What is This?
Invis was thinking too much (he often does that) and decided to see if anyone else has an opinion! But it’s not Invis to just ask a question and walk away, he’s has to try to break down information and elements as he thinks way too much about things when left on his own for too long. So see what his brain does for a little while and perhaps see if you agree, disagree, or anything!

!Note: Format is still open for modification, we are a work in progress!!

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TL:DR
Hawaii Tours are interesting things, but they make me question if I’m overthinking or not. What do you think?

It’s been awhile since I’ve found time to write something, but after another Hawaii FC tour having come to a close, I find myself once again pondering upon what we know, and how we think. We often see things from one perspective, or at least a range of perspectives generally similar or completely opposite of our own. And so, as my journeying last weekend had started, I started to wonder, just what does everyone think about these FC tours and how both the inside and outside of these tours go? These thoughts scramble about in my head when I think about Hawaii and the potential locals may have.

Breakdown (Click here to skip ahead if you know about FC Hawaii Tours):

I’ll begin with a breakdown of what I know of the FC tour system and then start looking at things that come to my brain, if you’d like to skip all the rigmarole about what it is, you can skip ahead.

To begin, FC tours out of Japan are one of those enigmas when it comes to their true purpose. Many believe that it is a big cash-grab opportunity by getting money from participants to travel to other countries for exclusive activities, as well as take advantage of the change in scenery to make DVD content. From what we know about FC tours, they are done as part of a deal with JAL and as of late have become exclusively a travel to Hawaii for 2 days (3 days with the optional tour) of activities with whichever group is available or in rotation. The current list of order seems to follow C-ute (Last year in March), Morning Musume (Last year in August), Berryz (This past March), and now C-ute again (a couple of days ago), meaning if the pattern is maintained Spring 2014 may welcome the return of Morning Musume.

The FC tour requires that an FC member apply for a “vacation package” of various possible lengths of time at different levels of affordability, resulting in a set time in Hawaii at one of several hotels within certain price brackets. Packages regardless of the level are considered rather pricey (Starting prices are listed as low 200,000 Yen) as it requires purchasing plane travel and hotels compared to bus tours which do not require the money or time cost of traveling abroad. The details are unclear but it is possible to get a kind of reduction of price if one has some other way of travelling to the destination of an overseas FC tour, but the exact details on how that comes out monetarily is unknown.

Recently Up-Front International has added Optional Tour Packages to the FC tours in Hawaii. These non-mandatory tours occur the day before the main tour and involve going to popular spots in the area with appearances and ride-alongs with one or more of the members of the visiting group. While previously they would tell you what locations you’d be going to, it seems in this past tour the participating fan club members found themselves not knowing where they would end up until they arrived. This makes perfectly logical sense to most people ask most participants in the optional tours would make a choice based on the member(s) they wish to follow not the locations they would go to, and in the past, the locations would have some overlap.

The main portion of the FC Hawaii Tours consists of two days worth of activities. While the order has varied, the recent tours have displayed a common pattern of activities: The group shot, the fan gathering/meeting, a group activity or game, a rally activity, and the mini-live. The exact nature of the activities are generally not known by the fan club members until they happen, though hints are sometimes present in the activity booklet they get upon joining in the tour. Other than the activities which are scheduled, fan club members are given free time to do whatever they like.

In the past, merchandise was available for purchase at the Hello!Project store which for the past several years as a special shop which only existed during tours in a temporary location. Recently, the store is no longer available and instead fan club members are given list of items as part of their activity packet and they are asked to fill them in rather early in the tour so that they can receive their goods by the end.

There’s a lot of planning and work when it comes to a FC Hawaii Tour. Between the company having to make the arrangements with JAL for the flights, the bus company for the buses, and with all the different hotels they set aside for participants to lodge in, they also need to make arrangements for the locations they plan to go to. You also have to include the handling and creation of merchandise (which to the best of my knowledge is printed on island), and the photo team that handles every group shot they do while on tour. This builds up to a lot of work and money for UFI and in the end they need to make a profit.


The Wonders:

The question at hand, the major focus of this wonder is where the line between what is right and what is not right when it comes to FC Hawaii Tours. These tours are a special privilege of the Fan Club, a monetary investment on top of the package required to attend. There is no argument that if you aren’t in the Fan Club you shouldn’t get to do anything. But then the words echo in my mind, the same words I’ve said to myself long ago, before I personally accepted the lot I’m in, that child like voice that screams,

“Why not create a package that would allow people who live in Hawaii to participate in some way?”

or,

“Even if it requires FC membership, I’d pay that and money to even just get into the mini-live portion!”

But, what choice do we have? It is not our right to make demands, and while the internet has taught us to joke about how much we want people to “Shut up and take [our] money,” it is not our decision on the matter. Moreover, if in the end UFI does not want us to take part in this without paying for more than you need, then that’s how it goes.

It wasn’t always an all or nothing deal. Several years ago, the tours would have their limited time store venue for purchasing goods. During those days, the store would often have three opportunities for fan club members to purchase goods, to allow them time to decide on what goods they wanted, or perhaps see if they could save money on their souvenirs or meals to come back and get that one last photoset. The third opportunity was the excellent opportunity for non-FC local fans, as it was the stores last chance to liquidate any extra goods they had and so they would allow open access near the closing hours to purchase anything that wasn’t reserved by the fan club members. Sadly, with the closing of the temporary store venues, non-FC locals are no longer given the opportunity to purchase any goods from the tour. Perhaps this one moment of non-FC in FC grounds unsynchronized the expectations of non-FC members getting to find some way into the FC situation.

Non-FC locals are often saddened by the lack of possible participation, but how justified is it? Why should the location set up any special opportunities for people in the area? An FC Bus Tour in Japan does not gain much benefit from living in the area which the bus tour takes place, though the price will be lower for transportation closer to the venue. Hawaii is technically no different, a discount is said to be provided if you get to the island in some other way, but like the Bus Tours participants are still required to use the hotel as a base of operations and pay for it. So what is the issue? One might consider that Hawaii is fairly expensive in general. Residents of Hawaii know that price of living on the islands is fairly high, and hotels are also quite pricey, so it stands to reason even without the price of a flight, or with a lower cost of flight, the overall price will still be considerably high. We all wish we could make use of our locale as a way to make things better, but that does not always coming to true.

It seems reasonable that it’s just Hawaii’s high costs that make the tours expensive even without paying for the ticket, so non-FC locals might not be able to afford the entry fee outright. However, what about things that one can encounter outside of the FC tour? Fans and the groups that are the draw of the tour are both out in the location and could potentially be seen or encountered on the location. Regardless of the intention or not, if you run into the tour or the Idol group on the streets, is that a problem? The companies involved (both the tour groups and the management company) would prefer you never get near their clientele without them being in control, but we know that’s not possible. FC tour members might feel that you’re gaining an opportunity off something they had to pay for. At the same time, some members might feel glad that in these rare instance, people who cannot be like them, with the money, time, and benefits, have the chance to get a small taste of what they have.

Then what happens with something like the mini-live performances? Hawaii has many open-air venues, and with the mostly favorable weather, it is common for performances to be done in the open, and for the sound to travel distances, or for it be visible from some angle some distance away. That being so, is it wrong for people to come across that?

The company would probably immediately say yes, one should not be able to get anything from these events that require paying for access. Regardless of the chance that you may be drawn into the event and it might be good publicity, if they are running an event that required people pay then you should have to pay for it.

The wanting fan would say no. They’d want to be in your shoes and have all the luck and get to have any opportunity possible. Some might be jealous that one person in particular may have gotten lucky, but they want that kind of opportunity for themselves.

For the paying FC member fan, the answer is more ambiguous. Some might be happy that people who could not normally see the group get the opportunity to see the group they love. But, others might not be as happy. After spending lots of money for the chance to participate in these tours, it can be seen as a punch to the gut to see someone getting any part of the opportunity for free. Upsetting fans could make a bad impression on them and make them less likely to want FC overseas tours making it harder to enjoy this kind of opportunity happening in the future.

For me personally, I’ve taken advantage of the ability to listen to mini-lives before, but I’ve always respected the boundaries that the FC tour presents. I’ve stayed outside, never trying to interrupt the tour, and accepting if they ever ask me to leave. I’ve wanted to be a part of it, but fully understand that I can’t without being an FC member and paying to be inside, in the end the FC tours are a business venture after all. I do plan to be an FC member when the time is right, but when will that be, and how can I maximize the money investment? Will there be a way to maximize the benefit of my location?

Does it matter that local people are willing to pay some money for the opportunity? What amount would it have to be to make everyone happy? Too expensive and you’ll find that people will not take the offer (this can be seen as the current position of many Hawaii Non-FC local fans, as the price tour even with that potential discount for the flight seems very expensive in addition to the FC membership and a mail forwarding system set up for your membership). Giving any part of the opportunity for free or too low of a price and those paying the greater price will feel they are being taken advantage of, or that it is unfair that someone else will have such a deal. Where is the balance and what is the solution? I’ve heard it from other local fans, we always joke about partial entry, giving the FC members access to way more than we could get, but still allowing us to give them support and pay our way into the system somehow, but is that reasonable or merely just the dreams of someone close but not close enough?

It’s probably not fair to even ask that of UFI, while the I stands for international, the company is Japanese, and their primary market is Japan and Japanese people. International exposure and popularity is a plus for sure, but if you think about how much cost it would take to support international activity on a wider scale and how little success trying out merchandise expansion has gotten *cough* HSUSA *cough*, it hasn’t worked out well. Knowing that, I don’t blame the company for thinking that the plus is nice but is probably more likely a little achievement sticker they can use to look good for their primary market.

I sat on the bus on one of the days C-ute was around thinking of this. Holding both hope for the chance to run into C-ute, and a tinge of guilt for those who might feel like we’re interrupting their good time. Living in Hawaii is a unique situation, it is often seen as a melting pot of different cultures and mindsets, including Japan and America, and with them both comes a lot of ambiguity on where we stand with many issues. I certainly didn’t want to interrupt someone’s good time, but as someone who needs to be constantly saving up for that next opportunity to go to Japan and be one of those people on the inside, I felt like even the possibility of seeing something from the outside would be a wonderful day.

Perhaps you agree, perhaps you don’t, why don’t you tell me?

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