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Summit Unites Fans of Japan's Latest Pop Culture Export (August 18, 2006)

The winning Brazilian pair
From Japan, the birthplace of manga, anime, and video games, comes cosplay, another form of Japanese pop culture that is beginning to sweep the world. "Cosplayers" like dressing up as characters from their favorite manga and anime. Japan plays host to the annual World Cosplay Summit, a festival that attracts "costume players" from around the world. 

Breaking into the Mainstream
Cosplay is an abbreviated form of the English words costume and play, and recently it has been gaining currency among speakers of English. Cosplay was originally regarded as part of the exclusive domain of otaku (anime and manga fanatics regarded as somewhat geeky), but in the 1990s an increasing number of cosplayers began appearing at comic markets and anime events, to the point where they gradually entered the mainstream through frequent coverage in magazines, TV, and other media. 

The German representatives

Recently, more and more cosplayers are displaying their costume fashions over the Internet. Fan clubs have sprung up, and some celebrity enthusiasts have even been featured in their own photo shoots.

Cool Japan on Display
With a culture of dressing up already established for occasions like Halloween, young people in Europe and the United States have proved highly receptive to cosplay. The World Cosplay Summit attracts cosplayers from all over the world and is a showcase for Japanese pop culture. Since the first summit in 2003, the event has grown by leaps and bounds each year. In 2005 it was held as one of the events of Expo 2005 Aichi Japan, and it has now become a truly worldwide event.

World Cosplay Summit 2006 was held on August 6 in Nagoya. The event has received backing from Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport as a platform for communicating Japanese culture to the rest of the world. Cosplayers attended from Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Singapore, China, Thailand, Brazil, and Japan, following preliminary rounds of cosplay competition held in these countries.

We caught up with some of the participants to ask them about their love of cosplay. Daniela Guldenpfennig and Tanja Reschke from Germany came dressed as a character from the Aoi Nanase art book SevenColours of the Wind and Hotaru Futaba from Garou Mark of the Wolves, respectively. "Most of my friends do cosplay," said Tanja, confirming the growing popularity of this pastime. As for their view of Japan, Daniela said, "We love the temples. They're so beautiful. And Shibuya - the shopping is great!"

The French team dressed as characters from Prince of Tennis

Maurisio Somenzari L. Olivas and Monica Somenzari L. Olivas are a brother-and-sister team who represented Brazil, winning the grand prize at the 2006 summit. Dressed respectively as Hughes de Watteau and Augusta Vradica from Trinity Blood, they made their costumes by hand with help from their parents. Mauricio started learning Japanese six years ago when he became hooked on the anime Sailor Moon. He likes the cross and pants in his costume, while Monica likes her hat.

Chinese representatives Yu Xin Hao and Ni Jia Ting were visiting Japan for the first time. Yu was dressed as Genzo from Saiyuki, while Ni was dressed as Kagome Higurashi from Inuyasha. Both of their costumes were hand-made, and both expressed a desire to continue this unique hobby.

Anne-Cécile Martin and Léna Desfontaines from France came as Bitter Saki from Pinky St.: The Animation and Nadia from Fushigi no Umi no Nadia, respectively. Anne-Cécile reported that so many people had entered the French cosplay contest that some had to be turned away. Léna, meanwhile, said, "At first my parents were not happy that I spent so much money on my costumes, but now they think it's great that I've been able to come to Japan for the cosplay summit."

The Chinese representatives

Cosplay is particularly popular in France, a nation with a well-established base of manga fans and one of the first foreign countries to be introduced to Japanese anime. A contest attracting some 400 contestants vying to represent France as cosplay competitors was held as part of the Japan Expo, which took place in suburban Paris in early July.

The Japan Expo introduces elements of Japan's subculture, including manga, anime, and pro wrestling. This year's expo attracted a record-high 60,000 visitors. Contestants as well as regular expo visitors turned out in their cosplay garb to strut their stuff and show off their originality.

With costumes inspired by manga and anime popular even in Paris, the high-fashion capital of the world, cosplay looks poised to take the world by storm as a new form of Japanese pop culture.

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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