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I love the pic above. It’s light and cheerful and perfectly describes the happy days I spent in Japan. I couldn’t wait to be back in Japan, the February gigs were announced unexpectedly soon after my previous trip in May. Japan is my favorite kind of destination: calm, clean, polite, well organized… I love people’s sense of humor and the simple style that fits well together with my own Nordic taste.

I knew in advance our trip in Korea will be busy and hectic so I planned from beginning to have some rest after arriving in Japan. My introvert mind needs regular time alone so my first day in Japan was scheduled for that as well. I arrived at my Osaka hotel – everything was tidy and quiet – lay down on the bed and fell asleep. For 13 hours. It was wonderful! I often feel sorry for Mika because he works so hard he probably never has time to sleep as much as he likes or needs. Sleeping is such a luxury, definitely high on my top 10 favorite things to do list.

I had looked forward to meeting our “Japan group”. This was only our second time together but I had and still have a feeling we know each other and already have some routines and I absolutely love that. Everything is calm and easy. Eriko has lived in busy Tokyo for many years so she always knows where to go and what to do. Zhenya is actually from Siberia but has visited Japan several times and has generally a good sense of direction (as an opposite to me) so I could just follow her while waiting for Eriko to arrive. She had even printed maps to find coffee around our hotel in advance! So practical.

From Osaka we took a Shinkansen to Tokyo. We watched the train to arrive (they look human and cute with their faces), sat on suitable seats to spot the mount Fuji (Eriko had booked our seats in advance) and enjoyed the trip. Dear Eriko is emotional just like me. In Tokyo we spent a moment at the dog statue before admiring the famous crossroads and both cried a bit. It’s such a sad story, I can’t handle it. We met Toshiko and later also Mikage and had lunch together and after the show met more fans I already knew from my previous Japan trip.

Such a pleasure to meet everyone! I can meet Japan fans only in Japan what makes these concert trips even more special. Below some pics of us from Osaka and Tokyo. The photo of Zhenya and me under the dog figure is taken by Eriko, thank you so much for letting me use the pic!

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Watching Mika on stage is naturally also high on my top 10 list. The venues in Japan were seated and very sophisticated. In Japan your spot is always a random result from a lottery (unless you buy expensive black markets tickets) so a seated venue is usually a better option than a standing venue and guarantees a better view also from further away. I loved the atmosphere at gigs. The audience in Japan is more spontaneous than in Korea and maybe not as crazy as in China but still generous and very welcoming and I’m sure Mika loved the vibe too.

I shared photos from Osaka here and here and from Tokyo here and here. A few more photos below (I might have shared a couple of them on FB). I like the picture with the funny face (he is joking so he looks like that on purpose) because it’s cute almost in an ugly way. Unusual, pop stars look always so pretty! I miss Japan and everyone I met and wish I had another visit to Asia planned already. xxx

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ARRIVING

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I arrived Seoul one day before the first Korean tour gig in Busan and spent the day with our European/Korean group walking around in Seoul and falling in love with Korean food. We visited the little alley and cool café where the Korean NPIH magazine edition was shot and took some pics just for fun (below). Little tents above are for fortune tellers. There were dozens of them and they actually looked really busy (not with tourists but older local people).

Korea is full of colors, sounds and smells. So full it was almost too much for me but at the same time I found it incredibly interesting and the food was simply the best I’ve ever eaten. I loved my first visit in the country and can’t thank enough Lasher who planned our trip and made all the arrangement taking care of every little detail and was also extremely patient with us. Our European part of the group reminded more a kinder garten than five adult ladies one wanting to find a toilet, another one coffee (that’s usually me) and the third one food, the other two asking “are we there yet”. Lol!

In Asia nothing is a problem and no one is complaining. I loved my little chats with Lasher about the local very competitive education system and working environment. This is what I love to do during my trips. I’m a mother of school aged children and an economist by my original education and always been interested in human resources so I love learning about local systems wherever I go. Lasher mentioned – casually like it’s a fact and not complaining a bit – that she actually works 18 hours a day and sometimes even sleeps in her office if there’s no time to drive home. I know I’m lucky with all my freedom but there’s also a huge cultural difference between hectic Asia and Nordic Countries. 18 hours!

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BUSAN

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We took a train to Busan the morning of the gig with several Korean fans (I knew some of them already from Paris and London) and thanks to Lasher’s careful planning had time to get a nice impression of Busan as a seaside city. We took a sightseeing bus around the city and saw the massive harbor and had lunch in a seaside style restaurant and even managed to catch the amazing sunset just before heading to the venue for the gig.

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I posted some photos here and a few more random pics below. The first gig of the tour in Busan was my personal favorite in Korea. Not necessarily because it was the best one but because of the lovely relaxed day we had before the show and because of the really nice venue with good view for everyone.

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We didn’t stay over night in Busan but instead took a bus back to Seoul during the night. Lasher had booked us (and a big group of Korean fans) a really comfortable bus so we could rest a bit and spent the next day in Seoul before the next and most important show of the tour. The venue was huge. I had a seat far away but really enjoyed the show, the atmosphere was absolutely fantastic. I posted a few videos here, check them out if you haven’t seen them yet.

We had a day off on Saturday so we could walk around in Gangnam area, have some Korean barbecue and watch the live chat Mika did on a Korean web site. Again, thanks to Lasher we could watch the chat in an extremely luxurious conference space with a city view and a big screen. So much fun! I love these long live chats and radio and TV interviews from Asia and especially hearing Mika speaking English again.

DAEGU

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The last city of the Korean tour was cold and windy Daegu. Luckily we didn’t need to walk but the bus took us first to see the market place, then to have delicious Korean barbecue lunch and finally to a trendy, famous coffee house/roastery where Lasher’s local friend kindly offered us coffee before going to the venue. The café was large but so popular it was full of people so we were lucky the girls had booked us a table in advance.

I wrote about the Daegu show here. I wasn’t allowed to take photos so took only one pic of the confetti moment (the last one below). I wish I had a photo of the pretty blue paper planes the audience flied to surprise Mika. Absolutely loved the moment! It was the highlight of the show together with the Happy Ending a cappella part following planes in the end of the song. Magical!

After the last show our bus took us back to Seoul and we headed to the airport to catch an early plane to Japan. A huge thank you to Lasher and her friends for everything and to Sarah, Solange, Grazia and Valerie for their lovely company. See you all soon again! X

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I’ve met a lot of Mika fans around the world and they are always easy to like, generally lovely people. Mika’s style attracts certain type of people. His fans are open-minded and creative and usually follow his kind and polite example. His little fan community in China must be the sweetest I’ve seen and been honored to meet.

The venue in Shanghai was practically full both nights but a half of the audience was French and to be honest not sure if they were mostly guests or if the whole French community in Shanghai was simply dying to see him because of his popularity in France.

The real Chinese fan base is smallish but extremely dedicated. They are proud to be Mika fans and do all they can to help him to be more widely known in China (which they know is not easy for a foreign artist). I was told that most people in bigger cities know songs like Happy Ending or Lollipop. The problem is people don’t know who the singer is.

For that reason it’s hugely important to spread the word from person to person and to share information in Chinese on the local forum easily accessible to local people. This is where the local fans can and want to help and Erda (the one with painted face) is co-operating with the promoters, spreading flyers at his university and administrating the local forum.

Despite of his young age (he must be 19 or 20) Erda is a natural born leader. Even his given name Sardar means “a leader” and he takes his role very seriously. He is the one who kept people calm when the over-booked show in Peking had to be divided into two parts and he is the one taking care everyone feels good and is included in activities. He goes through the concert etiquette before the show and explains it to people and coordinates fan actions giving out little lights and bracelets.

The local group includes a Hong Kong based fan Jeremi who is in a regular contact with Emi who lives in Italy and in turn shares news from China to the rest of the world. There’s Daisy who studies international politics at the university in Shanghai and speaks excellent English and together with Jeremi helped me with all the possible issues I had as a foreigner (thank you, girls!).

There’s stylish Gene (the one with a hat and scarf), beautiful smiling Felix who comes from Mongolia and shy Chenchen who works as a photographer and took amazing photos of Mika both nights (I got one of them printed as a memory and will put it above my desk to remind me of my trip). There’s colorful Phoebe (with her I  haters hat) from Peking and young artistic girl in her tiger suit and many others who’s name I’m not mentioning because not totally sure how to spell them.

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I spent both gig days with the local fans. My husband had already attended two shows in Hong Kong and Shenzhen and asked if I mind if he comes to these Shanghai shows very last minute and stays at the back of venue because he felt like going to gym and walking around and I said of course I’m totally fine with that. For me it was enough he traveled with me and saw all these shows and I wanted him to have relaxed days doing what he personally enjoys.

Not sure when was the last time I laughed as much as I did while waiting for Mika shows with these young Chinese people. Erda has a flexible skin (it’s like his super power) and he joked and entertained people and I laughed tears in my eyes. The local fans were playing card and wolfman (werewolf) and I was politely invited to take part in all the games but felt jet lagged and preferred watching. I had little chats and conversations with people and learned a lot about China and its culture and language. Some fans were a bit shy to speak English at first but actually spoke it very well.

I learnt that in China it’s not polite to say things directly, people give you hints instead. I tried really hard to understand every possible hint and genuinely want to apologize if someone tried to give one and I simply couldn’t catch it. Lol! In Finland we use the direct approach. It’s not okay to be rude but on the other hand we are also not used to empty politeness which is very typical for many English speaking countries. Why to say so many polite things if you don’t mean them for real? In China nothing is said directly, there are indirect expressions people hope you to understand. Such an interesting cultural issue and I loved learning about it.

People told how they had discovered Mika’s music and many of them had known him (and each other) for years and since Relax or Lollipop. Some newer fans had discovered him after hearing Good Guys which seemed to be an extremely personal and important song to many of them. I heard touching personal stories that made my attitude towards the song totally change. I would love to write more about this issue but say it very shortly and hope people can understand between the lines.

It’s not easy to be somehow different anywhere in the world. However, without much individual freedom (that most of us take for granted) or easy possibilities to look for support outside your own country it must be so much harder. People told me how they heard Good Guys for the first time and couldn’t understand how someone was saying those things in a song just like that and how it gave them courage to be who they are and made possible something they never even thought to be possible.

Mika and his music give us all positive energy, joy and happiness every single day. However, there are big differences in circumstances and for example mine have always been easy. And it’s not easy for everyone. I felt so touched by some of these stories that I can’t stop thinking about the issue and hope Mika is aware how meaningful his work and example is and how much beyond music it all goes.

Most Chinese fans are young adults or teenagers for very obvious reasons. Older generations are not into foreign artists because of the language barrier and the difficulties to find information from abroad. People found it weird that someone of my age is a fan and travels around the world to see concerts but they didn’t express it in a bad way. They were simply surprised that someone of my age wants to hang out and spend time with them.

Everything was so calm and organized. Even the security was smiling and excited to see what the fans had planned for the gig and kindly – and just a little bit laughing – let me use a separate toilet because I was too helpless to use a hole in the floor. How on earth you are supposed to pee in that hole and not on the floor?? Lol!

The closer the gig came the more excited everyone got. I could feel the excitement too. Not just for myself but also for everyone else and mainly for them. All the local fans were jokingly competing with each other and hoping to catch Mika’s attention. Who would be the lucky one to be on stage?

Second night it was the girl in a tiger suit and her being there and being such a success wasn’t a coincidence. She had used a lot of time to plan her suit and watched all the videos she could find of fans being on stage and actually even practiced her dancing in advance. She was lucky to get a suitable spot, was asked on stage and did her best. Mika looked impressed and for a good reason!

I’m eager to see how the promotion in China continues and hope it all goes well and know there have already been several interviews. Even Erda and Felix were interviewed by one of the main local radio stations and the boys emphasized how amazing it is for them to follow an artist this down to earth and taking this much contact with his audience. All the shows were fantastic and obviously meant to make up all the difficulties Chinese fan’s experienced during Mika’s previous China visit.

Thanks everyone I met during my Hong Kong and China trip for being so kind and for making me feel so welcome. It was difficult to say good bye. China is so far away and I never know if I can afford another trip like this but the experience was definitely worth the time and money spent. I asked permission for every photo but if anyone feels uncomfortable seeing their pictures here just please let me know and I will remove them. xxx