Monday, February 18, 2008

Harajuku : Cosplay Venues

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Cosplay can be seen at public events such as video game shows, as well as at dedicated cosplay parties at nightclubs or amusement parks. It is not unusual for Japanese teenagers to gather with like-minded friends in places like Tokyo's Harajuku district to engage in cosplay. Since 1998, Tokyo's Akihabara district has contained a large number of cosplay cafés, catering to devoted anime and cosplay fans. The waitresses at such cafés dress as game or anime characters; maid (or meido) costumes are particularly popular.

Possibly the single largest and most famous event attended by cosplayers is the semiannual doujinshi market, Comiket. This event, held in summer and winter, attracts hundreds of thousands of manga otaku and many thousands of cosplayers who congregate on the roof of the exhibition center, often in unbearably hot or cold conditions.

Cosplayers in Japan refer to themselves as reyazu; pronounced layers (by writing the word cosplayers in katakana, it is possible to shorten it in this way). Those who photograph players are called cameko, short for "Camera Kozo" or "Camera Boy". The cameko give prints of their photos to the players as gifts. Tensions between players and cameko have increased due to perceived stalker-like behaviour among some obsessive males who push female cosplayers to exchange personal email addresses or do private photo sessions. One result of this has been a tightening of restrictions on photography at events such as Comiket.

While Cosplay arguably originated in Japan, one should not be confused with the idea that Cosplay is considered typical behavior in Japan. While some do attend Cosplay functions that are held in districts such as Akihabara, most Japanese people find Cosplay to be rather silly. In addition, because Cosplay in Japan has adapted such a negative sexual connotation, many Japanese have come to feel that Cosplay is reprehensible. In addition, North Americans who Cosplay typically refer to themselves as "otaku", which is essentially the Japanese word for "geek", but wrongfully use this word in an attempt to embody themselves in a sociological group that they can be proud of. To contrast, in Japan actual otaku refuse to admit that they are otaku because the idea of otaku it is not looked at as a group of people who are engaging in activity that may seem "just a little different". In fact, being an otaku in Japan entails standing on one of the bottom rungs of the Japanese social ladder.
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Gundam Costume

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This Gundam Strike Freedom Cosplay is awesome.

So what is Cosplay anyway?
Cosplay, short for "costume play", is a Japanese subculture centered on dressing as characters from manga, anime, tokusatsu, and video games, and, less commonly, Japanese live action television shows, fantasy movies, Japanese pop music bands, Visual Kei, fantasy music stories (such as stories by the band Sound Horizon), and novels. However, in some circles, "cosplay" has been expanded to mean simply wearing a costume.

In Japan, "cosplay" as a hobby is usually an end unto itself. Like-minded people gather to see others' costumes, show off their own elaborate handmade creations, take lots of pictures, and possibly participate in best costume contests.

The most specific anecdote about the origin of the word "cosplay" was that Nov Takahashi (from a Japanese studio called Studio Hard) coined the term "cosplay" as a contraction of the English-language words "costume play" while she was attending the 1984 Los Angeles Science Fiction Worldcon. He was so impressed by the hall and masquerade costuming there that he reported about it frequently in Japanese science fiction magazines. This point is debatable, however, as the word fits in with a common Japanese method of abbreviation: combining the first two syllables of one word with the first two syllables of a second word (or, more precisely, the first two moras of each). Other examples of this include Pokémon and puroresu.
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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Latest costume-play offerings in Japan.

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School boy cafes, maid casinos as the latest costume-play offerings in Japan.

School girls have a well-documented following, but what about the boys? It turns out that school boys are building up a following of their own: since opening last fall, the school boy themed café, Edelstein, has been filled to capacity every weekend and has seen repeat customers visit upwards of 40 times in just a few short months.


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