AnimeJapan 2015 and Cosplaying in Japan

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I was planning a trip to Japan at the end of March with my friends, hoping to catch a bit of the cherry blossom season.  As I was planning it, I decided to look up when they had cosplay conventions.  I am not familiar with how cosplay works in Japan and what kind of convention they have.  So this is in no way a detailed guide on how to cosplay in Japan.  I just want to share my experience as someone going into it without much prior knowledge.

So besides the popular Comiket they hold twice a year,  there is AnimeJapan at the end of March.  It just so happened to fall on the same weekend I arrive in Japan!  This was definitely an opportunity I could not let pass by.  I am actually surprised I did not find more information about japanese conventions.  I think because cosplay is such a big part of japanese culture, that it is more often something they do every day, at local events, meet ups, and photoshoot locations.

Conventions in the States involve panels, video rooms, game rooms, concerts, dealer's room, artist alleys and more.  Popular conventions that I go to such as Otakon and AnimeExpo have huge lines to get your badge and to the scheduled events.  AnimeJapan was nothing like that.  I could not buy my ticket in advance (reduced admission: 1600 yen and can be picked up at 7-Elevens and other similiar locations) so I had to buy on arrival.  I was worried that lines would be long or what if I went all the way there and it's sold out.  I went the day after I arrived in Japan, Sunday, March 22, 2015.  There was a lot of people, but I never had to wait in line!  As soon as I got off the train station around 11am,  I followed the crowd towards Tokyo Big Site.  The line was constantly moving, I walked right up to the ticket table and bought my ticket for 2000 yen and continued walking.  Everyone walked in orderly fashion and I entered the building and started my day...

You are not allowed to arrive in cosplay.  You have to change in the designated changing room when you get there.  Also, at this fair cosplayers did walk around the convention in their costume.  They create a designated cosplay area for cosplayers to change, get their pictures taken, and socialize.  There are a few that walk around the convention floor, but its usually simple costumes like school uniforms and wigs.  I decided to explore and enjoy the convention first.  This convention really is like an anime fair.  The building looks like a huge empty warehouse with 2 rooms connected in the middle by a lobby-2nd floor cafeteria.  I don't think I even got to explore all of it.  There are tons of huge booths set up on the floor space.  Different companies, promotions, and merchandise for sale.  Huge inflatables hanging from the ceilings, giant LED screens showcasing their latest animes, and booth babes dressed up in cosplay and handing out flyers.  It was all very commercial.

I ate lunch inside the convention center, there are a few restaurants and bento box stations there.  After lunch, I visited the cosplay area.  According to the guidance on their website, I am supposed to buy a cosplay badge/sticker in order to go into the changing room and have it visible on me while I'm cosplaying.  I went up to a table and tried to ask for help.  She didn't understand English, but showed me these pre-written registration instructions in English.  I still wasn't sure what it meant on where I am supposed to go to get my badge.  She thought I wanted to cosplay and sent me to the booth next to hers, which was for cosplay rentals (if you don't have a costume, but want to cosplay, you can rent costumes by the hour for a cheap price; 1000 yen for 1 hour).  The staff over there also did not know English.  But this time I showed her what's inside my bag, that I had my own costume and she finally understood and brought me back to the other desk.  Where she told the girl to give me a badge, which costs 500 yen.  They pointed me to the walls behind them, which is the changing room.  When I read about a changing room, I was expecting an actual room, with stalls to change in, and mirrors, like a gym locker.  But this was a makeshift rectangular "room" made with panel walls put together, right on the convention floor.  They covered the floor inside this room with plastic, and many lines of duct tape, to create rows.  They would lead you over to a row and give you a spot to sit there and get ready.  Luckily I had everything I needed in my bookbag and a small compact mirror.

For the outdoor cosplay area, they sectioned it off with metal bars.  Cosplayers would line around the edge of it, display their "cosplay contact information" and wait for photographers to take their pictures.

An example of a cosplayers' contact information (they use twitter, kaibu, cure) placed on top of their suitcase that they used to bring their costume.

Photo by: Taccarin (Imgur)

Photographers line up to take pictures of the cosplayers along the wall.

A japanese sonico cosplayer complimented my costume!  I could only understand kawaii haha.  Wish I could communicate with the cosplayers there.

A foreigner was taking photos as Press, I later found my picture online!

As soon as I stepped out of the changing room in my cosplay, I felt lost.  It's not as easy as it looks.  The outdoor space is so crowded with cosplayers, photographers, and attendees.  There is no space left to stand against the side.  Even if there were, it would just be awkward to stand there alone.  And Japanese photographers will rarely approach you if you are just walking around.  They probably feel it is rude to stop and disturb you.  For the cosplayers standing against the wall, they start to form lines and take turns having solo time to take a few pictures with the cosplayer.  I find it really strange, because it doesn't seem like a great environment to get good pictures.  It was hard that I couldn't communicate with anyone, but I'm glad I tried it.  I got to cosplay in Japan among other Japanese cosplayers.  I didn't see too many impressive and handmade cosplays like in the States, but these cosplay girls are just so cute, it's intimidating!  

Thanks for reading my rambling about my experience.  I wanted to share what it was like for me to cosplay as a foreigner in Japan.  If I went with another cosplayer friend I'm sure it would have been a lot more enjoyable as we would both be lost together XD  If you had the chance, would you do it?

Thanks for reading!

If you want to know more information about Anime Japan and their cosplay rules:

Some coverage I found about AnimeJapan 2015:

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