The Last Night (Almost) – Goodbye to the Alo-Hello Shop

Filed in Cult of Pop 1.0

Okay, it’s not like we’re talking about the fall of Saigon or anything, but I was absolutely desperate tonight to visit the Hello! Project Information Village (or as I like to call it, the Alo-Hello shop) in case this was the final night. So with my wife’s blessing, we headed over to Waikiki and the third floor of the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center. As it turns out, this was the second-to-last night – it closes tomorrow, as the clerks working there told us – but I still had a chance to walk around, buy some last souvenirs, and remember the good times.

The good, otaku-obsessive, buying-overpriced-idol-memorabilia times.

I visited the store during two previous visits to Hawaii, long before I knew who Morning Musume was or could name any of its members. I was pleased to find an entire store devoted to Japanese idol singers but unable to differentiate one cute Momusu from another. As a result, I’d look around and be amused, but didn’t commit to Musume World. Once I developed a passion for Morning Musume in early 2004, the Alo-Hello shop was a big plus in deciding to move to Oahu instead of elsewhere (we were considering the Bay Area among other places). In the past, I judged the liveability of a community based on the quality of the comic shops, movie theaters, and music stores – the things that make life worth living. Oahu does well on all three fronts and also fed my constantly growing Jpop jones: there’s a TV station devoted to translated Japanese shows, a couple of Japanese bookstores, and the Shirokiya department store in the Ala Moana shopping center.

The Alo-Hello shop was the crown jewel, though. “The happiest place in the world,” as I liked to call it. They catered to the Japanese tourists, not American fans of Momusu, and sold mostly overpriced souvenirs with Hawaiian Musume themes. Still, it was great to buy photo sets, look at costumes, and know I was someplace that was important in the Hello! Project order of things.

So for those who’ve never been there – or haven’t been there for a while – here’s some pictures and videos (MPEG-1 links) from tonight to give you an idea. Sorry for the Zapruder-level quality of the images and sounds for all this, but it’s not like I’m Coppolla or have a lot of bandwidth.

Here’s the entrance to the shop, with Melon Kinenbi’s current PV playing on the monitor. Here are two videos, a sweep of the store’s front and of the H!P All-Stars PV playing on the front monitor.

Inside are stands displaying the various photo sets available for sale, as well as banners depicting all the different girls in Hello! Project.

Here’s the display of Matsuura Aya costumes I had mentioned in an earlier blog entry. On video, here’s another shot of the costumes as well as a close-up of the outfit Ayaya wore for her “Kiseki no Kaori Dance” PV.

The computers at the center of the front area displays Hello! Project websites – and I think is used to print up orders, though they also have paper and pencils for purchasing photo sets.

Here’s a Berryz Koubo banner…

And here’s the other Berryz banner.

The cut-out display with the 15-member line-up. It was there in August 2003, when my wife and I came to Hawaii to get married. Even if it’s ridiculously outdated, it’s fun to see it around still.

The clerks working the store gave me some hopeful news, though. They said the H!P fan club tours to Hawaii may continue and if so, they may open up temporary shops and museum displays specifically for the tour dates. It’ll be open to the public, but I’d need to know when those dates happened so I’d know enough to check the Royal Hawaiian’s third floor. Maybe they were just trying to cheer me up. But now I can at least hope that it’ll return, if only temporarily in a kind of Jpop Brigadoon manner.

Leaving the Hello! Project Information Village, we stopped and watched a hula performance on the ground floor of the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Plaza. If you think you hear a siren at the end of the video, that’s cause a fire truck came blazing down Kalakaua soon after.

And so ends an era… but at least I had a last chance to get some goods for myself! Here’s the various photos and other memorabilia I had picked up today in my two separate visits. Along with the Mari photos, I got one Morning Musume set, a Viyuden set, and two Melon Kinenbi sets. I’d already bought the Tsuji and Kago photo sets a few weeks back, but got a couple of W souvenirs and a Momusu plastic thingie.

So. Good-bye Mari, good-bye Alo-Hello store… I’ll always remember both of you with great fondness.

Post-script: After leaving the Royal Hawaiian, my wife and I went across the street to the Waikiki Shopping Center Taco Bell / Pizza Hut for a bite to eat and a Jasmine Trias collectible card (I suffer from constant morbid curiosity). They must have run out of those cards, because they gave us her CD single for free instead.

It’ll make a great coaster.