One of the most popular things in Japan’s current pop culture is--- cosplay! Looking at the terminology, cosplay is a fusion of the words “costume play” or “costume roleplay”. This signifies that being in the costume puts you into that character’s persona. Cosplay itself is not only limited to anime characters, but is also branching out to game and movie characters as well.
On the internet you see multiple photos and pictures of Japanese people cosplaying on an ordinary day. But, there are also specific locations/events where cosplay is more saturated and plentiful. Seeing one or two people out in cosplay out on the street is great, but to get more photos with these talented people, and even try out cosplay yourself, check out the cosplay scene at these locations!
Purikura (Print Club) Cosplay
Alongside cosplay, purikura is another pop culture trend. Purikura is a photo booth machine where you can take photos with your friends and the get a print out of it afterwards. Although Purikura is mostly aimed towards teenage girls/younger women in a fashionista context, it’s also one of the easiest and cheapest places to try cosplay for a day.
Some purikura locations rent out cosplays for as low as 200 yen and can go up to 1000 yen. The costumes can range from school uniforms and maid outfits to popular Japanese anime characters like Sailor Moon. During special holidays (Halloween, Christmas, etc.), costumes with the holiday theme could be available as well. Overall, purikura cosplay can be worn for as long as you want, but it is meant to be worn inside the purikura venue only.
Note: Purikura cosplay rentals are for girls only!
A group of only guys entering a purikura venue is not allowed! (At least one girl should be in the group).
For more information on Purikura, I wrote a more detailed article about here:
For more than cute photo print outs, you can also try out cosplay at karaoke! Depending on the karaoke venue, cosplay rental can be free or have a small charge. One of the most popular karaoke venues for karaoke cosplay is KaraokeKan (カラオケ館)! There are various KaraokeKan venues all over Tokyo, it's just some might be busier than others.
For a slightly fancier atmosphere (but still affordable), the karaoke venue Adores in Akihabara not only provides costume rental, but themed karaoke rooms as well!
Keep in mind that the higher the floor, and the later the time, the higher the price!
Next, we have events! These events never fail to impress and have way more to offer as compared to purikura and karaoke. These events can either be public events (i.e. Halloween) or more hobby-like events like anime conventions, etc.
For public events, like Halloween, there’s a little more free reign. For example, Halloween in Shibuya is listed as one of the top 10 events to go to in order to see crazy costumes and great cosplays. However the event itself is unofficial and therefore not monitored by staff. There aren’t any regulations regarding the type of costume either. In a nutshell, it’s a huge event to see costume/cosplay at its finest in the most informal way possible. You yourself can join in on the fun, without having to register in advance, pay admission fee, etc.
More official events however, like conventions, are the opposite. They’re more organized, monitored by staff, have a general admission fee, and have rules and regulations regarding the cosplays. For example, if you are an official cosplayer and would like to participate at the special cosplay portion part of the event, you may need to pay a fee or register in advance. Some events also have certain rules about arriving to the venue in cosplay. Some will allow it, and some will require you to bring your cosplay and change in the designated changing room at the event. There could also be rules about where and when you are allowed to take photos of cosplayers, which is probably one of the strictest rules of them all.
While Halloween and public events are free, one of the major pros of conventions is that it could give you the chance to meet professional cosplayers! I met my favorite Japanese cosplayer Reika at this year’s Super Comic City convention!
I myself have never tried this option (yet), but! A very popular cosplay studio option is Studio Crown in Akihabara! At Studio Crown, you can rent costumes, receive professional help with make-up and costume, do a photoshoot, and walk around Akihabara in your picture perfect cosplay!
With it being a professional studio, there are important rules to take note of: reservations, payment per person, etc. So be sure to check out all the details on their website here! https://studio-crown.com/system.php
Oh! And for those of you who want to take a few pieces of cosplay culture back home—
I recommend Assist Wig in Ikebukuro! Assist Wig is a small cosplay shop in Ikebukuro, and although small, has all the cosplay goods you can imagine! I’ve bought most of my cosplay goods from here (i.e. wigs, color contacts, make-up) and they’re always of top notch quality with decent prices! They have almost any color of wig you can imagine and the color contacts can range from average colors to bright. There are even things you don’t think you need (like namida gel, or tear gel) but could definitely come in handy when the time comes.
On our 2nd day here in Niigata, Japan, Joey (The Anime Man), Aki (akidearest) and Shiori try out some more otaku-related activities including voice acting over famous anime, drawing manga and visiting and visiting a cosplay cafe where the women dress up as men!
We head to Niigata Prefecture to experience all sorts of otaku themed activities with Aki (akidearest) and Joey (The Anime Man)! This is the 1st of a 2 part installment showcasing cosplaying, anime voice acting, manga drawing and many more awesome things to try in this area in Japan.