SakuraCon 2016 - Field Report

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Summary of “said” Event

Every spring, anime fans gather from near and far in order to hit SakuraCon in Seattle, Washington. A convention dedicated to anime, manga, music, and Japanese culture, SakuraCon is the largest convention of its kind in this region of the United States. It wasn't always like this though.

Official website: http://sakuracon.org/

When it Established

SakuraCon comes from humble beginnings. Frustrated with the lack of anime programming at other conventions in the area, fans gathered together to create a brand new anime-centric convention. In its first year back in 1998, it was known as Baka!-Con and drew only a couple of hundred attendees. Still, the convention pushed forward and grew steadily over the next couple of decades until it finally reached over 23,000 attendees in 2015.

Length of event

While the convention has been held in various cities throughout the western half of the state over the years, the convention has always lasted for three days over a weekend in either March or April.

Place / location

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Cost

Buying a pass for the convention is a fairly painless process. If you wish to attend the convention, you can buy a weekend pass either at the con itself or via their website. Unfortunately, the convention does not sell day passes and so you must purchase an entire weekend pass. If you purchase it early enough (generally within four months of the previous year's convention ending) though a pass to get you in for the entire weekend will only cost $40. After that the price of a weekend pass goes up gradually until it reaches its full price of $70 for the weekend at the door.

Hotels

When you have more than 20,000 attendees converging on one spot, you're going to need hotel space. Taking place in the heart of downtown, there are a number of hotels that offer discounted rates to convention attendees: Crown Plaza, Fairmount Olympic, Hilton, Homewood Suites, Hotel Max, Hyatt, Motif, Renaissance, Sheraton, The Paramount and The Roosevelt. All of these hotels are but a short walk away from the convention center and some even offer some great scenery along the way to the convention center.

Company / event message for fans / attendees

The message of SakuraCon is pretty simple and straight forward. If you visit their website, you are only one click away from seeing their mission statement which reads: “Operated by a 100% all-volunteer staff, our main goal is for everyone to have fun and to foster learning more about the cultures that bring us our favorite media.”

What to Expect

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While the convention offers fun things to during every day of the event, the best days to attend are still Friday and Saturday with the biggest events and best cosplay being broken out on the latter of the two days. This year, for instance, featured the Sword Art Online movie event as well as some of the finest cosplay that Seattle has seen since last year's convention. However, don't think that the only days of the con worth attending are the first two. If you're the type of person who loves to score a deal or a bargain, you'll want to stick around for the final day of the convention to possibly score a great deal in the merchandise room from one of the many vendors.

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Regardless of when you attend, it's important to note that Seattle is a very laid back city that, despite being almost entirely powered by caffeine, moves at its own unique pace. While there are always going
to be a few bad eggs who are out to ruin the fun of others, for the most part the people and businesses
in Seattle are very welcoming of SakuraCon attendees.

To see SakuraCon history: http://www.anglcon.com/sakurahistory/

What to Bring in Order to Enjoy Oneself

If you've never been to a convention before it can be tempting to over pack and prepare for every single
little contingency or emergency that might arise. Luckily SakuraCon is pretty experienced and do their best to help their attendees out with whatever little emergency they might encounter during the course of the weekend. When you're within the walls of the convention, you are well protected from wardrobe malfunctions thanks to the Cosplay Repair Station and any injuries that might occur thanks to the First Aid station. For things that the convention can't cover, there are a number of drug stores near the convention center which will be happy to sell you whatever you need to get through the weekend.

There are a number of essential items that you'll want to pack before you leave to attend SakuraCon but
there are two things in particular that are an absolute must beyond any other thing (besides maybe clothing): some form of currency and some form of Vitamin C. Between food, drinks and the merchandise room there are many, many different ways to break your bank account at this convention so be sure to show up with money as well as a budget for you to stick to.

Additionally, protect yourself from con plague by bringing along some kind of Vitamin C to take over the course of the weekend. If your hotel has a refrigerator in each room, bring along a bottle of juice. If your hotel doesn't have that amenity, bring along some vitamin powder. Do not let yourself forget to take your vitamins though, otherwise you might find yourself sick and miserable by the end of the weekend and that is never fun. Luckily, spring weather in Seattle is generally fairly pleasant. You might get rained on a little but most years the sun will be shining and the temperature will be comfortable.

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What to do While There / What is Available

The big question now though is what do you do once you get to the convention? The good news is that
there is no easy answer to the question. No matter what form of anime, manga, or Japanese culture you're interested in there is always something to do! If you're interested in learning about the industry and finding out about the latest news, there are a number of industry panels that you can attend. If you're more interested in meeting voice actors and creators from both the United States and Japan, SakuraCon invites a large number of them every year and they always host interesting panels. If you just want to talk about your favorite anime with other fans, SakuraCon hosts some pretty fantastic fan panels every year.

One of the best kept secrets of the convention lies on the second floor of the convention center and that would be the Kimono Workshop sponsored by the Kabuki Academy. In this room, attendees of all ages can get dressed up in authentic kimonos and snap a few photos of the experience which always ends up being a memory that will last you for a lifetime.

Cosplay

If you're a cosplayer, be sure to sign up for the annual Cosplay Chess event which is always a blast for both the audience and the participants. In this annual event, cosplayer’s step onto a giant chess board and take the place of chess pieces. Two experienced chess players then move the cosplayer’s around the board in a real life game that always results in hilarity.

As you might have guessed, SakuraCon is very big on cosplay. There are a variety of reasons why people cosplay at this con. Some people do it just for fun and to show off their love for a particular series or character. Some people take it a bit more seriously and want to show off their skills. Regardless of the reason, this is a great convention to take photos at.

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Overall Review / Experience / Final Thoughts

For over a decade now, SakuraCon has been my home away from home. It is my oasis from the stress of real life. Some people will tell you that SakuraCon is a convention that only teenagers and kids can enjoy but every year that I attend I see people of all ages having a good time: teenagers, kids, seniors, middle aged parents, adults... no one is excluded from the fun! No matter what age you are or what your experience level with anime is, there is something for everyone at SakuraCon.

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by L.B. Bryant