On a weekday morning, the busy streets of Seattle are usually filled with men in dapper business suits and sharp-looking women with pencil skirts scurrying to meetings and desk jobs. However, early on this particular Friday the streets were splashed with colors of yellow, blue, and orange as the convention goers rushed to the Washington State Convention Center to attend Sakura Con, where they would assimilate with other similarly costumed eccentric individuals.
Sakura Con is a three day annual anime convention that Seattle has been hosting since 1998 but this had been the first time I had heard of it. Yes, I live under a rock. I had never before been to any sort of convention so last weekend was my first time being a part of something completely foreign and somewhat overwhelming. My friend Rachel and I had planned to attend this convention months in advance. The most challenging aspect of attending a convention is obviously deciding on what costume to wear. First, we decided to be anime characters from the anime shows “Final Fantasy” and “Saint Seiya.” Then we discovered that movie characters were also allowed Rachel then decided to be Khaleesi from “Game of Thrones” and I wanted to be Arwen from “Lord of the Rings.” But then we realized these costumes would take quite some time to assemble so we finally settled on going as lolitas. Lolita is a fashion subculture in Japan that is very similar to Harajuku style but is more inspired by Victorian-era clothing such as darling dresses and corsets.
Our arrival at the convention center was a mix of anticipation and excitement. As soon as we retrieved our attendee badges we were ready to intermingle with the crowds of anime-lovers for the next two days. The convention featured a wide array of activities and events such as industry guests, various discussion panels (usually featuring anime voice actors), and anime screenings. Some of the celebrity guests this year were American voice actors Vic Micnogna and Bryce Papenbrook, Japanese singers Eir Aoi and Luna Haruna, and Japanese voice actress Ayumi Fujimura. We managed to snag an autograph and photo with Vic Micnogna but it definitely wasn’t easy. We waited for two hours in line but apparently that was an easy task compared to another fan who waited for five hours just for an autograph and photo with this guy. There are definitely some devoted anime fans out there. The convention also featured an exposition held in a massive hall filled with various vendors selling unique knick knacks and an assortment of goods, including some that were handmade and/or imported from Japan. I overheard some attendees confessing they only came to the convention to shop at the exposition for unique finds. I don’t blame them, these items are usually not found in the U.S. and are rare finds that are worth buying.
Overall our experience at Sakura Con was extremely memorable and unique. Rachel is quite the anime expert and was able to identify many of the characters that the attendees were disguised as but I was content with soaking in the experience and watching everyone mingle with each other and take photos. I was introduced to such a unique community of people that share tremendous passion for anime and I felt very privileged to be a part of it all. Many attendees would recognize anime characters that others were dressed as and without refrain walk or most often run over to hug them or show a sign of recognition. Their eyes would light up as they discussed their favorite anime show or why a certain anime character should not have died. The air was electric with excitement. I certainly could not hold my composure as I recognized the character of Van Pelt (mustached guy with rifle) in “Jumanji” then requested a photo with him. Although, there was a lot of walking and waiting in lines for certain events the best part of this experience was being able to witness a gathering of over 20,000 fans all sharing the excitement and passion for anime.