How to get tickets for concerts in Japan.
So my last guide seemed to be fairly well received, many thanks to everyone who checked it out by the way, and I did kind of promise to write another one so here we are. If you checked out my last guide on how to get yourself to Japan then the next logical step in that process would be finding stuff to do and getting tickets for said stuff. Not that you need to be hitting the live houses every night of your trip like I did but it’s certainly an option if you want it to be.
I’m just going to give the usual disclaimer that I feel should be given at the start of “guides” like this; what you’re about to read is based entirely on my opinions and experiences. What worked for me might not work as well for you or work for you at all. This isn’t supposed to be an all-encompassing guide that hand holds you through every single step but it should hopefully have enough information to point you in the right direction. Some of this stuff might be difficult, I’m not going to lie. The idiot writing all of this managed to do it somehow though, so you should be just fine.
This guide will be split into a few sections that hopefully make things easier to follow. I’ll cover all the basics like finding out when and where shows are, getting tickets both outside and inside of Japan and some other general tips and tricks that I’ve picked up on through my own experiences. Most of this stuff will also apply to sporting events like professional wrestling for example, it might not overlap neatly but it will overlap enough to get you by. Let’s get started and we’ll try to take things slow.
Like I said in the first guide, it’s generally a pretty good idea to have some kind of plan before you jump into this. This plan can be as simple as just making a list of groups you want to see or if it’s sports maybe you want to catch a wrestling show by a certain company or maybe a soccer game featuring a certain team. I don’t know what your specific situation or interests are but having some kind of idea of what you want to see is a nice easy place to start from.
Ideally this step would probably happen in conjunction with the planning your flight and accommodation stage of the previous guide. That’s assuming you’re planning your trip around something that only happens at certain times of the year. Tokyo Idol Festival only happens in August, you’re not going to see many baseball games in the fall, things like that should be taken into consideration. Again, depending on your interests and circumstances.
Or you could be like me and just decide you’re going for a couple of weeks and see how things work out. I don’t know if it’s the best idea in the world but out of the nearly 3 months I’ve spent in Japan over the past couple of years there have only been a couple of nights where I wasn’t out at some kind of concert or wrestling show. Japan is a pretty big place, and Tokyo specifically has a ton going on every day so it’s not hard to find stuff to do. At the very least you should be figuring out in a very general sense what you want to see.
I guess I’ll also mention this here, but it’s generally a good idea to buy your tickets as soon as possible once they’re on sale. If you’re going to see a smaller group then this isn’t such a big deal but if it’s a fairly popular group like BiSH for example then you kind of have to get in there pretty quickly. I’m not trying to stress anyone out, I’m just trying to equip you with the best and most accurate information that I can.
Okay so let’s say you’ve made a list of Idol groups you want to see (replace Idol with anything, it doesn’t matter). You probably want to start figuring out if they’re playing somewhere during your stay. Right off the bat the tough thing about this is that most idol shows don’t get announced until maybe 2 months in advance, if you’re lucky. Some are only announced a month in advance, some a week, some even only days. It’s not exactly ideal when you have to book a trip quite far in advance, especially if you’re going to Tokyo because boy do those hotels fill up quick.
There’s a couple of websites that keep track of what shows are on and when, one of the most well known is Idol Scheduler which lists quite a lot of shows from a wide range of groups. I would also personally recommend Genvers although it’s definitely not as easy to navigate as the aforementioned Idol Scheduler. They’re both pretty good resources to use but I would use them as part of a range of resources rather than rely on them as your only source of concert listings.
Actual ticket selling websites are of course a very good source of information on upcoming shows. You have the likes of e+, Ticket Pia and l-tike to name just a few of the larger examples out there. You’ll probably have to use Google Translate to get the most out of these websites but it’s pretty straightforward. Just plug in the name of the group you want to see (in Japanese) and the search results will spit out any upcoming shows being sold through that particular platform. You should probably check each one individually though, because sometimes groups sell tickets on one platform and not the others for whatever reason.
Using these sites is all well and good, but ultimately Twitter is going to be your best resource when it comes to finding out when and where most shows are taking place. As soon as a show or tour is announced you can bet the group’s official account will be tweeting about it, and you’ll find out before tickets go on sale, which can be pretty important if you’re using a proxy buyer. Most of you probably have Twitter accounts already but if you don’t, just make one real quick and give your favorite groups a follow. Once you’ve done that, check once a day in the lead-up to your trip to see if any shows get announced.
Buying Tickets Outside of Japan
How to buy tickets outside of Japan is probably one of the most asked questions by people looking to take in a concert or three while there. There are a number of ways to do this, but unfortunately none of them are as easy and straightforward as most people would like. Almost no Japanese ticket websites will accept a foreign credit card and even if they do, they’re not going to be willing to ship your tickets overseas. It’s not a great situation but it’s in part a way to stop ticket resellers (in other Asian countries mainly) from hoovering up tickets and reselling them for a huge profit.
I suppose the easiest way to purchase tickets from outside of Japan would be to have a friend living in Japan get them for you. How many of us are fortunate enough to be in that position though? I most of you probably aren’t, and even if you are your friend probably doesn’t want to be getting an endless stream of requests for tickets. If you do have a friend who is willing to do that for you then the rest of this guide is pretty much irrelevant to you but yeah, not many of us are that lucky.
For most of us, we’re going to have to go through a third party or “proxy” buyer. There’s a lot of them around, like Japan Concert Tickets, FDJP, No Country For Tall Men Exports and my personal favorite Bridge.jpn. The way these services typically work is you fill out a form with the details of the tickets you want, send it to them and then you’ll get a quote. This quote will include the cost of the tickets (3000-4000 yen each typically), commission (usually a % of the ticket price), services fee (if a fanclub/lottery is involved this can be very expensive), shipping fees (typically EMS) and whatever other stuff they think is a fair compensation for their time. It’s expensive for sure but it’s not like you’re blessed with options. I would personally recommend Bridge.jpn, I used them for my last trip and felt the fees were fair and the customer service top notch.
Something I have noticed becoming more of a thing in the last year or two are services like TIGET or LivePocket. They’re ticket websites that let you reserve and purchase tickets through your smartphone. You then either pay on the door or present your digital ticket to get in, depending on how the organizer has things set up. I know for a fact you can reserve from outside of Japan and I think you can even buy from outside of Japan but I haven’t been able to personally confirm this yet. The selection of shows currently is still pretty limited but there’s groups like CY8ER on there so while not as well established, don’t write off sites like TIGET or LivePocket as an option.
On a somewhat related note, quite a few groups also take reservations through either Twitter or their websites. Google Translate is your friend here but if you make an effort most people will understand what you mean. Something like “予約お願いします” and the date of the show is usually enough to get the job done on Twitter. When it comes to websites there’s usually a form to fill in but it’s super straightforward and I never encountered any kind of issue that prevented me from reserving a ticket using either of these methods. These methods are more typically used by smaller groups though.
Like I said, you’re not exactly drowning in options and these proxy services do know that you’re pretty much a captive audience. You’re rarely going to be paying face value for a ticket unless it’s through a service like TIGET or direct from the group in question, but those aren’t always going to be available options. It kinda sucks and while you don’t actually have to buy anything before you get to Japan, I’d personally at least get tickets to a couple of shows just so you know you definitely have some stuff to do. It’s up to you at the end of the day but factoring ticket expenses into your travel budget is going to be a good idea regardless.
Buying Tickets in Japan
I’ll be honest with you, buying tickets in Japan can be pretty easy or it can be pretty hard. It kind of comes down to both how tech savvy you are and how confident you are in either your Japanese language skills and/or your interpersonal skills. That doesn’t sound like it makes any sense but just stick with me here for a second. The main takeaway you should have from this section is getting tickets in Japan isn’t impossible but you have to do a little work for it.
So if you’re in Japan, the wonderful world of those ticketing websites I mentioned previously has just been (somewhat) opened up to you. I say somewhat because in the past you could actually use said websites to reserve tickets then pay for them at the local convenience store, provided you were in Japan. However they now all require SMS verification and getting a SIM card in Japan that has more than a data plan is both expensive and not the most straightforward thing in the world. Instead you will still be using the machines that are found in a decent amount of, but not all convenience stores (Lawsons, Family Mart, 7-Eleven, etc). You’re just going to have to manually search for the tickets you want now.
Some sites like l-tike and e+ thankfully have guides to show you how to use their machines. In my experience it is much easier to use the ticketing services by Ticket Pia and l-tike due to each event being assigned a “code” that makes it very easy to search for (you can look them up online before going to the convenience store). It’s a bit daunting trying to search for tickets in Japanese at the convenience store, especially if there’s a queue starting to form behind you. Sometimes a kind cashier will take pity on you or you could perhaps go later at night when it’s quieter if you think you might struggle.
Another option for buying tickets while in Japan is reseller shops. They’re not quite as common as they used to be but there’s still a few around last I checked. They’re more commonly known as “金券ショップ” or “Kinken Shops”. I’ve never personally had to use one but I know people who have, mainly for stuff like AKB and Hello! Project. I’m not sure if they really deal in mid-tier Idol groups or not but it might be worth a look if you’re desperate. Obviously you’re at the mercy of whatever a particular shop has in stock so be prepared to visit a couple if you’re looking for something specific. You can also get discounted shinkansen tickets at these shops so that’s something else to consider.
Speaking of reselling, you may also wish to look into websites like Yahoo Japan Auctions, which is a place where (after the sad demise of TicketCamp) regular members of the public list their unwanted concert tickets. I don’t have personal experience with buying tickets using this method, but like any other auction site it should be safe enough if you know what to look out for. This route to ticket buying should be available from any of the previously mentioned proxy services so it’s something to consider if you really have your heart set on those front row Arashi tickets.
The only downside to buying from resellers is that you are effectively buying a ticket with someone else’s name on it and a lot of the bigger acts (smaller Idol groups are still mostly fine) have started doing ID checks as you enter the venue or making your ticket be tied to your smartphone in the form of a QR code. I’m not saying they won’t let you in if you have ticket with someone else’s name on it, but they might not let you in so buyer beware. Smartphone tickets are also pretty much a no-go for proxy services so that’s another new hurdle that has been deployed in recent years. It’s still limited in scope for now though so it shouldn’t be an issue apart from with the most popular of big name artists.
By far the easiest way to get a ticket for a show in Japan is to just show up on the door in all honesty. Most of your smaller Idol shows never reach capacity so unless it’s a really popular group you can usually just buy a ticket on the door. It’ll be a bit more expensive but hey, you’re at the show and it’s still cheaper than using a proxy. Something to note, if there’s more than one group on the show then you’ll usually be asked which group you’re specifically there to see and all you have to do is say their name (in Japanese if possible) and they get like a small cut of the ticket money or something. It probably also helps them get booked again too.
This last section doesn’t really have anything to do with getting tickets, but I hopefully managed to get you to the dance so it would be a bit rude of me not to explain a couple of things about concerts in Japan that you don’t generally hear get mentioned. It’s nothing to worry about, it’s just there’s a couple of things that you should probably be aware of to make your life a little easier. Think of this section as optional but recommended.
In Japan you don’t really have to show up that early for concerts. I mean it obviously depends on the size of the concert but for the most part you don’t need to be there that early, like an hour at most generally. Most venues also let you in in order of ticket number or in blocks of 10/20/etc, so you’re going to want to brush up on your Japanese counting skills. It was a bit of a struggle for me at first but I got the hang of it eventually so I’m sure you guys won’t have too many problems.
Most concerts will require you to pay for a drink upon entry. This is typically you handing over 500-600 yen and getting some kind of token that you can exchange at the bar. There’s usually a list of what you can get for your token, and it’s pretty much the usual selection of standard bar drinks of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic variety. There’s no way of getting out of paying this fee by the way so don’t try to, also who goes to a show and doesn’t buy a drink anyway?
Something that might surprise a lot of you is that at least for smaller shows you don’t get frisked on your way into the venue. I know, you don’t have to tell me that that’s kinda odd but it is how it is and because most people are coming to these shows from work, a lot of people bring bags with them. If you bring a bag with you or not is up to you, a lot of the larger venues do have coin lockers for this kind of stuff but a decent amount of the time you’ll just be throwing your bag in a pile in the back corner of the venue for the most part (keep your wallet, phone and passport on you at all times though). Probably sounds insane to most of you but Japan just doesn’t have that kind of crime problem I guess because I never had an issue and never really thought twice about it if I’m honest.
Finally we have the wonderful world of buppan. Buppan, or more commonly known as the “merch table” to you and I can come in many forms and occurs before the show, between sets or after the show. Here you’ll find CDs, t-shirts, knick-knacks and cheki vouchers. What you buy is up to you but come on, you’re totally getting a cheki or 5 with your favorite Idol, right? The cheki process usually happens after the performance and you basically stand in line quietly freaking out until it’s your turn. Make sure to take the sign from the last person in line when you join it and pass it back to the person behind you when they join. My tip here is to take a minute to see what everyone else does and then follow the leader(s).
So between all of the work you have to do to get a ticket for a show and then me telling you that security is practically non-existent, you’re probably feeling a little bit stressed out right now. Hopefully I haven’t actually put you off going to Japan because it is a comparatively safe country compared to say America or the UK. They just do things differently and you’ll get used to it, I know I did.
Like I said at the end of the last guide, just have fun. Sure it takes a bit of effort to get things all set up but it’s so worth it in the end. If you’re financially and physically able to do it, get out and see the world. I never used to think like that but one day you realize that life is too short and while you can coast along in your comfort zone, do you really want to risk having a bunch of regrets in your old age? Think about it.
Hopefully I managed to cover all of the important stuff in this guide and hopefully it was of some use to some of you reading it. I can’t really hold your hand through using a proxy service or convenience store ticket machines but hopefully I’ve pointed you in the right direction. If there’s any questions you have or if you think there’s something I need to add here, just get at me on Twitter @idolisshit and I’ll do my best to help or get things sorted out.