The sweltering summer heat is finally starting to let up and the nights have become almost cool enough for a jacket. This can mean only one thing: it is time for Kyomaf!
Kyomaf (Kyoto International Manga Anime Fair) is the biggest manga and anime event in the Kansai region of Japan and boast up to 45,000 visitors from around the world. Kyomaf2017 was held at Miyako Messe on 16 & 17 September. Visitors could experience the newest and hottest manga and anime, buy their favorite merchandise, and have conversations with the people involved in the production process.
A question a lot of people have is, ‘As a foreigner, how much can I really enjoy this event?’
Perhaps you like manga and anime, maybe you can speak a little (or a lot) of Japanese, and we hope you keep up-to-date by reading our website (thank you!), but actually going to an event is a little different.
Honestly, when you walk in, it can be a little intimidating as you see all of the people, all of the booths, and all of the signs telling you how to navigate the area without causing a huge human traffic jam and smashing things. Yes, it is intimidating – until you realize how awesome and amazing this event is and that you are now a PART of the event.
An Insane Amount of Energy
The first thing that you will notice when you enter the massive hall is the sheer energy that is running through the venue. Many people have a different image of Japan: people who are comparatively calm and orderly when it comes to walking, waiting in line, and the like. This is absolutely not the case at Kyomaf. It is utter chaos and there is really no logical order to the walking system.
People are dashing to their favorite booth, people are walking slowly staring at the provocative manga drawings, people are walking while playing smartphone games and checking the map of the event to find their favorite booth. There are all kinds of booths to stop by. Check out our reports for more on that!
[Kyomaf 2017] Kyoto International Manga Anime Fair Photo Report Part I
[Kyomaf 2017] Kyoto International Manga Anime Fair Photo Report Part II
I really loved how, in order to feel this energy, you don’t have to speak one lick of Japanese. Foreigner-friendly score: 100. According to some of the people we interviewed, the ability to feel the energy and excitement is actually enhanced by the inability to use words to communicate. I wholeheartedly agree!
Walking around the event, we were able to come across a rather small (roughly 1%) minority of non-Japanese who came for the event. Some of them were tourists, others were foreign exchange students, and still others, like myself, were people who live and work in Japan and love to see and participate in a part of the culture which is very uniquely Japanese.
Many of the booths do not need language at all, such as two of my favorite booths of the day. One of them was brought to us by a local game design university, and we were able to play VR games and mobile games. The most interesting part of this booth was that you could play the games with the person who made them! None of the games used any words, so they were very friendly for foreign visitors. What a special experience!
Another really interesting booth was a place where you could have your face custom-drawn on a Japanese uchiwa (traditional Japanese fan used to cool yourself during the summer heat). Manga school students draw people’s faces in anime style. What a unique gift to take home from your Japan travels! Also, the professor of the school spoke excellent English, so it was such a treat to have a good conversation with him in English.
It’s amazing to be able to come together and socialize with people who share the same hobbies and interests as you. At first, many people were a little shy to have a conversation with a stranger, but after the initial awkwardness faded, most were quite welcoming of some fun conversation, Japanese and foreigners alike.
It seems that all the foreign guests I encountered seemed interested not only in manga and anime but also in Kyoto and Japan itself. People had come from all around the world to enjoy a place that they described as lovely, welcoming, and a place with a great mix of modern and traditional culture. What a wonderful place to hold a manga and anime festival! Coming from the subway, visitors were welcomed by traditional shops and a huge torii gate!
Let me share with you more about the people who came to Kyomaf and how they were able to enjoy the event with Japanese language skills which ran the gamut from ‘pretty good’ to ‘absolutely none’. These are their stories.
NEXT PAGE: Overseas visitors tell us about their Kyomaf experiences!