Note: This post was written a while ago and some information might be a little out-dated. We recommend our new post The 5 Basics of the Japanese Ticketing System, first.
If you are already in Japan and want to secure concert tickets, there are plenty of ways to do so, starting from convenience stores to ordering them online. But before jumping into the explanations and instructions, two important things!
For those who are not yet in Japan: If you are thinking about purchasing tickets when arriving to Japan, I would keep two things in mind: 1) the location of available seats as well as the admission rank numbers (for general admission concerts) becomes worse the later you purchase, and 2) tickets tend to sell out for many artists, sometimes months in advance. Therefore, it might be a good idea to try to secure your tickets even before you get to Japan. For more information, see our other article: How to buy tickets if you are not in Japan yet
For fans of AKB48, Johnny’s, Girls Generation, Shinee, etc.: While this guide applies for maybe 95% of artists, there are a few which have their own special sales channels (and which will not be covered in this guide). For AKB48 theater shows, for example, tickets can only be bought through their site. Girls Generation, Shinee, Namie Amuro and some others usually only sell cell phone tickets for which basically a Japanese phone is necessary. Groups affiliated with Johnny’s Entertainment mostly sell their tickets only through the fan clubs. The following guide only covers tickets that can be purchased through regular/general sale or public pre-order sale, without being a fan club member.
Alright, now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of buying tickets in Japan! For most concerts, there are the following six options.
Option 1: Convenience Stores
At most convenience stores (Lawson, 7-Eleven, Family Mart, Sunkus, Circle K, Ministop, but not at Daily Yamazaki or Coco Store) there are ticketing machines which look similar to ATMs but are smaller and lack the money slot. This is probably the quickest option, if you can read basic Japanese, have a friend with you who can help you, or have memorized the steps by watching a Youtube tutorial.
The usual steps are:
- Finding the event by entering the event code or searching by artist, venue, region, date, etc.
- Choosing seat (if applicable) and number of tickets
- Inserting your name and phone number
- Taking the receipt-like paper with bar codes on it which comes out of the machine
- Handing the print-out to the clerk at the cash counter (within 30 minutes!) and paying the amount due.
- Receiving those precious pieces of paper (the tickets) from the clerk. That’s it!
+ You get your tickets directly in the store, without further back and forth
+ No need for credit cards or a Japanese address, since you pay in cash (but usually also foreign credit cards)
+ No 3rd party ticket agent fees or delivery cost
– You need at least some basic Japanese reading skills or the help of store staff (who might be too busy or not able to communicate well)
– Popular shows tend to be sold out already, when this method becomes available (learn about sales phases here)
– Pre-order reservations or lottery applications are not possible at convenience stores but have to be done online, in advance
How to use the ticketing machines/terminals
During the ticketing procedure at some of the convenience store machines, you will be asked for your name in Japanese characters (katakana or hiragana), as well as your phone number. It is important, that you enter your real name since it might be checked against your ID when entering the event.
The exact process varies among machines. There are four types of machines:
Loppi machine (Lawson, Ministop)
This one can be found both in Lawson stores and some Ministop stores.
It is connected to Lawson Tickets (aka L-tike). You can make life a little easier by bringing the 5 digit L-code which you can look up in advance on the event page on the band’s or venue’s website.
You can find tutorials with step-by-step instruction on Youtube (but not that they might be out of date):
Video by musicAPANplus:
Video by DarcNoodles:
Multicopy (Seven Eleven)
Seven Eleven has an all-in-one Multicopy (マルチコピー) machine which is both a copy machine and a ticket terminal.
It looks just like a normal photocopy machine, but it has a large touch screen on the side. Seven Eleven is affiliated with Ticket Pia, so you can look up your event by using the P-code (6 digits, e.g. 345-543) from the event’s website. Of course, you can also find the event by entering the artist’s name, etc.
Fami Port (Family Mart)
The Famiポート terminals can be found at Family Mart stores.
These machines use the eplus (e+) ticket system. Therefore, you cannot use the L-code (Lawson Ticket) or P-code (Ticket Pia) but you need to input the artist or venue in Japanese instead. This is a small downside, if you like the convenience of the code system. If you’re comfortable reading and typing Japanese, it doesn’t really make a difference. Note, however, that you might need to know how to write the artist’s name in katakana characters.
Karuwaza Station (Sankus, Circle K)
Sankus and Circle K stores are affiliated with Ticket Pia, which means that you can find your tickets quite easily by using a P-code from the artist’s event side. Alternatively, it lets you search for an event by date or keyword, such as the artist’s name. Don’t let the language options on the initial screen fool you; only the part of the program for buying prepaid cards is actually offered in other languages than Japanese.
Option 2: Online at Ticket Agencies (Playguides)
There are dozens of ticket online retailers (so called Playguides), but the three major ones which cover almost all events are Ticket Pia, Lawson Ticket (aka L-tike) and eplus.
Buying tickets online is a little more troublesome than using a ticket machine at the convenience store, because you need to register an account before being able to purchase. If you want to pre-order tickets before they go on general sale (to make sure you get tickets before they sell out) there will be no way around doing it online, though. Online retailers add a small internet booking fee to the ticket price which usually consists of a system fee, booking fee, and sometimes also a pre-order/lottery and delivery fee.
The tricky part: the English websites of main three Ticket Agencies only list very few of the available events in Japan. If the tickets you are looking for are only sold through the Japanese site, you will need to be able to read Japanese and you will need to be familiar with how to type Japanese characters on your computer. If you don’t have a Japanese-speaking friend to ask for help, you could try Google Translate for making the account and ordering the ticket, but there might be parts where the translation doesn’t work.
In the process of registering, you are asked to input your name, phone number and address in Japanese characters. Without a Japanese cell phone number, the SMS verification will not work, and you will be stuck.
Note that all fields where you have to input Japanese characters – or a mixture of characters and numbers – have to be filled using “full-width characters”. When using Microsoft IME to input Japanese characters, make sure to use the standard Hiragana setting and not to select half-width numbers or symbols from the list of suggested characters. In particular, when entering your address, hyphens and numbers have to be full-width characters, too, or you will get an error later on. Fields which require ONLY numbers or letters, such as phone numbers, email addresses or passwords, have to be filled using half-width symbols. Just switch to English input or select “Half-width Alphanumeric” (see picture). For your reference:
全角 means full-width characters
全角カタカナ means full-width katakana
半角英数字 and 半角数字 mean half-width symbols
Theoretically, you are supposed to enter your Japanese address. Any address should work, but be careful not to choose postal delivery as delivery option if you don’t live at the given address, or your tickets might get lost in time and space!
You can choose a convenience store chain as delivery option, instead. That way you can avoid having to use a fixed Japanese delivery address since you can print the tickets at a Japanese convenience store, after the payment is complete. Keep in mind, however, things might get a little complicated if the event is canceled, and you want to receive a refund. Usually, you have to return the tickets at the convenience store you picked them up (not only the same chain, but exactly the same shop!) or send them in. If you send them in, you might not be able to get the refund if you don’t live at the address you used. Also, refunds are usually only made to Japanese bank accounts.
In most cases, you can choose payment by credit card (online), or cash at a convenience store such as Seven Eleven or Family Mart. If you have a Japanese credit card (which is virtually impossible if you don’t live in Japan), that is most certainly the easiest option. Foreign credit cards oftentimes don’t work on the Japanese websites. If you want to pay in cash, you will want to choose convenience store as payment option. If possible, you should choose the convenience store which is affiliated with the agent you are buying from, as this will make things easier.
Lawson Tickets (l-tike.com) is affiliated with Lawson convenience stores
Ticket Pia (t.pia.jp) is affiliated with Seven Eleven, Circle K and Sankus
eplus/e+ (eplus.jp) is affiliated with Family Mart
After successfully ordering your tickets, you will receive an email including a number (or link to it), which has to be entered into one of the ticket machines in a convenience store (e.g. if you chose Seven Eleven as delivery option, you can go to any Seven Eleven in Japan). If you’re using the same convenience store chain for paying and printing, and if regular sale has already begun, you can pay and issue the tickets at once by bringing the receipt from the machine to the cash register (they will print the tickets for you). If you are buying concert tickets during the pre-order phase, you can only pay but not print them just yet. Tickets only become printable after general sale has started in that case.
Important: In any case, you will only have a limited amount of time (usually around 48 hours) to pay the tickets, once you’ve reserved/ordered them online! If you fail to make the payment, your order will be canceled. Unfortunately, that makes it virtually impossible to order the tickets from abroad and pay them once you get to Japan (unless you book them just before traveling).
If you are paying in a different conbini chain than where you can print your tickets, OR if you bought your tickets during pre-order, you will have to wait for another email after you paid at the counter. The next email will tell you the number with which you can actually print the tickets. Sounds complicated? If you live in Japan and go to many concerts, you will soon get used to it. 😉
In most instances, applying for tickets during the pre-order period will not automatically entitle you to buy the tickets. Rather, is like taking part in a lottery in which you can win the right to buy the them.
The good part is: you don’t have to queue or take a day off just to get your tickets. There is a certain pre-order period during which you can apply anytime without decreasing your chances. The lucky buyers will be drawn a few days after the application period has ended and are notified by email. You will then have a certain amount of time to pay the tickets. If you miss the payment deadline, they will be thrown back into the pot again and you might decrease your chances to win the next time. Thus, it is best only to apply if you are really willing to buy the tickets.
The downside to pre-order in general is, that you have to pay an additional fee of 500 to 1000 Yen, and that you might have to wait a long time until you can actually print the tickets or receive them by mail – sometimes much later than if you bought them through normal sale. This is not a big problem, but imagine you realize half way through that you cannot attend the concert (pre-order sometimes takes place ages before a concert, so who knows!). It might be difficult to resell a ticket you don’t have in hand, yet.
More information about the difference between pre-order and regular sale can be found in the related article Sales-Phases: Pre-order vs. Regular Sale vs. Resale Tickets
Option 3: Ticket Agency Hotlines
If you are fluent in Japanese, you can also get a phone and order the tickets by calling the hotline of one of the major ticket retailers such as Ticket Pia, Lawson Tickets or eplus. Be prepared to provide a valid Japanese address, phone number and a Japanese credit card.
Option 4: Ticket Pia Counters (not available anymore!)
In June 2021 Ticket Pia announced the closure of all physical Ticket Pia counters, so this is not an option anymore.
Ticket Pia has a few “brick and mortar” agencies (apart from convenience stores) where you can buy your ticket over the counter. A complete list of such shops can be found here (only in Japanese). Keep in mind that, that some of the shops do not have the capability to select the seat for you (if selectable at all which is very rare in the first place). Also, the staff might not be able to communicate well in English although English might be spoken at the two counters at Narita airport, which are located in the Main Bldg., 1st Floor (Arrivals) and North Wing, 1st Floor (both open from 10am to 8pm). If you need to know your closest Ticket Pia counter in Japan, but cannot read the Japanese website, drop us a quick message and we’ll look it up for you (free of charge).
Option 5: Record Stores
Some events tickets can also be bought at certain records stores. In Tokyo, a handful of clubs and concert labels distribute tickets through the numerous Disk Union record stores. For concerts promoted by Smash, you can get tickets at the GAN-BAN store in the Parco department store (part 3, floor B1F) in Shibuya. This is convenient if you are in the area anyway, or if you want to avoid the trouble of deciphering Japanese characters on a ticket machine or your PC. However, it’s not recommended if you suspect the show to sell out.
Option 6: Directly at the Venue
This is by far the easiest option, since you just show up at the doors before the show, buy your tickets and there you are! However, this is only recommended for less famous artists at small clubs/live houses. Large venues might not even sell tickets at the doors! Also, for any band on a major label or even the hottest indie bands, you might find that the show is sold-out long before the concert date. If there’s a long line (usually you are admitted into the venue according to the number on your ticket), you might end up getting in only after the big crowd.
In some cases a few spare tickets are sold at the venue, even though tickets were sold out at all other ticket agents! This can happen if some pre-allocated seats were released, again. Some fans who were not able to get tickets might line up early in the morning for such Toujitsuken (当日券, “on-the-day ticket”). Oftentimes, these seats are far from the stage, though.
It is recommended to buy tickets in advance, when in doubt. At some smallish venues (with a capacity up to a few hundred) such as the O-east, O-nest or Shinjuku Loft in Tokyo, you can also buy tickets a few days in advance (but don’t expect the ticket counter to be open before the late afternoon). Keep in mind, that tickets bought at the venue on the day of the show typically cost 500 Yen more than when bought in advance.
By the way, we do not recommend purchasing tickets from scalpers (ticket resellers) outside the venue. Although fake tickets are extremely rare in Japan (but not unheard of), buying and selling 2nd hand tickets in the vicinity of the venue (right before the show) is illegal and police do sometimes show up, especially at very popular concerts. Most resellers outside the venues are professionals and affiliated with the Japanese mafia (yakuza), too.
If you want to buy tickets but you are not in Japan yet, also see our article Buying Tickets From Overseas.
Image credit: Dick Thomas Johnson, used under CC license