Admit it. At one point in your life you’ve imagined yourself as a superhero or an anime character. You took a short blanket, wrapped it around you to make it a cape and called yourself a superhero who can fly.
It’s one of those experiences you can look back on and tell your friends or your kids one day. But try doing that now on a regular day, I’m sure most people would think you’re weird, or worse, you’re on medication.
Some adults hate the thought of having to think of something to wear the next day. But others take dressing up seriously and on a higher level. Instead of beating their brains out on what to wear to work or to a party, they’re wondering who they’ll be the next day. This happens more often especially in Japan, where embracing fantasy in everyday life is acceptable and where cosplay events are lined up every season.
Sure, there are some things we used to do when we were kids that we won’t be able to do now that we’re all grown up. But for my friend Jeremy, reading comic books, watching cartoons and anime and collecting action figures keeps getting better–especially now that he’s earning extra money for his hobby. “Wouldn’t it be nice if you could go to this massive event where both kids and adults can go play dress up without looking stupid and without anyone yelling “Save it for Halloween!” he asked me. I’m sure any geek and kid at heart would love to have that kind of experience and enter the cool world of cosplay, I thought.
Jeremy is also a cat lover, cosplay and Japanese culture fan. He shared with me his travel list and one of them is to go visit the land of the rising sun. He was more eager to save up when I shared with him All Nippon Airways’ “Experience Japan Fare,” . It’s also good news for anime and cosplay hardcore fans who are on a tight budget. For only ¥10,500, they could go and explore Japan and have the authentic anime feel that they need to get their cosplay game faces on.
It’s a great time to visit Japan especially when, aside from endless anime stores, sushi and the gigantic Gundam robot, cosplay events are almost held every season. Though cosplay didn’t specifically started in Japan, the country has been the center of the rise of this event, given the success of several manga characters and anime series such as Bleach, Gundam and Evangelion, among others.
Some say that this started in earnest during the 70s and 80s. During this period, the anime media form started gaining popularity in the country, and series like Gundam, Future Boy Conan, and many others captured public imagination. Small groups of fans started, and to show their appreciation for these shows, they dress up in clothes that resemble their favorite characters. Akihabara became one of the places for this, and many young people would create their own costumes to emulate their favorite characters in ordinary life.
Unlike the regular Halloween costumes, Cosplay has a different goal. It aims to interpret. Aside from donning a fabulous costume, cosplayers also need to be the character; from voice, mannerisms and body language, everything from head to toe, much like literally out of the comic books.
And because of its popularity and the crowd it attracts, cosplay received positive reactions even in the West. While Asian cosplay focuses on anime and manga, Western cosplay events feature more popular characters from Star Trek to Star Wars. But Cosplay is not limited to dressing up in costumes from popular TV shows. Cosplay is also seen in traditional Japanese culture and fashion.
It is usually something that takes place at parties, concerts, conventions and venues where people with the same interests meet to show off their costumes, to socialize, and to photograph other enthusiasts. The most popular area for these kind of activities is the Harajuku area of Tokyo. In Akihabara, several cosplay themed cafes have been opened during the last decade to serve cosplayers, and of course, the usual customers. The staff even wear anime themed costumes themselves to attract more customers.
Sharing what I’ve read about cosplay and Japan with Jeremy was like storytelling in front of eager 6-year-olds. I even joked that he got a little drool on the side when I told him about the ANA Cool Japan promo. I’m sure he’s willing to go beyond just collecting comic books and watching anime now that he’s got a lot of time in his hands–and extra money.
It’s never too late to live your childhood dream. Whether it’s to dress up as your favorite childhood superhero in a cosplay event or just explore the colorful culture in the land of the rising sun, you can always put both together, because traveling and having fun blends naturally: travel Japan and have fun in cosplay events if you have the chance. Whoever said that we can’t dress up and fly again must be nuts. With a little budget-friendly push from ANA, be a kid again and live your dreams.