getting concert tickets
the best way, by far, to get tickets is to join the fan club and bid on them yourself. unfortunately, for most artists you have a japanese address to join. if you don't live there or know anyone that lives there that will let you use their address, you can join several artists' fan club through the japan fanclub agency. i have never used this site, so i have no idea as to their reliability, and their prices are exhorbitant, but they do exist. you can also purchase fan club memberships through celga.
for shows that aren't sold out by the time you get there, you can purchase tickets available to the general public at ticket machines located in lawson's and family mart convenience stores (in japanese).
at the show
as long as there are concerts, there are always going to be scalpers. usually fairly easy to pick out at concerts because they're the only men not wearing suits and/or 'staff' badges standing a bit away from the entrance waving around tickets. their prices are usually very high, even for not-so-great seats. they probably won't speak english, so communication may be a bit difficult if you don't know japanese. most of the ones i've encountered are more than a little creepy, but some are very cool.
this is probably the most popular method of purchasing and selling tickets. anyone can sign up for an account, but in order to bid more than 4999¥, you have to have a premium account tied to a japanese bank account and most sellers won't ship overseas anyways. to get around that, there are several deputy services available to those overseas.
shopping mall japan • probably the most popular. when you create an account you have to place a deposit which will determine how much you can bid. they have an automated bidding system to allow you to bid on auctions in real time, but it will not let you bid on concert tickets. you must use their manual form to bid on tickets, which means getting your bid in at least 24 hours before the auction ends, and no last minute bids. they typically will not bid on auctions where the seller has low feedback, and also will not bid on auctions from sellers they've had problems with in the past. i've run into issues with that before, so if you put in a bid and find it suddenly cancelled for no reason, that's probably why. shipping time is very fast and their fees are reasonable (a $70 ticket will run you around $100 after everything).
celga • if you're just going to make bidding on y!j a one or two time thing, i'd recommend using celga because you don't have to go through the hassle of creating an account with them, it's all done through email. their fees are about the same as smj and shipping times are good, plus, they'll bid on just about anything. since they don't have an automated system, it's recommended to get your bid in at least 24 hours before the auction ends. if you're planning on bidding a lot of things from y!j in the future, i'd recommend their gold service. basically, it gives you your own y!j premium account. they pay all the fees for you, and you give them a credit card number which they charge the fees and all of your auctions to automatically. the nice thing about that is that it lets you rack up your very own feedback, and you can do all the last minute bidding you want.
rinkya • another deputy service that i've never used (their fees are higher than smj or celga), but is fairly popular.
a japanese ticket resale site. tickets are from individual sellers at fixed prices. you have to pay with a japanese credit card or bank account and most sellers won't ship outside of japan. if you're overseas, you can use shopping mall japan or celga to buy tickets from here.
a note about y!j and ticket.co.jp: for major tours, you'll see a few general admission tickets (usually ones the seller bought at a conbini) show up, but the majority of the tickets will be fc tickets. most sellers on both sites are scalpers, but occasionally you'll find fans that just couldn't go or had an extra selling a ticket. it's pretty easy to tell by looking at their past auctions. basically, a couple months before the show the seller ballots for a ticket through the fc and are told whether or not they got them, but that's all the information they get. auctions that show up a few weeks before the show will be those reserve- usually starting around face value with no indication of seating area. what usually happens is the seller has a gazillion fc acounts and ballots for a ton of tickets. once they find out how many they got reserves for, they put a few up online or reserve, wait until they actually get the tickets and know where the seats are, then send the crappy seats to the people that bid on the reserves and sell the good seats for insane prices. the fc mails out tickets around two weeks before the show, so that's when sales start popping up with the actual seating area on them (ie. 'artist venue date section a, row 10~12') kind of thing. do not buy a ticket where the seller has listed the exact seat (ie. 'artist venue date 2nd level row 3 seat 15').
prices can get extremely high for tour opening shows, tour finals, shows that are going to be filmed, small venues in big cities, sold out shows, and member hometowns. for example, front~second row seats for w-inds. in nagoya for the 2007 journey tour went on y!j for close to $1000 a pop (no, that wasn't me, i stopped bidding at $400).
making your way around
trains in japan are wonderful.
if you're going to be staying in more than one city or plan on taking any day trips, it's almost always worth it to get a jr rail pass. depending on which one you get, you can ride any of the jr train lines, bus lines, and shinkansen (except the nozomi). you can get them for various periods of time, and for just certain areas of japan. more information on prices and types can be found at the official jr site (english). to get a rail pass, you have to buy an exchange pass in your home country (it's only available to tourists on a visitor visa), then exchange it for the actual rail pass when you get there. you can buy exchange passes at most jtb offices, or if you don't live near one, you can purchase one online here. both major airports and most major train stations have offices to exchange your pass in.
to figure out how to get from point a to point b, check out hyperdia.
be careful not to get stuck out too late. most trains do stop running at night, and you really don't want to get stuck wandering around looking for a place to stay. trust me, i've done it. when you go out, make sure you know when the last train leaves.
where to stay
hotels in japan can be an interesting experience. there are lots of typical western hotels around, but i prefer traditional japanese rooms by far. rooms there are pretty small and western beds take up much more room than a futon. not to mention, japanese mattresses leave a LOT to be desired.
ryokan kangetsu • you can get pretty much any kind of room at this place: western or japanese, with private bath or not. i usually just get a japanese room without the private bath because it's cheaper, and also because i like the public bath. theere's an outdoor women's bath that's wonderful. *_* also of note to tvxq fans, this was where part of 'tokyo holiday' was filmed.
sakura hotel • if you want to stay in a cheap place where everyone speaks english, this is a good choice. they have dorm-style rooms as well as individual and regular rooms. the rooms are teeeeeeeeny, and there are shared showers, toilets, and sinks, but they have internet access and a cafe of sorts down in the lobby. it's located in jimbocho, the used book district, where you can find all sorts of goodies and cheap food
petit ryokan ichifuji • i love this place. so much. it's a small (10 room), family run, traditional japanese ryokan. the rooms are clean and the whole place is beautiful. it's a little out of the way, but there's a conbini around the corner, and a book-off and mc donald's a few blocks away. the two baths are technically public, but because they don't have a separate men's and women's bath, just a smallish and bigger one, you lock it when you go in so if the public bathing thing bothers you, you don't have to worry about it.
i'll preface this part by stating that i am quite possibly the pickiest eater on the face of the earth. every time i've gone to japan i've come back at least five pounds lighter due to my eating habits combined with all the walking around. i pretty much suffice on plain udon and fast food, but there are a few other places i love. you'll run across lots of american fast food, but be warned it's a little different. namely, infinitely better. mc donald's and subway (i wish they sold the potato thingies here in the us) are popular, and you can find tgi friday's in shibuya and ueno.
there's two awesome italian places here, conveniently enough about a one minute walk from the ryokan kangetsu. mario's has really great pizza, especially the garlic. my favourite place is a tiny bit further down the same side street, but i can't for the life of me remember the name. just look for the italian flag hanging outside. so good omg.
there's a place here that's very near and dear to my heart: china house keikarou, a fantastic restaurant that happens to be run by aiba masaki's parents. take the sobu local line out towards chiba and get off at makuharihongo. at the turnstile go straight out the exit and take a left down the hill. at the crossing light take a right, the restaurant will be on your left in about two blocks. the food is wonderful, no kidding. the jpop muzak is a lol touch. XD
antonio's, italian food. running theme, whut? i can't help it, i adore alfredo, and their gnocci is to die for. jr nagoya station takashimaya, 11th floor.
you know shopping is the second reason you want to go to japan. XD there's an insane amount of shopping to be had, the only determining factor is where you want to go and what you want to buy. things in japan tend to be more expensive than elsewhere, but keep an eye out for used shops and such. keep in mind that only large chain stores will take credit cards, and sometimes not even then- make sure to carry cash. you can use foreign cards at atms, but only at post offices, which are only open during business hours. yes, the atms close. :(
tokyo • harajuku, takeshita-dori exit, go straight. there's at least five or six shops within five minutes of the exit for everything from photos, jewelry, phone charms, posters, and everything else. my favourite shop is a couple blocks down on the left. it's on the second floor above a clothing shop, and they've got a ton of used official goods, photos, fc goods, and random stuff from all the popular artists. head back towards the station and go towards and past snoopy, follow the winding road on your left to get to the johnny's shop.
osaka • shinsaibashi, sogo exit, go out and follow the covered shopping arcade for several blocks, just after you cross the bridge, look to your right, take elevator to 4th floor. idol pics and bootleg goods a-plenty.
kobe • get yourself lost in the shopping arcade across the street from the kobe kokusai kaikan and keep your eyes open. i get lost in that damn place every single time. at any rate, there's a rather vertical idol shop in there.
cds, dvds, magazines
retail • tower records, hmv, and tsutaya are popular and hard to miss stores in every city. in tokyo, shibuya is your best bet. if you're planning on spending a lot, most of them also have points cards that add up to discounts and such.
used • book-off is a wonderful place, and they're everywhere. also in tokyo, jimbocho, head towards akihabara and you'll run into several used cd shops. there are also shops that have a crapton of old magazines and music paraphernalia.
anywhere and everywhere. it depends on your taste, really, but harajuku is a good start. just remember japanese sizes run towards the tiny, try it on if you have the time, and be prepared to spend. designer clothes are crazy popular, but used clothing shops are great.
electronics, games, anime, manga
tokyo • akihabara is the mecca of it all. new or used, anime or video game, computer or console, hentai or squeaky clean. take your pick
osaka • nihonbashi, umeda, namba, shinsaibashi. all along the same subway line, for your convenience.
so... that's it! if i've made any glaring errors or you have any other questions, please ask. ^^