WonFes

JapanaTour: Wonder Festival

Mar 01 // Chris Walden
Wonder Festival occurs twice a year, giving professional figurine manufacturers and garage kit creators alike the chance to show off and sell their wares. The very first WonFes was held way back in 1985, and like Comiket, has had its attendance grow considerably with each instalment. It's not just figurines that show up here, as you can often find plushies, anime, manga and musicians about the place. Just make sure not to take photos of the idols! It's not as heavily enforced as it is in Comiket, but like me, you'll look like a bit of an idiot when you realise you shouldn't be doing it! Professional Tip #1 If you are going in the summer, be wary about the heat! As you can see in the top image, many Japanese folk will bring towels to stave off the sun and the unfortunate bi-products it brings with it. Dress lightly, bring plenty of water (as drinks are uncommon and expensive inside the hall) and avoid wearing black. A hat is also worth considering, as it's pretty easy to get your head burned. Plus it'll keep that sun out of your face, so there's that too. You may not be outside long, but you'll certainly feel the effects.  Wonder Festival is held at the Makuhari Messe in Chiba, so that's where you'll need to head! It's a little out of the way, so you'll want to aim for the rapid service trains if you can get them. You don't need to make any changes either, so it's not too difficult to get there. From Shinjuku station, take the JR Sōbu Rapid line to Chiba station (about 40 minutes, just make sure you are on the rapid service).   From Tokyo station, take the JR Keiyō line to Chiba station (about 45 minutes).  Before you make travel arrangements, you'll need to be aware that to enter WonFes, you'll need one of their guide books. This will set you back ¥2000, but also contains information about the stalls you'll be seeing, as well as event times and other such things. They'll look a bit like this, and you can buy them on the day if you don't have one already. Just make sure you remember to buy one, otherwise you'll be wondering why they're chasing after you! Be aware of long queues if you arrive before the place opens, as many people will be getting there early to snag the exclusives! Like me, you may be interested in doing the same and try to get hold of those exclusive figures that go on sale. The Good Smile Company certainly have the largest offering of these, which causes most people to head straight there upon entering the hall. For reference, I arrived around an hour before the event started at Summer WonFes 2011, and barely managed to get the exclusive Madoka Nendoroid they had for sale. The 1:1 scale Kyubey sold out while I was in the queue, and everything sold out just minutes after I'd left it. Get here at least an hour early to avoid disappointment, and make sure you have adequate protection if you are here in the summer, as you'll be sitting in direct sunlight while waiting for WonFes to begin.  You shouldn't have any trouble finding the stall to head to, as most people will be heading straight to it. Follow the crowd and get in the queue, but don't try running or barging in! When you are there, you'll see some people holding signs like this, which indicate what exclusives are for sale, and how many you can get per person. When you get close to the sales desk, you'll be given a pencil and an order sheet, which you'll need to fill out and hand to the desk so they can retrieve your order as fast as possible. Have your money ready too, so you don't hold up the queue! You may also be lucky enough to get one of these awesome masks for your troubles!  Fun Fact Time! Did you know that particular works are shown off in the 'wonder showcase'? Many sellers have their works promoted this way, bringing them to the attention of people with extortionate amounts of money (i.e. the visitors). Many of the pieces on display are snapped up really quickly, so be sure to check it out before they all sell, just to see what they're like! Right next to the Good Smile Company stand is the stage, which will have various people talking/performing on throughout the day. You'll need to check the website and/or guide book at the time to see who will be appearing, and whether you need to prepare copious amounts of glow sticks in advance. I got to see the JAM Project and the Milky Holmes voice actresses, so it really is a mixed bag of people! As I mentioned before, it's forbidden to take photos of the stage at any time. Don't be surprised if an employee busts into a ninja pose to dive himself in front of your camera and prevent you taking a fantastic photograph. Not that it happened to me at Comiket or anything. Nuh uh.  There are actually several halls full of sellers, rather than one large hall like many conventions here in the west. The main hall features a lot of the large figurine companies showing off what they'll be selling in the not too distant future. You'll get to see a lot of prototype models, as well as buy some of the older ones at select stalls. There are definitely a lot of photo opportunities to be found here, especially if this is your kind of hobby! There will be a lot of people handing out promotional material, whether this be catalogues and bags to plastic folders and badges. Keep an eye out to score some free goodies! If you move into the other halls, you will see a lot of the garage kit creators. It's easy to pass them off as cheap imitations of professional models, but you can really see some gems here! Madoka fever was still in full effect when I got to look around, and many people had stunning recreations of the characters for sale. I don't doubt that if there's a popular series at the time, you'll be seeing a lot of related figures from people here! Oh, and be sure to show some ID if you are trying to enter the 'adult' tent that sells the more... revealing figures. Professional Tip #2 A few small things to think about! Make sure that, if you are going with other people, that you have somewhere you can meet up in the event you lose each other. This place might not have Comiket levels of people in the halls, but it's still very easy to get separated. Pick a place to meet, and go back their on the hour if someone is missing from your group. It can be tricky to find people without phones! The other thing is to consider bringing some food with you if you're staying over lunch. There are a few stalls selling food, but it's definitely cheaper to bring some onigiri or a bento with you. More money for cooler things, right? The halls right at the back are full of sellers, from professionals to flea market type stands. I certainly recommend rummaging around the stalls here, as you can find some great bargains. It's also a good place to finally hunt down that Figma/Nendoroid/other figurine you were looking for, and at cheaper prices than your typical Akihabara store too. I walked away with a case of Godzilla blind boxes (8 figures) for a very sweet ¥1000, so certainly take your time and look around! As you might expect, there is still a fair amount of cosplay to be seen here. Most of the cosplayers will stay outside for photographs and such, but you can still see them walking through the exhibition halls on occasion. You're free to cosplay if you like, but remember that you have to get changed at the event hall, as you aren't allowed to arrive in costume.  That brings us to a close, so I hope you enjoyed this look at the festival of wonders. If you want to write about your own experiences, have any further questions or even have some tips of your own, leave them in the comments below! 
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