For starters, Sunshine City was packed with small children. They were having some kind of special Ultraman thing for the summer, as well as a Meitantei Conan mystery in Namja Town, and there was a little kiddie train that trundled around the hallways of the mall. Trying to eat in the mall restaurants was an exercise in either getting there Very Early or waiting in long lines (or going to the Mexican restaurant, but more on that later). We mostly bought convenience store food and took it to our hotel room instead.
We woke up at a reasonable hour on August 11th and left the hotel in time to reach Tokyo Big Sight at around 10am for Comiket. For those unfamiliar with the event, Comic Market (aka Comiket) is held twice a year. It is an event for people to sell self-published comics, short stories, and novels. Many of the items offered for sale are fan works--that is, a fan of a particular manga series or TV show will write (or draw) those characters and sell the results to other fans. Some of the items are amateur original fiction and non-fiction. Some are self-published works by professional authors writing/drawing side stories from their own professionally published series...or their fan stories set in others' universes. The location is Tokyo Big Sight (yes, that is sight and not site), a HUGE event center on an island in Tokyo Bay called Odaiba. The large halls at Big Sight are filled with rows and rows of dealer tables.
To give you some idea of the size...HALF of the East Hall has 2187 tables...and each table is generally split between two dealers. That's over 8500 dealers. There is also a West Hall, which is slightly smaller. And that's just for one day. The event continues over the course of three days, with different dealers each day (organized by topic of the items for sale).
But the dealers are only the start. What really makes Comiket mind-boggling is the number of people attending to make purchases. One of the Comiket catalogs said that half a million people attend. That makes a good-sized crowd, to say the least. They start lining up hours before the official opening time at 10. When we arrived, we were led in a long procession around the block to the parking lot outside East Hall, where we waited...and waited... It was about 10:45 by the time we got through the doors. That's how long it took just for everyone in line to walk inside. Once inside, we roamed up and down the rows of tables looking for the series we prefer. We managed to meet up with gnine and her sister pretty early on, though it is tricky to find someone without a pre-arranged meeting place. I also made contact with Kurogane, associated with the World of Warcraft guild I'm in, though that was extremely difficult because cell phones could barely connect.
We finished up our shopping around 2pm. It may not seem like much time, but the heat and the crowds can really get to you after a couple hours. Then you are subjected to the hordes of people packed into the train on the way back.
On August 12th, we planned to get there earlier, because we had a lot more tables to visit. Either more people had the same idea, or more people attended, but we didn't actually get into the site any earlier than before. Although megory was a good sport and followed me around the previous day, this time she claimed a spot on a bench early and spent the day with a book instead. When we finished shopping, we met up with some friends again. Just as we were about to head out the door, however, the site was pummeled with a sudden thunderstorm. We hung out by the exit, talking, until the rain started to let up. Our friends came with us back to Ikebukuro for some late afternoon shopping.
We decided to set out even earlier on the 13th, because that was the day that many professional authors would be selling their works, and we knew the lines would be extra long. When we arrived at Ikebukuro Station, though, we discovered that megory had somehow lost her Rail Pass. We checked with the JR lost and found office, but they didn't have it. She went back to spend the day in our hotel room, hoping that perhaps she had misplaced it there, but it never turned up. wednesday_10_00 and I continued on to Big Sight. The heat was even worse than the previous two days, and the line much longer. We had a list of the tables that we planned to visit. To make a more efficient use of our time, we divided up the list so that each of us would only have to wait in half as many lines. This strategy proved to be a great success, and we finished by noon. We were QUITE ready to be out of there.
That night we met up again with Kurogane and some of his friends and went out to eat at a vegetarian Taiwanese restaurant. The meal was supposed to have consisted of six courses plus dessert, but the proprietor kindly added a seventh course for free. I gave up after the sixth course, personally, and even at that I had stuffed myself sick. It was all delicious, but it was just so much food.
We somehow managed to get back to our hotel to collapse into bed before our final challenge: DisneySea.
~ To Be Continued ~