I doubted Tokyo Idol Festival. I didn’t think it could possibly live up to the hype or bring peace to the world. But it did.
In my defense, it’s normal to be skeptical of an event that includes NEP She Stars. The life-sized body pillows they were selling were really tacky. I bought three of them, but that’s not the point. The point is: I was wrong about TIF. On Sunday night, as the festival was wrapping up, I caught up with TIF and apologized. He said we were cool, and we did one of those handshake-hug things that guys do. Although he made me promise I wouldn’t come back for TIF 2013. I promised I wouldn’t. But I never keep my promises. In fact I’m bringing my grandma next year.
Tokyo Idol Festival 2013
Tokyo Idol Festival exceeded my expectations so much that I am already *thinking* about next years event. Which is significant because I try to avoid thinking as much as possible. I have a short attention span when it comes to music though, so there’s a chance I’ll feel differently in a year. I bet something crazy will happen like I’ll start listening to ska again. On a serious note, I do feel that I could use my experience at this years event, which involved mostly successes but a few failures, and be much better prepared for next year’s event. I think I unlocked the secrets to maximizing the TIF experience. And no, it does not involve hardcore drug use.
Maybe the random observations, tips, and suggestions I’ll cover can help motivate overseas fans to consider going. If I can motivate just one person to go… actually that’s too ambitious – if I can motivate half a person to go to TIF 2013, then I’ve done my job.
It hasn’t been announced, but I’m confident there will be a TIF 2013. You can tell when an event is successful or not, and this years TIF was definitely a success. Last year over 10,000 people attended and I read that this years attendance exceeded that. The number of groups participating also increased, so there’s a shared enthusiasm by both fans and artists. I only saw five overseas fans (I’m sure there were additional overseas fans from Asian countires, but I couldn’t distinguish them from Japanese fans. Unless I got in their face and interrogated them). Then again, maybe all the western fans were camping out for SKE, or were exclusively into the little kid groups like Oh! Campee and Minicheer Bears, which is why our paths didn’t cross.
Leveling-up Your Tokyo Idol Festival Experience
As long as Fuji TV remains the primary sponsor of TIF, I’m positive the event will continue to be held in Odaiba (Fuji TV’s headquarters), and the same venues will be used next year. They’ll probably continue to tweak or expand certain stages (for instance I could see the Wonder Future Planet theater changing because it was janky as hell, no offense Wonder Future Planet). Since the venues and wristbands were almost identical to last years, I am going to assume that the basic foundation of next years TIF will be the same as this years. Kind of a big assumption, but logically it would be much easier for the organizers to make alterations to the existing format than start from the ground up. TIF 2013 should be similar enough that the wall-of-text that I plan to write will be relevant next year.
Wristbands came in three varieties: 2-day passes were Morishi-yellow, Saturday-only were Ruka-red, and Sunday-only were Urumasa-blue. (I hope next year features a 3-day Reira-purple wristband). They make a big deal about not taking off your wristband, because they won’t reissue one if it’s removed. Despite the simple instructions, I thought that the 2-day wristband would be reissued each day. So after day 1 when I got to my hotel… I took mine off! *cue horror music* I didn’t think they would expect people to shower and sleep with their wristbands on. The whole time I thought I should keep it on just in case, but unfortunately my weird logic possessed me to take it off. The next day while on the subway I noticed that the kids on their way to Odaiba still had their yellow wristbands on! I felt like such a moron. Once I realized my mistake, I put the wristband back on and attached it by a tiny thread of plastic at the connecting clasp. It was literally held in place by gravity, and since it was on my right hand (aka my unpredictable, rebellious glowstick hand that has a mind of it’s own) I started thinking it would go flying the moment I waved uncontrollably at Reira. So I had to carefully remove it again and place it on my left wrist. I felt like the plastic clasp was going to disintegrate at any moment.
This is an embarrassing anecdote but hopefully it will prevent anyone from making the same mistake I made.
Odaiba Train Stations
There are several stations that stop at Odaiba, but the two that are the most relevant to the TIF venues are Tokyo Teleport and Telecom Center. Teleport is convenient when going to Zepp DiverCity (which is where the Main Stage is located) and Telecom Center is convenient when going to the Fuji Gulf Studio (which is where most of the other stages are). Train stations tend to be massive and therefore it could be important to take the correct exit, otherwise you could leave the station and end up being a kilometer away from your intended destination and have to backtrack. Tokyo Teleport is a small station though and you can take either the left or right exits. If you take the exit to the right, on the escalator up to the ground floor you’ll pass twenty or so Idoling!!! advertisements, so this way is the more “idol-y” route. The other exit also has a massive elevator heading up to the ground floor, but nothing idol related. If everything goes according to keikaku (plan), next year it should be covered with Party Rockets posters.
Once you leave the station, you’ll walk along a covered pathway, eventually pass a Lawson’s, and arrive at an intersection. Cross the street to DiverCity, a shopping mall which includes the Zepp venue. Wristbands are distributed at the Fuji Gulf Studio, so make a left and walk half a kilometer until you get to a massive glass building. I noticed there weren’t any signs or TIF staff providing directions, so I guess they assume everyone knows where to go.
Once you get to the Fuji Studio, head towards the gathering of people near the main entrance.
Exchanging your ticket for your wristband was relatively easy, although a little hectic just because of the number of people and the multiple TIF staff members simultaneously yelling out different instructions. Some staff were directing traffic for the 1-day passes and others for the 2-day, and each was calling out different ticket numbers in super-fast Japanese. My tip is to wait for them to start calling the hundreds digit that matches your ticket (in my case 500) and then try to follow the people who also have a ticket in the 500s (I had my sunglasses on so I was covertly looking at every ticket I could). When they started calling 500, I got in line and double-checked with a staff member that I was in the correct line, and he gave me the thumbs up sign. He also said I have great hair in broken English. When it’s your turn you walk under a canopy where there is a small army of TIF staff attaching wristbands and handing out TIF schedules and promotional fliers. Once you have your wristband you are free to queue at any of the stages.
I timed this photo horribly, because the guy pushing the cart is blocking the map that shows where to line up for Fantastic Theater, Secret Court, Sky Stage, and Doll Factory. The sign indicated the door on the left was for Sky Stage and Secret Court and the one on the right was for Fantastic Theater. There was an arrow indicating that Doll Factory was on the other side of the building. I wanted to go to Doll Factory, so continuing my moronic behavior I got in the line for Sky Stage and Secret Court! After five minutes in the wrong line I realized my mistake. Silly me! So I left that line and got in the Fantastic Theater line! The hell is wrong with me? After I realized I had gotten in the wrong line again, I went to the side of the building and got in the Doll Factory queue. If only there was a Tokyo Idol Festival 2012 walk-through.
Can it be front-row time nao pleez?
Are you the kind of person who prefers the front row when watching AeLL and Ai Shinozaki’s… personality? Are you the type who prefers the front row when watching any group not named NEP She Stars? Are you also the kind of person who prefers the front row when establishing Reira-fan Headquarters? If so, you’re in luck because in Japan there is an unspoken concert protocol that makes it very easy to watch your favorite group from up close.
I first noticed this behavior last year at an Idoling!!! x YGA concert. When one group finished their set and the other took the stage, people would give up their seat to someone who was a bigger fan of the group that was about to perform. This same behavior occurred at the predia, Afilia Saga East, and YGA concert I went to last week, so I was able to verify that I’m not crazy. You can see a similar phenomena when you watch festival-type idol concerts like the Idol Matsuri concert from April that featured SUPER GiRLS, C-ute, and other groups. There is a constant stream of movement of fans from the front rotating to the back, reminiscent of a toilet being continually flushed. This is the key to getting to the front of any concert that features alternating performers.
In order to get to the front you have to plan your attack at least two performances in advance of the group you are really interested in. On Day 1 I wanted to get as close as possible when PASSPO performed at Smile Garden. This was the group’s only performance that day, so I knew it would be a little tricky considering how packed Smile Garden always was (Smile Garden was the second most popular stage after Hot Stage). When I arrived the group Minicheer Bears was finishing up and EbiChu was about to perform. The closest I could get was row 25 or so on the right side of the stage. EbiChu performed the most boring set of any group I saw at TIF (no offense), but I stuck around because that’s part of the game of getting up close. After they finished I knew it would be critical to move as far forward as possible, because the next performer Risa Yoshiki isn’t extremely popular. In other words, when she finished her 15 minute set, I knew there wouldn’t be a lot of people leaving the stage, since most would be sticking around for PASSPO. The key is to basically ride the wave of people moving forward and not get caught in the stream of people leaving. If you’re timing is good and/or you just force your way forward, you can advance pretty far during just one intermission. Ideally you would want to be in the first seven rows at this point, because their won’t be as strong a push to jump the remaining few rows after the second intermission. For smaller stages, like Sky Stage and Secret Court, you would wan’t to be within the first four or five rows at this point.
As lame as it sounds, you have to be really dedicated to following this plan in order for it to work in your favor. On Day 2, I queued early for Hot Stage and was able to watch Afilia Saga East from the third row. The schedule of performances was ASE, YGA, Tomato n’ Pine, and then SUPER☆GiRLS. My main objective for the entire weekend was to watch SUPER☆GiRLS from as close as possible, and I was in great position. Unfortunately I allowed my indifference to YGA distract me into vacating my spot and watching their set from the second floor. It was a critical mistake – I basically hit the reset button on my positioning for SUPER☆GiRLS, which was the reason I had queued at Zepp two hours before the venue opened. When I realized the tactical error I made, I went back to the first floor and tried to make some progress moving forward as YGA finished their set. Once they finished and their army of fans vacated the front area, I pressed as far forward as I could. I wanted to watch Tomapai’s performance anyway, so that was added incentive to get closer. I was only able to get to the 8th row though, which I could already calculate wasn’t going to be close enough to make another push during the next intermission before SUPER☆GiRLS came on. I was able to get to the third row after Tomapai finished, but it was definitely a missed opportunity. You have to remember to keep your primary objective in mind and just endure a performance that you’re not really into. And it turned out YGA’s performance was pretty good, so I should have stuck around and given them a chance. When you go to a festival type event, you’re not going to like every single performer, but it’s in your best interest to stick to the strategy.
“Can’t I just force my way to the front?”
When I saw PASSPO at the Main Stage a group of three girls and a guy forced their way to the front row announcing “We’re hardcore PASSPO fans!”. It was hilarious. As if that was justification to push people out of their way, not to mention that most people already in the front were hardcore fans as well. And this was just a minute before PASSPO took the stage, so everyone was already settled into their spots. They moved towards the middle area and I stopped paying attention to them. Until five minutes later when four teenage girls came out of the same middle area crying. Even without being there, it was obvious what happened. Imagine a deranged, starving polar bear walks into an orphanage and a few minutes later all the orphans flee in terror. You would automatically assume it had something to do with the bear trying to digest one of the kids. A few minutes later two of the girls who had forced their way to the front were escorted out. And five minutes later the remaining two left. They left on their own though, I think they felt bad about what happened, because they seemed really embarrassed. Because four people decided to force their way to the front it resulted in four girls who had really great position not being able to watch PASSPO at all, and resulted in the four jerks not being able to watch them either. And it was distracting to everyone in the area.
TIF Traffic Report
Changing stages is part of the TIF experience. When making your personal schedule you have to keep in mind the length of time it takes to get from one stage to another. The wild-cards are the Sky Stage and Secret Court, since they can only be accessed by a lift.
- Doll Factory, Fantastic Theater, and Smile Garden to Zepp DiverCity (Hot Stage and Green Oasis) is about a 10 minute walk.
- Taking the lift up or down to Sky Stage/Secret Court can take as little as 5 minutes or as long as 1 hour (and the line for the elevator up is almost always much shorter than the line coming down)
- Sky Stage to Secret Court is a 2 minute walk up or down a flight of stairs (to get to the Sky Stage you have to walk up seven flights of stairs located directly in front of Secret Court)
- Sky Stage to Hot Stage takes a minimum of 25 minutes, and possibly as much as 90 minutes if you’re caught in a huge line on the rooftop.
Tips on how to deal with the Sky Stage/Secret Court elevator:
- There are two lifts that take you up to the roof, each one has a capacity of 14 people. For each descent and ascent it takes about three minutes to unload and load, and then travel seven stories. If there are 200 people in line, obviously this can be pretty time-consuming.
- If you are planning on leaving the rooftop venue, you should schedule leaving before or during a group’s set. If you leave after a performance, you are guaranteed to get caught in a long line.
- If you correctly time when you leave the roof you can get in a line of 10 people or less, and therefore wait less than five minutes to get down. If you leave after a popular group performs, you could find yourself in a line that snakes the entire length of the roof and wait an hour to get to the ground floor. In this scenario, it doesn’t make sense to stay in the line. You can check out another group’s performance, use the strategy of leaving that performance early, and return to the same line, but at that point most of the people will have gone down. It ends up taking the same amount of time to get down, but you were able to catch another show. Watching any group perform is better than waiting in a huge line.
Breaks and Lunch
When I was planning my schedule I included a few breaks, because I thought it was mature of me to consider something like that. In retrospect, breaks were completely unnecessary. There is enough down time during intermissions, waiting in line for the lift, and waiting in line for drinks that I could have gone the entire day without a break. All I needed was water and Red Bulls. In fact, taking a break resulted in missing several rooftop performances: Idoling!!! (1st gen), Afilia Saga East, and B♭ (a group made up of Party Rocket members) because I left the roof to use the restroom (there’s only one and it’s on the first floor), and by the time I got back up to the roof, 45 minutes had passed. In retrospect it was a little ridiculous that there was only one restroom in the entire Fuji Gulf studio vicinity.
TIF Resale Tickets
For most concerts, the best tickets are the expensive resale tickets. Resale tickets can cost 10x the actual face value of a ticket. With TIF, all tickets are essentially equal. So it’s amusing when I think about the TIF tickets that were on resale websites for 5x the face value. Outside of the very first performance at TIF on Day 1, there are no benefits to having a low numbered ticket. And it’s unlikely that a very popular group is going to perform first thing on Day 1, so being in one of the early queues isn’t that important. Therefore when buying a ticket, even if it’s on the day of the event, purchase a normal ticket.
Don’t forget to waste money at the marketplace
I got so caught up with performances that I totally forgot to check out Grand Market, which is where all the groups sold their goods. I planned on buying predia and PASSPO merchandise, more SUPER☆GiRLS stuff, and souvenirs from a few other groups, but I never took the time to actually go to the marketplace. If you don’t buy anything, then you can’t do handshakes and 2-shots. Of course since predia, PASSPO, and SUPER☆GiRLS weren’t doing 2-shots, there was a lot less motivation to spend money, but I still missed out on talking to my favorite idols Reira (SUPER☆GiRLS) and Reiko (predia). These are the types of missed opportunities I hope to avoid next year.
The Best Stages
Sky Stage and Secret Court are easily the best stages at TIF, offering rare and unique access to the groups. If one of your favorite groups is performing at either of these two stages, try not miss out. And because Secret Court is located near a flight of stairs, you can relax and still have a great view.
Secret Court is also situated within a corridor, so for most of the day the stage is in the shade.
The main stage at Zepp DiverCity is basically the same type of experience you would have at any of the other generic concert venues in Japan. Which of course isn’t a bad thing, but it completely lacks the atmosphere of the rooftop stages.
Last-second Schedule Changes
Similar to last year, the TIF timetable updated several times leading up to the event. There were at least three updates prior to Day 1, and additional updates during Day 2, after the official schedules had already been printed and distributed during Day 1. Updates were announced at their website and through their twitter account. Unfortunately due to the cost of international data, I had data disabled on my phone and was unaware of these updates. This resulted in missing out on Party Rocket’s Day 2 night show and Afilia Saga East for the second time. If you have data disabled on your phone, you should at least check the TIF website while you’re at your hotel the night before and the morning of, before you head out.
If you don’t have time for a full summer vacation in Japan, TIF is still absolutely worth going to even if just for a weekend. I’m convinced it’s the single best concert an idol fan can attend. It’s certainly better than competing idol festivals like the a-nation spin-off IDOL NATION, which was the weekend after TIF. I was reading the SUPER☆GiRLS blog and they only performed three songs during the early show and four songs during the night. That’s only a 15-20 minute set. And unlike TIF where you get up close to the groups, at a-nation you’re in a stadium where you’ll probably be watching the projector screen more often than the actual stage. Not to mention a-nation tickets cost significantly more.
On the other hand… NEP She Stars weren’t at IDOL NATION.