Why people ‘Cosplay’

September 3rd, 2012By Category: Culture

“What makes people get into cosplay? Is it only the otaku type? How openly is cosplay culture accepted outside of Japan and what kind of businesses are available for cosplayers in Japan?”

Many of you who are not quite into today’s cosplay culture may question the reasons behind people’s cosplay addiction. We asked Japanese people what they thought of cosplay culture and cosplay fans from overseas about their personal background to gain a further understanding of this culture from the human psychology aspect. We also looked into what kind of businesses are available for cosplay lovers in Japan.

Japanese woman in her 30s

“As a native Japanese, I always felt that only otaku got into this culture. I am in my 30s, and growing up, I always thought people who are into cosplay were introverted and non-popular types, who would rather sit in the corner of a classroom, and read books quietly without making eye contact with other people. But nowadays, a lot of non-Japanese are also into this culture, dressing up as characters of Japanese anime, and even use their cosplay photos for their Facebook profiles, whereas Japanese cosplayers tend to keep it rather a secret hobby. There are a lot of people cosplaying at anime conventions worldwide. I think there is more to it, and I want to explore it further.”

Elvina Chu

“I’m generally a very shy/quiet person. When I dress up, I feel like I bring out another side of me. To me, cosplaying/dressing up once in awhile is very exciting, because I can look and act in ways that I would have never known; it’s surprising in a good way! It’s like bringing out a secret once in awhile, little by little which makes it fun for me.”

Caucasian male in his 20s

“Cosplaying is a great way to express yourself, show off all your craftsmanship and dedication to the work you put into your costume.”

Teenage Caucasian girl

“When I am cosplaying, I feel like I get into a character, and I get to portray someone else for the day, and many of those personalities change. You would not feel free and comfortable doing that in real life but you can do that in a setting of attending an anime convention.”

Adriana Renee Trevino

“This is my most recent cosplay from this year’s Anime Expo convention in Los Angeles. I’m cosplaying Toad from Super Mario Brothers. I have a silly reason for why I like to cosplay… I’m a very shy person generally and cosplaying helps me to push myself out of my usual comfort zone and to be more sociable to people outside of my friends and family. My friend, Linda Washington, helped me make this outfit and John “Choji” O’Brien took this photo for me.”

Asian female in her 30s

“I do cosplaying when I feel I am overly sensitive about what other people may think about me. When I dress up differently from my own natural appearance, I feel as though I can express myself without hesitation, and I can open up. It is a great way to overcome my personal struggle against my own personal identity, and try something different for the sake of breaking the shell within.”

Dawn Strodman

“I cosplay everyday just for fun.”

Over the past several decades, this cosplay culture may have been supported by the introverted quiet type, who may not necessarily feel openly comfortable exposing their inner needs, but are able to come out of their bedroom dressed up differently than their personal identity which may have limited their actions in the past.

When these cosplayers come to meet other fellow cosplay lovers, they feel they are safe to socialize without judgment, and it has various positive effects on their self-esteem as well as in their social and academic success.

“But I do not think only introverted people get into this culture. Some people are rather competitive minded and they use the culture to prove themselves to others. They want the attention and want to be complimented for the energy they put into it.”

“I tried cosplaying for a project where I had to come up with a different character than my own. When I tried it and saw people’s positive reaction, it was like it opened up my inner hidden need to be noticed and be paid attention to. I happened to have bought my first cosplay costume in an adult shop, and I went back to the shop and explored what kind of costumes they have.

I also observed what kind of people would come to the shop. I definitely saw those people in the shop as quiet, introverted and otaku types, but I could see how open minded they could be, in terms of exploring their love life, than people who appear to be “normal”, so we cannot underestimate the power of otaku people, really!

My reason for buying the cosplay costume was not to have fun cosplaying with my lover, but I can kind of see how they like cosplaying in a very personal/intimate setting, because it is fun to see different reactions of your lover, being turned on in a different way than making love (same old shit), isn’t it?

I also think that people get addicted to it, because you know your lover appreciates you for your effort in making your intimate time different and fun. I think people who have a personal need to open up without being judged and be acknowledged, understood and appreciated have the tendency to get trapped in this cosplay culture that can nurture their needs and let them enjoy the fantasy world that can be very special and private among their personal mates.”

There are many shops with cosplay costumes in Akihabara, maid cafes where waitresses dressed in maid costumes act as servants, and treat customers as masters (and mistresses) in a private home, rather than as café patrons. At ACOS, not only they have great varieties of costumes, wigs, gadgets and make up goods for sale, they also have the pri-cla (short name for print club, which is a photo booth that prints out cards and stickers of the resulting photograph, which are then traded among friends) that also allows people to wear their cosplay costumes for your photo shoot. They also have a photo shoot studio rental service, where you can use the studio to get your professional photos taken. Probably only in Japan, and there are “love hotels”, a type of short-stay hotel operated primarily for the purpose of allowing couples privacy for sexual activities that have the rentals for cosplay costumes too.

So do you want to find out more about this cosplay culture by exploring further?

Maybe you’d be interested in ANA’s 10,500 yen flight tickets to anywhere in Japan (only available to tourists). Check out their site for more information.

Author of this article


GaijinPot is an online community for foreigners living in Japan, providing information on everything you need to know about enjoying life here, from finding a job and accommodation to having fun.

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