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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

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“A good basic show” analyzed my husband after the first Shanghai night and I agreed with him. It was a good night. It didn’t compare with the intimate sweet gig in Hong Kong or the super energetic show in Shenzhen but was definitely good and we all enjoyed a lot. No extra/new songs and three songs were actually left out from the set list (no NPIH, UW or Promiseland). Maybe to secure the second night? I had a fantastic day with the local fans who have been so kind I have no words and know how to have fun together. More details and videos later.

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The concert in Shenzhen was such a surprise. I never knew Mika has this kind of dedicated following in China. The venue was clearly bigger than in Hong Kong but still something I call a small venue. The crowd was loud and knew all the lyrics and was singing loudly every single song.

It’s amazing to watch Mika with his Asian fans. He takes a lot of contact with people and goes close to them. During many songs he didn’t even stay on stage but went to the same level with the crowd. Touching fingers, shaking hands, giving (or receiving) hugs, pulling people on stage, pointing them, talking to them.

So different than anything I’ve seen in Europe or with his European fans. People in Asia are so excited to see him that it must be quite special for him as well. He knows they’ve waited for so long and obviously wants to make the shows unforgettable and worth waiting. And China is a huge market. It could be a big opportunity.

Took only three hours to get from our Hong Kong hotel to the venue in Shenzhen but the trip was actually quite complicated with a taxi, train, immigration point, metros and one more taxi and both my husband I realized we were lucky we got such detailed advices from our new Hong Kong friends and were so happy to meet Andy from Hong Kong and a Chinese fan Sogi (who both we met at the Vine day before) and head to the venue together.

A8 Live in Shenzhen was one the most “luxurious” venues I’ve ever been to. The lobby for the venue was a really nice cafe and the staff let us in so we could have comfortable seats and tables, coffee, food and toilets while waiting for the gig. A young Chinese girl gave everyone a little Mika pic with a queuing number and everyone respected the system and made a nice queue just before it was time to check our tickets.

We got a stamp in our hands and five (yes, five) nice ladies made politely but strictly clear that everyone takes their own place in the queue after having their tickets checked. Someone told that the ladies were volunteers but can’t know if that was true and if so, if this is a normal system or something typical for this particular venue/promoter. It still surprised me after seeing so many battles at European gigs.

The young girl giving numbers and her friends came immediately to say hi and recognized me as a ”crazy woman from Finland chasing Mika around the world”. Oh dear. Not a flattering description or something I want my traveling to look like (or how it feels to me). But the girls were thrilled and my life style can look crazy so I didn’t mind and we took some pics and the girls gave me a beautiful gig poster I’ve been wanting since first saw the announcement of these shows (absolutely love the poster, it’s going on the wall at home to remind me of the tour) and I told them how impressed I was by the queuing system (organized by the promoter I think).

The crowd was pushy and almost climbing to the stage and the venue was so hot that breathing felt difficult but I forgot all that the moment the gig started. A few random comments and observations.

– I absolutely love Porcelain in the beginning of the show. It’s one of my new favorite songs even it’s not the same ballad we can hear on the album. It starts slowly but the band makes it more powerful and it works really well. It started too loudly (again) and almost broke my ears but was quickly fixed.

– Almost immediately after the beginning the first fan was lucky to be on stage and the audience went wild just seeing it. The girl went wild too and had the time of her life.

– I love how the band plays together in other powerful songs as well. They all seem to generally enjoy playing together. Max is doing his signature dancing and posing and Tristan is more aware of himself but does still a little bit rockstar playing which is so much fun to watch.

– Wonderful lights last night. Again, not sure if this was something to do with the venue or if they paid more attention to the lights because no other stage setting. Looked exceptionally good.

– I love Staring At The Sun done close to the audience. My husband liked it as well and especially mentioned the song after the show.

– I would prefer focusing on the singing parts but the local audience seems to be very much into show elements so there’s a lot of playing included (the number of toys teenage girls have with them!). The crowd makes so much effort and Mika wants to show he appreciates it.

– My absolute favorite was Last Party once again, was totally transferred to another world and almost forgot to breath! I can remember staring at Mika so focused I probably didn’t blink during the whole song. My usual favorites: Last Party, Porcelain, Relax, Boum Boum Boum, Happy Ending, Underwater…

– I’m so impressed Mika can drum so well. I can’t explain this because he has done all kind of drumming scenes since the first show I ever saw. I still find it even more impressive than his language skills.

I took a lot of pics and a few vids but seems to be very difficult to upload them in China. This is an interesting experience on many level, makes me think. Will upload all my pics and write more when back home. Added a few above (out of focus but I liked the situations). X

I knew in advance that the Hong Kong venue was small and lovely but still didn’t expect to love the gig as much as I eventually did. The venue was originally built as a movie theater but serves now as a church and an event venue. The capacity must be just a few hundreds, the place was tiny and very intimate. The stage was so small only the Heaven sign and instruments could fit on it and the audience was directly in front (no barriers between).

The gig day went smoothly and everything was as perfect as possibly could be and I guess that made the experience generally so good. The queuing was extremely relaxed. My husband and I spent our day chatting with the locals even there was no real need to queue. Most people arrived last minute and the place was tiny anyway.

I met some awesome local people who had seen Mika during his last Hong Kong visit six years ago and waited this gig eagerly as the one planned for last year was cancelled due to illness. I knew only some Korean fans in advance. At the venue I met a local fan Andy and his friends Silver and Wednesday and several other Hong Kong/Chinese fans. Andy and his friends helped us to plan the day after the gig and answered all the questions we had (because not able to understand the language).

I really enjoyed chatting with everyone and the atmosphere was so excited I started to look forward to the show even more than I usually do. We talked about everything: life in Hong Kong, music, football… Lowell who lives in California arrived during afternoon and was so lovely to spend time with him! We hadn’t met for three years so we had a lot to catch up and we went through all our gigs together like always and realized that the Hong Kong venue was almost the same size as the venue we saw in Solana Beach in 2013.

We were let in to the venue at 8 pm and everything was calm and polite. Elegant looking security (must have been the most stylish security I’ve seen) asked everyone not to run and walked us in calmly which was a huge relieve as we had to climb up several dangerous looking stairs. We got places in front of the stage and saw the tiny space and the microphone on the edge of it already waiting for Mika.

After a short waiting the band came to their spots and Mika followed them sitting at his piano and started with Porcelain and it was wonderful to be so close and see every single detail (this was the first time I saw the band playing Porcelain) and I loved the beginning even the sound was a bit loud at first and the stage resonated like it does when you are very close to it. He continued with My Interpretation, Talk About You and Grace Kelly and the gig had a proper start.

He asked a fan on stage during Boum Boum Boum and came very close to the audience while singing Staring At The Sun. I thought he might want to walk in the middle of the audience like he did in Korea and Japan and was ready to give hims space but he decided not to come down but stay on stage leaning very close to the audience.

The whole situation reminded me of the Verboten gig in Brooklyn where he was equally close – so close he could just take my eye glasses without a warning – and suddenly he took my glasses again, just for a few seconds as he really can’t see with them and it was funny and I was wondering if he could remember the earlier situation (it wasn’t that many months ago).

Sweet from him to do little things like this and gives a feeling he can notice people. He did his best to answer comments and touched people’s hands and asked another fan on stage to dance with him.

The whole gig was very funny and full of silly little details. Mika took everything the audience gave him (hats, pictures, posters, Christmas decorations, everything) and hang them on Max who looked like a little Christmas tree still playing like nothing weird happened.

The setlist was the same as earlier without any additional songs but felt somehow more special because everything happened so close to the people and we could see and hear every detail so well. He did Happy Ending putting his microphone side in the end and the audience went absolutely crazy shouting his name which was very cool and made him look quite pleased.

I felt so grateful being there that I had to turn around and give hugs to my husband who was standing behind me and say thank you for spending his winter holidays in Hong Kong and China with me. I love venues like The Vine and listening to Mika from a close distance. That’s basically all I want. I’m too shy to be on stage, I rather watch other fans dancing and having fun there and enjoy just being able to see and hear everything well.

He finished Love Today and the show was over and wished I could have just grabbed his leg and ask not to go yet. Lol, I bet I wasn’t the only one who didn’t want the gig to end! These small ones are my favorites and would love them to continue forever. It took a long time to say good bye to everyone, I was happy I could see so many new and familiar faces. Will post some pics and mobile vids later (can’t use internet properly in China). X

Just a few random pics before heading to the Narita airport. Such a great show in Tokyo tonight! My favorite for the Asia tour so far. Elegant seated venue. Amazing voice. Wonderful version of No Place In Heaven. Stunning Happy Ending and very much appreciated beautiful ending for it. Hurts as another surprise addition. Relaxed and lovely atmosphere. Now back to Finland before flying to Hong Kong for the second part of the tour. X

Just a few words about the gig in Daegu, not planning to write any proper gig report about this one. I don’t have any material to share, I was strictly asked not to film or take any pictures in the beginning of the show. I always put my camera away when asked and this time my my spot was quite useless to take photos anyway. Also, this wasn’t one of my best gig experiences, I simply wasn’t focused in my usual way.

The current trip has been quite hard compared to my average traveling. Of course the experience has been wonderful and extremely special. Korean fans have been absolutely incredible and made the tour unforgettable organizing and carefully planning every single detail and simply being so lovely and generous it’s impossible to describe. A huge thank you to them and especially Lasher for her work! Secondly: Korean food. Everyone who has seen my Instagram pics already knows I love the food. Love it. Could stay here forever just for food.

However, I’ve also been jet lagged and over-tired in a way I can’t remember from my previous trips. I left home Tuesday and have hardly slept after that and  it’s early Monday now. Our schedule is tight and when there’s time for sleeping I don’t feel like it (like right now) so I’m slow and have low energy. Usually I get energy from gigs so I don’t even need sleep but the local seated ticket system is different and instead of having fun with my friends near the stage I’ve been sitting alone quite far away from it and haven’t reached my usual enthusiastic and energetic gig mood.

In Daegu my seat was first row but far outside the stage so I watched the audience from the side lazily waving my Korean lollipop not to look out of place. This wasn’t the first time I start a gig in a poor mood. It can happen and usually it’s guaranteed my mood is brilliant after one, two or max three songs. Mika is always fantastic on stage. His music takes me to another world and I forget whatever was bothering me and can’t feel any worries or pain.

Today the show didn’t seem to help the usual way and I hated myself for that as it was obvious from the first moments the show wasn’t just good, it was extremely high quality. The Korean audience is truly amazing, everyone from the first row to the back of the venue lives along singing, dancing and waving their lollipops and lights. The local fan club plans several fan actions for every show contacting the venue and preparing everything in advance. This time they had instructed mobile lights for a couple of songs and prepared blue paper planes to fly during Happy Ending.

The atmosphere was fantastic and Mika in his top form and there was I lacily waving my lollipop until I just gave up and only focused to listen. He started with breath-taking Porcelain, My Interpretation and Talk about you and continued with basically the same set list like in Seoul except adding Last Party and leaving Stardust out.

Not in exact order after the start: Grace Kelly, Good Wife, Big Girl with a (small) girl from the audience on stage. Boum Boum Boum and Good Guys. Underwater with lovely lights, Staring At The Sun walking in the audience again. Relax starting sharply (no piano intro), Origin, energetic Promiseland, Lollipop with the band around the piano, Happy Ending, EMD, Last Party, WAG and Love Today as an encore with confetti rain.

It was accidentally hilarious that I couldn’t see Mika when he passed my location while walking in the audience during Staring At The Sun. The light following him was way too bright, I couldn’t see his face while singing “and I don’t careeeeee if it burns my eyes…” The funny situation kept me entertained for a while.

Took me until Happy Ending to totally clear my head and just enjoy the absolutely beautiful moment. At the exactly right time the whole audience started to fly their planes and the venue filled with flying blue paper planes! So incredibly pretty and made Happy Ending even more special than it usually is. Mika smiled and obviously loved the sight and equally beautifully rewarded the audience singing the end of the song without his microphone. Breath-taking. I had tears in my eyes.

After that it didn’t take many notes of Last Party to make me extremely emotional (really not difficult with this level of tiredness) and I sobbed because the song was so sad and so beautiful and because of several other reasons I’m not able to even explain. I didn’t have any energy for WAG or even Love Today (first time I didn’t jump during the highlight, was gutted I couldn’t see Tristan playing as it’s one of my favorite parts of the show) and watched the confetti rain from outside again, it didn’t reach my area.

The gig ended and I thanked the sweet girl next to me who had prepared planes for me even without asking and the kind young security guy directly in front of me. As soon as he realized he is blocking my tiny view he went down into a very tiring position and stayed in it only streching his legs time to time. Can’t believe he really did it, tells something about the Korean mentality. His legs must hurt like hell tomorrow and especially the day after that! This was the end of the Korean tour. Tomorrow to Japan, luckily together with several Korean friends so no need to say good byes yet. Will write about my lovely trip to Korea more when back home.