Earlier this year, forty-three fans from all corners of the globe made an extraordinary journey to Japan to see X JAPAN live at Tokyo Dome. Even if you didn’t get to go with them, you can read this detailed field report to find out why their traipse about Tokyo was truly one for the ages. Read on to learn more about X JAPAN: The International Experience!

X JAPAN: The International Experience Field Report

—By Sarah D. 

It’s 1992. The heyday of metal has long since drowned in a mix of overused guitar lines and hairspray. Grunge is beginning to take over MTV’s airwaves, followed closely by synthesized club hits and boy bands. The whine of drugged out rock stars and love sick youngsters has caused you to lose faith in the popular music scene.  You want something new, exciting, and bold in these otherwise depressing and shallow times.

Your friend slips a mix tape in your Walkman, assuring you that this is something different, yet nostalgically familiar with its blitz guitar solos and glass-shattering vocals. It is indeed new, exciting, bold—and in a language you don’t understand. But you don’t care how different the language is from your own because this sound is taking you through a personal guided tour of a metal utopia. You ask your friend who this band is. He replies with a pleased smile, “They’re called X and they’re from Japan.”

Over the years, X JAPAN has gone from rock idols to music legends to metal martyrs. However, the fans remain the same: loyal, continuously astounded by the music, and ready to drop everything for a solid live concert. Even after their official disbandment in 1997, X JAPAN’s fans have been snowballing in numbers, increasing with every loaned CD, shared mp3, and uploaded YouTube video.

The international fan base is no exception. Thanks in large part to word-of-mouth on the internet, X JAPAN has garnered legions of fans from Singapore to Austria, the United Kingdom to Venezuela. Transcending cultures and languages, there’s no limit to the reaches of this legendary band. That’s why it comes as no surprise that when the announcement for X JAPAN’s reunion concert came in July 2007, about one thousand fans outside Japan bought their tickets to at least one of the three shows at Tokyo Dome through JRock Revolution.

Forty-three of those ticketholders also signed up for an exclusive, four day tour catering specifically to international fans. With Jrock as the theme and X JAPAN as the motivation, this isn’t your typical backpacking through Japan. Instead of fanny packs filled with maps leading to shrines and temples, these travelers pinpointed the LEMONed Shop, Bunken Rock Sidein Jimbocho, and Yokosuka’s RockCity. To those unfamiliar with X JAPAN, these places have no meaning. But for the Forty-Three, it’s a virtual pilgrimage through the life and times of living and deceased legends, ending in the X JAPAN concert to end all X JAPAN concerts.

For most, the journey starts thousands of miles away complete with passport troubles, missed flights, and bad airline food. Days before the beginning of the tour, the forum is ablaze with last-minute concerns, a few panicky private messages, and more than a handful of those wishing the days would pass by more quickly. It’s easy to see why nearly everyone arrives at the Shin-Yokohama Prince Hotel with a look of exhausted relief combined with inexplicable excitement. All those mishaps are soon forgotten. Only three more days until the concert and suddenly this whole “being in Japan” thing is more real than ever.

Most of the tour-goers arrive on March 25, later meeting up with some who spent a few personal days in Tokyo and other parts of Japan. It’s a virtual United Nations of X JAPAN admirers that gets more than a few stares from the business professionals passing by in the hotel lobby. While English is the main language of the tour, not all are native speakers. Conversations in French and Spanish can be heard floating through the halls.

Almost immediately, people begin mingling with those from other countries, curious about the Jrock scene overseas, the length of their flights, and where one can find various X JAPAN merchandise sported by some people. Amongst the first to arrive, Francois Bruzzese from Belgium makes a note about the different ways of life and different backgrounds of his fellow fans.

“It’s good for the band, good for the fans. We can see others and learn from them,” he says as he patiently waits for the arrival of other people.

His words hold more truth than he realizes. According to staff member Misha, the original ticket buying method was supposed to be the process commonly seen in Japan, meaning buyers would have to purchase their tickets within Japan. Knowing this would heavily limit the access of tickets for non-residents, JRR opted for a method that would open the concert up to overseas fans. Calling the chance to go see X JAPAN perform live for the first time in over ten years a privilege may be a bit of an overstatement, but the Forty-Three are certainly lucky to say the very least.

While the fans are to some degree aware of the uphill battle for this tour, the first day is a time for getting to know their fellow tour mates rather than worrying about the process that got them there. Many are meeting each other in person for the first time, even though a great number of the fans are familiar with online handles and avatar pictures from the forums.

It’s not long before the face is put with the name. “You’re Soren, right?” says staff member Krystal to Julien Lausson from France, one of the first to arrive in the early afternoon.

Just like tourists coming to Japan, he arrives at Narita Airport, Japan’s busiest international port. From there, he takes the arduously long train ride to Shin-Yokohama, about an hour from the hub of Tokyo. Upon arrival, tour goers are instructed to meet and sign in with staff in their make-shift office. And like most of the metropolitan Tokyo area, it’s cramped and bustling with people, but there’s a warm atmosphere that lets everyone know they’re amongst friends. When asked if they have any questions, most pat their grumbling stomachs and say, “Where can I get some food?”

It’s 1997. While waiting for the train to take you home, you’re riffling through a random entertainment magazine. Nothing’s entirely catching your interest until you come across a brief article with a single photograph of some rock band on stage, holding hands to get ready for a bow. It’s the announcement for the disbandment of some Japanese band. Certainly you’ve heard of them since they’re fairly popular in your area, but you never really listened to them. Despite your unfamiliarity, this story intrigues you. The article claims they’re one of Japanese’s foremost arena rock acts. Out of curiosity, you write down the name of the band on a pad of paper and toss out the magazine. Heading towards your local bootleg CD shop, you hope they have some albums of this band known as X JAPAN.

Eleven years after X JAPAN disbanded, about a dozen of the forty-three overseas fans participating in X JAPAN: The International Experience are waiting in the Shin-Yokohama Prince Hotel for their fellow tour goers to arrive.

After a quick meal from the extensive and notably delicious super market in the basement of the hotel shopping center, some tour goers are hit hard with the baseball bat known as jetlag and retire to their rooms. Others are more than eager to get a quick taste of what it’s like to shop for music in Japan. One staff member notes that she spotted a Book Off only a block away from the hotel, enticing a small group to venture outside in the twilight of their first evening.

Book Off is one of Japan’s most common chain entertainment stores, boasting used books, magazines, DVDs, and most important for the Jrock fan on a budget, CDs for as low as ¥100. Armed only with their wallets and a sense of purpose, the expedition begins digging through the album section. This is just one opportunity of many to fill the gaps in the discographies of favorite artists, or to get CD collections started, but this group is riffling through shelves of albums as if it’s their last day on Earth. Friends from the United Kingdom Matt Jones and Paul Read show off their respective finds, including an X JAPAN box set for the bargain price of about ¥5000.

With considerably fewer coins jingling in their pockets, but more discs for their CD shelves and the sense of satisfaction that can only be realized with a good shopping spree, the crew returns to the hotel for a little down time. It’s the perfect point for fans to get to know each other, discuss upcoming events, and talk about Jrock scene in their respective countries.

This is the first themed tour for most of the Forty-Three, and even the first Jrock themed event for some. Martina Giuliani gets little exposure to Jrock in her home country of Italy. “It’s associated with anime – bad anime,” she explains. “When I try to shop for Jrock, people say I’m shopping for anime music.” Others agree, citing how nearly every country people came from has many negative assumptions about Japanese music and its fans.

“When a Jrock band comes on TV, they’re seen as aliens,” Ursula “Uschi” Nass of Austria says with a good-spirited laugh. She continues to joke around by adding, “There are only two Austrians who like Jrock: me and my friend.”

For Jack Siew, his native Singapore has been exposed to Japanese music for decades, but he notes X JAPAN and other Jrock acts are disappearing from the media. “I’m surprised it’s been popular for so long. It’s changing to [Korean] pop, but we used to have a lot of J-drama with Japanese music.”

With the little exposure overseas, there has to be something that is strong enough to pull people in to the addicting world of Jrock. When asked how they were introduced to Jrock, some answer shyly that it was through anime. But once they are asked who their first Jrock artist was, the vast majority of tour goers boldly claim it was X JAPAN.

This turns the conversation quickly to X JAPAN and their longevity in the hearts of the overseas fans, as well as the market for Japanese music. Everyone has their certain expectations. While formulating possible set lists, some fans wonder if X JAPAN will bring out some old favorites. There are mentions of “Rusty Nail” and “Kurenai,” but no one argues whether or not the new single, “IV,” will make its live premiere in just a few short days.
“It took a couple tries,” Sid Torres of the United States explains with a laugh when asked if he likes “IV.” But he does agree that its one of the songs that will definitely be played.

Bruzzese offers his opinion on “IV” as an incorporation of a more modern X JAPAN with the classic sound many have grown to love. “There are two parts to the song. The first half is ‘new.’ Toshi’s voice is modified and it’s more electronic. The second half, I think, is more ‘X JAPAN.’”

The biggest debate about song selection, however, is whether or not the band will play their notoriously long and physically taxing ‘Art of Life.’ Merely mentioning the name brings about a combination of jeers and hope, criticism and praise.

“I have to listen to ‘Art of Life’ everyday,” Torres notes with a bashful smile. “I’m always blown away.”

And then another debate arises. Should X JAPAN stay together as a band and continue activities after the reunion? Several people are able to answer immediately, but most fall silent and contemplate.

Without hesitation, Allen from Canada answers, “I think they could keep going. They should make the same impact they did years ago.”

Lausson chooses his words carefully, taking a moment to think before he answers the question. “I’m not against the idea, but life goes on,” he says. “Life did not stop after hide died. They should follow hide’s positive example.”

Giuliani offers an alternative opinion: “They should change their name. Most people won’t see ‘X’ without hide. The icon for X was hide, and he’s part of ourselves for fans.”

Someone jokingly mentions that they should change their name to “Y” and the ice is quickly broken with a few, hearty laughs.

Whether fans feel X JAPAN is eternal or their legacy is winding to a close, all agree that the upcoming concerts will be monumental in the span of rock history. But most importantly, it will impact the fans in a way they could never imagine. Lausson says with confidence, “I think it’s a new meeting between band and fans, a positive message, a tribute to hide without being depressing.”

Conversations begin to quiet down as evening turns to night. Someone mentions doing karaoke for a few hours while others simply want to pass out from the exhaustion of travel. Either way, there’s a thick fog of anticipation looming in the air. Some are nervous, others excited, and still others amazingly calm. Whatever’s going to happen in the next three days will change the lives of forty-three X JAPAN fans forever, whether they know it yet or not.

It’s 1998. You’re surfing through channels one morning as you’re munching on a bowl of half-soggy cereal. Stopping on the news just to see the weather, a story comes on that puts you in a state of shock. In that characteristically neutral, reporter tone, you hear the words announcing the death of a Japanese heavy metal guitarist. You hold your breath as you hear your favorite band mentioned, and then your heart sinks when they say his name. Hideto “hide” Matsumoto of X JAPAN is gone.

While hide passed away at the height of his career, his memory lives on through the hearts and minds of the countless fans from the past and present. Much like the band that put him on the map of the rock world, hide’s popularity with overseas fans has only increased with his passing.

That’s why on Day 2 about a dozen of the tour goers make a trip to Yokosuka, the place where X JAPAN’s lead guitarist was born, raised, made his first live appearance with guitar, and ultimately laid to rest. To the devoted fans, this is the Mecca of their hide pilgrimage. On the surface, Yokosuka appears to be the typical, small city just outside Tokyo. The average tourist would have little reason to visit, and the only non-Japanese promenading the sidewalks are the random sailors from the local U.S. Navy Base.

However, these tour goers are not your average tourists.

After spending an early morning in historical Kamakura, a handful of the tour goers gradually make their way to Yokosuka Station by mid-afternoon. There’s an underlying sense of awe as fans come to the realization that they are walking the very same streets hide walked on in his youth, even going in to some of the stores that hide possibly shopped in. Regardless of the vaguely spiritual feeling some are experiencing, others declare their hunger, making the search for food the new objective.

Staff member and Yokosuka veteran Emory leads the tour along a narrow street with barely enough room for pedestrians and the occasional passing car. Spotting a used CD store, a few fans get sidetracked with the quest for more albums. This particular CD store is overflowing with dusty enka records and worn-out singles by idols singers who have long since faded from the limelight. But a couple of people remain positive and begin searching for more X JAPAN.

Possibly due to the closeness of the concert, most used CD stores are pretty much cleaned out of their X JAPAN supply. However, Yajima Records boasts a permanent display of X JAPAN posters, hide plush dolls, plastic figurines, and an autograph or two. With many CD stores focusing on X JAPAN this week, inquiries about purchasing these various items are met with disappointment as they are just for display.

But Nass is simply satisfied with the availability of albums. She explains the CD situation in Austria. “You have to order online, and it’s €160 for one X JAPAN album. Yes, one album.”

Embracing a new appreciation for their current availability of merchandise, the group browses Yajima Records thoroughly. After cleaning out as much X JAPAN as they can, the group strolls around to seek out more shops.  The conversation turns to the upcoming concert as they enjoy the bright sun and cool sea breeze. The topic of why people traveled all this way emerges in conversation.

When asked what brings him to Japan, Brian Hale of the U.S. simply answers, “For X JAPAN!”—as if there is nothing else in life.

And he has good reason to proclaim this so bluntly. Many of the overseas fans who purchased tickets to at least one of the three upcoming concerts have never seen X JAPAN perform live. While Jrock concerts are increasing in frequency and size overseas, fans are still willing to shell out their hard earned cash for the travel to Japan, room, food, merchandise, and the ¥13,000 ticket per show. There’s something about X JAPAN and their reunion that’s difficult for most fans to explain, but all agree that this band is well worth the freshly-made, canyon-sized hole in their budgets.

Jackie Johns explains why she flew all the way from the U.S. to see X JAPAN. “Live concerts are a different experience. If you want to hear the music, listen to the album. The live gives you the energy, a unique experience.”

The group soon heads towards a meeting place designated by Emory a few hours earlier. It’s an average-looking bar with a blisteringly camp rock n’ roll Americana influence, complete with crude graffiti covering the walls, a jar with a sign rudely demanding tips, and earsplitting music. When asked if they’ll play X JAPAN, the bartender quickly responds that they only play American music. There is a low platform with benches made of unfinished wood and a dart board, putting together the image of a bar for tough guys and fast chicks.

The name of the joint is RockCity. Most fans have no idea what the connection is between this overtly American bar and their beloved X JAPAN, but a few immediately recognize it from their extensive research on hide. Twenty-seven years ago, RockCity was a compact live house hosting local artists, including hide’s first band Saver Tiger. The low platform where a few tour goers settle with their drinks was most likely the stage that hide made one of his first live shows.

Some are a bit awestruck at first, but quickly return to enjoying the crude atmosphere, their drinks, and each other’s company. People who had just met a mere twenty-four hours ago chat away like old friends. Nass plays a game of darts while Jones and Read watch, Siew plays a game of pool, and the rest relax for a good chat, laughing all the while.

Scott Lister of Australia comments later about how he feels this bond even on the first day. “I said to Clint [Sereday] and a few other guys, ‘You know, fifteen hours ago we hadn’t met.’ Everyone simultaneously reacted with astonishment when they realized that we’d all only been together for maybe a day. It felt like we’d known each other for weeks.”

One topic that comes up is the relatively even ratio between men and women on the tour. Hale comes to the conclusion that appreciation for X JAPAN’s music is not gender specific. “No one can deny the metal power genius,” he says in a purposely geeky way. He follows that comment with a toast from Josh Binns of Australia.

The evening is winding down. Concerned about energy for tomorrow and the limiting train schedule, most of the Yokosuka group heads back to Shin-Yokohama. Tired, yet oddly satisfied, they’re glad they spent the afternoon in hide’s hometown. It was truly a day of honoring the memory of a guitarist lost over mourning the dead. 

It’s 2003. Coming home from school, you discover a package on your doorstep. You know it’s without a doubt the CD you ordered a week ago online, but you’re still as giddy as a kid on Christmas. It cost you a pretty penny because it’s imported from Japan, but since you downloaded a song from that album about a month ago, you just can’t get it out of your head. Besides, you’re used to paying more than double for CDs since you’ve gotten into Jrock. Pretty soon, you’ll have the whole album memorized and you’ll be working on the rest of this band’s discography. But as for now, you put the disc in your CD player, log on to your blog, and quickly inform your friends that you just bought an album from the band X JAPAN.

The morning of the third day is buzzing with excitement. JRR organized a special reception for the entire group in one of the hotels meeting rooms. While the catered lunch is exceptional, it is certainly not the extra special prize JRR has in store.

Blissfully ignorant of what’s about to occur, the Forty-Three sit at tables of six or seven, sharing their experiences over the past two days and discussing what to do that afternoon. By now, everyone’s had a good, solid taste of Japan. A group of girls from the United States chat excitedly about being here.

“I feel like it’s the place I’m supposed to be,” Kim Young explains.

Like many of her fellow tour goers, Young feels that X JAPAN is not the only aspect of Japan that is exceptional. She first got into Japanese pop culture through anime, later moving on to J-pop and presently Jrock. As the girls talk about their experiences thus far, they speak with a certain respect for the country that birthed the many unique forms of entertainment they consume.

Sana Hamiduddin says, “Japan is better than I expected.  People are friendly. There’s a certain aura that’s all very polite.”

All the girls at the table outwardly express that they prefer Japanese music over others. When asked how this happened, Hamiduddin explains, “I basically stopped listening to American music. I started listening to anime music, and then I realized they were real bands.” She stressed the word “real” as if the idea of rock existing in Japan was new to her before being exposed to it.

Suddenly, Misha heads for the microphone at the front of the reception room and calls everyone’s attention. The Forty-Three turn their heads towards the chief organizer of the tour as she thanks them whole-heartedly for attending. She then gives an appreciative introduction of the staff, including special guest Jonathan Platt. After years in the music industry, Platt explains how working with Japanese bands and seeing the devotion of fans overseas inspired him and Yoshiki to produce the Jrock Revolution Festival in May 2007.

Platt speaks almost with a sense of awe about the number of fans and the true loyalty they possess. “For us, we think this is an amazing opportunity for the resurgence of Jrock worldwide, especially in Japan, with all the amazing support from all our fans. I want to thank you guys for coming out here, and really, this is going to be an incredible show. It’s really going to be something special.”

After an extended applause from the audience, Misha adds an extremely special thanks to the fans.

Sitting innocently on a table towards the side are forty-three black gift bags. Misha informs the crowd that inside is their tickets. This is immediately met with cheers, but Misha continues. The other prizes are a signed poster of Yoshiki, an exclusive “IV” promotional video on DVD, an X JAPAN T-shirt, and the Last Live DVD for each and every one of the tour goers. The cheers turn into all-out whoops of joy as staff members hand out the bags.

Misha then adds above the commotion that they will also receive a raffle ticket, the grand prize of which is the X JAPAN Returns Box Set. Waiting anxiously to see who won, someone starts to yell, “X, X, X!” in the classic way of concerts past. Before long, the whole room is shouting the name of X JAPAN, crossing their arms to form the letter “X.”

After quieting down the rowdy room, Misha announces the raffle winner’s number. Hamiduddin jumps out of her seat and screams, “That’s me! I’ve never won anything in my life!”

The group collects their prizes, mindful not to lose their tickets, and waits outside for a group photo. With countless cameras flashing at once, the tour goers look like celebrities on the red carpet. Sara Ortega Zuñiga from Spain later comments, “I’ll always remember with a smile the moment when we took the photo of the group after the reception.”

With the reception over, the group splits off into those who want to explore on their own and those who want to take the guided tour to one of Japan’s most compact but fruitful second-hand Jrock merchandise stores.

After a brief ride on the bullet train and a few changes on normal lines, a group of about two dozen arrives at Bunken Rock Side.Located in Jimbocho, the aptly dubbed used book district, the store feels more like a museum of all the magazines, merchandise, and miscellany a Jrock fan could dream of.

X JAPAN’s discography reverberates off the narrow space between bookshelves as the group scrambles to grab anything with the letter “X” on it. Young asks for some assistance to reach the higher shelves while Hamiduddin struggle to carry stacks of magazines and photobooks to the register. Lister rejoices in the discount given to him by the owner, who offers an appreciative smile to everyone in the store.

Weighed down by the innumerable merchandise they now carry, the group heads towards the Jrock fashion capital located in the Harajuku district. It’s nearly nine o’clock by the time the group arrives, leaving them little time to shop. Regardless, Lister heads directly for Nudy Boy, a glam and visual kei rock inspired clothing store that falls just in his style. He emerges lighter in the pocket, but overall triumphant of the unique finds.

Watching the various stores close, exhaustion and hunger begin to overtake the group. They decide it’s time to call it a day, a successful and exciting day chock full of stuff that would be hard to find in their native countries. Besides, tomorrow is the concert, and if Platt’s words hold true, they have to prepare to be blown away.

It’s 2008. The moment you step off the train in Suidoubashi, you notice a change in the type of people surrounding you. A shock of bright yellow jackets here, a teased out mountain of hair there, and an all-out sense of purpose bind this crowd together. Waves of people push towards Tokyo Dome, which housed such artists as Madonna and baseball teams like the Chicago Cubs in recent years. The building itself sits on the earth like a giant pearl emerging from the surface.

It’s awe-inspiring to say the least, but the sight just outside the Dome is what will go down in history as unimaginable. Surrounding the building is an incalculable mass of people gathering there for one purpose: to see the reunion concert of X JAPAN.

It’s March 28. The Night of Destruction.

Nearly four hours before the scheduled start of the concert, the outside of Tokyo Dome is converted into a city that only has citizens who are X JAPAN fans. Some Japanese fans are armed merely with their tickets, but others appear to be virtual clones of the band’s members from all different eras. Yoshiki from the “Celebration” video is accompanied by hide in his LEMONed jacket as Pata flags them down to come join him. A small group of kindergarteners dressed as various Yoshikis trail behind their mothers, all of whom match their children. Calling these people cosplayers is a gross understatement. They literally become X JAPAN.

Still other fans took existing costumes of the band and altered them to something completely unique. With a presumably fake sword resting on his shoulders, a samurai version of hide poses for nearly two dozen cameras.
Carolina Blanchard of the United States guesses the number of hides. “I would say about a thousand. Followed by Yoshiki and Toshi.”

She is not exaggerating. Eventually someone attempts to gather as many hides as possible for a giant group shoot. Over three dozen pink hands stand in one area, and they barely break the surface in terms of numbers.

Jennifer Mougin of France looks on in amazement. “This is crazy!” she exclaims with delight. “There’s nothing like this in France. There’s some visual kei, but not exactly. There’s too much! I don’t know where to look.”

While the forty-three tour goers have already received their tickets, the other thousand must line up at JRR’s will call booth to pick up theirs. The line looks a bit out of place with a backdrop of cosplayers, catching the attention of a few curious Japanese fans. But no one ever questions the loyalty of those who travelled countless miles to come see this band.

And the JRR banner proves it. With nearly one thousand signatures and messages, the overseas fans get a brief chance to show personally how much they appreciate X JAPAN’s reunion and the band itself.

The afternoon wears on, turning to evening. The agonizing wait seems to almost be over once six o’clock rolls around. The doors were supposed to open a half hour earlier, but no one is being let into the Dome. The crowd becomes tense and excited, only aggravated by the chilly rain. Tour goers huddle around the will call booth, trying to keep their spirits up and the anxiety low. Staring at their tickets, they ask staff where Section A is. Misha answers, “Ridiculously close.”

And it is. Just as it seems things can’t get any worse with the anguishing wait and bitterly cold rain, the line moves. Within a half hour, most people are out of the rain and seated with more anticipation than ever. The walk from the entrance to their seats is painfully long for the tour goers, but for good reason.

“I was floored when I was walking to my seat,” Hamiduddin recalls after the concert. “When we were shown to our seats, the fact that we kept walking closer and closer to the stage really shocked me. It was so surreal.”

It turns out Section A is the closest section to the stage. These are the seats people live for when it comes to concerts. All the tour goers agree: they couldn’t be luckier unless they were literally on the stage.

At approximately 8:45, the lights begin to dim. The Dome erupts with the screams of fifty thousand people before quieting down as the music starts, wrought with a bitter sweet emotion with which the crowd can easily sympathize.  

The United States’ Ariana Sani talks about the various emotions at that instant.

“Opening with the ‘Last Song’ was so moving for me, I think that was the absolute moment when I realized that this was real, that I wasn’t going to wake up in my bed at home and realize that it was all a dream,” she says. “I felt at that moment like my heart would burst with happiness and melancholy, for the memories of the years before and what X had meant to me then and what X meant to me now.”

One of the greatest concerns for fans is how the band would substitute hide. Their concerns are soon settled as several visual effects on various screens display old live footage of hide to simulate his presence at the concert, dubbed by fans as “ghost hide.” Mel Fernandez of the United States discusses the effects as X JAPAN’s homage to their deceased member. “Somewhere, hide is very proud and smiling down on them. It never ceases to amaze me how beautifully they are able to express their love for their brother.”

For other songs, former guitarist of Luna Sea and longtime friend of X JAPAN, Sugizo, fills in. Blanchard gives her opinion on the matter. “Sugizo did an amazing job.  He was the best choice as a guest guitarist to have on stage in honor of hide.  I think hide would be proud of the way he performed.”

The concert continues for another two hours, ending abruptly partway through “Art of Life” as Yoshiki collapses in his drum set.

Jason Saucedo of the U.S. talks about his initial reaction. “I thought it was a classic Yoshiki pass out moment that he would soon get up from and continue playing—then I was worried, then scared.”

When official word hits that Yoshiki is indeed alright and simply collapsed from exhaustion, Blanchard says, “I am just elated that he did turn out to be alright and just needed to get some much deserved rest.”

And with it being close to the Dome’s closing time, fans exit with numb expressions on their faces. Some people begin to cry with a combination of relief and sadness that the concert is over.

Lister attempts to explain. “This may sound bizarre, but I actually have no memory of leaving the Dome after the show. I imagine that was a result of exhilaration overload. The show took everything out of me and I was spent by the end of it.”

For some, this is the only chance to see X JAPAN. Other fans simply could not resist the temptations of two additional concerts and purchased tickets on their own.

Sani offers this explanation of her feelings on the last day. “Walking outside after the third night I felt euphoric. It was as if the whole thing had been a wonderful dream that I was scared had never occurred. I was extremely happy and terribly sad at the same time. I felt like with their music X JAPAN had filled my heart and sent in skyward only to have it brought back to earth and shattered when it ended.”

X JAPAN: The International Experience is more than seeing a favorite band live. Fans will remember the person whose hand they held while singing along to “IV,” the person who helped them find that rare CD, and the person who kept them company as they waited for the first train to arrive in Suidoubashi in the early morning. The friendships made through these experiences will have a lasting effect in the minds of these lucky forty-three forever.

And what better way to end an article on the fans than with the words straight from their hearts.

“To everyone who was involved in making this tour (and the presence of international fans in general) possible I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know that you have suffered long hours with very little or no sleep not to mention lack of proper nutrition and the result was the most fantastic experience of my life. I have had so much fun, made friendships that I know will be life-long and of course was able to see X JAPAN, fulfilling a dream I have had for over 13 years and not once did it disappoint.” —Ariana Sani

“JRock Revolution have helped me to realize one of my life’s dreams. I can’t thank them enough for that. To have this happen, and to have also had such a fantastic experience meeting like-minded people and immersing in the culture of another country, is something truly special. I’ll never forget it. Love you guys!” —Scott Lister

“Thank you all from the bottom of my heart, good luck in all your projects, you’re fantastic. Kisses from Spain! And remember: WE ARE X!” —Sara Ortega Zuñiga

“I want to thank everyone in the JRock Revolution staff for making this trip possible! I would not have been able to go to Japan without you. I also would not have had the opportunity to meet other X JAPAN fans from around the world who are just as passionate about X JAPAN as I am. I am really glad that I was able to make new friends while I was there! I would also like to thank X JAPAN. You guys are the best band ever! I really admire how all of you are so genuinely kind to your fans. I was told that Yoshiki specifically made sure that the foreign fans could go to these concerts, and even made sure we had the best seats! These concerts were by far the best concerts I’ve ever gone to, and I’d gladly see more of them! Keep up the great work, and good luck on the Paris show, the New York show, and any other future concerts you guys decide to do!” —Rebecca Fleeman

“I just want to thank Jrock Revolution for planning such an amazing trip. You guys are the sole reason I was able to see X JAPAN. Thank you for such a memorable experience. I love you all. I can’t wait to see you all again! And a special thank you goes out to Yoshiki. The fans really do appreciate you.   Thank you for allowing us International X JAPAN fans to have such an amazing experience.   I love you very much!” —Sana Hamiduddin

“Just a massive THANK YOU to JRR for putting this tour on! Without this tour I wouldn’t have been able to see X JAPAN live, or travel to Japan at all. My gratitude to you is beyond words!” – Josh Binns

“The people and friends met on this tour we just as good if not better than seeing X in concert after 10 years. To meet so many wonderful people is just more than I could have asked for. Big shout out to Sid, Martina, Ariana and Jennifer, Shibuya was so great with you guys!” —Jason Saucedo

“Thank you very much! This trip will remain in my heart as one of the fondest memories I will ever have.  I am grateful to all staff, and to X JAPAN.  For their dedication and hard work.  I really would not have changed this for the world. I cannot wait till I am back in Japan, and back at another X concert! No concert I ever attend will ever add up to the amazing time I had that night.  I still at times question if it really happened!” —Carolina Blanchard