Harry Styles performs "Sign of the Times" during the "Love On Tour" concert at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan, March 24, 2023.

Harry Styles performs "Sign of the Times" during the "Love On Tour" concert at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo, Japan, March 24, 2023. (Kelly Agee/Stars and Stripes)

The fact that I splurged a bit for a VIP ticket to British pop singer Harry Styles’ concert March 24, the first of two nights at the Ariake Arena in Tokyo, paid dividends in entertainment value.

The VIP ticket, purchased in yen through Live Nation Entertainment, the entertainment conglomerate that includes Ticketmaster, came to the equivalent of about $380. It put me next to the catwalk section of the stage and within Styles’ own view, if only for a minute. More on that in a bit.

Styles’ worldwide “Love On Tour” is his second as a solo artist and began in September 2021 in Las Vegas after two postponements thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Styles took the stage in Tokyo to a capacity crowd of about 15,000 fans, many of them having traveled from the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere to see Styles perform.

This year big-name concerts are returning to Japan, where the borders were mostly closed due to the pandemic until October 2022. The Foo Fighters, Lizzo and Weezer are hitting the stage in July for the Fuji Rock Festival. Blur and Kendrick Lamar are scheduled for the Summer Sonic concert in Tokyo in August. 

Styles’ is a fan of the island. He’s been a tourist, written songs here and has been influenced by Japanese music. His 2022 album, “Harry’s House,” which won the Grammy for best album that year, is named for 1970s-era Japanese pop musician Harumoi “Harry” Hosono.

“It was named after Hosono, he had an album in the ‘70s called ‘Hosono House,’” Styles told New Zealand DJ Zane Lowe during an Apple Music interview in May. “I spent that little chunk in Japan and heard that record, and I was like, ‘I love that.’” 

Styles last performed in Japan in 2018 during his “Live On Tour” at the World Memorial Hall in Kobe and the Makuahi Event Hall in Chiba.

Saturday, Styles kicked off the show with “Music For a Sushi Restaurant,” which sparked an audience sing-along and the requisite dancing. Some shouted his name.

He reached back to 2011 for “What Makes You Beautiful,” a song from his boy-band days in One Direction.

Many in the audience came in “Harry Styles fashion” – ‘70s style clothing, including platform shoes and flare pants, sparkles and bright colors like bright purple and pink. Audience members held signs that read, “Welcome to Japan Harry Styles” and “Japan Loves Harry Styles.”  

About halfway through the two-hour show, he paused to talk with the audience. “Is anyone not from Tokyo?” Styles asked.

The couple standing right next to me raised their hands; Styles picked them out from the frenzied crown and asked what brought them to Tokyo.

The pair, Andy and Marcus, were, like me, from Texas, and on their honeymoon in Tokyo. “Omedetou gozaimasu,” Styles said, Japanese for “congratulations.”

For an encore, Styles returned with “As It Was,” from “Harry’s House.” At the finale, he grabbed a fan’s Japanese flag and held it over his head as he sang and danced across the stage.

“I’d like to give a massive thank you to the people of Japan and the people of Tokyo for the support the last 12 years that I’ve had the wonderful privilege of coming and playing here in Japan,” Styles said. “I love it so much.”

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Kelly Agee is a reporter and photographer at Yokota Air Base, Japan, who has served in the U.S. Navy for 10 years. She is a Syracuse Military Photojournalism Program alumna and is working toward her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland Global Campus. Her previous Navy assignments have taken her to Greece, Okinawa, and aboard the USS Nimitz.

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