What is Comiket and what to expect
For many years now, it never fails to impress me when I find myself in the same train carriage as a group of cosplayers. It was almost as if I stepped into another dimension as I watched them standing in a circle and laughing among themselves. Brightly coloured hair, immaculate painted eyes, and bizarre fashion – it is not easy to look up from your phone and not stare. There must be an anime convention today, I thought to myself. I was right.
The Anime Festival Asia, AFA for short, is held annually in Singapore. You can expect talk shows, anime showcases and a whole lot of booths selling anime and manga merchandise, along with those made by fans. The convention is accompanied with an “I ♡ anisong” concert where otakus and anime music fans wave their light sticks with immense vigour.
This year’s AFA will commence today till Sunday (November 25 to 27), with a great line-up of celebrity cosplayers, Japanese voice actors and singers, as well as the man behind the viral hit “PPAP”, PIKO-TARO (you can catch him at 6:30 pm this Sunday).
Which brings us to the next point: does Japan have AFA?
Going to the Comike
On the contrary, Japan holds a major three-day event at the Tokyo Big Sight during summer and winter. It is called the Comic Market (コミックマーケット – komikku maaketto), also known as Comike (コミケ – komike) or Comiket (コミケット – komiketto).
Unlike AFA, Comike is the biggest fair where more than 30,000 manga circles gather to sell their self-published manga – doujinshi. You can find all types of doujinshi at this grassroots event, from boys love to fanfiction. These independent doujinshi artists are joined by musicians and sculptors, whose meticulous attention to their craft would capture the public’s imagination.
How do I prepare for Comike?
Here are some tips for first-timers:
1. Study the first half of the Comike catalogue in advance
Admission to the Comike may be free but it is essential for you to get the catalogue that costs from 2000 to 2550 yen (depending on where you buy it). It consists of maps, a list of participating companies and circles, as well as other important information. There is an online version if you prefer not to carry that thick “encyclopedia” with you (click here). There is unfortunately no English version but you can use the catalogue nevertheless to draft out a shopping list so that you know where to go on that day. This also helps in easing the flow of human traffic.
2. Take a bath before going, especially if it’s summer
Here’s how you can contribute to the greater community: wash yourself clean. The exhibition hall is notoriously known for the horrid stench of sweat as well as something called komikegumo (コミケ雲). This incredible foggy display hovering over the booths is caused by heat, sweat, dirt and other mysteries only God knows what.
3. Do not bring an umbrella
We know it is scorching hot in summer, but do be considerate by packing a cap or raincoat with you for protection against the Sun and the rain.
4. Drink lots of water
You need all the hydration you can get. Adding a pinch of salt to your drinking water also helps.
5. Bring your survival gear/kit
These are tough times and you cannot afford to go without foldable chairs, snacks, plastic bags and power banks. When we say the crowd is massive, we are not lying. Be prepared to stand in line for a couple of hours before you enter the building. If you’re queuing for the most popular doujinshi, the waiting time is about 5 hours after taking the first train. To avoid the peak period, you can consider visiting in the afternoon instead.
6. Cosplay outfits are only worn at the event
It is unlike what we see here in Singapore. No matter how pretty or cool you look in your cosplay outfit, you are advised not to go to the Comike in it. It’s the same when you’re returning home. There are changing rooms where you can perform your transformations so please utilise them well.
That being said, cosplayers are to register themselves before they are allowed to cosplay. There are registration stickers (the colours vary on different days) and a booklet that you should equip yourself with as proof that you have conformed to the rules and regulations. Also, you cannot wander outside the cosplay area or you’d disrupt the pathways.
7. Beef up your wallet with cash
Just prepare thousand-yen notes (or smaller notes) and a lot of coins. Also, avoid using large bills as there are times the participants run out of change.
8. Travel in groups
That is if you have an extensive shopping list. It is much more efficient to delegate tasks among the group, deciding who would buy what and all. Try not to rely on your mobile phones to locate one another but state a specific time and location to meet after you are all done with the purchases. Why? Just look at the massive amount of people!!
When is the next Comike?
The winter Comike will be held at Tokyo Big Sight from December 29 to 31, 2016. The fair opens at 10 am but first-timers are recommended to visit between 12 pm to 3 pm, unless you have a partner that happens to be a veteran. The participating circles are different for each day of the convention so please plan ahead! Remember to wear thick clothes and bring warming pads (ホッカイロ – hokkairo) too!
We would highly recommend you to go for the Comike as it would be amazing if you could experience for yourself one of Japan’s unique subcultures. What’s more remarkable is that no matter how insane the crowd may be, there is an orderly fashion to it with the use of signs and roped off pathways. You would also learn how to be mindful of others; for instance, you must seek the permission from the cosplayers before you can take a photograph of them. Also, it is basic courtesy to thank the artist after browsing the doujinshi even if you are not buying.
Thankfully, Comiket has created a page for foreigners interested in visiting the fair. It provides more information in various languages such as English, Chinese and Korean. You can click here to check it out.
Now, we are wondering how to incorporate these lessons for the AFA this weekend. For starters, let’s take a bath.
Stay tuned for our next post on this year’s AFA!
Note: If you are confused why we use the word “Comike” despite the exhibition logo blatantly stating “Comiket”, the word “Comike” is more commonly used by the Japanese to refer to the event.