Long lines in snowy weather to buy merchandise days in advance. Hordes of fans, some from other countries, filling up the 55,000-seat Tokyo Dome, excitedly swapping homemade bracelets. People around the world feverishly calculating time zones and watching online flight trackers.
This is the Taylor Swift phenomenon – and the mania that has followed the pop superstar as she prepares to perform four nights of sold-out shows in Tokyo before potentially jetting back to Las Vegas to watch boyfriend Travis Kelce play at the Super Bowl with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Tokyo leg of Swift’s Eras Tour – a multi-continent extravaganza that could end up as the highest-grossing tour of all time – kicked off Wednesday evening and ends Saturday night.
The area outside the Tokyo Dome was packed hours before doors opened on the first night Wednesday, with fans decked out in glitter, tassels, tiaras and kimonos.
Kane Ishiyone, 28, traveled from her home in Fukuoka, in southwestern Japan, to Tokyo for the concert – for which she has bought tickets to all four nights. She has loved Swift since 2009 – to the point she learned English to understand the song lyrics, and left her job to move about more freely during the tour.
“I’m taking a two-year break for going to her concerts,” she said, speaking outside the concert venue with pink stickers on her cheeks. “I quit my job when she announced this Eras Tour.”
The Eras Tour had its first show in March 2023 and will continue through December 2024.
To date, Ishiyone has attended more than 20 concerts in eight cities – and is already planning future trips to Germany, Austria and the Netherlands to attend Swift’s shows there.
Childhood friends Sarina Saito, 18, and Aimi Satou, 19, said they were looking forward to doing TikTok chants at the concert. “We worked hard at part-time jobs (to afford) this,” they said.
Excitement among Swifties, as her fans are known, had been building for days.
Organizers began selling tour merchandise at the Tokyo Dome on Monday, with large crowds waiting outdoors in the snow and sleet for Taylor-branded hoodies and sweatshirts. One fan from the Philippines, who flew to Tokyo for the concert, said on TikTok she’d stood in line in temperatures hovering around zero for two and a half hours.
Fans have also prepared through rituals that have by now become established traditions among the Swiftie community: making personalized friendship bracelets to trade with other concert attendees, practicing crowd chants and curating carefully chosen Taylor-themed outfits.
“What we’ve seen with the Taylor Swift tour is something that we’ve not really seen before,” said Richard Clarke, an analyst at investment firm Bernstein. “It’s been a very well-timed post-Covid event, a sort of cultural event, everyone seems to want to go to this.”
“It’s been such a popular tour that people have found that their home markets are often sold out, and therefore have begun to travel to other markets to try and find tickets,” he added. “I’m sure that’s going to be the case with Asia as well.”
Two fans at the Tokyo Dome on Wednesday said they’d traveled from New Zealand for the concert. “We tried to get tickets to Taylor Swift in Australia, but we just could not, it was two weeks of pressing the refresh button, trying to get tickets, couldn’t get tickets, and (my friend) said, let’s try for Japan,” one said.
In a sign of just how international the crowd was, one attendee described hearing multiple Asian languages inside the stadium on Wednesday. But then Swift appeared, the music began playing and tens of thousands of people sang as one in the common tongue of her lyrics.
Super Bowl return?
Then there’s the question of whether Swift will make it back to Las Vegas in time for Super Bowl Sunday, given the long-haul flight and large time difference – prompting fans around the world to draw up spreadsheets, timelines and even PowerPoint presentations to track her journey.
Swift has been a regular at Kansas City Chiefs games since she turned up at Kelce’s family suite in September last year to watch them against the Chicago Bears. The pair later confirmed in separate interviews that they had already been seeing each other prior to that game.
Even the Japanese embassy in Washington weighed in to reassure fans, saying in a statement last Friday that “despite the 12-hour flight and 17-hour time difference … she should comfortably arrive in Las Vagas before the Super Bowl begins.”
Working in Swift’s favor is Japan’s position as the “land of the rising sun.” As one of the first countries to the west of the international dateline, it is a full 17 hours ahead of Las Vegas.
While Swift finishes her last concert on Saturday night local time, that’s still early dawn hours Saturday morning in Las Vegas, leaving her plenty of time ahead of the Super Bowl kick-off on Sunday evening Las Vegas time.
In pictures: Taylor Swift’s journey from country icon to pop superstar
The Taylor Swift economy
Swift’s stardom holds such outsized power that experts say she may single-handedly boost Japan’s entire economy in just four days.
Up to 34.1 billion yen (about $229.6 million) are expected to be generated from Swift’s concerts, said Mitsumasa Etou, a representative of research site Economic Effects NET, and a part-time lecturer at Tokyo City University.
He called the tour Japan’s biggest ever musical event in terms of predicted economic impact – expected to surpass Fuji Rock, one of Japan’s biggest music festivals, which last year generated about 20 billion yen (about $134.6 million) in revenue.
The estimated numbers for Swift’s tour don’t even include the impact of international tourists coming to Japan for the show, he said.
Clarke agreed, saying: “If you add up the ticket prices, the restaurants … she was, on her own, a fairly significant impact on regional GDP.” Attendees are likely also sightseeing, shopping for goods and making other purchases, meaning “there’s going to be more taxes being used,” he said.
Part of the reason it’s so profitable is just how much Swift’s tickets cost. Prices for seats close to the stage are now double what they’d cost in 2018 when she performed at the Tokyo Dome for her Reputation tour, said Etou.
Not to mention, many superfans like Ishiyone bought tickets for multiple shows. 28-year-old Maiko Akazawa, who grew up listening to Swift’s music, bought tickets for all four nights in the VIP section for 46,000 yen (about $309) total.
Clarke cautioned that the economic impact will be milder in a metropolis like Tokyo – which has many hotels and thus can easily accommodate an influx of fans – than smaller cities. Some US towns saw up to 95% revenue increases for the nights of Swift’s concerts – whereas Tokyo will likely see an increase of about 25% each night, he said.
The difference is that people might be traveling much further for the Tokyo shows, as it’s one of only three locations she will visit in the Asia Pacific region. She will play six shows in Singapore – with tickets for those selling out within hours – and seven shows in Australia later in February.
“You will have some people that definitely will be like, ‘Well, look, I haven’t been able to get tickets in Los Angeles. It’s not that much different to go to Tokyo than it is to go to the East Coast,” said Clarke.
Australia is already bracing itself for impact, more than a week out from her scheduled concert. On Tuesday, Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Michele Bullock said the “Taylor Swift inflation” effect has forced fans to adjust their spending elsewhere to afford tour tickets and other related costs, according to Reuters.
Reuters added that the tour is the first in history to gross over $1 billion, citing industry estimates – with fans spending billions more dollars on transportation and accommodation.