What’s it like to cosplay in Japan?

As of now, cosplaying is a worldwide phenomenon. But I argue that cosplay culture is heavily influenced with Japanese culture. Cosplay became heavily popular in Japan back then, and has continued to be influential in that country. So you can bet that there are many cosplayers in Japan!

But if you’re not from Japan, maybe you’re wondering how the cosplay scene in the Land of the Rising Sun? If so, then you’re in the right place!

In this post, I’ll go over what it’s like to cosplay in Japan. Whether you’re curious to see how things are different, or if you’re planning on cosplaying there in the future, I’ll have the essential things you need to know. In other words, don’t expect cosplay to be the same as it is in your country.

Without further ado, let’s get started!

I’ve cosplayed in many different countries, and I can tell you that there are some notable differences between each place. For example, in some places it’s socially acceptable to be wearing more revealing cosplays. Other places, not so much. But when it comes to Japan, things ARE really different! Let’s see how…

1. Cosplaying in public.

I’ve talked about in the past about cosplaying in public and how I don’t generally recommend doing so. In that situation, it’s your choice. In Japan, it’s really not socially acceptable to do so (it would draw too much attention). For some conventions, it’s their official policy. For example the cosplay rules for Comiket say that you have to be wearing regular clothing when attending and leaving the convention; you must get changed into cosplay in the designated dressing rooms onsite.

So while in Western countries, you may be used to attending a convention while in cosplay. But you definitely cannot do this at a Japanese convention.  From what I know, Japan is not the only country that does this. In my interview with Pikachan Cosplay, she explains that in Egypt, it’s better to only be in cosplay while at the convention.

That’s okay though; there are plenty of places to change into cosplay at a Japanese convention!

2. You have to PAY to cosplay at a convention.

For us Westerners, this is a strange concept. But yes, if you decide to cosplay at a convention in Japan, you have to pay an extra fee to do so. That’s right; when you enter the convention building, you’ll have to pay a “cosplay” fee on top of your regular badge/admission fee.

I definitely find that odd because cosplayers are a huge part of the convention scene; without them, Anime and comic cons would not be the same. I suppose in Japan, they’re not supposed to be the main attraction of the event. Cosplaying is a privilege there it seems. The cosplay fee isn’t so much though; for one convention it was 1000 Yen, which is about $7 USD.

3. What can you cosplay is restricted.

The nice thing about cosplaying is that you can dress up as so many different characters. While in Japan you still have plenty of options, there are a few restrictions on which you can cosplay as. For example, revealing cosplays are not allowed in Japan. So those hot cosplays that you may want to do…you cannot do in Japan. Another restriction is you cannot cosplay as an essential service worker (e.g. firefighter, police officer). They don’t want you being mixed up with a real worker.

After my experiences cosplaying outside of North America, it really makes me appreciate what we have here back home. We are offered a lot more options in terms of cosplaying, we have lots of liberty to take cosplay photos and we generally have more things to do. But being able to stay overnight for an entire weekend at a convention is one thing I truly enjoy in North America.

But with that said, I always appreciate the cosplay scene in each different country. They provide a unique and difference experience that I truly enjoy!

4. The rules regarding cosplay photography are different.

I’d say here in North America, we take for granted the options we have in terms of cosplay photography. Not only can we ask for a photo of a cosplayer almost anywhere (click here to read more about cosplay rules, we also can do cosplay photoshoots in a bunch of places. However, this is not the case at a Japanese convention. You are only allowed to take photos of a cosplayer in a specifically designated area in the convention building, and you must ask the cosplayer(s) each time. So if you’re used to taking cosplay photos outdoors or in the hallway, just know that you cannot do this in Japan.

5. Cosplay is still loved and appreciated, like elsewhere in the world!

A cosplay store I went to in Tokyo, Japan. Not only did they sell costumes, they also sold cosplay wigs. Don’t get it wrong; Japan takes their cosplay seriously!

After reading the first four points, you might be thinking that cosplay may not be the most appreciated in Japan. But that’s not the case at all! Japan is a place that loves cosplaying. Maybe not everyone enjoys it, but tons of people do. When I was in Japan, I saw many legitimate cosplay stores selling high-quality costumes. Therefore, cosplay is definitely a big thing in Japan. The rules are different and may be stricter than in North America, but there is a lot of love for cosplay in Japan.

Summary

To summarize, here are the 5 things you should know when it comes to cosplaying in Japan:

  1. You CANNOT cosplay in public.
  2. You have to PAY to cosplay at a convention.
  3. What can you cosplay is restricted.
  4. The rules regarding cosplay photography are different.
  5. Cosplay is still loved and appreciated, like elsewhere in the world!

And there you have it; all the essential things you need to know when cosplaying in Japan. I hope you found this post informative!

If you have any questions or thoughts, leave them in the comments below!