This article originally appeared in the April 2024 issue of CONNECT.

Mark Christensen (Fukuoka)

In a media world flush with the adventures of super heroes, demon slayers, and immortal elves, it might come as a surprise that one recent hit was about something seemingly mundane: cosplay. But the world of cosplay is no less fantastical. 

For those unfamiliar, the series I’m referring to is My Dress Up Darling. It follows the adventures of aspiring cosplayer, Marin Kitagawa, and her talented boyfriend Gojo as they attempt to navigate their way into this unique world.

Early on, Gojo and Marin are brought together when rushing to complete a costume in time for a cosplay photography event; a classic dilemma known as “con crunch.” Despite some miscommunication and a sleepless night of work for poor Gojo, they succeed in making it to the event.

While their particular situation is fictional, the event they attended is a very real thing. Known as acosta!, these events are organized all over Japan and act as a cosplay gathering where cosplayers and photographers can freely mingle. (1) Furthermore, unlike larger events like Comiket, the focus is entirely on costumes. 

I first learned about the acosta! events in 2021 when one was held in Fukuoka, but I initially mistook it as a one-off event. Between COVID-19 restrictions, work, and other commitments, I wasn’t able to make it and I largely forgot about it.

After recent trips to the World Cosplay Summit and Winter Comiket this past year, I began to actively look for other events closer to home in Kyushu. After a bit of digging, I discovered that acosta! events actually happened in my area; I also discovered they were popular with some of my favorite local cosplayers!

With this in mind, I decided to investigate. 

Located at the Fukuoka PayPay Dome, home of the famous Fukuoka Hawks baseball team, the venue was quite large. The primary event area was the plaza surrounding the stadium entrance, but the parking lots directly below the venue, near the beach, and some local businesses were also set aside for photography. And, while there were no comic or merchandise vendors like what I would see in a Western convention, there were still a number of food booths set up to support the event!

Despite being an outdoor event in an ungated location, this event still requires ticket wristbands. For busier locations, it’s best to pre-order well in advance of the event, as tickets can sell out several days in advance. I was fortunate and able to buy some same day passes. After securing my photographer’s wristband, I decided to walk around and see who I could find!

The first cosplay I encountered was of Anis Tetra, a character from the popular shooter series Goddess of Victory: Nikke, which features ladies in pinup style military uniforms. As I waited in line with other photographers, I noticed that they often requested a series of different poses from each cosplayer. Soon enough it was my turn, and I worked with Soon enough it was my turn, and using a new 56mm lens, I worked together with Yuki (Kipokipokun).

In addition to the great work she had done on her costume, her prop weapon and signboard warranted attention. 

In many western conventions, weapon props are allowed. However, they nearly always need to be “peace bound” with ribbons and paperwork. While this pertains to concerns about real firearms, it also applies to squirt guns and nerf guns. Here in Japan, there seems to be no such restrictions, and I’ve been startled more than once by full-scale weapons without orange tips.

Her cosplay sign also struck me as unusual. In an effort to make it easy for identifying the people in photos, some cosplayers will include signs or binders with their cosplay “handle”, social media, and QR codes. Despite nearly 15 years of attending conventions, Japan is the first place I’ve seen these signs used.

The second element was her usage of a cosplay sign. In an effort to make it easy for identifying photos, some cosplayers will include signs or binders with their cosplay “handle,” social media, and any QR codes. Despite nearly 15 years of attending conventions, Japan was the first place I’ve seen them used. 

The next cosplay I encountered was a tad ironic: an eroge (erotic video game) character named Shizuku. She’s one of Marin Kitagawa’s favorite characters and her first costume for her own acosta! event, making this effectively a cosplay of a cosplayer’s cosplay. 

2B from Nier: Automata was another character I encountered. A very popular character from the 2017 video game, her elegant costume and bearing was expertly recreated by the cosplayer. 

After a few photos, I saw her duck away to grab what I presumed was a cosplayer card, which are similar to business cards but for cosplay. However, while she did bring one back, she also gave me something unexpected: candy and treats. As it turns out, some cosplayers in Japan hand out sweets as thanks for support! 

Sweets weren’t the only surprise I encountered. As I continued on with my photography, I discovered that some of the cosplayers maintain very tight control of their image. While I’m used to asking for consent for photography or concerns about public image, it turns out that some cosplayers request all photos be submitted for self-editing by the cosplayer before use. 

As I wandered more, I was interested in observing the patterns and themes of the most popular cosplays. This year, the two most common cosplays I encountered were those from Frieren and Apothecary Diaries.

However, there was quite a bit of variety, as well. Older series, such as Yu-Gi-Oh!, Sailor Moon, and Dragon Ball also made an appearance, with a complete multi-person Shenron dragon being puppeteered!

I also saw some more obscure or original cosplays. One appeared to be a realistic take on Mario as an actual plumber!

An unexpected discovery at this event was the makeup of the crowd. In most conventions I’ve been to, the balance of men and women cosplaying has been fairly even.

At this event, about three quarters of the cosplayers were women, while the last quarter were men; based upon the cosplay cards I received, there seemed to be a significant number of professional models cosplaying. 

Even so, there was still a variety of cosplayers mixed in. One older couple cosplayed Heiter and Fern from Frieren, and there were a number of mixed cosplay groups, including the Survey Corps from Shingeki no Kyojin!

Overall, the event was a blast. While it’s very different from your average anime convention, it’s an upbeat community and a great chance to socialize with fans of various series and hobbies. 

So, whether you’re a cosplayer, a fan of cosplay, or just curious to learn what this is all about, why don’t you check out your local acosta! event?

  1. acosta! stylized according to the event’s preference.

Mark Christensen is a fifth-year ALT from Snohomish, Washington in the United States. An avid photographer, he has a passion for capturing a diverse range of topics, including cosplay, mountaineering, nature, and history. He currently resides in Omuta, Fukuoka. You can follow his photography on his Instagram and Twitter accounts.