Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Japan Firsthand: Welcome to DearStage!

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!

Getting there:

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:

The Basics:

Entree fee:
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)

DearStage Lives:
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!

Live times:

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!!)

Other Notes:
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.........


omo said...

Great guide. Thanks! Hopefully I'll find a chance to use it~

Paranda said...

Great guide. Chiming in to say this is a great way to spend some nights in Tokyo. It so happens the author was also the one who introduced me to dearstage last year (I'm gonna bug you to go with me next time I'm over there). After going once, it was enough fun that I went 4 more times.

Re: photos, if you go on certain days, you might get a photo even without a point card. For example, I went on Police Day where everyone cosplayed in police uniforms. For these events, they have special conditions which make it much easier to get photos, such as winning a lottery (easy odds & prizes like "any photo with 2 girls of your choice") or buying a themed picture for 1000 yen. So when I went, I was able to get a snapshot (of me being "arrested") even though I was a first-timer.

The thing about energy increasing as time goes on is also definitely true. The first show is kind of empty, but by 8pm, lots of people have gotten off work and head straight here. You can watch guys otagei while still in their suit jackets.

I went alone twice, and went as a group three times. But if you go as a group and speak English, be warned that you might not get talked to much unless you initiate the conversation. The times I went alone, both the bartenders and waitresses would talk to me all the time in Japanese. When I told them I wasn't very good at it and was a tourist, it only made them come over even more to ask about life and what anime is popular in US and such (mad props to Tamaki). Since there's no tip system, if any waitress was being especially friendly I tried to buy one of her named items or services. When you do, they record it in a notepad so I guess they do keep track of popularity. But once I went as a group and we were speaking english amongst ourselves, we didn't get talked to much except when they were taking orders.

Paranda said...

And lol I didn't know about 10000 yen bar charge for late hours... That better be some bar service!

mandichan said...

Thanks for that info paranda, i'll update it! You're lucky you got to go on such good timing. Yeah next time we gotta go together!

I had a suspicion about speaking English with friends meant you'd get talked to less. I was with English speaking friends both times I went upstairs. Good to know.

Also 10000 yen was a typo!!! lol I'll fix it!!

B-DASH said...

Mandi, how many times have you gone already xD?? This is a super-extensive guide!!

I'm not sure, but it seems it's not as expensive as maid cafes. Point cards are cool. In some Dempagumi events, if you have some points you can get a special CD with photos and stuff. Also, I love how most of their flyers and posters are self-made. It seems they take great deal of care over everything.

Hope we can go together sometime! (and that I learn a bit of Japanese to talk with Mirin. Well, I'm probably too shy to do that :P)

mandichan said...

lol i only went into the bar twice!! but overall i've been... 4 or 5 times? Not THAT much! lol

Hard to say compared to maid cafes. It just depends on what you get. If you're on a tight budget I think it's still worth checking out.

Yeah all the hand made items and food is cool :) There is definitely hands on feeling.

If we go together, I'll make you talk to Mirin-chan!! ;D

American Signcrafters Sign Company said...

Excellently amazing and exciting too. Can you please mention me the source of your reference... I am happy that at least somebody gave this subject an attention.