May has been the lucky months of many concerts for me! S and I were lucky enough to land not one but two sets of tickets to Sexy Zone’s Japan Tour concert in Yokohama Arena, and I also hit for a ticket to Hey! Say! JUMP’s Tokyo Dome show, where Sexy Zone would also be appearing to celebrate the creation of their new fanclub! We also were lucky enough to win tickets to a Johnny’s Livehouse Ginza in the tiny Crea theatre, seating only 600! That show will be on May 26th, so I have yet to see what it will be like, but I’ve been to the other three now, and after talking about concerts in passing for a while, I figured I’d take this opportunity to explain just what going to a Johnny’s Entertainment concert is like!
The first confusing thing about Johnny’s concerts is how one comes about these tickets. Unlike in America or for a concert by a non-idol group in Japan, you can’t just call up a ticket office and purchase a good seat (or a decent seat, or a bad seat). You can’t use the internet to buy a ticket, either. Instead, you must be a member of the Johnny’s “Family” Club (fan club) designated for the group whose concert you wish to attend. A membership costs ~¥5,000 per year, and once you’re a member, you can use Japan Post money orders to ballot for tickets. In essence, the way tickets are awarded in a lottery; whether or not you get a ticket is random and how good your seat is is also random. Everyone pays the same amount for tickets, usually between ¥5,000 and ¥7,000, though sometimes stage shows in theaters are more costly. They mail the tickets to you about a week before the show in order to try to avoid resale; because some concerts have less availability or the group is very popular, resale tickets can go from anywhere from base price to ¥80,000. On an average scale of $1 = ¥100, that’s around 800 US dollars for one ticker. So really, that ¥5,000 membership fee isn’t so bad!
And then, at the venue on the day of the show, you can buy goods before the show! Usually, there is a much wider variety of goods for Johnny’s concerts than one might expect at an American show. ~4 x 5 inch photos of the idols, plastic folders with photos of the idols on them, uchiwa fans with the idol’s faces printed on them, a pamphlet book with interviews and photos of the idols, and posters are all common goods, along with tote bags, T-shirts, scrunchies to be worn around the wrist or in the hair, and penlights. The penlight is something I hadn’t heard of before coming to Japan; in America, people seem to use their cell phones, other electronic devices, or glowsticks in concerts, but in Japan, basically battery-powered light sticks like glowsticks replaced actual glowsticks. Johnny’s took this one step further and makes penlights specific to each group and concert. Generally, it’s not expected that you buy a new penlight at each concert, but it’s odd to use a penlight from the wrong group at a different group’s concert.
Aside from a penlight, the other item of must-have concert goods is an uchiwa, which I talked about in this post a while back. Every good fan has at least one (more likely 4 or 5, or even 20) stuffed into her bag, along with her goods and everything else she’s brought along with her. All this gets looted through at the door the venue, because for some reason, staff are required to check for cameras, even though, at this point, every phone is equipped to audio and video record, as well as take still photos. But for some reason, the staff still glance inside every concert-goer’s bag and asks politely, “Do you have a camera?” Once you say “no,” they let you in! From there, you can usually spot the display that will always be set up to showcase the various flowers the performers receive from magazines, TV stations, producers, and various other related companies and people who had worked with the idols. In Japan, flowers are a necessity in all sorts of situation (such as a new business opening), and there will almost always be flowers on display before a performance!
Next it comes time to find your seat, which can be harder than you think! Obviously seating in every venue is different, and differences in shape (like an arena versus a dome) and size (how many floors, for example), as well as changes in the setup for the concert inside the venue can really change your concert experience. For example, we were at the very end of the catwalk and in a very close row for our first Sexy Zone show (in the photo it’s a bit hard to tell since I was surreptitiously taking the photo with my technically illegal camera… ) This gave us a great view whenever they did anything at the end of the catwalk, but a really crappy view of the stage (or rather, we could easily see the stage, but the idols on it looked like tiny specks!) However, for our second show, we were right next to the stage– like the people on the far right of this photo– and a little bit farther away. That made it a little harder to see everything, but we could watch the stage quite easily! Both of our seats were really not bad, but definitely gave two very different experiences, even in a concert with a typical setup of a round catwalk around the arena, a main stage at one end, a small stage at the other end, and a center stage in the middle.
Everything was completely different for the Hey! Say! JUMP concert, however. It was in Tokyo Dome, which, being for baseball, is shaped in a circle, rather than ovular, like arenas. In the past, I’ve felt that this leads to a better view for everyone, but this time, the setup of the dome was very odd. The stage was small, and there were seats almost all the way around behind it (I happened to be in one of these unfortunate behind seats. There was an inner and outer catwalk, and then a center stage, as well as other stages attached to the catwalks. I’ve never seen a setup like it, and apparently the band members designed it themselves. I feel like perhaps it was good in theory but less good in execution: I was only on the second level, and yet when the members were on the center stage it was hugely difficult to see them, and because the screens were so far away, it was hard to rely on them. Overall, not the best seats I’ve had, but in terms of my most recent concerts, it’s hard to compare Tokyo Dome to Yokohama Arena, anyway, considering that Yokohama Arena seats around 15,000 people and Tokyo Dome seats around 45,000!
So… now you’re all prepared to attend a Johnny’s concert on your own! I’ll see you there~