Dear TJL fans,
We are re-publishing our account of last year's Comiket, which has proven to be one of our most popular articles. Hope some of you can make it to this year's show.
In the midst of the sweltering summer, the TJL team decided to brave heat, humidity, and hordes of manga fans to bring you a report on the famous Comiket 2011. We went on the third day of the convention. We were warned the first day is overcrowded and the second day most of the team was working.
Comiket, stands for “Comic Market”. It is a Japanese practice to shorten words and phrases, sometimes making it difficult for non-native speakers to understand. But Comiket is so well known that it needs no explanation. It is a festival for manga creators, collectors, cosplayers (costumed players – see what I meant about the short phrases?), and fans to get together in a huge area.
Comiket takes place twice a year in Tokyo, once in August and again in December. This summer the three day festival took place on 12, 13, and 14 August. The location of the comic fair is the Tokyo Big Site convention center. The Tokyo Big Site convention center has a unique design of four inverted pyramids (called the Conference Tower) that make it a great landmark. There are two huge halls, called the East and West Exhibition Halls. The thousands of vendors filled up both the East and West Exhibition Halls.
Travel to Comiket
As advised by their site, the best way to get to Comiket is by using public transportation. If you are staying in Tokyo, the subway (Tokyo Metro) can be confusing. The TJL team disdains the use of expensive taxis (except for those nights at the Karaoke bars when the pleas of our fans force us to stay past the closing of the Metro), so we arranged our trip via the Metro. I was recently shown the best way to plan a Metro trip is through the travel site Hyperdia. Using the site is simple, but you need to know the exact name of the closest Metro station to your departure point and destination to use the site effectively. For example, Tokyo Big Site is not shown in the Hyperdia drop down menu because it is not a Metro station. You need to know the name of the closest Metro station. In this case the closest station is Kokusai-Tenjijo (which shows up in Hyperdia’s menus as “KOKUSAITENJIJO”).
After inputting the departure and destination points, Hyperdia generates several alternative routes. It also shows how much the fares will be and gives a pretty good idea of how long the trip will take. Printing out the route will ensure you have no trouble getting to the site.
Beating the Heat
As this is the summer convention, we were prepared for the worst. I brought my roll around carryon with a couple of bottles of water and a towel. I later learned that a hat would have also been nice as the sun was very bright in the garden area where the cosplayers roamed.
I saw three people who fainted from the heat while at the convention.
The towel is a necessary accessory for the Tokyo native. It is used in the summer to wipe sweat, shade the neck, and splashed with water from a bottle, can be used to cool the brow. The towel is also used year round to dry your hands as the public bathrooms don’t normally have paper towels or dryers. This is due to severe restrictions on litter in Tokyo. You will rarely find a public trash can.
Of course, there are vendors on site that sell snacks, drinks, and cooling ice cream. If you bring your own, you won’t have to wait in line. Late in the afternoon, I did fall prey to the temptation of a snow plate. The snow plate is a loosely packed snowball of ice shavings on a plate, with various flavors poured on.
I dutifully stood in line, paid my 300 Yen, and ordered by pointing. My problem was that the list of flavors spoken by the clerk was unintelligible to me. At my quizzical look, she slowly repeated the flavors (in Japanese, of course). The only flavor I understood was “LEMON”, which is the same in English or Japanese. Wanting to avoid fish flavored ice cream, I ordered the Lemon flavor. Minutes later, I was served.
Just as I was about to spoon up my first cooling taste of snow, my TJL teammate George asked, “What’s the first thing they teach Eskimo children?”
“What?” I responded with the spoon halfway to my mouth.
“Don’t eat the yellow snow!”
George thinks he is a wit. He is half-right.
That might have ruined the appetite of a lesser man, but didn’t faze me. However, I made it a point to learn more flavors for my next excursion.
Roaming the Halls
A pleasant surprise was that the convention required no entry fee for fans. The fees are paid by the exhibitors, who are there to sell their wares.
We spent several hours roaming the aisles and only managed to view a small portion of the available merchandise. An English map would have been nice. I have heard that one is available, but couldn’t easily find one. In any case, the TJL team scoffs at those who over-plan, over-organize, and over-agonize every trip.
I purchased several copies of comics from the distributors. However, examination showed that these were all “Adult” comics. I searched in vain for the non-“Adult” section, hoping to get a copy of “Sailor Moon” in the original language for my children.
Besides the comics, there were booths selling figurines and other items of interest to the ardent Otaku (Nerd).
The Cosplay Exhibition
The high point of the trip was the viewing of the gaudily dressed cosplayers. This took place in a garden area of the site. The cosplayers each staked out their area of the garden and posed for the photographers and viewers. The costumes displayed amazing attention to detail. Unfortunately, my knowledge of manga was too limited to guess which character the cosplayers were imitating. Still, it was a great show and I managed to get some good photos.
Note the attention to detail in the costumes. The girl on the left has even dyed her eyebrows to match the hair.
The cosplay exhibition ended promptly at 3:00 p.m.; which left a couple of hours to tour the halls. We noted that this year the moving sidewalks were turned off, probably as a way to conserve power. Japan is still suffering from the effects of the loss of the Fukushima reactor and will be in power conservation mode for the foreseeable future.
After the tour through the various displays, the team headed back to our home turf in the Akasaka area. A vote was held and we decided to visit the awesome Authentic Burger restaurant to revive with a few quick beers and one of their famous burgers. Note that the link above is to Google Maps and it is a little bit off. The actual entrance to the restaurant is around the corner. Look for the awning with “Authentic” printed on it.
We all chose the standard draft to replenish precious bodily fluids. Then we had hamburgers and fries to replenish precious nutrients.
Over the dessert course (more beers, of course), we discussed the day’s adventures.
“Show me your loot,” George said.
I gave him my copies of manga (all adult titles, as I never managed to find the kid’s section).
“Go ahead and keep them for souvenirs,” I said.
George made appreciative noises as he thumbed through the mangas.
“Why don’t you keep them?” he asked.
“I wanted souvenirs for my kids. These are not appropriate. I thought I was getting Sailor Moon comics. It wasn’t until later I found out I had purchased the adult version.”
“Well, this sure looks like Sailor Moon. Thanks for the comics. Now I finally have the answer to a question I have had since I was a kid,” said George.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“I always wondered; where the hell does Sailor Moon hide that big magic wand?”