I joined the band on their first tour of Japan, with singer Nic Maeder in 2012. Here´s the story along with my memories and impressions, enriched with excellen photos and videos.

TOKYO: September 5th, 2012 – September 7th, 2012

We finally landed at Tokyo Naritu airport after a long and tiring flight, shortly before 9 a.m. Tired, but happy and full of expectations. A couple of minutes after our arrival, we had a chance to meet’n’greet the band for the first time. The first day is planned as the arrival and relaxing day without any bigger plans. Only a short meeting with the management and the band in the evening in the hotel to introduce ourselves and make some plans for our report.

At the same time, UNISONIC was arriving to the hotel with their crew. Both bands had already toured together in South America, appeared together in the same European festivals, they’ll be continuing in Japan and the tour will go on to Russia, and then the whole European tour will follow before the end of the year. From the beginning it was clear the tour would happen without any bigger problems, because the atmosphere between the 2 bands is carried out in a friendly spirit and you can’t feel any kind of animosity between them.

Even if both bands had different record labels, this package has some connections in between. First of all, they have the same management. Also, they both started a new era approximately at the same time. Kai Hansen joined UNISONIC in March 2011 and a couple of months later, in November, GOTTHARD announced the name of their new singer.

The first photo shoot is planned for the 6th at 1 p.m. in front of the hotel. The situation isn’t easy for us, nor is it for the band. For us it’s our first time in Japan and it’s not easy to arrange the best place for a photo session. We all took it easy for the first time and walked around the hotel, with the Museum of Art nearby. The other thing was to get used to each other and find the best way forward for our collaboration. The most important thing for each of us was to capture the best in every moment. Of course, the most important thing for the band was absolutely the show, as they always emphasized.

This was also the day of the first show, when it’s necessary to check how everything will work out. After half an hour of shooting photos, the band heads straight away for the soundcheck. The venue for the first 2 gigs is the same and it’s called Shibuya-AX. Both of the bands have 1 hour for soundcheck before every show on the Japan tour. GOTTHARD is the first up, and UNISONIC was chosen by the Japanese promoter as the headliner. At first, I was quite surprised to find this out. GOTTHARD is a band with a long history and 10 albums. UNISONIC is a band with just 1 album. I asked myself why UNISONIC then? The answer was more than clear after the first show and writing 2 names is more than enough to explain it all: Michael Kiske and Kai Hansen. Two icons of rock music who are treated by Japanese fans as real gods. I’m leaving UNISONIC at this point for now, and will continue on with more later on with their concert review.

You could feel everybody was more relaxed and satisfied after the first show. The stress and doubts were gone. Everything worked out in the best possible way for the bands as well as for the audience. It would be a real pity to be in Tokyo and come back without a couple of night shots. The GOTTHARD guys were in a great mood and we all went to the Hard Rock Cafe. On the way there, we did a small photo session around town and after we all enjoyed the time in Rock Cafe in a very relaxing atmosphere. You could notice a couple of faces from the audience, those die-hard fans who decided to follow the bands throughout the whole tour and who became our friends in a very short time as well. Music is always the biggest tool for connecting people of different nationalities and cultures. When you talk about your favorite music, you speak the same language and you almost don’t see any differences.

The plans for the last day in Tokyo are to do a photo session, then to follow the band for soundcheck and to enjoy the show. We met around 4:30 p.m. The place is called Meiji Shrine and it’s located in Shibuya, Tokyo, very close to the venue. Meiji Shrine is the Shinto shrine, dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife Empress Shöken. We have to respect the rules of Japanese culture which are a bit different for us Europeans. It’s not possible to take photos everywhere we wish and we’re also told not to get so close to some objects. Anyway, it’s possible to do some very interesting shots even if there are a lot of tourists everywhere.

There’s no party tonight because the trip to Osaka is planned for early in the morning.

OSAKA: September 8th, 2012

We all are arriving to Osaka shortly after noon. The venue is just next to the hotel, which makes all the situation very easy and comfortable. Everybody seems to be tired today, I would say it’s the impact of jetlag. No special plans for today except the show, and as I had mentioned before, we are also concentrating more on UNISONIC today. The Grand Cube venue has a couple of surprises for us. For the first time we have a chance to see a typical venue for Japan, which is very different comparing to European venues. First of all, the venue is a part of a big complex of buildings and shopping centers, not a separate place which is on the ground floor. The Grand Cube can be found on the fifth floor. Shibuya-AX in Tokyo was the only venue we saw in Japan which was its own separate hall. The Grand Cube had one more specific place. This venue is probably multifunctional and is used for shows as well as for theater performances. You have seats in the audience, exactly like you’re in a theater. We were walking around, trying to absorb its atmosphere and thinking about the upcoming evening and the contrast between the venue and the rock music which is going to play the main role right here tonight. Compared to other shows, there’s another difference. The show time for the first band GOTTHARD is at 5 pm – a really unusual time to start.

The Japanese fans are very disciplined, everybody takes a seat and you can’t hear any noise before the show. When it’s show time and the lights are going down, everybody is standing up, but not leaving their places. This is also a big difference compared to Europe. You can’t feel any pushing or fighting for a place during the shows. You can see the discipline of Japanese people not only during the shows, but everywhere you go, on the streets, at train stations…. What I liked the most is that these people really care. If you have a problem on the street to find your way, there’s always somebody who notices you without asking. Even if they don’t speak any other language, they’re always trying to help somehow. Only one thing which was quite strange for us was the bad information service for tourists, especially in the subway, but we always solved everything without any bigger problems thanks to the help of the people around us.

The night after the show in Osaka was planned by a Japanese promoter and both bands were invited for a dinner and to spend some time with those who were responsible for the 5 great nights with GOTTHARD and UNISONIC.

While the guys were having dinner, we moved to the one of the most famous rock clubs in Japan, called Rock Rock. You can hardly find a band name who’s performed in Japan and hasn’t visited this place. A small, tiny place, but really great. If you can see the fans being very concentrated during the shows, coming to the place like this, you can see everybody dancing around and really enjoying the party. One hour later, the members of both bands were joining us in the club. They can finally enjoy the party a little bit more because the next day is a day off.

NAGOYA: September 9th – 10th

The departure is planned after noon and we arrive at Nagoya station around 1:30 p.m. We all need to rest in the hotel. The plan for me is to do an interview with Nic in the evening and afterwards we’re invited by GOTTHARD for dinner. A great opportunity to finally get to know each other a bit better and a breakthrough moment in our collaboration. Since this time, everything just gets better and better for both sides. The party carries on after dinner as we visit another Japanese rock club called Red Rock.

Nagoya looks very different compared to Tokyo and Osaka, and of course we want to use the opportunity on the second day here for another photo session with GOTTHARD. We’re advised to visit the Nagoya Castle. I welcome this opportunity with open arms because history is another hobby of mine and I never had a chance to see the castles in a country like Japan. Not only me, but the band is also very interested to see it. Nagoya Castle was the center of one of the most important castle towns in Japan during the Edo period (the period between 1603 – 1868 in Japanese history, characterized by economic growth). Compared to our European castles, the architecture of this one is very atypical and very different for us. It’s a beautiful place with a big park and I have to say, now we have one of the best photos from all the trip. Unfortunately, there’s not so much time to enjoy it together with the guys because they have to hurry up for soundcheck at the venue for tonight, the Club Diamond Hall.

This is the last chance to party with both of the bands tonight, so we again spent some time at the Red Rock club after the show.

HIROSHIMA: September 11th

Hiroshima is the last stop on the Japan tour. We met the band at the venue at the Quatro Club in the afternoon and walking together to the site for our last photo session with GOTTHARD, except for drummer Hena Habegger, who has some other plans.

Hiroshima is the largest city of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan, and is best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Air Force dropped an atomic bomb on the city on August 6th, 1945, near the end of World War II. Our steps take us through Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to the Atomic Bomb Dome. Our thoughts go to the tremendous tragedy when around 70,000 people died and another 70,000 were fatally injured from the radiation. We are also thinking about visiting this place on the same day as another tragedy happened at New York’s World Trade Center 11 years ago. Straight after we are heading to the Bell of Peace near the Children’s Peace Monument. Visitors can ring the bell for world peace. Pity that the band is not complete because from the 2 mentioned places we definitely got the best shots here.

Returning back for soundcheck and enjoying the last show and the last moments with the 2 bands. Unfortunately, tonight after the GOTTHARD show we can see only the beginning of UNISONIC because we’re leaving for Hakata, which is close to the airport as GOTTHARD and us have flights early next morning.

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