An Attempt to Meet AKB48: My Experience, Mistakes, Tips, & Tricks!
As the title says, this article will be all about my attempt to meet one of my favorite AKB48 members, Mayu Watanabe. When I heard about her graduation and about her last handshake event, I decided to take the chance and try to meet her. Although I didn’t get to meet her due to a couple misunderstandings (mentioned in the article), I’ll be outlining a general process (as well as mistakes, tips, and tricks) here!
So, you want to meet AKB48? Although it seems impossible due to the group’s massive fame and influence in the Jpop idol industry, it’s still possible! While AKB48 is a major group, they often conduct handshake events/meetings (握手会 or akushukai) which are possible to attend if you obtain an event participation ticket (参加券 or sanka-ken).
How to Obtain an Event Ticket
In order to obtain an event ticket, the main thing you have to do is buy merchandise. There are many types of merchandise you can buy to obtain an event ticket, like a limited edition CD, photobook, etc.
For more ways on how to get a ticket, you can check out this article here.
In my case, I bought one of the limited edition CDs for their single “好きなんだ” at Tower Records in Shibuya. The CD came with the event participation ticket.
Understanding the how to use the Ticket
Ok, so this was the hard part for me. I had the participation ticket, but I had no idea how to use it. It seemed all too easy for me to buy a 1,600 yen CD and then be able to go to a handshake event. I had asked the clerk if I would be able to use it at any event, but she wasn’t sure. The ticket I had didn’t say what event I could use it for either. I tried looking on the AKB48 website, but there weren’t any official articles up yet since the handshake event wasn’t to take place until 2 months later. It was all really confusing, and all I could do was wait.
Tip: If you have any Japanese friends, or know someone who understands Japanese, it would be a big help! The AKB48 site and articles are normally jampacked with information that even Japanese people find it confusing. Using a translator (i.e. Google Translate) could just confuse you more. I had asked Japanese friends to help me look at the site when the time came, but we still couldn’t figure out which event the ticket was valid for. I decided to just stick to my gut feeling and go to an event in Yokohama.
My Mistake: Taking the chance and going to the event without knowing the validity of my ticket
I was actually let into the venue, but in the end found out that I wouldn’t be able participate in the handshake event. That’s because I found out from asking the staff that my ticket was valid for a “national event” while the one I was at in Yokohoma was a “regional event”. After that, I walked around a little bit to see how everything works, then left. I wasn't entirely bummed out though. I mean, I may not have been able to experience shaking hands with my favorite member, but it was still a learning experience. Plus, I wanted to take the chance anyway. Haha.
But! In short....Identify which event your ticket can be used for!
Once you are able to identify which event you can use the ticket for, you can prepare for the event! By prepare, I mean check out rules on the AKB48 site. There are certain things you can and can’t bring, etc.
How it works
Although I didn't get to shake hands with Mayu, I did stay a bit to figure out how things work, and here they are!
1st: Security Check
When you get to the event, there will be a security check. Yes, there will be a check, it’s just like the airport. There will be separate lanes for men and women, and it’s been said that wait time for security can take as long as up to three hours depending on the size of the event. In my experience though, my wait time for security was 15 minutes or less.
Tip: Arrive early to the venue, especially if it is a large scale handshake event.
Trick: Bring as little as possible so that your security check doesn’t take as much time! They check everything!
According to the AKB48 site, if you bring a drink in, you must taste-test it in front of security. If you have an umbrella, you must open your umbrella in front of security, etc. Since that day’s forecast had a high percent chance of rain, I brought and umbrella and had to open it. Although my umbrella isn’t a big deal, other more serious items (like pocket knives, etc.,) could be an even bigger deal, so please be careful!
2nd: Maps and Lanes
Once you get into the venue, be sure to check out the maps, time tables, and the lane that corresponds to your favorite member! While this information is available in advance online, it’s a little difficult to find on the AKB48 site and without Japanese keywords.
In other words, what you need to find out:
Find out where their table is
What time will they be out to start the meet-and-greet
What number lane to be in to meet and/or wait
3rd: Waiting and Meeting
Once you’ve found out all information, you can head on over to their lane at the according time and wait.
The handshaking starts… then when it’s your turn, your ticket will be taken by a staff member and you can proceed to handshake with your favorite member.
Note: The amount of time you have is roughly 3 second, then they will escort you out of the lane and the next person will come in for their turn. However, the more tickets you have, the more time you have!
The staff were actually really friendly! I thought it was going to be really uptight and strict because AKB48 is super famous and all that, but everyone was really friendly and nice. Even when I asked the staff about my ticket being valid, I kinda expected them to kick me out and call security on me. BUT they empathized with me and understood/acknowledged that the site was really confusing. That was a pleasant surprise.
Considering that handshake events normally go on for the whole day, the place is equipped with charging stations so you can charge your phone! There are also a few food and drink stands here and there.
Merchandise/goods sales take place outside the venue! some people might be up for trading AKB48 cards or other merchandise.
There's a whole bunch of promotion going on. I saw a lot of credit card promotions. Like, if you registered for a card there with a certain company, you could get an AKB48 credit card with a special photo card, etc.
And there you have it!
I hope this was able to help in some way, even though it was a rather general article. For more information, you can also check out these external sources.