Summer is quite the eventful season in Japan. It’s a season 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 some of them.
1. Weekly Shonen Jump Exhibition Vol. 1 (July 18-October 15)
Where: Mori Arts Center Gallery, 52/F Mori Tower (Roppongi Station)
- Advanced selling (May 13-July 17, 2017): 1,800 yen (adults), 1,300 yen (junior-senior high school students), 500 yen (age 4-elementary school students)
- Regular (can be bought on-site or at 7-11 during the exhibition period): 2,000 yen (adults), 1,500 yen (junior-senior high school students), 800 yen (children)
Hours: 10:00 am-8:00 pm (9:00 am-9:00 pm on weekends and holidays, and August 14-18)
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 will play host to a commemorative exhibit that will run from summer to early autumn. Sub-titled “From the first issue to the 1980s – The beginning of the legend”, this is just the first installment, so don’t expect exhibits dedicated to newer characters like Naruto just yet.
All guests will get free stickers featuring old Shonen Jump covers, and if that isn’t enough, there will also be a shop selling limited-edition, exclusive merchandise. Additionally, if you want your ticket to serve as a keepsake of the event, 7-11 exclusively issues tickets with a special print. Whether it’s an advanced or regular ticket, and regardless of age group, it costs an additional 200 yen.
Note that the exhibit will not have any audio guides, and that explanations will mostly be in Japanese.
2. Wonder Festival (July 30)
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.
3. Tokyo Idol Festival 2017 (August 4-6)
Where: Odaiba/Aomi area (Tokyo Teleport, Aomi, or Daiba Station)
- For buyers in Japan – 7,000 yen per day / 16,500 yen for 3 days
- For buyers outside Japan – 7,700 yen per day / 18,150 yen 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 and its sister groups.
With 301 idol groups and nearly 76,000 attendees last year, the Tokyo Idol Festival is ever-growing. At 211 groups, its 2017 lineup may be smaller than last year’s, but 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 might not even be mainstream popular within Japan, 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 3rd to buy tickets, while overseas buyers have until July 31st 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.
4. An Outbreak of Dancing Pikachus (August 9-15)
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 was such a hit that it was held again last year, and it looks like it will be an annual event from now on.
Called Pikachu Tairyo Hassei Chuu!, which translates to “An Outbreak of Pikachus!” in previous years, this year’s name translates to “A Pikachu Outbreak of Not Just Pikachus!”, hinting that other Pokemon will be joining the festivities. The event 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. The largest – featuring 100 Pikachus – will be a Brazilian carnival-themed one on the 14th on Nihonodori Street. Details are sparse for now, but the event website promises that this year will be a step up from last year’s. If last year’s event is anything to go by, there will not only be dancing Pikachus, but also several exclusive commemorative merchandise.
5. W Hero Matsuri (August 9-18)
Where: Special event hall, B1/F, Tokyo Dome Hotel (Korakuen or Suidobashi Station)
Admission: 1,900-3,200 yen for adults (price varies depending on seating; advanced selling options also available) / 1,600-3,200 yen 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 at this event. 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 a mini-stage, kiddie play land, game corner, a themed food shop, and merchandise. It may not be a very large event, but it’s got enough to keep tokusatsu fans happy.
6. Summer Comiket (August 11-13)
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 some 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!
7. Hollywood Collectors Convention (August 12-13)
Where: Hotel Grand Palace (Kudanshita Station)
Admission: Free to see dealers’ booths; separate charges apply for meet-and-greets
Hours: 10:00 am-6:00 pm
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. For the 30th anniversary of Back to the Future (and the year that Marty travels to in the sequel), the summer 2015 edition of Hollycon had Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown) and Claudia Wells (Jennifer Parker) as guests, along with a replica of the iconic DeLorean time machine. Other guests that they’ve brought to Japan are Norman Reedus and Steven Yeun from The Walking Dead, as well as Jason Isaacs and Tom Felton, who played Lucius and Draco Malfoy in 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 them as preludes to more large-scale events; it’s worth noting that the Hollycon organizers were also involved in organizing last year’s inaugural Tokyo Comic Con, which had The Avengers’ Jeremy Renner and the Stan Lee of Marvel Comics fame as some of their guests.
This summer’s Hollycon will be a treat for Game of Thrones fans, as its guests will be Kristian Nairn, Finn Jones, and Daniel Portman—a.k.a. Hodor, Loras Tyrell, and Podrick Payne. Seeing them doesn’t come for free, though—there are different options, all of which don’t come cheap. It’s 6,500 yen for an autograph of or photo with Daniel Portman, 7,500 yen for Kristian Nairn, and 8,500 yen for Finn Jones. The priciest option is the photo option with everyone, which costs 21,500 yen. For photo ops, up to three people can share a ticket (though the organizers will only print one photo), so grab some friends to bring down the cost.
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 their 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.)
8. C3 AFA Tokyo 2017 (August 27-28)
Where: Makuhari Messe International Exhibition Halls (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
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—is finally hitting Japanese shores. 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, a cosplayers’ plaza, a kids’/family corner, a hobby academy on the 26th, and a market for fan-made merchandise.
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