Summer is quite the eventful season in Japan. It’s chock full of festivals, and we don’t just mean traditional ones with fireworks and Bon dances. If you like pop culture (be it anime, manga, games, cosplay, J-pop, or even Western fandoms), have we got good news for you! This summer is shaping up to have a number of events for Tokyo pop culture enthusiasts, and here are top ones.
1. Shonen Jump 50th Anniversary Exhibition Vol. 3 (July 17-September 30)
Where: Mori Arts Center Gallery, 52/F Mori Tower (Roppongi Station)
- Advanced selling (May 12-July 16, 2018): ¥1,800 (adults), ¥1,300 (junior-senior high school students), ¥500 (age 4-elementary school students)
- Regular (can be bought on site or at 7-11 during the exhibition period): ¥2,000 (adults), [¥1,500 (junior-senior high school students), ¥800 (children)
Hours: 10:00 am-8:00 pm (9:00 am-10:00 pm on July 17; 9:00 am-9:00 pm from Aug. 11-19)
2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the best-selling manga anthology Shonen Jump, in which a lot of famous titles—Naruto, Dragon Ball, One Piece, Gintama, Hunter x Hunter, and My Hero Academia, among others—were/are serialized. In honor of this pop culture icon, Mori Arts Center has been playing host to a three-installment commemorative exhibit.
The first one—”From the first issue to the 1980s – The beginning of the legend”—was held in summer 2017, while the second one, which featured works from the 1990s, ran from March to June 2018. Finally, it’s time for the much-awaited third installment, which will feature familiar works from the 2000s and 2010s—Naruto, Bleach, One Piece, Death Note, and more.
All guests will get free stickers featuring Shonen Jump covers, and if that isn’t enough, there will also be a shop selling limited-edition, exclusive merchandise. Note that the exhibit will not have any audio guides, and that explanations will mostly be in Japanese.
You can save some time by buying tickets from 7-11, be it at a physical branch or online (which will, however, entail handling fees). Additionally, if you want your ticket to serve as a keepsake of the event, 7-11 exclusively issues tickets with a special print—just add ¥200 to the above-listed prices.
2. Hollywood Collectors Convention #16 (July 28-29)
Escape Tokyo for the day, see mountains, hot springs, the modern, the traditional, the old and the ancient!
Where: July 28 – Arcadia Ichigaya (Ichigaya Station) | July 29 – The Prince Park Tower Tokyo (Akabanebashi or Shibakoen Station)
Admission: Free to see dealers’ booths; separate charges apply for meet-and-greets
Hours: TBA (usually starts at 10:00 am)
Now here’s an event for Western fandoms! Such events are few and far between in Tokyo, but Hollywood Collector’s Gallery, a movie memorabilia shop, has managed to fly some celebrities into Japan for meet-and-greet sessions. Their celebrity guest list includes Christopher Lloyd of Back to the Future fame, Norman Reedus and Steven Yeun from The Walking Dead, as well as Jason Isaacs and Tom Felton from the Harry Potter films.
Scale-wise, Hollycon is no San Diego Comic-Con, but it’s still a step towards having more Western fandom events in Japan. You can think of Hollycon events—which are held a few times a year—as preludes to large-scale events such as Tokyo Comic Con, which the Hollycon organizers are also involved with.
This summer’s Hollycon will be a treat for The Walking Dead fans, as its guests will be David Morrissey, Madison Lintz, Macsen Lintz, and Laurie Holden. Seeing them doesn’t come cheap, though—there are different fee options. Prices are TBA as of this writing, but they usually start at ¥7,500 for a single autograph or photo op.
If you just want to see the merchandise, admission to the dealers’ booths is free. You can also see some cosplayers at the event. As Western-centric events are rare in Japan, this is one of the few chances to cosplay characters from Western fandoms without feeling out of place. (And if you want to cosplay a character from Western media at the event, you can do so for free, unlike many events that charge cosplayers to cosplay. Just remember the very important rule of not arriving or leaving in cosplay.)
3. Wonder Festival (July 29)
Where: Makuhari Messe, Halls 1-8 (Kaihin-Makuhari Station)
Admission: 2,500 yen (free for those under 12 years old)
Hours: 10:00 am-5:00 pm
This is the most-anticipated event for figure collectors. A biannual event, this is the second to be held this year, the first being held in winter (February, to be precise). With amateur and professional makers debuting their creations here, as well as cosplayers ready to pose for photo ops, this event should be a treat not only for figure collectors, but also for photographers. While admission itself is not too pricey, many figure collectors find their wallets bleeding after the event, as they note which figures to pre-order.
4. Tokyo Idol Festival 2018 (August 3-5)
Where: Odaiba/Aomi area (Tokyo Teleport, Aomi, or Daiba Station)
- For buyers in Japan – ¥7,200 per day | ¥17,000 for 3 days
- For buyers outside Japan – ¥7,700 per day | ¥18,150 for 3 days
- *Free admission to some areas
Although the term “idol” is a blanket term for Japanese celebrities who are good-looking and wholesome (or at least have a well-manufactured public image), it’s often associated with cutesy female Japanese pop singers, often in groups—think AKB48.
With 211 idol groups and 80,000 attendees last year, the Tokyo Idol Festival, which is now on its ninth year, is ever-growing. As always, this year’s lineup includes big names in the idol scene, such as AKB48’s Team 8, HKT48, and SKE48. Some performers may not (yet?) be popular outside of Japan—and not even mainstream popular in Japan, either—but that doesn’t mean that their fans’ devotion is to be underestimated. You’ll see them waving glow sticks, enthusiastically responding to call-and-response songs, and dancing in support of their idols.
This event has various stages and zones around Odaiba and Aomi. Some areas, such as the Festival Stage in Diver City, are free. As for the paid areas, tickets will only be sold online, so if you’re in Japan, you have until 11:59 pm of August 2nd to buy tickets, while overseas buyers have until July 29th to buy tickets. Unfortunately, there will be a handling fee for overseas buyers, hence the higher price. Tickets are being sold here—scroll down for the options for buyers outside Japan.
5. Akiba Daisuki Matsuri (Aug. 4-5)
Where: Belle Salle Akihabara (Akihabara Station)
Hours: 11:00 am-6:00 pm
A two-day celebration of the things Akihabara is known for (all things geeky, basically), Akiba Daisuki Matsuri will feature maids and idols on stage, cosplayers, figures, hobbyist displays (e.g. model trains), and more. Details are sparse as of this writing.
6. W Hero Matsuri (August 4-23)
Where: Prism Hall, Tokyo Dome City (Korakuen or Suidobashi Station)
Admission: varies depending on seating
Advanced selling – ¥1,900–¥3,200 for adults | ¥1,600–¥3,200 for children
On-site selling – ¥2,100–¥3,200 for adults; ¥1,800–¥3,200 for children
Hours: 10:00 am-5:00 pm
If you’re a fan of tokusatsu shows such as the Super Sentai and Kamen Rider series (fun fact: the Power Rangers franchise was based on various Super Sentai series), this is the event for you. You might feel a bit out of place, as the Japanese tokusatsu fan base is predominantly comprised of kids, but people of all ages are welcome. The event features stage shows four times a day, although a ticket is only good for one show.
Other than the main show, there will also be an exhibit, a kiddie play land, a game corner, photo ops, a themed food shop, and merchandise. It may not be a very large event, but it’s got enough to keep tokusatsu fans happy.
7. Pikachu Outbreak (August 10-16)
Where: Minato Mirai area, Yokohama (Minatomirai or Sakuragicho Station)
Originally meant to be a one-time event to promote the 2014 Pokemon movie, this parade of dancing Pikachus called Pikachu Tairyo Hassei Chuu! (“An Outbreak of Pikachus!”) was such a hit that it has become an annual event. It typically consists of a series of stage shows and parades that take place in various areas around Minato Mirai, such as Landmark Plaza, Mark IS, Queen’s Square, the Red Brick Warehouse, and Yokohama World Porters.
While we don’t have detailed information yet, we do know that the subtitle for this year’s Pikachu Outbreak is “Science is amazing!” as the event will make use of science and technology to create an even more amazing sensory spectacle than in previous years. Thanks to digital art, visitors will be in for a colorful show, to say the least. What’s more is that, for the first time since the event started, there will be a night parade featuring the Pikachus in lit-up costumes.
8. Summer Comiket (August 10-12)
Where: Tokyo Big Sight (Kokusai-Tenjijo Station)
Hours: 10:00 am-4:00 pm
Note: Cosplayers need to pay 800 yen to use the dressing room. Arriving at or leaving the venue in cosplay is strictly forbidden.
Comiket is the holy grail of events for fans of Japanese popular media. It’s centered around doujinshi, or fan-made comics, but in recent years, companies have also started selling official merchandise at Comiket (expect them to be gone an hour or two after opening, though).
Before authorities cracked down on the practice, many fans would even camp out at Tokyo Big Sight the night before opening just to get dibs on the merchandise! The event is so large that this is not a place for impulse buying. You have to know what you want, which is why buying the event catalog and carefully planning your day(s) at Comiket is a must. Doujinshi aside, the cosplayers are also a huge crowd-drawer.
Whether you’re attending to buy doujinshi and other merchandise, to cosplay, to take photos, or a bit of everything, know that the event will be very crowded. It might even be worse in summer, when the crowds are huge and the weather is hot and dry. (This is why this writer recommends attending in the winter!) But hey, it’s something that many fans would like to experience at least once in their lives!
9. C3 AFA Tokyo 2018 (August 25-26)
Where: Makuhari Messe International Exhibition Halls 1-3 (Kaihin-Makuhari Station)
Admission: 1,500 yen per day (advanced tickets available for 1,300 per day and 2,200 yen for two days); free for kids aged 7 and below
Hours: 10:00 am-5:00 pm
Anime Festival Asia (AFA) started out as a large anime convention in Singapore in 2008, but AFA events started to spread to nearby Southeast Asian countries. Now things are coming full circle, as AFA—now called C3 AFA, following a tie-up with another event organizer—hit Japanese shores in 2017. As of this writing, the website still hasn’t announced the event activities in full detail, but there will be corporate booths from big names in the anime industry, stage events, cosplayers, a kids’/family corner, and a market for fan-made figures.
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