Cosplay is a worldwide phenomenon that is now an essential part of geek culture. Especially in Japan, cosplay is tightly connected to the otaku culture. Many fans have tried cosplaying and even more are trying to learn more so they can at least try it and see what’s all about!
Manga.Tokyo has a few tips and tricks about cosplaying in Japan, attending events as a cosplayer, and the necessary rules and manners any cosplayer should know about when cosplaying in Japan.
1. Look for a venue to cosplay
The best known event for cosplaying in Japan is Comic Market, also known as Comike. There are many cosplayers and photographers attending, as well as merchandise booths. Game shows are also well-known and really fun.
There are also several organizations that host cosplay events regularly, and there are cosplay events held at public venues every month. If you want to try a casual cosplay event, try one out. You can check event information on the internet at their official websites.
There are also many studios that allow cosplayers to hold photo shoots. It may be costlier than attending an event, but you can experience a professional photo shoot in genuine facilities. If using a studio is too costly, there are also studio-sharing events where you can share the studio with others to split the cost.
2. Getting prepared
After you decide which event to attend and learn the date and venue, start preparing. Needless to say you need to prepare your wigs and costume and everything else, but you also need to pack everything up before the event day.
In Japan, you are not allowed to go to the venue with your costume on. This may be the biggest difference between cosplaying in Japan and overseas. This is a fixed rule for all cosplay events in Japan.
Cosplay events provide a dressing room at the venue for you to get changed. You have to carry everything you need for your cosplay with you to the venue, get changed in the dressing room and do your makeup there. You will need to bring all your costume, props, and makeup with you. Maybe you should write down a check-list of what you need. There are so many to carry and you don’t want to forget something.
Some venues prohibit participants from carrying suitcases with wheels. Please make sure to confirm in advance whether or not the venue you’re using allows the type of suitcase you are using.
3. To the venue
There are a few things to note before you leave for the event. First, remember that you must not be wearing your costume to the venue. Second, make sure that you don’t disturb other passengers with your props on your way to the venue. You’ ll probably be carrying a suitcase or two, and depending on your cosplay, a few HUGE weapons.
Most props like weaponry wouldn’t fit in your suitcase. There are usually special bags for fake swords, but in case you don’t have one and you just have to tuck it into a bag with its part sticking outside, make sure that it isn’t in other people’s way. It so happens that some passers-by may accidentally get their scarf or the straps of their bag caught on props sticking outside bags.
I know I said that you shouldn’t go to the venue wearing your costume, but the rule doesn’t say anything about NOT wearing your costume underneath some heavy clothing. Some cosplayers actually wear a big coat to cover their costume or wear sunglasses to hide their oddly colored contact lenses so that their cosplay doesn’t stand out in public. It is a way to shorten the time for changing, especially when the event would be super crowded like in Comiket. In big events, it is challenging to change in the crowded dressing room.
However, I wouldn’t recommend this method for regular cosplay events. In the case that you must for some reason, make sure that you look natural enough so that other people won’t notice that you are wearing a costume.
4. Registration at the venue
When you arrive at the venue, you first need to register at the reception. You pay the entry fee there, and receive a rule booklet and an entry identification. You have to carry this entry identification with you in the venue. If you lose it, you will need to pay the fee again to get it reissued, so make sure you don’t drop it or leave it behind. Put it inside the purse or handbag that you are carrying.
The rule booklet is often written in Japanese only and you may not be able to read it. The booklet usually shows you where you are allowed or not allowed to shoot photos or eat, and some explanations regarding other rules and prohibitions. Every venue has different rules set for photo shooting and eating, so when you are not sure where to do something, ask the staff there directly and don’t simply assume.
When having a photo shoot, there are some places that you are not allowed to shoot, most often dangerous spots and places where there are warnings for the facility and places where prop usage could prove problematic. For example, you are not allowed to throw or bounce a basketball when having a shoot, and you are not allowed to draw your replica sword out of its sheath when you are not having a shoot. There are also some areas where you must not set your camera tripod.
These rules are there so that no cosplayers or photographers would trouble others. Please make sure to abide by the rules and regulations set by each event so that everybody can enjoy it.
5. Changing your clothes and applying your makeup in a dressing room
When you’re done registering at the reception, the staff member will guide you to a dressing room. You will be sharing the room with other cosplayers, so please try not to occupy too much space with your belongings. It may take you a while to get used to changing in the provided space, but after a few times you’ll soon learn how to do it quickly.
You are not allowed to use hair spray or sun-block spray inside the dressing room at most events. The dressing room usually has windows and curtains shut all the time, and you cannot ventilate air there. Any type of spray is not allowed for this reason. Please use liquid or cream type hair styling products instead of hair sprays.
Moreover, please avoid putting on perfume inside the dressing room, because of the ventilation issue.
You should bring your own makeup removers with you. Some photo-shooting studios have makeup removers, wet tissues, an iron for your costumes, and sometimes hair irons for your wig or your hair.
Once you’re done changing, the staff usually stores your luggage in a specified area. Even though they will secure your items, do not leave any food items or valuables in your baggage.
6. Always be considerate of the people around you
After you check-in your baggage with the staff, you can finally have a photo shoot. Always abide by the rules and regulations set for the event, and enjoy shooting!
Depending on your costume, you may be restricted from going to certain areas for photo-shooting, especially if your costume exposes your body too much or when the character you’re cosplaying has a tattoo. Please make sure that you aren’t breaking any rules, and always ask when you aren’t sure. Breaking the rules can give cosplayers a bad name and the venue may decide to disallow cosplay events in the future.
Sometimes you get absorbed in your photo poses and forget about the people around you. Some cosplay events in Japan use a public space that the general public shares for other purposes, and so you have to be very careful not to hinder them or get in their way.
Quite often some cosplayers occupy too much space with their belongings or stand in the pathway of the general public without noticing while having a photo shoot. You have to always remember that you are sharing the space with others. Too, be careful where you set your tripod for your camera!
Try to bungle your belongings into a spot that doesn’t bother the people around you, and avoid occupying a table or chair that the general public may use. Bring a picnic sheet with you and use it to place your belongings on the floor so your items will not get dirty, like in the picture above.
Like I said before, breaking rules can get all cosplayers in trouble and the venue may decide to disallow cosplay events in the future. Complaints from the general public should definitely be avoided.
7. Changing back to your normal clothes at the dressing room before you leave.
Before the event’s closing time, go back to the dressing room and change to your normal clothes. The room can get very crowded in the final hours of the event, so I recommend that you start changing early.
Cosplayers often wear heavy makeup for cosplaying to match with their costume. Of course, if your makeup is the same as your normal makeup, then you don’t have to worry about it, but sometimes it’s safer to remove it, especially when you have odd or very garish makeup on as it can sometimes scare the general public.
Studios often have hair irons for your messed up hair after taking your wig off, but that isn’t the case for most cosplay events. Many cosplayers tie up their hair or bring a hat or cap to hide them. Wig shops have normal wigs for general use on sale, and some cosplayers bring such a wig to wear on the way home after an event.
The above picture shows a normal wig. It looks very natural, and you can hide your messed up hair after the event. It’s fast and you don’t have to worry about your hair.
Once you’re done changing, make sure not to leave your trash behind. Sort it out and throw it in the appropriate bins before leaving the venue.
Ready to Cosplay?
These are our seven tips and tricks for attending a cosplay event in Japan.
You may find that I’m nagging too much about rules and manners, but what I wrote here is based on the general rule of ‘Do not trouble others’! You’ll be perfectly fine as long as you always keep that in mind.
What’s most important, though, is that you have a good time cosplaying and photo-shooting at an event. Everyone can have fun with cosplaying, even if the event is taking place in a public venue. People might smile at your poses and others may ask you about what you’re doing. Always be kind!
Let us know what you think, and please share you own tips in the comments below!