Thursday, 30 December 2010

To Tokyo!

So, I’m in TOKYO! And my goodness has it been hectic! After the finals week I was really looking forward to having a rest! But before Hannah and I even left for Tokyo my days were spent with Aya, Amy, Gillian, Gabe, Areal and Katie. We had much fun over two days doing Visual K photo shoot (am just getting into V-Kei thanks to Katie and Gilli). Then in the evening of the same day we went out with Aya to brief karaoke and then to have all you can eat MEAT, or yakiniku, which is where you grill your own meat and it was soooo much fun! The following day we all went to Osaka and had all you can eat cake which was so amazing I cried! I love cake, and letting me have all you can eat was kinda dangerous ^^; but then being hyper we ran around Osaka which may have burnt most of the sugar off…possibly…maybe not ^^; And then after a final trip to Mandarake we said our goodbyes for the winter. I won’t be seeing Amy again for a while, but she lives near Otakon so always an excuse to go to that in America ^___^

The following day was Sunday 19th December and after packing and cleaning the room it was off to Tokyo with Hannah! My goodness the bags were heavy and we got horribly lost trying to find the hostel, but it was made up by the AWESOME train ride on the shinkansen (bullet train). It goes so faaaast and has loads of leg room and is so smooth~ Out of the window I got to see Iga again! And the 1/1 scale model of a gundam!!! And Mt Fuji!!! It was the most awesomeist magicalist train ride eeeeeverrrr.

Then after finding our way fine until we got to the area the hostel was in we lost our way. An hour and very soar shoulders, arms and legs later, we made it! We were both so hungry we just dumped our stuff (no one to say high, just our keys and a note) and went round the corner to a restaurant we’d seen. That was the magical Jazz bar. It was only me, Hannah and the guy running it. We sat down, didn’t know what to have so asked what he suggested and he gave us two specials, fried rice and soba, soooooo goooooood!!! The guy didn’t speak a word to English and really liked Jazz. He let me play his piano. The bar itself had such a nice homely feel about it. It was so nice ^__^ I just can’t describe how after that one visit I fell in love with it.

Unfortunately the hostel was nothing to be desired (tatami guest house). Unless you like cheap in money and services (freezing cold, stained sheets, a large sink to wash stuff including your hands and face after going to the bathroom) then avoid it. We both realized we could probably stand it about a week, but a whole month? Ohhh no. But planning our escape had to wait because we were tired and the following day we met up with Cait and Brittany in Ikebukuro!

Ikebukuro was cool! We went around trying to find places that were in the anime Durarara (which is based in Ikebukuro and is an awesome anime!) And it gave us a chance to wander round the whole of it before we all got tired and hungry and went back in the evening. Oh yes, that evening was nerve wracking. Our plan to escape led us to Sakura Houses, expensive but we could move in the next day. We were thinking of sneaking out in the morning and had come up with a cover story when there was a knock on the door. It was the landlord -_- he wanted paying. So we told him our cover story (that we had to go back to England the next day due to a family emergency –hinting at an accident). He looked kinda disappointed and although he could have charged us the whole months rent he only charged us half. Gack >_<>

So the next day Hannah and I got up early in the freezing cold room and left. We traveled over to Shinjuku and began getting house stuff sorted. It felt better immediately, Sakura Houses, although notoriously greedy, were more professional and felt a lot more homely. Also they had free heating and showers which the last place didn’t. It took ages and we were both really tired and achy for carrying our luggage around again, but held on just that little bit longer. We were able to leave our luggage at the Sakura Offices while we viewed the new house, and then when we met up with Cait and Brit in Shinjuku to say good bye to them. I’m glad we got to say bye coz I would have been sad otherwise. And even then it wasn’t bye, but ‘mata ne!’ so I’ll see her again ^-^ We (me Cait and Brit) plan to have a 2 week visit to Britain, and then 2 weeks to Utah one summer! Defiantly! I mean, when else will I have a chance to go to Utah?

Since the move I have been really tight on cash. And I mean REALLY tight. We want to go to places and do things, but I’m trying to save money where I can and I really wonder if I can. At the end of the month here we plan to go back to Osaka via the mountains etc but train and accommodation might end up costing as much as this trip. And even though I might have money for it, it means I will be broke next semester. It’s all a bit of a pickle really, but I’ll work it out. Cross that bridge when I get to it ^-^

Next up, Tokyo at Christmas!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Nakama "Companions"

Nakama, Companions, Tomodachi, Friends~

It’s not often I talk about the different friends I make at places. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s just because people won’t understand if I say “So-n-so and I did this and we…etc”, where as if I say ‘my friend’ they’ll…I dunno….get what I’m saying better. Anyway, I’m weird and it’s random logic that works in my head. But this time I’d like to introduce some of the nice people I’ve met here in Japan. It’s not all of them and I’m sorry if I offend anyone who I didn’t include, it doesn’t mean I love you any less. And in no particular order…actually, in alphabetical order to keep it even, here are the people I’ve met in Japan and why they are wonderful:

Amy. There’s one word for Amy and that’s かわい! “Kawai!” she’s just so cute! And the little rascal knows it. Yes there is a little bit of Amy that is naturally cute but it doesn’t help when she flaunts it with her big blue eyes and sweet loli clothes. She’s certainly one who will always give you a big hug and a big smile to brighten up your day.

Areal. He’s a funny one. First time I met him he brushed me off and I actually thought he didn’t like me until we all went out one day to a doujin fair. Since then we’ve been really close and although with the rest of the gang go out quite a lot to do all kinds of interesting things. He’s a happy character who does things his way no matter what people say, and has such wonderfully flamboyant fashion! (Him and Amy like shopping and shoes a lot more then me)

Aya. The one Japanese person who I think I’ve gotten really close to. She’s wonderful and kind, likes anime, manga, cosplay, and rock music. She took me (along with Amy, Areal and Gabe) to a Japanese cosplay event which was awesome! She is the sort of person who will speak her mind as long as it doesn’t hurt people as is just a really fun person to be around. It’s hard to describe but she’s the kind of person I really admire.


Brittany. She is my wonderful, wonderful, wonderful room mate who is just wonderful! She’s so kind and gorgeous, although I think she pushes herself down a lot. She either doesn’t get upset or just has the skill to never show it to anyone. She sometimes dies from her wheat intolerance but bounces right back afterwards. We get along really well and she often does really random things, and then I’ll join in, like THE FUTON MOSTER! Winding her up is fun too.

Caitlin. Always has something interesting to say. She’s incredibly sweet and always has energy to go on an adventure! I really liked hearing her stories about her homestay and her views on animes.

Cassie. The Aussie with an American accent who had a will stronger then steel. She always does things her own way and knows how to get what she wants. Although she could be a bit brash without realizing it, she is equally kind and will always defend her friends. I loved hearing about her adventures on an online game she plays and it’s a good thing Brittany stalks the game otherwise I’d miss out on what she gets up to.

Gabe. Gabe, Gabe the American. Will always say the same thing when I see him “Jen-Jen! My favorite Brit” despite the fact I am the only Brit he knows. Silly billy. Really nice person who will keep everyone happy and the tone of conversation light.

Gillian. The 音楽オタク “Ongaku Otaku” or Music Geek who just seems to know everything about Korean and Japanese popular and rock music and the industry. A huge Visual-K fan who’s getting me into the scene too. She also knows Korean, and although it’s a same she can’t go to Korea next semester I’m really glad because it means she can stay in Japan and teach me Korean! She’s uber nice is always ready and rearing to go out and do something awesome!

Jacob. Kinda like a big Jewish teddy bear. He’s really quiet and sometimes ditzy but very sweet, and if he has something to say he’ll say it. He’s an awesome character.

Katie. Always embaressed about her age but sooo pretty! I love her hair! Also really awesome with a unique gothicy fashion sense and a love for Japanese and Korean rock music. She is uber fun when ever we go out and is as crazy as Gilli about doing random fun stuff!

Mandy. Sooooo smart! Mandy is from Finland/Sweden and is a History major. She’s picked up Japanese so quickly and is always teaching me about European history! She’s often very quiet and I forget she doesn’t like small talk, but she’s so kind and awesome and sweet! I did get miffed at her a lot for not eating anything but an onigiri (rice ball) a day coz she had no money. Silly billy. She was Cassies room mate.

Tyson. Loves Jet Lee. I swear he should just marry him. An awesome character who wants to be a martial arts specialist of some kind. He’s really helpful and has given me some good tips on loosing weight (I just have to use them). Always has something to say, and has some really good opinions. Incredibly down to earth character and room mate to Jacob.


These guys are kinda spilt into two. There’s Seminar House 1 people and Seminar House 2 people. Although not all of them live in those houses it’s how I divide them in my head because I’ve met them through either one of those houses. SH1 people include Brittany, Caitlin, Cassie, Jacob, Mandy and Tyson. We all went out a lot together at the beginning of the semester and got really close really quickly. It’s a shame that after midterms things meant we didn’t hang out a lot but they’re all really wonderful people.

SH2 people include Amy, Aya, Areal, Gabe, Katie, and Gillian. We went out together a lot after the midterms doing the really nerdy stuff like cosplay.

Although I’m going to see a lot of these guys next semester there are a few I won’t like Amy, Caitlin, Mandy and Cassie, who have all made my first semester at Kansai Gaidai wonderful and I’m gonna miss them a lot! Until I next seem them in America/Finland/Australia, coz I will ^__^

Monday, 13 December 2010

Changing

It's the last week of the first term in Japan. Everyone's getting final exams and papers done, and people are preparing to leave. The current topic of conversation between everyone (aside from how much revising they have or what they're doing in the Winter holidays) is how people have changed. A few people are saying how more open minded they've become, how much more outgoing they are, or are saying just how quickly they've managed to pick up Japanese.

This has got me thinking; what has changed about me? Am I any different from before? I find myself thinking a lot more about my future. I had originally planned to become an interpretor by doing the JET program before doing a masters in England on interpreting and translating in Bath. Now I'm not too sure. JET has a few horror stories, but mostly not incredibly positive stories, and it seems like University degrees are under threat from the Tories, so who knows if I'll even be able to afford a masters degree when the time comes. My Anthropology lecturer proffesor Hester is incredible, and although I've only had him for 3 months I've grown to really respect him like no other lecturer at Kent Uni. This has got me thinking about becoming an Anthropologist and moving to Japan. But likewise social stigmas towards foreigners amoung other stuff make me really wonder if living in Japan is really such a good idea.

Aside from thinking about the future more it's got me thinking about the past. At the beginning of the term I had a lot of pent up emotional stress from my now ex-best friend turning against and completly ignoring me for 9 months even though we were living together; and from my now ex-boyfriend who was just the worst person possible for me but I kept convincing myself that it would be get better and blah blah blah 7 months of missery later and I end it in a horribly guilty messy way...*Sigh*. But spending time away from all that had really helped clear it out. What's happened had happened and there's nothing I can do to change it. I think Japan has really helped me move away from that and learn from the mistakes that I made.

Then there's the present (which seems kind of appropriate considering it's almost Christmas). How has Japan changed me? I like I'm a lot more chilled here. I'm working a lot harder then I ever have done before and there isn't anything like AGS or AnimeSoc to relieve the stress so I think that gets built up and I'm less bouncy then I would be at Kent, but I don't think that's a bad thing. It's helping me to see that I just need to take it slow....I don't know if that makes any sense. I think the work and a greater stress on managing money is encouraging me to become even more responsible and giving me more of a desire to go out and explore as a relief method.

I think I'm still unclear on what has changed about me thanks to Japan, but I know something has. I also know (here's a warning to people back home), that although I still have 8 months to go and I'm missing everyone really badly, that when I do get back to England I am deffinatly going ot fall into depression from being apart from Japan which I've grown so familiar with. It really doesn't feel like I'm going to be here that much longer so I keep thinking that I don't have much time left when actually I do and I'm being silly.

Anyway. Random brief look into Jen's random mind, so feel free to ignore this rant. I think next time I'll give people much needed phrases you need in Japan ^-^

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Cosplay Special: The Event

Cosplay Special!!!

Finally the JAPAN COSPLAY EVENT! 28th November (Saturday)

Something should be noted about Japanese cosplay events, which you may have realised from comparing my cosplay experience with the Japanese cosplayers experiences. Normally cosplay in England (and the US and other places) is done at conventions, or organised by groups to do a photo shoot. They are very much opportunities to have fun and run around and be crazy and creative. Japanese cosplay in very much not socially accepted in the public eye, it’s considered strange and alien and it is very much frowned upon for people to walk around in public in strange costumes. So events are often organised which focus just on cosplay rather then conventions which advertise products etc. This event is held every Saturday and Sunday every weekend at a shopping mall in the port in Osaka.

Not only is it very much not accepted in public but the general Japanese mentality has created a very different way of cosplay. Japanese people are brought up in their school and home life focusing on the in group. They are very much this is my group and people on the outside don’t matter, only this. So when Japanese people cosplay they cosplay in little groups of other people who have the same interest (often people they’ve met online on sites whom they know under pseudo-names as described in the interview) and they very much stay in those groups at events. People really did not break away and talk to other cosplayers or photograph other cosplayers. They staying in their groups (which are all characters from the same anime) taking photos of themselves. Often they’ll have a professional looking photographer who volunteers from the social networking sites to take photos of the single group for the whole day.


So, on with the story ^-^

This all started when Aya, Gabe, Areal, Gilli, Amy and I went to Mandarake in Osaka. Mandarake is a magical shop of second hand manga, figurines, dvds, games, and cosplay. Aya, Amy, Areal and I are all cosplayers and I was determined to get a cosplay to it was up to the 4th floor. So after browsing through the cosplay Amy and Aya found some Macross Frontier cosplay of Ranka, and because Aya already had a Sheryl cosplay then why doesn’t Amy do Ranka? She’s small and cute enough. I was kinda feeling left out until I found an Alto cosplay. I jokingly suggested it to Aya but she got so excited (it was so cute) that I just couldn’t not get the cosplay. So I bought the costume (and a Working!! costume) but decided to leave the wig for later (so I could afford the second coplay). A day of awesome geek filled shopping followed.

A week or so later Aya contacts me and Amy and we arrange a day to go the event she normally goes to, and Areal and Gabe decide to come along. This means I need a wig. So another week later and I return to Mandarake with Amy and Areal and my friend Yuka to get a wig. Now there was the choice of one wig was the right colour but the wrong length and the shop keeper suggests I get a longer one so I can do Alto’s pony tail, even though it’s not quite the right colour. So after umming and ahhhing I go with her advice.

So a few days later, before the weekend of the event, I try to style the cosplay…it did not go well…wigs do not like ponytails…at all…one little bit…So I made a horrible horrible mess of my cosplay and after someone pointed out what a bad job I’d done I just broke down. It was messy, rats nest looking that was top heavy. So I resided to giving up altogether because I felt sooo bad. BUT the following day Areal and Amy turned around and convinced me to give it another go. They helped me get back into the cosplay mood so I decided to borrow some trousers and go hunting for a t-shirt and other accessories to finish the cosplay. I looked up on the internet how to fix the wig and fixed it as best as I could the day before the event. Phew!

Morning of the event and we get up early, cosplay in bags and dressed in normal wear, we work our way through Osaka. What I found really cool was how you got closer to the event you could tell who cosplayers were, event if they weren’t wearing costumes. This is pretty awesome because when you go to an event you can tell who cosplayers are because they’re dressed up. Japanese cosplayers tend to be young girls with cases on wheels (it’s in these cases the cosplay is) and there were a lot of them. Aya said that normally about 500people attend the event but on that day there’d be about 250 (found out from her cosplay site).

We arrived at this mall by the port by the sea and had to go all the way up to the 12 floor where there was a lobby where we signed up and got split into guys and girls changing rooms. Japanese shop assistants said “irashyamase~” (welcome) as we went in. The changing room was just a big room with tape to indicate places you could change in. So we all got changed in public (which is fine because I’ve been to onsen and those are worse for ‘public displays’) and then dumped our bags in a bag section and met the boys (who weren’t cosplaying).

As I said, Japanese people don’t cosplay in public, and as pointed out in the interview there’s a strong sense of animosity. As a result you couldn’t photograph in the lobby, especially of anyone not in costume. And the boys had to pay an extra charge to sign up because they weren’t in cosplay, they had their photo taken, contact details and a blacked out membership card. No joke, it was BLACK so that people couldn’t see what it was a membership card for.

We then headed down and began testing out the cosplay (while I was frantically scribbling down everything I was because this was hot stuff for my dissertation). Areal was in charge of my camera and it was so WEIRD being out of control of my own photos. It was not a nice feeling, especially because he wasn’t using automatic but manual focus. Ahhhh >_< onblur="try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}" href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_y2pPBaDXZKU/TPz2i4x3PqI/AAAAAAAAAM8/cPrxgvdM1-4/s1600/IMG_1525.JPG">ke South Park (translated into Japanese). He said he’s like to do cosplay but doesn’t have the body for it. I can understand that all too well…there’s just some cosplay you can’t do -_-


So we then, as they say, did as the locals do, and spent from 11-4 taking photos of ourselves. Now and then Areal and Gabe would wander off to get a few snap shots of other cosplayers (and sometimes I’d order them too, like of the awesome good K-On group). And we had two people come and ask to take photos of us, both times was of other Macross Frontier cosplayers. I felt so…inadequate compared to these Japanese Cosplayers. When you see their photos online they are amazingly good and now I can understand why. They just spend hoooouuuurs taking photos so of course they’re going to be really good at posing and photography…that and they’re Japanese and just suit anime characters way better. Although ironically the few I talked to said they thought Western faces were more like anime because their eyes are so big. I guess the one side will always wish for what the other one has.


At 4:00 approached we were getting stupidly tired. We sat for a bit while Aya went to find her friend and a girl who was working at the event came up and talked to us about cosplay and stuff. It was really nice ^^ She was the first person to come up and actually properly talk to us. I made a few more notes as a sight report and then we got changed and ate ramen for dinner. Ahhhhhh it was good ^_^ Summary: Cosplay in Japan is incredibly unique and fingers crossed the next one will be even better then this one >8D


Cosplayers: People Who Are Close but Not Close

The following is the second part of my cosplay blog special! It's an interview with a Japanese cosplayer who is awesome and I love her to bits for doing this for me!


Cosplayers: People Who Are Close but Not Close

Kosupure (or cosplay), is a combination of ‘costume’ and ‘play’ and consists of the practice of expressing ones fandom through the dressing up of fictional characters from various medias; mainly anime, manga and games. It’s seen within Japan as a subgenre of the otaku subculture, which describes people who are avid fans and consumers of various mediums but mostly linked to the consumers of “useless things” such as anime, manga and games (Grassmuck 1990). There is an argument as to whether cosplay started with costumed role-play in American in the 60s and taken to Japan, or whether it was important from Japan along with the practice of anime and manga fan clubs (Winge 2006). Either way it is now a common practice in Japan especially among the young female otaku, such as 22 year old Reiko (for the purpose of anonymity this is not her real name). This essay will look at Reiko’s involvement within the cosplay community, her consumption practices, how it fits in with her social life, and how it contributes to her self identity.

You wouldn’t expect Reiko to be more then an average young Japanese woman but she is an avid cosplayer who was first interested in cosplay at 17 when she went to her first doujinshi (self published fan comics) event. She said that she had an interest in doujinshi before and when she went to her first event in Osaka there were a group of people doing cosplay. “I thought they looked cool and wanted to try”, but it wasn’t until a year later at the age of 18 when she was in university and was able to try cosplay for the first time. Her interest in doujinshi and cosplay developed on their own but when she got to University she was able to go to cosplay events for the first time with a group of friends. These university friends have stopped cosplaying now but she has formed a new group of cosplaying friends through the cosplay community.

Reiko decides which cosplay to do based on her favourite characters from anime, manga and games, but if a friend wants to do a group cosplay (all characters from the same show or game) then they will do that. Hers and her friend’s interests in the latest anime, manga and games is the fuel for their creative cosplaying passion. She said that, like many cosplayers, she normally buys her cosplay and then adjusts it to fit her body shape. She will normally spend about 8000yen on a single cosplay including the costume, wig, and accessories. I asked her if she bought a new cosplay every time; “Sometimes, but I use the same favourite cosplay a lot. There are people who buy new cosplay each time, but I don’t”. Aside from buying anime, manga and games which fuel her love of cosplay, and the cosplay itself, Reiko also spends time and money on dieting, skin products, but more importantly saves money from her part time job, which is based around the events at the weekend.

Reiko will go cosplaying about three times a month, normally at “ATC” a shopping store in Osaka which holds weekly cosplay events. There are normally normal people doing their shopping at the store, so they will often get stared at a lot. The cosplayers go to have photo shoots which are shot inside and outside the building itself, but they don’t just go to have the photos as keepsakes. What I found particularly interesting was the way the cosplayers interact at events like these: Reiko told me that a cosplayer will have a meishi, a business card, with their “cos-name”, photo, mail address, and cosplay website etc. People use these cards to look up the cosplayer or photographer on sites like an SNS (Social Network Service) and they normally keep in contact via the internet and sites like these. “You can make lots of friends” she said, but when I asked if she was close with her cosplay friends she said “Hmm, sort of. Real life names, where they live, contact details and personal information you normally don’t know”. To keep their identity there is a social taboo to asked or give out personal information, as a result Reiko knows the people by their ‘cos-names’ and characters, and is close to them as cosplayers, but outside of the events and cosplay community she knows nothing about them. Cosplayers who meet in the cosplay event normally don’t meet outside of it. There is anonymity within the cosplay circles due to its links with the otaku image, which is normally perceived as being very strange, and has very negative connotations linked with it (Grassmuck 1990), not only that but people prefer to keep their normal and cosplay lives separate for fear of what their friends and family might think of them.

Reiko is an unusual case, I think. She uses a cos-name but it is the same as her real life name but she uses different kanji so that when people say her name she doesn’t get confused. Not only that but most of her friends and her family knows that she cosplays. I asked her what her family thought and she said that at first they thought it was strange but now it’s normal. The only people who don’t know are her friends from high school, before she started cosplay. When I probed her to see why she doesn’t tell them she replied “It would be troublesome, embarrassing, because they might think she’s otaku and maybe that characters image is bad.”

Thinking up questions related to identity I figured that asking ‘how does cosplay make your identity’ would give me an answer from Reiko that she would think I wanted. Instead I asked her “If you’d never got into cosplay, do you think you’d be the same person?” She paused for a moment and replied “Different, defiantly different. When I cosplay I make myself, I become myself. For example, when I do cosplay and a man comes and asks me ‘Can I take a photo’ and he makes really good photo it makes me. My level of cosplay increases.” I pushed the question if she’d never done cosplay then what would she be doing now; “I don’t know…but long ago I was also interested…I can’t think of not doing it.” So I asked why she cosplays; “At first I saw a lot of cool people who did it, so I wanted to do it too. I like those characters and when peoples faces change to become those characters, it’s fun. When I see photos it’s interesting, fun. I’m young now and I have a lot of good photos of when I’m young. When I get older…because now it’s a hobby, but it’ll be impossible to do when I’m older.”

From what I understood cosplay gives Reiko her confidence in her image as a young woman. She is able to ‘make herself’ and at the same time create new persona and ‘new faces’ through the acting of the characters she enjoys. Cosplay is a central aspect of her life that she can’t imagine being without. Her part-time job funds her passion and is scheduled around events. She not only buys cosplay and the necessary accessories, but also anime, manga and games which inspires her cosplay. She socialises with her friends in real life, who know she cosplays as well as with her friends online, whom she always makes new ones through the introduction of events. Ironically, although she’s close to a lot of people who cosplay, she is only close as a cosplayer to them as cosplayers and none of them know who they are or what they are like outside of the cosplaying world. It is a practice which is done in the open with a lot of interaction between cosplayers, but is a closed circle where real identities are kept private. As Winge (2006) states “Japanese culture values community above the individual, cosplayers exist as a subculture, outside the acceptable norms of the dominant culture…[a]s a result, Japanese cosplayers have a negative reputation as individuals”. Because of this discrimination, areas for ‘safe cosplay’, such at official events like the ones held at ATC.

Cosplay the British Way

This was a report we had to do at the begining of the year on your own popular culture consumptions in our country. So I decided to do it on cosplay. I realise that I didn't define what cosplay was so I'll do it now. Cosplay comes from "costume play" where you dress up as characters from various mediums, be it anime/manga/books/films/bands/TV programs, and not just Japanese mediums, but Western ones too. Some people even say it originated from Trekkies in America dressing in Star Trek costumes and then being brought to Japan.

The following is my own opinion and what I really think, so I realise I may sound really snobbish at times...or a lot of the time. But it's unedited and what I gave to my teacher.

Cosplay the British Way

One of my interests is in cosplay. This originated from the website DeviantArt.com, where people share, collect and comment on their own and other people’s artwork. My main attraction to the site was the individual’s professional looking manga style original artwork. After being on the site for many years I began to stumble across photographs of various characters from popular animes and I began to collect the images of some of my favourite ones.

A few months after that I began to investigate into the possible cosplay events I could go to, but living in England, out in the countryside and having no money I felt like I would never get an opportunity to try it out. A while later and I started university and was introduced to KentANIMEted, a student run anime society. Within a few weeks they were advertising a group trip to the London MCM Expo, a sci-fi, fantasy and anime convention, which most people attended in cosplay. This isn’t to say that everyone who likes sci-fi, anime and manga likes cosplay and in fact many people go to the events simply as fans of the genres.

I was so excited at this opportunity that I spent several days thinking over the possible characters I could do. I did not have much time nor any money and as the event grew closer it seemed like I would miss this one opportunity. I think that it was something so new that I had wanted to try for so long that I just could not miss the chance. In the end I managed to convince a friend to buy me a Yuuki cosplay off of e-bay (a character from the shojou manga Vampire Knight).

I had fun but learnt a lot from my first cosplay. Such as the need to stay in character; I was too hyper that the few photos I did have taken of myself were ridged and I looked like a complete newbie (which technically I was). After that I began to make my own cosplays; my first was with a friend who helped me make a custom made Final Fantasy White Mage, which I did in a group with some friends. The second I made by myself and it looked terrible. From that I learnt that you needed the material to match the colour and fit with the costume; to use proper clothes templates; how to tack, sew and use a sewing machine; good places to go in my area and further afield for materials and accessories. I would normally spend about £60 and at least 2 weeks on a single cosplay and each time I would learn something new. The best part was going to the London MCM Expo (which is held twice a year) and knowing the effort I put into my costumes was worth it, although there would always be something I would have wanted to improve about the costume.

After going to these conventions and other small University based events for 2 years, with a total of 9 different costumes of varying genres (anime, manga, games sci-fi TV and webcomics) I noticed I had not only how I gained the skill to make clothes but also developed a kind of cosplay snobbery. There were always ‘bad’ cosplayers running around and I would always judge their cosplay as much as I judged my own, critiquing in my head (and sometimes shamefully out loud) how bad they looked and why and how they could improve it. Once when I was walking through Camden in London on a normal day and I spotted a Roxas and Axel (from the game Kingdom Hearts) and my first thoughts were ‘Oh a Roxas and Axel. Wow Roxas is fat and Axel should really sort out her wig’.

I normally feel bad for thinking this way but I think it formed from the strikingly different groups that always seem to form at the Expo. The ‘Japanafiles’, people who ran around with ‘free hug’ signs, eating pocky and other Japanese snacks and shouting “kawaii” and “desU” (with no real knowledge of the Japanese language except what they obtained from the internet and anime). These are often cosplayers dubbed ‘Narutards’ and ‘Bleach Clones’, those who buy the same mainstream fandom costumes (Naruto, Bleach, Soul Eater, Vampire Knight, Death Note, Kingdom Hearts, Silent Hill etc) from the internet and who gathered in large groups from the same series. They are well known for cosplaying the mainsteam because that’s often the only anime/manga they know.

There are the cosplayers who dress up in (most likely) hand-made costumes which are not part of the mainstream, (I say ‘most likely’ because people don’t tend to ask if a cosplayer has made the costume themselves). Those cosplaying in something different would often come in groups and looked amazing together (one year there was a large group of zombie Disney princesses). Then there are the professionals, people who had been cosplaying for years and gotten it down to a fine art. They will often spend hundreds of pounds and months on amazingly detailed costumes for events where they strut around in character and are often treated like celebrities. Their photos are the ones that crop up the most often on the internet and there are forums and websites dedicated to showcasing the progress of the costume’s make and final pictures (www.cosplayisland.co.uk/ and www.mcmexpogroup.com/forums).

The ever present cosplay photographers are those who would create these final pictures of the Cosplayer in character. They get people to pose and create artbook style photographs, often copying poses and scenes from the series the character originated from. A decent photographer is able to make any cosplay look amazing no matter how bad the costume was. I am lucky that one such photographer came from the University anime society (www.manylemons.co.uk/gallery) and who is also one of the founding members of cosplayisland.co.uk.

I have found that a successful cosplay (which everyone aims to get) is one that gets lots of compliments and requests for photographs (a difficult task considering the number of cosplayers who attend). My last event was like this. I had arranged to go in a small group with 3 other girls who I had met at a previous Expo event. We stayed in a hotel to attend the whole weekend and each made 2 costumes for the weekend (one for each day). The most successful was our group cosplay on the Sunday of the one popular manga Air Gear. For that event I spent a total of around £400 (I know others who spend a lot more depending on the event and costumes), but I felt like the money was well spent considering the experience. The atmosphere at such large scale events is tremendous because of the number of people and costumes.

I’ve met many cosplay friends through going to the Expo, although I often only ever see them at the events (due to how spread out across the country they are). Many of my close friendships have also developed through the anime society and quite a few through making cosplay with them. Early this year in connection with KentANIMEted I ran a cosplay workshop to help people get into making their own costumes. Most people who cosplay (such as those I’ve met) will keep socialising throughout the year using the Expo forums, but I found that I preferred socialising with people in person rather then over the internet as most of the people on the forum were annoying ‘Japanafiles’.

The consumer culture of cosplay is strongly rooted in the fandom of American and Japanese sci-fi and fantasy, anime and manga. I don’t know any cosplayers who do not own at least one manga book, anime, DVD and sci-fi comic. The Expo itself is a geek’s shopping dream where vendors sell art, anime, doujinshi, Japanese magazine, plushies (soft toys of anime/manga characters), DVDs and advertise the latest games and films. Those cosplayers who cannot sew and just go for fun will buy their cosplay off e-bay (most often specially fitted from Hong Kong). The professional and amateur cosplayers are significantly different as they will spend most their money of materials to create the characters clothes, money which does not go into the American anime industry (most products in England are linked back to the Ameircan market rather then the Japanese one because the American’s translate and export the products for European consumption).

In conclusion my own interest in cosplay spawned from the social networks of the internet to a university club where I made new friends and learned from them before going onto teach others. The cosplay culture itself is designed to be seen by others so people are often committed to doing events with other people in either small group photo shoots, or in a large convention like the Expo. The cosplays themselves are created from the animes, mangas, TV shows, films, comics and webcomics that they are interested in. These cosplayers will consume a wide variety of these before they even think about cosplaying (I certainly did), and then at the event itself is a wide selection of products people will purchase at extortionate prices because it is linked to those interests. I am ever thinking of new cosplays I want to do, new events to go to as each cosplay is different and I feel like there is still so much I could do.

Iga and Kyoto Flea Market

First I have a big apology for the lateness of my blog posts, so much has ones again being going on and things have, once again, been piling up. So here’s a large update of goodies about Japan and STUFF.

Iga –Ninja ‘village’ (14th November Sunday)


First of all one of the main trips which I (along with Cait, Brittany, Cassie and her friend TK) went on in the last month was a week after the INFES, a trip to Iga the Ninja ‘village’ in the next prefecture over. Why do I say ‘village’? Well…Iga is now a large town/city and the ninja part was very much a museum in the middle. Don’t get me wrong it was incredibly interesting and fun, especially the ninja demonstration, was just a bit of an anti-climax after a 3 hour ride to get there. So here’s a fun video of some of the ninja demonstration (apologies for the woman in front):



(She’s talking about Shuriken and how on TV and anime you seen ninja throwing several shuriken at a time, but in real life this wouldn’t happen because real shuriken weigh about 200g. Ninja would only throw between 1-3 at one time, not one after the other, so they can’t use a lot.)

Kyoto Flea Market (21st November Sunday)


Now onto the more interesting stuffs. Another week later was the 21st November, now in Kyoto at the Toji Temple every 21st of the month there is a large flee market. I got up extra early and made my way there on my own, first time I’d gone wandering on my own, and I’m so glad I did! Being on my own I could go at my own pace, and browse all the stands. Most of them were selling antiques, toys, kimono, old clothes, or nommy nommy nommy vender food like taiyaki, teriyaki, okonomiyaki etc. I got a large pile of stuff which I won’t say because they’re Christmas presents for people ^_~

After wandering around for a good 2 hours, and it only being 11:00am I met up with some other friends who had made their way there and we went and got some lunch of omurice. Omurice is very interesting Japanese food. It comes from “omelette” and “rice” and is rice mixed with ketchup and then covered in an omelette with ketchup or sauce poured on top. What is really interesting is that Japanese people think this is youshoku/foreign food and yet the only place I have seen/heard of it is in Japan! But despite the debate it is VERY yummy ^_^

Then (after putting our haul in a locker at the station) we worked out way across Kyoto (which is a surprisingly large place) to the Imperial Palace. Then (after putting our haul in a locker at the station) we worked out way across Kyoto (which is a surprisingly large place) to the Imperial Palace. But first we found the Kyoto river was really log and you could get stepping stones across!!! I think we wasted an hour doing that ^^;
(Me, Areal, Amy, Katie, Gilli and Gabe)

For those who don’t know Japan used to change their capital every time the emperor died. First it was Osaka, the Kyoto, then Edo (which is now Tokyo), they got out of the habit after the Shogun kicked the emperor out of power. So Kyoto used to be one of the capitals and has it’s own imperial palace which is only open to the public without reservation for a short time each year (the imperial palace in Tokyo is apparently open to the public only 1 or 2 days a year!). And that was the last day.

It’s funny because although we did get to see the palace, which was a series of single floored buildings which you had you walk outside to see –couldn’t go inside because they were all just single roomed buildings divided with screen doors, we mainly wandered around outside. It was so pretty! The autumn colours coming in made the grounds (which were HUGE and full of trees –you wouldn’t know you were in the city) sooo pretty.



Then to finish off the long day we went and had nummy nummy Japanese food in huge quantities. I can’t remember the name of it but we went to a restaurant in the centre of Kyoto city where you order lots of small side dishes and all eat a lot of little stuff. Hmmmm ^-^



Coming up Next!

Cosplay Special!!!

The weekend that just went was an extra special day because I got to do cosplay for the first time in Japan. I had a lot of trouble getting the costume right but it was worth it in the end and COMPLETELY different to how England does cosplay. So over the next few days I’m going to upload some special blogs on cosplay. The first two being reports on cosplay that I wrote. One is a report on my own experiences of cosplay as a consumer of cosplay. The second will be an interview of a Japanese cosplayer. And finally what happened last weekend at the event, and then some specials on my photo blog with photos of our cosplay. ^-^ Apologies if you don’t like cosplay but hopefully it’ll be educating for you.