Tokyo, November 18th, 2012
Koyama Press was represented by Helen Koyama and Daniel and Robin Nishio at this first ever event for foreign comic art at the Japanese comic convention Comitia in Tokyo. It took place at Tokyo Big Sight and was a one day show. There were several special events in the week leading up to Kaigai organized by TCAF director Christopher Butcher for the artists and publishers who came to Japan.
Friday, November 16th, 3pm to 5pm: Reception for TCAF, Kaigai and friends at the E. H. Norman Library, Embassy of Canada, Tokyo.
Robin, Daniel and I arrived in Tokyo on Thursday, November 15th.
On Friday, we arrived at the Embassy to find a cozy, casual reception in the library. There were 2 tables for all to use and we put the KP books we had brought (a fairly thorough Canadian sampling) on display. The other TCAF artists added their own books. We had arrived in Japan later than the majority so this was a nice opportunity to meet some of the other participants. There was a welcome from embassy staff and a few words of thanks from Chris Butcher. He then introduced the crowd to Maurice Vellekoop, who would be participating in and showing work at the Talk/Show event in Shibuya after Kaigai wrapped up.
We were all offered a tour of the embassy which started in the Prince Takamado Art Gallery and Oscar Peterson theatre and ended with the beautiful outer gardens which represent Canada and Japan with sculpture, stone paths and greenery.
The group was then invited to the private lounge for beers and microwaved popcorn, which someone said is hard to get in Japan. We said good night early due to severe jet lag.
Saturday, November 17th: Getting the display materials we needed from the Daiso in Harajuku
We needed to buy some supplies for our table display so we headed to Daiso (huge one hundred yen store) in Harajuku. There, we were able to find white table cloths, safety pins, thumbtacks, tape, small rubberwood easels, markers, etc. Not knowing what kind of display space we had, meant buying anything we could think of. Almost all items were used. We also bought a clear plastic box at Muji for business cards, just in case it could help our display. These are two good and inexpensive places to shop for such things.
Sunday, November 18th, 11 am to 4 pm: TCAF Booth, Kaigai Manga Festa at Comitia
Meeting time and setup at Tokyo Big Sight was set for 9am. We met everyone on their way into the show and were set up with stickers to identify us as participants. Getting the table ready took most of the two hours of prep time. One thing about the tables they use, they are very narrow! About 6 feet long, but only about 18” wide. It puts you very close to the customers. Take breath mints.
At 11 am, we were wondering where the crowds were but very soon, waves of people began to come through. Initially awkward with the language barrier, we eventually hit on giving out business cards, stickers and buttons in a little package to anyone who showed interest in our table.
This was really appreciated by people, it seemed. And fun for us. Our main objective was to show our books, meet people and learn about the comics scene in Japan, rather than sell a lot. When we gave out the Kickass Annie buttons, most people said, “Kawaii!” It helped that Kickass Annie is not only kickass but kawaii.
Eventually, small waves of people began to come and we were delighted to find them interested in our books. Soon, there was a steady flow of people browsing, buying and asking questions. We did our best to answer them and resolved to continue our Japanese language studies when we returned home.
Four o’clock came quickly and soon we found ourselves packing everything up again.
After the show, we all headed to the Parco Department Store in Shibuya for the Canada Comic Arts show. Chris Butcher spoke about comics in Canada with the interpreting help of Jocelyne Allen. Maurice Vellekoop read from his work, as did Wai Au, Kim Hoang and Julie Man of the Love Love Hill collective. There was also an art exhibit and sale of the Canadian books that we had brought with us to Japan. They are to be sold at Parco for the duration of the show.
Even though KP was only able to participate in some of the events that were arranged by TCAF, we felt honoured to be a part of this amazing trip.
Many thanks to TCAF founders Peter Birkemoe and Christopher Butcher for giving KP this special opportunity to bring our books to Japan.
– Helen Koyama