I love conventions. Travel, comic book, anime, anything really. Anywhere that you can gush about your favorite things is a good place to be! They’re also great to meet people from all around the world who share the same interests that you do.
Japan has tons of conventions all year long to celebrate everyone’s favorite passions! Being a geek, I couldn’t resist attending at least one anime convention during my stay in Japan. The biggest anime convention in Japan is Anime Japan, taking place this year on Sunday, March 5. I’ve been going to conventions for over 10 years in America and I thought I’d seen it all. Boy, was I wrong! My eyes were open to a whole new side of conventioning!
I think the differences stem from our cultures. In America, con-goers are looking to meet celebrities, catch a glimpse of the next big movie, and grabbing free swag or scoping out the best merchandise sales in the dealer’s room. Halls are filled to the brim with people strewn everywhere. Japan has a much more relaxed con style. Everyone lines up to play games or to check out a certain booth, there are designated congregating spaces for friends, and a dedicated cosplayer space where people get serious about taking photos.
In a way, the convention scene depicts the mannerisms of the society that it is attended by. Japan, in general is a very respectful, honor-based country whose people would rather admire the upcoming works of creative teams than to see what kind of goodies are awaiting them at each booth they visit. At some points, it was like walking into a museum. The TV Tokyo booth was a maze of high walls depicting advertisements of home releases of its newest anime and exciting the crowd with posters of new episodes set to air. This is one of the biggest differences between Japanese and American booths. It seems that Japanese booths themselves are more informative in presenting information than their American counterparts that usually have blown of pictures of characters or promo pictures, prompting the curious to search for a staff member to get more information. It’s interesting to see how each culture chooses to promote and release information to the average attendee. Crane games are SUPER popular in Japan and their booths showed cuddly new prizes that were set to release.
Photo Credit: TV Tokyo Booth wall advertising Natsume Yuujinchou
There was also a noticeable difference in booth interaction in Japan versus America. In America, booths are crowded with people getting in line to meet industry celebrities, scanning for freebies, and the booth’s company proudly boasting their products, encouraging fans to close in on the stage or designated floor space for regular giveaways. It seems that the average con-goer is more into seeing what companies will give to them rather than focusing on the product themselves. American cons tend to be more flashy. Of course, the Japanese fans are also excited to receive things from different booths but they seems to go about it in a more structured manner.
Perhaps the greatest difference in the con experience is the commercialization of the convention. Yes, it’s true that the convention itself is one giant commercial for the industry but there are different levels. At American conventions, you can find attendees locked in a human traffic jam as they wander about the designated dealer’s room. Aside from big companies selling limited edition or exclusive products at their own booths, there are numerous booths set up by different third party vendors. In Japan, this doesn’t seem to be the case. The only booths selling merchandise come from the companies themselves and there is no presence of other retailers. I was shocked by this and it made me think about how consumer driven our American entertainment business is. Admittedly, I missed being able to shop ‘til I drop at the convention. I always though that conventions were the best places to get deals or find that rare gem to add to your collection.
A big plus at attending a high profile convention like Anime Japan in Japan is that it’s easy to get tickets and they are MUCH cheaper than big name conventions in America. My Anime Japan ticket only cost 2,000 yen, less than $20, while one day at New York Comic Con will run you between $50-$60. You can also pick up a ticket at the convenience store kiosk without the hassle of going through online queues, plus you get the actual ticket the day you purchase it. No waiting around for the badge to come in the mail or standing in a huge line the day of to pick it up.
Attending a convention in Japan was fun but I did miss the hustle and bustle of American cons. Either way, I highly recommend dropping into a convention that strikes your fancy while you’re in Japan. They’re a lot of fun and it’s a great place to meet people from all around the world that love the same things you do.
So, what’s the best convention that you’ve ever been to or which one would you love to attend? Let me know down in the comments. Don’t forget to follow, like and Press this post!
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Photo Credit: Character lanterns from LOVE LIVE!