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“Utada!” – seeing a Japanese pop singer in New York

March 27, 2009

Fresh from an experience seeing U2 on Dave Letterman in New York, I had high expectations to get some intimate, alone time with Utada Hikaru. After all, U2 is one of the largest rock bands in the world, yet I was able to get 5 feet from Bono as he exited a coffee shop. There was only about 25 bystanders standing outside awaiting a glimpse of the singer, who’s met with the pope and U.S. president, amongst other people.

So you can imagine the shock when I arrived to see Utada, and had to literally fight my way to catch a glimpse of her. The crowd was not only difficult to wade through but also took on a mind of its own. Every once and a while the crowd would erupt with “Ahhhh!” screams of glee that made it sound like Utada was on the other side of the window pane, pressing her nose against it. Turned out she was still at the opposite end of the store, her body would just move slightly more into view of the crowd’s 50 cameras.

Naturally I gave up on getting a good glimpse of the singer, and backed away from the windows that held her in view. As I started to leave I was stopped by body guards, forming a line. I waited, patiently I might add. Then the dam broke, the crowd had gotten wind Utada was departing. They all rushed and pushed on security (and me, among other innocent bystanders) to get closer. It reminded me of a mosh pit at a Tool concert. I held my ground, and had enough time to scream “Utada!!” in a very american accent trying to pronounce a Japanese name (to be fair, I was making fun of the american host that was interviewing her).

The power and popularity of the Japanese culture in New York City is something I’ll never underestimate again. Next time I visit Utada I’ll be sure to bring my camera.

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