Things to do / Cultural/Entertainment

Pop culture festivals go digital to survive COVID-19

To limit the spread of COVID-19, many event organizers have taken the responsible route of canceling or postponing gatherings and festivals. Despite the unprecedented situation, however, some pop culture events have found a new temporary venue ― the internet.

Among such cases is the Nipponbashi Street Festa (www.nippombashi.jp/festa). It was originally planned to take place on March 15 and fill Den Den Town, a shopping district known for electronic goods and a hub for otaku (someone with an obsessive interest) culture in Osaka, with participants dressed like characters from popular anime, manga and video games.

The event was called off and, in response, fans took to Twitter to share the hashtag #エアストフェス (#Easutofesu), which loosely translates as “Imaginary Street Fest.”

Some users posted selfies from the previous edition of the festival, while others posted photos of themselves at home dressed up as their favorite characters.

In a show of support for the Nipponbashi festival's organizers, fans also bought merchandise like branded towels in such huge numbers that the entire stock ran out, according to a tweet from the organizers on March 26.

There is likely to be a similar shopping spree in support of Comic Market (www.comiket.co.jp), also known as Comiket. The semi-annual convention typically features more than 30,000 self-published manga artists, attracts around 20,000 cosplayers and is usually held at the Tokyo Big Sight convention center in Koto Ward. When the event’s cancellation was announced late last month, the organizer of the extravaganza urged fans to purchase stall catalogs for what would have been its 98th edition. Those catalogs hit bookstores and e-commerce sites on April 11.

Meanwhile, the ongoing effort to limit the spread of the coronavirus has changed how Dwango Co. will hold its Niconico Chokaigi (https://chokaigi.jp/2020/en), a two-day event that usually takes place at Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba to promote Japanese pop culture. From April 12 to 19, the festival will go digital by livestreaming more than a dozen shows and allowing viewers and performers to interact online.

One of the highlights of the online festival will be performances of “Cho Kabuki,” which combines traditional Japanese theater with cutting-edge technology and pop culture elements. In addition to streaming past performances, a new show featuring kabuki actor Nakamura Shido II and virtual singer Hatsune Miku will be livestreamed on April 18 and 19. Another highlight will be the Vocaloid Festival, an online concert that will also take place on April 18. Visitors can watch Hatsune Miku and other holographic vocalists, such as Kagamine Rin & Len and Gumi, perform after choosing from three different camera angles: main view, audience seat view and panoramic view. (Yuki Yamauchi)

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.