Cosplay graphic

Cosplay: A Unique Form of Japanese Expression

Cosplay (コスプレ) or costume play, is a type of performance art where participants (“cosplayers”) wear costumes to depict an idea, a character, or almost anything imaginable. In Japan, the more popular costumes are inspired from manga, anime, Japanese pop music bands, TV shows, and video games. Japanese cosplay is known as Harajuku fashion since it usually takes place in Harajuku, the bridge that leads to Meiji shrine. Cosplay is different from costuming in that cosplayers do role play by acting like the characters depicted by their costumes.

Japanese cosplay is popular with people of all ages, and the costumes, including wigs and accessories, are always colorful, outrageous, hip, or downright strange.

Whatever it is that cosplay enthusiasts wear, they never feel out of place among the crowd. The creative street fashion show in Harajuku is a Sunday activity and is a source of inspiration for many of the best known designers and celebrities all around the world.

Portrait of Japan anime cosplayer

Portrait of Japan anime cosplayer.

Cosplay’s Catching On

Japanese cosplay is a subculture in Japan that is fast becoming a global sensation. Cosplay costumes in Tokyo are a booming industry. Costumes can conveniently be purchased online. A number of cosplay-themed cafes cater to fans where even servers are dressed to impress. Numerous cosplay nightclubs, amusement parks, and parties also pay tribute to the fans of manga, known as “otaku.”

Female fantasy warrior cosplayer

Female fantasy warrior cosplayer.

Cosplay is not limited just to Japan, and in fact, has a huge following in the U.S.and Europe. Western cosplay costumes include characters from popular science fiction and fantasy stories: Star Trek, Harry Potter, and Star Wars.

Cosplay at Comiket

Comiket (コミケット Komiketto), or “comic market,” is the world’s largest dōjinshi (self-published) comic book fair, held twice a year in Tokyo, during summer (NatsuComi) and winter (FuyuComi.) It also the largest Japanese cosplay event, where cosplayers can meet, mingle, and admire each other’s outfits.