Light Sticks

Wota weapons guide

03 February, 2012 by

This guide on concert light sticks has been in the works for a while since I wasn’t quite sure whether to push it out, but here is it anyways. This is a certain collection of common knowledge about the different types of light sticks you see people brandishing at concerts. While idol concerts primarily referenced, this information might prove even more useful for fans of other artists where such weapons of mass euphoria are not as common.

If someone were to keep tabs, there’ll be a concert going on somewhere in Tokyo for every day of the year. Light sticks see such common use in Japanese concerts that they have become a necessity. You’ll find them easily available at departmental store. In fact, it’s reached a point where people aren’t satisfied with just conventional glow sticks anymore, and thus the variety of options to choose from.

This little guide aims to point out some of the different types of light sticks available, their cost and where to find them. We also scrape a little at the inner workings of these devices for the more curious minds. The main 3 brands to take note of that are mentioned the most in this article are Fukuoka based Lumica, the American OmniGlow company and Turn On, which specializes in LED light sticks.

Normal glowstick.

Normal Glow Sticks
+ Fairly Cheap
+ Relatively Lightweight
+ Long Lasting
– Not Particularly Bright

Glow sticks, light sticks, chemical lights. These are the normal light sticks that everyone has come to know of. They see use at all sorts of concerts, clubs and by ravers or glowstickers. More recently, the artsy fatsy crowd have re-figured that they could use them to write words on film at low shutter speeds.

While many a wota might find conventional glow sticks insufficient for their wild kecha needs, ordinary glow stick remain some of the most cost effective and reliable lighting devices. Plus points include being relatively cheap, easy to wield and in the case of the Japanese variants, impressively long lasting. Being disposal adds to their convenience and they come in an assortment of colors that should fulfill most purposes.

When it comes to normal glow sticks, the Lumica brand ones dominate the Japanese market as the cheapest commercially available ones.  They are surprisingly also the most reliable. The yellow one in the picture below continued to glow even after more than 24 hours (albeit rather dimly)! This is despite an advertised maximum lifespan of 12 hours. Individual sticks cost about 100 yen each (SGD$1.60) but are available in Singapore at all Daiso outlets for SGD$2.

For those living in Singapore, the alternative is to of course to get wholesale ones from the military supply market at Beach Road. These work just as about as well as only other chemical ones, though you may occasionally get a dud due to the low QC.

The ones at Beach Road go for as cheap as SGD$0.50 a piece, if you’re purchasing common colors (white/red/blue/green/yellow/red) in bulk. Do make it a point to bargain. The normal price point for purchasing generic light sticks in low quantities here is $0.80/piece. Elsewhere, at party shops or such, individual sticks still cost about $2 each.

Pink chemical light sticks from Beach Road.

While unknown to some, you can actually request for pink glow sticks at Beach Road too! These tend to  go for roughly $1.00 a piece.

Surprisingly, the biggest minus against normal glow sticks isn’t actually the brightness of the sticks but the cost that eventually stacks up. This is especially true for idol fans who go to lives on a regular basis.

Pretty much all generic light sticks work in the same way and are based off only a few different chemicals, as such many colors actually perform similarly. In general, the green and yellow ones are still the brightest, while also lasting the longest. The white and blue glow sticks are not recommended as they are the dimmest and also last the shortest. Note that the red glow sticks sold in Singapore often aren’t red at all but are simply white ones with a red shell and are thus not recommend either.

Another thing to note is that Japanese and American Pink colored glow sticks often use a white or purple base for its color and are thus some of the dimmest. In a rare case of Singaporean superiority, the pink glow sticks at Beach Road that use a red base are better.

Actual pink and actual red glow sticks come out brighter and richer in color than any white/blue/purple ones but are still significantly less effective than green and yellow ones.


+ Lightweight
+ Long Lasting
– Flimsy
– Possibly Pricey

If you’re going to be consuming glow sticks on a regular basis, then getting a battery operated one might seem like a good idea. Commercial battery operated light sticks tend to last for a pretty long time on a single change of batteries, if you’re not particularly concerned on the brightness.

Each of the 3 brands mentioned above offer their own take on the standard battery operated light stick. Both Lumica and OmniGlow have their own versions that attempt to mimic the look of a regular light stick but when it comes to battery operated lightsticks Turn On’s “penlights” are the most popular choice.

Turn On specializes exclusively in making their penlight series of light sticks. Apart from usual benefits of a battery powered light stick, the sticks are the lightest option featured in this guide, beating even conventional chemical glow sticks when it comes to weight. They are also the most enjoyable to wield.

Turn On’s penlights can be found at many departmental stores and pretty much any toy or novelty shop that carries party goods in Japan. Thanks to their ease of customization, they’re also the brand most artists turn to to provide their official concert light sticks.

All battery operated light sticks have a single light-emitting diode (LED) inside. Penlights easily beat out normal glow sticks when it comes to brightness. And though they fall short of orange and yellow high intensity ones, penlights are still brighter than any diphenylanthracene based ultras, such as the blue, white and purple high intensity chemical lights.

Lumica battery lights are made to look like regular chemical lights.

Penlights come with batteries out of the box and have an astonishing lifespan. Mine were able to last for 6 months worth of AKB48 Singapore concerts (approximately 17 shows) on the OEM batteries alone.

Perhaps the only minus against pen lights are their cost. Brand new generic penlights cost 1,200 each (SGD$20). This one off investment pays for itself after about 20 concerts but it doesn’t help that replacement batteries can be pricey.

Standard sized battery powered light sticks from all brands require between 3 to 4 LR44 cell batteries. These cost something like SGD$2 a piece in Singapore or 200 yen in Japanese stores. As you can see, the price of the batteries alone work up to about the cost of a brand new light stick in Japan. Ordering the batteries in bulk direct from wholesalers will help elevate a lot of this pain.

Many artists, 48-family included offer their own branded pen lights by Turn On. These usually sell for 1,500 yen each but are often snatched up quickly.

AKB48 itself has stopped making battery powered light sticks through Turn On and existing ones can sell for as high as 10,000 yen ($160) on the second hand market. AKB48 now distribute their own light sticks, but from experience these aren’t as bright as Turn On’s and manage to be even more flimsy. A friend’s broke after a single use!

Note, a more specialized form of battery powered light sticks are the “light batons” that are available at Don Quijote outlets. Like DIY stick, these are usually powered by Double or Triple A batteries and are even brighter than standard pen lights. Also like DIY sticks, these tend to consume batteries faster but come with the benefit of being in a size covered by rechargeable batteries. Take note though that while you can use them at all other concerts, such devices are banned at the daily AKB48 theater performances.

High Intensity Light stick.

High Intensity Light Sticks
+ Ultra Bright
– Short Lifespan
– Expensive

High Intensity Light Sticks are a type of specialty light stick that trades a typically long glow duration for a short burst of brightness. These see little practical military or industry use but have recently gain popularity with concert-goers, wota and glowstickers thanks to their unique purpose.

They typically last for between 5 to 15 minutes. Both OmniGlow and Lumica offer their own versions for between 157 – 262 yen (approximately $2.50 to $4.20) a piece, available at normal department stores. As you can see, they cost far more than the normal counterparts due to their specialized nature.

If you haven’t already figured, normal light sticks involve the mixture and resultant reaction of two chemicals that produces its glow. To simplify things, we can split colored light sticks into two main groups, those with a yellow-green hue and blue based ones (white/blue/purple). As with regular glow sticks, yellow and green high intensity light sticks are among the brightest (as these use a version of the yellow-green fluorescent dye that is quicker to react).

But of all the available ones, orange colored high intensity light sticks produce the biggest bang. These use a completely different dye that reacts aggressively to produce the brightest possible light. At the offset of lasting for the shortest amount of time.

Due to being the most common color available, they have since been referred to as “UO”s or Ultra Oranges, a named derived from the only two English words printed on OmniGlow’s packing. In truth, there are “ultras” for every other color too.

OmniGlow Ultras.

As with regular chemical lights, blue, white and purple high intensity glow sticks are not recommended.

As there are no chemical alternatives to produce significantly brighter versions of these colors, blue based ultras simply add in more hydrogen peroxide (the glass vial inside glow sticks) so that the chemicals react faster. The result is that while these sticks do glow slightly brighter, it they still under performs the orange, yellow or green counterparts.

In Singapore, some military themed shops have begun to import orange Cyalume brand high intensity glow sticks. Unfortunately, as they are meant to last for 30 minutes a piece, these do not glow as brightly as the 5 minute ones made for concerts.

Size comparison.

To counter Lumica’s more attractive prices, OmniGlow have in recent years introduced a new line of their Ultra light sticks. The new 6″ ones are fat and thick as you can see from the image above but are actually also flat. OmniGlow brags of it being 4 times the size. These replace their older Ultra series of light sticks for the same price of 262 yen.

Alas, when it comes to glow sticks, the actual amount of liquid inside means less than the proportion of chemicals. To retain the same brightness and duration as regular high intensity light sticks, the proportion of mixture is kept the same and as such, the OmniGlow’s 6″ Ultras do not glow any brighter than normal high intensity light sticks…they are just bigger. This makes them certainly more comfortable to hold, but it hardly justifies the cost.

Lumica have also recently released their own counterpart to these larger flat sticks at a more affordable price of 189 yen each.

Brightness Comparison.

If you’re in Singapore and in need of 5 minute high intensity glow sticks, do drop me a message. I import them in fairly large quantities on a regular basis. As you can see from above, the ones I have in stock are identical to the regular sized Japanese ones. Also as they are made specially for concerts in mind, they also break much easier and react instantly for maximum brightness with no shaking required!

I have them in the following colors: orange, blue, green, yellow and red.

The orange ones seem to glow especially bright and come recommended. This is followed by the yellow and green ones of course. While not as bright, the red ones glow a really deep red that may be a little niche. The blue ones are not really recommended as they do not compare well with the other colors. If you are in need of any, you can find me at any AKB48 related concert to get them at $2.50 a piece.

Specialty Chemical Light Sticks

Lumica’s primary business is chemical glow sticks for the purpose of both industrial and entertainment purposes. And it is perhaps for this reason that they have the widest variety of chemical lights available. Apart from the usual 8-12 hour and high intensity light sticks, Lumica have developed some other novelty light sticks such as 2-hour ones that glow just slightly brighter than the 8 hour versions, pastel colored light sticks (in baby pink and baby blue) and even chemical light sticks that changes between 3 colors (orange > yellow > green or red > purple > blue) over a 20 minute period. I won’t be explaining them in detail, since they don’t differ enough from regular chemical lights.

DIY sticks.

DIY Sticks
+ Possibly Brightest
+ Possibly Cost Effective
– Cumbersome
– Actual Work Required

Like many a Jedi, the most extreme of wota eventually take a crucial step to make their very own battery powered light stick.

At its simplest, creating your own custom light stick involves purchasing a LED torchlight and attaching an existing or custom plastic tube to the top. This requires a certain amount of effort on the part of the wielder but as most tend to opt for high powered Gentos or Cree LED flash lights, the result is the brightest (if not blindingly powerful) light stick that you can possibly wield.

On it’s own, a Cree flash light will cost anywhere between $20-$30. The more powerful ones from the Japanese company Gentos can go for slightly more than $40 each. The brightness of these torches are measured in lumens with torches providing anywhere between 100 to 700 eye melting lumens. Keep in mind that the output of a normal chemical light stick is about 4 lumens.

For practical purposes, we wouldn’t recommend anything over a couple hundred lumens and even then you’re going to need some serious padding to keep the light in. Next, you can either use a piece of plastic to form a tube around the torch or if available, find an acrylic tube that can fit.

A paper to filter is required to give your DIY light stick some color if you want it to display anything other than white. Due to the strength of such LED torches, it can be difficult to find papers that are translucent enough to dissipate the light without being completely opaque.

Finally, the top of the tube has to be sealed off  (it’d simply be a torch light with a tube attached). This is usually the least glamorous part, since it can be quite difficult to find a cap that will fit nicely. Most choose to simply tape off the top or cover it with some sort of reflective material like aluminium foil.

Just an observation but light stick creation or modding is less prevalent among AKB48 fans than other wota and otaku, perhaps because they aren’t allowed at the AKB48 theater. The bright glow of a DIY light stick will definitely catch a lot of attention but it can also be rather distracting.

There are a few additional plus and minuses to making your own light stick. Some have managed to work in a screw on tube to their torches or found some other means to swap the colors of their filter. Such torches also tend to be powered by Double or Triple A batteries which can be recharged, meaning that there is no need to purchase expensive cells like commercial penlights. On the downside, DIY light sticks tend to be pretty heavy.

Ultimately, there is no single best type of light stick to suit every purpose. Instead, users will have to choose from whichever best suits their concerting needs.

Have more notes about light sticks? Help share your knowledge in the comments section below.

Click here to search CDJapan for official AKB48 goods.

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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.