In 2005, I was a lonely otaku. In kinder terms, that’s a passionate fan of a particular interest, usually anime and manga. Why lonely? Because I had no friends who shared my passion. That changed with the advent with Kawaii Kon:
“Kawaii Kon is a 3-day convention that celebrates Japanese anime (cartoons), manga (comics), and all facets of Japanese culture. From video games, table top games, costume contests, thousands of manga to read, a talent-filled Artist Alley, an expansive Dealer’s Room, formal ball, we have something for everyone!” – kawaiikon.com
Finally, a place where we otaku could find one another! In 2005 the first Kawaii Kon drew a little over 1,000 attendees. Last year there were over 10,000, according to animecons.com.
No longer was I forever alone, now I’m forever otaku. I’m proud to say that I’ve attended nearly every Kawaii Kon, so whether you’re a newbie or a veteran, I have some tips and picks to help you maximize your otaku weekend.
How to be a savvy otaku
Make a schedule. With dozens of events crammed into three days, you may not get to experience everything you’d like. Time for some hard decisions. Here’s Kawaii Kon’s schedule, along with a useful schedule planner that lets you sync up events with your favorite online calendar. Don’t forget to plan time for travel, meals, cosplay changes and breaks.
Be travel-savvy. It’s $10 to park at the convention center. If you can find an open space. Peak traffic time is in the morning; spaces start to open up in the afternoon. If you don’t mind the possibility of getting towed, you can try Ala Moana Center, where strictly speaking parking is for mall customers only. You may be better off taking the bus, a cab or Uber. Or look into a room at the Ala Moana Hotel, which offers special Kawaii Kon rates, though these usually sell out well in advance.
Take pictures — lots of pictures. You’ll meet cosplayers: a subset of otaku who dress in costume as anime, manga or video game characters. Cosplayers tend to love having their picture taken. Ask politely for permission. If the cosplayer is a minor, ask their parent or guardian. Try not to walk into someone else’s shot. And make sure you have enough storage on your camera or phone.
Power up. Hardcore attendees can be at Kawaii Kon for hours. It can be draining, literally. If you’ll be there most of the day, consider bringing extra batteries, external power supply, charger. If you bring a power strip and find an open outlet, prepare to become every otaku’s new best friend.
Don’t forget to eat. You’d be amazed how easy it is to forget amid all the excitement. You can bring food, buy food there or make a food run. I’d recommend the first and third options. For the price you pay for convention center food, you can get better elsewhere. Ala Moana Center and McCully Shopping Center are within walking distance. Here are suggestions from Yelp.
Make new otaku friends. In your everyday life you may not meet otaku like yourself, but Kawaii Kon isn’t your everyday life. It’s three days of otaku and cosplayers from all over Hawaii banding together. Take advantage of the opportunity to make new friends who understand the otaku life.
Kawaii Kon day by day: Top picks
Too many events and panels to choose from? Here are my picks, based on personal experience, enticing descriptions and some of my personal interests. Some of these occur at the same time, so decisions will have to be made.
Keep in mind that there’s also the artist alley and vendor room where you can spend your hard-earned cash on all types of anime swag, video and table-top game rooms with tournaments for competitive otaku, and manga and anime viewing rooms with everything from classics to the newest titles. All are open throughout the convention and often have tables and chairs where you can relax.
Note: Descriptions are abbreviated from the Kawaii Kon website
The first day of Kawaii Kon is a mellow, less crowded day when we learn about what the convention has to offer. The Opening Ceremonies set the stage for the entire weekend.
Cosplay Body Confidence and Positivity – 10-11am, Room 316A
A conversation on body image and confidence. How cosplayers can stay positive when faced with negative people or negative comments on social media.
Beginning to Cosplay – 10-11am, Room 314
New to cosplaying? Want to learn some of the ropes? Come to this interactive panel, where we’ll talk about wigs, props, cosplays, makeup and any questions you have!
Cosplay Photography – 11am-12pm, Room 316A
Commercial lifestyle photographer and eternal geek Dallas Nagata White uses her experience in fashion photography and painting to take cosplay photos to the next level. Dallas will go over cosplay shoots, from planning to post-production, and be available for questions.
Opening Ceremonies – 12-1:30pm, Ballroom B
The official beginning! The Opening Ceremonies of Kawaii Kon is a time-honored tradition in which you are guaranteed to have lots of fun!
LFG: A New Player’s Guide to Tabletop Roleplaying Games – 1:30-2:30pm, Room 316A
All it takes is a pencil, paper, dice and some friends to tap into the boundless world of your imagination. Game Masters discuss the basics of Tabletop Roleplaying and what you can look forward to inside Kawaii Kon’s Tabletop Gaming Room!
Jessica Nigri Q&A – 3:30-4:30pm, Room 315
Have questions for one of the world’s most famous cosplayers? Ask them here!
Beyond Visual Kei: the Asian Underground Metal Scene – 8-9:30pm, Room 316C
From its ancient cultural ties and rapid expansion in the last century to the darkest corners of modern extreme metal, we’ll cover the vibrant, epic hidden gem that is Asian heavy metal!
Intro to Kpop & Jpop – 8-9:30pm, Room 311
Learn about these fascinating music worlds from a fun academic point of view. We will cover the genres, popular groups and the role of entertaiment agencies in creating these groups.
European Swordsmanship – 9:15-10:45pm, Room 316A
Medieval Plate Armour and Armoured Combat – Lecture, demonstration of armored fighting and Q&A by Dr. Brian R. Price and the Schola Saint George.
The main event day. Kawaii Kon is at its peak, so expect to be deep in a sea of cosplay and otaku.
Crunchyroll Industry Panel – 10:15-11:15am, Room 315
Hear about all the latest and greatest anime & manga coming out of Crunchyroll straight from the source. Prizes given out during panel and a special gift for all who attend.
Aniplex of America 11:15am-12:15pm, Room 311
We brought hit anime titles like Sword Art Online, KILL la KILL, Madoka Magica, Fate/stay night [Unlimited Blade Works], ALDNOAH.ZERO, DURARARA!!ÌÑ2, Your lie in April and many more to fans in North America! Hear about our plans. Come for cool trailers, news and prizes!
Manoa Medieval Combat: Casual Fighting with Foam Weapons – 3:30-6:30pm, Room 316B
Manoa Medieval Combat Club holds practices and events on the University of Hawaii campus. Join us for this introductory panel to the world of Boffering.
Japanese Confectionary Corner – 3:45-4:45pm, Room 316A
Have some candy! … and cookies and cakes, and maybe even some sodas! Join LostGamers Studios’ Kassie and J in a whipped-up frenzy of Japanese confections. We’ll cover the cultural history and importance of sweets as well as how to prepare dango, mochi and more!
Cosplay Contest – 4-5pm, Ballroom B
Here is where you can see the best of the best cosplayers at Kawaii Kon!
FUNimation Industry Panel – 5-6:30pm, Room 311
From Akira to Dragon Ball Z, hear the latest news from North America’s largest anime distributor FUNimation. Live tweet using the hashtag #FUNimationPanel for a chance to win prizes!
GARNiDELiA – 8-9pm, Ballroom B
Join us for this performance of a lifetime as GARNiDELiA performs for the first time in Hawaii!
Moonlight Magic Ball: Kings and Queens – 8:30-11:45pm, Room 316C
A night of elegant music and entertainment, light refreshments, lovely ballroom dancing and mingling with your fellow formally clad otaku. This year’s theme is Kings and Queens. Dress code will be strictly enforced. All ages welcome. Tickets are $25 at the door, 18.95 online.
Saturday Night butishake – 9:30pm- 12am, Ballroom B
This year, the butishake and Saturday Night Dance have joined forces to create something amazing! Everybody jump around!
The final day is more laid-back. People who show up couldn’t go any other day, have three-day passes or just don’t like crowds. The Closing Ceremonies give you a chance to say your final goodbyes.
Human Cosplay Chess: Magic vs Science – 10am-12pm, Room 311
The tradition continues as the battlefield pits Magic against Science. Who will win? Come witness this epic clash, or enter the battle to turn the tide in your favor.
An Inside Look at the Anime Industry – 11:15am-12:15pm, Room 314
Join Kouichirou and Natsuko in discussing the happenings of the anime industry and sharing behind-the-scenes stories of productions.
Cosplay Armor & Construction: Secrets Revealed – 12:15-1:15pm, Room 316B
People talk about things like Pepakura, but we’ll show you what it is and how to use it! Plus, we’ll explain how to use other materials such as resin, Bondo, rondo, foam, contact cement and where to get your supplies!
Japanese Car Culture and the Art of the Drift – 12:30-1:30pm, Room 314
Join us as we look at the history of the Japanese car scene, its progression, worldwide legacy and tuning culture. We’ll explore car culture’s ties to anime and love of the automobile in popular art and media.
Cosplay for Beginners with Jessica Nigri – 1-2pm, Room 315
Just starting out on the road to fabulous cosplay? Get tips from Jessica Nigri on what works and what doesn’t.
Working in the Anime Industry – 3:45-4:45pm, Room 315
Want to know what it’s like working in the industry? Join Crunchyroll and possible other industry reps as they discuss life in the crazy world of anime.
Closing Ceremonies – 6-7pm , Ballroom B
Sadly the convention must come to an end, but there is no reason we can’t go out with a bang! Join us for Closing Ceremonies, and say your last goodbyes for the year (and be the first to find out our new dates!)
Hawaii Convention Center