While tokyo is not considered a beautiful city (at least in the traditional western sense of the term), it surely is full of surprises and interesting spots, and odaiba is definitely one such place. This artificial island literally didn’t exist until last century, when the metropolitan government decided to create a new futuristic subcenter that was meant to provide the city with a new frontier and its only pedestrian access to the seashore. Visiting odaiba is like an adventure, and the fun starts with riding yurikamome, the automated, computer-controlled train line that crosses tokyo bay and connects the island to the city center through the 918-meter-long rainbow bridge (a popular anime pilgrimage site for “digimon” fans). Yurikamome, by the way, must be one of the most otaku-friendly train lines in the world as all the stations use the recorded voices of different voice actors for their announcements (see the list on wikipedia—en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/yurikamome). From the train one can even see two of the original island forts (daiba in japanese) that where built in 1853 by the shogunate to defend the city from sea attack.
For years Odaiba was considered a waste of money, with only a few giant buildings dotting the otherwise desert island. Luckily for us a new wave of developments at the turn of the century has transformed the area into one of Tokyo’s major shopping and entertainment centers, and today there are plenty of things to see, starting with the iconic Fuji TV building and its stunning huge metal sphere (while a massive 18-meter tall RX-78-2 Gundam that alone was worth the visit has been recently removed). Speaking of remarkable architecture, Tokyo Big Sight is another important pole of attraction for manga and anime fans as many of the dozen Odaiba-based otaku festivals and events take place inside this cavernous convention center.
Take the Yurikamome at Shinbashi and get off at Odaiba Kaihin Koen’s North (Kita) Exit. Keep the street on your left and after 50 meters you will see the DECKS building. A lot of the otaku action on the island goes on inside this shopping mall. First of all, if you want to upgrade your Tokyo gaming experience from a simple arcade to a full-blown amusement park, Joypolis has about 30 attractions many of which use the latest 3D and interactive technology besides a few “extreme rides” like Initial D (driving simulator) and Halfpipe Tokyo (snow-boarding) and the ever-popular House of the Dead 4 SP zombie shooter. Just remember that some of the games are Japanese-language only.
When you get tired of the 3D games and the noise, you can find some respite at the Daiba 1-chome Shotegai, a clever reproduction of a Showa-period shopping street. The whole fourth floor is completely devoted to the good old times, with several retro game arcades, traditional junk food shops and assorted souvenir shops adding to the general feeling of nostalgia. All the shops and venues are open daily 11:00–21:00.
Many dojinshi events require that you buy their catalogue as a sort of entrance fee.
Independent publishing is alive and well in Japan, and this being the Land of the Otaku, the great majority of small-press titles is devoted to manga, anime and video game stories and characters. In fact, while zines (or fanzines), as we conceive them in the West, are relatively few and mostly circulate in underground circles, thousands of so-called dojinshi are produced everywhere and openly sold online, in dedicated stores and at dojin fairs. The dojinshi market, in fact, is so big that is nearly as large as the official manga industry.
REBECCA KOGA AKA CELESTIAL SHADOW
- Where does this passion for cosplaying come from?
It started about 15 years ago. In Washington, we have a Renaissance Faire where people can dress like knights or princesses. That was my first kind of cosplay event. Then in 2004 I went to my first animation convention, Sakura-con in Seattle, and the level of the costumes was way beyond what I had seen at the Renaissance Faire. From there my interest snowballed out of control. I decided I wanted to be a cosplayer and make that kind of beautiful costumes.
- Did you go to Sakura-con because you wanted to see the cosplay scene there?
Actually I was already into anime and manga at the time, so I wanted to learn more about animation. But when I saw everybody wearing those gorgeous costumes I thought it was perfect; like the Renaissance Faire, but it was about something I actually liked.
- So you started making your own costumes from the beginning, didn’t you?
Yes, I hardly had any money to buy a costume, so I would get the materials from recycled clothes, curtain fabrics, whatever I could get my hands on.
- What did your parents think about your passion?
They liked it! From the start they were very supportive because at least in Washington handmade things are really special, so my parents thought there was money to be made in it (laughs). Which is true, by the way.
- You moved to Tokyo in 2009 after marrying your Japanese husband. How was the transition between the two countries cosplay-wise?
My husband is very supportive of my hobby, so he found me some events I could go to and helped me make some friends. I think my first event in Japan was only two or three months after moving here.
- Is cosplaying in Japan really as different from the US as they say?
I guess so. In the US it’s more common to see a lot of variations. Some people do “gender-bended” versions, turning a boy character into a girl. Others do crossovers, like putting Disney and Star Wars together. You don’t see that here. In Japan cosplayers want to do the original character as accurately as possible. Then I would say the level is also different. I’ve seen a lot more elaborate costumes here than in America. People here spend a lot of money on their costumes. If they can’t make one themselves, they will spend thousands of dollars buying one. In the US many people seem to be on a budget, so they just throw something together.
- You told me you know other foreigners who cosplay in Japan. Do you find the local scene is open to foreigners?
I think so. You are definitely not going to see a lot of foreigners, but Japanese cosplayers are very curious if they notice a foreigner is doing the same series as them because they feel a connection, so it’s a way to make friends.
- Have you ever had any problems while cosplaying in Japan?
Well, it’s pretty common for guys to try to take up-skirt shots, but I’m always straightforward with people. If they do something I don’t like I simply tell them to go away. But in America, people will actually try to touch you. In Japan nobody would ever dream of doing that. They know if they get physical they are going to be in trouble. So they are more into sneaky things.