If you’ve researched ticketing in Japan, you might have come across the word “playguide” (プレイガイド).
Given that the word is not used in this context in other countries, the meaning might not be obvious to many foreigners. In Japan, playguide is the commonly used word to refer to an event ticket agency.
This post goes into more detail, what playguides are, which ones you should know, and what it means when someone speaks of “playguide tickets”.
What Does “Playguide” Mean?
As mentioned above, playguide is the commonly used word for authorized ticket agencies or ticket stores (online and offline) in Japan.
The word might be a little confusing because it actually originates from Japan (Wasei-eigo) and isn’t listed in English dictionaries. It’s basically “made up” English. The two words “play” and “guide” might lead you down the wrong road (it has nothing to do with games, and only indirectly with theater plays).
Playguides sell tickets for various forms of entertainment, including concerts, theater plays, musicals and sporting events, as well as admission tickets for museums, exhibitions and more.
They are usually not only points of retail but also help organizers market and promote their events in the target area, for instance by publishing ads, sending mail magazines and publishing event schedules.
Dozens of ticket agencies exist in Japan. Some have “playguide” in their name (for example CN Playguide) but the major ones actually don’t.
Note that unofficial resale sites such as Viagogo or Ticket.co.jp are not considered playguides since those are not official points of sale, but secondary marketplaces. The same applies to physical ticket resale shops (Kinken shops).
What is a “Playguide Ticket”?
Depending on the context, the term “playguide tickets” might be used when talking about tickets that were not issued by the fan club or other member-only channels, but through public (pre-)sale of an official ticket agency.
In general, playguide ticket seats tend to be worse than if obtained through the fan club (more on that in The 5 Basics About the Japanese Ticketing System).
The 3 Major Playguides in Japan
Some people have asked me what the Japanese version of Ticketmaster is. Japan doesn’t have a quasi-monopoly like other countries when it comes to ticket agencies. There are actually a bunch of Japanese “Ticketmasters”.
Nowadays, there are three big ticket companies which handle almost all events in Japan:
Ticket Pia (チケットぴあ)
Pia was established in 1984 and is thus one of the oldest (if not the oldest) Japanese playguides around. While most other ticket companies sell exclusively online or through convenience stores, Ticket Pia still also has physical storefronts. They also issue a free physical event magazine which is quite useful for finding upcoming events. Their tickets can be bought at Seven Elevens, as well as Family Mart.
Lawson Ticket (ローソンチケット)
Also known as L-Tike, Law-chike (ローチケ) or similar, this ticket agency is memorable because of its obvious affiliation with the omnipresent Lawson convenience store chains in Japan. The famous Loppi machines in Lawson and Ministop convenience stores belong to this one.
Often written as e+, this company is a relatively new player (established in 1999). Sony Music Japan is one of the two main shareholders. Eplus tickets can be bought at the Family Mart machines called “Famiport”.
More about buying tickets from any of those playguides in our post How to Buy Tickets in Japan.
Apart from the three big players, there are quite a few less well-known playguides, which might come in handy at times (see below).
Less Well-Known Japanese Playguides
Rakuten Tickets (楽天チケット): While the Japanese site is all in Japanese, the account creation site is available in English and foreign credit cards are accepted for some events. No SMS verification is necessary, either.
Yahoo! Tickets (Yahoo!チケット): Handles a lot of K-Pop and J-Pop acts; not to be confused with Yahoo! Auctions, which is a resale platform.
LINE Tickets (LINEチケット): Very new but fast-growing agency and part of the ecosystem of the popular messaging app. Unfortunately, overseas credit cards are not accepted for Japanese tickets, as far as we know (even through LINE Pay).
CN Playguide (CNプレイガイド): One of the pioneer companies in the field. Their website is pretty dated but otherwise similar to the “big three”.
Seven Tickets (セブンチケット): Part of the Seven Eleven group, but relatively few events. Tickets from this playguide can also be purchased at Seven Eleven shop online terminals.
Confetti (カンフェティ): Limited number of events but available in English and also sells to overseas customer!
Ticket Yoshimoto (チケットよしもと): Mostly plays, comedy and other cultural events
Ticket JCB (チケットJCB): For holders of a Japanese JCB credit card, so probably not interesting for people outside Japan.
T Tickets (Tチケット): Part of the T-FANSITE/T-Points ecosystem, limited events and only in Japanese
Doshin Playguide (道新プレイガイド): Specialized in events in Hokkaido (only Japanese)
Ticket Board (チケットボード or チケボ): A digital ticket solution rather than a pure playguide (here the line gets blurry) but I’m still listing it for completeness. Their English version sometimes makes a few events available to overseas customers.
Note that this list is by no means exhaustive, but covers most Japanese playguides.
Is JapanConcertTickets.com a Playguide (Ticket Agency)?
While this site not a playguide, we also promote and list a variety of Japanese event tickets.
As media partner of various promoters, we offer tickets for a number of events, from small concerts to major festivals. Tickets are delivered as e-tickets and can be bought and paid from anywhere in the world. Head over to our Ticket Shop to see which events we sell tickets for.