Greetings everyone! We here at Neko’s Shiritori had the wonderful opportunity of experiencing Japan Expo firsthand. Thanks to the convention’s physical distance being close enough to the home of Amoirsp, overall costs were minimized so that the focus could be on what the convention had to offer as well as finding various dealers, artists, and attendees.
Our impressions in preparing for the convention was that the convention planning clearly had structure. When there was news, it was delivered. Although a lot of the information came within the last month, it did not seem randomized, and was consistent throughout. This made planning for Japan Expo more distinct while giving us enough flexibility to pick and choose events without being time pressured. Here we want to present a brief summary of the environment.
Day 1: Friday, August 23, 2013
The first and most obvious thing was the lack of attendees. This made the initial impression pretty bad, because our team did not visibly see the convention. The address was correct, yet we could not sense the 1st impact. While we did mention the event to people we knew locally, for some it wasn’t a high enough priority. The main reason was due to the fact that the convention was implemented on the same week that school started, which prevented many students from coming on the first day.
Quick impressions was that a lack of marketing may have been possible. We checked with the dealers and artists nearby on their general thoughts, and majority of opinions were largely similar. While we did eventually hear about Japan Expo, it is true that we did not hear of it until after Fanime, and it was directly from someone by word of tweet. We heard that expectations for attendees were in the 10,000 range which does make sense considering the Japan Expo in France has hit 100,000 and beyond. The idea was good, but there was a reality that dwarfed the results. It wasn’t costs, but rather more on availability and timing.
Oddly, the lack of attendees for Friday actually spawned a unique opportunity: autographs with guests. For anyone that went to Japan Expo specifically to see guests and speak with them, Friday was about as golden of an opportunity as it gets. We checked with staff to schedule an appointment for interviewing, and the guests we had intended to interview were all available on Saturday. We were optimistic looking in, so we did not think about how empty Friday could be.
An interesting thing to note is that while Japan Expo portrays the strengths of its European flavor, it also possesses the weaknesses of applying radically different cultures. To put it simply, ending the convention by 7PM appears awkward for a Friday when school started. Certainly having such a strict consistent schedule allows good organization, but the practical application in the US ended up counterintuitive since one aspect of a convention’s popularity in California is actually the evening events such as dances.
Most of Friday was used to scout out the areas and analyze them. We elected to get acquainted with various dealers and artists, meet new faces, and attend panels sessions.
We had the honor to attend a private reception that featured members of the Wabi-Sabi exhibition along with local business owners around the bay area. Here we were able to meet the sculptor and the president of the Biken product, Junichiro Suzuki. We reviewed the Biken product previously and mentioned the product to several business owners we encountered at the reception. We were also able to extract more information on the components of the samurai figure and learned that its durability is enhanced by springs. The springs allow both the flexibility of the figure as well as the sturdiness it has when putting it up on a table.
After the exhibition we went to dinner and called it a night well into the morning.
Day 2: Saturday, August 24, 2013
After the bumpy start to the first day, Saturday actually recovered nicely. While it did not make up for the shortage on Friday, it did appear to be a very reasonable day in it of itself. Had the convention been able to get Saturday’s performance in terms of attendees for all three days, I would say the convention had a good start. At Neko’s Shiritori we went about with our scheduled interviews and it went splendidly. A great thing about this convention is its more relaxed state; given that this is mentally a smaller, newer convention. However, the convention takes advantage of the venue by utilizing all of the spaces effectively. The venue was small enough to never get lost, but big enough to have a wide range of events to attend. Flexibility in moving was not congested, and the traffic was adequate as well.
We had scheduled appointments with 3 guests: Sean Chiochankitmun, Dempagumi.inc, as well as Noriyuki Iwadare. Topic content discussed were mainly along the lines of Japan Expo, guests being in America, as well as music composition. At this time we are still waiting for full permission on possible video recordings to be featured, but until then we’ll save the interview segment on a subsequent post.
Day 3: Sunday, August 25, 2013
Sunday rounded out evenly. Since this was the third day of the convention, it was fairly conclusive. In the convention we noticed some dealers leaving early since the traffic was slow. It was an unfortunate reality to see sales for vendors and artists go far below expectations. Although we had word that Japan Expo is interested in continuing for future years, we feel that the vendor costs need to either be adjusted, or there needs to be a paramount influx of attendees. A Dealer’s Hall will be no good if there is a discrepancy of dealers to the amount of available space.
Conclusively there was a mentality issue in this convention. Although it has the large backing of Japan Expo from France, the reality is that this convention should have been treated as a more low key convention. As stated before, this convention was largely disadvantageous for vendors since estimated numbers were nowhere near expectations. We cannot conclude whether it was due to a lack of marketing, or a lack of incentive. To not put Japan Expo down on their marketing efforts, we believe it was more of a lack of attendee incentive. In bigger conventions, the name brand takes an advantage, even if there are multiple issues with organization or arranged events. Also, having the convention end by 7PM is consistent with the European standard, yet all the more unusual in the United States.
However, to look at this another way: this convention was fantastic for testing the waters. In our shoes, we felt directions were streamlined. We had no issues with the organization, we had access to the guests, and we saw clear directions. We look forward to what Japan Expo has in the future, since its base infrastructure appears stable and more clear cut. Comparatively to first years of other conventions, this does not look bad in retrospect. Only it being in its first year prevented it from ending up like a seasoned convention, so it can only get better from here.