TIF & Idol Yokocho Deathmatch

21 Jul

Idol Yokocho Hello, TIF. We meet again.
TIF Indeed we do. *puts on trousers* Prepare to die.
IY No, you prepare to die.
TIF I said it first.

Because I’m a huge nerd when it comes to J-Pop, I am going to spend a beautiful California summer day comparing Idol Yokocho Natsu Matsuri and Tokyo Idol Festival. And you’re welcome.

Idol Yokocho refers to itself as one of the big three idol festivals, which is a reference to TIF, the preeminent pop music festival and @JAM EXPO, considered the second biggest (and #1 jankiest). I went to Idol Yokocho two weeks ago and TIF for years and they are very different experiences. I’ve never been to @JAM EXPO, but based on the streams I’ve watched, the years it has been held at Yokohama Arena, it has clearly been the worst of the three. The main stage is ridiculous–a massive stage that is way too big for the performers and way too far away from the audience and minor stages that are set up in absurd locations like the lobby (really?) or random storage rooms where fans are crammed in like cattle and if you jump too high your head will literally crash through the ceiling. I don’t get why the organizers keep returning to Yokohama Arena, it’s not built for a multi-stage event. Well, I do get why it’s Yokohama Arena–it’s glamorous and high profile. And clearly that is higher priority to the producers than the fan experience. @JAM also started the mindless VIP trend that TIF has since adopted, forcing fans to pay obscene amounts of money for front-row access and privileges like exclusive performances. This is all unrelated though, onward to the comparison.

TIF Idol Yokocho
Duration 3 Days 2 Days
Location Odaiba Yokohama
Tickets 17,000Y (3-days)
7,200Y (1-day)

18,700Y (3-days T-Shirt)
9,200Y (1-day T-Shirt)

100,000Y (3-days VIP)
40,000Y (1-day VIP)

12,000Y (2-days)
6,800Y (1-day)
Number of groups 198 (as of July 22) 158
Number of stages 7 5
Travel time between stages Two pairs of stages are 1 minute apart:
(Smile Garden/Doll Factory & Hot Stage/Festival Stage)  
Other combinations of stages are ~10-20 minutes apart
Less than 1 minute between any stage
Attendance ~80,000 (over the 3 days) / 27,000 average ~10,000 total / 5,000 average
Queues for stages 1. Special lives at Doll Factory (or whenever it’s beyond capacity)
2. Sky Stage (can be as little as 15 seconds to an hour or more) 
3. Marketplace (depending upon the time, can be 30+ minutes)
None
Hotels within walking distance
(data from hotels.com and agoda.com)
Six hotels (all 3.5-5 star) & one capsule hotel that is a ~20 minute walk 25-30 hotels in every category
Gimmicks Exclusive performances if you purchase the T-Shirt tickets
VIP perks (front row)
Gravure 2-shots

TIF Sparkling Night (18 and over)
Main stage competition
Regional idol group competition
Other gimmicks like having a nerdy chairperson
Gravure 2-shots
Playing a fishing game with idols
Main stage competition
Fuwa Fuwa Yes No *cries into a pillow*
Rules No jumping, lifting, moshing, etc. is enforced at certain stages No lifting, enforced at all stages

TIF is like Disneyland. There’s a lot to like, but also a lot to hate. TIF has the highest number of groups and a few mainstream acts from 48 groups, 46 groups, and Hello! Project. The massive numbers and the specific acts are a double-edged sword though. Most fans couldn’t care less about there being 200+, that’s mainly for the ego of the producers. The real consequences for fans are the increased likelihood for schedule conflicts and the increased attendance that accompanies the popular groups. This is annoying because every year they book more acts and attendance increases, yet the number of stages remains the same. In fact, this year they removed last year’s main stage. Last year’s main stage was the best main stage they ever had. It appears that stage no longer exists because Fuji TV’s annual summer festival really down-sized this year. In the past, TIF used Fuji TV’s “Mezamashi Live” stage as their main stage. This year, Fuji TV got rid of the entire festival area which included the stage and the mini amusement park and are instead using the super-small My Navi stage for “Mezamashi Live,” which is called “Dream Stage” for TIF. That’s a massive downgrade and I don’t know how TIF can compensate for the loss, considering thousands of fans camped at this stage last year.

The biggest problem with TIF is how spread out everything is. Sky Stage, Dream Stage, Main Stage, Marketplace, the gimmicky stage inside the Fuji TV building that no one cares about — these areas are 10-20 minutes apart and it can be extremely hot during this time of year. And I’m in great shape, so I’m not one to complain about physical activity. I have 4% body fat! 4%! [No one cares about that!! And that just means you need to eat more.] So often over the years at TIF my brain has been like, “Eff this. No more walking!” and my body shuts down like a robot whose battery died *bleep blop kerplunk*

This is why I feel that for a lot of fans, Idol Yokocho is superior. Every single stage is within a minute walk of any other stage. There were times when one of my favorite groups was performing at one stage and immediately afterwards another group I like was at another. At TIF, I would have been screwed. But at Idol Yokocho, I could gallantly trot to the other stage in 15 seconds. At stage 2 and 3, I just had to turn around and I was at the other stage. There was sound bleeding between stages, but this isn’t a classical music symphony festival, so I feel this issue is relatively insignificant. After all, I just want to jump around like an idiot for Kome. [Perfectly understandable. You are human.] 

Would I have liked to see NMB48 and FuwaFuwa? Of course I would have liked to see NMB48 and FuwaFuwa. I am human after all. But I was completely fine with Idol Yokocho’s lineup. For my particular fandoms, the lineups were actually equal, because Idol Yokocho had Moriwaki Yui and LADYBABY, which TIF doesn’t (at least not yet). Of course I wasn’t even able to see LADYBABY because of schedule conflicts, which I will be eternally grumpy about. Rie Kaneko! *howls at the moon and sobs into a pillow*

TIF also cracked down on fun last year. There are definitely problems with some fans (anything that impacts another person’s space is wrong imo, which includes moshing, lifting, clearing space for a ginormous circle of stupidity, and rushing the stage for your oshimen), but TIF’s response last year was annoying. Some stages outlawed jumping, moshing, lifting, etc, but at other stages it was okay. The rules were silly though because non-stop jumping (renzoku jump) is not the same as lifting or moshing. One is only mildly annoying while the other directly impacts others. I felt that TIF’s response last year was disingenuous and mainly for appearance, like when they had metal detectors two years ago on day one and then they disappeared the next two days–because we all know that one single psychotic idol fan in all of Japan is showing up on day one and then sitting out the rest of the festival.

The bottom line is TIF is produced by huge nerds whose main objective is self-promotion. The decisions they make are typically in their best interest and not the fans. If they cared about fans, they would have tents set up in the areas they know queues will form and the stages would be centrally located, instead of utilizing pre-existing stages that scattered all over Odaiba. Idol Yokocho’s producers are also huge nerds, but they are pervy nerds (they proudly invented the gravure 2-shot event) and everything is situated in one spot. The only annoying thing they did was rope off the benches. Seriously, what the f-junk are benches for if not to be sat on? And these are old benches, not brand new benches made of gold, but evidently idol fans are not to use them. Of course, if fenced-off benches are the only complaint I can think of, then the producers are clearly doing a good job.

[Don’t forget the schedule guy denied you Rie Kaneko.] Tis true. But I put a curse on him. 

Incomprehensible Analogies
Southern California has a lot of amusement parks (Disneyland, Magic Mountain, Knott’s Berry Farm, Sea World, Universal Studios, Legoland, and others), so this may only make sense locally, but this completely captures the essence of each festival:

  • TIF is Disneyland Lots of excitement, but expensive, overrated, and overcrowded
  • Idol Yokocho is Knott’s Berry Farm Minimal excitement, but you are going to have a good time
  • @JAM EXPO is Santa’s Village Haunted and super-janky

Final Thoughts
I would love for Idol Yokocho to add a third day, or more realistically, add Friday night to the weekend, so it’s 2.5 days. TIF’s third day is perhaps it’s only tangible advantage.

I’m going to Idol Yokocho again next year. Let’s all go!

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