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For many of Japan’s most successful music acts, there’s a huge gap between their popularity at home and abroad. Five-man vocal unit Arashi has been at the top of Japan’s boy band heap for years, and while they’ve picked up a few ardent devotees in the U.S., their fan base there is miniscule compared to their legions of followers in Japan.

This became even clearer than usual last week, when Arashi had a concert in Hawaii. The effective cost of a ticket bought in Japan for the event calculates out to some 100,000 yen (US$925), but in Hawaii, you could pick up a ticket for less than a fifth of that price.

Now before we feed the stereotype that everything is ridiculously expensive in Japan, we should explain the special circumstances behind the concert. Arashi is currently celebrating the 15th anniversary of its formation, and to commemorate the occasion, the decision was made to have two commemorative concerts in Hawaii on September 19 and 20.

In and of itself, this isn’t so crazy, even considering the band’s greatly reduced ability to draw a crowd in the U.S., Hawaii is one of the most popular destinations for Japanese tourists, and to make thing easier for inexperienced travelers, the tickets were sold as part of a tour package. Plans ranged in price from 270,000 yen to 550,000 yen, depending on whether participants elected to stay for three, four, or five nights.

▼ All of which is separate, of course, from what they spent on official merchandise.

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Moreover, members of the band’s fan club were told back in May that signing up for the tour was the only way they could get their hands on the coveted concert tickets. For most musicians, this would be a bold demand, but Arashi’s Japanese fans responded to the tune of 13,000 people making the official trip.

Considering the experience and charisma Arashi’s members have, it’s likely the fans enjoyed the concert itself. That said, at least one woman who came from Japan to see her idols is taking issue with the heavy-handed ticket sale system.

Since the concerts happened after the peak summer travel season, you can book a travel package to Hawaii pretty cheaply from Japan. Multiple travel providers have plans that include airfare and four nights for less than 170,000 yen, and subtracting that from the cheapest Arashi tour package price leaves a balance of around 100,000 yen ($925), making that essentially the cost of the ticket.

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Of course, there are plenty of online travel providers in Japan, including Rakuten Travel, Expedia, Jalan, and JTB. A quick Internet search would have given Arashi fans the real cost of the ticket, and we’re guessing that for many of them, it was worth it to be with the band on its special nights. Except, there turned out to be a much cheaper alternative.

While the concert tickets were only available in Japan as part of the tour package, a number were also made available for regular, unbundled purchase in the U.S. and Canada. Upon arriving in Hawaii, the woman found scalpers, some of whom were Japanese, selling tickets for as little as 165 dollars. At current exchange rates, that works out to 17,820 yen, making tickets obtained in Japan more than five times more expensive than those bought on-site.

Japanese Internet commenters had the following to say:

“She’s a great customer.”
“This is discrimination against Japanese.”
“Any way you look at it, the people who signed up for the tour are idiots.”
“Idol fans sure are gullible.”
“The band needs that money to keep making music.”

Of course, there are a couple of things these calculations don’t account for. With any event, there’s no guarantee that you’ll find people hawking tickets outside the venue, and booking the tour guaranteed Japanese fans a seat at the venue. The hardest of hard-core Arashi supporters also probably got a good vibe from flying and staying in a hotel surrounded by like-minded individuals.

Paying for travel invariably involves an attempt to purchase intangibles, such as entertainment and experiences. The disgruntled fan can’t deny she ended up with plenty of memories from her trip, annoying as it must be that they aren’t all happy ones.

Source: Bunshun via Hamster Sokuho
Top image: Girls Channel
Insert images: Yahoo! Auctions, Expedia Japan