• Experience

Fukuyamanime 2022: Fukuyama Outdoes Her Bigger Sister

Fukuyamanime is hands-down the biggest cosplay and anime-related event in this part of Japan, and the fact that such a big convention would take place in Fukuyama rather than Hiroshima City certainly makes the former a bit of a dark horse tourist destination. The fact of the matter is that a considerable portion of anime voice actors and other relevant celebrities hail from or have ties to the Fukuyama area, making the eastern part of Hiroshima Prefecture an attractive choice for all these media stars to reconvene and interact with their fans. Fukuyamanime is always held in late October on a weekend close to Halloween (at least a week prior), the perfect season for the donning of costumes in public, and while temperatures around these parts tend to start dropping around this time of year, it’s still warm enough during the day for cosplayers to wear thin or revealing outfits without suffering too much.

Fukuyamanime lasts two entire days (Saturday and Sunday) and since each day is packed to the brim with different events scattered all over the city center, it’s worth it to attend the event on both days. If you make it a day trip, not only do you only get to experience half the festivities at most, but you also waste the morning getting to Fukuyama as the Shinkansen is quick but pricey, and the regular JR Sanyo Line is cost-effective but takes a while. Personally, if I had all the time in the world, I would’ve stuck around for both the 22nd and the 23rd of October, but as I had another adventure planned for the latter, I could only enjoy one full day. To maximize my time on the first day of Fukuyamanime, I made sure to take a regular JR train from Hiroshima Station to Fukuyama Station the night before and stay in a nearby hotel. Thankfully, the cost was offset by the revival of the “Yappa Hiroshima Ja Wari” campaign, wherein the prefectural government partially subsidized my stay and gave me coupons to spend on meals and souvenir foods to keep me fed during my trip.

Room and Board

Upon checking in at my hotel across from Fukuyama Station, the first thing I did was set my stuff down in my room and leave in search of dinner. I ended up at a ramen joint on Miyadori called 丸忠商店 (まるちゅうしょうてん – Maruchu Shop), which is one of the most renowned ramen restaurants in Fukuyama. I saw on their front door that they accept Yappa Hiroshima Ja Wari vouchers, so in I went to try this famous ramen, courtesy of Hiroshima Prefecture.

I got myself a bowl of soy sauce ramen with extra char siu pork slices, which encircled the rim of the bowl, surrounding the veggies, soup, and noodles. There was even enough money left on the voucher for a 替え玉 (かえだま – extra helping of noodles), which I ordered when I was near finished with the original portion of ramen. Having two rounds of noodles allowed me to enjoy the meat, soup, and veggies at a slower pace and ensured a full belly for the night, and the best part about this meal was that it was exactly ¥1,000, so I had all this savory, soupy goodness for free without wasting a single yen!

The next morning, rather than eat breakfast at my hotel (since my voucher wasn’t accepted there), I walked to Fukuyama Station’s Sun Station shopping complex (abbreviated at “Sun Sute”) to pick up some souvenir snack foods to break my fast. I chose another famed local store, Toraya, which is famous for its “torayaki,” which are a play on words referring to dorayaki with a tiger print on both sides.

After what seemed like ceaseless pondering and inquiring about certain products, I gathered some snacks that were altogether worth ¥1,000, handed the store staff another Yappa Hiroshima Ja Wari voucher, and went back to my hotel room to feast. In the bottom right is their signature product, the torayaki, which is a confectionery made of mashed azuki bean paste sandwiched between two tiger-print pancakes. To the left is but one pack of sakura sea bream biscuits (I got an entire box of them), which thankfully contain no fish and only possess a mild sweetness, making them a healthy snack choice for any time of day. Finally, in the top right, there’s a Halloween limited edition zombie dorayaki, which features creepy purple azuki bean paste sandwiched like a normal dorayaki, but with a screaming zombie face stamped on top.

It was lovely being able to leisurely chill in my hotel room with breakfast until Fukuyamanime started in earnest. Upon check-out, I packed my things and headed out straight into the liveliness of the events, and would later use my final voucher to fuel up on lunch. Fukuyamanime is undoubtedly more fun when you don’t have to watch how much you’re spending on food and merchandise.

Cosplayers’ Cosparade

The first destination on my list was Miyadori, a bustling shopping street marked on both ends by vermilion torii, located south of the Tenmaya department store. As with every festival day in Fukuyama, food stalls and street performers filled this street, but with the added parade of cosplayer attendees walking up and down, showing off their ensembles and posing for photos. It was too bad that none of the stands accepted my last remaining voucher, but in some defense, they’re just temporary food stalls and not actual stores that require government subsidies to stay open. I would’ve loved to try one of those Korean-style cheese hot dogs, but as I was unwilling to spend cash if it wasn’t necessary, I had to make due with the appetizing scents and enviously staring at others buying food.

By the way, I always mention this at cosplay events, and I’ll mention it as many times as I need to: if you wish to take pictures or videos of cosplayers anywhere, be sure to obtain consent from the cosplayer beforehand, and remember that permission to snap and permission to share online are to be treated as two distinct questions. If asking before the fact is difficult (e.g. during a performance), snapping first and asking after the fact is the next best thing, but if you are turned down, do the respectful thing and delete all photos and videos of said cosplayer from your device. This rule applies to non-human cosplayers as well, such as these two adorable puppies dressed up as Tanjiro and Nezuko Kamado, two siblings and protagonists from the currently trending anime, Demon Slayer.

Moment of Joy: Those Were the Days

Most cosplayers dress up as characters from whatever shows and video games are currently popular, and to some degree, visitors will see the same costumes over and over again at events like Fukuyamanime. However, once in a while, there comes a single person or a group of cosplayers that will choose a relatively older anime as the basis of their wardrobe. This year’s Fukuyamanime might have marked the first time in all my anime event exhibits in Japan that I ran into some folks dressed like the nations from Hetalia, a series that was hot when I was in university. Costumes like the one above that evoke nostalgia add to the already spellbinding atmosphere created by so many recognizable personages congregated in one space.

Around Fukuyama Castle

Around lunch time, I made my way up to Sun Sute, redeemed myself a free ¥1,000 lunch at the restaurant quarter using my final voucher, and headed north to the base of Fukuyama Castle where more of the festival was taking place. In the plaza near the slope leading to the castle keep, there was a small station set up by some volunteer ninjas who were operating independently of Fukuyamanime but still relevant to the theme of this weekend. To the left, there was a shuriken-throwing experience where kids and adults could try their hand at flinging pointy, metal stars at a target for a fee. I had tried such an activity elsewhere when I was a teenager so I didn’t feel the need to give it a go; watching others attempt the challenge was entertainment enough.

To the right was a lady dressed in ninja costume standing by a table that had a sign recruiting prospective ninja volunteers. I asked her what the ninja group generally does, as well as what it takes to become one of these ninjas. To my dismay, ninjutsu was not a requirement, but knowledge on ninja lore (think hand signs, traditional weaponry, etc.) and Japanese history would be expected of applicants. In addition, this group mainly operates in the Bingo area (the east half of Hiroshima Prefecture), so little old me who’s based in Aki (the west half of the prefecture) wouldn’t exactly be able to make it to any events where they set up shop. Nonetheless, simply having that talk with the ninja lady was a learning experience in itself should I decide to be a ninja in Hiroshima City, and she even let me snap a photo of her in a battle stance before I climbed up to the castle keep.

When I reached the top, I was met with a sight for sore eyes: Fukuyama Castle was completely free from scaffolding, and if not for Fukuyamanime, I would’ve totally gone in to check out how exactly every single floor has changed. Even without entering, the main keep itself makes for an unparalleled backdrop for those cosplaying in traditional Japanese garb, and indeed, some cosplayers did make the journey up here for that Edo-esque photoshoot. As I was not in costume this year, I took a simple photo of the keep and went about my business.

Fukuyama Castle only opened back up in late August, and since then, I had been dying to justify a trip out here just to see the refurbished interior. Due to Japan still being cautious about preventing the spread of COVID-19 even though the borders are completely open, visits to Fukuyama Castle require reservations, either in advance or on the day of one’s visit. If I had put my name down then and there, I would’ve had to wait an hour or two, but I had a cosplay event to attend, so I decided to save the castle tour for a time when I could dedicate the entire day to the keep.

Peanut Gallery

There were two areas where cosplayers were performing on stage over the course of two days: one south of Fukuyama Station, and the other north of the station to the right of the ninja volunteers. After checking out the castle, I doubled back to the southern stage to see what the commotion was about. The official viewing area was packed with spectators, which meant I couldn’t sit or even stand there, forcing me to watch from a distance from an adjacent staircase. I eventually found an angle that afforded a decent view of the performers, somewhat obstructed by equipment but more comfortable than squeezing with others at ground level. Technically, photos and videos of the performances here are forbidden, but after these two finished their song and dance, I coincidentally bumped into them in the backstage area and got the green light to share this photo of them (it was the only way to let our readers here know what the stage looks like).

It was late afternoon and fast approaching the end of Fukuyamanime’s first day when I dropped by the northern stage. Unlike at the southern stage, pictures of the performers are permitted here, and consent to have one’s photo taken is a prerequisite to performing on the northern stage. When I arrived, there was a live band with three female vocalists all dressed as Lum, a main character from an anime called “Urusei Yatsura” that got a reboot just this year. All three singers were quite rowdy which made the microphones peak constantly, but once you get past the screeches and deafening rises in volume it was a rather humorous performance.

Soon after, a woman dressed as Lloyd Forger from Spy Family and a little girl dressed as Anya Forger took the stage to sing “Mixed Nuts,” the opening theme song for the first season of the show. This song is actually really hot right now and can be heard in many stores all over Japan, so I was giddy to find out that it would be sung here too. To be brutally honest, though, the vocals weren’t anything home to write about, but at least the band behind Lloyd Forger demonstrated adequate talent. The showstopper would have to be when the child cosplaying as Anya started throwing peanuts into the crowd; it would seem appropriate for the peanut gallery to be on stage rather than in the audience given how much noisier they were than we spectators.

All in all, it was a good day geeking out all over downtown Fukuyama, and if there’s ever a chance in the future, I’ll be sure to book a hotel room far in advance to experience both days of Fukuyamanime and double my fun factor. Hiroshima Prefecture’s second largest city lags far behind the prefectural capital in terms of tourist numbers, so Fukuyamanime does a splendid job drawing thousands of nerdy visitors here, if only once a year. Big sister Hiroshima deserves all the attention she gets, but even she shouldn’t hog the glory, so smaller towns in the prefecture need more events like Fukuyamanime throughout the year to revitalize their economies. For all your stereotypical tourist sites, Hiroshima City has you mostly covered, but those with a nerdy side that swing by this neck of the woods in the autumn ought to give second sister Fukuyama a chance to shine!

Written by the Joy in Hiroshima Team