Cosplay Japan

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Cosplay is Japanese word made from combining ‘costume’ and ‘play’. This shortening and combining of English words is very common in Japan. Japan is a very visual culture where people of all ages take appearance and dress very seriously.

Cosplay is very influenced by anime (animation) and comics known as manga. Many cosplay outfits are modelled on specific anime characters. In fact, the idea behind cosplay is to become that character, and much time effort and expense is put into getting the appearance just right.

The easiest place to see cosplay is near Harajuku Station and along the famous Takeshita Dori, a street that caters to youth fashion, though not exclusively to cosplay. There are also punk, gothic, maid image, Lolita and many types of ‘cute’ outfits on sale in shops in this street.

Cosplay is now popular in many countries, as Japans youth culture has a huge international influence.

Though modern cosplay is strongly influenced by manga, Japan has long history and dressing and parading in public. In the Edo Era (1603–1868) the high-class courtesans and entertainers of the Yoshiwara red-light district used to dress as characters from kabuki plays or from popular tales, and parade through the streets every August.

The World Cosplay Summit is held in the first week in August in Nagoya, a city somewhat closer to Kyoto than Tokyo. It is taken so seriously these days that three different government ministries support this event, an indication of the amount of interest in from abroad in Japan’s youth culture. The week-long event includes a parade through the streets of Nagoya in full costume, despite that being the most humid time of the year.

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All photos and text copyright © Tony Smyth