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Cosplay in Japan – The Ultimate Guide

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Cosplay is now big business in Japan, a whole world of conventions, events and dedicated stores cropping up around it. To get cosplaying in Japan, be sure to read our guide.

cosplay in japan

Photo credit : Danny Choo via Flickr.com

Cosplay, neatly, comes from the contraction of the words costume and play. Cosplay fans, or cosplayers, see Japan as their subculture’s homeland, and indeed, it was here that the craze was birthed. Typically, cosplayers dress up as specific characters, finding inspiration in manga, anime and, increasingly, from sources such as video games, television and movies.  

Cosplaying is now big business in Japan, with swathes of stores selling all the outfits and accessories necessary to get involved and turn a few heads, huge events dedicated to the scene and the entry of dozens of world-famous cosplayers into the popular consciousness. Our guide to cosplay in Japan will act as an introduction into this world; acquainting you with the best cosplay stores, the biggest events and providing a who’s who of the cosplay A-list.

If you’re more interested in manga and anime, take a look at the articles below:

The Ultimate Guide to Manga Cafes in Japan 

Tokyo Anime – The 10 Best Anime Locations in Tokyo

Maid Cafe Tokyo – The Ultimate Kawaii Experience 

Cosplay Costumes and Accessories

cosplay costume

Photo credit:  cranberries via Pixabay

From a simple mask to an artful and painstakingly designed costume, cosplaying is endlessly adaptable. In anticipation of big events, many cosplayers will spend hours putting together an outfit, whether hand making it or buying the components from a store. To take part in an official cosplay competition, however, it is necessary that your costume be hand-made and totally original. In addition to clothing, accessories such as wigs, colourful contact lenses and temporary tattoos may also be incorporated. 

Once an outfit is donned, many will also complete the transformation by adopting the character and behaviour of their chosen character. Cosplaying conventions can, therefore, be otherworldly experiences that bring fiction to life. 

If you’re coming to Japan and want to join in, below find a comprehensive list of some of the best cosplay stores around. Although our list focusses on Tokyo, similar stores can be found in towns and cities throughout the nation. 

Tokyo Cosplay Stores

Don Quijote Akihabara

Good for all-in-one costumes at reasonable prices, Don Quijote is where to head for a quick solution in a cosplay emergency. Nothing too obscure here, but solid outfits and accessories based around favourites like Naruto, Dragon Ball and Sailor Moon. Prices vary but generally around 10,000 to 15,000 yen. 

­   10:00 – 05:00

­ 4 Chome-3-3 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0021, Japan

 

Acos Akiba Zone Building

Acos akiba zone akihabara

Provided by Foursquare

Head up to the fifth floor of the Acos Akiba Zone Building where you’ll find a good range of quality cosplay merch. Not only will you find a good costume selection, but a decent range of wigs too. 

­   11:00 – 21:30

­ AKIBA culture ZONE 5F, 1-7-6, Sotokanda, Chiyoda City, Tokyo 101-0021

 

Cospatio Gee! Store Akiba

One of Akihabara’s best cosplay stores, Cospatio Gee! is a good destination for newbies and old-hands alike. A full range of products suitable for all price ranges, the store will also order you anything you can’t find. Don’t be afraid to talk to the staff, they know their stuff. 

­   Mon-Fri 11:00 – 20:00
        Sat, Sun and Holidays 11:00 – 19:00

­ 3F, GEE! Store Akiba, 3-15-5, Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo

 

Mitsubado Akihabara

One for the bargain hunters, Mitsubado Akihabara stock a plentiful selection of second-hand costumes and bargain-basement accessories. Some items are priced at less than 1,000 yen and all sizes are available. 

­   Mon-Fri 11:00 – 19:30
        Weekends 10:30 – 19:00

3 Chome-10-3 Sotokanda, Chiyoda, Tokyo 101-0021, Japan

 

Acos Ikebukuro

Acos Ikebukuro

Provided by Foursquare

Located on the second and third floor of the Animate building in Ikebukuro, the store provides for all your cosplaying needs. The second floor is all about the costumes while on the third you’ll find a range of wigs, accessories and props. 

­   11:00 – 20:00

〒170-0013 3-2-1 Higashi Ikebukuro Toshima-ku Tokyo-to, Animate Sunshine 1-3F

 

K-books Cosplay Hall Ikebukuro

k-books cosplay

Provided by Foursquare

Located at the end of Ikebukuro’s famous Otome Road, this is a real cosplay megastore, with a solid range of  costumes, wigs and random paraphernalia. 

­   11:00 – 20:00

­ Higasiikebukuro Bld.1F, 3-11-1, Higashi Ikebukuro , Toshima-ku, Tokyo

 

Mandarake Nakano Broadway

mandarake nakano

Located on the second floor of Nakano Broadway, an old school shopping arcade, Mandarake is a trusted name in cosplaying. A great range for all budgets and men and women both. 

­   12:00 – 20:00

­ 164-0001, Nakano Broadway, Nakano 5-52-15, Nakano-ku, Tokyo

Cosplay Conventions and Events

In the past decade or so, conventions and events dedicated to anime, manga, cosplay and a whole lot more from the world we would cautiously term otaku (geek) have sprung up around the world. The best, of course, take place in Japan. Even if not strictly cosplay orientated, a lot of attendees at these events simply can’t help getting dressed up for the occasion. 

Comiket

comiket odaiba

Photo credit : stormstill via Flickr.com

Comiket, or Comic Market, is one of the largest events within the anime, manga and cosplay matrix. Taking place twice yearly on Odaiba, an artificial island off Tokyo, the three-day event attracts thousands of revellers, all there to indulge their interest among those of a like mind. The cosplay on display is always impressive, and most people will be more than happy to pose for photos. 

­   Dec 29 – 31 ’16 10:00 – 17:00

   Aug 12 – 14 ’17 10:00 – 17:00 

­   Official Website

­    Tokyo Big Sight 3-11-1 Ariake, Koto, Tokyo 135-0063, Japon

   Shimbashi Station

 

The World Cosplay Summit

World Cosplay Summit

Photo credit : Rico Shen via Wikimedia Commons

The grandly titled World Cosplay Summit won’t let you down. This Nagoya event brings in cosplayers from around the globe, and ultimately crowns the “Ultimate Cosplay Champion”. 

A panel of cosplay luminaries judge contestants on criteria including the craftsmanship of their costume, their performance, the faithfulness of the outfit to the original and its overall impact. This is the ultimate cosplay event, miss it at your peril. 

­    Jul 29th – Aug 6th 2017  

   Sakae Station (Exit 4b)

­    Oasis 21, 1-1-1 Higashiakura, Nagoya, Japan

­   Official Website

 

Anime Japan

AnimeJapan

Photo credit : 思弦 張 via Flickr.com

The largest anime event in Japan, Anime Japan is another unmissable event for any self-respecting otaku. The 2017 event coincides with the 100th anniversary of the birth of anime, making it especially significant. The convention includes showcases, events, stalls and the chance to get your hands on the latest goods. Inevitably, cosplayers descend on Anime Japan heavily. 

­     Mar 23 – 26 10:00 – 18:00

­   Official Website

­   Tokyo Big Sight, 3-11-1 Ariake, Koto-ku, Tokyo, JAPAN 135-0063

   Kokusai-tenjijo-seimon Station

 

Jump Festa

An event honouring the legacy of the legendary Shonen Jump Magazine, an anthology of all things manga, Jump Festa is a showcase of the whole scene. Pick up some fresh new manga, play some cutting edge video games and, importantly, get involved the with cosplaying.

­   December 17-18 2016

­   Official Website

­  Makuhari Messe, Tokyo, Japan

   Kaihin-Makuhari Station

 

Tokyo Game Show

Sega booth, Tokyo Game Show 20040926b.jpg

Provided by commons.wikimedia

The biggest video game event in Japan, and one of the biggest of its kind in the world, the Tokyo Game Show is hotly anticipated each year. With demo areas for yet to be released games, unsurprisingly, with a special emphasis on Japanese developers; showcasing of experimental games tech; plenty of merchandise and of course, a lot of video game character cosplay, don’t let this one pass you by. 

­   September 21-24 2017

­   Official Website

­ Makuhari Messe, Tokyo, Japan

   Kaihin-Makuhari Station

 

Kyoto International Manga and Anime Fair

anime cosplay

Photo credit : Guilhem Vellut via Flickr.com

Coming in sharp contrast to traditional Kyoto beyond, the Kyoto International Manga and Anime Fair plunges visitors into the alternate reality of anime and manga. Helping this is the large number of cosplayers you’ll find here. Happily, foreigners with a passport get in totally free. 

­   Mid-September, 2017

­   Official Website

­ Miyako Messe, Kyoto, Japan

   Higashiyama Station

Famous Cosplayers

If you’re going to hit up one these events, you’re going to want to swat up on the biggest cosplayers out there beforehand. Here’s a few of our favourites. 

Yaya Han

Yaya Han

Photo credit : Enrico Cabotaje via Flickr.com

Queen Cosplay. In the game for 20 years now, Yaya Han is a real leader in the field, her amazing costumes acting as inspiration for the hordes of aspiring cosplayers. Often invited as a special guest at events and conventions, she’s a real cosplay celebrity.  

Marie-Claude Bourbonnais

Marie-Claude Bourbonnais

Photo credit : Pikawil via Flickr.com

Marie-Claude Bourbonnais is a French-Canadian cosplay model who started out in 2009. Making her own costumes and often appearing at international events, she’s another A-lister. 

Jessica Nigri

Jessica Nigri

Photo credit : Shuichi Aizawa via Flickr.com

Famed for her Juliet Starling from Lollipop Chainsaw outfit, Jessica Nigri is another famous non-Japanese cosplayer. You’re sure to see her image around should you find yourself at an event.  

Alodia Gosiengfiao

Alodia Gosiengfiao

Photo credit : Jene Kirishima via Flickr.com

As well as being one of the cosplay scene’s biggest stars, Alodia Gosiengfiao is at the head of her own cosplay empire which includes a clothing line, her own beauty products and a games company. 

Spiral Cats

SpiralCats

Photo credit : Acrofan.com via Wikimedia Commons

Born in Korea and often described as a K-Pop group, Spiral Cats are most famous for their original cosplay style. They can often be found at major conventions. 

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