For the lonesome traveler, live music is a great way to fill your time and makes you feel like you belong. In this regard, Japan’s really got you covered. Really, they’ve got a myriad of genres on offer here, and you can see gigs pretty much every night of the week. The only issue, as far as I can tell, is the minor fiasco of getting your hands on physical tickets. It’s a rare occurrence that they just show up in your email, something we’ve grown accustomed to in 2018, expecting nothing less than the least amount of effort and/or interaction with the outside world possible.

At the end of your purchase you’ll be wading through a swamp of small print, which, with some extremely ill-advised aid by Google Translate, I can boil down to three frequently occuring ticketing options. All these options require an extra step that seems exclusive to gig-going in Japan.

This isn’t meant as a criticism, and it certainly isn’t a breakdown of how to order tickets (that you can easily find elsewhere). It’s just pointing out one of those surprising dichotomies of Japan, a culture that so often embraces personal technology (I saw a guy miss the urinal entirely while playing poker on his phone) but still uses these antiquated methods from yesteryear, which don’t seem all that convenient.  

Here’s a pretty quick ranking of collection options, none of which include “do nothing and have it emailed to you.”

Pick up from a konbini. Sometimes an option, definitely the most straightforward. Still, 7-11 is a pretty off-brand way to start your night of, say, thrash metal at an underground club.

Having the tickets delivered to you. Less frequently on offer. If you’ve got this option, jump in presto, because the alternative is:

The Loppi.

What sounds like a B-grade Italian horror movie is actually the ultimate, requistive obstacle to a lot of concerts. It’s kind of like the beeping, blank-faced final video game boss, or an ugly troll dragging you under the bridge with an impossible riddle when you thought you were almost home. If it sounds like I’m harboring a bit of Loppi resentment, I’m sorry, it’s probably due to my numerous defeats at the hands of the Loppi. At this stage I’m 0 – 3: zero successful attempts without pleading for help. I appreciate a challenge, but if navigating the ticketing websites requires a vague understanding of hiragana, the Loppi requires a PhD in kanji.

There’s no on-screen translation option, which lazy expats like myself are probably too reliant on, so you might need to do your homework. Regardless, everytime I think I’ve got these things figured out, notes from a YouTube tutorial in hand, my failure is announced to the entire store, with a haunting, soul crushing, “bloop.” The staff don’t say anything, but I know what they’re thinking; they know it’s amateur hour. Clearly the locals have no problem with them, because they’re a relic Japan seems keen to hang on to. If you, well-traveled and educated reader, find them easy, make millions off dummies like me, with an instruction manual.

For those unfamiliar, Loppi machines are plastic kiosks intended for purchasing or printing tickets from convenience stores. If you’re going to a lot of shows in Japan, chances are you’ll come face-to-face with one of these moody suckers before long. They’re not exactly rock’n’roll monoliths demanding attention, more like rinky-dink plastic PCs straight from the GameCube era. In fact, the Loppi machines are so insignificant-looking you probably missed them your first thirty trips to Lawson. Australian visitors might confuse them for self-service gambling machines you find at the pubs, the ones usually stained with beer under the horse races.

The general idea here is you have an “L Code” somewhere in the depths of your ticket confirmation email. You need to follow the appropriate prompts to put this in, along with your address and phone number. Don’t have a phone number? It’s time to make a new friend and start begging to steal their identity. You’ll also see a little old phone attached to the machine. If you’re anything like me, don’t pick it up, you’ve been embarrassed enough. Your terrible Japanese has already been exposed, now’s not the time to test your total lack of listening skills.

Get through this without losing total enthusiasm for your concert, and your new pal spits out a ticket, which you then exchange at the counter for the real deal. At this point most foreigners might start asking something like, why do I need a hard copy ticket? Do people still collect these? Is there such a mistrust or fear of scalping that digital copies can only be trusted five percent of the time? How convenient is a convenience store when I could be doing this on my phone on the toilet? This isn’t the place to ask for answers but I’m sure they’re out there.

I imagine an unassisted Loppi visit would feel like a great personal victory for foreigners, an extremely small step towards total cultural assimilation. Word is, buy a ticket unassisted and the shop staff hold a ceremony in your honor, while the Prime Minister waits in line for you at the Immigration Bureau to extend your visa. The start of the year is all about setting goals, and cracking this not-so-foreigner-friendly machine is a good one.

The views expressed in “The Last Word” are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of Japan Partnership Co. Ltd. or its partners and sponsors.
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