My World Cosplay Summit 2017 Adventure: Planning a Trip To Japan

Going to
Japan is the first step in attending the World Cosplay Summit. Planning the
trip can be intimidating if you haven’t been out of the country before. The
last time Kevin and I went to Japan was about 10 years ago and it was all a
guided tour. We didn’t have do much planning (his mom handled the booking) but
we also didn’t have much freedom. We saw a lot of cool sights such as temples
and castles, but we didn’t get to do any nerd stuff and we really wanted to do
the nerd stuff. This time around we decided to do our own thing, which meant we
had to do the research and planning.

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Planning

The first step was determining a rough outline of where we wanted to
be and on what days. We knew we wanted to go to Nagoya (where the summit was
held) on the 5th and 6th of August. We also wanted to spend a chunk of our trip
in Tokyo.

Once we
knew where we wanted to go we could start looking for flights. If you want a
deal and the most freedom, it helps to book far in advance. Take advantage of
services like Scott’s Cheap Flights and YYZ Deals or other groups that share good
deals on flights. We planned our trip a little late, so we didn’t get the
opportunity to scope out the best prices, but we were able to compare the
difference between landing a bit earlier in Osaka vs. landing in Nagoya. We got
a price we were happy with and committed to the trip. With these fight dates in
mind we planned out how we would travel: 

August 1: Leave Canada
August 2: Land
in Osaka 
August 4: Leave Osaka, Travel to Nagoya
August 7: Leave Nagoya, Travel
to Tokyo
August 12: Leave Tokyo and go Home.

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Accommodations 

Now that our plane tickets were secure, we needed to work out
where to stay.

A lot of
my friends have used AirBnB in Japan and recommended it. I looked into it and
not only were the prices good, but it sounded like they would be great
experiences. However, Kevin is a shy individual and he vetoed the idea. So we
sought out hotels. If you want to book with airBnB I would suggest paying
attention to what they offer. Some of the AirBnBs offer portable WiFi,
breakfast and an escort or drive from either the airport or subway to their
house which are all very useful. Thought for a western visitor you may want to
double check the type of toilets they have, the type and size of beds being
offered (especially if you are tall) and what house rules they may have as
these may be different from what you are used to.

I gave
the Kevin the job of booking hotels and he procrastinated on it. So I decided
to start looking into it myself. Since it was the staple of our trip, I started
with Nagoya. Cue the most stressful moment of vacation planning for me. I go on
the first site and search Nagoya…all the hotel rooms had been booked. All of
them for that date. I start stressing, but find another site. All the hotels
are booked up. I keep searching. I find a site with some hotels available and
it says over 100 people are looking at the same rooms! OH NO! It is 3am, Kevin
is asleep, and I have nobody to freak out with. So I start collecting a couple
different hotels with a lot of rooms available, and a couple Airbnbs in the
area, just in case. I send him the links, feel better, and pop into bed. We can
book them the next morning, it will be fine.

So we
wake up. I check the links. They are all booked! Even the Airbnbs! I felt my
heart sink in my chest. Luckily, with the power of google and refreshing
frantically I lucked out! I got a great hotel room (at the Richmond hotel in
Nagoya) that happens to be down the street from a cosplay store and a bunch of
anime/manga/figure stores. Thanks Agoda! If you are looking to attend the WCS,
book your hotel room early so you don’t run into the wall of stress that I did.

Some of
the sites we used:

Agoda
Rakuten Travel
Booking.com
Google
Hotels (shown through google search) 

The
hotels we stayed at:

  • Osaka:
    Comfort Hotel Osaka Shinsaibashi
    Small room, but very comfortable
    Great breakfast, mix of american and Japanese that was included with the stay
    Free coffee/tea at all times
    Near

    Shinsaibashisuji Shopping Street 

  • Nagoya:
    Richmond Hotel Nagoya Shinkansen-guchi
    Booking came with breakfast, mostly Japanese food
    Offered us complimentary bath salts
    Keycard needed for elevator
  • Tokyo:
    Hotel Gracery Shinjuku
    We stayed here for the Godzilla head
    Great location, busy area with lots of food and arcades
    Right next to a movie theater, there was a Spiderman Homecoming event right outside and we got to see Tom Holland on stage! 

Tip: Check
different sites for the same hotel, some may offer a slight discount or special
deal that isn’t available on the others.

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Itinerary

Next was
putting together a basic list of where we would be going and on what days. I
included notes about locations, check-in and check-out times and confirmation
numbers. I mostly used this sheet to remember the names of the hotels we were
going to since the other information was available through wifi. I also put
together a wishlist sheet of locations that would be cool to visit. We didn’t
get to all of our wishlist locations but the list helped us plan our days and
make the most of the areas we traveled to. I recommend putting something
similar together so you can find out about cool things in the areas you are
staying and figure out how much the activities cost.

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WiFi 

There is a lot of open WiFi in Japan. Certain shops, restaurants and
convenience stores had open wifi as did the Hotels. The subway systems had open
wifi or a sign-up wifi for foreigners. Some of my friends said they used the
open wifi to get by and never had a problem, so it is an option. That said,
Open wifi has some security risks and is not always reliable, so we opted for a
portable WiFi pack.

After
referencing the different packs, we went with Ninja Wifi. It was not the
cheapest option but it did allow for pickup and drop-off at the airport which
seemed easier than attempting to mail it in. We also managed to get a bit of a
discount through Kiecan’s promo code.

The Ninja
Wifi lasted most of the day with both our phones connected. We used a portable
battery pack to keep it charged in the evenings if we didn’t make a pit-stop in
the hotel. We always had a connection, even on the Subway, which was great.

Tip: Some
AirBnB hosts offer portable wi-fi or phones with a sim card. So if you’re
staying at an AirBnB, check if you actually need the wifi before booking it.

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Travel

I am from
the Toronto area and our subway map looks like a sad U with a line through it.
Torontonians make fun of it all the time for being so sad when compared to New
York or Paris. So Osaka, Tokyo and even Nagoya’s subway was exciting to us. It
was also really bi-lingual, which made it super easy to navigate. Stops were
labled by name and a letter-number combination to make it easy.

In Osaka
it looked like the best deal was to get a two day city pass. It came with
unlimited travel on the subway for 48 hours (from its first use in a ticket
gate) and provided free access to some attractions and discounts for others.
Like with most day pass options, you will want to have an idea about how much you
are traveling before purchasing the ticket, to make sure it is worth it. 

For
travel between cities we took the Shinkansen, or bullet train. The Nozomi train
took us from Osaka to Nagoya and later from Nagoya to Tokyo. We only made the
two trips and so we purchased our tickets for each trip, rather than getting
the Rail Pass. The Japan Rail Pass is a special pass offered to foreigners that
gives you unlimited travel on certain JR Lines for a discounted rate (see site
for more info). If you plan to travel between a lot of cities and want to take
a bullet train then it can be a great deal. In our case, we only were making
two trips and it wouldn’t have saved us money – so make sure to check that it
is worth it for your vacation before purchasing.

There are
also standard trains which are slower, and in some cases less expensive, than
the bullet trains. If you aren’t in a rush then these may be an option as well.

In
Nagoya, we only made two trips a day so we paid the cost per trip. The cost of
a trip is determined by the number of stops from your location, you can see the
prices on a map near the ticket buying terminals. If you aren’t using a
tap-card like Pasmo or Suica then you can buy individual and day-tickets through
these terminals. The terminals have english as a language option so it is very
easy for tourists to use them. Make your selection, pay and it will print out a
small ticket. When entering the gates you will need to put this small ticket in
a slot, it will then pop back out closer to the gate. Pick up your ticket and
hold onto it – you’ll need it to be able to exit the gates at your destination.
If you change paths, you may need to pay an additional fare at the
ticket-adjustment station at the subway you are exiting.

In Tokyo,
we used a combination of day passes and single-purchase tickets depending on
what we did for the day. It may be cheaper to use a multi-day pass, a day pass
or the suica/pasmo card depending on how much travel you are doing. This is
where having an itinerary can help you plan and make sure you aren’t
over-spending on travel. Save that yen for arcades and gashapon!

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Translation

Kevin and I don’t speak or read Japanese. While there are
some people who can speak english and some places with english signage, there
are also a lot of people who can’t and many situations where you’re running
into Japanese only text. So to get around we used Google Translate and Google Maps
– this is why the Ninja Wifi was so useful. 

Google
translate has a great feature that will help you get around: it can use your
camera to take pictures and identify text. There are two ways this can work,
the first is a sort of augmented reality where it overlays it’s translation
over a real world image. This is really COOL but also kind of wonky and
unreliable for Japanese. It gets stuck translating individual kanji rather than
full words. I mostly used it when text was in hiragana and katakana. The other
way the translation works is by taking a picture. It will highlight all the
text it can identify, and then you can select what you want translated. It can
still give you some weird translations (google isn’t perfect) but if it is
having trouble with a paragraph you can select a couple words and get something
that makes more sense. We used this function a lot, especially when it came to
food.

I also
used a combination of Jisho.org (dictionary) and Romaji.me (japanese to romanji converter) to help fill in the blanks when
I didn’t know a word. It isn’t ideal for on-the-spot situations, but can help
when you want to ask for something specific.

Otherwise,
a lot of signage is in English as well as Japanese. This is especially true on
the subway and in the more touristy areas.

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Buying
WCS Tickets

The
English version of the WCS site takes forever to update! It seemed that they
were never going to put the information online. They finally updated the site
with international purchase information on July 3rd, which is very close to the
event. Even with such a close date we got good seats and noticed there were a
lot of empty seats in the audience – so I wouldn’t worry about them running
out. There are also events going on outside of the Aichi Arts Centre, so if you
don’t buy a ticket you can still have a good time.

International
tickets on sale through a service called Peatix. Payment is in Yen and can be
done through credit card or paypal. You will need to create an account to buy
the tickets and download an app to display them at the event, so make sure to
do this before hand! When we arrived at the summit, the digital tickets had to
be shown at a desk where they checked a list of names and provided a physical
ticket.

If you
live in Japan, or want to buy your tickets there, then you can order them
online and pay at a circle K or Family Mart store or purchase them through the
terminal at these stores.

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Tomorrow’s post will cover the WCS Events and using the terminals to purchase tickets.