If you love Japanese Music one of your dreams is surely to visit the Land of the Rising Sun, the country we see in our minds as a Wonderland on earth, and it’s absolutely fine, because if you’re really determined the day you’ll finally decide to buy a plane ticket to attend your favorite artist’s tour and visit Japan will come for sure; In that case, you’ll have to be ready and know everything there’s to know to have the best possible vacation and experience, and here’s where my blog comes in help, with the first of a new series of guides that will analyze all the most important aspects of attending any kind of concert in Japan.
The first and most important step we’re going to analyze is obviously choosing the best moment to travel to Japan in order to see the concerts you’re interested in and the kind of events that fit your tastes better, so here’s a list of periods covering the entire year, each one with its own characteristics, pros and cons.
Christmas / New Year’s Eve
The second half of December can be easily considered one of the best periods for anyone who wants to attend a variety of concerts of both huge and small dimensions, as well as some pretty unique events that exclusively take place in this particular period of the year. Most of Japanese artists usually don’t have a Tour during this period, but many of them, both from the mainstream and indie scene, hold special Christmas events in various venues and clubs around Tokyo, which makes this particular period excellent if you’re a fan of many groups and want to see them as many as you can: Search for all your favorite artists’ shows in this period, and you can be sure your schedule will get a lot busier, making your days even funnier and absolutely unforgettable.
Talking about the biggest and most influent acts of the industry, some of the most famous and successful artists take the chance to hold huge Arena/Dome shows (usually one or two consecutive days) for a special set not tied to any tour and exclusive to that particular event: You’ll basically attend an unrepeatable event, and due to the uniqueness and the huge dimensions of these shows, it’s fair to say that attending one of these events is worth alone the trip to Japan. As a fan of Perfume who attended their Christmas shows held at Tokyo Dome for two consecutive days in 2013, everything that composes these events is plain magic: The venue, the fans, the unique and absolutely stunning show and the amazing atmosphere that surrounds the entire day from the waiting outside the venue to the end of the show and everything that comes after makes the entire travel and months of planning absolutely worth it.
Last but not least: Clubbing! You’re gonna live the best New Year’s Eve of your life in Tokyo, and is there a better chance for a Japanese music lover to celebrate this special night dancing and jumping to the music of some of the best DJs of Japan? There are so many clubs in Tokyo it’ll be hard just to choose where to go, but the most famous and recommended ones are the beautiful Club AgeHa in Odaiba and the underground-looking but funny Club Asia in Shibuya: You can’t go wrong with these two places.
Spending your Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Japan means attending lots of concerts and unique events related to music, a dream of any Japanese music lover. But it’s not only about music: Tokyo is simply one of the best cities where to spend the holiday season, and whatever is your passion or reason why you’re there, you’re gonna have the time of your life.
The Cherry Blossom season is generally the best period to visit Japan for many reasons: The wonderful weather, the cherry blossoms, the perfect temperature, sightseeing, and of course, the huge amount of tours held by a lot of the biggest artists of the music industry!
Differently from the above mentioned holiday season where the main attractions are unique Christmas themed shows, spring is generally known for being one of the best moments to attend concerts in Japan, usually with a lot of tours spacing from the end of March to the first half of May. To make an example, here’s a list of artists that announced tours scheduled for this spring: Dempagumi.Inc, Ayumi Hamasaki, SCANDAL, Kimura Kaela, Dir en Grey, miwa, Koda Kumi, Baseball Bear, as well as special spring concerts from Momoiro Clover Z, Ayami Muto and Curumi Chronicle. Pretty big names right?
With a well planned trip of about two or three weeks, you can catch several shows all worth attending, and considering how each concert means fun, new friends, izakaya and unforgettable nights, you can imagine how your vacation will become thanks to these music events; Add the fact that Japan is at the peak of its beauty in that period, perfect for sightseeing, and you have a perfect vacation awaiting for you in case you’ll make Spring your choice.
Despite not being a busy season in terms of tours like spring is, summer too still has a pretty good number of concerts worth attending in case your only chance to travel to Japan is during the hot (and humid) season, so it’s still worth checking out your favorite artists’ schedules before planning your trip.
But summer is a nice season especially for one, obvious reason: Summer Festivals!
Summer Festivals are a great chance to see many of your favorite artists (both from the mainstream and indie scene) sharing the same stage in just one or two days and to discover many new ones that might surprise you and drag you into their fandom. In terms of set and time duration, the individual performances held at festivals aren’t obviously at the same level of one-man concerts, but it’s still really entertaining and the atmosphere created by a various crowd and different fans on the same field is something unique. There are several summer festivals in Japan from May to September, and if you’re interested in attending one of these huge events, be sure to check out my guide to Summer Festivals in Japan!
P.S. Be sure to bring a hat and get ready for some brutal hot weather.
Winter and Fall are generally pretty quiet seasons, but that doesn’t mean they can’t offer great concerts and events to attend. Depending on a group’s album release and live schedule (that may vary a lot from band to band) there’s still a high chance to attend some great shows, therefore you shouldn’t exclude winter as a season/period to travel to Japan, at all. Plus, winter in Japan is lovely and quiet (and not so extremely cold), a great chance to see this country in the way you want it. Be sure to keep an eye on your favorite bands’ live schedule, and in any case, a trip to Japan is always worth it, so you can’t go wrong!
The Rule: Wait for the announcements, buy the plane ticket later
These were the main suggestions based on our experience in attending Japanese live shows, and if you can find the best period that can suit your tastes and possibilities better, you should definitely go: Whatever is the period you choose, you’ll have the time of your life, no matter what.
Still, while the Christmas/New Year’s Eve and Spring periods are generally the best moments to attend concerts in Japan, there’s a fundamental tip we feel like suggesting to those who clearly have in mind the kind of events/groups they want to see: Wait for your favorite artists to announce their live schedules first, buy the plane ticket later. There’s a funny (but sadly true) saying among Japanese music lovers, which is: “The best concerts in Japan are always before your arrival, and right after when you go away”. To avoid this very frustrating feeling (and believe me, it’s REALLY frustrating) your best bet is to follow the rule just above. Bands usually announce their live schedules four or five months before the start of their tour, so you have all the time to book a plane ticket and an hotel, and organize your trip with the necessary time: Trust me, you won’t regret it!
Question: Isn’t a bit too exaggerated to travel all the way to Japan just to see a concert?
Absolutely not. While the main reason you’re going to Japan is to see a particular show of your favorite band, that doesn’t mean you’re doing it only for that: Attending concerts in Japan means knowing lots of new people and good friends, waiting outside the venue with them sharing the same passion and love, jump and sing with all of them during the show, and have a blast in an izakaya or karaoke at the obligatory after-party. It may not seem so to someone who never experienced this, but a concert is truly a huge boost to your vacation and to your life in general, because it brings lots of new great friends you can stay in contact with when you fly back home and meet again the next time you’ll be back. It’s pretty fantastic.
Plus, you shouldn’t forget that Japan is a wonderful, welcoming and very funny country for a tourist, and since it’s highly unlikely you’re going to stay there less than a week (except for rare cases, it wouldn’t make much sense) you can dedicate the remaining days after or before the concert to sightseeing: Don’t worry, there’s always something to see and to do in Japan, especially in a city like Tokyo, and it’s impossible to get bored. Whenever you take a plane to Japan, whatever is the reason you’re doing it for, remember: It’ll always be worth it.