Our readers are likely no stranger to the girls of DearStage since we've covered them in the past, especially the gals of Denpa Gumi Inc. But what about DearStage itself? How exactly does their system work, and what should you expect when you visit? Have no fear, Denpa no Sekai is here to guide you!
First off, a disclaimer: Any of this information is subject to change. Make sure to check the DearStage website before heading out.
DearStage is a daily idol live show combined with a bar / cafe. Fans of anime songs, idol songs, and of course denpa songs can all find something to enjoy here. Unlike the nearby ultra-popular rivals(?) AKB48, DearStage prides itself as a pro-otagei establishment. The crowd can get extremely worked up, which is a TON of fun. In between lives, the very idols you just watched sing will serve you food and drinks and chit chat with their fans.
Continue on into DearStage below!
Finding DearStage is fairly easy. From the Akihabara Electric Town exit at the station, turn right onto Chuo Doori (the main stretch in Akiba). Keep walking until you get to Don Quixote (yes, the home to the (in?)famous AKB48) and go down the street directly opposite the store. Make your next right, and DearStage is there on your left! Just look for the pink neon light sign. If that was too much info to swallow, just check them out on google maps!
Or check this simple map from the back of the point card:
500 yen. You get a ticket with entry that can be exchanged for a 500 yen drink. If you only want to check out the lives, this is the bare minimum to spend. If you leave, you have to pay the entry fee again, so be careful.
DearStage is open every day, except for some unspecified holidays. (Check the calendar on the site if you're unsure!)
The basic hours are as follows:
18:00~22:50 (Drink last order: 22:20)
Fridays and days before holidays
18:00~05:00 (Drink last order: 04:30)
Afternoon：Depends on the events (Check the schedule)
17:00~05:00 (Drink last order: 04:30)
Sundays and Holidays
Afternoon: Depends on the events (Check the schedule)
17:00~22:50 (Drink last order: 22:20)
For whatever reason, the exact hours of the live shows aren't reported on the site, but they ARE posted on the door of the establishment itself. I suppose because of that, they could change, but I've never seen it happen. Anyway, if you can't speak enough Japanese to talk to the Deargirls in the cafe and only want to check out the lives, this is pretty important info so take note!
17:30~ (Saturday & holidays only)
What girls will be there each day is generally a surprise, so unless a specific event (say, Denpa Gumi Cafe) is going on, it's the luck of the draw. The lives typically run for 25~30 minutes with each girl singing one song, usually one duet, and of course a bit of chit chat and promoting upcoming CD releases and the like. In my experience, the lives amp up in intensity and attendance as the night goes on (especially on weekends), so don't be disillusioned if you come at 17:30 and the crowd seems lethargic, because as the night goes on the otagei will get wilder.
For those who don't know, otagei or wotagei is the wild synchronized cheering you see at anison and idol concerts, usually accompanied with glowsticks. For whatever reason, glowsticks are not used much at DearStage, except for UOs now and then. If you're new to otagei, just stand back a bit and follow the crowd for a while. In the very back, most people just stand still and watch, so if that's your plan, go back there. Even if you are familiar with otagei, DearStage has their own traditions (including a ton of different versions of mix, check the walls to see them written out) so just keep your eyes and ears open and you'll do fine. The rules are pretty lax, you are allowed (and encouraged) to get very close to the stage, and I've even seen fans step one foot onto the stage and kick off of it! Wild! The songs generally consist of anime, game, and idol music, but other j-pop and j-rock isn't uncommon. And of course, the Deargirls often sing their own original songs too, or cover those from other members! At some point, each girl will announce what floor they will be on during the cafe and bar time, so make sure to listen if you want to chat them up!
Bar & Dining:
As you may have noticed from the live schedule, there's a lot of time to kill in between the lives. This is where you can meet the girls up close, and spend a ton of cash if you feel like it! The system works as follows:
1st Floor Base Charges:
500 yen door fee. Good for all lives and 1 drink.
(Drinks are available on the first floor, but almost no seats. It's mainly just for the live shows and people who want to kill time without paying for food.)
2nd Floor Base Charges:
Table seat: 500 yen charge for one hour / one order
Counter Seat: 500 yen first hour, 300 yen each additional 30 mins
3rd Floor Base Charges:
Table seat: First hour 500 yen, 250 yen each additional 30 minutes
Counter Seat: First hour 700 yen, 300 yen each additional 30 mins
Late Night Base Charges: (2nd floor only)
Table seat: 700 yen
Counter Seat: 1000 yen
(On days the bar is open past midnight, these rules go into effect. Keep in mind the staff changes for late night service, and that you will miss your train if you stay too late!)
The 2nd floor is "pop & cute" style dining bar, while the 3rd floor is "relaxed & cool" style counter bar. Both have table seats, but the 3rd floor has much more counter space. Since the girls spend most of their time behind the counter mixing drinks, I'd definitely recommend counter seats for those who are confident in their Japanese skills. But even at a table, they will come and talk to you too, so don't worry! When they are busy elsewhere, don't be afraid to chat up your fellow fans too!
The menu often features daily specials and meals made by certain girls, so make sure to check the website for info on that! (I know I sound like a broken record about that, but really, they do a lot of special events!) Generally, the focus is more on drinks than food, and you can expect to spend about 500 yen for a non-alcoholic drink, and around 700+ for alcohol. I'm not much of a drinker, so i stick with the girly drinks, but there seems to be a good selection of different stuff. As far as food goes, once again the menu changes, but expect things like napolitan or the traditional maid cafe style omrice with a drawing by your waitress in ketchup. Personally I asked Waka to draw a self portrait!
For dessert, you can get a surprise treat with the "kimagure dessert." I lucked out on this delicious mochi ice cream sundae prepared again by Waka herself! (Different visit though!!)
One thing on your mind when first visiting is likely snapping a photo with your favorite signer now that she's right in front of you. But it's not that easy! You can purchase signed polaroid pictures of each girl by themselves, but the only way to get a photo together is with a point card. For every 1000 yen you spend, you get 1 point, and it takes 20 points to fill up your card and get a "two shot" photo with a staff member of your choice. If you manage to fill up 3 cards, you get a "member's card" which gives you access to a special members website, saves on bar charges, and other elite treats. At 5 full cards (that's the top prize), you get an alarm clock with the voice of a staff member of your choice! Hey, nobody said getting to the top was easy!
But once again, depending on the schedule, you may be able to get two shot photos via lotteries or other conditions, making it fairly simple. Thanks to Paranda (who managed to score a police uniform two shot) for the tip!
(My pointcard is halfway full only thanks to a generous friend! Thanks Andrew!)
A note of caution for some visitors: smoking IS permitted on all floors. Obviously people don't generally smoke during the lives, but they do smoke even on the first floor. That being said, I hate smoke but it's never been overwhelming to me... But those who are particularly sensitive should be careful.
For those with no Japanese experience, you should generally be fine if you follow this guide. The staff are usually excited to find out they have fans in other countries and you aren't just a typical curious tourist, so let them know! English food and drink menus are available, but it might have had some stuff left out.. Forgot to check. Whether or not your server can speak English or is willing to try just depends on your luck - some girls are eager to practice their English, while others are a bit more nervous about it. Try to speak Japanese as well as you can and don't force English out of anyone. Everyone is very friendly and understanding, so as long as you are polite, you'll do fine!
If you are in Akiba and miss your train home on a weekend, and DearStage isn't open late that night, remember you may be able to chill at MOGRA till the morning! But that's another article.........