Monday, August 13, 2012

Nisei Week 2012 – Cosplay and Parade thoughts

California is home to one of the major ethnic Japanese populations outside of Japan. Nisei week is one of the longest running celebrations of Japanese culture; this year marks the 72nd year of the event. Nisei is a term that describes second-generation Japanese-Americans, but the event itself is a celebration of the rich Japanese culture. The day I attended was a blistering, sweltering Sunday in the midst of a statewide heat wave. As with any experience, I had a fair share of great memories with wonderful people, but I also had some bad apples that could have potentially ruined my day.

Tadao Totomatsu
The MC for the cos event
My day started when I arrived in late noontime, the temperatures were on the rise. As I arrived, the Pacific Media Expo cosplay contest was ready to begin. I was delighted to see that the master of ceremonies for the show was none other than my friend Tadao Totomatsu. Thankfully, the seating area and stage used for the cosplay competition was sheltered so the violent rays could not hit us. As always, Tadao was a great MC that introduced the cosplayer and said some attention-grabbing things as they strolled on stage. Every once in a while he would ask the cosplayer a question or two. The event ran effortlessly until it ended quite abruptly. I could imagine that the reason why there were not more entries was that the heat wave scared off some cosplayers who customarily would attend Nisei Week. Last year the event was overcast and very cold, so it is a stark contrast.

As the day marched along, I walked around and hung out with my friend Jennifer Barrios, who cosplayed as Sailor Jupiter for Anime Expo 2012. Due to the heat, I suggested that she should wear the ensemble again since her hair would be up and that the outfit itself it white and does not attract heat. Later on, I had a chance to hang out with my friends Francis, Kristofer, Katrina, David, and Mark, the gang that I pretty much stuck with throughout the day. We wanted to be in proximity of the stage for my friend Mikari Takeriya and her band Momotama, but her concert kept on getting postponed more and more. Eventually, we left to grab seats for the Nisei Week Grand Parade.

Rude Person
The Grand Parade started on time, but it seemed that there were more people this year so our customary seating spot was not available. We grabbed a shooting area near the Japanese American museum, but the reflections made many of my photos underexpose. This year I just chose a bad spot to be at for the Grand Parade. As the parade started, we did not have the ebullient Mirai Nagasu as the Parade MC. In fact, we did not hear any commentary at all from our position. The lack of MC’s was missed in this parade. There were plenty of Japanese traditional dances, but there were a surprisingly small number of bands playing in this year’s parade route. The parade ended before nightfall, but I got a rude present from one of the individuals in a car, a middle finger wave. It was exceptionally offensive and it ruined an otherwise marvelous photograph. Of all the years, I have done photography; I have never received the one finger salutation. This was quite jarring to say the least.

The day ended, and the temperature started to go down. There were not as many cosplayers as there were last year, which was a huge disappointment on my end. I understand their trepidation since it was so hot that day, and the last thing that they would want is to have maquillage run all over those gorgeous outfits. The parade was great, with beautiful dancing and great choreography. I also got a one-finger salute, which was jarring to say the least. In the end, I had the most fun when I was hanging out with my friends in the convention world that I rarely see thanks to the distance between us. For that reason alone, this event had far more positive than negatives. One can hope that we can have better weather for next year’s Nisei Week, minus a rude person riding the vehicles.

Kris Zoleta started working in Anime Expo as a staffer in Manga Library. He worked in Staff Service in Anime Expo 2006 and became the manager of Manga Lounge from Anime Expo 2007-2010. He is currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Animation, the 501(c)(6) non-profit behind Anime Expo and is one of the most recognized cosplay photographers in the West Coast 

Nisei Week Website
Tadao Totomatsu
Pacific Media Expo

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