You are in Japan and are looking to buy tickets for a sold-out concert or baseball game, or want to save money on your next cinema visit? Visiting a discount ticket shop, also known as Kinken Shop (金券ショップ; kinken shoppu), could be your best option. This article will explain where you can find the ones that sell event tickets, what to be careful about when choosing the shop, as well as a little bit of Kinken shop trivia.
What are Kinken Shops?
Basically, Kinken shops are resale stores found in Japanese cities, near train stations or shopping arcades. They are specialized in buying and reselling items of value such as gift vouchers, train tickets, jewelry, luxury brand items such as wallets, bags or watches, stamps. Some of them also trade in tickets for concerts, sporting events, theater plays, ballet, and other events.
Train tickets are usually offered at 90-97% of the original value. Movie ticket vouchers are an even better deal. Usually, you can save around 300-500 Yen off the regular price of 1,800 Yen. Other vouchers typically result in savings of 1 to 10% compared to just using cash.
In the case of event tickets, the prices depend on various factors, such as the seat location, how soon the event will take place, and whether tickets are sold out or not.
Tickets priced below face value are rare, so don’t expect any bargains unless the event is starting in just a few hours. On the other side of the price spectrum, the sky is the limit when it comes to sold out events or sought-after seats. It’s not strange at all to see tickets that originally cost 7,000 Yen being on display for 50,000 Yen or so.
Before Buying Tickets From a Kinken Shop
Make sure you understand the details and restrictions of the ticket you are buying. It will probably all be written in Japanese and the shop staff usually only knows very rudimentary English, let alone other languages.
Another important thing to know is that some information printed on the tickets will be covered up, and will only be disclosed after you buy the ticket. This usually includes any information that would enable window shoppers to identify the exact seat/ticket number or the identity of the original buyer of the ticket.
That’s not a problem, though. Even if the exact seat number is not visible, the location of the seat can be derived from the visible information. Having some knowledge of the seating map and how to read it can be of help. Some stores also have seating maps on hand, so you can show you the approximate location of the seat.
You might wonder why they don’t want to show the exact seat number beforehand. It’s not to lead you into buying a bad seat!
In their fight against scalping and high-price reselling, some event organizers don’t admit visitors who they know have bought their ticket from a reseller. There have been cases where seats in the venue were blocked after someone sold the tickets online while uploading an “uncensored” picture of the ticket with visible seat numbers. In that particular case, the organizer saw the offer and decided to punish the buyer.
There might also be consequences for the original buyer (aka the reseller), if he’s identified by the event management (bans from purchasing tickets, or even legal persecution in more serious cases).
For similar reasons, Kinken shops don’t accept returns of bought tickets.
By doing so, they protect buyers, so you don’t have to worry when purchasing resale tickets from them.
By the way, the business practices of Kinken shops, as well as buying from them, are legal, as will be explained further below.
Do All Kinken Shops Sell Event Tickets?
Be aware that most Kinken shops do not handle live event tickets (e.g. concert, baseball, sumo, etc.), but only train and bus tickets or vouchers for all sorts of other things.
Thus, doing a Google Maps search for Kinken shops and visiting them one by one might not be the most efficient approach. You’d waste a lot of time traveling to shops which turn out not to have any event tickets on display.
You can find out more about our recommended Kinken shops for event tickets in this article:
If you are looking for other types of tickets (transportation, movies, exhibitions), or you want to buy luxury goods or vouchers, see further below for recommendations for that kind of shops.
Are Kinken Shops Legal?
Shops that trade second-hand goods in Japan have to register with the police, but are perfectly legal. They don’t operate in shady areas, but in plain sight in popular shopping streets and train stations. This means, that you don’t have to worry that you are doing something against the law when buying from them.
However, if you buy resale tickets for events, note that some artists are against the practice of reselling their tickets. They might state on their website that visitors with tickets from Kinken shops will not be let into the event, if it is found out. In practice, this is rarely enforced, simply because there is almost no way to prove that you didn’t just get the ticket from a friend (even if there’s someone else’s name printed on them). The risk of trouble is thus very small.
That being said, in recent years there has been an increasing number of events where ID checks are strictly enforced and even giving away your ticket to a friend is not allowed. The number of these events is still small, but it is worth double-checking. The official site of the event or the artist will definitely mention that you have to bring a photo ID, if they are planning to enforce such ID checks.
Kinken shops usually don’t sell tickets for such events, but there is a risk. So to recap: buying from Kinken shops is legal but might be against the terms of the event you are planning to visit. However, in most cases you will still be able to get in.
Where Do These Shops Get All Their Tickets From?
Most tickets for live events are probably sold to them by fans that bought the tickets but can’t attend the event for one or another reason. When you visit one of the shops in person, you might be surprised to see thick stacks of gift vouchers and expensive train tickets. Who would buy or receive such a large amount of tickets in the first place?
Rumor has it, that some companies evade taxes by purchasing tickets on business expense and selling them to these resale shops for a small loss of approx. 4%.
In other cases, the discount coupons are gifts from companies to shareholders. For example, the 50% off vouchers of Japan Airlines or ANA, which you can frequently find. Most probably, the recipients would not be able to use these discounts for air fares themselves, so why not convert them into some Yen by selling them to a Kinken shop?
Can I Sell My Ticket to a Kinken Shop?
To prevent criminals from selling them stolen or counterfeited tickets, Kinken shops require a valid ID and would possibly ask for your name and address. If you don’t speak Japanese or if you are not a resident, it might be a little difficult, but you can try nevertheless. In some cases, the shop will allow you to display your ticket and pay your share if it is sold. If they cannot find a buyer, though, they will not pay you anything.
What About Items Other Than Event Tickets?
You can find many resale shops specialized in train/bus tickets, discount vouchers, gift cards near large train stations.
Ticket Ranger (チケットレインジャー)
This chain is available in Tokyo but has quite a lot of stores in various places of the city.
If second-hand luxury goods such as watches, Louis Vuitton bags or wallets are what you are looking for, you can find them at Kinken shops that are also in the pawn shop business. Those shops give out informal loans for high-value collateral – and selling them if the loan is not paid back.
The Kinken chain Daikokuya runs some outlets specialized in high-value goods. These shops are called “Daikokuya Brando Kan” (大黒屋ブランド館; or “Daikokuya Brand Store” in English). There are large brand branches, for example in Ueno, Ginza and Shinjuku. Their store specialized in second hand luxury watches can be found in Nakano. For a complete list, see the Daikokuya Brand Kan site (Japanese only).
For event tickets (concert tickets, baseball tickets, J-League tickets, NJPW tickets, etc.), see:
The 3 Best Kinken Shops for Event Tickets in Tokyo
Image copyright: JapanConcertTickets.com