Since we started writing about AKB48, one of the most asked questions we’ve been getting is how to get tickets for the AKB48 Theater in Akihabara. Unfortunately, the official site has no instructions in English for regular tickets but I’m sure others have answered this question before.
In response to those who have requested for this information though, here it is, part one of a series of guides on how to buy tickets for AKB48, SKE48 and NMB48 theater shows. This guide focuses on the first, applying for tickets for the AKB48 theater in Akihabara, which also happens to be the most difficult of the three due to a rather complicated ticketing system.
First up, for those looking to get tickets to non-theater AKB48 concerts check out this guide instead. Unfortunately, due to health reasons Toshio no longers provides ticket pre-ordering services but the rest of the information there still applies.
First up a brief explanation on how the AKB48 Theater ticketing system works. You’ll need to understand this to make sense of the rest of the information. If you already know about this and just want instructions on how to operate their website, skip below.
The AKB48 Ticketing site keeps a schedules a list “stages” that will be performed and the members performing on that given day. These used to be put up up to a month earlier but with the girls busy schedules, they are only now put up a few days in advance now. You can decide which shows you would like to apply for here.
Each show accommodates up to 250 people. Tickets are obtained by random lottery which you will have to apply for at their ticketing page.
For each ticket, there is only a short 1 day window when you can send in your application. Applications for General Tickets open up 2 days before the concert date (starting from midnight until 8 PM Japan time). These bookings are then consolidated and you will be made known of whether you win the tickets one day before the actual concert date (usually at 3 PM).
For example, if the concert is on Friday, applications would be between Wednesday 12 AM (the night of Tuesday) until Wednesday 8 PM when the window closes. You would then be sent an email on Thursday at 3 PM if successful.
No emails will be sent if you do not win. A listing of what shows you are applying from can be seen in your main screen (after logging in) but will simply disappear if unsuccessful.
This bulky system is a testament to when theater applications were sent by mail and sorted through manually. AKB48 may have introduced a spiffy new interface for users but the backend is still remains the same.
Note, the odds of actually winning any seats are horribly not in your favor. There are only 250 places in each show. Previous data provided states that the ratio of seats in the Akihabara theater to hopeful fans is between 1:50 up to 1:200 for special shows.
Before you can apply for tickets, you will need to register online at the AKB48 ticketing page. Below is a step by step process on how to do that.
To register for an account, send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can leave the subject and contents of the email blank. You should receive an email giving you a link to the registration page shortly after that.
Click the link and you will be brought to a page of sorts asking if you would really like to register. The top option is for those who are part of the mobile fanclub already, the bottom option is for non-fanclub members. Chances are you’ll be choosing the second.
Next up, you’ll be required to enter in your details.
Once done, you will need to go through a couple of confirmation screens. If everything is fine, you will be sent another email with your AKB48 login password. This automatically generated series of gibberish will forever be used to log into your AKB48 ticketing account. It cannot be changed, so keep a record of it somewhere.
Using the System
Now, you can visit the AKB48 ticketing page and login by entering your username and password at the top right hand corner. Doing so will bring you to your user page that looks something like this.
When there are shows that can be booked, you will be able to click on the first option here. Doing so will give you a list of currently available shows and ticket types you can currently apply for. In this example there is an Enpou show available.
The details of the show are displayed, in particular the members who will be performing. Click on the link to begin the application process. In the following application screen you will be able to enter the names of up to 9 other people accompanying yourself. You will need to put their names as it appears in their identification documents. You aren’t allowed to have duplicate applications by the other people attending the concert and those caught doing so will be banned from the theater.
You will be asked to confirm your details before sending in the application. And just like this, you have successfully submitted your ballot. You will receive an email immediately which is a receipt of your ballot. Do not get too excited yet. Should you actually win a ticket to the show, you will receive an email that looks like this the next day.
If there is no notice by 3 PM the next day, it means that you have not won a ticket. It is possible that you may win a “Cancel Machi” (Cancel Waiting) ticket instead as well. Which is not an actual ticket for the show but rather a chance at getting a ticket. See below.
There are actually various ticket types available at the AKB48 theater. Fans are actually allowed to apply for all the types which they are eligible for. Except for Family, Female and Normal tickets which are all alternate versions of the same thing. You will usually know the results in time to apply for the next bracket.
Apart from throwing money at every temple or shrine you come across, the best way to increase your odds of getting a ticket for an AKB48 show while in Japan is to apply for as many ticket types as possible.
Note, that for all tickets other than family/couple seats, it is possible to apply tickets for 1 to 10 persons at once (6 for Super Enpou). As far as I can tell, applying for tickets as a group does not affect your odds of winning negatively (in fact it is better than applying separately). Also, by applying as a group, you will be able to sit together.
An important thing to take note of is, if for some reason any of the members in your winning group cannot make it, do not cancel your ticket reservation. As long as the person applying is able to make it, the rest will still be admitted normally (the remaining tickets will be given out to those holding Cancel Machi, more on this below).
If all of those applying are unable to make it though, you are required to cancel your tickets in advance of the show. Failing to do so will result in a bad strike.
The basic ticket types to look out for are 遠方 (Enpou), ファミリー・カップル (Family / Couples), 女性・小学生・中学生 (Women / Children) and 一般 (Ippan).
Super Long Distance (Super Enpou) (up to 6 seats) (from 1 month)
Super Long Distance or Super Enpou as most people call it is a new type of arrangement specially for foreign fans. Non-Japanese may apply for Super Enpou up to 1 month in advance of their visit to the theater in hopes of getting a show. Super Enpou tickets are not available through the normal ticketing methods, instead you will need to send them a direct email to email@example.com.
Note, they do not always open up the Super Enpou seats for shows and based on feedback from fans few are lucky enough to actually with Super Enpou tickets too. Applying in advance doesn’t help either, since they often lose your application in the flood of other emails. In fact it may be counter productive.
My best advice for those seeking Super Enpou is to apply for the least popular shows (Team K and formerly Kenkyuusei/SDN48 shows). Also, it may seem strange but the odds of you getting Super Enpou when applying in a large group (at least 3) seems to be higher, possibly since they would recognize the demand then.
The biggest plus for Super Enpou is that you will always be given the 6 front most seats of the left block.
Long Distance (Enpou) (up to 15 seats) (5 days)
15 seats in the last middle row of the theater are reserved for Enpou or Long Distance ticketing at each show. Anyone from outside of Tokyo can apply for Enpou, making it one of the most sought after tickets. The odds of winning Enpou are low but you will want to apply for it anyways.
Provided you have selected your place of residence as somewhere other than Tokyo, Enpou tickets are available for ballot exactly 5 days before a given show. If successful, you will be given notice on the next day (4 days before the show). If not, you will still be able to apply for one of the other ticket types when the window opens.
Mobile Fanclub (up to 100 seats) (3 days)
Fans who belong to the Mobile Fanclub are given one extra chance to apply for seats 3 days in advance of the show. If you are reading this, chances are you would not be eligible. But for reference, Mobile Fanclub seats are identical to normal seats and is purely an extra chance for members.
Family & Couples (10 seats) (2 days)
In each show, 10 seats in the 5th middle row are dedicated to family and couple seats. To be eligible, you will need to have at least a male-female couple (Japanese aren’t the most progressive when it comes to some things) and up to 2 children or elders. Should your children be unable to make it after apply, it is still possible to enter without them as long as a couple remains.
Family, Couple, Women and Children tickets all replace the standard tickets as they have to be applied for on the same day instead of General tickets. The odds of you winning aren’t that much different from normal tickets due to the scarcity of seats and there is no clear way of calculating the probability. Such seats are recommended for when you require special seating arrangements.
Women & Children (10 seats) (2 days)
Another 10 seats on the 6th middle row are given out to a combination of female patrons, as well as grade and middle school children (6 to 15 years old). This is another alternative to general tickets.
General (all the remaining seats) (2 days)
What remains of the theater’s 250 seats sans all of the above are given out to the rest of the public. This is your last chance to get tickets when both Super Enpou and Enpou fails. Entry into the theater for General tickets are explained below.
Due to the fact that you are only notified of General tickets 1 day before the show it is nearly impossible to plan a trip to Japan around General Tickets. In fact, with number of people applying for AKB48 theater shows, it is never a wise chance to depend on winning a ticket at all.
This special ticket type is kept separate as it is not actually applied for. Instead, when you apply for a normal show ticket there is a chance that you will receive an email stating that you have won a “Cancel Machi” instead.
A different number of Cancel Machi emails are given out at each show. When you win a Cancel Machi, what you actually win is a spot on the waiting list to get a ticket should someone else not show up.
Sometimes people have conflicting schedules or applying from outside of Tokyo to try their luck only for their employers to deny them leave. But whatever the reason, there is always a certain number of people who will not be able to turn up for each show so a Cancel Machi is not a completely lost cause.
Thankfully, each Cancel Machi comes with a stated number too. In the case of Cancel Machi, this number is your position in line to get a ticket. If this is a small number like 10 or less, there is actually a pretty good chance that you will be able to snag a ticket at the last minute. It is up to you if you would like to try your luck.
Unlike regular tickets, it is not necessary to cancel Cancel Machi if you do not wish to turn up. But if you do decide to, you will need to come to the Akihabara theater half an hour before the show during the Bingo draw to get any unsold tickets.
The Cancel Machi also serves as a special ticket in certain cases. While fans who have not won any tickets are usually allowed to view the performance from a life stream just outside the theater’s doors, during very popular or special shows the 8th floor of the building is completely sealed off from the public. When this happens a greater number of Cancel Machi are given out to act as “tickets” to visit the floor and see the show from outside.
Winning (and collecting) a Ticket
Should you win a ticket, you will be sent an email that looks like this 1 to 4 days in advance of the show. You will need to print it out or have it on your cellphone to flash when collecting your tickets at the AKB48 theater counter.
You will need to visit the theater between 2 to 1.5 hours in advance of the show to collect your tickets. For certain shows, you may be required to present your email to the security staff guarding the escalator downstairs to let you up into the theater too.
When collecting the tickets, you will need to bring along identification (your passport) bearing the same names you have entered into the ticket applications and cash for the tickets. If everything checks out, they will slap on a Gigaband, a kind of security wristband on you, to prevent tickets from being resold. Be careful not to take this off/damage it between the collecting the tickets up until after the show or they might not let you into the theater later.
During entry those holding any special tickets (Super Enpou, Enpou e.t.c) will be escorted into the theater first. For everyone else holding General tickets, you would have gotten a ticket number in the email sent to you.
The ticket number does not represent your actual sitting position. Instead, it represent the block in which you will be entering as. Fans will begin queuing up outside the theater entrance in their respective blocks in advance of the show. There are markings on the theater floor indicating where you should stand.
About half hour before the show begins, the staff will hold a ballot via bingo to determine in which random order the blocks will be entering the theater. You are free to choose from any of the remaining seats when you enter except those marked for staff. An important thing to take note of, switching seats at any point is strictly prohibited as it may be considered a sign of some sort of seat selling. You are able to leave the theater, but only after everyone else has entered.
The AKB48 Theater has become quite well known for their “pillars of death”, a set of two wide foundation pillars that split the stage up into 3 parts. The first two rows in the center block are the best and most sought after seats. Due to how small the Akihabara theater is, those on the first row are less than 3 meters away from the stage!
The first row at either of the side blocks are fine too but avoid sitting anywhere near the pillars at all costs in any of the first 4 rows. Pillar-side seats on rows 2-4 are usually the last to fill up. The pillars are really a lot more disruptive than one would think, you will be completely blocked from seeing the other 2/3rds of the stage. Also, the camera crew film from in front of the pillars so those to the side are not spared.
The only time you will want to sit here is if you are absolutely sure a favorite member spends most of her time hugging the side stage, however the choreography of newer performances have the side members switching sides about halfway into the stage. Also, it makes for a terrible experience if this is your first time seeing AKB48 live.
If you cannot get into the first two rows, the next best choice is actually to get the first standing places. There are only 7 closely packed rows of seats in the theater and those on seats will have to remain seated throughout the show so those standing will get a surprisingly clear overview. Also, you can generally be a lot more excited without getting kicked out.
Anyone who has ever seen any AKB48 Live On Demand (LOD) video can attest to how boring the audience in attendance look. This is hardly their fault though with the AKB48 Theater in Japan enforcing a ridiculous list of restrictions. Rub the staff there the wrong way and you’ll find how easy it is to win yourself a lifetime ban.
Instead of providing a list of offenses, the best advice is to simply, behave. If you’ve been to any AKB48 concerts outside of Japan, know that pretty much everyone who has attended such a concert would already be banned by theater standards (myself included, if only for using UO Light Sticks). The theater staff can be especially accommodating once they learn that you are a foreigner but it is best not to take advantage of their courtesy. Stay in line, follow the example of the other fans and avoid causing any trouble and you should be safe.
Best of luck to your applications and to those who have successfully won tickets to the theater, congratulations and have fun.