Summary of Otakon
You could easily argue that Otakon is best anime and pop culture convention on the east coast of the United States. The convention is also one of the largest gatherings of otaku in North America. The convention has grown so much in its 24 years that it’s moved locations multiple times looking for larger venues. After spending years at the Baltimore Convention Center, Otakon is now an hour south at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. The convention center in D.C. is massive; at 2.3 million square-feet the venue is double the size of the one in Baltimore. When you include the 100,000 square feet in the connected Marriot Marquee Hotel, anime fans have plenty of room to spread out.
The convention center even has a massive ballroom to hold concerts by top-tier Japanese entertainers as part of the Anisong World Matsuri program. We can tell you from experience the main ballroom is as large as a football field and has excellent acoustics that can leave your ears ringing hours after the convert even if you sat in the back.
|When it was Established||July 1994- Otakon is entering its 24th year and has become one of the hallmark festivities celebrating east Asian popular culture on the east coast.|
|Length of event||3-day convention|
|Place|| The Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C.|
|Cost|| For the first 10,000 registrants|
$80 for those who renew a previous online registration
$85 for those who register as new members
For the remaining online registrants:
For at-the-door registrations:
|Hotel|| Most of the hotel rooms are booked well in advance, so you’ll want to plan ahead and book early.|
Washington Marriott Marquis (with underground tunnel to WCC)
What to Expect
Your tickets will cover all three days of the convention. The Anisong World Matsuri concerts are separately ticked, so you’ll have to pay extra. We do not yet know if the Anisong will be part of next year’s convention.
The convention has a multitude of video rooms to watch old and new titles if you need a break from the other action.
You will find a many water fountains and stations around the convention center for free water.
You can find concessions all over the convention center on the concourses and in the exhibit halls. There’s also a restaurant in the connected Marriott along with a Starbucks as well as a Compass Coffee, a D.C.-owned coffee roaster in the main lobby of the convention center.
The convention center isn’t as packed as it used to be in Baltimore, but you still need to bring your patience. With all of the extra space (at least for now), the convention has many waiting rooms, rooms with roped queues, where you que up for events before being escorted inside. The waiting rooms are a good way of keeping the hallways clear.
BE RESPECTFUL OF COSPLAYERS. Cosplay is not an invitation to be touched.
The neighborhood surrounding the convention center isn’t as lively as the Inner Harbor of Baltimore, but the restaurants that were affordable for most attendees were welcoming to cosplayers. You could always take a long walk or a taxi to Chinatown for additional options. The food court at Union Station a car ride away, too.
Bring your dancing shoes! There are multiple dance parties, from techno to swing, in the evening.
If you want to save money, we recommend bringing your own snacks. You could also go to the Safeway grocery store within easy walking distance of the convention center.
What to do While There / What is Available
Friday, August, 11th Day 1
The convention started off the day with panels on live-action anime adaptations; looking at which adaptations got it right and trying to forget the ones that got it so wrong. If you’ve ever wanted to play Japanese Mahjong, an expert is on hand in one panel to teach you the ropes. You have time go to the Maid Café and manga reading rooms as well as a packed dealers room all before you need to show up at the Anisong Matsuri where J.A.M. Project and T.M. Revolution will rock your night away.
Saturday, August 12th Day 2
You can start your day with some heavy academics by looking at Anime Mythology or a panel looking to unravel Ryohji Kaji’s role and motivations in Evangelion. A panel from the people at P.A. Works or Pony Canon discussing upcoming projects can put you in the know. Or spend some time listing to Katsuyuki Sumizawa the script writer for Gundam Wing in a panel presented by Sunrise. Catch a special viewing of the smash anime hit film In This Corner of the World with an introduction by producer Masao Maruyama. You’ll then want to rest up before getting in line for the masquerade. The three-hour program is filled with skits, idol impersonations, and of course a runway show of amazing cosplay. If you still have energy the Saturday dance is still going strong lasting until 2 a.m.
Sunday, August 13th Day 3
The line doesn’t get any shorter on the last day, especially for the dealers’ rooms so why not visit the Shinto Shrine, set up in the convention center instead. You can clap your hands, toss a coin and thank the gods that you were able to find that hard-to-find limited edition figurine you purchased – or just pray for world peace. The Maid Café has its last show at noon, so you’ll have to choose between cute maids and omelets made with love and the AUN & HIDE concert in the main events hall. You could even play it lower key and just learn about knitting in Japan or how to put your kimono all by yourself. The fact is there are still plenty of things to do on the last day up until 2:30, when the closing ceremonies bring the convention to a quiet close. We look forward to next year when the convention will be back at the Walter Washington Convention Center August 10-12th.
Honey's Final Thoughts
We still love Otakon, even though it changed towns and has a little different feel. The change of venue was needed and we don’t begrudge them for finding a larger place. The comradery of fans was still there to be seen, and the larger venue was a big plus. We never felt like we were tripping over each other in the halls, the dealers room, or artist alley. You actually had personal space and that was spectacular. The Walter E. Washington was also well air-conditioned. You could still work up a sweat if you were really running around but overall even a furry walking at an easy pace didn’t have to worry about passing out due to heat. The official photo shoots all found places to go. The main lobby and its massive staircases were a favorite spot for group photos. We saw some of the private photo shoots at the church across the street; its massive size provided an imposing and impressive backdrop. The open spaces in the Marriott attached to the convention center also provided good places for photos. We have to commend the staff and the volunteers for their ability to get people where they were going, even in buildings they weren’t familiar with. We know they’ll have some tweaks to make, but for a first year in a new place it seemed to run smoothly.
As always we cosplayed, enjoyed some LARPing, gaming, and amazing discussions ranging from the funny and silly to the serious as we examined themes present in anime in the company of our fellow Otaku. We celebrated our Otaku lives in a safe space with no judgement, inside or outside the convention center.
A personal note- Otakon 2017 happened the same weekend as the unrest fueled by intolerance and bigotry in Charlottesville, Virginia became deadly. Otakon served as an example of acceptance and hope for the future. My assistant, Andi, noticed something during the Sailor Moon photoshoot: a little African-American girl was dressed as Sailor Moon, a blonde haired Japanese girl, and was surrounded by women of all ethnicities and ages all dressed as that same girl. At one moment, she found herself standing front and center in a group of men dressed as the same blonde haired superhero from Japan. The crowd, the people on stage, the collection of Sailor Moons, no one cared, no one judged, we all applauded and rejoiced in our common connection. Andi said, “When I see that, that’s what I want our world to be.” Inclusive and filled with love.
Zeke Changuris and Andrea Gilbert