Idol 101: Tips for Tokyo Idol Festival

Tokyo Idol Festival 2018 is almost upon us! Since I went to Tokyo Idol Festival in 2016 and 2017, I thought I’d make a list of things that I might have liked to know before going.

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1. Look for free tickets for foreigners

It’s a bit late for this one now, but for those of you who aren’t aware, Tokyo Girls’ Update has been giving free tickets to Tokyo Idol Festival to every foreigner who has applied for the last couple years. I think they usually give them out a couple weeks to a couple months before the festival. Just go to the wristband exchange booth by the Info Centre near the back of the festival, line up, show your passport and free ticket voucher, and you’ll get your free wristband. When I went, they gave you a one day wristband each time, so you had to do it at the beginning of each day.

2. Get there early or late

Performances start around 10:00 AM, but I wouldn’t recommend getting there at 9:30 or 10:00. Lines to get tickets or free wristbands can be crazy around these times, so I’d recommend getting there at least an hour before it starts or a couple hours after it starts to beat the crazy lines.

3. You might need a special ticket to see your favorite group

In the two years I went, everything 48G, 46G, and Momoclo related needed a special ticket, which you had to line up early in the morning for a chance of getting. Hello! Project, other Stardust groups, Idol Street, and WACK didn’t require anything special, but it’s always good to check. They’re free, but first come first serve. I think they usually start handing them out at 7:30 AM and you’re probably going to want to be there no later than 8:00. I lined up to get a ticket to see SKE48/NGT48 at 8:15 or 8:30 in 2016 and I barely made it in. If you want to see a really famous group, look into it, you might need something special.

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4. Tokyo Gravure Idol Festival is a thing

Does taking a picture with your favorite idol in a bikini or squirting your favorite idol with a squirt gun while she’s wearing a sheer T-shirt sound good to you? Of course it does, you perv (I went last year so we’re in this together). Anyway, Tokyo Gravure Idol Festival is part of Tokyo Idol Festival, so if you have tickets to TIF, you can also go to TGIF. TGIF has a number of idols, ex-idols, and gravure idols participating and for 2000 yen, you can do one of the two things I just mentioned. Right now in 2018, Marina Nagasawa is probably the most well known girl participating, but there are also a lot of smaller gravure idols and girls from Akishibu Project, FES☆TIVE, Erabareshi, SHINGEKI, Junjou no Afilia, and more (you can see the full list here). I’ll be honest, it’s a little confusing if you don’t know any Japanese, but you can do it! Each day, they will sell a small amount of tickets at 7:30 AM in the Grand Market and the rest at 10:00 AM. You’ll want to be there right at 10:00 AM and if you want to see a really popular girl like Marina Nagasawa, get there at 7:30 for the advance sales. When I went, I was handed a sheet of paper and pen and had to line up. While I was waiting in line, I checked the names of the attraction I wanted to do, the girls I wanted to see, and how many tickets I wanted. I think you’re limited to three pictures per girl or something like that. Everything’s in Japanese, so make sure you know the names of the girls you want to see in Japanese. If you’re confused, you can try to talk to the staff at the table in English, they are pretty used to foreigners so they might be able to help.

5. Go on Friday if you can, especially Friday morning and afternoon

Don’t get me wrong, Tokyo Idol Festival is always busy, but it’s definitely the calmest during the work day on Friday. Get there early on Friday for a chance to see your favorite groups in a slightly more relaxed atmosphere. I’d also recommend choosing Friday to meet members of popular groups if they’re going to be there on multiple days because the lines will be the least crazy.

6. Expand your horizons

Mostly a fan of mainstream idols? Tokyo Idol Festival is a great opportunity to camp out at some of the smaller stages and see if an underground group interests you. Do you like underground idols? You still might want to take the chance to see mainstream groups at Tokyo Idol Festival. When else are you going to get the opportunity to see 48G, Hello! Project, Stardust, Idol Street, or WACK groups for free?

7. TIF might be your big opportunity to see groups from other parts of Japan

Tokyo Idol Festival really wants to represent all of Japan’s idols, so there are many idols from other prefectures who pretty much never come to Tokyo at Tokyo Idol Festival. I mean, you can go to Hokkaido or Fukuoka to see idols, but that’s pretty expensive, huh? Going to Tokyo Idol Festival is a much better deal (unless you want to travel there anyway).

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8. Look for special events and collaborations

Every year, there are a few units made specially for TIF. For example, this year, WACK has the HOLY SHiTS and SAiNT SEX shuffle units and there is a unit specially made of members from Tacoyaki Rainbow, Hachimitsu Rocket, and HKT48. There’s also things like talk shows, karaoke competitions, quiz shows, arm wrestling competitions, special food collaborations, and more. Check the time tables!

9. Don’t plan to stay outside all day

Tokyo Idol Festival is always insanely hot. You need to protect yourself! Besides bringing sunscreen and a towel, you should plan to spend some time inside. Either spend some time at the indoor stages or hang out in the nearby mall so you don’t pass out or anything.

10. Bring food and water

There’s a nearby convenience store and a mall in the middle of the festival with a food court, but the convenience store always sells out of popular items and the food court is crazy busy (and pretty expensive). While you can get things there, you should bring water, energy drinks, and some snacks. There’s some restaurants in other parts of the mall, so you might want to go there instead of the main food court for better prices and smaller crowds.

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11. Don’t go crazy

Some of the idol groups at Tokyo Idol Festival normally have a pretty intense atmosphere, but Tokyo Idol Festival has strict rules. At TIF, you can’t mosh, dive, jump, or do lifts. They enforce these rules pretty strictly, so while you will still see people doing them, I’d refrain from doing anything that could get staff mad at you.

12. Don’t bring anything weird

Each time you go in the Greeting Area/Grand Market to buy merch and/or meet idols, they check all of your bags. I’m not suggesting that you were planning on shanking an idol or something, but leave anything that could make you look suspicious at home.

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13. TIF has exclusive merch

There’s always some exclusive T-shirt collaborations and things like that, so keep an eye out to see if your favorite idols are doing any special merch. They also have gacha machines where you can try to get pins of the idols you like. The machines seem pretty popular and people might be willing to trade with you.

14. Meet and greet might be a bit complicated

Most idols (aside from 48G, 46G, and a few others) will be doing some kind of meet and greet in the Greeting Area. Be careful! Groups have pretty random times that don’t usually line up with their performances at all, so make sure you know when you can go see them. Also keep in mind that because of the security checks, there’s a huge line to get into the meet and greet area. If the meet and greet starts at 10, don’t assume you can just stroll on over at 10, get there early. With some groups, you have to go to their merchandise area earlier in the day to buy CDs, photos etc and get the meet and greet tickets that come along with them. Meet and greet only lasts for an hour, so if you’re planning on lining up for a really popular group, get there really early. With bigger groups, prices are sometimes cheaper than normal, but you get less time and fewer perks (for example, a signed cheki may become an unsigned cheki or they will just sign the date). Smaller groups will often try to get new fans by doing things they don’t normally do like free handshakes and free phone pictures. Keep an eye out for the word free (無料), you might be able to meet more idols than you thought you would! However, security will be tighter with smaller groups. At TIF, you are not allowed to hold anything when you go up to meet an idol, even though it is normally allowed with underground idol groups. Things like physical contact might also be more limited.

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15. Be safe and have fun!

I don’t know, I had to end with some cheesy rule to wrap it up. I’m sure you’ll have a blast!


Have you been to Tokyo Idol Festival? Do you have any tips of your own? Let me know!

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