There are undoubtedly so many reasons that brought you to Japan. It could be the food, people, environment, the list goes on.. But regardless it is safe to assume that you love Japanese culture.
Music is a big aspect of the culture indeed. You might have discovered Japanese bands or singers already, or you might know some bands whose songs appear in anime.
Now that you are here in Japan, you’ll have many opportunities to see them live.
However, there are some rules and manners that you should know before you actually go to a venue.
This article is to inform you of these few norms, but before we get started, it is necessary to learn some Japanese words related to them.
・ライブ (live) is used as a noun here, meaning “live show” or “gig.”
・ライブハウス (live house) is a Japanese-English word which means the place where the live shows are held. In this article, “venue” is used for this word instead.
・バンドマン (band man) simply means a band member or a musician. This is also vocab created by Japanese music lovers.
Okay, now we’re ready to learn how to enjoy live shows in Japanese style!
1. Recording video or audio is strictly prohibited
On YouTube or other video sharing websites, there are tons of videos which are apparently recorded by audience, however in Japan it is mostly forbidden.
Please don’t be surprised if you have to go through a bag check at the entrance of the venue. Just be calm, they are not accusing you of anything. They only require you to open your bag to show them what you have and prove that you don’t have any tools for recording.
“I’m so happy to have this rule here!”
One foreigner who attended a certain show said.
“In my country, all the people on the floor are holding their phones or cameras during the show and I can’t really see and concentrate on the performance. So I just love it!”
2. What is “One-drink” service?
When you got a ticket for a show, you may notice a note on it, written “one-drink required” or “500 yen for one-drink.” It means that you either must or can have “a cup” of beverage before or after the show.
It depends on the venue, but the reason why they give you a drink in “a cup” is mostly in order to prevent accidents and incidents caused by people bringing their own drinks.
Before this one-drink system was set, there were so many issues. For instance, some disgruntled audiences kept throwing huge plastic bottles onto the stage and band members got injured. So some venues still prohibit the audience from bringing plastic bottles.
3. How to keep your belongings safe
If you are going to the venue after class or after work, you might have a big bag or briefcase. Or, if it’s winter, you could be wearing a coat or a jacket, which would be annoying to hold with you during the show.
So it is good to know whether the venue includes “コインロッカー (coin lockers)” and coat check or not before you leave your place. If they don’t, you can use automatic lockers at the closest train station or convenience store.
Just in case you cannot find any lockers and have to bring your belongings with you, please don’t leave them on the floor and rush into a mosh pit. Although Japan is considered relatively safe, there is still the possibility of losing your stuff. You can ask the staff at the venue for advice if you’re not sure what to do.
4. Clothing that isn’t welcome
Needless to say we have the right to wear whatever we want, especially for special occasions like concerts. You must be excited thinking about which outfit you’ll look most fabulous in.
However, Japanese audiences have some unspoken rules about fashion, mostly at punk rock bands’ shows.
Wearing high heels is obviously dangerous, not only for the person wearing them but also for other audience members. It is strongly recommended that you wear sneakers if you want to jump or dance to live music.
For those with long hair, it is safest to tie your hair up. Otherwise your hair could get into someone’s mouth, etc..
It depends on where you stand, but mini skirts are also considered unsuitable because your legs could get cut or beat up during the show.
Also, and this is not about fashion, but getting a piggy-back ride is not common in Japan, just fyi.
5. Well, if you really want to…
My final piece of advice is actually considered manners by some people: the action called “出待ち (demachi).”
If you really love the band members and would like to give them some gift or get their autographs, it is not impossible.
All you have to do is wait for them to come out of the venue. Some band members are very friendly and nice to those fans, but on the other hand, some might be in a rush to leave because they are tired, or they need to move on to another show as soon as possible.
Please note that 出待ち is NOT the official process to meet bands at all. Besides some venues are rather strict, banning 出待ち altogether. So make sure it is actually okay at your venue, and ask yourself whether it is worth it or not.
Do you think these tips above are too strict and boring? Well, maybe you are right, at least in your country. But this is the way it is in Japan, and since you are here now, you should at least do your best to experience and enjoy your concerts in Japanese style. Japanese audiences would love to share the live music and have fun with you.
As a last note, this article is primarily applicable for rock and roll bands’ shows, which means that it differs from other J-pop concerts. Please be aware of this and have a great time 🙂
Rin Yakab / Japan