The Japan Comic Market FAQ : A Gaijin's Guide to Comike

Version 1.6 Updated 8/2004

by Ben Her

My Goal:

The purpose of this FAQ is to acquaint the average gaijin (read: foreigners; non-Japanese people or people with little to no Japanese language skills) with Japan's (and thusly the world's) largest comic convention: Comic Market. This FAQ is by no means complete, but I hope that it is accurate and helpful to any future would-be CM attendees. I have loosely organized this FAQ based upon what I believe to be the main reasons a person would have for attending CM. This basically breaks down to general information, buying, cosplaying, and selling . I have kept the images small and to a minimum so that this FAQ is (hopefully) "print friendly."

A note on Japanese in this FAQ:

This FAQ has some Japanese characters in it. Hopefully your browser supports Japanese character sets, or you may not be able to read it. I have tried to include the original characters for several words that I think will benefit future attendees. If you still have troubles, try changing the encoding settings in your browser. The current encoding method for this FAQ is Japanese EUC.

About me in relation to this FAQ:

Ever since I heard about CM on a shoddy 3rd generation videotape in the late 80's, I knew I had to go and see it for myself. At the time "manga" and "anime" were not nearly the household words that they are now in America, let alone "doujinshi," so it was pretty much an uphill climb. And it was worth it. In an effort to make this process easier for others, I decided to write this FAQ. I am by no means an expert on anything. I can't even make my stupid cup-ramen right. But if by my experience and the advice I've received from others, I can help a person to come and enjoy Comic Market... well, that's all I want. I currently live and work in Japan and have been to CM as well as many other smaller doujinshi conventions around Japan.

One more thing before we begin:

I usually hate disclaimers and apologetics, so consider this more of a fair warning. I wrote this FAQ on my own time to help my fellow man enjoy CM and hopefully save any would-be CM goers a lot of pain and suffering at the hands of easily avoidable mistakes. I wrote this thing on my own time. I wrote it for fun. I wrote it to help people. I didn't write it to get into debates, fights, flames, or any similar petty undertaking. That being said, I make no promises about the accuracy or effectiveness of neither this FAQ nor the information herein, although my hope is that it has a positive effect and that the information in it is as accurate at possible. If you come all the way to Japan with only this FAQ as your guide, don't do your homework, and screw up miserably (can't find CM, can't speak Japanese, get kidnapped by North Korea, whatever) it's your own fault. If you don't like my opinions, definitions, or anything else, then at least be decent and tell me about it in a constructive way so I can try to make this FAQ better. I'm not a pompous know-it-all, so if you mail me acting like one don't expect a reply. All “asshole” mail goes straight to the “asshole” folder. Thanks for being a rational human being.

Enough FAQs about the FAQ! On to the FAQ!(^o^)/


General Questions about Comic Market

What is CM?

CM, otherwise known as the “Comic Market” or “Comike” is the world's largest comic convention held in Japan twice each year. The first CM was held in December of 1975 with only about 30 participating circles and an estimated 700 attendees. Attendance has since swelled to over a quarter of a million people in 3 days. CM is held for the purpose of fans exchanging and communicating through their beloved hobby of doujinshi. CM is not about profiting by selling massive amounts of books, and corporate comic publishers are not allowed to participate in CM. CM is a grassroots DIY effort by fans for fans.

What CM isn't.

CM is NOT a convention motivated by profit where you will find corporate mainstream comics for sale.

Who puts on CM?

The Comic Market Preparatory Committee (CMPC) is responsible for the continuing operation of CM.

The Swarm...

Yes, I waited in this line.

Just how big is CM? How many people attend and how many are selling books?

Approximately 35,000 circles currently participate in CM with over 350,000 attendees in the course of 3 days, but this number continues to move in an upward direction. Add in the cops, guards, staff, volunteers, and you're well on your way to nearly half a million people. The easy answer? A lot.

When is CM?

CM is held twice a year for three days each; once in August and once in December. These are referred to typically as “Summer Comike” and “Winter Comike” respectively.

What time does CM begin? When does it run to?

CM opens its doors at 10:00AM on all 3 days. The Doujinshi is open until 4:00PM. The Cosplay Square is open until 3:00PM. The Corporate booths are open until 4:00PM every day except the first when they are open until 5:00PM. CHECK YOUR CATALOG FOR THE EXACT TIME AND DATES!

What time should I come?

Is it your first time? Come at noon. If you come right at 10, you will sit in line for up to an hour if things are really slow. And they are. Since everyone in line is made to sit down, and smokers aren't allowed to smoke without getting out of line, it can be a pretty uncomfortable situation. If you get to CM early, you can get a better place in line, but it should be made known that coming too early is strongly discouraged by the CMPC and the local authorities, staff, etc. (too early being the night before, etc.)

Where is CM held?

Tokyo Big Sight

Sunset over Tokyo Big Sight

CM is currently held at the Tokyo Big Sight convention center near Odaiba in Tokyo, Japan. (お台場、東京)

How do I get there?

Traveling to CM is like traveling to most places in Japan. It often involves a combination of walking, running, biking, bussing, train hopping, and flying. A detailed map is available in the Catalog of the closest train and bus lines. Once you're in Tokyo, you can ride the Rinkai Line (臨海線) practically to the front door of Big Sight. I rode only as far as Shinkiba Station (新木場駅) instead and took a cab the rest of the way to avoid crowds, which actually proved to be useful. The cab fair was about 1500yen one way, but that's not terrible when you're too exhausted to stand in line with a bunch of heavy books. I recommend one of those tiny gaijin train guides; it will be useful for anything else you do in Tokyo and gives you something to point at if you need to ask for help at the station. These are available at most bookstores in Japan or online.

How should I dress?

Summer Comike: Sweltering heat, pools of sweat, ghastly human stench; these are all ways of describing CM in the summer. Dress light. Wear deoderant.

Winter Comike: Everyone complains that even Winter CM is hot, but I sure as hell didn't think so. I wore a light work jacket with 2 t-shirts underneath. I didn't have any trouble sweating indoors, and not many problems outside at the Cosplay Square, but waiting in line in the morning when temperatures are cooler is pure hell... well, a cold icy hell instead of a nice toasty warm hell anyway. I would almost say to bring an extra sweater and ditch it in a coin locker, but your chances of getting a coin locker are slim and you won't want to mess around with that first thing in the door anyway. Grit your teeth and be a fan.

What should I bring?

If you're just there to buy books? As little as possible. I brought a shoulder bag that was really handy for putting books in and taking business cards out of. Bring a camera if you want to take pictures. Bring a mobile phone if you can (even though reception can be lousy due to high network traffic). Bring your maps. Bring more money than you think you'll need. Store your transportation money separately so you don't spend it by accident. If you're there to cosplay, I guess you're stuck with the baggage of your costume too. There is also the prickly issue of your catalog...

Food! I'm starving, can I get some grub here?

Oh sure. If you wanna get completely ripped off. The prices of food at Big Sight are out of control - even by Japanese standards. Eat before you come. Eat after you leave the convention. That's my advice. You can try to bring food to eat, but I don't recommend it as it will get all gross in your bag, and there's almost no where to sit down and get a moments peace. Maybe bring a couple energy bars that won't melt in the heat or a bottle of water. I'm not sure if food and drink is banned in the main exhibition hall, but I'm going to guess that it is.

I need a cig! Can I light up?

In the designated smoking area you can. Japan does more than any country in the world to protect the rights of smokers. Just be aware that you'll probably get barked at if you try to smoke while in line outside. Try to be patient and respect the nonsmokers around you.

How do I navigate this monstrosity known as CM?

Your Comic Market Catalog! You did get the Comic Market Catalog, didn't you?

Winter CM Catalog 63

The Print Catalog for CM 63


What is the “Comic Market Catalog?”

For all intents and purposes, the CM Catalog is your bible for 3 days. It is available in print and CD-Rom format. The print version is roughly the size of a small phone book. It contains lists of all the participating circles, maps of the convention layout, maps and directions to get to and from the convention, rules for the convention, and arguably the most useful: a picture or 2 for every participating circle. The visuals are a definite plus, especially for non-Japanese speakers. The catalog is not required for admittance, but without it, you may have trouble planning your attack on CM. Catalogs are always being sold at tents in the parking lot if you're desperately late in getting one.

Where can I get my Catalog?

The CM website usually has a list of stores (by prefecture) where you can order the catalog. Please be aware that not all stores have the CD-Rom version and some may not have the print version. This is also on the list at the CM homepage. I believe you can also order the catalog from overseas, but I am not 100% certain. It would depend on the store you order it from. I wouldn't count on them speaking anything but Japanese either. If you are coming from abroad, just come a day before the convention and buy a copy in Tokyo before you go. It doesn't give you much time to plan, but it might be worth saving yourself the shipping. There's always some catalogs left over at the big manga shops such as "Tora no Ana," "Mandarake," and "Animate".

When can I buy the Catalog?

The Catalog typically comes out 2 weeks before the convention. I usually reserve mine early and make special travel plans to get it the second it hit the shelves, but there is really no need to do this. Up until the first day of CM, stores are still packed with catalogs. As a matter of fact, there are many CM staff folk selling last minute catalogs to the people waiting in line and taking old catalogs. You don't worry about them selling out. It's all about how much time you want to flip through it before the convention.

This Catalog is huge! Isn't there, like, a CD-Rom version?

Yes! The CD-Rom version is relatively new and a few yen more, but absolutely worth it. Unless you are really hell-bent on getting a phonebook-sized souvenier to commemorate your trip to CM, I would highly suggest the CD-Rom version. The catalog comes on 2 CDs, "A" and "B". Highlights of the browsing software include (but aren't limited to):

The second disk has 4 important sections, the corporate ads, additional event information, Comike related comics, and other random media. The second disk is all html based and runs in a frame-supporting browser. The Corporate Ads section lets you see a map of where all the CM sponsor companies are located and the print version of their advertisements. The interface for this is a bit clunky, but we can all be thankful the ads aren't inline with the software at least. The "additional event information" is just what it sounds like. Info related to other events outside of CM. The comics related to CM usually sprinkle the print version of the catalog and have been included with a bit of javascript functionality. The extra media at the end is the good stuff. A 10 minute video of the last CM is the highlight along with a few other audio/video goodies.

The one drawback to the CD-Rom Catalog is that it is not available in English, though it should install fine on an English version of Windows providing you download whatever libraries are required. (I have only tested the CD-Rom Catalog on Windows XP)

If anybody is interested in my doing a translation of the software into English, just let me know.

This Catalog is all in Japanese! There's only one page in English! I can't read any of it, now what?

Japanese? In Japan?! You don't say! Most of the print catalog (in fact all but one page at the time of writing this) is in Japanese. None of the CD-Rom catalog is in English. Not being able to read any Japanese is going to make CM a lot more difficult for you, but not impossible. It has actually been a complaint of mine for some time that the CMPC does not translate more of the catalog into English. That's actually why I started this FAQ in the first place. (^^) I have translated some of the catalog and at present plan to volunteer it to the CMPC - maybe they can use it! Alternatively, you may wish to locate the “International booth” once you arrive and ask them if you have any other questions.

CM 63 Catalog Map (Partial)

Partial map (1 of 3) included in the catalog

Is there a map for the layout of CM? This place is huge!

Yes! The Catalog (can you tell why this is an important thing yet?) has a few maps for you. It has maps for each day of the convention with all the booth numbers written in the spaces. These numbers all correspond to the lists of participating circles and “thumbnail” previews of all the circles. This is indispensable. There are maps for the toilets, restaurants, Cosplay Square, and the rest of the Big Sight layout. Additionally, there are subway, train, and bus maps to CM itself. If you use the CD-ROM catalog, you can print custom maps which are even more useful.

This Catalog is heavier than a phone book! don't tell me I have to lug this thing all the way to CM and back...

The short answer is you don't. Take out the enclosed maps, plan your journey the night before over a cup of coffee or a cold beer and leave the catalog at home. In the past, I have brought mine with all 3 days. People do it, but I don't think it's necessary. I used to use it to flip through and scan for last minute items I might have missed, but for the space and weight it takes up, you can fit probably 10 more books in your bag. So my advice is plan ahead so you can ditch it. Also, consider the much lighter alternative of the CD-ROM version.

How much is CM?

Short answer? Free. There is no attendance fee for CM. Long answer? Well, add up your travel expenses, hotel, everything you buy at CM, the CM catalog, and everything else and you will probably be left with quite a hefty bill. Plan ahead, rely on friends, and try to go cheap.

How much money should I bring?

More than you think you will need. No fooling. You will be very sorry if you come up short when you stumble upon a treasure you can't afford. Keep your travel money separate and don't spend it. Don't blow all your money in the first day. Don't bring checks or credit cards - Japan is a cash society. If you are changing currencies, DO NOT CHANGE IT AT THE AIRPORT! You will get ripped off, I guarentee it. If you have a bank account (in America for example) you can usually exchange your cash for free (or a small fee) at a large branch. Call and ask. Check the exchange rate too. 100 does not equal USD$1.00! (though a lot of Americans seem to think so to their own disadvantage.)

Are there ATMs at CM?

If you have a Japanese bank account or postal saving account, you can use your ATM at CM. Big Sight only has 3 ATM machines that I know of all in the same little room, so only one person can get in or out at a time. The one day at CM63 that I didn't bring enough money 2/3 of these machines decided to break and I ended up waiting in line for almost an hour. Not fun at all. don't let this happen to you. don't be foolish. Take out the money ahead of time. If you are from abroad, this goes double. I don't know if foreign VISA cards are accepted or not - even if the Japanese VISA cards are.

Can I use checks, credit cards, or (non-cash form of exchange) at CM?

No. don't even think about trying this. In fact, don't try this at most places in Japan, especially outside of a major urban area. No one takes personal checks, few take travelers checks, some will take VISA cards IF their VISA system is compatible with your country's system. don't count on it. If you are coming from abroad, bring a big wad of yen with you (exchange yen at your bank at home in a big city instead of the airport if possible) and break it up in your luggage in separate plastic bags. Separate your doujinshi money and travel money. Again, Japan is a cash society.

Are there any special rules about conduct at CM?

Yes. They are all outlined in the CM Catalog and vary from time to time, but the general rules are pretty basic.

There are also several special rules that apply to cosplayers listed under the appropriate section of this FAQ.

These rules are so strict! Why should I care about these rules at all?

Because NOT caring out the rules in the past has threatened the event with closure. The rules aren't there to spoil your fun; they're there to keep the local authorities off the backs of the event promoters and to keep people from getting hurt.

“Screw these rules! I'm going to run, push people, take pictures up girls' skirts, not make any effort to speak the language, swear and yell if someone can't understand me, and be a general asshole because (my country) kicks ass and I rule!”

Japan has a surplus of foreigners who come to this country and act like jackasses. While it's hard to imagine someone coming all the way from a foreign country for CM and then being a cheese-dick, I'm sure it happens. If that's you, maybe you should stay home.

I can speak some Japanese and asked the cute girl at the desk about where to find the cosplay area and she didn't know what I was talking about. Why?

Did she have a CM armband? She was probably an employee of Big Sight and not a CM volunteer. Look for the armband - they change colors every year. The volunteer staff is really easy to find, very understanding, and very helpful. However, they are people just like you and me, so if they don't speak English and can't lead you around by the hand, it's not their problem.

I can't speak or read any Japanese. Can I handle CM?

It really depends on why you are going. Without any Japanese, for the guy who just wants to go and find a “pink” doujinshi of his favorite character or dirty books to sell back to slobbering otaku in his home country, sure, you can probably get by on very little Japanese. But for those who want to go to CM for the purpose of communicating through creativity, who want to meet authors and thoroughly enjoy the event, Japanese is essential. Even if you only know a little Japanese, it will certainly help you make your way around the event with a minimum of setbacks and without wasting valuable shopping and gawking time. It sounds cheesy, but attitude is everything. The more you make an effort, the more others will notice and try to help you in return. Even basic Japanese will get you a lot of relieved glances from the other CM participants. There is always the International Booth.

What's the International Booth?

Good question! Some good gaijin folks volunteer at the Internation Booth at Comike. It is located on the second floor about the East Hall 2. It's stuffed in a small off-limits-looking room behind some old rusty coin lockers. Inside there are like 2 guys and a card table. Ok, so that's how it looked for the 5 minutes I was there during CM 63. I'm not sure how many English speakers actually participate at the IB, but one of their jobs is to escort the foreign press who inevitably show up each year. I believe that some of these same people may be involved in translating the CM Catalog, but I am not 100% sure.

Do you have any other recommendations for a first-timer gaijin to CM?

Most of my "advice" is written in this FAQ, but here are the main points I would stress:

Questions about buying books, comics, doujinshi, goods, etc. at CM

Various Doujinshi (anime, manga, video games, original illustrations) in various formats (paperback, hardcover, CD-ROM, spiral bound)

Various Doujinshi (anime, manga, video games, original illustrations) in various formats (paperback, hardcover, CD-ROM, spiral bound)

What is Doujinshi?

Without knowning the answer to this question, it's hard to believe you even read this far or even came to this page in the first place. There are many exhaustive definitions and even essays on the subject "What is Doujinshi?" and there really isn't an adequate paradigm in English, so let's just say for the purposes of this FAQ (at the risk of sounding too glib), doushinshi is basically a DIY independent, non-profit typically hobby-centric manga-like medium. Doujinshi can be about any thing, place, person, interest, or hobby. Doujinshi is similar in nature to small press zines, fanfic, mini-comics, and manga among other things, but it's really its own thing. The word and the medium originates from Japan, of course, but there are certainly creators from several countries outside Japan. For more info about Doujinshi, I would suggest the following work by Dan Kanemitsu who is far wiser and more accomplished than myself in the world of Doujinshi. A NOTE: I'm only including this because this is a "FAQ" and I would like to be thorough, so I think it needs to be said: DOUJINSHI DOES NOT EQUAL HENTAI, SUKEBE, ECCHI, OR ANY OTHER WORD ASSOCIATED WITH SEX. Yes, there are doujinshi that basically amount to nothing more than whacking material. The same can be said of any medium (books, magazines, etc. commercial or not.) Doujinshi is a very broad and expansive medium and I feel pity for those who would choose to limit their interest in doujinshi to nothing but XXX books.

Goods: postcards, stationary, stickers, badges, etc...

Goods: postcards, stationary, stickers, badges, etc...

Software? Zines? I thought CM was just for comics!

“Doujinshi” doesn't exactly translate to “Comic.” In fact, even the definition of “comics” by western standards is in flux in the public consciousness these days. Doujinshi, software, illustration books, and assorted goods... even cosplay... could all be considered what one might call “Communicating through Creativity.” This seems to be, to me at least, one of the most basic principles of Comic Market. While the majority of the merchandise is what we would consider to be doujinshi, there are other interesting and unique mediums pursued by different circles.

CM Catalog Thumbnail Page Sample (The "ネ" Section)

CM Catalog Thumbnail Page Sample (The "ネ" Section)

How n the world do I find my way around over 30,000 booths?!

CM is organized largely by genre and circle. There are more exhaustive definitions, but a circle is basically, a group organized to create and distribute doujinshi. Sometimes a circle is just one person. The largest portion of the catalog is a large collection of art "thumbnails" that represent each circle. They are broken down by day (day 1,2, or 3), then by genre, and then by circle. Most of the circles participating in CM have been grouped, organized, and placed by related material by the CMPC (well, insofar as that's possible anyway.) For example, most of the "One Piece" parodies are near each other. Don't think that this is an excuse to wander around CM aimlessly! The catalog comes with several maps complete with little booth numbers corresponding to the thumbnails and toilet locations. PLAN YOUR ROUTE! It will make all the difference. Get your "must have" books right away and then move on to other things you might like to do. (See also: The CM Catalog)

I have too many comics! I can't carry them! What should I do?

There are 3 major methods for doing this (in terms of your Japanese ability):

  1. The easiest way, but the least convenient: Lug all your books back to your hotel and bring them home in your luggage.
  2. The next easiest way, but still a pain: You can ship your books home from any Japanese convenient store using "Kuroneko Takkyuubin" or some other such service. This still assumes you will be lugging your books to a Lawson's, 7-11, AM/PM, or Sunkus at some point.
  3. The least easy (for lack of Japanese language ability) but easiest (for straining your back): CM enjoys many corporate sponsors who support doujinshi. One of them is “Pelican-bin.” (ペリカン便) They are a shipping company with booths and trucks right at CM. Bought too many books? If you don't absolutely need to look over them the same day, then ship 'em home! No problem. It's nice and convenient. don't have a box? Most people who brought books to sell have pitched their boxes in the conveniently labeled garbage areas. There are volunteers near these things. Just walk up and ask if you can take a box out of the bin. Pelican will provide you with tape and labels, but to my knowledge, no instructions were available in English. Secondly, I am not sure if Pelican can ship overseas. Does anyone know this? You might have to just take them back to your hotel and ship them via another way before returning to your home country.

Where can I get a box?

From the large "recycling" bins where circles have tossed out their old boxes. Ask a nearby volunteer if you can help yourself. Tape, paper, and pens are provided at the shipping booths both inside and outside. See above.

I thought corporations weren't allowed at CM. Isn't it all DIY? I see corporations here! What gives?

Corporate comics are not allowed. Corporate sponsors are. What's the difference? Corporate sponsors are basically companies who, in some way, support the ideas of CM and the doujinshi community. For example: manufacturers of comic supplies (such as COPIC, DELETER), Doujinshi shops, and shipping companies (like Pelican-Bin). Other conventions unrelated to CM have booths as well to promote their own events, but I would hardly call them corporate. Large entities at CM are pretty rare - just lots of individuals who love comics!

What is "Sukebu?"

Sukebu (スケブ) is short for "sketchbook." This refers to a sketchbook brought along by an attendee for the purpose of having a custom drawing or sketch done by various artists at the event. Think of it as a sort of "autograph book" for artists. Often, a circle will have a sign at their booth indicating that Sukebu is welcome. Even without such a sign, it never hurts to ask. Naturally, if the booth is obviously crowded the polite thing to do would be to wait until later. To my knowledge, nobody at conventions charges for sketches. IF YOU COME ALL THE WAY TO CM, I DEFINITELY RECOMMEND THIS!

I can't believe this perverted comic I found that depicts (insert relatively offensive subject matter here)! Have they no shame? How can something like this be allowed!?

There are 2 words for this - culture shock. Many of the things that the Japanese find totally acceptable may not mesh with the values you are accustomed to in your home country. But this is different, this is really sick and, and, and, but, and, but... Settle down. If you don't like it, don't buy it. Most of the stuff westerners find typically objectionable is all lumped together in one spot and if you planned out your routes accordingly in your CM Catalog map, you should be able to largely avoid the stuff you don't like. To quote a fellow gaijin whose illustrations I particularly admire: “It's just lines on paper folks” - R. Crumb

All the comics related to sex are censored! I finally found a hentai doujinshi of Haruko from FLCL and it's censored!!! Why!?

Yeah, sucky isn't it? The obscenity laws keep changing here and I can't keep up with what is and isn't legal anymore. As a general rule, most genitalia below the belt get a mosaic or a black bar. There was a time when this wasn't true, but censorship in all its ugliness is a reality that CM participants live with. The thinking is that by exercising self-censorship, a creator can avoid inviting unwanted government imposed censorship.

These censor bars seem awfully small and ineffectual...

Be thankful for small favors. They used to be a lot bigger. You wonder why they even bother putting those on there! Read on...

Why even bother censoring your own book?

Self-censorship is largely imposed by authors today to avoid problems with the government, media, and overly conservative malcontents. The CMPC actually took measures to impose rules on participating circles in 1991 following a crackdown by Japanese police on the erotic book industry. Since that time, however, much of this censorship has been relaxed again, though not to the point of complete and total freedom. Dan Kanemitsu, to whom I have referred to before, has written some more thorough pieces on the censorship of doujinshi in Japan.

Huh? CM is over already?! What is this strange music they are playing! Everyone is clapping! Buh? Zuh? Guh?

Yep, when people clap and the announcement comes, CM is over... at least until people simply refuse to sell to you. In fact, selling and buying at CM seems to take place well before and after the convention, though it is discouraged. For the sake of your commute, I recommend leaving around 3 (or before if you've accomplished all your goals for the day).

Hey, I just got back from taking pictures of the girl dressed as Haruko from FLCL in the Cosplay Square and people are all closed up! It's not even 4 yet!

Before you get too mad think of a couple possible scenarios.

Even doujinshi authors want to buy a few doujinshi before the day is done. I have to admit that I was really disappointed when a lot of circles I had come for had closed down as early as noon. It can be a problem. I wish some of these circles had some volunteers if the authors themselves became too busy or that they had kept some flyers out on their tables even if they sold out of books. I'm not sure if the CMPC has any particular policy toward people who pack up halfway through the day, but it would be interesting to know if it hurts their chances of participating in the future.

I spent so much money. I think I have a sickness. Is there any cure for me?

No, there is not. The purpose of your birth was to attend CM. Have fun, go crazy, and spend money. It's like Christmas - it only comes twice a year.

Questions about cosplay at CM

What is cosplay?

Costume Play, or "Cosplay" (コスプレ) can basically be defined as one who dresses up as a particular character usually related to an anime, manga, movie, game, etc.

Metal Gear Solid 2 Soldier
Cosplay isn't all sexy anime girls - American bands, video games, and cult movie figures make appearances too. This guy is a soldier from the "Metal Gear" series for the PS/PS2.
Cold Weather; Hot Cosplayer
Wow, I had 4 layers of clothes on and I was freezing. All the cameramen appreciated the efforts of Japan's brave female youth that day. Cosplayers range from short, slim and sexy...
Mr. 2 from One Piece downright bizarre. Mr.2 from "One Piece" is a good example. There is no shame at Comic Market.
(Yes, I have about a million more pics of cosplay. No, I couldn't possibly post them all. I tried to pick a select few that showcase the diversity and variety of cosplayers at CM.)

Is cosplay allowed at CM?

Yes it is. Although cosplay is not the main focus of CM, it is not discouraged and the creative aspects of it are considered to be in sync with the ideals of CM and the doujinshi community. However, in the past, cosplay at CM has led to some troubling incidents with perverts and such and has since become the subject of some stringent rules. There are strict guidelines for cosplaying and taking photos of cosplayers that you must adhere to. It's one of the few things the CMPC has bothered to translate into English, so it's pretty safe to say that these rules are held in high regard.

I want to cosplay at CM! Are there any rules? What should I do?

The rules may or may not change from time to time and you should consult the CM catalog for the most recent version. Some general rules of thumb however are as follows:

I'm a guy, can I still dress up in a frilly maid dress with a cute pink bow? I'm a girl, can I still dress up as Sanji from One Piece?

Absolutely. There are plenty of cross dressers and transvestites who cosplay at CM. Japan's culture, though by no means perfect, is a lot less openly critical of cross dressing than America or much of the “Judeo-Christian West.” This isn't to say that some people won't giggle at you. Some people might fall in love with you too. There is typically a larger number of females playing male character than the other way around, but if this is what you want to do, go for it! If you are cross-dressing, regardless of your sexual orientation, please remember to change in the booth appropriate to your genetic sex. I have never personally seen a foreigner cross dress cosplay at CM, but I imagine that many people will want to take your picture!

Can I take pictures of the cute girl cosplaying as Haruko from FLCL?

If she says you can, then yes! If she says “no,” then no! If you are not in the designated cosplay picture taking area, then no, no matter what she says.

Where can I take pictures if it's not allowed anywhere else in the convention?

At present, this takes place in the “Cosplay Square” on the roof above the West Halls of Big Sight.

The hottest Hitler youth ever...

Culture Shock Cosplay

There are people cosplaying as Nazis and (insert name of relatively offensive historically fascist group here)! I'm so offended! Oh, I can't believe it! I think I'm going to cry! I think I'm going to beat him/her up! I think I'm going to jump off the roof!

Settle down. Relax. Remember that whole thing about being in another culture? No one here is obligated to operate by your moral standards. Their perception of what is and is not offensive is probably different than what you are used to. In special regard to those who cosplay as Nazis, you might notice that they are usually accompanied by people cosplaying as Russian soldiers, U.S. soldiers, and various other military persona from different eras along with the other military otaku. Those guys are just war/gun/military otakus. (or perhaps cosplaying a character from a manga/anime set in Nazi Germany) I'm not going to make a debate out of the "politics of hate" in Hitler's Germany, but I wouldn't expect any cosplayers who dress as Nazis to be anti-Semitic. Remember that cosplay has an entirely different context than real life. Try to imagine someone in a civil war recreation society. If they are on the south side, it doesn't mean they necessarily support slavery, support states-rights, or want to break off from the rest of the U.S. Before you go on a crusade of your own, take a couple steps back and remember where you are.

Questions about selling at CM

What kind of people can sell at CM?

My understanding is that no one is exempt from applying to CM to be a participating circle, but many people do not make the final cut. In fact, I believe that many late applicants are chosen from a lottery system. Since I have never SOLD anything at CM, I cannot be certain. If your Japanese isn't near-perfect, I wouldn't try it.

NOTE: I know this section is pathetically empty - I have never participated as a seller at CM and I don't know any other gaijin who has. I am sure people do it and that it is possible, but since I lack the experience to answer any of these questions, I'm going to opt not to. If you have any insight or comments regarding this, please feel free to share. (See: Contributing to this FAQ)

Appendix 1: Quick Vocabulary/Terminology List:

This is an alphabetical list of terminology related to Comic Market. It is by no means complete and it comes nowhere close to encompassing the expansive world of Comic Market or Doujinshi. I am well aware that many of these "nutshell definitions" are subject to debate. I just wrote them quickely for the purpose of better understanding this FAQ. I hope that it is enough to get you through the guide. Think I should add a term? (See: Contributing to this FAQ)

Term(EN) Term(JP) Definition
Anime アニメ The Japanese word for animation
Catalog カタログ The catalog published by the CMPC typically available about 2 weeks before CM. This catalog serves as a guidebook and directory for CM.
Circle サークル A small non-profit group or club of 1 or more people who produce Doujinshi, goods, etc. for sale at CM. There are several varieties of circles.
CM   Comic Market
CMPC   Comic Market Preparatory Committee
Comic Market コミックマーケット The world's largest comic convention of a non-commercial nature held twice a year in Tokyo, Japan.
Comike コミケ Comic Market
Comiket コミケット Comic Market
Cosplay コスプレ Costume play
Cosplayer   One who does costume play
Costume Play コスプレ Dressing up as a particular character usually related to an anime, manga, movie, game, hobby, etc.
Cosplay Square コスプレ広場 This is otherwise known as the “cosplay hiroba.” It is the designated area at Big Sight for cosplayers.
Doujinshi 同人誌 Basically a DIY independent, non-profit typically hobby-centric manga-like medium. Doujinshi can be about any thing, place, person, interest, or hobby. Doujinshi is similar in nature to small press zines, fanfic, mini-comics, and manga among other things, but it's really its own thing.
Ecchi エッチ The phonetic pronunciation of“H,” the first letter in “hentai.” Slang for “sex."
Gaijin 外人 Foreigner. If you are reading this, it probably means you.
Hentai 変態 Usually means "freak" or“pervert”
Kamera man カメラマン Camera man. Pretty easy, right?
Manga 漫画 Typically, this translates to "Comics," though there are subtle differences in the medium that distinguish it from it's Western relatives.
Manga-ka 漫画家 An author of manga.
Monomane ものまね Imitation of a person's dress, style, actions, manner of speech
Otaku おたく Basically, an absolutely devoted (maybe overly infatuated) fan. Can sometimes be read: “geek”, “nerd”, “freak”, “-phile”, or “enthusiast” to name a few. Car otaku, game otaku, anime otaku, etc.
Sukebe スケベ Pervert
Sukebu スケブ Sketchbook. Looks a lot like "sukebe," so it can be easy to confuse. This term usually refers to a sketchbook brought along by attendees so that artists can draw sketches for them. Sometimes you will see a sign on a booth that says something to the effect of "sukebu OK."
Tokyo Big Site 東京ビッグサイト The large convention center near Odaiba, Tokyo (お台場、東京) where CM is currently held

Appendix 2: Genre Name Listing

These are the main genres and sub-genres of Doujinshi sold at CM. Though by no means a complete list, it should serve as a clear and accurate guide to the table of contents in the CM catalog. The available and popular genres are constantly in flux. As new genres are born and genres wane in popularity, so does their listing in the catalog. The contents of this list are a combination of my own experience with portions I largely translated from the Komike Baiburu 2003 (コミケバイブル2003) written by Koitabashi Eiita (小板橋英一) and Minato Tatsumi (みなと辰巳).

Appendix 3: What to bring / not bring

This is a brief guide to what I recommend you bring and don't bring to CM. This is what worked for me, although your mileage may vary.


Don't Bring:

Appendix 4: Related Links

Final Things

Contributing to this FAQ (errors, omissions, complaints, comments):

Did I forget something? Did I screw something up? I wrote the first version of this on a lazy Thursday afternoon, so all answers point to a really big “probably.” Let me know about it so I can make the FAQ better for everyone!

Quesitons that *I* need answered. Can you help?

Does Pelican-bin, the parcel company at CM ship overseas (directly from CM)?


A word about email: think before you send it. Read the FAQ before you send it. Write a subject line. I don't always mail you back, but chances are if I add something to or fix the FAQ, I'll mail you back and credit you at the very least. If I don't mail you back, it doesn't mean I hate you or don't love you. Cool?

The following people deserve thanks and recognition:

The Comic Market Preparatory Committee, All participants or CM, past, present, and future, Police, CM Staff, Volunteers, Cabbies, Station Staff, Convention Staff, and everyone else who makes CM run smoothly without mishap or injury. Anyone who cosplays as Haruko of FLCL! (^^) Everyone who has assisted me in writing this FAQ. Dan Kanemitsu, fellow U of M graduate and writer of “The Storm Front Journal - Doujinshi, the Alternative Publishing Medium of Japan” - a very well done and complete doujinshi about doujinshi. Roger Mier - without whose persistant bantering I might never have become the comic/doujinshi junkie that I am today. Thanks a lot you bastard. ;P

Version History:

Version 1.6

Version 1.5

Version 1.2

Version 1.0

To Do's:

Copyright Information:

I want the information in this FAQ to be useful for people who want to attend Comic Market. I certainly am not saying a lot of things in this FAQ that are new or that aren't public knowledge. I have also tried to credit people where credit is due for their contributions. I have put a lot of time and energy into this FAQ and I would appreciate some credit for it. So if you want to mirror this FAQ or use it elsewhere in part or in whole, please contact me and we'll talk more. Thanks.