Sakura-Con 2018: My 10th Anniversary

This spring marked the 21st anniversary for one of my favorite conventions, Sakura-Con, in Seattle, WA. Over the years the con has built up a loyal fan base that now caps at around 20,000 attendees each year. Putting it up there as one of the largest anime conventions in the PNW. This was a big year for me personally, as it was my 10-year anniversary! Sakura-con was my first convention, and because of that it will always hold a special place in my heart. Every Easter weekend when I return, it feels a lot like coming home.

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Sakura-Con is a 3-day convention that goes from Friday-Sunday, however, if you’ve pre-registered for the con, you can pick up your badges on Thursday. Many people also check into their hotels Thursday evening, so they won’t miss any of the convention on Friday. For these reasons, everyone I know has always called Thursday “Day 0” of the con.

For day 0, I woke up bright and early to get picked up at 8am by my friends Michael and Emma (Swan Song Creations). Michael dropped us off before work, hence why we had to go in so early. Emma and I were staying in different hotels, so, we stopped by hers first to drop off her bags, then walked over to mine.

Originally, I was told I wouldn’t be able to check in to my room until late afternoon, so I had planned to leave my bags with the concierge. Luckily, when we arrived, I was able to check in early. It was nice to be able to get my thing settled into my room early, plus my hotel mates, Merci (Technicolornami) and Kagura (Eirehime), wouldn’t have to worry about check in when they arrived from the airport in the afternoon.

Once I was all checked into my room, I still had a few hours to kill before Merci and Kagura would be arriving. So, Emma and I wandered back towards the con center to get some breakfast and our convention badges. When I stopped by the press badge room to grab mine, they unfortunately weren’t ready yet.

Shortly after that, I got a text from Merci that she and Kagura were heading to the hotel from the airport. They arrived at about 12:15PM. Merci and I gave each other a huge hug in the lobby. Despite knowing each other for about 6 years, this was actually our first in person meeting! it was very exciting and emotional. I was also officially introduced to Merci’s friend, and our other hotel mate, Kagura.

Before con, we made plans to go see the cherry blossoms at the University of Washington (UW), both Merci and Kagura had never seen them in person before. Plus, I really wanted to show Merci the Suzzallo library, she’s a huge Harry Potter fan, and that library is basically Hogwarts. We also decided the UW quad full of cherry blossoms would be the perfect place to shoot their Yuuko and Sakura cosplays from xxxHolic/Tsubasa by Clamp. So, after grabbing them some food we headed up to our room for them to get unpacked and into their cosplays before heading to the UW campus.

We arrived at UW around 5:15 P.M. It was so great to see the look of pure shock and delight on Merci and Kagura’s faces when we first got to the quad. Kagura said the campus looked like something straight out of a fanfiction. She compared it to a kawaii anime high school mixed with Harry Potter. She said she felt like she had been transplanted to a different world. Truthfully, it’s a pretty accurate description. Merci was so excited to finally see the campus she looked like she might cry.

When we started to take photos and they got even more excited. I was so humbled by their reactions, they acted like I was a photography wizard, it was so sweet. The cuties. And they did such a wonderful job! They were so patient and held some hard poses like champs while we had to time the photos just right to avoid people walking through our shots.

After the shoot I took them into the Suzzallo library. Once again it was so lovely to see them experience the incredible reading room of the library for the first time. Merci had a look a pure wonder as she looked around and took photos. She definitely wants to come back to shoot a Harry Potter cosplay someday.

We got an Uber straight to the con center after that, so we could get our badges. I was able to pick my badge up quickly since press passes are in a different room. The regular attendee line had over an hour wait, so, I opted to sit at a nearby bench in the registration area while they got their badges. Following that we got dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. After dinner we headed straight to our hotel and watched some TV before heading to bed, wanting to get enough rest for con the following day.

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On Friday, I woke up around 10 A.M., and saw that Merci was excitedly unpacking a package she hadn’t been sure would arrive on time. Her prop bow for her Merida cosplay from Disney’s Brave was too big for her luggage so she shipped it to the hotel. Our photo shoot was scheduled for Friday and the prop wouldn’t be arriving until potentially late afternoon that day, we were both relieved that it arrived much earlier than that.

We all were moving a bit slow after having an eventful day zero. I got ready by 11:30. Merci started to get ready around noon and was ready for our shoot by about 2 P.M. We had agreed that morning not to worry about rushing and just hung out talking for a while as we got ready. It was relaxing.

At around 2:15 P.M. we headed to the freeway park to do our Merida shoot. We picked a few different spots with trees and foliage in the middle of the park. The photos turned out beautiful! Merci makes a fantastic Merida, I am so glad I finally saw it in person.

We finished up the shoot a little before 3 P.M., then my friends Liz and Tiffany met us outside. They were dressed as Hanayo from Love Live and the meme Tide Pod chan. We grabbed some photos outside and chatted for 30 or so mins before heading inside. The others eventually left to go wander and I made my way to the plus size lolita panel on the fourth floor.

The Plus Size Lolita Fashion 101 panel was really positive and informative. The panelists, Sara (tinyteatime) and Janelle (kittyheartowl) really did an excellent job of sharing their hard-earned years of experience and research with us and I appreciated it immensely. In addition to discussing what Lolita fashion is, and touching base on some of the substyles (Gothic Lolita, Sweet Lolita, Classic Lolita, etc), they explained why it can be hard to get into Lolita fashion when you’re plus size. The reasons being that Lolita fashion comes from Eastern Asia, where sizes are typically smaller. Additionally, many Lolita brands are small businesses and it is cheaper to make what is considered standard or “straight” sizes. Lastly, there is a lot more shape variation in plus size bodies. They also had some helpful visuals about understanding the shape of your body, and what types of Lolita styles and silhouettes would best suite each body shape. Lastly, they also recommended where to shop for plus size Lolita items. I appreciated that they didn’t sugar coat how difficult it can be to find plus size clothing for this fashion, nor did they make it feel impossible to join the community. There are a lot more resources for plus size people than there were even just a few years ago, which really gives me hope because I’ve always wanted to try out Lolita fashion!

After that, I went to get some food and ended up sitting by the Juicy café on the second floor with my friends Jay and Brynnan. I stayed with them till 6:30 P.M., then I went to go catch the last half hour of the masquerade ball.

I always love the masquerade ball, it is by far one of my favorite events to attend at Sakura-Con each year. Between the beautiful outfits, unique masks, and dazzling lights, there are many wonderful photo opportunities. I like to wander into the middle of the dance floor and snap photo as everyone dances around me. This year the theme for the ball was a Victorian tea party, and the music and decorations reflected the theme nicely!

Following the ball, I met back up with Jay and Brynnan in the lobby on the 4th floor. This is where a lot of photographers and cosplayers end up gathering during down time to take photos and hang out. Over the years it has been dubbed the “brotographer” or “brotog” corner.

While I was there taking pictures, Merci and Kagura ended up meeting me to chat for a bit before going to get crepes downstairs. Merci thoughtfully brought me a crepe then headed back downstairs to sit with Kagura who was resting while she ate. I was supposed to join them to eat but ended up losing track of time taking photos. My hotel mates got tired and ended up heading back to the hotel by around 9 P.M.

I ended up wandering down to the first floor lobby for the virgin killer sweater meet up. It cracks me up that is old meme is still going strong here at Sakura-Con. The meet up is always fun, it’s interesting to see what cosplays people will put together based around the sweaters. There’s always a pretty good turn out too.

 

Once the VKS party started winding down I met up with Liz and headed to Late Night Cosplay Chess. Many of my friends either organize or participate in cosplay chess every year. I make it a point to go to both late night and main game chess each year to support them. I think late night chess is sometimes just a tad more fun than main game because they can get away with a bit more adult humor since it’s an 18+ panel. The highlights of late night this year for me were the Weasley twins ripping off their tear away pants to reveal gold booty shorts. They were of course wearing these in celebration of their birthday. There were some very well-choregraphed fight scenes this year as well. It was definitely another funny and all around entertaining year for late night chess!

After cosplay chess I met up with Beki (Epona Tenjou Productions), who had been a chess piece. We headed to the brotog corner to just chat and catch up. We ended up staying there till about 3 A.M. before we both realized we’d better head back to our hotels to get some sleep if we wanted to function for day 2 of con. I definitely lost out on some valuable sleep, but it was worth it to catch up with a great friend.

 

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Saturday morning, I arrived at the con center at 11:00 A.M. I spent the time snagging a few shots of friends before heading down to Juicy Café to meet with my first shoot of the day. I worked with Chris in his Usagi Yojimbo cosplay. We ended up taking pictures by the Japanese bell in the plaza located just outside of the café lobby. It was lovely to work with Chris and I hope we have a chance to shoot together again!

I had some time to kill after my shoot, so I started to walk around. That’s when I came cross the Kimono Workshop. It’s funny, I’ve been coming to Sakura-Con for years, and I vaguely remember seeing it on their schedule before, but I had never thought to look it up. I’m so happy I stumbled into it! In the workshop is a full rack of different kimonos to try on for a small fee. There are helpers there to make sure you are wearing the kimono correctly and looking your very best. Along with the kimonos they have several props and a backdrop set up to take photos. It’s quite the set up! Not having much time to stay, I had a chat with the ladies in the workshop area briefly and vowed to come back later with friends before heading off to lunch.

I had a quick lunch at the Juicy Café before heading outside for the 4th annual Sailor Moon meet up. It’s crazy to realize I’ve been co-hosting this meet up for 4 years already! I look forward to it every year. I love the chance to see so many Moonies in one place! One of my favorite things is to see which Sailor Guardian will have the most cosplayers each year (not counting Sailor Moon of course, she’s always going to have the most!). This year it was a tie between Sailor Jupiter and Sailor Mercury. It was a bit smaller than last year’s meet up, but still a huge success! I can’t wait to see all the Moonies that come to next year’s meet up.

My next shoot of the day was with Jay and Brianna as Milo and Kida from Disney’s Atlantis. I met up with them by the café before heading to a business plaza nearby. The plaza is a common photoshoot location during cons because it has a beautiful fountain in the middle of the open courtyard. Which worked quite well for our shoot, seeing as how we were fresh out of an underwater city to shoot at. I’d say we made due quite nicely though. Not only did Jay and Brianna look the part with fantastic cosplays, they were able to channel Milo and Kida’s personalities wonderfully, and it shows in the photos!

Shortly after the Atlantis shoot I met up with Eli and Olivia for in the brotog corner. I was scheduled to shoot with them as Raven and Starfire from Teen Titans. We ended up on the 6th floor in a little lounge space close to the elevators. There’s a large window where you can see the cityscape, it made for a fantastic backdrop. Jay and Brianna had stuck around to hang out with us during the shoot. Which is handy, because I ended up putting Jay to work. He held up a cellphone with the flashlight app on, to help better light Eli’s face against the backlighting from the window. The photos turned out so cute! You can tell that Eli and Olivia are best friends in real life, which helped bring the dynamics of Raven and Starfire to life for the shoot. I honestly adore the whole set.

As we were finishing up the Teen Titans shoot we ran into our friends Emma, Erin, and Chase. I wanted to head back to the kimono workshop to check it out properly and get some pics. Emma was also interested in trying on a kimono, so we all headed down there together. Everyone else snagged a seat and hung out while Emma and I tried on stuff and took photos. There weren’t any kimonos in my size, but the cloak that goes over a kimono fit, and we fashioned an outfit together based around that. It was really sweet of the ladies to find a way for me to dress up as well. They’re all very enthusiastic! I’m grateful for their help. I took some photos of Emma, but thanks to one of the volunteers we actually got a few photos together as well.

Before long, it was time to get a seat at the main game chess event. If you don’t get there early it’s hard to get a good spot. Jay, Brianna, and I grabbed some dinner from Subway before heading to the 6th floor to grab our seats for chess.

Main game chess was hilarious this year! My favorite parts were the bits with Kuzco, Yzma, and Kronk form The Emperor’s New Groove as well as some of the Marvel mashups. As a nod to the MCU’s Civil War they had Captain America and Iron Man on opposite teams, but instead of fighting there was an apology. Much like at late night chess the previous day, there were some very well-choreographed fight scenes. I feel like every year I attend cosplay chess becomes a more well curated event.

I met up with Merci after chess for a photo shoot of her Noir cosplay from Persona 5. She had told me she wanted a shoot at night that showcased the cityscape and lights. We ended up going to the skybridge first to get some shots that incorporated a view of the city in the background, and we ended the shoot just outside of the convention to capture that city night life. I hadn’t done a night shoot in quite some time, it was a lot of fun!

I ended up wandering the con for a few more hours, hanging out with friends and snagging a few photos here and there. At one point I lost my badge because the clip holding it to my lanyard broke, but thankfully one of my friends on staff found it and turned it in. Thanks Tai! I got a replacement badge clip after that and all was well. I headed back to the hotel around 2 A.M. where I watched tv and talked with Kagu and Merci until we fell asleep around 3:30 A.M.

 

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Sunday morning was very bittersweet, I had a lovely brunch with Merci and Kagu at our hotel. But, once it was over it was back to reality, for they had to head back to the airport and none of us knew when we’d see each other next. It was a rather emotional goodbye in front of the hotel as they got into their cab.

After that tearful goodbye, I met up with Michael, who kindly took my luggage for me to put in his car. From there, I headed to the Artist Alley, for the first time all weekend. I ran into my friend Natalie and we shopped together for about 2 hours. Although, one could argue I spent more time talking than actually shopping. I know so many of the local artists now from both attending and running events, of course I must spend some time to catch up with them all!

Once Natalie and I were done shopping, we headed to the brotog corner and ran into the Riverdale Squad (Jay, Emma, Erin, David, and Chris). They were just leaving to grab some food and offered to pick something up for me as well. I was suddenly feeling really weak and tired, so I sat down in the brotog corner while waiting for them. I think it was a mix of being emotionally drained, and the fatigue from a full con weekend finally catching up to me.

When the squad got back we decided to move downstairs to the Juicy Café lobby to eat. It was there we ended up recreating The Breakfast Club poster with Riverdale characters and made a “Karma is a bitch” video, thus adding to the latest meme.

Varchie - Karma

https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/46522104204/in/dateposted-public/

I spent the last hour of the con walking around the brotog corner to get photos and say goodbye to friends. After con was over we kept the party going a little longer with the squad plus Emma’s grandma for a post-con/Easter dinner. It was a good way to end the weekend.

I’ve yet to have a bad year at Sakura-Con. It’s just an all-around fun con that has something to offer to all ages, and any level of anime fan, from the casual to the self-proclaimed otakus. As always, I will be eagerly awaiting next Easter weekend, when I can come back “home” to Sakura-Con. See you next time!

All photos, unless otherwise stated, were taken and provided by Fearless Photoworks.

 

 

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