I wouldn’t call myself a ticketing expert and there are definitely ways to get hold of tickets that I’m not familiar with. Hence I shall just call this A SIMPLE GUIDE. Since there are tonnes of different ticket types, from train tickets to concert tickets to admission tickets for various resorts, I will be focusing on ticket purchasing METHODS. Note that I will be making the assumption that you aren’t able to make reservations over the phone in Japanese.
Web-based (e-tickets and reserved tickets)
If you find yourself wanting to buy tickets that quickly sell out once available and do not have friends in Japan who can help you, chances are that you have to opt for a web-based method to get hold of tickets.
Clearly, the most straightforward method is to buy tickets directly from websites of the attraction/event/operators. Some example of sites that handle direct web-based purchases:
The next option to consider is ticketing sites. The biggest drawback is that these sites are almost always exclusively in Japanese and often require you to have a local address, phone number and Japan-issued credit card! Grab a friend who can read some Japanese (or learn it yourself from one of the most popular [amazon asin=4789014401&text=Japanese textbooks]) or open Google Translate in another tab and use the website translation option. Among them, the most commonly used sites are:
Using Ticketing Machines
Many small eateries (particularly chains) use a meal ticketing system. Good ones come with pictures next to the buttons while not-so-good ones simply have Japanese words written on each button.
- Before heading to the machine, look for food displays and menus to decide on an item. Try to memorize the name of the item (or the shape of the text)
- You usually have to insert coins / notes before you can select items
- Some machines require you to choose take-away (を持ち帰り) or eating in (店内) before you can pick your item. Select the appropriate option.
- Select your item by pressing the associated button, a ticket slip should appear in the dispenser. Continue to select more items if you wish.
- Press the ‘return change’ (おつり) button.
- Pick up all the slips and pass them to the staff (they should already be hovering about you).
- The staff will direct you to a seat or standing space depending on how crowded the shop is.
Train tickets are similar to meal tickets.
- Look at the huge board above the machines. There should be a listing of prices based on destination. In some cases, there are 2 or more boards because there are more than one train companies
- Insert coins in the machine and press the button that corresponds with the cost of getting to your destination
- Pick up the tickets and any loose change
Tickets for concerts, events and admission to attractions
Loppi – One of the most commonly used ticketing machines. They are found in almost all Lawson and MiniStop convenience stores. Fortunately, Lawson has provided a very informative English guide to using Loppi. Lawson has a stranglehold (i.e. sole distribution) on many tickets such as the Fujiko F Fujio Museum i.e. Doraemon Museum.
Here is a guide on using Loppi to buy tickets for Ghibli Museum.
FamiPort – FamiPort is the Family Mart version of Loppi.
Physical Shops / Kiosks
JTB (Japan Tourism Bureau) shops handle many different kinds of tickets and bookings and are extremely trustworthy. You can find them almost everywhere in Japan.
JR Ticket Offices would be where you could ask questions and buy tickets for trains, shinkansens and buses.
Some of the web-ticketing agents like Ticket Pia also have physical shops.
Most of this shops have staff that can handle some English and in the event that they can’t, simple gesturing should get you far enough. Words like chiketto (essentially ‘ticket’), kippu (ticket, usually for transport) and ken (slips, usually for payment, meal tickets and airplane tickets) should come in handy.
Discount Ticket Shops
These small shops are found usually in crowded areas near train stations and become immediately obvious with all kinds of tickets and vouchers display in their shopfront. Some of these have chains are so successful they even have their own websites. Like Kounan and Daikokuya!
Overseas agents basically allow you to buy tickets in a shop overseas and use them in Japan. The biggest plus point is that they speak your language (phone calls become possible!). The prices may, however, be marked up. For example, Ghibli Museum has ticketing agents around the world. JTB has shopfronts all over the world as well.
These are mainly used when tickets are sold out and holders try to sell them at a profit. Sometimes, you get good deals from sellers who bought tickets but realised they couldn’t use them. However, almost all of these sites are purely in Japanese.
*feature image courtesy of Katya Mokolo (CC License)