de Versailles” by the Korean indie band Nemesis. He sounded in fine voice for his first offering, and as that tune ended, he introduced himself in Korean and then again in Japanese. Screams rattled the room!
The emcee was talento Yuki Shiina (which was kind of a strange choice, since I only know of her as a yoga/fitness instructor from Japanese television shows). She introduced herself and the translator for the evening’s festivities before Wook launched into one of his favourite Lee Juck songs, “Running Across The Sky.”
Some chatting back-and-forth with the emcee and Wook before he sang his cover of the Jay Chou song “Starry Night” in Korean. A bit more patter with the emcee discussing how he liked returning to Japan (obviously not doing her homework; she would have known he was filming in Tokyo a few weeks prior). Enough of that! It was time for the next song, “Even Though I Loved You” (Saranghaetjiman) from “The Days” (with a picture montage from several of his musical performances playing behind him and the band). Afterwards, Wook made sure to mention to the emcee that he would be reprising his role as Muyeong in the third reboot of the musical “The Days,” premiering on 27 August 2016 at Seoul’s Chungmu Art Hall Theatre. What a great little promoter he’s become in the past few months! *hee*
Next song was Wook’s other favourite Lee Juck song “Rain” (from the drama “Bachelor’s Vegetable Store”), this time around being sung in a rather slow and bluesy tempo. As a musician, I appreciate the way Wook decides to tweak his content to give his fans an entirely different watching experience from show to show. Bravo!
Wook headed backstage for what we thought may be a costume change, but it only took a few minutes before he had tossed aside his overcoat and his male backup singer took the lead on the rap introduction to PSY’s “Father” (Abeoji). Next thing we knew, the house lights came up and Wook was running up and down the aisles high-fiving those who were lucky enough to be in his path. I was almost flattened into a pancake between the rush of fans as I reached out towards him for a high-touch. Our eyes met for a nano-second, but sadly, there was no real chance to fully connect as the audience started enveloping around him and his handlers had to pull him away from the scrum.
As Wook jumped back on the stage for the last verse, he showed off a can of Asahi beer that an audience member had pressed into his hand whilst running around the auditorium. Wook showed it off like he had just won the lottery, saying that “it would have to wait until later.” And then looked at his watch and impatiently tapped his foot. HAHAHAHA!!!
All that running around must have tired him out a bit, as the emcee and translator pulled up chairs for the Chat Portion of the evening. First order of business would be to pick four audience members to join Wook on stage for some pre-planned activities. That seemed like it took forever, as the winners were from all over the auditorium and it was like herding cats in order to eventually get them all to the stage.
The four candid selfies from the lobby were brought out on stage, along with a fifth photoboard placed on an easel between Wook and the emcee. This easel would hold the photos that the audience members voted on earlier — the red dots each indicated a vote for that particular photo, and the winner would be announced on stage during the show.
In fifth place was the “Attempt at Winking” photo posted on Wook’s IG from February 2016:
As he readily admits he doesn’t know how to wink (liar liar!), Wook attempted a few lame winks and then moved on to the next photo voted on by the fans. In fourth place, the “Healer Dancing Machine” photo posted on Wook’s IG from January 2015:
Wook stated that he’s even worse at dancing than he is at winking, and showed the audience that very thing by recreating his “moves” (and I use that term loosely) to extremely loud squeals from the audience.
In third place was the “Tennis Player” photo of him from the first episode of “Healer”:
Here, the emcee asked if he would humour the audience and show us his abs. *more screams* Wook politely declined to raise his shirt, as his abs “have gone missing these days.” But he readily rolled up his t-shirt sleeves to show off his still well-defined guns… erm, I mean biceps. A few seconds elapsed before he rolled them back down with a sheepish grin, to the groans of the audience.
In second place, the “Half-Asleep Healer” photo from Episode 4 (and my own personal voting favourite):
Upon prodding by the emcee, Wook readily admitted that was how he usually looks after waking up. It did not matter at what time or what day; that’s a normal look for him. (I don’t think the emcee translated that to the audience well, as no one laughed except a handful of fans down front.)
Finally, the first-place photo chosen by the audience was Wook’s sultry/sexy/ohmygodhelpme shot from the June 2015 issue of KWave magazine:
Asked by the emcee to recreate that KWave photo, Wook gladly complied with several “sexy poses” (and another few wink attempts) before breaking out in shy giggles. All was played on the big screen behind the stage to extremely loud squeals.
Wook’s next song was “I Love You” (Saranghaeyo) and then it was time for the hand-picked fans to be brought up one at a time for a play-acting scenario with him, while the emcee narrated what was happening. The first fan was an older woman named Toyoko-san, who could not stop staring at Wook the entire time she was on stage. Their “scene” was for the both of them to be on a date together. *swoon* Poor Toyoko-san looked like she was going to faint right then and there, but they both gamely followed through with the emcee’s direction and Toyoko-san was one happy fangirl by the time their scenario ended.
The second audience member was a younger woman named Masaki-san, and their scene was to recreate “taking care of his ill partner at home” (as a bedroom picture flashed across the screen to great laughter). Somehow Wook interpreted this to mean Masaki-san should receive a shoulder massage from him (VERY loud screams from the audience!), and Wook pantomiming peeling a banana for Masaki-san to eat. Then Wook decided to test Masaki-san’s temperature, first by feeling her forehead… and then pressing his forehead against hers. *audience screams*
The third audience member was another older woman named Sachiko-san, and their reenactment was to try and learn a new hobby together. (I think the emcee said they should attempt to make a ceramic mug together, but couldn’t quite hear the instructions.) Sachiko-san sat in front of a pretend pottery wheel, while Wook attempted to show her how to use it. He finally gave up and then wrapped his arms around her, just like Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore did in the movie “Ghost.” Right on cue, his backup singers launched into “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers (the song that played during the original “Ghost” movie scene). I almost died on the spot from laughing so hard!
But before the fourth audience member was brought up for her scene, the emcee asked Wook to describe the four selfie photoboards on stage. He stated that these four photos were various candid shots taken of him while filming in China as he would wait for his makeup and hair to be styled prior to joining the film site. Asking three of the four women sitting off to the side of the stage which picture they would prefer, Wook personally autographed each one and sent the lucky gals off with it and a hug goodbye.
Finally it was time for the fourth person to join Wook for their scene. Her name was Miyuki-san, and their script called for both of them to be sitting in a café and told Miyuki-san she was to act out breaking up with Wook. She looked totally stunned and could barely move, even after several prompts from the emcee to “do something!” Wook tried his best to act his part with lots of aegyo and then fake-tears running down his cheeks, but after that went on for way longer than it should have, the emcee called it off.
Miyuki-san was asked to stay seated though, as Wook then started to sing “To the Butterfly” from the “Empress Ki” OST as her own personal serenade… well, as personal as one can get with 3,000 people watching you. *hee* She received her autographed poster and was sent off with a hug as well.
Wook went off stage while the JCW Band vamped with an instrumental while photos of his prior fan meetings flashed on the big screen behind them. He then returned to the stage in a tasteful black-and-grey sweater outfit to sing Wheesung’s “Insomnia.”
Then it was Selfie Time with the crowd, with finger hearts popping up all over the place:
The stage went dark, and the JCW Band launched into “Loser” by CNBLUE. Another run throughout the auditorium, but this time more security guards surrounded him. Wook must have felt more secure, because he stopped right in front of us and “danced” for a few seconds. Returning to the stage, we were treated to a few more seconds of the “Dancing Machine” as well. Bwahahahaha!
The boy was dripping wet after expending all that energy, and wiped himself off with a towel before tossing it into the audience and grabbed by one of the Japan Fan Club members! (I had a chance to hold it after the show; it didn’t smell like anything in particular except for a faint whiff of cologne. Still…. *squeeeeeeeeeeeeeee*)
But the next song was a total surprise, since I’ve never heard him sing it live before: “I Miss You” (Bogoshipda) from the 2003 SBS drama “Stairway to Heaven” OST. If you’ve never heard the song (or if you’re wanting a refresher), here’s the original artist Kim Bum Soo performing it on ‘Yu Huiyeol’s Sketchbook’:
Right after, Wook launches into “I’ll Protect You,” his offering from the “Healer” OST, while scenes from the drama and various pictures of the Japanese fans posing with the flower support stands played on the screen behind him. He then sat down and started out thanking the audience in Korean, but then switched to read a letter written in Japanese to the audience. (At that point of the evening, I was way too emotional to interpret the entire speech and didn’t take many notes, but he was very gracious in thanking everyone for attending and he hopes to return to Japan very soon.)
Wook closed out the night with Ken Hirai’s “Close Your Eyes” (Hitome wo tojite), which he previously performed in a few of his 2015 fan meetings. And with that, Wook stepped to the front of the stage and waved for a few more seconds, bade us goodnight in Japanese, and headed backstage. As in prior events, we were treated to the cameraman following him all the way back to his dressing room. More waves and finger hearts, and then he was gone.
All in all, a very memorable night. It was my first time inside the Osaka Convention Centre, and the stage setup was perfect and viewable from any angle in the audience; the big screen behind everyone was a great idea and allowed several awesome close-ups throughout the night. The seats were nice and comfy and not too close to one another. The sound system could have used a bit more finesse, as the second keyboardist could barely be heard in the earlier portion of the program but was fixed by the time “To the Butterfly” was performed. I was also perplexed that Wook did not introduce Sungmin and the other band members at this concert as he had done in previous concerts.
FujiTV will broadcast a highly-edited version of Ji Chang Wook’s Osaka Concert on 17 June 2016 through its satellite channel NEXT, with repeats to follow throughout the summer.
Although it wasn’t hard to pick me out of the crowd, many thanks go out to the bunches of Kitchen fans who came up to say hello before and after the concert – thanks for your loyal following! It was great to finally meet several of my ‘online buddies’ who also made the trek over to Osaka. Extra thanks to my friends in the JCW Japan Fan Club for arranging the tickets and their support throughout Osaka: Michiru-san, Naomi-san, Miyuki-san, and Eri-san, doumo arigatou gozaimashita! (And gomen nasai to a few others whose names I didn’t write down and cannot remember who you were now.)
Most of all, nomu kamsahamnida to Ji Chang Wook for putting on such an amazing show and allowing your fans to be a part of something so magical. 지배우님, 다시 만나서 정말 반가웠어요. 수고 많으셨습니다. 너무 고마워요!!! ❤
Postscript: And the main reason why this post is so late is because I spent extra time after the concert travelling around Korea. These two shots were taken in Busan:
I already have my plans made to attend the third reboot of “The Days.” Hope to see you there!
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