[From June Issue 2013]
TOYAKO Manga Anime Festa
Toyako-cho in Hokkaido is a beautiful hot spring town. The town is known for being the location of the Toyako G8 Summit in 2008. Though this town has a rather staid reputation, this completely changes during two days in June. This is because the “TOYAKO Manga Anime Festa” is held here.
The first time this event was held was four years ago. The ball got rolling after a consultation on what should be done to celebrate the 100th anniversary since the hot spring resort was opened. SASAKI Takuichi who owns a restaurant and hotel in the town suggested hosting an event for people who like comics and animation. He was simply motivated by the fact that he himself liked them; young people in the area gave their support. However, the idea was seriously opposed by the local elderly population.
“Having received a powerful impression of extreme cosplayers on TV, elderly people were anxious about the sort of people who would attend. It’s not generally understood that this is simply a hobby that normal people enjoy.” In addition, some people mentioned that it might damage the reputation of the town that was known for holding a summit. Two meetings were held to explain matters. “The atmosphere was just as if we were trying to build a dam.”
Once consent had been acquired, the event was successfully held, attracting around 3,000 people. Though originally planned as a one-off event, requests came in from attendees for the event to be held there again the following year. People, who had at first been opposed, came around after they discovered that participants had been well mannered; properly taking their garbage home with them.
The event began to be held annually. In the second year there were 7,000 attendees, and by the time the third event was held last year, 30,000 people turned up. This has become an event that brings people to the town. “We do not host this event in order to revitalize the town.” Sasaki became vice chairman and, taking the point of view of an anime or manga fan, is always thinking of ways to improve visitors’ enjoyment of the event.
Pretty much anything related to manga and anime goes on at the event: talks are given by voice actors, there are exhibitions of works, and fanzines are sold. “Itasha” cars with characters painted onto them gather and people in costume walk in and out of local stores. On the other hand, there are set rules for the general public about taking photographs of cosplayers and there are strict restrictions prohibiting the distribution of images and video. These rules take into account the feelings of people who might be hiding the fact that they cosplay from their acquaintances and employer, allowing them to enjoy the event without feeling self-conscious.
This year – on June 22 and 23 – will be the fourth time the event will be held. More visitors are expected to attend. “It would be terrible if we lost sight of our goal of getting visitors to enjoy themselves,” says Sasaki. “One of the unique things about this event is that staff and visitors are brought together,” he says proudly. This year he is planning to get dressed up as his favorite character in order to freely interact with visitors.
Text: ICHIMURA Masayo