If you’re a fan of Korean idol groups, then attending a concert in Japan is a dream come true, as it was for me. A concert in Japan is called a “live” (from live show or live concert) and if you’re an avid concert goer back home, you’ll clearly notice the differences in how things are done, from the ticketing, the anticipation and preparation, and the protocols to follow during the concert.
1. Getting Tickets
The process of getting tickets can be complicated especially for popular bands. These bands have fan clubs which you can join for an annual fee. Most ticket sales are open first to fan club members for a limited time period. They have various perks like access to the private fan club web page and advance purchase of limited edition goods. Joining a fan club is another difficult thing to do, for you must have a working email and physical address in Japan in order to be accepted to one.
However, even if you’re a fan club member, buying tickets is not on a first come first served basis and you don’t get to choose your seats. Who gets tickets are decided by lottery, including the seat assignments, and the remaining tickets will be made available to the general public. These tickets can now be bought through online resellers like Viagogo and Ticket Pia, but these will most usually be at sky-high prices.
My first CNBLUE Arena Tour concert in 2014 coincided with my trip to Tokyo and I was able to buy my ticket from Viagogo using a credit card and having the tickets delivered to my sister’s house in Japan. When I became a resident in 2015, I joined CNBLUE’s fan club, BOICE, and since then got my tickets by applying for the lottery as soon as a concert is announced.
2. Entering the Venue
Since your seat is decided randomly when you buy your ticket, be sure to check it for the gate/door/entrance and the area and seat number printed on it. These are written in Japanese so it’s best to have the Translate app ready or have a Japanese friend read it for you. I recently double-checked all my tickets and found that they had my name and member number printed on it. So that’s the reason why I always needed to present my fan club ID together with the ticket.
I have only been to three concert venues in Tokyo, and these are Nippon Budokan (14K+ capacity), Yoyogi National Gymnasium (13K+ capacity), and Tokyo International Forum (5K capacity). There are seats right up to the front row, which are just a few feet away from the stage. On all the concerts/fan meets I have attended, everyone has an assigned seat, so I don’t know how it looks like in venues with barriers between the standing section and the stage.
3. Enjoying the Concert
When the venue lights go down, you have to join in the synchronized clapping until the stage lights up when everyone will stand but remain in front of their seat. There will be no wild dancing, headbanging, nor jostling for space. Fans will wave their light sticks or spread and wave their fan club towels. The entire stadium will light up with the glow of your favorite band’s official light stick color.
In between sets, the band will introduce themselves (as if the audience don’t know who they are), make small talk, and do some fan service like making aegyo, throw flying kisses, and sometimes take selfies with the crowd. This is also the signal for the audience to take their seats and rest.
The band will also announce their last song, but this isn’t really always the last song, for the crowd will clap and shout “Encore! Encore!” until the band comes back to the stage. If they are in a very good mood, they will sometimes do a double encore. When it’s finally time to end the show (it has to end after about 2.5 hours), they might do the final act of fan service, which could include throwing towels, guitar picks, or drum sticks to the delight of some lucky fans.
4. Taking Pictures and Videos
This part is where the main difference between attending concerts in the Philippines and Japan lies. In a Philippine concert, once the lights dim you will find a constellation of smartphone screens clicking away with pictures and recording videos for bragging in social media. In Japan, when you look at the crowd, you will only see the dimly lit faces of the people waiting for the next song, quietly clapping and singing along.
Recording and taking photographs are STRICTLY prohibited. I learned my lesson during my first ever concert at Nippon Budokan. I arrived just in time for the first song, so it was already dark and I didn’t see the “No Pictures/Videos” signs everywhere. I took out my point-and-shoot camera and started taking pictures even if I was seated in the last row of the topmost floor.
A member of the staff immediately called my attention and asked me to go with him outside the venue. He kept on asking for my member number, which of course I didn’t have one, so I explained that I was just visiting. Not satisfied with making me erase the pictures I have taken, he asked for my name and passport number. I was able to convince him that I clearly wasn’t aware of the policy. When he finally allowed me to go back to my seat, I missed a few songs, but I was still glad I wasn’t completely kicked out from the concert.
5. Buying Merchandise
Buying merchandise like light sticks, keychains, towels, CDs, bags, etc. can be done either before or after the concert. Most people buy before so they can use the light sticks and towels during the concert. Some tour specific goods are made available online for a specified period and may run out of stock quickly.
In a CNBLUE concert, each person is limited to five items at a time. So if your friends are asking you to buy merch for them, you have to go back to the end of the line in order to buy more. One of the perks of buying more is a raffle ticket to the meet-and-greet which could occur before or after the show. During the meet-and-greet, one will have a chance to meet the band members up close, shake hands with them, and maybe take pictures and have their albums autographed.
6. Recovering From the Concert High
So, each concert has to end at some point, otherwise, you will miss the last train home. I’ve attended CNBLUE’s Spring Live (during springtime, of course) twice, Arena Tour (during autumn) three times, and the official fan meeting twice, but recovering from the high feeling I get after every event is hard. I stare at the merchandise I bought, relive the concert highlights, and place my ticket inside the box meant for fangirling stuff. My playlist, which will be songs from the concert setlist, would be on repeat for days or weeks on end.
Meanwhile, I get contented by the fact that I’m blessed to be given the chance to watch a concert in a foreign country. Attending a concert in Japan is less about the party and more about the music. It means enjoying your favorite band’s music while politely cheering, clapping, quietly singing along, dancing, and fist-pumping while holding a light stick, sans the selfies or videos, yet still having the same euphoric feeling of attending a concert in the Philippines.