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Guide To Watching Your Idols In Japan

From purchasing tickets to enjoying your first concert

11 October, 2010 by

Regardless of whether you’re into J-Rock, Pop or Visual Kei, watching your favorite stars perform live in concert can be a rewarding experience. Many dream of it, but not all are able to overcome the daunting challenge. If you’ve ever wondered how to get concert tickets in Japan to see AKB48, Hello Project or any other artist, read on. This guide is for those that have resolved to take the first step, because being well prepared is often the difference between a fulfilling encounter or a disappointing mishap.

Checking The Schedule

This one’s a no brainer but you’re going to want to know in advance when and where exactly the concert is going to take place. Not just because your trip would have to work around the schedule but because knowing exactly when tickets go on sale will be crucial to your actually obtaining some. It might also be the difference between you getting tickets for $50 or $500 dollars.

Typically, artists will announce this information months in advance on their official website or to their Fan Club (FC) and the information should spread quickly to fan forums or any new sites dedicated to your favorite artists. However, its a particularly important if you’re coming from overseas that you know way in advance, and not just a month prior to the actual concert as by then tickets would already be sold out. Most concert tickets sell 2 to 3 months in advance and popular artists have their tickets sell out within minutes.

Tickets.

Purchasing The Tickets

There are multiple ways to your hands on concert tickets from Japan. I’ve listed them below:

Note: Most of this doesn’t apply to AKB48 theater shows, which has its own complicated ticketing system.

1. Directly From Ticketing Company (Price: Cheapest, Difficulty: High)
The cheapest means to obtain concert tickets is to purchase the public tickets directly from the ticketing companies themselves. Regular tickets usually start going on sale about 2 months in advance of a concert.

Prices for such tickets usually start at 3000 yen and the best tickets cost barely more than 5000 yen. But unless you happen to be in Japan, you won’t be able to purchase these tickets personally (there are barely enough for the locals already). If you know someone in Japan, beg for their help. These sell out the fastest and are probably the toughest to get. Seating arrangements for such tickets are a completely random affair.

Alternatively you may want to turn to online deputy services which can help you purchase items from Japan. Such services usually require a fee of about 20% but you will still end up saving quite a bit if the tickets are purchased as they are released.

2. Fan Club (Price: Medium, Difficulty: Easy)
One of the main benefits of being in a Fan Club, is that you get dibs on ticket sales. In the case where the artist/artists you patron does have a Fan Club, members are always given the option to purchase a set of tickets prior to when tickets are sold to the public (see option 1) and in most cases, fans will purchase the tickets regardless of whether they intend to visit the concert or not (see option 3 and 4).

With this reservation system, being part of a Fan Club almost ensures that you will be able to get a ticket if you want. As before though, there is a certain element of chance as to what kind of seats you will be getting but in some cases, the management will reserve only the best seats for the Fan Club. Regardless, it will usually be at least a decent seating arrangement.

FC subscriptions usually operate on an annual basis and cost a few thousand yen (as an example, it costs 5000 yen to join the AKB48 Fan Club). The difficulty comes from actually being part of such a Fan Club. Since FC subscriptions often come with free merchandise and other benefits, membership is limited to those residing locally.

As before, some deputy services might help you with registering for a Fan Club. If you intend to visit a Japanese artist regularly, FC tickets, as well as a full year’s subscription will often still end up cheaper than getting tickets by the next two methods. It certainly pays to be prepared.

3. Auctions (Price: High, Difficulty: Medium)
If the concert is approaching and you’ve yet to purchase any tickets, it means you’re left with only two viable options.

One way is to get your tickets from the Online Auctions. And by auctions, I really only mean Yahoo Auctions Japan (YAJ). Because while Yahoo Auctions has shut down in all other countries, Japanese people refuse to use the more economical eBay (except to provide over priced exports to foreigners).

Even if you do understand the language, Yahoo Auctions Japan is a hassle to use. While you are free to browse from anywhere, transactions are limited to those with a valid Japanese address. Additionally, users have to pay a yearly fee to use the service and there’s a transaction fee imposed on the buyer!

A plus point of being as anal as YAJ is that transactions are much more secure, so there is little need to worry about counterfeits or not getting your tickets at all, two problems common to other auction sites.

Unsurprisingly, many public and Fan Club tickets will be sold online at inflated prices. Sometimes these are fans genuinely unable to make the date after the hassle of having to purchase tickets months in advance but most of the time, these are people hoping to fetch a sizable profit.

Bad tickets rarely sell for anything more than their cost (unless it’s a Johnny’s concert of course) and if you’re lucky, average tickets will go for double. Expect to pay a premium for good seats though. For example, better seats at an AKB48 concert can set you back a good $200 to $300 bucks on the auctions.

If you can afford the trouble of stalking listings for days on end, there are some benefits to purchasing your tickets from the auctions though. Firstly, you are able to select your seat (though it is common practice for resellers to restrict the seating information to only the section and row you will be sitting in but not the actual seat number). Next, the auctions are the single widest selection of tickets to choose from, as there are often many hundreds of tickets being put up for sale for any single concert. Lastly, its still not nearly as expensive as the final option below.

Gorakudoh.

4. Reseller Stores (Price: Highest, Difficulty: None)
Dedicated Reseller shops are the last hope for tickets to a concert that is already about to happen. Many overseas fans use this method to getting tickets, since it requires no prior commitment or preparation. But is the equivalent of emptying out your life savings at the casino, i.e. not a very wise thing to do.

Gorakudoh is the most popular ticket reseller. It’s located along the Takeshi-dori, Harajuku’s most famous street. Here, even horrible seats might have an asking price of at least twice their original cost and good seats can go for $500 up to even a thousand dollars.

When the day of the concert approaches, the shop will start cutting down the prices of tickets. So if you join the queue outside the store before it opens, you might be able to save a couple of hundred dollars before some other rabid fans grabs the still overpriced the tickets.

Keep in mind, that none of the extravagant sums at such a reseller is going toward the betterment of your idols, or even their fans. Though, MJ has a theory that Hello Project are buying out their own tickets to resell at exorbitant prices (to explain their continual survival).

Money better spent supporting your idol’s single sales for the next 10 years or perhaps another week’s stay in one of the most beautiful cities.

In God’s Hands (Price: Variable, Difficulty: Fate)
I’m not even going to consider this an option but will include it because people still do it.

If the concert is already starting and you have no tickets, you could always resort to hanging around the venue at the off chance that you might be able to get some tickets.

Occasionally, there might be leftover tickets on the balcony which will go for cheap. And there’s always the chance that some excited fan might come down with the runs at the last possible moment.

As ridiculous as it sounds, it’s not uncommon to see obsessive fans (to be fair, only of particular groups that shall remain unnamed) begging for tickets just before a concert.

Preparing For The Concert

Fan Chants
It may come as a surprise to first time visitors, at how involved Japanese fans are during concerts. And it’s not limited to high energy Rock concerts or Wota-gei Pop. Even if it’s a 60 year old grandmother singing enka, you can bet your ass that it’s going to be more happening than a rock concert in Singapore.

Fan participation is often as important as the concerts itself. The spirit of cheering, is something drilled into children in school, but concert goers have taken it to a whole new level. It’s not the spontaneous mess that you see at concerts elsewhere either. In extreme cases, there are even organized chants timed perfectly to individual songs. Something that has been adopted recently into Korean pop too.

For the full experience and so that you don’t look out of place, you’re going to want to learn at least a bit of how these cheers work. Watching videos of past performances will help here.

Glowsticks.

Glowsticks
Universally, glowsticks are a concert staple. But since someone is having a concert somewhere in Tokyo everyday, there is high demand for the damned things. The glowsticks you will find in Japaneses stores don’t last more than 10 minutes, are overpriced, yet are often sold out. If you must, get them from your local novelty shop beforehand. We grabbed some military grade ones for cheap. It may seem a tad obsessive but I’ve learned that the battery operated ones (like those used by traffic conductors) work best.

Going To The Concert

Apart from having fun, here are a few last tips for anyone visiting a concert.

Arriving There
You’ll want to arrive at the revenue early, for in Japan, concert merchandise are sold before the concert as opposed to after, when you’d expect visitors to be more susceptible. Sometimes, sales continue after, if it’s an afternoon concert but many items might be sold out by then.

Queuing for merchandise.

Changing
Bring a change of clothes. Some take the opportunity to show off their fan-dom by decking out in the concert goods they’ve just purchased. Others mistake concerts for cosplay events. But regardless of the school of though, you’re going to need an extra set of clothing to change into after the next few hours of frantic jumping.

Some wota and his concert get up.

Refreshment
Bottled water will be necessary. Drink plenty of water before the concert and more at any opportunity during the concert (which is usually just during the intermission and encore).

If it’s an evening concert, you might want to grab a bite prior to the concert at the risk of appendicitis. You’re not going to have too many dining options at 9 or 10 PM.

Valuables
Obviously, cameras aren’t allowed in a concert hall. If you’re packing heavy photographic equipment, they will be kept by the staff prior to entering concert. If you’re uncomfortable with the staff handling your stuff, you can always keep your belongings with your hotel, at coin lockers located in each train station or with a friend who has the good sense not to go for the concert. Larger concert halls, like the Budokan have their own coin lockers though hardly insufficient for everyone.

End

Congratulations, you’ve just read through the largest wall of text in the history of this blog. Hopefully, it’ll prove useful to at least one person. I’ll retrofit this post as and when I can recall more stuff or learn of new tips.

Click here to search CDJapan for official AKB48 goods.
Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.


Chad

Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2 and Sony RX100-2.
  • carla_desu

    Hello, do you have some information about the Fanclub registration?

  • Affan

    Hi.. Do you think Gorakudoh will sell the upcoming AKB48 concert on 30 March ?? And perhaps do you know any similar store like that ?

    • I’m not sure. You will need to check directly at the store, since it’s not being put up at their website.

      There are other ticket shops but most of them don’t specialize in concert tickets like Gorakudoh. Most people get their concert tickets from auction sites instead.

      The store is along the popular Takeshitadori in Harajuku so you can’t miss it.

    • Affan

      got it, thanks for the help… 😀

  • Belén Oyarce

    Hi! First of all, thank you so much for this post, it’s REALLY helpfull. I have one question for you: Do you know if stores like Gorakudoh resells FC tickets? I really want to go to a FC event, but I can’t apply for a membership and buy the ticket I want at this time.
    I know Yahoo Auctions is another way to do that, but I don’t have adress in Japan (I’m from Chile).

    • Yes they do sell FC tickets, unless there are reasons not to sell them such as when there are strict ID checks or policy against reselling.

    • Belén Oyarce

      Thanks so much again for your answer.
      Maybe I’ll do that through Celga. If I’m successful I promise to share my experience 🙂

  • Roze

    You have no idea, this article REALLY helps me. Just bought my concert ticket via fan club (the best, expensive but safest way when you’re traveling 3333 miles away from home)

    THANK YOUUU!!!

  • PikaGelion

    About the Glow Sticks: When Backstreet Boys were touring my daughter & wife/mom went to see them. Anna usually wore a small backpack. I fixed it up w a string of tiny battery-powered Christmas lights that could Shine, Blink or Chase. When people were holding up their lights she would hold-up the backpack. My wife said my daughter loved it & so did those around her.

    These are reusable and you can change the bulbs to the performer’s favorite color or colors.

  • mimi

    i really like this blog entry, thanks for the detailed information 🙂

  • dill

    what are pre-order tickets and what are its advantages ie good seating? cheaper?

  • is http://www.mukunoki-jp.net/ to be trusted? Are their services good?

    • Sho

      Yes it's good. There are some other services too but Muku offers the most personable ones available. He's great when you need help beyond what a normal commercial service would provide such as fan club subscriptions or when you have odd requests like posting to your hotel or such.

  • tsanko

    Wonderful ..thanks a lot for posting a good informitive blog

  • @guguji_bad

    nice guide!!
    useful for any concert as well.

  • mingjie

    Rival survival concert was, awesome 😀