JapanaTour: Comiket


Welcome to the first edition of a new segment us folks like to call JapanaTour, a glance at some of the awesome places and events Japan has to offer. The authors of these articles will be people who have actually visited the place at hand, so if you're planning a trip to the land of the rising sun any time soon, then you may just benefit from some of the information we will inevitably spill! From Akihabara to Sendai to the Good Smile Café, we'll be sure to cover lots of weird and wonderful destinations!

For our first outing, we'll be checking out the famous Comic Market, also known as Comiket. You may have seen it in anime, and to be honest I'll be surprised if you haven't, but have you ever fancied crossing the pond to check it out? Hit the jump to learn more about it, as well as a few... survival tips. 

Inside the main hall!

I'm sure there are some of you that are wondering what Comiket is all about. Essentially, it is a huge fair held in the Tokyo Big Sight (yes, Sight and not Site!) that sells large quantities of dōjinshi, which are self-published products. Fan-made manga, music and games are but the tip of the iceberg in terms of wares you can expect to see for sale. There are also licensed products available, so if you are still looking for that elusive hugging pillow, you may just find it here! There is a huge amount of cosplaying, as well as a stage for live music, so there really is something for everyone. Better yet, it has free entry!

Fun fact time!

Did you know that the Tokyo Big Sight is officially known as the Tokyo International Exhibition Centre, or to the Japanese, the Tōkyō Kokusai Tenjijō?

The first thing on the agenda is preparation for the weekend itself. If you take a trip into Akihabara a week or two before the event, you'll be able to pick up a guide that is packed full of useful information, even for us lot that don't understand the native lingo! Not only does it include seller information, which is handy when you're hunting out a particular circle, but it includes those all-important maps! Next, you'll want to find a bag and take a few bottles of water and a towel. If you're going in the summer and your home country doesn't get 35 degree and above heat, you'll need that towel! Even the Japanese do it, so don't worry about looking out of place. Drink the water sparingly too, you'll run into trouble if you need to use the loos in there! Be prepared for ridiculously long queues if you decide to chance it. 

Queues extending outside of the building

There are several ways to get to the venue, but the best way would be to go via train. You'll want to be aiming for the Kokusai-Tenjijo station, as the Big Sight is just a ten or so minute walk away. You can get there on the Rinkai line via:

  • JR Shibuya Station (approximately 20 minutes)
  • JR Shinjuku Station (approximately 25 minutes)
  • JR Ikebukuro Station (approximately 30 minutes)

If you had planned to visit Palette Town at all during your trip, then it is also possible to walk from there. Just beware of the heat in the summer and getting sore feet! Palette Town, other than being an alternative spelling of the town where Ash Ketchum was born and raised, is an extraordinary shopping mall. We'll talk about that some other time!

Fun fact time!

If you end up going to Comiket, you may notice a giant, red-handled saw. This is an art piece called 'Saw, Sawwing' by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen, and is one of nine different works of art scattered around the Tokyo Big Sight. 

As you might expect, the crowds of people at Comiket are a sight to behold in their own right. Be prepared to be barged about a sea of bodies before reaching one of the sales halls. The morning is definitely the worst time for this, but it's a price you must pay if you are aiming to collect goods from some of the top circles. If you want to go just to see what it's like, it's worth considering popping in during the afternoon. You may often see people holding large signs to indicate the end of queues leading to a particular circle, so be wary of them! 

Some cosplayers chilling out!

You'll find a large stage outside the exhibition hall, which features chatter from famous individuals and performances from various musical acts. You'll need to check the guide when you get one to see what exactly will be going on each day, but there's usually a few well known groups performing. At Comiket 80, I had the pleasure of watching a particularly... colourful idol group (whose name I do not know, sorry!) as well as an appearance from Yuichiro Nagashima, who you may know as the cosplay kickboxer. Anyone can end up on that stage, so be sure to look it up prior to arriving!

Fun fact time!

The first ever Comiket was held on December 21st 1975, and there were roughly 600 attendees. Nowadays, the event attracts over 560,000 people over the three day weekend.

There are a few rules that you must follow while over there, not counting the obvious things like barging into queues and the like. Photography and video recording is the big issue here. Inside the exhibition hall and by the stage, don't start taking photos! You will likely be asked by one of the staff to stop. Taking photos of cosplayers should also be kept outside. 

The other main rule you may not have heard of regards cosplay. If you intend to cosplay at the event, you must get changed at the Tokyo Big Sight, and not wear your costume to and from the venue. There are changing rooms available for this purpose, so please use them!

That brings us to a close, so I hope you enjoyed this quick look into the world of Comiket. If you want to write about your experiences, have any further questions or even have some tips of your own concerning Comiket, leave them in the comments below! 

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Chris Walden
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