Video: Sakura Days Japan Fair day 1 with VAN48

The heavy rain and the muddy grounds did not hinder the Day 1 festivities of Sakura Days Japan Fair. In fact the parking lot was full by 10:00 am and I had to park across the street and lug my camera gear a modest distance to the event. According to experienced attendees the rain did not come as a surprise, in fact it was worse two years ago. However, Sakura Days was well prepared with wooden mats placed in front of the vendors to aid attendees, like myself who had inadequate footwear.

The rain gradually got heavier towards 3:30 pm right near the end of Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra’s performance. I stood in the rain in my fitted leather jacket, my blonde hair exposed to the elements because I had loan my black hooded North Face Gore-tex jacket to my girlfriend who was a performer, and leader of VAN48, an idol dance cover group. The group was schedule to be next, right after the astonishingly beautiful performance of the Orchestra.

When VAN48 finally took the stage at 3:50 pm, my fingers were already frozen. I watched a group of people leave as the rain came down slightly even harder. The next 20 minuted would have been even more discouraging if it was not for the lovely fans who stood in the rain and cheered to support VAN48.

The term ‘idols’ is used to describe professional pop stars in Asia, specifically in Japan they include girl groups such as AKB48.  Although I have been to a number of events with idol performances, I did not fully appreciate or understand why amateur idol performers wanted to perform. In Vancouver the performers are hobbiest who dance mostly for free, and VAN48 was no exception. As a salaried employee, this made little sense to me, but as I watched in the rain, two fans cheered with penlights in both hands, and just a bit further, a group of girls dancing under their umbrellas, in support of the dancers on stage. I suddenly realized at least why VAN48 can manage to dance for as long as 4 years: The group delivered a solid performance and captured the attention of a modest crowd, despite having only three dancers (out of six active members) on stage  – a testimony of how versatile their craft was.

It is inspirational to watch people do what they love, regardless if they are taking the stage or cheering from the side. As VAN48 leader Melina (Hina) puts it “What motivates me to continue dancing, is my love for idols. . . ” And although some will regard this hobby as a mere tribute to “real idols” of Japan, at least one Vancouver-based fan, Daryl Dela Cruz feels differently, according to him they are real idols: “Idols can be the people doing the covers too . . . the term idols goes back to some one you follow and admire and this can be any person, and this can be a cover group in Japan or out here (in Vancouver).”