Note: Ticket PIA has ended its service on June 30, 2021.

The movie-going experience has always been a dubious form of entertainment, draining on both body and soul. Pressed into a room with strangers, suffering through the latest Adam Sandler movie, all greased up on popcorn slathered in body-warm butter caramel, and 3D glasses—designed for neither comfort nor convenience—pressing into your flesh. But the biggest torment off all is the outrageous price you are paying for this privilege.

Not to worry though, help is at hand

This simple guide will show you how to shave a good ¥400¥500 off your next cinematic splurge. ¥500 you scoff? Yes, yes, it may seem small, but think of it as half off your next gin and tonic, or a free shot the next time you burn through ¥10,000 on a night of ill-advised debauchery in Shibuya.

Dotted around Tokyo are a number of small shops which supply all manner of tickets at cut-rate prices. I have no idea how they get away with this, but I presume it’s legal.

The ones you want are part of a franchise called チケットぴあ (Ticket Pia) and they look like this:

discount movie tickets tokyo
Photo by Julio Brockbank

They sell tickets for concerts, theaters and many other upcoming events. More importantly they sell cheap cinema tickets.

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How to find them

Ticket Pia shops are often hidden away in the basements of various department stores and stations and can be easy to miss. However they do have a distinctive blue sign.

This is the sign you are looking for. | Photo by Julio Brockbank

Buying a ticket

The process is fairly straightforward, even with the equivalent Japanese language skills of a small child.

  1. Ask for the tickets that you want.
  2. Pay less than you would normally.
  3. Rejoice.

A useful phrase: Antman ichi/ni/san mai kudasai – one/two/three for Antman please.

Alternatively, these shops handily display most of their available movies on a counter, so just pointing at the one you want, raising your fingers to indicate quantity with a pleading expression on your face is often the preferred method.

A case showing some upcoming movies. | Photo by Julio Brockbank

Tickets are at around ¥400¥500 cheaper than at the box office, depending on the specific store.

The next step

What you receive for your money isn’t actually the ticket itself, it’s a shiny coupon that you can exchange for said ticket. Take these coupons to any of the major cinemas in Tokyo. Show them at the box office and they will give you your individual seat tickets.

You can’t choose a specific seat at the Ticket Pia, so if you want to avoid the dreaded, neck-straining nightmare of the front line then go to the cinema well before the showing to pick your seat.

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One note of caution. If you plan on going to a very small local cinema, it is worth checking with them in advance if you can use these coupons. It’s rare but sometimes they don’t accept them.

A coupon for Antman. It’s good. Go and see it. | Photo by Julio Brockbank

Foreign movie titles are often changed for the Japanese market, so if in doubt, look up the title online beforehand, or just bring up a photo of the movie on your phone and wave it around like an idiot. The IMDB site will often have all the titles listed for various countries.

So there it is. Basically free money for going slightly out of your way on the walk to your cinema. I hope that the money saved can in some small way alleviate the regret of paying to see Transformers 5.

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