“Tell a Westerner that Japanese youth are into costumed role playing, and what comes to mind may be an image of a teenage geisha in kimono.
Far from it, however. The hippest hobby in Japan today is “cosplay.” That’s a portmanteau word that describes making up and suiting up to adopt – and in the most extreme cases, even live out – the activities of characters in Japanese cartoons, anime movies, music videos, and manga comics. The most obsessed, full-time fans form a genuine subculture that Japanese social scientists call “otaku.”
Southern Arizona’s own lively cosplay community will turn out in flashy ensembles, elaborate headgear, and accessories in an Otaku Festival at Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson on March 4, 2017, from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Yume is Tucson’s only authentic Japanese garden and the southernmost of more than 250 in the U.S. and Canada.
Festival goers can mingle with role players in outlandish outfits inspired by Japanese pop music stars, inspect others in fluffy skirts and petticoats in imitation of “Lolita” comic characters, and watch a screened showing of cosplay favorite Hatsune Miku, a “vocaloid,” or humanoid persona voiced by a singing synthesizer application.
Rounding out the day’s activities will be an origami (paper-folding) workshop, a display of action and musical Hatsune Miku figurines, a show of flamboyant Japanese street fashion, and an exhibition of another of Japan’s latest enthusiasms: BJDs, or poseable dolls with ball and joint sockets. They have a distinctly Asian aesthetic with often eerily lifelike features, and are customizable, collectible, and cost up to hundreds of dollars.”
Admission to the Otaku Festival is $10. Yume Japanese Gardens are located at 2130 N. Alvernon Way, one block south of the Tucson Botanical Gardens, and are open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm Tuesday through Sunday, weather permitting.
For more information about the Gardens and the festival, visit www.yumegardens.org or telephone (520) 272-3200.
Carolyn’s note: Yume gardens opened in January 2013 and has been hosting a number of Japanese themed festivals including origami, ikebana, scrolls, kimono, etc. Also March 3rd is Girls’ Day in Japanese culture, so celebrate and honor the girls in your life.