I’ve had a lot of people ask me recently about how to buy tickets for stages in Japan, and so I decided rather than replying to everyone individually I would just make a post in the hope it could also help other people out. The details in this post apply to stage shows only. I’m not going to get into the minefield of other events because they vary so much that it’d be impossible to put something like this together. Also, even within stage plays there are differences (especially when it comes to very small productions) so this is far from being 100% perfect. Please always check the details for any stage you want to go to carefully.
If you have any questions about anything I have written here, please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll reply as soon as I can.
Firstly, the most important thing I can say is this: All methods of buying tickets (aside from international ticketing, same day ticketing and resale sites) can only be applied for with a Japanese address, telephone number, and payment method. Although most sites accept credit card as a method of payment, they only accept Japanese cards. Therefore, to get tickets this way you will need a proxy in Japan to do it for you.
Secondly, this is not so important if you are applying for a small, not so popular show, but if you’re trying for something big, the days you apply for could make a big difference. If you are planning your trip to Japan around seeing certain shows, it’s worth remembering the following:
- Weekday shows are generally easier to get tickets for than weekend ones unless it’s a national holiday.
- The opening weekend of a show is usually harder to hit for.
- The last show is always harder to get tickets for.
- Rest days for most shows are Mondays, so if the show you’re looking at doesn’t yet have a full schedule, be aware of this.
- Some shows have specials (after talks, etc.) with different actors per show. Some shows also have characters double-cast. Check carefully on the shows you plan to go to, to see what is happening on that day.
Before ticket sales are opened up to everyone, there are usually one or sometimes more limited lotteries. These lotteries usually give away the best seats, so if you want something close to the front, this is a great place to begin. These lotteries can be limited in various ways, including:
- Fanclub (for either the show itself, or actors)
- Mail magazines
- Premium sites
- Phone app
- Purchase privilege (from DVDs etc.)
Information on these special lotteries will usually be sent via email (for fanclub, mail magazine and premium sites) to members, and all will also be published on the official sites and social media for the stage. Following any Twitter accounts for the stage as soon as they are announced is a good way to find out this information. Usually there is a period in which you can still apply for fan clubs etc. before the lotteries begin, but please watch out for these dates because if you don’t join in time, you won’t be able to enter.
The method of applying varies but usually it will require a special link to click and go to the entry site. Ticketing pages and processes vary depending on what site is handling the ticket sales, but generally they will ask for the following:
- The date of the show you want to attend. Very occasionally they allow you to apply for multiple dates within one application, but this is rare. If you want to apply for a second show, you usually have to fill out a new application. Some shows also limit the number of shows you can apply for.
- The number of tickets. Usually you can apply for between 1-4 tickets, but sometimes it’s 1-2 and very rarely, only 1 ticket.
- The type of ticket. Some shows only have one type of ticket, all at the same price. It’s becoming more common now though for shows to sell “premium tickets” which usually guarantee a better seat, and often have a freebie attached.
With all those details entered, along with your personal details, you can send the application and will receive email confirmation. After that, all you can do is wait. On a specified day after applications close, you will receive an email confirming whether or not you have hit for a ticket. Emails vary, but anyone who has received one of these emails knows that upon opening it, you search for this:
If you see this, bad news, you didn’t hit and you may shed some tears.
Hopefully, that isn’t the case, and you have hit for a ticket. If you chose to pay by credit card, the ticket price plus fees will be charged automatically. If you chose to pay at the convenience store, you will be given details of how to pay for the ticket there, and will usually have a couple of days to do it. Don’t forget, or you will lose out.
So you didn’t hit for tickets through the special lotteries, you’ve shed all your tears, and are ready to move on. The good news is, there is still a chance! Once all the special lotteries have finished, shows will generally hold their own official lottery (オフィシャル先行), which is open for anyone to apply.
These lotteries work in exactly the same way as the special lotteries so you can see above for the details, and the link to apply will be provided on the stage’s official site.
Once all lotteries have finished, tickets will open up for general sale (一般). The official site will usually list the start date and time for these well in advance. Rather than through lottery, these tickets are first come first serve, which can make it very difficult and somewhat stressful. To have a chance of getting a ticket this way, you really need to be in front of your computer at the time they go on sale, because especially for popular shows they sell out in minutes. You may also find that the site crashes due to server load, and that all tickets are gone by the time you actually manage to load the page. It can be very frustrating and I’ve had so many bad experiences with trying and failing that I can’t say I’d recommend it to anyone who has a choice.
If you are lucky and manage to get a ticket before they sell out, payment is by the same methods as the lotteries and again, you’ll usually have a few days in which to pay if you’re not paying by credit card. Again, please read the contents of the email carefully because if you miss the deadline, there’s no way back.
Recently due to demand, some shows (including popular shows like Haikyuu and the Touken Ranbu Musical) have opened up international ticketing. For people wanting to buy tickets from overseas, this is by far the best method. The whole process is in English, you can pay with any credit card, and you pick up the tickets at the theater on the day of the show.
It’s worth noting that I live in Japan and have also been able to buy tickets without any problem, and have easily managed to get tickets for shows I couldn’t hit for tickets for through any other method. International ticketing starts on the same date and time as general sales within Japan, and details are announced a week or two before on the official site/Twitter. Please remember though that international ticketing is not opened for all shows, so I would recommend trying the previous methods beforehand.
Same Day Ticket Exchange Coupon
When the theater can guarantee there will be a certain number of tickets available for same-day sales, they will sometimes sell ticket exchange coupons (当日引換券), usually in the last couple of weeks during the show. This isn’t something that all shows do, but if they do, they will announce it on the website when they make the decision.
This is a guaranteed ticket, but comes in the form of a coupon that you can exchange for an actual ticket on the day of the show. You won’t know your seat in advance, but it’s a good way to try last minute for a ticket. These sales are generally first come first serve, so like with general sales it’s a good idea to be in front of your computer when they go on sale.
Same Day Tickets
In general, shows will set aside a number of tickets for same-day sales (当日券). Usually they are either seats that had been reserved for friends/family of the actors (which from experience is fun if you end up sitting behind the entire family of one of the main actors) or press, seats off to the side of the theater, or standing space.
Rules for times and method of sales vary but usually this information is up on the official site in advance. If the show is less popular and not sold out, getting a ticket can be as easy as lining up, paying your money, and going inside. However, when there are more people than there are tickets, it falls to a lottery system. Generally (although it does vary) everyone in line will be given a lottery number, and told to come back at a certain time. At that time they will announce the winning numbers, and those people will be able to buy a ticket. Often they will also announce a second round of numbers, for which you have to wait for any last minute cancellations.
This method is a good way of trying to get tickets, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you wouldn’t be super disappointed if you didn’t get in. It is a great option if you already have a ticket for another show that day and have time to kill and money to burn, or if you’ve seen the show once and think you’d like to see it again.
So you’ve tried all the other options and failed, were too late to try, and don’t want to risk trying for same day tickets? At this point, the only other option open to you is to try and find someone to sell you a ticket. Luckily, there are various places you can do this. Most popular is the website ticketcamp, where people can resell their unwanted tickets (they accept international credit cards, but they will mail the tickets to you, so you need to have an address in Japan they can be sent to). You can also find tickets on Yahoo Auctions, and even through people selling on Twitter.
On the plus side, with resale tickets you can have more of an idea of what your seat will be like. Although sellers don’t specify the exact seat (because that’s a good way to get it blacklisted), they will at least give you a range (for example, row 2-4, seat 20-30). It’s usually enough information to work out how good the seat is.
The bad thing about resales is that people can charge whatever they want for their ticket, meaning you’re likely to have to pay more than the regular ticket price. A good seat could cost you a lot of money. I don’t judge anyone who is willing to spend a lot to get a ticket, because I did so myself for a show I really wanted to see, but just make sure you think about how much you really want to go and how worth the money the ticket actually is.