Taking a photo with a big celebrity crush results in high anxiety but also boosts something else unexpectedly for our writer. 

It was the very first time for our Japanese-language reporter Udonko to attend a cheki-kai. There are many ways for superfans in Japan to connect with their oshi–a favorite character or idol–including at handshake events, but a cheki-kai is one where they take a photo together, usually while posing. The event’s name is derived from Fujifilm’s line of Instax Mini Cheki instant cameras.

In any case, Udonko had no idea what to expect at the venue or what the flow of events would be like, only imagining there’d be a sense of overwhelm at the splendor of meeting these polished celebrities.

▼ “Glamorous…!!”

Udonko arrived nice and early on the day of the event to avoid any added stress. This particular event was divided into five main groups staggered by time, and participants who were in the group ahead steadily emerged from the exit in waves. Everyone looked extremely pleased with the experience, as if they had just experienced something truly amazing. Udonko remained waiting in line, trembling slightly with anticipation.

 ▼ The large waiting area was on the right, separated from the photo booth on the left by a black curtain. The entrance was attached to the waiting area, and the exit from the photo booth.

Udonko proceeded slowly but steadily until it was finally time to come face-to-face with the swoon-worthy oshi. With a gentle nudge from staff, Udonko stepped forward through the curtain…where they made direct eye contact with each other.

The oshi then greeted Udonko with a resounding “Konnichiwa!” The close proximity and the personal attention were almost too much for Udonko to take in, making everything seem fuzzy at this point.

▼ Mental image of the oshi giving a warm greeting

Fuzzy or not, Udonko was then instructed to stand in a specific place and pose with her oshi on the other side of a transparent plastic barrier. The barrier had been erected for COVID prevention measures, and staff told Udonko to move as close as possible to it. Our starstruck reporter, however, realized afterwards that they hadn’t gotten quite close enough and therefore appeared to be leaning into the pose. At the very least, the heart pose that the two of them were making together was unmistakably clear. Udonko would forevermore think of her left hand as “the hand that made a heart with my oshi.”

▼ The oshi was giving a pleasant smile but Udonko was almost paralyzed with fear in the final product.

Before Udonko knew it, the session was over, and this first encounter with the oshi came to a close. But actually, there’s a follow-up to the experience.

After it was over, Udonko realized that while anxiety levels had skyrocketed on the day of the actual event, so too did self-confidence levels. Normally the bar is set pretty low in terms of self-worth for Udonko, who tends to be a bad self-critic when it comes to personal interaction skills.

 ▼ Prior to the event: Udonko thinking that there was no way their oshi would even give them the time of the day.

However, after having that one unpolished but successful oshi interaction, Udonko realized how much power a simple greeting and smile could hold. Despite having participated in all kinds of otaku-type activities before, Udonko had never gained this much confidence in one single burst.

 ▼ “My oshi took a photo with me!”

That was the true power of the cheki-kai.

Yes, participating in the event had cost money, and yes, purchasing three of the oshi’s photobooks was part of the deal. However, if a similar opportunity were to be held again, Udonko would gladly fork over the money with no hesitation.

▼ “I framed the photo.”

In summary, Udonko hopes that everyone will gather their courage and try a cheki-kai if they have the chance. It initially came with a high level of anxiety but left our reporter with a priceless memory and optimistic attitude. Perhaps we should also try holding a cheki-kai with our very own in-house celebrity-of-sorts Mr. Sato. After all, we know that he looks good in photos.

All images © SoraNews24
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