Comiket 89 has come and gone in a blink of an eye, and for me, it was a surreal and almost magical experience. Not having attended this biannual event held at the Tokyo Big Sight before, I did not really have a clear idea as to what I would face. Sure, I have seen many photos and descriptions from guides and others who have gone, you can’t fully expect to know how it feels like or be prepared for what was to come at Comiket. I was slightly overwhelmed the moment I neared the location on Day 1, to say the least.
In the early hours of the 29th, I headed out at 4.30am to catch either the 2nd or 3rd train to reach the Big Sight at around 5.50~6am or so. This went on as my routine for the next 2 days as well. Why not the first train? That train is packed like sardines, and I’d honestly want to have a more pleasant experience heading there. There is only one train service to Tokyo Big Sight, and everyone is funneled into just that one service from many lines. It was quite amusing for me to see people running to and in the stations, though I didn’t join them in doing so, I didn’t feel so much of that urge when the train hasn’t arrived or left yet.
Upon arrival at the destination, there are signs and staff to direct and split you to queue for the different halls: the East and West Halls. Even when arriving at 6am, and on the 2/3rd train, there would already be thousands waiting in line and queuing. Leaving your spot in the queue is a norm and everyone is very well-mannered. As 10am comes near, the queue starts moving closer to the Big Sight. As I did not have any Doujin booth to visit on Day 1, I decided to spend that day taking a look at the corporate booths at the West hall. What I soon got myself into was a crazy mass of people. The crowd at the corporate booths was massive, the lines snaked everywhere and it was tough to move around. Once you get stuck inside the path of moving people, it is hard to get out. You would get pulled along with everyone, even if your feet weren’t touching the floor. After seeing how daunting queuing for anything there would be, I decided to escape and head to the other halls to see what they had. Once I arrived at the East halls, I felt that they clearly had more breathing space, and it was easier to see and walk around.
There is a vast number of booths, and I had never seen so many doujinshis before this. BL was clearly the main attraction for Day 1 and it was everywhere, I believe it completely filled the West halls 1 and 2 as well. Day 2 was the day for categories such as Touhou Project and Kancolle, and Day 3 had all the miscellaneous, and where a huge bulk of Doujin music outside Kancolle and Touhou would be, namely Vocaloid and Original music. Thankfully for me, all the music were bunched up in one area or hall, so browsing was made slightly easier. The outer circle booths are allotted for the big names and highly popular ones, or experienced circles. The queues can be really long, but there may not be a queue for you to be in either. So one thing I would say is that even if it is in the outer circle (A – Booths), you can find booths where the queues may be short and don’t extend out of the hall, or may just have several people or none at all. Likewise for inner circle booths. Some of those booths have really long lines that could stretch the entire hall, or extend outside if it’s near enough to the outside. The booths at the corner of the inner circle tend to be more popular as well. One amusing moment I had at the Doujin booths was when I was walking around with my friend, and we came across a trio of foreigners from the West. We all spotted the same booth on one side of the lane we were walking and saw the fully nude drawing of a person on one the doujinshis and one of them turned and commented to the rest that “they really don’t hold back here huh”. It was quite a comedic moment, but I do agree. From the time I have had in Japan, I felt that they seem to be much more open to such stuff and it does not come off as weird to them.
Meals weren’t much of a problem, if you even remember to have your meals. There are food stalls outside the halls and they serve a variety of food at a decent price, at least for most. If you ask me, it is hard to find bad food in Japan. I spent all my time browsing the booths inside the halls on some days though, but it’s all up to you. The cosplay area is one huge area outdoors at a carpark. More areas were set up on Day 3 to cater to all the cosplayers. Crossplayers were abundant and everywhere. But the quality of cosplay at Comiket cannot be compared elsewhere, it is just that good. You can even just forgive those weird and quirky ones here and there. But what I felt was that everything was so serious. The cosplay scene there was all serious business. The cosplayers just find a spot in the area, place their luggage down, set up their name signboard somewhere and wait for the pictures to come by. As usual, nothing would be complete without queues. The photographers will queue to take pictures of each cosplayer. Why I felt it was all serious business was that it felt just like the booths inside the halls. You have the cosplayers set up their ‘booths’ and the photographers come in and queue to get the picture. With all the people holding their big and bulky cameras, you don’t feel like you should be there with just your handphone as a camera. It felt awkward being a casual there, attempting to get pictures for fun.
If there is anything I should say, I would say be prepared mentally and physically for the wait, especially the wait before Comiket opens. Being winter, the temperatures are really cold, though not zero. For all 3 days I braved the weather and managed to get through somehow, the cold was really unforgivable. Really plan what you want to see and buy if possible before the event. Plan it out really carefully or you will not fulfill what you wanted to achieve, that I can attest to it. I made several mistakes that cost me certain albums, and from that I have to learn from it and ensure I don’t make the same mistakes. It might be wise to take on the popular booths at the outer circle first, but that may not always be the case. Some of the inner booths only stock very few of their products, and might sell out before you get there, while some or most of the outer circle, depending on the booth I guess, would never run out even if their line seems endless. If all fails, try to imagine how popular the circle you want to go to is, and estimate and predict if you need to head to them first. I queued in one queue before for a long time and the line barely moved, this was something I should have just given up on and do other things. Keep yourself warm and hydrated and look out for special goods! One thing you might want to be warned about would be the amount of smut everywhere. It’s impossible to avoid if you walk a round, if you rather not see any of such things. This would be the only thing I would discourage if you really detest such stuff.
Overall, Comiket 89 was an exciting experience and I will never forget this opportunity I had to attend it for the first time. I had a wonderful time and enjoyed the atmosphere and seeing all the participants and artists. I managed to talk to several of the artists, to thank them and express my support for them, which was great. To some, it is motivating to hear that there is support even from outside Japan, it really makes them happy to know they could influence a wider range of people. I am keen to attend another Comiket in the near future, and I hope I will be more prepared when the time comes. It is ideal to go with others and assign booths to each person to help everyone purchase from the booth if necessary.
Comiket is one of the biggest chances you get to show support to those you follow. It is an event of a massive scale which is an experience to have. To end this off, I would like to say that Comiket is an event that can cater to many people with various interests. You don’t have to be into cosplay, or anime, or fanart. There is something for everyone, and it can still be appreciated. Comiket is an event I would recommend all to at least experience once in their lifetime, it would be a decision you won’t regret.