My two favourite days in Vietnam had to be the days I spent in Ninh Binh and Halong Bay. I'd gladly go back to spend more time in these areas, just breath-taking. Pictures will never do these places justice but here are a few anyways!
My music taste is pretty varied - I have spent most of the year going through phases of Childish Gambino, David Bowie and Beethoven but the one constant in my playlist seems to always be this petite pop diva. I've followed Koda Kumi from the beginning of her career and the best way to put it, is that she is my Beyonce. I've watched/re-watched every live performance I could find of hers online and I decided a good while ago, that watching her on tour in Japan, had to be on my bucket list. Yup, it does mean that this entire trip was designed around this concert. It was fairly stressful to organise and pull off but so worth it and I hope this post might help others as I had a tough time myself trying to get tickets as a foreigner!
Getting tickets for concerts in Japan are incredibly difficult, from my research there are a few websites that are generally used for all concerts but they are all in Japanese and really cater to only Japanese residents. They don't seem to use something like Ticketmaster, so it seems like the best options for foreigners or at least in the UK, which is where I reside, is to use a service and the two best places I came across were govoyagin and japanconcerttickets. I should also say, that I've never tried to get concert tickets for another country before, so I'm a fish out of water when it comes to this stuff - any advice for next time would be much appreciated!!!
I emailed both sites before general sale for the concert was even available and both services were quick to respond answering all my questions and really the first thing you have to do is to get a quote.
I personally budgeted a pretty large amount for concert tickets because the unfortunate thing of using a service is that they naturally charge fees but like I said, it seemed like it was my only option.
I opted for govoyagin in the end purely because it was a larger ticketing office that specialized in many tourist events for Japan and many other countries, so I assumed that I would probably end up using the site for other touristy tickets. The quote was only 10 USD cheaper than japanconcerttickets, so there wasn't any significant price difference between the two services.
However, after my experiences, I should have figured that the best option would have been to use BOTH!
The first mistake I made was underestimating how sought after these tickets would have been because not only was this the fabulous Koda Kumi but it was also her FINAL show from her 47 prefecture tour - I had completely forgotten what it was like to get hot tickets like this, when you have four computers on the go 'waiting in line', only to have them all gone by the time you get through. I thought, well I'm paying for a service, surely they'll have no problem but I'm guessing, that the reality is, they are probably poor sods at a computer too, somewhere in Tokyo trying to figure out if the website is still queuing or crashing.
Ultimately, govoyagin failed to get my tickets through general sale, so they instead got me tickets through a third party - another option I had prepared and budgeted for. The tickets cost 362 USD in the end, and for the record I had budgeted about £300 for these tickets. A silly amount to pay for concert tickets but I had a very 'fuck it, you only live once' kind of attitude to the whole thing!
Japanconcerttickets do NOT buy third party tickets, so that is another thing to bare in mind and govoyagin said that they could not guarentee a full refund on the third party tickets but they would try their best.
I also want to add, that I did notice a few third party tickets available on viagogo for Kumi's other tour stops, so I always assumed that this would be a last resort, however, there were never any listed for her Okinawa show so basically a service like govoyagin was still needed for third party tickets from Japanese re-sellers.
Overall, my experience with Govoyagin was a pleasant one, their customer service was top notch and I think should I ever decide to grab tickets for Japan again and I would probably use them and should I want Koda Kumi tickets again - I'm going to use BOTH, doubling my chances of getting a ticket because if I'm lucky enough to get a hold of too many tickets, I now know that I can easily re-sell them!
Ok, boring ticket stuff over, lets talk about the concert -
We arrived at the concert hall around 4:30pm, an hour before the doors opened, two hours before the concert started. Now two hours was plenty of time, that huge queue was to buy merchandise and it all did work out, we managed to get our merch, hit the ladies room and settle ourselves in, just in time. HOWEVER, again another lesson to remember for next time, is that I should have arrived EARLIER, just to simply ease my stress a little and I missed out on a limited edition piece of merchandise because it was already sold out by the time we got to the front of the queue.
Okinawa Shimin Kaikan 沖縄市民会館 was about a 30-40 minute drive away from Naha - we opted for a Taxi on the way there because I didn't want to stress about finding the venue. There are buses available to Goya and then it was about a 15 minute walk to the venue. The taxi cost about 5200 JPY, which is quite pricey by my books, so we got the bus on the way home, which was actually pretty easy, cost us 890 JPY and only added about 10 minutes to the journey. I think driving there might be one of the better options but for anyone who decides to hire a car to do that, I would recommend getting there much earlier as there are parking spaces available but it was very full indeed!
Lights and towels are a staple of Japanese pop concerts. This light actually changes colour and also I grabbed the blu-ray dvd in a shop in Tokyo.
Navigating the queues at the venue were very stressful too. There were many crew members who would come out and make announcements in Japanese often and then people would start forming queues here and there and honestly my sister and I would just stand anywhere until someone pointed us elsewhere, we only came across 1 staff member who spoke a smattering of English who also helped re-direct us. Part of me was hoping that we would come across some other foreigners who were as stressed as we were but maybe because it was in Okinawa we only noticed a handful of mandarin speaking foreigners.
We made it though and once we got inside and settled in, the stress disappeared and the fun began!
The others things to note about the concert -
There was no support act - I'm guessing this is the norm over there. Some hip hop song started blasting around the start time - getting the crowd all warmed up. Everyone stood up and started to cheer on and the song didn't even finish, when it was abruptly stopped and then Koda Kumi's first song kicked in.
Fans all wear official merchandise - Outfits are often coordinated and everyone is decked out in head-to-toe in Koda Kumi gear, even the hairstyles all match Kumi's.
Choreoraphed light waving - The lights are meant to be held and shook furiously as high as you can above your head but, for popstars like Kumi, the fans have often choreographed how you are suppose to shake your lights. I mean for certain sections of songs, you are suppose to wave your light side to side and sometimes you are suppose to punch it into the air. Of course you do not have to follow the status quo but when you are there in the crowd of fans like you, you can't help but dance like everyone else.
There was NO intermission - As this was the final show, it was easily a 3 hour long show and there was not a single intermission. Again, I'm guessing this might be the norm over here, so make sure to use the ladies room beforehand, bring a bottle of water and plan to have a lie in the next morning as your dancing feet will be tired!
The special encore she gave in Okinawa
It was also her birthday that night!
The crowd went absolutely insane when she played the preview to her new single. I believe the other thing about this show was that she sang another new unheard song, if I remember correctly it was called "Promise You".