Recap: Tokyo Idol Festival 2015

17 Aug

Every year I wonder why the f-junk Tokyo Idol Festival feels less fun than the year before. TIF 2012 was the funnest concert I’ve ever been to in Japan. Yet despite every successive TIF having an improved lineup while basically regurgitating the identical format, they’ve all paled in comparison with 2012.

And I think the reason has become clear. Everyone put on your glasses and study the following chart for the next two hours. 

Year Attendance Number of Stages
2011 10,000 6
2012 21,500 8-9 (8 on Day 1, 9 on Day 2)
2013 33,000 6
2014 41,000 7
2015 51,500 8

TIF 2012 had the perfect blend of attendance and stages. Every year since has had a significant increase in attendance, yet the number of stages has remained relatively static. Because there hasn’t been an incremental increase in venues, stages are continually overcrowded. I mean, where do you think the 30,000 new attendees since 2012 are going? They definitely aren’t all hanging out at the TIF Info Centre! Although speaking of the Info Centre, I think it’s hilarious that I missed this. As if any normal person would read “Young Jump stage” on the timetable and then think, “Ooh cool, Palet is going to be wearing bikinis” and proceed to circle that segment of the timetable with a crayon and draw a million arrows pointing to it so they don’t forget.

Anyway, If you’ve ever been to Disneyland on a busy day and then gone back during a quiet day, they are completely different experiences. One experience sucks and the other is, dare I say, much much less sucky. Every summer in Japan is going to be brutally hot. And every music festival is going to have groups you like and groups you dislike. But the negatives become insignificant when the event is fun, which directly correlates with attendance. Conversely, the negatives become amplified when conditions suck. On the most basic and primitive psychological level, humans desire their own space and access to adequate resources. Humans can tolerate other humans, until the moment they start encroaching on their space and resources. At TIF, this means, I can tolerate the existence of other fans, until they start interfering with my ability to jump around like an idiot for my oshimen!!

More than 51,000 human beings (and human doings) attended TIF this year. That is 50,999 more than I would like. And considering a lot of fans enter the venues with their bags, the consequence is a ginormous decrease in free space. I know they aren’t intentionally trying to be annoying, but it’s ridiculous having to walk over bags at every stage or have someone’s bag continually brush against you during a performance. Or not being able to jump or even move because some mofo put their bag on the ground right next to you. People who bring their bag to the performance area instead of drop it off at the back are basically doubling the space they would typically occupy. TIF shares the blame for not providing lockers or a bag check, but the real culprits are the fans whose idiosyncrasies compel them to bring their entire collection of shirts, towels, and penlights in order for them to feel they are properly supporting the myriad of groups they are pushing. 

The organizers deserve credit this year though, because the event was a huge improvement over 2014. Tobi and I were able to collect our wristbands–which were free for non-residents, immediately at 8:00 without having to wait in a queue. Comparatively, last year’s tickets for non-residents were only made available after 10:00. The return of Zepp DiverCity was also a huge improvement. The labyrinth to enter the Hot Stage was also simplified and I was able get into the priority seating area both days. Getting in last year was almost impossible unless you queued for the stage before it opened, or went at night during day 1. I also thought the lineup had something for everyone, with a good mix of “surprise guests” like SKE48, Silent Siren, and the new H!P group Kobushi Factory, along with the return of groups that were personally relevant to me, specifically all the iDOL Street groups and 9nine (although I still wasn’t able to see them).

Day One Schedule
NEO from Idoling (Heat Garage)
Sunmyu (Heat Garage)
Akihabara Backstage Pass (Heat Garage)
SKE48 (Heat Garage)
Sendai Syrup (Enjoy Stadium)
BudLaB (Enjoy Stadium)
Dear Stars (Enjoy Stadium)
PREDIANNA (Enjoy Stadium)
DIANNA☆SWEET (Enjoy Stadium)
Doll☆Elements (Enjoy Stadium)
Up Up Girls (Hot Stage)
The Possible (Hot Stage)
Otome Shinto (Hot Stage)
X21 (Hot Stage)
Doll☆Elements (Hot Stage)
Idoling!!! (Smile Garden)
predia (Smile Garden)
PiiiiiiiN (Enjoy Stadium)
Ange Reve (Enjoy Stadium)
3 Min (Enjoy Stadium)
Akishibu Project (Doll Factory)
Houkago Princess (Doll Factory)

Day Two Schedule
Silent Siren (Heat Garage)
Palet (Heat Garage)
GEM (Festival Stage)
HR (Heat Garage)
PASSPO (Heat Garage)
Lovely★Doll (Heat Garage)
SUPER☆GiRLS (Heat Garage)
Idoling!!! (Heat Garage)
Passcode (Heat Garage)
GEM (Heat Garage)
Prizmmy (Heat Garage)
Doll☆Elements (Heat Garage)
predia (Heat Garage)
Idoling!!! (Hot Stage)
Grand Finale (Hot Stage)

Mini-recap & random observations

I queued at Heat Garage (Zepp DiverCity) both mornings, several hours before the venue opened and the day one “SKE48 queue” was at least five times larger than the day 2 “Silent Siren queue.” By 8:30 on day 1 there were already hundreds of fans waiting, likely to see SKE48, although the first fifteen or so were all NEO from Idoling fans. On day 2, I arrived at the stage at 8:00 and was surprised that there wasn’t even a queue. There were a lot of Silent Siren fans in the area, but for some reason the TIF staff wasn’t allowing an official queue to form. When they finally did allow one to form alongside the edge of the venue, it was a fraction of the size of day 1. I started the day here because NEO opened day 1 and Silent Siren opened day 2. With NEO disbanding, this was one of the last opportunities to see them and I thought they were awesome. I wish they performed longer than 15 minutes, considering Sunmyu and Akihabara Backstage Pass followed them and both had longer sets. Silent Siren opening day 2 also provided a rare opportunity to see them from the front row.

On day 1, I wanted to do Doll☆Elements handshake event since it perfectly coincided with the break in my schedule. I went to their booth and purchased a Doll☆Elements towel, but the staff member said I would have to go to the Tower Records booth in order to purchase a cd to get an event ticket. Unfortunately, the Tower Records queue was massive, slow, and completely in the sun, so I scrapped that plan.

On day 1, I randomly met up with Tobi while walking to the wristband exchange booth. In the evening, I randomly ran into tsutomo near Smile Garden. I was in the area because I wanted to go up to Sky Stage for the evening performances of Ai Shinozaki, Idoling!!!, and predia. Unfortunately, that was impossible because of the queue from hell. The wait was probably 2 hours, considering how slow the elevators operate and how many people were in line. Predia at night at Sky Stage is my ultimate TIF highlight, so that was disappointing. Speaking of predia, they have been my favorite performers at 3 of the 4 TIFs I’ve attended. They always perform their best songs at TIF and somehow I am always able to see them from up close, because magically a path to the front opens during the transitions between groups.

The last thing I’ll mention is that during day 1, a bat was flying inside the Hot Stage area for more than 30 minutes. Totally annoying, except when it collided with a member of the Possible. It was the early afternoon, so I’m not sure why it was even flying around, but it was probably terrified and having an impossible time navigating out of the tent area. TIF should have shut down the speakers for a minute to allow it to leave, because it was really distracting.

TIF Breakfast

My editor says people love this kind of thing, so here is my official TIF day 1 and day 2 breakfasts.

The end


6 Responses to “Recap: Tokyo Idol Festival 2015”

  1. wattstax17 2015/08/18 at 1:53 am #

    Nice post and very detailed! Let me comment chronologically as there are several things I need to address. I hope you don’t mind if I start a discussion here.

    You’ve made a great sociological analysis on why TIF often isn’t that enjoyable as it could be: The amount of people, crowded together in several stages. Your reckoning makes sense, that the increase of people should also conincide with an increase of stages. I never thought of it, as my experience with TIF started only in 2014, so I considered the circumstances as normal. What surprised/shocked me this time were the several occassions, were Doll Factory was full and long queues were forming. Can’t remember this from 2014, at least not to that extend! Luckily every time I passed by I wanted to go for Enjoy Stadium. Still, do you have an explanation, why? When looking at the groups performing there, none of them made think of attracting large crowds.

    But if I would imagine now, having like 12 proper stages (nothing like Sky Stage (elevators), My Navi Stage (small), it would help a lot to spread the fans in the area. Additionally it would offer more opportunities for the schedules, maybe even longer sets. But the real issue here would be, that it is impossible to increase the number of stages, at least in Odaiba. Already stages are to far apart, new ‘tent’ stages would interfere with the sound and more indoor stages like in Venus Fort would be even farther and destroy the outdoor experience. I talked about it with Caio once and we considered a new location as a solution, like here in Germany, were they use airport cargo halls: It still keeps the outdoor feel, stages are close by and interference from casual people and tourists is none. Isn’t something like Makuhari Messe an option? Never been there.

    The lack in space sucked a lot, especially in the indoor stages, when they were filled to the max. I can not blame the fans though, as at the outdoor stages and the Greeting Area no shadow was offered (except the small “park” near Smile Garden). To my shame I am one of those bag wearing people, BUT I always put mine on the side or back at the stage. I can not afford to go without it, as I often buy a lot during TIF in the Market Square. It is one of the attractions for me. Coin lockers therefore wouldn’t help that much, as paying 300 Yen minimum everytime I added new purchases to it would become to expensive. Maybe a free wardrobe area would help?
    The bag is also used by me to store drinks and food. How did you cope?

    Just to conclude, I like TIF in general. This time it was even better, as some improvements were made (I like to add the food stalls in Greeting Area to your list). Still, the heat is a huge issue, not sure if this would relativise with better surroundings. Hot Stage really improved? But in retrospect I wouldn’t have found time, or energy, to go there. The entire day in the sun drags a lot.

    So Palet in bikinis – and you were not there? Your heavy criticism makes finally sense now!

    Is your list only naming your attendance of performances of groups you liked, or the complete list of every performance you saw? The first seems unlikely as I see PassCode there, the latter would surprise me as you avoided basically any show that would have been uninteresting to you.

    The queues for ZeppDiverCity… Impressive, how fans are only there for the performance of one group. Too bad I couldn’t see NEO. At least my sister managed to see Idoling!!!, though she was disappointed: They focussed so much on a perfect performance, that Mayu had no time to recognise her (she even managed to get 2nd row) ;) On day 1 I was trying for handshake tickets for NEO, but at my first attempt the line was (Super-)long (kawaaaiiiiiiiiiii) and when I went later to buy me a ticket in preparartion for the next day (clever, heh?), I forgot about asking for a handshake ticket out of anger. I was trying to buy my sister a Mayu fan shirt, which if I understood correctly, would have cost me 10,000 Yen and needed to be collected some time at the end of August(???). No way! Now I hope that Mayu continues her idol career, maybe doing further songs with Miri? I liked their song.

    Your experience with purchasing a Doll Elements handshake ticket bedazzles me. When I went there, I just said ‘akushukai chiketto?’ and they dirtributed me with the ticket, that came together with a photocard – Yukino even :) I am not sure anymore, but I believe it was on Day 1 as well. Maybe you did some of your *cough* great *cough* puns again, something like ‘It would be an i-DOLL situation to purchase all the ELEMENTS need for a handshake.’, that they send you to Tower Records booth?

    You ran into Caio on Day 2? Wasn’t he working that day?

    I like your breakfast! I am just to cheap of a character to look for a better hotel with such amenities. I am not the breakfast type either. Those potatoes look like ‘croquettes’. Never heard of tater tots.

    I am apologizing for this long, random post.

  2. Shaun 2015/08/18 at 3:04 am #

    Regarding Doll Elements: I guess I effed up :P During concerts you get a handshake ticket by purchasing a photo pack for 1000Y (includes 3 random photos) or a cd, and I assumed it would be the same for TIF. I never thought of just asking for an akushukai ticket. Instead I inquired where the cds were, because I didn’t want photos. I was actually really close to just asking for the photo though, because it would have been convenient. Let’s go back in time :D

    And thanks for the correction, I saw him on day 1 :P

    The list of groups was my complete schedule for both days. I edited to make it more clear. And there are definitely groups in the list that I am not familiar with or a fan of. On day 2 I didn’t do much. From 12:30 to 15:30 I did nothing. I had lunch at the DiverCity food court and killed time for three hours. I just lost interest and the air con was like a drug. But when I returned to TIF I went pretty hard from 16:00 to 20:00.

    I knew you had a bag, and I thought of that while writing–I heavily edited the criticisms I initially wrote, hehe. As far as bags go, messenger bags are tolerable because they have a smaller profile and I understand the need. The types I hate are backpacks because they constantly hit the people standing directly behind and the people who place their goods on the floor, which I then have to avoid stepping on, instead of just focusing on the performance. I always travel light. Whatever I purchase I put in my pockets or hold.

    Queues were set up whenever the venues filled, and since there were so many people in attendance this happened frequently. Doll Factory was packed for Mai Kotone and drop. When I was waiting in the Doll Factory queue, there were several fans of drop ahead of me. And I was thinking, why are they here when drop is performing in five minutes. An hour later as the drop fans were leaving the venue, they saw them in the queue and were like “You guys missed the live??” and they just explained there was no room. Last year, Enjoy Stadium was half empty all the time. My experience this year was it was always packed, even for regional groups like Sendai Syrup and BudLab (who were performing before Doll Elements).

    Regarding possible alternate locations, I think Shibuya would be perfect (although I am completely disregarding booking fees). Yoyogi National Stadium (capacity 13,000), Yoyogi 2nd Stadium (3,000), Shibuya AX next door (1500), AiiA Theater a few minutes away (800), the outdoor stage area next to Harajuku station, and plenty of room for a marketplace and greeting area around the Yoyogi stadiums are all within five minutes.

  3. JUL☆ (@Jul3rd) 2015/08/19 at 12:04 pm #

    This is the first of your blog posts I’ve read and it was very enjoyable! The bit about number of stages and attendance numbers particularly – I guess also because the size of the stages has stayed the same. Ie, it’s not like a big European festival where you have one massive main stage where two-thirds or more of the crowd are at one given time. All the stages seem medium or small. About bags, I always bring a bag to an idol live… although I never bring one to a gig back home… but normally at any venue idol groups normally perform in (even for festivals like Idol Koushien) you can just dump it at the back/side no problems… this just seems to be a problem at TIF because of the increased attendance numbers you talked about.

    • Shaun 2015/08/20 at 1:16 am #

      Thanks for commenting. The bag issue is one that I tried to explain respectfully, because while it annoys me, all the friends I’ve made in Japan bring bags into the performance area :P Bags can easily be dropped off at the back of all the indoor stages though, similar to Idol Koushiens.

      TIF is big for an idol event, but not on the scale of mega festivals. On the other hand TIF doesn’t have the security issues, bag checks, massive queues for restrooms, mountains of garbage, and overpriced food and drinks, which can be aspects of larger rock festivals. Tobi and I were talking last year about how an event like TIF simply couldn’t exist in America or Europe because of security and other issues.

  4. Infzer0 2015/08/20 at 4:33 am #

    Haha, no wonder i never see you at the wristband exchange place, you’re already there since 8am lol….so early.

    Interesting point about the bags. i always bring bags to tif ever since TIF 2012, but this year, i travel really light and bring only one small bag just enough to fit 3 bottles of waters (for refills at zepp diver food court), and some cds from the grand market lol. im glad i did though — it gives me a lot of freedoms to move around, jumping, and enjoy the concert more instead of worrying about the bags, especially at Smile Garden , where the crowds tends to get out of hands sometimes.

    As for palet in bikinis @ info centre. Yeah, that is one of my biggest #TIF2015 regrets so far LOL. Me and my friends are not aware of if at all during that time, sucks. haha. Now i feel like updating my blog again with more of my #TIF2015 regrets (my other regrets is that i never seen enough passcode – somehow i am abit addicted to them now, damn). O yea, I just recently did a TIF2015 highlight vids, which i posted on my blog also.

    As for doll factory and enjoy stadium…i didnt go at all this year because i dont like the queuing lol. I also never went up to the sky stage at all this year. Maybe next year eh? haha.

    • Shaun 2015/08/24 at 11:05 pm #

      I enjoyed the TIF highlights video. Great job. The highlights reminded me that I saw Idol College at Heat Garage after seeing GEM at Festival stage. (The videos you made last year were great too). And that is exactly why I pack lightly for TIF, I want the freedom to jump around.

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