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FanimeCon 2014 June 1, 2014

Posted by coolmikeol in Events, Otaku.
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Another FanimeCon, also known as Fanime has come and passed, and of course there’s a lot to say about it. If you don’t know what it is, it’s an annual anime convention that is held at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center every Memorial Day weekend (late May). I’ve been going for the last few years now and this was my first time going with a group of friends of mine, so my experience was different than the other years.Anyways, I’m going to split my story by the five days of the convention, to keep things structured and simple.

You can find all of my photos from the convention at my Flickr Set FanimeCon 2014.

You can also find my photo post of FanimeCon 2014 at figure.fm.

Day 0

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This was my first time going to Day 0 of Fanime. Normally I just come morning of Day 1 to pickup my badge for the convention, but from my experience with last year’s LineCon, I felt that I didn’t want to waste my time on Day 1 waiting for it again. To help my group even further, we even registered as a group so that I could pick up all of the badges in one visit. My friend and I left for San Jose at around 1PM and got there about an hour later. Registration was scheduled to start at about 3PM so coming early and preparing to be in line for hours was what I was expecting, based on some pictures I saw on Facebook of the line in the morning. However, making our way to the pre-reg badge pick up, we found that there was virtually no line at all, and that registration had started early. It only took the 5 minutes to walk through the yellow tape to the booths to get our badges. I found myself extremely impressed, as did many others who were prepared to throw away their afternoons to LineCon. (Last year I waited for more than two hours, while others I knew waited for more than 6 hours.) People even had signs for LineCon that they ended up never using. I found it funny when overhearing some people who didn’t know what to do with all their spare time now that they didn’t have to use it to get their badge.

I left San Jose after touring around and saying hi to people I knew at around 3PM. It was good that I got home when I did because I still had a final paper due that night at midnight, and another supposed final early morning the next day, so I couldn’t really focus on Fanime until I got my finals out of hair.

Day 1

Woke up early Friday morning to find out that my final that was scheduled for 8AM was postponed. It was a big sigh of relief as I was now able to focus on preparing and packing for the trip. Since I picked up my badges already, and nothing really important was going on at the con until 2PM, and also hotel check in time was at 3PM at the Fairmont, there was no real need to rush it there. I took my time making sure that I got packed everything that I needed for the con. I was also planning to do some recordings of Let’s Plays there as well so I had to pack my Wii U and recording equipment. By 11:30AM I was ready to go, picked up my two other friends (my third friend was still working so couldn’t make it for the first day) and we were off. We got to Fanime by around 1:30PM, ate a bit of lunch at a local diner before making our way to Stage Zero where opening ceremonies was taking place. At Fanime the Opening Ceremonies isn’t too much of a big deal, especially if there aren’t any notable guests of honor, so we didn’t stick around too long. We toured around the Dealer’s Hall, Artist’s Alley, Gaming area, and main hall. I was taking some pictures, but didn’t take too much as I was showing my friends around the area. When it was time we headed for the hotel to check in. We got a room on the 16th floor, which looked similarly like the room I had last year. Yeah I know that the rooms always look the same, but the view I had from the room was very similar to my room I had last year. I still need to look back at last year’s photos to determine whether or not that was the case. After settling in the room, we went out to look for a place for dinner which was a adventure in itself. We pretty much walked all over downtown San Jose, one person looking at Yelp while I was using my phone as a GPS, searching for a Japanese place to eat. When we finally found it, it was full and so was another that we passed by on our way to our backup place, Safeway. While one of my friends got some food at Safeway, my other friend and I got some Chinese food at a place literally right behind our hotel. We brought our food up to our room, had dinner, and rested for the next day, which would be a busy day for me for various reasons.

Day 2

Woke up at around 6AM, without an alarm, as I seem to automatically wake up at that time due to me being used to getting up for school and work. Another reason I had to wake up at that time was that I needed to bring one of my friends back to SF for his graduation from college. My other friend tagged along because he didn’t want to be alone in SJ. Besides dropping off my friend, I needed to pick up my other friend who I mentioned was working on Friday. Before we got into the city, we had breakfast at IHOP, that was good. Dropping off, picking up, and driving back to SJ, we finally got back at around noontime. Later in the afternoon I was going to have to return back to SF to pickup my friend again, so I took advantage of the time to take photos around the area as I usually do. At around 4PM I left alone back to SF to pickup my friend. My cell phone was low on power, so I put it on airplane mode for the drive back as I wasn’t going to use it anyways while driving. Once I got back to the city, I called my friend who was not home yet, so I decided to get some food at a local Ono Hawaiian Barbecue. After ordering some Spam Musubi, I turned to find my graduate friend among other people I knew from high school. It was complete coincidence that I ran into him there as I didn’t know where he was in the city. We all talked for a bit before stopping by his place to drop off a couple of things before going back to SJ. Because we weren’t going to make it back in time to go to the Dealer’s Hall, we asked one of our friends who was already there to grab some random grab bags with a budget of $80, as prizes for some Let’s Plays that was planned for the night. When we got back to the hotel room, four grab bags were ready to go. We ate dinner at one of the Japanese places we passed by the day before, then headed back up for the night to the room for some LPing. One of my friends drank a bit so he was slightly tipsy during the recordings, but it was fine none the less. We played some Wii Party and Fortune Street, which you can find videos of on my coolmikeol YouTube Channel.

Day 3

Day 3 was more relaxing than the others because I didn’t have to worry about driving around and using up time where I could be taking photos. I was already behind on my self quota of photos to take of the convention, so I took advantage of the day to do as much as I could. After having a big breakfast burrito at Peggie Sue’s, I got back to the convention by around 10:30AM, toured the Dealer’s Hall with the friends a bit before splitting off to do my photography. At 3PM was the Kill La Kill cosplay gathering which at first I had a bit of trouble finding before looking down near the new expansion area. I was able to get in front so I was able to take decent photos, but since there was so many people I couldn’t really get the wide shots, so I shot the big groups in series instead which you can find in the Flickr Set. Afterwards I went back to roaming the con, taking photos along the way before returning to the hotel for the usual dinner/LPs before going to sleep at around 1AM.

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Day 4

Day 4 was a chill day, as it was the last day of the convention and being in San Jose. Check out time for our hotel was 12PM, so we took our time packing our stuff in the morning and went out for some donuts at Psycho Donuts for breakfast. We left the hotel at around 11:30AM and got to the convention center at about noontime to do some last minute shopping at the Dealer’s Hall and photo taking before leaving the convention center at about 2:30PM. My friend wanted to check out the Great Mall in nearby Milpitas so we went. We went to Daiso and Dave & Busters a bit before shortly leaving for Hayward to have a late lunch at Sonics before heading back home via the San Mateo Bridge for San Francisco. We all got home safely by 6PM.

Overview

Overall FanimeCon this year was good, though there were some pros and cons as there is with every anime convention, being within it and out of it. The major improvement from last year’s con was the badge pick up lines. I like the fact that they made it a priority to fix the issues that made 2013’s LineCon a disaster. Hopefully Fanime will be able to keep lines moving in their years to come. Another improvement I saw was that there was more space available for people to move about. This is directed more so to the expansion of the convention center itself and not specifically to Fanime. I like the area in the new expansion that allows for main cosplay gatherings in the main area that doesn’t actually block foot traffic on the street floor. On the second floor of the expansion, there is an area on the side of the ballroom that had plenty of space for people to sit on the side and have a view of the front of the convention center. It’s good to have an area that people can just take a load off their feet for a bit without having to go out of their way to do so, which I did often by going to the anime viewing rooms to rest.

An occurring issue that doesn’t bother me too much is the lack of notable guests of honor. Because I don’t go to any panels or main events anymore like the Masquerade or Music concerts, sometimes Fanime feels a bit empty of things to really see and do, rather than just take photos. I remember my first Fanime where we had the music artist FLOW as a guest of honor. Their concert was amazing, performing songs such as their ones from the anime Code Geass and more. A couple years ago we had Mai Aizawa come as a guest of honor. She’s a Japanese voice actor/singer who has voiced such characters from animes like Mirai Nikki, Nichijou, Negima, Clannad, and Lucky Star. Last year and this year has had pretty much no one I’m interested in, which is why it seems that Fanime is overlooked when it comes to other similar anime conventions.

I’ll be definitely going again next year, unless something comes up. I’m hoping Fanime will build upon what they have improved on already and improve further. Next year I’ll be graduating from college so I don’t know how it will affect my schedule for Fanime as it kind of did when having to go back and forth to pick up people from SF and back a few times. I know I also said last year that I was going to try and become press status, but since I’ve been so busy over the past year focusing on school, I ended up putting it on hold for that priority. Because I’m nearly done with school and now I’ll have more time available to working on Coolmikeol related things, I think I’ll be able to work towards a more professional status at conventions. Hopefully my photos that I have been taking alone will allow me show that I am fit to be press status, but working on my blog site as well will help with that too.

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Anime Expo 2013 July 10, 2013

Posted by coolmikeol in Anime, Events, Otaku.
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This year’s Anime Expo experience was a mixed bag because of a lot of things, things that well… should of gone a lot better. This post will allow me to vent a bit of how I felt during the event. If I do sound mad or annoyed at any particular person (which I won’t name obviously but they may notice anyways), I just want to be honest about it, please don’t take it too seriously.

Day 0

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I woke up at around 6:00 AM after getting about five or so hours of sleep. I was pretty much preparing stuff to pack in the morning before I went to sleep. I double checked my checklist that I wrote up since I was bringing so much stuff before having a quick bacon and eggs breakfast before leaving to go pick up the four others (friends and acquaintances) a little after 7:30 AM to bring them back to my place before ultimately leaving for LA. I arrived with everyone back at my house at about 9 AM and it took an hour to pack the car with my stuff. Between everyone who had stuff to bring, I had the most: My clothes luggage, bringing an additional luggage for Wii U (friends wanted me to bring it), cosplay, cosplay fixing materials, sleeping bag and pillow, and a whole bunch of snacks and waters complete with a big cooler. I rented a 7 seater minivan, but even with just 5 of us, we were much more cramped than I thought we would be. We left at 10 AM and made our way to our first stop at Gilroy which was brief. We made a second stop at Kettleman City, an exit on the 5 Interstate that I always go to on these kind of trips. I was planning to get gas here, but it was expensive. I decided that we’ll try for gas at the Grapevine exit, right before the mountains leading up to Los Angeles, hoping it was less expensive. We ended up going to the exit right before Grapevine because I was unsure for a second about where the exit was. The gas there was a bit cheaper, so we filled up there before going up to LA. We got into the LA area at around 4PM , but we got lost because of the GPS. Apparently when I input the address of the Los Angeles Convention Center, I put “Figueroa St” instead of “S Figueroa St”. I did not know that there was another Figueroa St. that was located near the coast. Luckily we figured it out before we actually got to the wrong destination, but it took more than an hour out of our way to get back to the downtown LA area, as we took side streets that were extremely slow to navigate. At this point I was getting really irritated due to the fact that one of my acquaintances who was older kept bugging me about the time and stuff. We finally got to the hotel at about 6PM or so, checked in, brought some of our stuff into the room, and got to the convention center at about 7PM where we proceeded to wait in line for our badges for about an hour and fifthteen minutes. The line for pre-reg badge was not bad, it was long but there was barely a time longer than a minute where I wasn’t moving. At Fanime 2013, I waited more than double the time here so I wasn’t complaining. By that time we got our badge, it was around 8:20 PM, so we just explored the convention center. Since it was my friends first time to AX or any anime convention for that matter it was a good way for them to get familiar with the area. (My older acquaintance has been to AX many times so he went his own way for a while.) While we were wandering around, I got a call from a friend I met at AX last year. I made arrangements for him to stay in our room for Day 0 night only so he was calling to let me know he was at the hotel. (We were staying at the Westin Bonaventure.) We returned to the hotel at about 10:30 PM where we welcomed my friend who was staying for the Day 0 night. We were too lazy to go out for dinner so we ordered room service, mainly burgers and fries and stuff. Not too expensive…. well actually it was. Whatever. Anyways it was nice chatting with my friend who was staying with us. He had a busy schedule for AX as he was one of the staffers for Danny Choo, who I am a big fan and follower of. He had to leave early the next morning so we went to sleep before 2AM for the first day of AX.

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Day 1

I got up when my DC staff friend woke up. He left when he needed to so I saw him off. Took a quick shower and got ready to get to the convention center for opening ceremonies which were to start at 10AM.  I came to AX Day 1 dressed as Seiun Eiji’s Summer uniform. There was some conflicting information about when it was to start though. The Anime Expo programs said it was to start at noon or something, while the AX program on their website said it started at 10AM. To my knowledge at the time, I knew that the online ones would be more accurate than the printed ones, but I checked with the info booth who confirmed the time for me. We all headed to the Main Events hall which was now located in the West Hall area for the opening ceremonies, which was delayed by about 3o minutes. Most events at anime conventions I’ve been to don’t really start on time. Throughout the entire opening ceremonies, it was obvious that the hosts did not rehearse (as they even kept mentioning that they did not rehearse throughout the ceremony.) All the guests of honor was announced, but I already knew that this year’s GOHs were not as fantastic as previous years. It seems that the west coast cons are lacking in good GOHs and I don’t know exactly why. The only notable GOH I wanted to see was Danny Choo as usual, but there was no real good music guests or seiyuus. I was still satisfied though because it gave me more time to focus on Cosplay Photography which is always my main concern at a con scene.

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After the opening ceremony, we got back to the Main Hall area (South Tower Lobby) where as expected, hundreds if not thousands of people were eagerly waiting for the Exhibit Halls to open. Normally I would wait for a couple to a few hours to enter the Exhibit Halls to let the surge of people dissipate a bit, but I ended up getting swept in after going around and taking photos of the crowds. I met up with my friends who were also in the Exhibit Halls and we proceeded to explore what we could in the crowded aisles. After a while we exited the Exhibit Halls where me and my friends split so that they could go around on their own and also so I could work on taking photos.

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I ended up leaving earlier than I would because I wanted to return to my hotel to finish working on my Seiun Eiji Solar Marine cosplay before tomorrow’s Danny Choo panel. I tried to finish it when I was back home, but I ran out of time so I had to work on making the shoulder armor parts throughout the night. It came out well enough at least. I decided to put on the finishing touches when I wake up the next morning.

Day 2

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I woke up super early, about 6 AM to start getting ready, cosplay too. The Danny Choo panel was starting at 9AM so I planned to be at the convention center at around 8:30 AM or earlier. When I got there, a line had already formed which irked me a bit. We entered the panel room pretty much on time and I was able to get a seat in a decent location on the right side. I set up my video camera as usual to record his panel, but it wasn’t the same as it was in previous years. Normally he would go through his talk about  how he got to where he is now from his humble beginnings back in the UK, but this time it was short. I could tell that time was quite limited for him even though he had three hours of panel time. After that he did some Q&A session, and then he did signing sessions which pretty much ended the panel. It wasn’t like previous years where he did like Rock-Paper-Scissors, giveaways, or the big group photo at the end. It just started and ended in low key. I kept my optimism as high as I could back then, but right now writing this from home remembering back, it just really didn’t do it for me. I kind of felt that Danny is more so at AX for promoting his Culture Japan than ever. Of course that’s not a bad thing and I do like seeing more exposure for it, it’s just that it felt that he was more here for business than for his readers and followers. I know that’s what a lot of people admire about him, his ability to connect with his readers personally and on a larger scale, because he was just like one of us, regular avid anime fans. I know he also has limited time too, and that the stuff I mentioned that he didn’t do this year in his panel that he normally does in previous years he might of phased out because it became old. I don’t know… I have mixed feeling about what I was expecting from the panel, it just wasn’t as great as I remember it would be.

After the panel which I felt early (about 11:30 AM), I got word that a fellow Mirai Millennium cosplayer was at the Mirai Mart booth, so I headed in that direction. After a quick hi to her at the booth, trip to my car to drop off a bunch of stuff, I headed back  to the booth again with just my cosplay and camera. We had a quick photoshoot before promptly returning to the Mirai Mart booth for Danny’s return.  I stayed there for a good few hours cosplaying for the booth with her while she was donning her Mirai Suenaga Solar Retrograde Suit cosplay. Her’s was pretty well made, despite the lack of time she had to make it and it being incomplete. Makes me feel that I should keep working on mine too, since I won’t be cosplaying for a while. That way next time it will look better than ever and it won’t keep breaking apart like it was during Day 2.

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By 2:30 PM, I left the booth and headed back to my car so that I could take off my exhausting cosplay. It was the first time I wore such a thing in a con so it was tiring. Even more so that the weather was warm (of course its LA). I went in to pick up a quick lunch at the convention food court and set out to do some cosplay photography. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was shooting at 3200 ISO which made my photos a bit grainy. I was wondering why I was getting such a high shutter speed but didn’t realize it was because I was using a much higher ISO than I should of been using. I noticed only once I got back to my hotel room. The photos were OK, but I told myself after that to always check my camera settings so that I wouldn’t do something like that again.

Day 3

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Unlike Day 2 where I felt that I was rushing to get to the convention early with cosplay, Day 3 was more chill. I got to the convention center via shuttle this time versus driving all the time and paying for parking at around 11AM. I only events I had planned to go to was the Culture Japan x FAKKU meet up at 5PM followed by a Culture Japan Night at Kinokuniya Bookstore in Little Tokyo at 7PM. In the meanwhile, cosplay photos.

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My friends and I started going back to the hotel at around 4PM, but stopped by the new Target/food area for a late lunch. After that we headed to the hotel where I rested a bit before returning pretty late to the CJ x FAKKu meetup at 5:45PM. It once again was not how it was like last year, it felt like another panel than just mingling like last time. I left shortly after it ended, took a few more cosplay shots, then headed back to the hotel again to prepare to go to Little Tokyo by car for CJN.

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I got to Little Tokyo before 8PM, but I got a bit lost while trying to find Kinokuniya by foot. I ended up running around the wrong block. By the time I made my way to Kinokuniya, there was a line of people waiting to talk and meet Danny. I wanted to wear my Solar Marine cosplay so I went back to my car which was not too far away, put on what I could without the body suit, didn’t bring out the sonic naginata due to me not being in a con scene and not wanting to bring out too much attention on the streets, and headed back to Kinokuiya. The line for Danny, while it wasn’t long, still had a decent wait time because it was here that Danny was taking more time to talk to each person, something that makes him feel more down to Earth than most high profile people. While in line I realized that I didn’t have much to really talk to him about besides my cosplay and stuff. Before that happened though we had a quick group shot with everybody which was cool. When it was my turn to talk to Danny, I kind of jumbled for words as usual. I should be used to meeting with Danny, but it’s just a natural reaction I end up having. He asked a bit about my cosplay and how I made it, I also told him ( as I’ve and many people told him before) that his Culture Japan brand is a wonderful way to spread Japanese culture and that I would always support it. I also brought my Mirai Suenaga Nendoroid that I won in the Mirai Suenaga Nendoroid give away a while back. I told him my quick story about how I thought I wasn’t in to win (because I entered late), then got an e-mail saying I did win, saw pictures of signed business cards of winners which did not have my name on any of them that made me think I did not win and that it was a mistake, then getting an e-mail before AX saying that it was sent complete with a picture of the package, then receiving it before bringing the Nendoroid back for him to autograph. Long story short: I won, I lost, I won, I got autographed. I left just around the time it was ending, about 10PM. I didn’t get a chance to go browsing Kinokuniya because I was in cosplay, I didn’t feel like walking around in there in costume. Got back to the hotel at 10:30PM where we started to pack up for home the next day.

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Day 4

Day 4 was suppose to be a chill day, but my nerves with my friends and acquaintances were starting to get to me. After we checked out of the hotel and had breakfast, we headed to the convention center for the last time, mainly for last minute shopping and cosplay shots.

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While I would have liked to stay until around closing ceremonies, because stuff likes to happen then that I like to photograph and be a part of, me and my group ended up leaving as early as 2:30 PM because apparently they wanted to go home already. Once everyone was in the car, we rushed out to head back to the San Francisco Bay Area. After traffic and stuff we arrived back in San Francisco close to midnight, right around when I estimated we’d be back. I dropped off everyone at their own homes and I got home at 12:30 PM where I just ate a bit before going to sleep.

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Overview

Throughout the trip, I kept a flexible, optimistic mind about things, but by the end of it I had to face facts: Things just didn’t go as I expected. One of the main reasons why this trip didn’t go so great was the fact that I brought along an older acquaintance who pretty much annoyed the shit out of me. He was like a damm backseat driver the entire time, always reminding me of the time which made me feel that I had to rush when we didn’t need to. I ended up speeding almost the entire trip because of it, putting my other friends in danger when my nerves were on the brink of breaking. Just thinking of it now just makes me want to regret letting him come. Luckily the person I’m referring to here doesn’t have regular access to the internet, nor does he know about this website, so I think I’m safe from him figuring out that I was annoyed with him the entire trip. I was nice to everyone on the trip, but I could only maintain that persona for so long. Once I dropped him off on the late night of Day 4, I sincerely apologized to my other three close friends who came on this trip. It was their first time really going on a trip of this scale and I felt that I made it a pretty bad experience. During a convention, I always see them sort of like a business venture. It’s a place where I can network and do work (photography). Since I’m on the move all the time, it’s hard to keep watch over my tail (my friends) who at times would become bored or tired of the convention and would end up splitting up, going back to the hotel room early, etc. I’d feel bad for them, but at the same time I warned them that this would be the case as this is what I do at conventions. After driving back two of my friends, the last one who I was to drop off had it rough during the trip because he rarely gets out much and the trip itself was like a total culture shock to him. He also got a bit of motion sickness because of my rough driving going back home. As I drove gently back to drop him off at his place, I cried a little. I felt so bad that I brought them along, for their own sake. I felt that when the idea of them coming along came up, it was half-heartily thought of. I felt I convinced them to come just because I thought  things would be good. I was wrong. I learned that for theses trips, it’s best for me to go alone. I don’t want others to be affected by my faults or unexpected events. Anyways, photographers are almost always solo right?

The convention itself was not as great as the previous couple of years I’ve been going to it. For starters, as mentioned, the GOH list was not impressive. It seems to be the case for the Fanime as well. Danny Choo seemed busier than ever which made his my encounters with him not as fun as it was last year. The cosplay at AX at least was pretty good, so at least we had that.

In terms of how much money I spent for this trip, I can tell you I spent much more than I estimated. What really was off the charts was how much I spent on parking. I estimated $60, I think I spent almost $200 on it alone. I wasn’t keeping track of food costs or how much I spent on loot because those were for necessity and enjoyment. The hotel and car rental was the majority of the costs of my trip, but those were partially recuperated by the split playing from the friends and acquaintance.

Conclusion

While it was a pretty crappy trip, I did learn somethings which is always a plus from a failure. Don’t bring people along who are bugging you about every little thing and others who you have to keep watch over all the time. Babysitting is not my thing during a trip like this, or any trip for that matter. Also, watch the amount of things I bring on a trip, because a car can fill up very fast. Try and scout the area a bit more from home so you know where cheaper parking is. Stuff like that.

As for Anime Expo, this year was my worst experience with it out of the three times I have gone. Would I return to Anime Expo again? Probably, because there are still friends I meet at conventions, and cosplays to take photos of. The guest of honor list really needs to improve next year with some notable Japanese voice actresses or something like that. I know I need to expand my list of conventions to go to, as I really only go to AOD, Fanime, and Anime Expo every year. If I had my own car, I’d go to more cons around the Bay Area like Daicon or Anime Destiny. I’d also like to go to ALA, Sakuracon, and PAX Prime as well.

The next couple of events I’ll be attending will be the J-Pop Summit Festival in San Francisco’s Japantown on July 27 and 28, and Japan Expo which is at the end of August.

2012 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival April 30, 2012

Posted by coolmikeol in Events, Japan, Otaku.
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San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival 2012

I attended the 2012 San Francisco Cherry Blossom which was held in San Francisco’s Japantown April 14,15, 21, with the grand parade taking place on the 22. All photos taken can be found at my Flickr set: 2012 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival

This year’s Cherry Blossom Festival was a mixed bag for me. I only went to the second weekend of the festival which was the weekend of the parade. Usually I would go as much as I would, like going to the first weekend of the festival, but one major thing really held me back and made me feel uneasy. What I’m talking about is school, specifically Journalism assignments that were to be done about Japantown. As a beginning photojournalist, its hard to deal with behind the scenes people, especially if you don’t have connections, experience, and time. For my photojournalism class final project, I was planning to takes photos of a behind-the-scenes kind of thing for the festival, sort of like set up of the festival in the form of office meetings and stuff like that. Unfortunately as I only started the project in early April, when e-mailing the Festival organizers, they responded with a disheartening message telling me that it was too late to get any photos of the planning and meetings and that it would be “misleading”. I know that time wise I wasn’t in the best position to argue any more after that, but even then the earliest I could of asked was mid-March due to the assignment being made then, and I might of gotten the same response. I know it’s partially my fault for not working on it a bit earlier, but if I at least got a few photos of the final plans being made in a final meeting before the festival started, then to me that would of been the money shot. Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to get a hold of those photos made me feel a bit unwilling to go to the place that I felt a bit shunned from, even though its Japantown, one of my favorite places of the city. Because of this and the fact that I was busy with a few other things the first weekend of the festival, I didn’t go then. End of that story.

San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival 2012

My all time favorite combo to have for lunch at Japantown, Spam Musubi and Guava Hawaiian Sun.

I went the the festival on the second weekend, on Saturday the 21 and Sunday the 22. On Saturday, I got to Japantown at about past 11am or so. My goal for today was to take some photos of behind-the-scenes of some performances at the JCCNC (Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California) building in the North section of Japantown, with some overall shots of the festival as well at Japantown due to that I was going to be at City Hall for a while the next day for preparations for the parade. The weather was pretty warm for San Francisco that day; it wasn’t helping that I was wearing dark colors with a backpack to carry. When I got to the JCCNC building, there was set up for a Koto performance. I got a few shots there, but for the most part I just rested there because it was cool and nice to hear some traditional Japanese music with some live performance. Afterwards I went out and grabbed something to eat; I always get some spam musubi because it is one of my most favorite things to eat, especially at  a festival, along with a can of Guava Hawaiian Sun. I took more photos around the place still thinking about where to get more behind-the-scene type shots. I was thinking that getting some photos of set up of Taiko woul be good, so I looked up when the next Taiko performance would be. I saw that there was one at 7:30pm back at the JCCNC; it was around 4pm when I decided to pop into the JCCNC to see if I could get them setting up before their performance. I got pretty lucky with this, and an amusing story to tell.

San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival 2012

What happened was that I went into the event area just as the last performance was finishing up before the Taiko Dojo people was to set up and practice three hours before the scheduled Taiko Festival performance. I was able to take some nice photos of their behind-the-scenes set-up of the stage, and see a little bit of what they were going to perform at their performance later tonight. What made this amusing was the fact that this was a closed practice, so one that was closed off to the public. I noticed that they were asking people who was not part of the performance to leave the auditorium after the last performance finished before the Taiko Dojo started to set up. While that was going on I decided to take photos while there was other people around still and also while they were setting up, because I needed behind-the-scenes photos for my Photojournalism class. When it seemed that everyone who was not suppose to be there was out, I noticed that they didn’t ask me to leave. I’m guessing that I looked as if I was part of the back stage people, a photographer for them or something. While thinking I could actually wait for the show to start and get a good seat since I was “first”, I read the Cherry Blossom Festival program to waste some time. Looking over the Taiko Festival performance that I was waiting for in the program, I noticed that the performance I was waiting for was actually a pay to see event. I thought it was free. Right after the read that however, one of the staff finally asked me if I was with someone of the Taiko Dojo people. I told them that I was just a photographer, not with anyone, and that was when I finally left. It was about 6:30pm I think that I was kicked out. While I wasn’t able to trick my way into seeing the Taiko performance, I still got some decent shots of them setting up and practicing their drumming pieces.

Pretty much after that I went home. I knew I needed my energy for tomorrow’s Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Parade starting at San Francisco’s Civic Center.

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San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival 2012

The morning of April 22, I head out to Civic Center to get there at about 11am or so. The parade starts at 1pm; I arrive early to take some setting up shots of the parade getting ready for my Photojournalism photostory project. When I get to Civic Center however, I’m surprised to see a city (within a city) of white tents set up all over Civic Center. At first I was not sure what those tents were for, as previous Cherry Blossom Festivals did not do something like this. Walking though the white forest of tents, I look for any sign of the cosplayers that I focusing on for the parade. I finally spot them in the north west corner of Civic Center and found out that the white tents are for a Earth Day event. I didn’t even know it was Earth Day today; I guess that it just happened to fall on a Sunday this year. Now with both Earth Day celebrations and Cherry Blossom Festival Grand Parade being held in relatively the same areas, it was a more crowded than ever. It wasn’t too bad though, actually it made things a bit more interesting. When  I thought about the previous years going to Civic Center for the pre-parade stuff, it felt a little bit empty but plenty of space for cosplayers for photo ops.

San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival 2012

San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival 2012

San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival 2012

The couple of hours before the start of the parade, I mainly took photos of cosplayers, parade floats getting ready, and performances practicing. I was running around so much, I guess what kept me from getting tired was adrenaline and the feel to do a good job as a photographer and for my PJ assignment. Finally at quarter past 1pm, the Cosplay contest segment of the parade left Civic Center to walk to Japantown along the parade route. This was my second time walking within the parade, and it felt very much similar to what I experienced last year. The only difference was that I had a better camera now and so felt like a true photographer that was walking with us as well. The photos I took from the parade part of the festival, in my opinion, were not as great as last year’s that I took I think. I’m guessing that the photo moments were not as great as last year’s, though I have to admit that the cosplay was better and tighter in quality than last year’s Cosplay Contest. Of course I have to thank Ray Nagar, who is one of the people who leads the Cosplay contest people, for allowing me to follow the Cosplay contest segment of the parade.

San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival 2012

San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival 2012

San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival 2012

After arriving back in Japantown, I grabbed a bite to eat before making my way to the Peace Plaza stage for the Cosplay Contest results. I already knew who won as the winners are decided back at Civic Center, though photos were still needed to be taken. The winners get to ride on a float of their own, pulled by a UPS truck. While waiting for the award ceremony to start, I met up with some other fellow photographers that I know and talked a bit with them before the show went underway.  Besides the Cosplay Contest, there was also a talent show kind of thing, which focuses on cosplayers and their talents, whether that be dancing, singing, etc. There was a couple of good ones and a few bad ones. Overall the whole show was fun and interesting. Afterwards, I chatted with some other friends for a while until leaving for home once the weather got cold again.

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The 2012 San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival was as usual an enjoyable event, though I don’t feel that it was as good as last year’s for a couple of reasons. For one thing, with my Photojournalism assignment that was always looming over my head, I felt a bit pressured to take specific photos that were hard to take. I knew I could do it but the thought of missing an important shot that could make or break my assignment was always on my mind. Never again will I choose to use an event I enjoy to go to for an assignment. I hate how I killed my enthusiasm for the festival I always look forward to every year with this assignment. I’ll need more experience before I can balance work and play together.

Secondly, I noticed that there wasn’t as many people around in this year’s festival as opposed to last year. I’m pretty sure it has to do with how last year’s Cherry Blossom Festival was a month after the Japan Tohouku earthquake, and people were in “helping mode”, donating money and what not to organizations like the Red Cross. There was so much recovery efforts last year that brought in so many people willing to come to support Japan. This year however, people have already reached their limit for “helping.” I’m not saying that people don’t want to help out, but just like with any big natural disaster and the recovery efforts that come after that, it dies down after a while which is only natural. This year’s Cherry Blossom Festival showed that the extra amount of people that came last year probably came because of the earthquake. It felt quite mellow this year’s festival, or should I say less lively. It was still a great festival none the less, and you can bet I’ll be around for next year’s San Francisco Cherry Blossom Festival, hopefully with more photography experience to really take the best photos possible that I can do. I know I didn’t do that great this year in terms of photos, I guess I aimed for quantity over quality, something that I always aim to do the opposite of. This year is more of an experimental year for me in photography, as I only have had my Canon Rebel T3 for about half a year and am currently taking photography classes at my college campus. I’m always aiming to better myself in any skill, as I believe that as long as I do something, it will lead to something more.