A Guide To Attending Concerts in Japan

Originally posted on Cute-pop.com:

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If you’re a fan of Japanese music, attending the concert (or, as it’s called in Japan, ‘live’) of your favourite band or artiste is a dream come true, and for me, that was exactly the case. But there are many different kinds of concerts, arenas, and protocol that can be extremely confusing, especially so if it’s your first time or worse – you don’t understand Japanese. But fret not, that’s what this post is for. All you need to know about concerts and concert protocol (I hope).

1. Get your ticket

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Depending on the act you want to watch, the process and probability of getting tickets vary. But the rule of thumb is: Join the fanclub if you want tickets. Most ticket sales open to fanclub first, or only to fanclub, and it’s usually the easiest way to get a ticket. It won’t guarantee you get one, though. Acts with behemoth followings such as Arashi are known for being notoriously difficult to get tickets for.

You can also buy tickets from convenience stores – look out for wording like Lコード (L Code; Lawson), Pコード (7-11, Circle K etc), e-plus (e+), l-tike, ticket pia etc. Take note that different codes correspond to different convenience stores; you cannot use an L Code at a 7-11 ticket machine. The latter three, e-plus, l-tike and ticket pia are online booking sites. You book your ticket online and pay for it at a convenience store or with a credit card.

Finally, you can buy a ticket from the venue in advance or the day itself (当日券, toujitsuken). Smaller livehouses also have a reservation system – you place a reservation with the band you’re going to watch usually via email or their website, and pay for your ticket/entrance on the day itself.

Well, there’s actually still one more way to get tickets – auctions or from scalpers/resellers. I highly recommend this as a last resort because prices tend to be inflated. Many times.

Read my separate in depth post on how to BUY TICKETS IN JAPAN (and while overseas).

2. Entering the venue

Popcorn 2012 after

Arashi’s Popcorn Tour 2012, Sapporo Dome

For concerts at large venues with seats, you will have gate/door/entrance, area and seat number printed on your ticket. Look out for 番(ban; number) 列 (retsu; row) 通路 (tsuuro; aisle), ゲート(gate). If it’s an all standing live (オールスタンディング), it is common to either have only a number, or, a letter and a number, like ‘B2’. The letter stands for the ‘block’ you’re in. If you’re in B block you enter after A block and so on, in numerical order.

Most livehouses have an extra drink fee which you pay when you enter, usually 500yen. A drink coupon will be issued and you can redeem it at the bar any time you’d like. For big venues such as ZEPP livehouses, I suggest you trade in the drink at the start and hurry to get a good spot. They provide neckstraps for bottled drinks and you’ll definitely need to stay hydrated if you plan to jump, headbang or mosh.

Big venues/big concerts sometimes have bag checks for cameras or other prohibited items before entering. Sometimes, if it is a fanclub ticket, they might ask to see fanclub ID.

3. Reserving a spot

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Ginnan Rock Festival 2012

This mainly applies to combined lives in smaller livehouses, and for the first row in front of the barrier. Fans will hang their band towel on the barrier to reserve their spot for their band’s set. You do not have to stand there the entire night to reserve your place in front! Another way to do so is to set up a ‘rotation system’ with the fans of other bands – it’s basically an arrangement where you ask to stand in front to watch the band you support and then switch places after.

In bigger venues I find that you usually have no choice but to stand at your spot and guard it with your life. If you move away, someone else will claim it. I suggest finding a barrier to cling onto if you’re not too keen on being swallowed by a mosh pit. That said, moshing may or may not happen depending on the artist and the crowd. The crowds in certain areas of Japan are more responsive, while others are less so. Don’t be surprised if you see some stationary people in the crowd!

4. Enjoy the live!

Having a blast during the "Snake Pit" section of a fade concert

Having a blast during the “Snake Pit” section of a fade concert (can you spot me?)

Activities include waving uchiwa (fans), penlights or towels, fist pumping, doing hand actions, jumping, headbanging, dancing (the two-step anyone?) and for the more extreme, crowd surfing/diving, circles and even the wall of death.

Most concerts/lives do not allow photo or video taking, especially major artistes. Indie bands usually allow photo taking during their sets but it’s best to check first.

5. Meet the people behind the music

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With Shinnosuke from ROOKiEZ is PUNK’D

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With the (formerly H”palty) LOCAL CONNECT guys! Daiki, ISATO and ma-ki-

This usually applies mainly to indie or smaller bands. The band members will come out to their respective merchandise tables to greet fans, sign merchandise and depending on the band, take photos. It is very common to wait in line to speak to individual members and there is a separate line for purchasing merchandise.

Some times you have to do a demachi (出待ち) or irimachi (入り待ち) which is to wait for the band to leave or enter the concert venue respectively. It might be your only chance to catch the band and get something signed!

6. Buy merchandise (optional)

Popcorn Sapporo 2012 goods queue

Arashi Popcorn Tour 2012, Sapporo Dome goods queue

Either before or after, depending on the live/concert. Most buy before so that they can use the concert uchiwa or towel during the live. Most concerts have specific tour merchandise or venue specific special goods. Check online and plan what to buy ahead of time if you can! Lines such as the one pictured above took over an hour!

Essentials:

• Band towel
• Water/Drink
• Penlight/Uchiwa (For idol concerts mainly)
• Your voice
• Comfortable clothing and shoes

While this may not go in depth nor cover everything there is to know about attending a concert in Japan, it is a general guide on how things work. There are so many different types of concerts, lives and events that just one post won’t cut it! From large music festivals to sold out idol group concerts to acoustic in-store events and even guerilla street lives, there is something for everyone!

Rock on.

6 comments

  1. Liz says:

    Hi! Can I buy the band towel & penlight before the concert to avoid crazy lines? And if so, can you suggest where? I’m wanting to attend the BigBang concert in Osaka in November. Thanks!

    • Bernie Low says:

      You can queue on the day that you are not attending the concert (not sure if they’ve changed the rules or it differs per artist) but generally most people buy day of. Go early to avoid long lines.

  2. Liz says:

    Follow ?.. what type of pen lights are allowed in Osaka Dome for the BigBang concert? I’m reading that they do not allow the battery ones. Do you know where I can purchase the allowed ones? Thanks so much for your help!

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