Now in its fourth year, Tokyo Comic Con has continued to grow exponentially. 2019 saw a huge turn-out across three days, including cosplayers and attendees from around the world and some really big-name celebrities. With cosplay, stage shows, shopping, movie memorabilia, and more Tokyo Comic Con 2019 had plenty to show for everyone’s interest—well, as long as that interest was based in Western media, of course! Oh, or Godzilla. There was also a lot of Godzilla.
Tokyo doesn’t boast many events that embrace movies, comics, and TV that doesn’t originate in Japan, so Tokyo Comic Con has to fill that void the best it can. With the growing number of fans for Marvel, Harry Potter, Star Wars, DC, and Netflix shows, there’s more and more of a market in Japan for this kind of event. And the fans came out in droves in 2019 to devour all the hard to find things that were readily available for the weekend! We went along for two of the three days as well and had yet another great year at Tokyo Comic Con. Read on to see our full report of the best parts, what to do there, and how you can enjoy the event to the fullest if you decide to go next year (hint, you should try to go).
|When it Established||2016|
|Length of Event||3 days, held in November or December|
|Place/Location|| Makuhari Messe|
〒261-0023 Chiba Prefecture, Chiba, Mihama Ward, Nakase, 2−1
|COST|| 3,500 yen (Fri), 3,800 yen (Sat), 3,500 yen (Sun)|
A limited number of 3-day tickets available for 7,500 yen
Tickets do not include autograph or photos with celebrity guests – separate tickets must be purchased
|Hotels||Tokyo Comic Con is held at Makuhari Messe, a large convention complex a short distance from Kaihimmakuhari station. Because the venue is used for so many events throughout the year, there are a lot of hotels in the immediate area. Be warned that most of them are business and luxury hotels, so they aren’t going to be cheap – but you can walk to the event! However, staying anywhere in East Tokyo including the Tokyo Station area puts you at easy access of less than an hour by train. There are plenty of hotels, hostels, and Air BnBs to choose from that still have good access if you do a bit of planning.|
Company/Event Message for Fans/Attendees
“Stan Lee, the creator of “Spiderman” and “X-Men”, who later became the chairman emeritus of MARVEL, had brought revolution to the American comic industry. Stan Lee, the “Father of pop culture”, encountered the king of technology, Steve Wozniak, aka Woz, who was one of the co-founders of Apple Inc. This triggered chemistry between the two legends, which led to the “Silicone Valley Comic Con” (U.S.A ). Meanwhile, Woz had advocated the idea of “Tokyo Comic Con” and this was where it all began. Stann Lee had been summoned as the honorary goodwill ambassador, Daniel Logan as the first goodwill ambassador. Japanese actor Ryoma Takeuchi had also been called upon to raise excitement. On December 2016, the event made its way as Tokyo Comic Con 2016 and had closed out a stunning success.
“In close relation to “Silicon Valley Comic Con” organized by Woz, Tokyo Comic Con is a festival celebrating Japanese and American pop culture, while keeping its genetic “American” style foundation. Unlike other existing comics, film, animation festivals or game shows, this is a place where everyone can share and enjoy the revolutionary and enthusiastic experience. The event is friendly to all generations, from the youngest to the eldest, and everyone will surely have their intellectual curiosity aroused! This year, the enhanced Tokyo Comic Con is coming back with its latest updates… So don’t miss it.” (taken from the Tokyo Comic Con official English website - http://tokyocomiccon.jp/english/index.html)
What to Expect
Tokyo Comic Con can be an overwhelming experience if you aren’t sure what to expect. The event is very, very crowded, with some portions of it being nearly impossible to move through at times. Getting into many of the shops involves waiting in a queue that can last anywhere from twenty minutes to over an hour. The same goes for the queues to get into the event as well as the cosplay changing areas; you should plan to wait and factor that into your arrival time. The main stage area as well is very crowded, so if you want to have a good view of something, you need to get there early. Finding a table to eat some food at can also be challenging. Basically, there are a lot of people at Tokyo Comic Con, so it’s better to go into it already expecting that.
Now that we got the negative stuff out of the way, what positive things can you expect at Tokyo Comic Con? Plenty! You can expect to meet some really nice people, especially if you cosplay because the cosplay community at Tokyo Comic Con is really friendly and social. You can expect to see real movie props and costumes, exclusive art and merch, and upcoming projects like new figurines or SEGA arcade prizes. You can expect to find a lot of chances to take photos, and even more, chances to spend money! There is also a surprisingly large number of options for food with both an indoor food court and an outdoor—and 2019 finally saw some vegetarian options added after four years of nothing but fried potatoes.
What to Bring in Order to Enjoy the Event
Whether you’re snapping photos of your favourite cosplayers, selfies with the Batmobile, or pictures of an upcoming awesome figurine you’re going to want your camera (or at least camera phone). There are countless things to take pictures of including movie props, replicas, murals, and more. Plus cosplayers love to have their photo taken or to take a photo with you—assuming you use common courtesy and respect and always ask them first, of course!
A huge part of Tokyo Comic Con is browsing the huge selection of merchandise available. There’s always a lot of super exclusive stuff, too! From huge stores with incredible figurines and other collectibles to smaller shops selling t-shirts and plushies—and don’t forget the artist’s alley with all original artwork!—there’s plenty available to buy. You won’t want to find yourself without enough cash to buy that thing you never knew you needed until you saw it. Remember, Japan is still very much a cash-based society so many vendors do not accept credit cards!
A Reasonable Bag
We said it once and we will say it again; Tokyo Comic Con is very, very crowded. There are times when it’s hard to even walk at all, and you will be surrounded on all sides by other people. Toting around a massive, unnecessary bag isn’t ideal in this kind of situation. Bring a bag that you can fit your essentials in and leave it at that. If you really need to have a big bag nearby, consider using the cloakroom. For non-cosplayers, it costs ¥500 (in 2019) and could be accessed as many times as needed. Three-day pass holders also received a Comic Con backpack as part of their package, which a lot of people were using.
A Fandom-Inspired Outfit
Tokyo Comic Con is great for connecting with other fans, and also for unmissable photo opportunities as outlined above. That means even if you aren’t cosplaying, it’s great to have an outfit that highlights your favourite movie, show, or comic that you’re there to celebrate! Whether it’s a fashionable outfit inspired by your favourite character or even just a simple t-shirt, the event is a lot more fun when you’re dressed to show what you love. Plus it’s an easy way to meet other fans of the same thing, and definitely makes for better pictures with props, backgrounds, and cosplayers!
What to do While There / What is Available
Tokyo Comic Con may have only been in its fourth year in 2019 but there was already plenty for fans to do. It was a three-day event, and each day was jam-packed with things to see and experience. One of the biggest things to do is shop! There are a lot of stores with stalls at Comic Con, including big names in the nerd industry in Japan like Poney Comb, Hot Toys, and Small Planet. In addition to their huge shops, a lot of smaller stores also had stands set up displaying their wares. With everything from t-shirts and figurines to handbags and posters, there was something for every person and every budget. A lot of merchandise was also exclusive to Comic Con, or quite hard to get in Japan outside of the event (like Stranger Things or Game of Thrones merch). There was also a modest artist alley area with original art by artists from around the world!
If your wallet is a bit deeper, one of the main draws of Comic Con for many fans is the chance to meet a favourite celebrity. You can purchase an autograph or a photo, or both if you want, and have your chance to meet them for a few moments. Plus you can leave them a gift in their designated present box! Tickets for autographs and photos went on sale on the Comic Con website in advance and it’s important to get one then, or you might not get a chance to meet your favourite celebrity. In 2019, Tokyo Comic Con hosted Rupert Grint, Mark Ruffalo, Orlando Bloom, Ian Somerhalder, Zachary Levi, Jude Law, and Chris Hemsworth.
Tokyo Comic Con boasts a huge stage with different events spread out over all three days. These include panels with celebrity guests, cosplay competitions and showcases, and other media-related panels with the Japanese side of the industry. While most of these events on the main stage are conducted in Japanese, they’re still fun to enjoy no matter what language you speak. It’s fun to see the incredible cosplayers, and all of the celebrity guests speak English with a translator. Don’t let the language barrier keep you from enjoying the main stage because it’s a chance to see some really cool stuff.
Finally, Comic Con has a lot of film props to check out, take a photo of, and generally just enjoy. The centre of the hall in 2019 had motorcycles from Terminator, the Batmobile from Batman, and the Delorian from Back to the Future to name a few. There were also original Batman and Joker costumes and droids that had been used in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The bus from Speed and the RV from Jurassic Park: The Lost World was also there, and could both be entered for an additional ¥1000. You could take pictures with and of all of this movie memorabilia for some great memories of your own.
One of the biggest (and most fun!) parts of Tokyo Comic Con is the cosplay! The event attracts hundreds of cosplayers from Japan, Asia, and the rest of the world. The most common cosplays in 2019 were quite predictable, with Marvel and Star Wars being represented the most. There were quite a few DC fans representing their fandom as well, along with a smattering of Star Trek, Disney, Jurassic Park, John Wick, and more. Japan especially loves Spider-Man and Ironman, so there were quite a few of those characters specifically—including multiple Ironman suits that moved and lit up. Cosplayers really were bringing their best!
There’s a lot for cosplayers to do at Tokyo Comic Con as well, and the event caters to them more than many other events in Japan. The cosplay changing area is separate from the rest of the event, with its own entrance into the venue to give cosplayers a quick entrance and exit without worrying about everyone else. The cosplayer changing area also had its own toilet and vending machines, which had a considerably smaller queue than the ones in the main event. The cloakroom was also located there, with its fee included in the general cosplay fee (which we will get to in just a moment).
Tokyo Comic Con doesn’t have a separate area of the main event for cosplayers to gather and stand as many Japanese events do, but that just means cosplayers are encouraged to enjoy the main event along with everyone else instead of being separated into their own space. It also stops cosplayers from claiming one spot for photos and staying there all day, giving everyone a chance to take photos around the event and have fun. There were a few good backgrounds for Marvel and Star Wars especially in 2019 for cosplayers to pose with around the event. There were also cosplay showcases and contests throughout all three days on the main stage, allowing pre-registered cosplayers a chance to show off their outfits on the big screen for everyone. Some of these contests, like the DC and Harry Potter ones, even had celebrity guests join them on the stage.
Like other cosplay events in Japan, Tokyo Comic Con requires cosplayers to change at the event. This doesn’t apply to really simple outfits (clothes colour coordinated to match a character, a Harry Potter scarf, etc) but if you can be recognised as a specific character, you have to change at the venue. As mentioned earlier, the cosplay changing room has its own queue away from the public entrance to the event. It was an additional ¥1000 to cosplay at Tokyo Comic Con 2019 in addition to a regular ticket, but the fee also included the use of the cloakroom as many times as necessary throughout the day. The changing area was split into men and women, and there was also a gender-neutral room available at the request of the staff.
As with any event in any country, it’s important to check the specific cosplay guidelines and rules available on Tokyo Comic Con’s website if you want to cosplay there in the future. Conveniently, they are available in English and Japanese.
Tokyo Comic Con 2019 showed that Comic Con is growing a lot in Japan. Four years ago it didn’t exist at all, and now there’s a huge market for Western merchandise and characters that Comic Con is filling. With thousands of fans showing up for all three days, huge celebrity guests, tons of great merch, and incredible cosplay Tokyo Comic Con is becoming one of the biggest events of the year in Japan. And for fans of Western media, Comic Con is a mecca for things that are otherwise hard to find in a country full of its own anime, games, movies, and TV (with Disney as the only exception to this rule). While Japanese media will probably always remain king in Japan, Tokyo Comic Con lets Western media have its time in the spotlight, too.
Did you attend Tokyo Comic Con 2019? How was your experience? What did you do there and what was your favourite part? How did it compare to other events in Japan, and other events abroad? Would you like to go to Tokyo Comic Con someday? We would love to hear your questions and experiences in the comments!