Kaonashi at Japan Day 2018

There are just a few days left before this year’s Japantag, so after procrastinating on it for months, I  thought it would be a good time to finally write a blog post about last year’s event.
Just before New Year 2018 I made a resolution to finally cosplay Kaonashi or No Face, one of my favorite characters from the movie Spirited Away by Hayao Miyazaki. However, it was easier said than done. I drew some sketches and thought about how I could possibly create a realistic Kaonashi. It was important to me to convey his size correctly, how it is shown in the film. You can see that Kaonashi is significantly taller than the main character, Chihiro. Since I’m quite short, I was not sure how to achieve that height.

So I watched and read countless tutorials on cosplay making to find a clue how I could make a costume of that height. I will not go into detail how my cosplay was made as I want to write a separate blog post about that, so I will focus on the day of the actual event. During the process of making the costume, I posted my progress in my Instagram stories to keep those interested updated. That was when my friend, Nymphaeae_ftp (IG), messaged me and asked whether she could join me. I was determined to cosplay that character no matter what, even if there was nobody I could cosplay with. I love group cosplays, but I just wanted to cosplay Kaonashi so much that I didn’t care whether somebody would join or not. However, I was so thrilled to hear that she wanted to cosplay Chihiro and accompany me to Japantag. Soon after that, another friend of ours, insayo (IG), told us that she would like to cosplay a character from the movie and come with us as well. She was just not sure yet, which character to cosplay. In the end, she decided on Kamaji. So the cosplay plans were established and now just had to be executed. Just before returning to my hometown when the lectures for the fall semester ended,I bought some materials I intended to use for the costume. Over the course of nearly a month and with a significant amount of help from my father, the cosplay came to life. When the spring semester began my friends still had to finish their costumes, but they were sure to do that before the event.

One month or two months before Japantag another friend,  Nik (IG), messaged me on Instagram. We know each other from the Japanese language courses I attended at my former university and we get along quite well. Now he is studying photography. We chatted and I talked about how I was going to attend Japantag and another convention the upcoming months. He then asked, very spontaneously it seemed, whether he could accompany me to Japantag. I didn’t quite expect that, because he does live a little bit further away from Düsseldorf, but I was like ’sure why not, but expect it to be really really crowded‘. He actually came one day before that, so I showed him around the city and introduced him to ramen, which he found very delicious as he told me.
As he is also interested in photography, but with a little bit of a different focus than myself, it was interesting to listen to his stories since he started his studies in photography. If I remember correctly, he is more interested in street photography and photojournalism and it is fascinating to see the way he looks at things through the viewfinder. He planned to document Japantag with his camera. So all the photos you will see in this post are from  Nik’s perspective on Japantag (if not otherwise stated) and I’m really thankful to him that he was there to capture those moments.

It was going to be a sunny and hot day. That was the only thing I was not excited for, but at least it was not going to rain. Nik documented everything from the beginning, starting with the process of putting on the costume.

Once it is on, it is a little bit difficult to navigate, since I can’t see much. It is also hard to estimate how tall I am with the costume on, so I always have to watch out for the head, to not bump into things, which would probably send me flying to the ground as the costume does weight a little bit more than I would have preferred.

Cosplaying is a joyful activity and what I enjoy the most is seeing the reactions of people who see and recognize the character. Also, taking the public transportation in cosplay is quite an interesting experience.

As Japantag is a yearly event, I think the locals are pretty accustomed to seeing people in costume during specific times of the year. However, it does not get less entertaining to observe the reactions you get from the people on the streets and in the tram. They range from confusion to amusement. Some don’t even know what the hell is going on, whereas others figure it out pretty quickly.

Once we reached the station of our destination, we had to wait for the rest of the cosplay group to arrive. While we were standing there waiting, I was soon approached by some people who asked to take a photo. I am always happy when people ask for a photo, because it shows me that they like the costume and the work that was put into making it was worth it. I was even more happy to have our little Ghibli group.

Unfortunately, Haku was missing, but it was still more than I anticipated. It didn’t take long after we left the station for the next people to ask for photos. On the way to the Rheinpromenade, where the event is taking place, I came across another Kaonashi in the middle of the busy street. It was a delightful moment, because you meet someone who you clearly share the same favorite character with and it was probably a funny scene for bystanders to look at. The closer we got to the location, the more people recognized the characters we portrayed and it was getting more difficult to proceed because we were stopped almost every meter.

Once we reached the promenade, it was impossible to keep going. Groups of people surrounded us and there were moments when it seemed like they were queuing up to take a photo of and with us. We had a quiet minute now and then. However, as soon as one single person asked for a photo many more join the activity and we couldn’t leave.

Apparently some cameramen also got some footage of the scene. As I mentioned, I couldn’t really see much. I could see enough to walk straight forward, but not enough to be able to register what was really going on around me. Only after Nik told me about it and after showing me the photos he captured did I realize, how many people actually surrounded us at some point.

I didn’t have to do any extraordinary pose and I didn’t have to pay attention to my facial expression, which was actually quite refreshing and relaxing for once. I just stood there for the people to get their photo, so I probably zoned out somewhere in the middle of it which is why I also lost count of the people standing next to us. It was a little bit harder for nymphaea_ftp and insayo, who at times had to keep their poses for several minutes, while the sun was beating down on us. There wasn’t a single shadow and there were so many people. I was better off thanks to the cloth I could hide under and I didn’t have to worry about my outer sweaty appearance. The costume turned out to be a provisional sun protector as well, as I felt like it kept me slightly cooler than my two friends who didn’t have any protection from the merciless sunrays at all. However, despite all of that, it is always such a rewarding experience. I love seeing people smile and getting all excited when they see a character they like. I love the people who shyly come to us and ask with a quiet voice, if they can take a photo. Of course you can! I am always happy to.

After some time though, we all needed a break. So we went on a search for a place in the shadows, where we could eat and drink something. Even though it is such a large area, places to sit can become quite rare during an event of that dimension, especially places in the shadows.

There are large green areas at the promenade and usually there is plenty of space, but during Japantag not so much. It is also quite easy to lose each other in the crowd, but thanks to my costume it was not difficult to find me again. I had to rely on my friends to spot me, because I couldn’t see anything to save my life.

It was quite surprising when we actually met several other friends by coincidence in that huge crowd. I still remember the moment when I heard someone call my name and I thought I had imagined it. It took me a while to find out that a friend who was sitting in the middle of the crowd on the grass field was indeed calling out to me. Shoutout to @kunibert for recognizing me.

@ariyamaria is another friend of mine who attended Japantag in Kimino. She told me that she was looking for me and she did see a Kaonashi, but she knew it wasn’t me, because that Kaonashi didn’t wear black patent leather shoes.

After walking around in the area for a few hours, my two friends nymphaea_ftp and insayo had to leave, so Nik and I stayed behind. We decided to walk around the other parts of the city a little bit and go look for something to eat.

As it was a Saturday and it seemed like everyone and their grandmother were in downtown Düsseldorf, we ended up getting fries at a place a little bit closer to my home after eating some frozen yogurt at an air-conditioned café. It was funny to see the people staring for a few seconds when we entered the café before taking out their cellphones to take some pictures.

Since it was Nik’s first Japantag, we wanted to see the fireworks at the end of the day. I considered going back home first to change into some more comfortable clothes, but we spend too much time eating that we decided to go straight back to the venue. Something I have to mention is the fact that I feel a lot more safe wearing that costume during the day. After it gets dark, some people seem to lose basic manners and can’t seem or don’t want to comprehend that there is an actual person under the costume. When we returned downtown and I got asked for a photo once again, someone who was passing by decided it would be funny to pull on the cloth at the back really hard. That of course caused my head to be jerked back abruptly and forcefully as I support the whole costume on my head. Nik shouted at them and I’m really glad that he was there with me. Is it too much to ask for people to behave like normal members of society that don’t go around hurting other people?
Despite that incident we went back to the promenade to wait for the fireworks, because I didn’t want us to miss it. We found a little spot in between two walls, where not too many people could surround us.

After it ended we made our way back to the tram station. With all the other thousands of people. I have to stress again that I’m really grateful that Nik was there all the time and watched out for me. Thanks to him I got back home safely. Not to mention that only because of him do I have all these wonderful photographs of that day. He is really passionate about his work and a great human being and I’m glad to call him my friend. Please check out his work on Instagram and consider supporting him!
All in all it was a great day and I am glad that I could spend it with nik, nymphaea_ftp, insayo and her husband. I will always treasure the memories that I made during that time and I am happy that my collection of moments I can look back on fondly grew bigger.