Enjoying Japanese Pop Culture
Okay, you're in Japan and chose the JET program partly because you love the Japanese Pop culture scene and want to learn more about it, or you want to geek out over your favorite mangas or Japanse bands. It's okay to admit it. There are many of us who are just like you and just as many events to enjoy!
Jpop / Jrock Concerts
With so many idol bands, rock groups, and singers out there in the industry, there is bound to be concert by your favoirte group playing at any given time. To help organize everything, Lawson's puts out a free monthly "Ticket" magazine that lists all the concerts for the upcoming several months, where the groups are playing, how to purchase tickets, and when they go on sale. Most of the venues are centered around the major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, but occasionally you'll find high profile bands performing in Matsuyama. You can pick up the magazine in any Lawson's conbini. Alternatively, you can visit Lawson's ticket website and search by group instead (case and kanji/hiragana sensitive).
Purchase via Lawson's Loppi
Once you've found the concert you want in the Lawson's magazine, you can purchase concert tickets directly from Lawson's website (Japanese only) or from their dedicated Loppi machines which can be found in most Lawson's combinis (look for the red ATM-like machine). Tickets go on sale to the regular public at 10:00am (no earlier) on the date listed in the magazine. The fan club is allowed to purchase them a couple months earlier though. Seating is done by lottery ... meaning seats are assigned randomly. You can find detailed instructions on how to purchase tickets through the Loppi machine.
Purchase via Yahoo! Auctions
You may find very quickly that it is diffuclt to get tickets for high-profile bands (like Arashi or Exile) because the fan club will purchase most of the tickets before the general public can buy them. Another option is to get the tickets second-hand via Yahoo! Auctions. However, in order to purchase from Yahoo! Auctions, you must have a Japanese credit card and all instructions are given only in Japanese.
Major Music Festivals
Music festivals usually feature multiple days of insane rocking music, major label bands, and all-in-all great fun! In addition to Japanese bands, many foreign bands also perform here! These are just a few to get you started. Tickets for these events can also be purchased through the Lawson's Loppi machine.
A-nation may pale in comparison to Japan's other major music events, but is worth mentioning here because in addition to the normal venues of Osaka and Tokyo, A-nation is the only major music festival to come to Ehime (Tobe to be exact)! This one-day event is held annually in the beginning of August and has featured popular artists like Ayumi Hamasaki, Ai Otsuka, and Koda Kumi.
Japan's largest outdoor music event is a 3-day event that is held at Naeba Ski Resort, Niigata prefecture and features over 200 Japanese and international artists! This event is held annually at the end of July.
Another of Japan's major music events is a two-day event that takes place in both Osaka and Tokyo simultaneously. This event is also held annually in the beginning of August.
Tokyo Game Show
You're a gamer. And you're not just any gamer, you're one of those hardcore gamers that always wanted to go a major video game expo and get your hands on the latest shiny console or be the first to test out that new stellar game with the eye-bleeding graphics that everyone is talking about. Well fortunately for you, you now live in Japan, the home of SquareEnix and Nintendo!
Tokyo Game Show (TGS) is the third largest video game expo in the world, following after E3 in the U.S. and Leipzig Games Convention in Germany. It is held annually in mid-September at Makuhari Messe in Chiba prefecture (just outside Tokyo proper and near Tokyo Disneyland). The first two days are for industry only, but the final two days allows the general public to attend. In addition to seeing promos and trailers for the new games, you'll also be able to demo them! Of course, as you may expect, everything is in Japanese but that shouldn't deter you in the slightest. All major video game companies attend TGS with the exception of Nintendo, which has its own exclusive convention.
TGS is also a great place to check-out first hand Japanese cosplay at its finest!
Anime / Manga Events
You became interested in Japan through anime and manga. You're a secret "otaku" or an outspoken one that is not afraid to annouce this fact to your adoring students in your jikoshokai. Don't worry there are many others like you!
Comic Market (Comiket)
If you are a fan of "doujinshi" (fan manga) then this is the event for you. Comiket is not only Japan's largest manga event, but the largest comic event in the world. It's held biannually, once in winter, and once in summer in Big Sight Tokyo, Odaiba. Of the two, Summer Comiket is by far and away the bigger event, with 35,000 artists and half a million attendees every year. The convention spans three massive convention halls is a seething mass of humanity. Many of Japan's well known mangaka had their humble beginnings here at Comiket. Summer Comiket is a three-day event held around the weekend of August 15. Winter Comiket is a two day event held in December. Due to the massive size of Comiket, all artists selling works are listed in a telephone-sized guidebook (also known as the "Comiket Bible") which also includes maps. This book can be preordered from your local manga store, like Animate. Expect to see some impressive cosplay at Comiket as well!
Tokyo Anime Faire
The Tokyo Anime Faire is held annualy in March at Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba. Like TGS, the first two days are for industry, and the last two days for the public. It's one of the largest anime trade faires and is the best place to check out the new and upcoming animes. Strangely, cosplay appears to be absent at this faire ....
As its name suggests, Jump Festa is an anime/manga festival for all things Jump (as in, Weekly Jump, the magazine that publishes Japan's top manga like Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, etc.). It is a one-day event held in Tokyo in December (usually around Christmas eve). Mangka are typically on hand to answer questions at panels, as well as preview new merchandise, animes, or even games.
Maid / Cat Cafes
Welcome to Japan, the country that has perfected specialized cafes to an artform.
Nothing says Japan like a maid cafe. You might see them in Okaido on the weekends, cute girls dressed like maids handing out flyers advertising their cafe. Maid cafes feature cute waitresses dressed as maids and serving equally cute food(think of rice balls shaped into hearts or happy faces drawn from ketchup on omelets). The food at maid cafes can be slightly on the expensive side and usually consist of izukaya-style dishes. They are geared for the male populance though it is commonplace to see girls going too. You can find numerous maid cafes in most major cities, the most famous ones of course being in Akihabara, Tokyo. However, even Matsuyama has its own maid cafe called the "Merry Maid." It is located on the 6th floor in the building across from Junkudo bookstore, near the end of Gintengai.
The newest trend in Japan is the all-popular cat cafe, a place where you can enjoy a drink surrounded by adorable purebred furry friends. All cats at a cat cafe are tame and you can play and cuddle them to your heart's content. Usually you purchase 30-min blocks plus a drink. Again, cat cafes are most frequent in major cities, but there is one that recently opened in Matsuyama! It's on the second floor in Okaido.