Comiket 85 – Japan’s Biggest Comic Book Festival
The Comic Market, or Comiket for short, is Japan’s biggest indoor gathering hosted by a NGO. It started in the winter of 1975 as a market for young and aspiring comic book artists to meet, sell their books and to showcase their talent. Over time cosplaying fans would gather dressed up as their favorite characters and even corporations started attending. These days about 45 000 exhibitors apply for a spot in one of the 39 000 market places and about 600 000 people gather to attend the market. It is impossible to make this even justice in a single blog post but let me just say say it is massive, and the weather does not help either. There are two Comiket every year, one in the blazing hot summer and one in the bitingly cold winter. I tried the summer market once but didn’t last 30 minutes. The most popular comics sell out in a few minutes after opening and fans often make a point of cueing up before the event starts, which means that if you arrive early you might have to wait in line for a an hour or two.
There is no entrance fee and the NGO who manages the event (three main guys who work full time with this) relies on 3000 volunteers for everything from garbage collecting to crowd control. I know many comic fans who make a point of volunteering a year just to serve their time for the greater good of the underground comic community in Japan. When I say underground, I mean that most of the comics on sale break some copyright law or another but unlike western trigger happy media companies Japanese publishing houses accept and in some cases even encourage fan art and rewritings of their stories. You won’t find anything as vulgar as simply pirated stuff, but you will find that the authors of these “doujinshi” (同人誌 or self-published works) have spent a lot of time and effort on writing new stories for their favorite characters.
The open spaces around the many convention halls are taken up by cosplayers who make their own costumes in the likeness of their favorite characters. There are thousands of them and many times as many photographers and fans. Despite the seemingly chaotic situation there is a certain etiquette to be observed and things run surprisingly smooth. It is hard to move around in the crowd and the heat or the cold makes things even more difficult. I took these photos of some great looking cosplayers, it was exceedingly difficult to get good shots! I don’t know the characters but I am sure some readers might be able to point them out for us! The last photo is of two fantastically great looking people doing a Moomin cosplay! Snufkin and Little My, along with a couple of tiny home made Hattifatteners.
The last day of the 85th Comiket is today so if you are in Tokyo and hurry up you can still catch this event!