Every year around the first weekend of August, the streets of the city of Nagoya transform into an international stage for people from all around the world that dress up as their favorite manga, anime or videogame characters. The reason behind this sudden change from a gray city landscape into a colorful catwalk full of whimsy is the World Cosplay Summit, an annual event that takes place in Nagoya and some of its neighboring cities, in Aichi Prefecture.
The main goal of the World Cosplay Summit, or WCS, is to promote a friendly international exchange through Japanese pop culture; bringing together people from all corners of the globe to engage in activities related to their passion and love for this unique Japanese culture. What started as a simple, small event in which cosplayers from 4 countries (Germany, France, Italy and Japan) share their experiences of being involved in such an interesting hobby, evolved into an international championship, in which representative teams from 20 nations (Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom, and United States) compete in a friendly contest where they can display their cosplay talents in order to become the champions.
What is Cosplay?
Before we continue, I think it’s necessary to answer one simple question… what is cosplay??? Many people who are not familiar with the concept of “Cool Japan” or the comic and science fiction scene might feel a little bewildered. Cosplay (コスプレ) is a term that combines the words “costume” and “play,” it was coined by Nobuyuki Takahashi, from the Japanese studio “Studio Hard” whilst visiting the “World Science Fiction Convention” in 1984, in Los Angeles, California. With this word, Nobuyuki tried to express how impressed he was by the costumed fans. Since then, the word has been used to define the activities related to dressing up as your favorite character and attending related events. This has become a popular hobby all around the world, with people from different nationalities dressing up as their childhood heroes from comics and movies. It is so popular that even in the US a TV show named “Heroes of Cosplay” started airing this year.
Although Cosplay didn’t originate from Japan, it is true that there are reports that as early as 1978, some fans started to attend events dressed in costume. With time, this became a completely new subculture, with young people becoming more and more involved in cosplaying. Eventually, Japan became known as the world capital of cosplay. Fans from all around the world started to dream that they too would be able to show their costumes in one of the many events taking place across the country. Therefore, it was only natural that an event such as the World Cosplay Summit took place in Japan.
A display of international talent.
The World Cosplay Summit brings together people from at least 20 countries (Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom, and United States), in a once in a lifetime experience of friendship and sharing, all thanks to their love for Japanese pop culture. Each country is represented by a two people team, chosen through preliminary, regional rounds held by partner anime/manga events, which ensures that only the best from all around the globe will come to participate in the main contest.
Once selected, each team receives a fully paid trip to Japan, in order to participate in the Cosplay Championship. Each team is required to come with at least 3 costumes, one for the parades, another one for media appearances and the last one remains a secret until the championship. Although there are no special requirements for the first two, the same is not true for the last one. In order to be able to participate in the main event, both costumes of the team members must belong to the same anime, manga, videogame or movie. More importantly, the Championship is not only a catwalk where they’ll show the costumes. A very important component of the contest is a live performance, in which the participants are allowed to use music and props to recreate as close as possible the content that inspired them to choose their costumes. This means that each year’s Championship different from it’s predecessors, making each one of them a unique event.
An event for fans from all around the globe.
The World Cosplay Summit reunites the international community of cosplayers and fans during different events through one week of friendly international exchange. Some media related events take place in other parts of Japan, however Nagoya is the stage for the main show, so we strongly suggest you to go there. The participating teams arrive one week prior to the Cosplay Championship, and they are then involved in activities aimed at entertaining the audience. For example, the parade of Tanabata in the city of Ichinomiya, Aichi, very close to Nagoya, and posing for amateur and professional photographers at the Nagoya Airport.
However, don’t worry if you don’t have enough time to stay a full week in Nagoya. If money is short or time doesn’t allow you to be earlier, we strongly recommend that you attend the Championship weekend, as it is full of many exciting events. It is also the day when the majority of attendants present wear their costumes. In fact, audiences are encouraged to join in with the cosplay, as this is a unique opportunity to share with people that have the same love for cosplay from all around the world. And it wouldn’t be unusual to see people in costumes exchanging their business cards to keep in touch. So if you are into this “Cool Japan” trend, don’t forget to attend, as this will be a good chance to meet people that share the same interests.
The main events of the WCS are divided over one weekend. On Saturday morning a small parade with the teams takes place in the streets near the Oasis 21, a mall very close to the Nagoya TV Tower, that acts as a stage for the Cosplay Championship. This parade is worth seeing not only for the costumes that each team displays, but also because they are accompanied by people dressed up in traditional Japanese clothes, such as in samurai armor or dressed as geishas, in order to link the traditional and modern Japanese culture. This parade is so popular that even the mayor of Nagoya participates, so be sure not to miss it.
That same day, in the evening, the Cosplay Championship will take place. During this event, the teams will display their best costumes in order to become the year’s champion. As we explained before this is the event you really don’t want to miss. Each team’s performance is full of an enormous amount of talent, passion and creativity, and it is indeed unique. For example, this year’s champions, team Italy, dress as robots from the worldwide famous anime character, Mazinger Z by Go Nagai. They used a big show displaying lights, and even lasers during the performance. This was the product of four years work, which indicates the passion and dedication that the participants have for Cosplay. If you want to get a seated spot to watch you’ll need to get tickets in advance, but don’t worry, even if you don’t manage to get some, you will still be able to catch a glimpse.
However, inbetween both events are several “spare” hours of free time, right?? Well, although this is true, it is during this time when you’ll be able to appreciate the costumes that the audience wear. This is a moment for you to take out your camera and take as many pictures as you want. This might also be the only time in which you’ll meet Japanese people that won’t mind if you ask them for a photograph; you might even get them to do a specific pose!! However, don’t forget to always be respectful and watch your manners. If a particular cosplayer has a lot of people waiting for their turn, please patiently wait in line and don’t push in line.
Finally on Sunday morning, the closing event will take place in Osu. This area is well known in Nagoya as being the district for “otakus,” similar to Akihabara in Tokyo. Osu is also home to one of the more famous spots of Nagoya, the Kannon Temple. This serves as the stage for one of the biggest cosplays parades in the world. What differentiates this event from the ones on Saturday is that here, fans participate actively and other cosplayers are allowed to take part in it too. Have in mind that it is very important to get a good spot to take pictures of the many cosplayers that will walk through Osu and meet at the Kannon Temple, where live shows of different artists and bands will also take place. Here you’ll be able to meet a lot of cosplayers and photographers, and take pictures using different backgrounds, the Kannon Temple, being the best background of them all.
If you want to get more involved, there are many ways to do it. The site of the World Cosplay summit sells different access passes for people who want to meet the participants or get a closer look at the contests. Prices start from 700 yen all the way to 2000 yen, a very reasonable price if you ask me. However, even if you just want to look around, you can still have access to the event without having to spend a single yen. Also, be prepared for the huge amount of pictures you’ll probably take, as many of the costumes you’ll see will be very impressive and of great quality. Even if you are not into the “Cool Japan” trend or know nothing about cosplay, this is still a unique life experience to be had here. A unique event that will let you into the world of modern Japan, and maybe, give you a greater understanding of why this is so popular all around the globe. Without a doubt, this is one of the events that we recommend the most and you shouldn’t miss. If you happen to be in Nagoya around the beginning of summer, don’t forget to mark the WCS in your calendar!