Nothing compares to the thrill of hearing your favorite songs live. However, if you’re an avid concert goer back home, you may be surprised at how different things can be in Japan. The Japanese concert is called a “live” (from live show, or live concert) and there are four huge differences from how things are done in other countries, particularly America.
Your favorite band is coming to town, and you’ve got money to burn. How do you actually go about converting those heard earned greenbacks into a chance to hear their dulcet tones in person? In the United States, your best option is to mash that refresh button until your keyboard starts to melt. Failing that, there’s always the gray market.
In Japan, the process is a bit more egalitarian, and a bit more complicated. Many bands have fan clubs, which people can join for an annual fee somewhere in the thousands of yen range. Members get a number of perks including access to the private fan club web page, the opportunity to purchase limited edition goods, and priority when it comes to concert tickets.
For less popular groups, or groups playing absolutely massive venues, tickets may be sold first come first serve. However, if demand is expected to greatly outstrip supply, who gets tickets is decided by lottery. The lottery usually opens first to fan club members, and then any remaining tickets may be made available to the general public. If lady luck isn’t on your side, then it’s off to the gray resale market, just like in the states. A good place to start your search would be on the fan club message boards or Twitter, where you might be able to find a fan who won a ticket they can’t use.
You’d better check that ticket carefully because when it comes to seats, like strong opinions at a Trump rally, everyone’s got one. There’s no open “mezzanine” area where you can have the privilege of getting slowly crushed to death in order to get three feet closer to the stage. Seats go right up until the front row, and your place is decided randomly when you buy your ticket. Leave your board at home, because the comfy breathing room between you and your neighbor means there’ll be no surfing here.
The seating arrangement mentioned above has a direct impact on the kind of dancing that takes place. Without mosh pits, crowd surfing, or the constant jostling for position, dancing is a lot more relaxed. People mostly cheer, clap, bounce, jump, and fist pump. Everyone stays in front of their seat and there’s almost no chance of your neighbor bumping into you. The band does a fair amount of talking with the crowd between sets, and may take advantage of the opportunity to organize a wave, or have everyone practice a particular move to do during the upcoming song.
Anyone who’s been to a concert in America is familiar with the constellation of smartphone (or god forbid tablet) screens that inevitably twinkle brightly throughout the crowd as they fill their hard drives with stills and videos destined for social media. At a Japanese concert, however, when one’s vision sweeps over they crowd one finds nothing but dimly lit faces turned expectantly toward the band. Filming and photography are strictly prohibited, and you may even be searched for cameras at the door. They’ll let you hold on to your smartphone, but if you get any wise ideas, your glowing face hovering in the dark will be incredibly conspicuous.
Japanese and American concerts are both great, but they’re different animals. American concerts are wild parties where people let loose and go crazy. There’s nothing like the adrenaline of getting caught up in the rush of an amazing song in the middle of a crowd so charged up it’s all you can do to stay on your feet. On the other hand, people can get hurt, your ears ring for days afterward, and you might wake up feeling like you’ve been run over by a shinkansen. Japanese concerts are less about the party and more about the music. From the ticket lottery to the show itself, everyone gets the same chance to enjoy the music, and everyone tries their best to keep from doing anything that might prevent other people from enjoying the music as much as they are.