Comic Market – Your complete survival guide

Introduction

So I thought it was finally time to create my own comprehensive guide on Comic Market (hereon ‘Comiket’) as experienced by myself. This article will cover everything I believe is useful to know about the event, such as how to purchase goods, a list of key phrases, the common method used to organise people lining overnight both and on the day, as well how the booths are set up amongst many other things. This guide is designed to be comprehensive and detailed and is a load to take in. If you ever do end up in a situation where you have no idea where you are or what you’re doing, just gaijin smash your way through, but it is important to create as little problems for others as you can.

To clarify, this guide is written for those who are planning on going to the event and contains information useful to help you navigate/survive through the chaos. A more general article about the event itself will be written in a separate article. There are many links in this post that link back to the original locations I found the pictures, as well as the sites of the circles I have used in my examples. Most of these sites are safe, though there may be a few that contain material not suitable for minors. Please click them at your own risk.

I myself am in no way affiliated with the Comic Market Committee. The information presented here reflects the experiences as seen by me and as such can vary between other individuals.

I will update this post from time to time so the contents may vary between each viewing. I intend to add more links and pictures in the few days after I first publish this post.

Please note that I use the phrase company booths and commercial booths interchangeably. Company booths are there for the profits, therefore ‘commercial’ is another way to explain them, though doujinshi are technically supposed to be only a way for them to share their ideas, therefore profit is not a main goal (ideally, anyway).

Contents

1. Key phrases
2. General Information
3. Booths Part 1 (How they’re organised)
4. Planning
5. Preparation
6. Getting there
7. Overnight lining
8. The morning line
9. Booths Part 2 (How to line up and buy)
10. Navigating inside
11. Events
12. Cosplay

1. Key phrases – Know these!

Below is a general list of the many phrases you will hear or see at the event, and some key phrases to help your browsing and purchases move smoothly. Everything can change with the situation, but if you use the phrases here people should generally know what it is you want. The order the words will appear in this list is: Japanese, Romaji (English letters), English, followed by how the word is used or how you will experience it. You don’t necessary have to remember these; just printing them off and checking it out when you’re lost should not be a problem either. They are in no particular order.

同人・同人誌・同人ソフト, doujin/doujinshi/doujin-sofuto – doujin, doujinshi, doujin software – Not really terribly necessary to remember, but I thought I’d put it here. Any of the products sold in the East and West halls that are not from any commercial booths fall under the prefix ‘doujin’. Any standard ‘book’ is called ‘doujinshi’, anything that is a software is ‘doujin-sofuto’, music falls under ‘doujin-ongaku’ (ongaku=music), etc. Due to the majority of doujin material being in the form of a book (and also the roots of the ‘doujin’ world), doujinshi is often used to refer to all forms of doujin material.

男性向・女性向・成年向, danseimuke/joseimuke/seinenmuke – For males, for females, for adults – Quite self explanatory. Just in case, ‘For adults’ means material of adult nature.

企業, kigyou – Company/enterprise – A company/commercial booth in Comiket is one of the official companies selling their goods at the event. These booths are located at the upper floor of the West Halls and include specialty stores and companies like Toranoana, Melon Books, K-BOOKS,  August, Circus, etc.

最後尾, saikoubi, end of the line – This phrase is a necessity as lines in Comiket can get unbelievably long. Long lines will often be split up any number of times, and it is your job to find out where the back is, For popular booths you may find that the end is nowhere near the actual booth itself. To find out where the end is, look around for these letters. On the way you may find the three letters below on the way, but make sure you end up waiting under these letters instead of the one below. Usually they will also contain information about the circle, position and/or goods on sale. More information about lining from there can be found in “9. Booths 2“.

列途中, retsu tochuu, the middle of a line – As stated above, a long line may be split any number of times into smaller portions. How the line moves of there is dependant on the people taking care of it, but it is quite obvious that people who wish to join the line should do so from the very back, not the back of an intermediary part of the line. Depending on the circle, if you find yourself at the back of this line you may be asked to hold onto a sign with the above letters written on it. It is then your job to make sure others don’t join in this line and you are expected to point others to where the end of the line is. If you find yourself panicing in this situation, just let the guy know you have no idea what you’re doing (they should get the message no matter how to try to this) and they’ll pass the role onto the person next to you. More information in “9. Booths 2“.

新刊(セット), shinkan (setto), new book – An all important word if you want to buy the newest issue of something from a circle. The word in parenthesis, “setto” is added for when you want to buy a ‘set’ of their new items. which should obviously only be used if it exists. Be careful that some circles may have more than one newly released doujinshi, as well as multiple ‘sets’. In this case it would be easiest to simply point at what you need (they will almost certainly have a list at the booth itself). Note that this word is only used for books.

新作, shinsaku, new item – Similar above, but this word can be applied with music, games, etc. as well as books. There won’t really be any problems if you mix them up though.

完売, kanbai, sold out – A word no participant ever wants to see while lining. Before you even start lining it is good to have a look (if there is any) at the goods list to see if what you want is still available. Whatever has sold out will most likely have these two letters stamped in front. Do note that it is quite common for items to be sold out while you are in the line, but it’s a lot more convenient that you find out while you’re lining than to continue lining and find out when you finally get to the front.

東#・西#ホール, higashi/nishi hooru, East#/West# hall – The “#” represents the number of the hall. East has from 1 to 6, and West has 1 and 2.Don’t get these mixed up, because it will severely impede on your time if you end up in the wrong side of the convention! It is useful to remember how to read these, or at least learn to differenciate them especially for lining up overnight. There is a certain time when you will split into different lines depending on which hall you want to go to first. A wrong choice could mean your efforts in lining overnight may be wasted.

出口・出口専用, deguchi/deguchisenyou, exit/exit only – Very self-explanitory. Note that though the exit may sometimes be an entrance as well, 出口専門 means that it is only an exit, which of course implies a one-way traffic through there.

入口・入口専用, iriguchi/iriguchisenyou, entrance/entrance only – Same as above, but for entering.

限定, gentei, limited numbers – For those who love collecting things. Many of the items in the commercial booths will end up being sold at shops, at exactly the same price. The advantages of buying it at the event is usually because they are sold early at the convention, so event goers can show it off to their friends before they can get it. However, some items may only be available at Comiket itself, which makes your item a lot more valuable. These two letters mark that something is limited – but be careful, they might not necessarily be ‘event-limited’, so it’s up to you to figure that part out. As a note, a majority of doujin items are never sold outside of Comiket, with a large portion of those only available at the one event, meaning it’ll never be sold again.

2. General Information – Things you should know

Comiket spans across three days, with the events generally landing on the last days of August and December. This date is subject to change due to whether it lands on a weekend and other factors but you can rest assured it lies around that time (as school holidays are on). The event starts from 10am and goes until 4pm, for a total of 6 hours each day. The convention is split into two main sections: the East and West halls. The East halls contain purely doujin material, while the West halls contain doujin circles as well as the company booths. Getting from one side to another during its peak time can take more than 15 minutes, so it is vital that you choose the right area to go to first if you have items you must get.

It is physically impossible to browse through every single circle in the convention within the 6 hour time frame due to delays in getting into the convention and delays navigating. It may be possible to do so if you simply skim through each of them, though this will of course be impeded should you decide to buy something (and the event is a lot more enjoyable if you let loose to your desires!). Waiting times of the lines (if there are any at all) are entirely dependent on the circle, though it is very common for one circle to be selling a lot better than they had originally planned, therefore attracting a long line. On the other hand, it is also common for some circles to not do as well as they had thought they would. The circles are very roughly organised based on genre and the past popularity of a circle.

It should be noted that Comiket may contain materials offensive to you. As with anything born as a form of self-expression, doujinshi is a subjective material and not everyone may agree with its contents. As everyone has their own set of tastes, if you find something you do not agree with, simply ignore the work and move on. Openly criticising a booth for contents you don’t agree with shows a lack of respect to the other parties. With that said, it should also be noted that over 30% of doujinshi materials are of an adult nature. I would advise parents to NOT bring their children with them to this event. I often go to Comiket with friends, but once inside the event I usually split as it’s a lot more efficient browsing alone. It is hard enough navigating alone, and it is highly likely you will lose sight of your friends and family inside. If you like to cosplay together with your family (as a few people do) that’s completely fine though as the cosplay area is not as hard to get lost in.

There are more circles that apply to sell their works than there are spaces at the convention. Who gets to go in or not is supposedly decided by a lottery, but past trends suggest that popular circles are likely guaranteed a spot should they want to attend next time.

Comiket is a fan-made event for fans. The idea of ‘customer’ and ‘seller’ are not recognised in the event. Instead, all people who ‘trade’ doujinshi (whether book for money or otherwise) are referred to as ‘participants’, though the notion of buying and selling still exist. Participants range from your average otaku to professionals who are well established in the anime/manga/game industry. Comiket gives these professionals the rare chance to draw characters from other series without any backlash from copyrights or other fears. The commercial booths however, are there for profit and therefore this does not apply to them.

Each day of the event carries a different set of doujin material. Each circle will only have a maximum of the one day to sell their things, though some have taken to collectively selling their goods in conjunction with another circles in order to increase exposure and sales. Company booths, however, remain for all three days of the event, but a majority of those stocks are usually allocated to the first day of the event. Some companies don’t hold back and all, and sell out of all items on the first day, leaving a blank booth for the remaining 2 days. As a result of this, the overnight lines are the largest on the first day.

Should you miss out on company booth items on the first day, it is still possible to line on the rest of the days to try you luck again. However, chances are you won’t have the willpower to do so again, and even if you do line, the low number of stocks means you’ll likely miss out on the other days as well.

There are multiple ATM machines as you enter the main entrance on the right. You should be able to withdraw from the JP Post ATM with an overseas credit card from that machine. There is also a 7-eleven ATM that can take overseas Visa cards, though they have stopped accepting MasterCards.

3. Booths Part 1 – How they’re organised and why

Before I go into detail about how you should nagivate yourself through the chaos, I thought I’d write about how the booths are organised. Though it can be complicated it is very effective, though care should be taken so that you don’t end up getting lost, especially during your first moments in the event venue.

To start, all doujin booths are very loosely arranged by genre. Some of these categories include ‘anime’, ‘games’, ‘Touhou’ and ‘galge’. Using the next Comiket as an example, Comic Market 85, Day 1’s East Halls 1-3 contain JUMP titles, The Prince of Tennis and Gintama amongst others. Halls 4-6 contain Tiger and Bunny, Gundam, light novels, and ‘anime’. The West Halls contain Shonen, Shoujo and Hetalia amongst others. As a general trend, the first day contains the most amount of BL, with a mixture of male and female oriented doujins on the second day, and mostly male oriented doujin on the last day. The more specific details can be viewed on the link above. Of course, if you’ve done your homework and have prepared a map then you should at least have an idea where the booths you’re interested in are.

comcet73%20mapA reconstructed East Halls map for Comiket 73. Note how the two halls are adjacent to each other.

Above is a map that has been reconstructed and labelled. One thing to note is that to aid traffic flow, some entrances are one way – either entry or exit. If this is the case you will have no choice but to enter from another entrance nearby. Each of the boxes you see there represents a booth. Each booth is as big as a standard desk enough to fit two people (and barely three), with only a small amount of space behind you to leave your doujin material to sell. As you can see, they are organised in rows by letters, starting from English letters to the Japanese katakana letters, then finally the Japanese hiragana at the West Halls. Popular circles are generally located along the walls of the hall. Each numerical booth contains two booth spaces, ‘a’ and ‘b’ so you need to note this as well when or searching. Some circles are able to occupy both ‘a’ and ‘b’ locations. As you can see from the map, each booth has a number, and this number starts at 1 again after each row. Combined together with the letters, you are able to create the coordinates of a booth relatively easy.

Let’s analyse an example from a booth I like, EnHANCE HEART.

Enhance
A screenshot from the ‘doujin’ page of their website.

The first thing you should do is look for the key words. As highlighted, we have found it under the second column. The 84 means the Comiket event number (so if you were going to, say, C60 then you will want to search for 60 someone on the page). 3日目 means ‘third day’, and subsequently 2日目 would mean ‘second day’, etc. The combination of letters and numbers are the booth location. A is the row letter, 31 is the table number in row A, and b means he’s in the right side of that ‘table’. With these information you now know exactly which day and where you should go to find the booth. Note the map numbers and locations change from each Comiket so you’ll need to make sure you’re looking at the corresponding map for the exact right location.

Now let’s have a look at the West doujinshi halls, at the West Halls 1-2.

lmap70A reconstructed West Halls 1-2 map. Upstairs from here are the commercial booths.

As with both East and West halls, there are booths at the sides of the walls as well. The arrows on the entrances indicate the direction of the flow of traffic. though not all are strictly entry only. On the other end of the entrances, there are also ways to get in and out through the doors. The black markings you can see are actually booths as well that are facing away from the interior, and as that area is also a large entrance turned booth space (shared with two booths), they have a lot more room to sell their goods. The circles that sell in this area are always popular circles and therefore usually have lines forming at them. By having the booths here, the line starts outside and continues to stretch outside (to what’s called the ‘truck yard’ area in Japanese) so that they do not form inside and cause congestion. The circles along the walls not at these larger open areas are still popular circles with more room than the centre booths. Lines also form for these circles as well, and sometimes they can get longer than was projected, causing a problem with the flow of traffic.

As for the booths at the centre, as explained above they generally have a very limited amount of space, though some may end up selling more than the ones along the walls. Of all congestion problems, the most problematic are the lines that form at these circles, as the aisle separating each row is narrow and even lines of three people can greatly affect the flow of traffic. The booths at the ends of these aisles are also generally more popular than the ones situated inside. There is usually enough room for a small crowd of about 7 people to browse without causing much troubles with traffic.

The picture below shows a visual summary of the popularity of the circles and an example of how they may be organised;

coloured
From red to green, red is the most popular while green shows a slight increase in popularity. The white circles are the least popular. This trend applies to the West Halls as well.

 I will stress again that these are just generalisations, and that there are many cases of some circles in the middle being a lot more popular than the ones at the ends, which usually results in the crowd getting congested by the lines that form. One of the general trends are that the most popular doujinshi booths during the third day (anime/manga doujinshi by professional artists) are usually located in the West Halls. Needless to say, the lines in the West Halls are the longest on this day too. Should you want to buy from these booths, the back of the line will very likely be forming outside so it’s one strategy to start searching from the outside instead of the inside in this case.

Each doujin booth changes every day so a single circle will only have one day to take a spot. However, there are some circles that have agreed to sell their doujinshi along with another circle’s. This way, they are technically getting twice the exposure for their doujinshi as there are two possible locations it can be found. The only way to tell which ones are doing this is to go to their website and look for the information there.

Finally, let’s have a look at the company booths:

C83kigyoumapMap of the commercial booths, located at the West Halls 3-4 above Halls 1-2.

Quite similar to the doujinshi halls, the very popular booths are located along the walls. They are organised by numbers rather than letters, which is actually a lot more confusing than the letters and numbers for the doujinshi booths. The large pink coloured halls (421-472) have lines starting somewhere outside the hall, meaning you will have to walk outside and search for the back of the line. Depending on the popularity of the booth, the starting location for the line can be anywhere. Taking for instance the Magical Girl Nanoha line during C83, one of the longest lines there, the line started from the carpark that was located downstairs from the company booth. After lining up overnight and then heading straight for the Nanoha booth lines, it still took me four hours (of the six hour event) of lining to get to the counter. This is of course on the extreme ends of the graph though. Other booths also had lines that formed elsewhere, either at the hallway just outside the halls or somewhere with an open space along the wall inside. Refer to section 1. Key phrases for the two keywords, 列途中 and 最後尾 that you will need to find the end of the line.

4. Planning – Your map is your best friend

It should be just as enjoyable to go into the event without having planned beforehand, but if there are things you want to buy there it is imperative that you plan ahead to avoid disappointment. To help with this, the Comiket paperback catalog contains two double-sided East hall maps (Halls 1-3 on one end, 4-6 on the other, so technically only two days worth of East Hall) as well as one double sided West halls (Halls 1-2 on each side, so two days worth again) doujinshi map. The map for the company booths exist as well, though they are distributed by anime shops before the event in very limited numbers. The company booklet used to be simply given to those who wanted it, but the demand was many, many times higher than supply so many people were frustrated because they could not get a copy as they ran out quickly.

Recently, stores have chosen to provide that booklet only to those who buy the Comiket catalog, which is actually very effective in controlling who gets one or not. However, unlike the doujin circles, the list of participating company booths are made available online so not all is lost if you miss out on the booklet anyway. They are also listed on your Comiket catalog, but the more specific booklet contains more information on them, and is coloured.

There are various sites online which have created their own useful tools to creating a map, though you would need a bit of knowledge in Japanese to be able to navigate those effectively. Also very useful is the Comiket DVD catalog. The DVD version contains the same information as the paperback, and though it does not contain a physical map for you to write on, it does have very useful features for searching circles, organising them into your own categories, as well as a digital map which highlights the circles in your list onto the map. I have not tried printing through that method yet, but I am fairly sure there is an option on it somewhere. As with anything else official, the program is in Japanese.

Should you miss out on getting the catalog early, do not fret as the catalog is on sale on the day as well, with relatively short lines. Don’t forget that the catalog is not necessary for access into the venue – there are no admission fees. The catalog are for those who want to know who is where for planning purposes, or for someone like me, a souvenir of your venture. Do note the paperback catalog is very thick and heavy so it may impact on your luggage back home if you are visiting on a holiday.

For the more hardcore: When writing down the information of the circles you will be visiting, also make notes on the most effective path to take. As useful as the map is, it may not have space for the extra information you need to mark on specific circles. Sometimes, it is much more effective to create your own map from scratch to suit it to your own needs, or use the map and print off a separate list with images of what you want to buy from certain circles to make sure you don’t end up with an older or different doujin from the one you had wanted. As I always have a large list of things, and many of the circles I wanted to buy from were new to me, I had trouble figuring out if I had actually arrived at the right one, or I had trouble remember which doujinshi I had wanted to buy.

5. Preparation – What to bring

This section will list a number of items which I have found to be particularly useful while going to the event. It will be split into a number of sections depending on the situation. The items listed will be explained below its list and of course, whether you bring such items is completely up to you. In the event of rain, you should bring an umbrella, but please be warned you are to close your umbrella whilst moving.

Before I go on about the recommended items you SHOULD bring, I thought I might go over some things you SHOULDN’T bring as well.

What not to bring; Large articles, awkward sized items, large bags, loud things.

All of these are quite obvious, but I thought I might list them down anyway. During your time in line you will be constantly be walking or sitting with very limited space, and any large objects will impede your movements outside and inside the event. You will be in a constant scrimmage with the crowd, and it is natural for your bag to be quite roughly pushed and squashed, which is why it is important to choose a very sturdy bag that is not too big. A good way to protect your bag is to walk with it hung the opposite way; with the bag at the front of your body.

Japan is a homogenous society. They like to promote a general harmony amongst each other by sticking to social standards, an important one being to stay quiet if there is no need to raise your voice. Once you have arrived in Japan you will notice how generally everything (except politics and stores) are very quiet. While boarding a train you will also notice that it is generally quiet. This is the same for pretty much anywhere in Japan. For this reason, while lining it is advised you do not talk in an overly loud voice, and of course loud things such as a portable speaker should not be used. Talking in general is not a problem at all, but everyone would be appreciative if talking was kept at an ‘inside voice’.

Lining overnight

Summer – Bottle(s) of water, mat, small foods, portable chair, entertainment, bag, hat, sweat rag.

So here’s something as obvious as it gets; bring at least one bottle of water. It will be the middle of summer, and by about 4:30am the sun would be greeting your face for at least the next 5 hours. The top temperatures of Comiket 84 were 35 degrees, and by 8am you can already feel the heat already, not to mention there’s many hours to come. The list above also mentions a mat. This mat is simply something to sit on while you are in line. It would be very convenience and useful if you are going with friends to share one together, and it is common courtesy to share the mat with others should it stretch into another person’s personal space.

Small foods here refers to snacks to keep yourself up. There is a McDonalds at the venue which may or may not be far depending on your location, but since you may not be able to find it it’s best you bring your own food to sustain yourself. Examples of foods to bring include onigiri (rice balls), Calorie Mates, potato chips, etc. Though it is possible to make a grand meal to keep your stomach right for many hours to come, I would recommend you do not eat a large meal before starting to line up. Reasoning for this is that, especially in the earlier hours in line, you will be constantly moving locations and if you are at the toilets during this time, you will most likely not find it (and your possessions will be trampled on). Also, the toilet lines are very long so you will want to avoid going to it. More information about this can be found under section 6 – Overnight lining.

A portable chair means the very small steel ones that are foldable and easy to carry around. Without this, expect to sit cross-legged for many, many hours to come. Probably the best representative for these chairs are the Captain Stag range, which are very inexpensive and work perfect for this situation. Do note you will have to carry this around everywhere should you decide its needed.

Bring entertainment! If you are going solo, it will be many hours by yourself so some things to keep you entertained for the hours to come are recommended.

A bag is a very important item to keep with you for carrying your initial luggage as well as the things you will be buying after. As most doujinshi do not come with bags, you will be stuck holding them until you get a hold of one, so it would be a better idea to be prepared. Be careful that your bag is not too big, otherwise you will find yourself being pushed by others often since it will keep getting in the way!

Do remember to wear a hat, as it is a life-saver to the sun staying on your face for hours on end.

The last item of the list is self-explanatory. Do yourself a favour by bringing something to wipe the many litres of sweat you will be producing.

Winter – Bottle(s) of water, small foods, mat, portable chair, bag, pocket warmers, blanket, thick winter clothes.

The first 5 items are as above. Pocket warmers are available everywhere in disposable types for very affordable prices. Not 100% necessary, but it helps a lot especially to those more prone to cold than others. In this list is also a blanket. It is ideal to bring a relatively thin one, with enough warmth to block out the cold and more importantly, the wind. Also very obvious is to wear thick clothes (possibly a layer inside your pants to block off the wind), complete with a cap, scarf and gloves. It does not snow around the Odaiba area, but the temperature gets very low and is especially chilly with wind (and in the worst case, rain).

Arriving in the morning/afternoon

Summer – Bottle(s) of water, small foods, bag, hat, sweat rag.

As the sun will be out and blazing, I would recommend you wear thinner clothes, as you would in any hot day. Small foods refer to light foods you can eat on the go, and as above bring a bag but do make sure it is not too big as it can and will be shoved around, making navigating a huge challenge.

Winter – Bottles(s) of water, thick clothes, small foods, bag

Self-explanatory.

6. Getting there – Where in the world is it?

To get to the event location, Tokyo Big Sight, there are a number of ways to go about doing so. One would be the Yurikamome Line, a special line designed for the floating city Odaiba. Another way is by public bus, a method I have not really used myself yet, and then there’s travelling by car, with parking at specific parking areas a little bit away from the event space. There is also one more method which is designed to give you the best advantage at getting into the event.

At some locations in Japan, especially in Akihabara, there are organised buses operating at very early hours which offer to drive you by bus to Tokyo Big Sight at the best times, around 4:30am. As you are not counted as lining up overnight, you will not be subject to the penalties those who stay overnight supposedly have, meaning you will theoratically be at the front. According to the committee, precedence is given to those who come from the first train of the day. These people are put ahead of those who line up overnight, but exactly how many are put ahead of those lining overnight is unknown.  In Akihabara, these specific Comiket buses are run in conjunction with a net cafe, meaning that you can spend your whole day in Akihabara shopping, then rest at the net cafe overnight before being driven to the event location directly at prime times.

The package itself is actually very reasonable in price. These are very ideal situations for event goers, but packages like this are booked out many months in advance. These services aren’t just offered in Tokyo though; there are actually many buses which depart from prefectures across Japan as well, specifically to drop you off at the event site and take you back.

For taking the train, the closest station to Tokyo Big Sight is 国際展示場正門, Kokusai-tenjijou Seimon on the Yurikamome Line. If you are travelling by the JR or subway services around Tokyo, you will most likely start from the beginning on the line, 新橋, Shimbashi. There are other ways to change into the lines such as taking a bus to 有明, Ariake and walking from there. There are various sites online which can help you find the best route from your location such as Jorudan, or even Google Maps works handy in this situation.

The official English guide (viewable from the English page of the official Comiket site here) suggests coming by public transport as opposed to driving there (there are no immediate parking spots close to the vicinity).

After you arrive, simply follow the stream of people who will inevitably be there, or follow the signs. It is very handy to refer to “1. Key phrases” for useful letters you might want to keep your eyes out for. The next sections will cover what to do after you arrive in more detail.

7. Overnight lining – Only for the hardcore

This section will detail the process of lining up overnight. There is a lot to take in as this process has lots of phases while are explained in Japanese. For those without Japanese knowledge you will find yourself confused prehaps even after reading this through. Regardless, just do what you think is right, and try to remain as passive as possible. Sticking out like a sore thumb will only make things harder for yourself and you risk causing friction with others.

Before I progress any further, I would like to warn you that overnight lining is a health hazard. As much as it is an experience, it is equally as dangerous to attempt. For both of the times Comiket is held, they held very close to the very centre of their seasonal cycle. This of course means that the summer Comiket is extremely hot, while the winter Comiket is extremely cold (by Tokyo standards). I highly recommend finding a partner or a group who are willing to line up together with you. Not only is it more enjoyable being able to talk with each other, should the line unexpectedly move you have someone who can carry your items for you to the next location, where you can rendezvous with them later.

Everytime I have lined up overnight, I have generally done so from about 9:30pm the previous day. There are people lining up overnight each day of Comiket’s 3 day event, as each day carries a different set of things to purchase. The first day is the most crowded because of the company booths having the most stock. No matter which day you choose to line though, the process is very similar each time. One of the most useful and important things you can do before you start lining is to visit the toilets and make yourself as comfortable as possible. Toilet lines are ridiculously long and you risk losing your spot in line should you need to go.

Please note that there is no public transport back from 12am until 4:30am should you decide this whole overnight lining business is not worth it. I had one friend who had quit at around 2:30am since he couldn’t handle the cold. Once he had gotten to the station he noticed he was still stuck until the first train at 4:30am (and if you’re still alive then you may as well keep fighting all the way). The only alternative at that point would be to take a taxi (if you know where to find one) back either out of Odaiba, or ask the driver for some place to stay until the train starts again.

When you arrive at the site location, there should be a number of guards and signs to guide you to the right direction. There will also most likely be other people going to the location as well so following a random group may be a good idea. From my previous experiences the very front of the line starts from a small wharf area and extends away from the event area. Once you find the front, keep following the crowd to eventually reach the back. From 9:30pm, it took me 15 minutes of walking from the front of the line to reach the end. Once you find the end, simply sit down, and make yourself comfortable. However, do not start letting your guard down just yet!

During the time you are seated in this area, you may be constantly shuffling back and forth to condense the line. After a few hours, you will be told to move to another location. During this time just follow the line and follow your common sense. If you are stopped by someone in front of a light then wait for the next set to turn green. Do also note that at this time it is very common for you to accidentally step on the shoes of the person in front of you, and for the same to happen to you. During my first time lining overnight, there was one person behind me who was stepping on my shoes at a rate that I thought was more than accidental. Whether it was deliberate or not is another question, but you should make sure you shoelaces are very well fastened.

If your line is moving, you’d do well to follow. Be careful while moving as there is a very small but technical part you will need to look out for during this time!

Warning! Should you drop any items on the floor while moving, if you cannot pick up quickly do not stop immediately to pick it up. This is especially the case in the morning when people who have been in line for more than 12 hours are very eager to go into the convention. By stopping you will be opposing over a thousand people who are going forward. At the same time, it is also important to not step on items left behind by others. There have been times when I have seen bags for individuals who may have been unfortunate enough to go to the toilet at the wrong time.

During your transportation from the initial location to the other, or sometime a little after, you will be given a choice; left of right. The choice you make then will determine whether you will be lining for the East Halls or the West Halls (which includes the West Hall doujin booths as well as the commercial booths). If you are aiming for a very popular item it is imperative you choose to go into the right line as a wrong choice will have you enter from the opposite end of the event site. From there it will take anywhere between 15-40 minutes to navigate your way through the crowd and into the other side of the convention. As listed in 1. Key phrases, you should be looking for the words 東1-6ホール and 西1-2ホール・企業ブース, the first leading to the East Halls, and the other into the West Halls. If you are lining with friends it may also be the time you split with them, should the items they want to buy be at the opposite halls.

Once you have been split, you will continue walking towards the hall you chose. You will end up close to the entrance location, but of course you will still end up outdoors either in the blazing heat or chilling cold. After you arrive at this location and shuffle forwards then backwards to create your own ‘personal space’, it is at this time that you may be able to start leaving the line to wander elsewhere. Before this you would have been told a reference location for you to be able to find your way back easier, but without much knowledge of Japanese this may be completely missed. Once you have arrived at this more final location, do give it about an hour before you move out as there may be more unplanned shuffling about.

As for food, if you find yourself near the main entrance of Tokyo Big Sight, there is a McDonalds at the bottom of the large flight of stairs that is open throughout the night. In that store, the menu is very limited and the meals are prepacked to ensure the line does not build up. There is also a Family Mart at the top of the stairs where they have specially prepared large numbers of certain foods for the night. If you arrive early, or perhaps visit the store before you start lining up you can see the staff preparing for the war to unfold.

On the other hand, if you end up at the carpark area of the convention, there are no shops in the immediate vicinity, and you will need to walk to the main entrance area should you want to buy food or anything else from the convenience store. As this is a harbourside area, don’t expect there to be much of anything except water and roads in the surrounding areas. There is also a small shopping mall under one of the tall buildings in front of the Big Sight’s main entrance location, though there is a good chance that area would be closed from the late hours of the night to the early hours of the morning.

Again, I would like to stress that as tempting as it may be, eating a large amount during this free time is a big risk to take as a bad stomach is one of the worst things that could happen.

Should you need to visit the toilet, do note that very often the lines will be long, and the most ideal times to visit is between 2-5am. It is also very common to find there will be two lines; one for the quick business and one for taking your time a little more. You can obviously tell which is which by the rate of traffic entering and leaving. If you fear you may have a bad stomach later one, it may be wise to go between the times listed above, though you may still have to wait a little while in line.

During the summer Comiket I lined up overnight for, the sun was out to bake me from as early as 4:30am. During the winter Comiket I’ve done overnight, time mattered less as you’ll be freezing the whole time.

From about 5am there will be rustling about and from about 6am, you will start getting messages to start moving again. If you can help it at all avoid going to the toilets from after 5am as the lines get ridiculous from that time and once again you risk losing your spot should the line move.

Once the line finally gets moving again, you will be taken to your final positions in line where you will wait until the event starts. From the point you are told to stand up again, you will remain standing until you enter the convention site, which you will then most likely not be sitting anyway since you’ll be busy lining to buy things. In other words, once you start standing from after 6am, you will stay standing for hours on end. After you’ve arrived in the final position before you officially enter, pat yourself on the back as you’ve finally entered the next phase: The morning line.

8. The morning line – Just getting in is a challenge

If you’re already in line after spending the night being shuffled around, you’re already well on your way to getting in. Assuming you lined up sometime around 9:30pm, you can expect to wait for anywhere between 30-60 minutes (yes, you still wait even after lining) in line after the start of the event before you finally get in. Where to go from there will be detailed in section 10. Navigating inside.

For those who plan to come the more standard way by train or bus, it is relatively simple as you just have to follow the crowd and signs. Here, you will want to follow the sign that says 一般人参加, ippanjinsanka which translates to ‘general attendees’. Unless you’re VIP or media, you should follow this sign to the back of the line. Depending on what time you arrive, the length of the line will vary. There are no standard locations for where the back of the line is as it is constantly forming and moving, but from personal experience the line gets longest at about 10am, when the event starts. Arriving at this time, you can expect to wait about 60-90 minutes before you  can get through the entrance.

Now, perhaps you are thinking ‘well, that’s only a 30 minute difference between lining overnight!’. Yes, that is true indeed, but say you’re going for something like the notorious Magical Girl Nanoha goods, which are infamous for selling out. A 30 minute difference will translate to an extra two hours in line for that booth, which then means the harder items will be nigh impossible to obtain at that point.

The official English section of the Comic Market website recommends first-timers arrive at 12pm to avoid the main queue. The lines are indeed very short at that time so there should be no problems getting in from then. If you had forgotten to buy the official catalog, or are wishing to after arriving, you can do so just outside the entrance. Again, this catalog is not necessary for entry.

Once you have found yourself in a line after arriving in the morning, simply keep following the line. Again, like overnight lines there will be a split near the start for those wishing to go to the East Halls 1-6 (東1-6ホール) and the West Halls and company booths (西1-2ホール・企業ブース). Choose the right line to join, ensure shoelaces are tightened and stay with the crowd until you arrive inside. Just to note, you’ll be standing the whole time.

In the event of rain, you will most likely be asked to keep your umbrellas closed the whole time, so it is advisable to come with a portable raincoat (kappa) which is sold in many locations in Japan (and quite possibly at the Family Mart located near the main entrance). It will also be useful while lining outside the halls once you get into the convention, should you have to line outside the halls.

If you lined up overnight and joined the East Halls line, you will enter from the side of the East Halls and have quick access to any of the halls in the East. However, if you lined up for the commercial booths you will be heading up a flight of stairs first, stand there for what seems like another eternity before finally ending up inside the halls.

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The front of the line for those who’ve lined overnight for the East Halls

DSC_0179The stairs towards the company booths

If you are lining for a very popular booth, which includes the lines of August, TYPE-MOON, Nanoha, etc. You may start lining before you get inside. This point is very important, so do make a note of it. Once you head up the stairs, you will slowly shuffle forward and eventually there will be multiple paths. Only for the more popular booths, there will be people holding signs with the names of companies on them. For example, if you were lining for the Nanoha line there will be someone holding a sign for that somewhere. If you find that person, follow the signs and eventually you will reach the end of the line for the Nanoha booth. In other words, the line for popular commercial booths begins before the event officially commences. During this time, every minute that passes means about 10 or more people that could be in front of you so it is very important you join this line as soon as possible.

If you are just wanting to go inside, or you could not find your company booth’s line you may wait until the official start of the event and start from inside. Not all booths will have a line prepared beforehand so sometimes going in normally is the better idea.

DSC_0208One of the entrances to the company booths

From the morning and after

If you arrived during the morning or at a later time, if it is still early you will have to line up to get inside. There are of course no admission fees, but there are lots of people going into the convention at the same time so the lines get very long. As

9. Booths 2 – Lining up and buying (with useful phrases)

Lining in itself is not a very difficult task, but there are many specific things you should look out for. It is also expected of participants to prepare the necessary amount of change ahead of time to avoid slowing down the lines. For this reason, the circles have also made it easier by always selling their items in 100 yen intervals to avoid exchanging with smaller change.

Doujinshi booths

Should a booth be empty, feel free to go up to it. Should you want to browse it’s contents (and before you even start to touch the doujinshi), it is common courtesy to ask for permission to flip through it’s pages. Simply reaching for the book usually implies you’re already willing to buy it (and again, you’ve touched the book without permission which is considered rude in itself). If you would like to flip through the pages to have a look, you should ask by saying 見てもいいですか?, mite mo ii desuka?. I don’ t think there will be anyone there who’d refuse you, so you can assume their response is a positive one. If you’ve decided to buy something, you can point to the item and say これを下さい, kore wo kudasai. If you’d like two copies or more, you can probably just indicate it with your fingers and say the number in English. If you’re after the newest doujinshi you can use the useful phrase 新刊を下さい, shinkan wo kudasai, which means ‘the newest issue please’, though things will get difficult should there be more than one newest issue.  It is quite useful to learn how to pronounce Japanese letters properly so it becomes easier to pass your message to them (for example, the wo above is NOT pronounced ‘woe’). If you’d like to figure out how to buy it more fluently there are plenty of resources you can find through a simple search engine.

In the case where the line has been split into multiple groups, you will need to join the end of the line. This is indicated by the sign 最後尾, saikoubi . When you find this sign you can join the end of it and wait for it to gradually make its way to the front of the booth. Most booths will have someone who takes care of the line, but a fair number of them do not have anyone that can hold the sign indicating the back of the line. In this case, the person at the back assumes the responsibility of holding that sign up for the circle. Should you want to join the line you will have to do the same, and though it’s not absolutely necessary, you should let the person holding the sign in front of you know you’re in line by saying 持ちます, mochimasu, which means ‘I’ll hold it’. Of course, you should take the sign from them afterwards and do the same until someone else joins your line. If a circle already has someone holding a sign then you can simply join the line. A lot of circles have prepared a way for you to see what they are selling, such as a picture on the sign at the end of the line, or a menu you can view while you wait.

Do NOT join a line with someone holding the sign 列途中, retsutochuu on it. This line is simply another part of the line and you cannot join it as it is not the back of the line. This forms when the line becomes split into multiple parts due to its size, and the sign is used to indicate that the location of the line is only a fragment of the whole line. Should you find yourself at the back of this mid-way line after lining from the end, you may be tasked with holding the sign with the letters as above. You will also be asked with guiding others, who are trying to join your line, to the proper location to begin lining. (you don’t need to go out of your line, of course). Should you be unable to do this, let the staff know you don’t understand them and they will most likely pass the role onto the person next to you instead.

When your line begins to move, you will always do so in small groups. You may simply shuffle a few steps forward each time, or you may be moved to another location, either to the front of the circle or towards another location of the line. While moving you will be asked to keep your hand up. Just do so and you’ll have no troubles getting to the front.

In the case where the circle is selling a ‘set’ of items, referred to as a ‘goods set’ and you would like to purchase such set, you will want to use the word セットを下さい, setto wo kudasai.

BE CAREFUL! The contents of the ‘goods set’ MAY NOT actually contain the doujinshi inside! It’s up to you to figure out whether you’ll need to buy the actual doujinshi together with the set, or whether it comes with the set.

In the event that you will need to buy multiple items, use the magical Japanese letter と, to meaning ‘and’. To provide an example, if you want to purchase two doujinshi a circle has, you can simply point to one doujinshi, say これ, kore add と, to and point to the other doujinshi and say これ, ending with を下さい, kudasai. Adding them together, the sentence is これ|と|これ|を下さい, kore to kore wo kudasai (vertical line added for clarity) which literally means ‘this and this, please’. If your sentence has これ|と|これ|と|これ|を下さい, you have most likely pointed to and wanted to buy three things. You can technically use this for the sets, or pretty much anything as long as you make it clear enough to the person.

Putting everything we’ve learnt above, let’s try analysing an example.

dl_697The C84 items available for popular circle ‘和’

Let’s have a look at what information we have. We see at the top is an item for 2000 yen. This item is in fact a tapestry for the listed price. Below that, we can see the words 新刊&グッズセット, and only one price of 1000 yen listed below. Since there’s only a listing of both items for that price, you can assume that the newest book, 新刊 and the ‘goods set’, グッズセット, are both included together. In this case, you could order with either グッズセットを下さい or これを下さい (the latter is gramatically incorrect but will serve its purpose). Also note that this set in particular comes with a giant sized paper bag (it’s huge), a paper fan, the doujinshi as well as a towel. Do note that not all ‘sets’ actually come with bags, and if they do the size of the bag differs. So what happens if you don’t want the tapestry nor the whole set? Unfortunately, from the lack of any other prices in the picture you can assume they don’t actually sell the doujinshi by itself

Now let’s have a look at another example from a less popular circle.

menyc84-thumbOne of my personal favourite booths at C84, ‘THW.jp’

From the top, we can see the name of the event, booth number and circle name all clearly and conveniently labelled. Just below, we are able to find our keyword 新刊セット, ‘new-issue goods set’, as well as the 2500 yen price tag. Bingo! For 2500, we are able to get: 1. The doujinshi, 2. The fan, 3. The glass cup and 4. The tote bag. Using our learnt phrases we can buy it by saying 新刊セットを下さい, shinkan setto wo kudasai. Now, what if we only wanted the doujinshi itself and not the things included in it? Let’s look back at 1. The doujinshi. On the right we can see in small red letters ‘500 yen’. Lucky us, it seems the doujinshi will be sold separately for 500 yen.

To summarise, there will be many words you will not know. What’s important is looking for key information that tells you what you want to know and working with that. Doujinshi rarely pass over 500 yen unless it’s a rather thick one (exceeding 25 pages), or is full colour so something for 2500 yen is most likely a goods set.

A note on buying doujin music or other doujin items: A large majority of doujin music sell for 1000 yen. Singles may go for cheaper and ‘sets’ are also available for many circles. The keyphrase here is slightly different. Instead of 新刊, the phrase you want to use is 新作, shinsaku which means ‘new work/production’  but otherwise the rest is the same. Use this form of the word for games and anything else that is not in a book form.

Commercial booths

Lining and buying from a commercial booth can be even more confusing than the doujinshi booths due to their scale. If you are buying from a popular company chances are you will have to wait for a long time. The wait time differs between each booth but you can get a rough idea from the line that’s already there. As stated in the other sections, the lines for the commercial booths along the walls will almost always have a long line, unless of course they are completely sold out. For the most popular booths, it is literally impossible to reach the front for the ‘rarer’ goods unless you have either lined up overnight, or were near the front for the morning line. When buying from one of the very popular booth, you should  be prepared to miss out on the other booths you could have bought from, because by the time you get out of that line, most of every other popular items you may have wanted would have likely been sold out by then.

But enough of that and more about the lining. Should you be going for the hard-to-get items, start searching from the outside. Find which entrance is closest to the booth you want to buy from, then start searching for signs which will guide you to the end of the line. Again, you will be wanting to find the words 最後尾, and if you find a segment of the line instead, marked by 列途中 you may want to ask the person holding the sign where the end of the line is (see 1. Key phrases) or follow the line to find the end. Unlike the doujinshi booths, there will always be someone to hold the signs for you so you do not really need to worry about having to hold anything.

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An example of a sign with ‘最後尾’ written on it. As you can probably tell, the end of the line is in the direction indicated

Above is an example of what the 最後尾 sign may look like. However, do not start lining in front of this sign. The arrow indicates that the end of the line is somewhere in the direction of that arrow. The actual end of the line is actually quite far away from this location though. Also note the list at the bottom of the event. The red text over the middle two items means the two items have sold out. The number on the far right of this means the maximum number one customer is able to purchase.

Just to add, this was taken inside the West 3-4 Halls, where the company booths are. Please note you are not allowed to take photos inside this area, unless you have special permission (which I had obtained beforehand).

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Here’s
an example of the 列途中 sign.

The photo shows a portion of a line being transported inside the halls, where they will most likely end near the front of the booth they were lining for. For longer lines, you may be split into multiple lines and will move to different locations a number of times. At the front of this moving line is another person holding up the sign like the one the person in the back is holding. These guys are part of the booth’s staff so no buyers will need to hold it. As you’re moving, and just before moving, you will be told to keep your hands up until you reach your destination.

The people around who are looking at the line aren’t all interested in the moving line; they have been stopped by the staff as this line will be blocking all traffic going through while they move. This may happen to you multiple times while you are in the event, just wait it out and you’re set to resume whatever you were doing very soon.

There will also be either someone holding up a sign with the goods on sale, or a small menu being passed around while you’re in line. Pay attention to what the booth guys are saying. You don’t have to understand what they say per se, but if they’re going around telling everyone in the line something, there’s a chance there’s been an update to the availability of the items, so you’ll want to keep an eye out on the items list again.

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An example of someone holding a sign. They’re usually not as enthusiastic as this. Note the ‘sold out’ message on some items

For the more popular booths with long lines, there’s a good chance they have prepared an order list to they can process your order faster, therefore speeding up the line. Each booth will have their own unique form, but let’s analyse one example from the company Broccoli:

c84_brolist-page-001
The Broccoli goods order list for C84

Once you get near the end of the long line, you will be handed something that looks similar to this. In the box next to the price you write the number of that item that you want. If you don’t want the item, leave it blank. Quite often there may be limits to the number you can buy of a certain item. In that case there will be a number written somewhere near that item to indicate it. There may also be a section labelled 小計 and 合計, which means sub-total and total respectively. Fill those in accordingly and you should have no problems when you reach the counter. Sometimes there may also be people who’ll check your list and do the total calculations as well so don’t worry if you feel lost.

Once you finally get to the counter, the staff there will check you list, bring out your items (they will most likely work in pairs) and confirm the contents with you before taking your money. The popular company booths give out bags for you to store everything in, which is useful for pretty much anything else you may be buying.

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The Nanoha booth counter. The staff is confirming the order contents

Many of the other commercial booths also give out paper bags, though some may give vinyl ones out too. If you end up buying from a lot of different companies, you will end up carrying multiple big bags on your hands, which feels so nice. Be careful though, some of those bags contain images you’d rather not flourish around outside of the convention.

For lining in the company booths that are not enormous, just do what you would normally do for any booths. If its empty, feel free to go up to it. If there’s a line from the counter, join the end. There won’t be an order form handed out, so you can just walk up and point to what you need, これをください, kore wo kudasai, ‘this please’. Also, there will always be an item list somewhere near the booth so feel free to look at that, though you should be sure you’re not blocking anything or anybody.

So now that you know how to line up and buy, let’s finally take a look at walking inside the convention area.

10. Navigating inside – How to soldier on inside (and outside)

bigsight_map_color_e-page-001
Map of Tokyo Big Sight from the official site

Once you have made it inside in one piece, the first thing you will want to do is to head straight to the booth you desire to purchase from the most. If you had completed your Comiket map (or had prepared your own) you should know exactly where you should enter from. For the East halls you should enter from the hall entrance relative to where the circle is. The area you will start in will differ depending on whether you want to go to the West or East halls.

Going to the East Halls

If you had lined overnight, you will enter directly into the East Halls. This is the most direct path you can take to the East Halls, and you will only be able to enter from this direction once. The number of people will be very less compared to what it will be in 30 minutes time. During this time you can enter from any direction so be sure to pick the most ideal hall to go into.

On the other end, if you came from the morning or afterwards, you will enter from the main entrance. From there, you can walk to either the East or West halls.

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The main entrance

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The inside of the main entrance

When you enter from the main entrance, you will be greeted by a large hall. You can easily tell which direction to go by the handy banners hanging above with clearly labelled letters. East Halls are to the left, West Halls are to the right. Don’t worry about the Conference Tower, there’s nothing for you to see there. As you want to go to the East Halls, you’ll want to stick to the right and start heading towards the doujinshi booths.

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The passage from the main entrance to the East Halls. It gets quite crowded during peak time

When you take the left turn from the large hall and head straight, you will end up here. Just before that, there is the entrance to the female changerooms for cosplaying, as well as one of the locations of the cosplay areas. Note that the only way out from the East Halls is to return back to the main entrance through here again. After walking through here,  you will be on the higher floor of the East Halls. There are many shops on the top level, and a Family Mart, though there is very often a line there, especially for the ATM machine. To get into the hall, simply make your way down the escalator and you’re free to start roaming around. Walking/Running on the escalators are prohibited, so once you get on it please stand still. I believe they also ask you to leave a space in between each person, but everyone tends stand on the closest step behind the next person.

Once inside the halls, navigating is very straight-forward. One thing to look out for is when the path may be blocked off for a short period of time while a line is being transported. They pass quickly so it should not give you any problems. As explained in section 3. Booths Part 1, popular booths may have lines that start from the outside. To get to the area outside the hall, there are multiple fire exits that have been opened for you to pass through. There many be high traffic through those doors as well, in which case you will have to find the right timing to go through it.

There are some areas that get highly congested. In some instances, the path may become obstructed by an overwhelming number of people going in opposing directions. During this time, there will be strong pushing and it is highly dangerous. Some people will literally tackle and strongly push the mass in order to selfishly reach towards their location. Though it isn’t exactly a shortcut, it may be wise to take the long way around. Trying to pass this area may take a long few minutes and you may never make it to the other end at all.

There are no areas for you to sit down and rest inside the halls, though there are many in between the two adjacent halls. There are also many areas along the walls and in between the booths where you cannot stand around as well. Many of these areas are marked with a red tape on the floor, but in general should you need to stop you should either do it in the area outside of the halls or

Going to the West doujinshi halls

To go to the West doujinshi halls, you will enter from the same main entrance. From there, you turn right instead, and follow a series of escalators. There is a small cafe on the way should you feel like eating a meal. Eventually you’ll head back down the escalators and into the doujinshi booths. On your way there just before you enter the halls are there Red Cross blood donation areas. Donating blood on the day can get you a poster of your choice, assuming there are some left of the series you want.

Navigating in the West doujinshi halls is the same as in the East halls, so there’s nothing in particular that needs mention.

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The entrance to the West halls. The blood donations really take up a lot of the walking space 

Going to the company booths

To get to the company booths you will be taking the same stairs as in section 8. The morning line. After heading up, it’s simply turning the left corner when you can and entering inside (depending on the day and time, this area may become a cosplay area). The inside of the company booths is a lot better managed than the East Halls as there are a lot more staff at hand. However, there are still times of high congestion and some passages may become a one-way traffic depending on the crowd.

Going from the East to the West to the East, and vice versa

Getting from one end of the convention to the other is essentially backtracking where you came from to return to the main entrance, then heading towards the other hall from there. There is also another path from the ‘truck yard’ area of the East 1 hall (the area just outside the hall) which extends out of the convention. Taking this path, you can walk towards the West 1-2 halls by crossing a few roads. I have personally never taken this path before but it is the recommended path by the Comiket Committee. This path opens from 11:30pm onwards.

Getting out

To get out of the convention, simply head towards the general direction you came from, but search for the letters 出口. In a lot of instances the way out may be a different direction from the way in, but as long as you follow the signs you should have no problems getting out.

11. Events – What happens in the commercial booths

This section will detail the freebies as well as other events that happen throughout the day. The doujinshi halls do not have any events as there just isn’t enough room to walk as it is, and causing a crowd will only bring chaos. However, there are pamphlets available on tables along one of the walls. As the doujinshi halls are full of doujinshi, the pamphlets usually contain information about other doujinshi events to happen in the near future.

The company booths are where the abundant amount of pamphlets and other promotional goodies can be obtained. Some are simply pamphlets advertising for an upcoming item, but some are actually quite useful. Throughout the day there will be numerous people in front of the booths handing out pamphlets, with many of them in cosplay as a character from that company. Just to add, though the East halls are strictly no photography, West halls 3-4 (the company booths) are okay with photography. However, you should obviously take the photos at a location that will not disturb others. There are also some items which strictly have a ‘no photography’ sign, meaning that photography for those items are not allowed, though the ones around it should still be fine. Be sure to ask for permission before taking a photo of the cosplaying people inside, and especially of the booth counter itself.

Other special items handed out include posters and booklets. As would be expected these items will disappear very fast, which is why the booths set a specific time to hand out the items. As these items are free, there are always long lines that form. Should you want the items, it is advisable to be there at the latest 10 minutes before the handout starts. To help you with lining up, here are two very useful phrases: 無料 and 配布. The first, pronounced muryou, means ‘free’. The second, haifu, means ‘distribution’. Add the two together and you get 無料配布, ‘free distribution’. Near these letters should be a time which indicates when they will be handing the items out. There will of course be a message near that to tell you what exactly is being handed out so if you can read a bit of kanji then that would help.

DSC_0371
Unfortunately there’s quite a bit of glare on this picture

The above photo is from the August booth. The event (イベント) they are holding is the free goods distribution, which happens once per day. The time of the handout for the day this photo was taken is at 3:30pm, 30 minutes before the end of the event. As stated above by the distribution time the line would have become huge. The items being given out were a poster and a mini booklet. The poster itself is only available through this event, so you can imagine it’ll have a lot of value after the event.  As with any other lines in the commercial booths, the line will most likely extend outside the hall.

Another event is the live talk, which happens near one of the booths. This event usually stars a voice actor of a particular game. Some of these are of lesser known companies or games, so the crowd tends to be of a managable size. However, some events have quite popular people star in them. During this time, to avoid causing a clot in traffic only a certain few people may sit down to watch the event. An area near the booth is reserved and a line is formed to show the area occupied. Who gets to view it is usually decided by customers who buy a certain item or a certain amount from that booth. They are given a ticket which will allow them in when the event starts. This repeats until they run out of the tickets. Do note that these talk shows are very strictly no photography events.

There are many other events that happen throughout the day at different times, such as a slot game amongst other things. They all have their own specific way of operating so you’ll have to figure out how to do so through observation. The slot game mentioned above had a live stream up of the people who were trying the game and winners were asked to provide a comment. Should you try and end up winning, you would be expected to make a comment too.

12. Cosplay – They pose for you

Saving the best for last, cosplay is definitely a large part of the event. In this part of the guide, I will detail the general rules of taking photography, the areas where they cosplay and the etiquettes to taking photos.

C84cosareamap
The cosplay area map for C84 from the Comiket site. There does not seem to be any changes for C85

 In total, there are 6 cosplay areas. 4 of these areas are cosplay areas for all 3 days, while 2 areas differ. There does not seem to be a specific theme in each area, so you’re bound to find a range of cosplays across all areas. As shown, on the 1F there is a path that reaches from the East 1 hall to the West halls. This is the recommended route to take to get to the other side efficiently and quickly.

Cosplaying

If you are planning to cosplay, do not come dressed in your cosplay! Subsequently, do not leave the venue with your cosplay still on. These are strict rules from the Committee to everyone that wishes to cosplay. Should your cosplay take a long time to get ready, it is possible to apply to enter early in order to get your cosplay up before the event starts. Whoever can get in early is decided by a lottery. There are many rules about the length of clothing, large items, etc. that you need to be aware of. The information about this can be found in the catalog and official site. The cosplay page also contains many information about cosplaying (in Japanese).

To cosplay, you will need to register on the day (except for those who wish to enter early, where you will need to register before). Once you register, you will be given a leaflet which will also grant you access to the change rooms. The female change rooms are on the first floor, which can be access by entering through the entrance hall, and is located on the way to the East halls. The male change rooms are located on the 6th floor of the Conference halls. The keywords to look for here are 女子更衣 and 男子更衣, ‘female/male change rooms’ respectively. There are also cloak rooms available just before the connecting bridge where you can leave whatever you don’t want to carry.

For finding a spot to start your stellar display, simply enter one of the cosplay areas and find a space large enough. Be very careful when asked for a photo while you’re not along the wall; you have to make sure you’re not blocking the flow of traffic.

Taking photography of cosplayers

It is very important to ask the cosplayer if you can take a photo of them BEFORE taking it. You can ask in Japanese, but I think everyone would understand you if you asked them in English as well (while motioning to your camera). More often than not, there will be more than one person that wants to take a photo of the same cosplayer. In this case do what the Japanese are best for and start forming a line. As usual, make sure you’re not blocking the path. To ask in Japanese, you can say 写真を撮ってもいいですか, shashin wo tottemo iidesuka.

Sometimes a cosplayer can get very popular with the mass. Instead of an enormous line forming, they tend to crowd around the cosplayer in a semi-circle and take photos. In this case, the cosplayer will begin posing in different directions to try and satisfy as many photographers. Should you want to join in, feel free to do so, but again it’s polite to add a お願いします, onegaishimasu, which is a polite request, as you settle yourself in with the others.

089
A crowd surrounding a defenceless girl. No I kid, she’s fine

As you would expect, these cosplayers can’t stand posing all six hours of the event. The Japanese are very timid people so they may not feel comfortable telling everyone they want a break from posing. This is when the super Comiket volunteers come over and perform a countdown. After the countdown ends, everyone disperses after a word of thanks. I don’t know what the cosplayer does afterwards, but I wouldn’t go and ask for a photo from that cosplayer for the time being. Just a note, the above picture was actually taken during a separate event, but the crowd gets very similar regardless.

The cosplay areas are indicated in the map above, but note the times as well. Some areas will get more crowded than others, so it is a good idea to move to each area. One thing to note is that there is a secondary location close to Tokyo Big Sight where many cosplayers gather after the event to continue cosplaying. I don’t know the details, but you will need to pay to get in for that event.

DSC02859
The Outdoor Exhibition Area. The crowd gets very amazing on both days it’s used

I actually thought I’d have a lot more to talk about for the cosplay section, but I guess that’s all I can think about that’s important and necessary.

After-word

Thank you for reading this ridiculously big post even if only for a little big. Feel free to ask any other question about the event in the comments section, and I would greatly appreciate it if you spread this to others you know who would be interested about Comic Market. If this guide has helped you survive the chaos that is Comiket, then I would have fulfilled the reason I wrote this. As I said in the introduction, I will continue to update this post with new information I gain and do my best to consolidate the information to make it more concise. I haven’t had the chance to do a proper read-through yet so please do ignore my grammatical errors, amongst other things. Of course, I would be grateful if you leave your feedback as well, or if you’ve had a different experience yourself at the event. This guide has been written completely by myself, and though I try to find sources to my information I may have missed something important and have not even noticed.

And with that, enjoy your time in Comic Market!

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12 thoughts on “Comic Market – Your complete survival guide

  1. Pingback: コミックマーケット85 – Comic Market 85 | The ota-report

  2. I know this if off topic but I’m looking into starting my own weblog and was curious what all is needed to get setup?
    I’m assuming having a blog like yours would cost a pretty penny?
    I’m not very internet savvy so I’m not 100% certain.
    Any recommendations or advice would be greatly appreciated.
    Kudos

    • To be very honest I should be the last person you go to for advice. My blog is running on the bare minimal optimisations, and most of everything you see here is from its default settings. I’m currently being hosted completely free through WordPress, so if you wanted to start simple I would recommend them just because it’s worked for me thus far.

      I also have a lack of knowledge in running a site, so I’m afraid I can’t give any tips for setting one up. There are, however, plenty of very detailed guides on the internet for getting you going, so it might be a good idea to have a look through a search engine.

      Hope you’re able to get a great site up and running =)

  3. Thank you very much for this enormous guide. It’s without any doubt the biggest one with the most information I have read so far and I see the Comiket 85 post has even more info!

    This is truly useful since I’ll be visiting Japan soon enough for C86 (first trip to Japan and Comiket) and this post really helps :) Obviously I won’t be going HARDCORE but I do hope to arrive very early on the second day. Cursed Touhou music! :D

    Again, thanks a lot for all the work you had creating this post!

    • I’m glad it was of use to you, I truthfully really need to get down and update this properly, so hopefully I can get that done before Comiket comes, though I’m pretty aware it’s all too late to be useful for the upcoming Comiket.

      Would help me a lot too if you share this around to others =)

      Enjoy your Touhou loot and here’s hoping you survive the chaos!

      • Ah yes, anyone who needs info about Comiket will glady be sent here :D

        Please do! This post is very useful, and I think any non-japanese visiting Comiket would appreciate all the info he / she could get!

        And thanks! I’ll do my best, it would be a shame to die after finally reaching Comiket and all it’s doujin goodies :D

  4. Pingback: Comic Market 88 – Pre-event digest | The ota-report

  5. Thanks so much for this! Going to Japan for a couple of weeks after Christmas and just realised I’ll be there in time for Comiket. My excitement levels are at their peak.

    • Thank you for your kind words. If it is your first time, I would highly recommend going to two or all days. However, it’s good to take these into consideration:

      *Do you follow a lot of circles? They may be split across all days and require you to attend those days to get it (unless they plan to sell in specialty stores as well).
      *Is it your first time attending? Do you plan to attend again in the future? If you don’t plan to go again in the foreseeable future, you may as well go at least 2 days to enjoy it as much as you can.
      *Will you be lining overnight/taking the first train there? They have a very heavy burden physically and mentally. In that case, two should be more than enough before you get exhausted.

      I highly recommend planning what you intend to do once you’re there so you can figure out how long it might take, Cosplay shooting can take literally the whole day to circle and everyday has different cosplayers. Touhou stuff only appear during one of the days so you won’t need to go for all days. Stuff like that.

      Let me know if you have any other questions.

  6. Pingback: 【要チェック】夏コミで役立つ持ち物+豆知識【#夏コミ暑さ対策】 | コスプレイヤーズfan

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