Comiket is my first non-North American convention. As I haven’t been and likely won’t be attending any NA cons for a while, conventions in Japan will have to substitute. Comiket proved to be entertaining!
I attended comiket for just two days, the Friday and Sunday. Friday was blistering hot, and Sunday was almost as crisp. There were many cosplayers who were not dressed appropriately for the weather, wearing instead full leather suits or boxed costumes.
There were a lot of new policies and quirks I had to get acquainted with. First of all, the convention is absolutely free! I did not expect that, but I guess with an attendance of over 500,000 people over three days, you’d be in line for a pretty long time to pick up your badge…
Getting to the convention was a fairly packed but easy process, took a direct train line from Ginza to Tokyo Big Sight where the con is held. There are two direct train stations that are by the center, with another line and two stations not much further away as supplement to carry the enormous amount of people going to and from the con. Entering the convention center is a simple matter, just walk.
I visited three different merch areas, the general merch area which was on the top floor, the general artwork/crafts area, and the biggest area which is the Doujinshi room. For reference, that room alone seemed to be almost twice the size as the dealer’s room at Otakon. As you can tell, they need a lot of room to spread out the over-half-a-million-people crowd.
I didn’t find anything particular to my interest. If I could read Japanese manga or watch their DVDs, maybe I’d have gotten some stuff, but the products they have reach a very specific demographic. And with a population of 35+ million people in the Greater Tokyo Area, it’s easy to make those sales. So needless to say I didn’t pick anything up except a few fans, a folder, and some business cards. Again, the arrangement of the merch divisions and what kind of material they carry is different from NA cons.
Cosplay! That’s the main reason I went to this con after all, to get photos of Japanese cosplayers. I’m not going to lie, but Canadians/Americans be proud for keeping up with the quality level of costumes you’ve been producing as they’re up there with the quality your Japanese counterparts have been producing. I am not including the factor of race, complexion, or body-type. Simply, costume quality. The quality did range the spectrum just as any other con I’ve been to over the past 10 years.
Now, taking photos of cosplayers is very different. Cosplayers are allowed to pose only in “cosplay-only” designated zones. This may be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. Many of the cosplayers I’ve seen will have a small display showing their username/twitter/etc… “Wait, they carry that around?” No, they set it on the ground where they are. Typically, cosplayers will walk-around the con, but here they make a small camp and the photographers come to them! Photographers have to line-up for each cosplayer they want to get a few shots of. This gives the cosplayer the opportunity to give the photographer their full attention and accept any requests for poses. Some lines are short, and depending on the character/model, some lines are a lot longer…
When it’s your turn to take photos you greet the cosplayer and bow. I… can’t make much small talk so I just smile and bring my camera to position. I’ll take a few shots, maybe show them the pose I'd like to see, and quickly be finished with it. Once you’re done, you bow and thank the cosplayer for their time. You repeat this process for every cosplayer you want to photograph.
There are some exceptions, when things can get a little out of hand and it looks like the cosplayer circle-summoned a photographer army. I’ve never seen anything like this at any North American con I’ve been to. Left me speechless and in awe.
Some of the cosplayers I met did know a little English, I gave them my business card and they gave me theirs. You better believe it when I tell you business cards are a big thing in Japan. So yes I’m happy I made some lovely new friends, yatta!
There are also, what I would call, "cosplayer facilitators" who go around ensuing everything is in order. This year they were dressed as characters from Yowamushi Pedal, quite cute actually! They are essentially staff, they may have a loudspeaker as well. If something gets a little chaotic or out-of-hand, or if someone needs help, they're there. Quite a good idea when there's so many people out in the blistering sun. : )
Leaving the convention center is a simple process. If you’re taking the train lines, go line up for a bit while you wait your turn. The subway stations take precautions during comiket as to not overload the train platforms. If you’re going to somewhere else, have no fear as the walkways and paths don’t double-up on the train lines so you’ll be fine. Despite being super busy, I never felt like there was any bottleneck anywhere. Now that’s impressive!
Will I go again? Definitely! The next Comiket is in December. Yes, it happens twice a year. Instead of blistering hot, it’ll likely be very chilly. Pick your poison.
I had a great time and can’t wait to go back. If anyone is travelling to Japan around the comiket seasons, it’s worth checking out this fun free convention.
Thanks for the read, and here are the photo galleries below.