I have queued twice for Winter Comiket: back in 2012 and the latest one in 2013. I am writing this post just to pass on some knowledge to any future first-timers who wish to brave the queues. It is not an exhaustive guide, but I still hope that the information will be useful.
First of all, a quick breakdown of the three days of Winter Comiket:
– Day 1 is when the corporate booths 「企業ブース」, or official merchandise booths, will open. Some of the corporate booths might be open for all three days. However, there is a high chance that many of the official goods will be sold out by Day 1. There are also doujin booths on Day 1, but they are all devoted to yaoi and boys-love (BL) stuff only.
– Day 2 is when the Touhou 「東方」 booths are open.
– Day 3 is when the doujin booths for non-yaoi stuff are open.
The most important question you need to ask yourself is: should I queue overnight for Winter Comiket? Both options have their pros and cons:
– You will be the first few thousand people entering the convention, making it easier for you to queue for the popular commercial booths that are usually overcrowded (eg. Type-Moon, Aniplex, etc.). The first 20-30 minutes once the doors open will be absolutely crucial: this is your one-time opportunity to grab as much stuff as you can before the main crowds start pouring in.
– You will be freezing at night during the overnight queue, and you are unlikely to get any sleep. Be absolutely, mentally prepared, because it will be a completely soul shattering experience.
– Some very specific and highly popular goods might run out of stock even if you queue overnight. Again, be mentally prepared.
– Heat packs will really help. You can buy a pack of 20 satchets at Daiso for a cheap price (try to get the adhesive versions, those are really nifty). Bring as many as you can carry, and apply them to the important body parts (eg. both sides of the chest near your lungs, both hips near the liver and kidneys, both your upper arms and upper thighs at the major arteries).
Remember: heat packs take time to generate heat, so start “activating” them about 30 minutes before you reach Tokyo Big Sight.
– If you REALLY want to keep yourself warm, you have to use aluminum foil: they are the best materials for retaining and trapping heat. The best way to do this is to line the inside of a sleeping bag with foil, then sleep/lie inside it.
– The temperature at night at Tokyo Big Sight can drop to as low as -5 degrees Celsius. Water freezes at 0 degrees Celsius. If you are bringing your own bottled water, you have to find a way to prevent your liquids from freezing into ice cubes. Again, the best solution is to use some sort of water-bottle pouch aligned with aluminum foil.
– You do not need to kill yourself queuing overnight, and you will be able to get some sleep the night before.
– Be mentally prepared for the mega queues, and I really mean it. Even if you take the first 5.50am train and arrive early, you will still have to face a long queue just to get into the convention hall. Once the doors open at 10.00am, it can take as long as 30-45 minutes just for you to enter the hall. THAT’S how long the queues are for those who arrive in the morning.
– Ride the human wave. Once you manage to enter the hall, you will experience the unique Comiket phenomenon known as the human wave: every once in a while, your body is going to be crushed by waves of people trying to shove their way through the crowd. This creates a ripple effect, and it’s possible for your body to start moving on its own due to the sheer momentum generated by the hordes of people pushing and shoving at the same time.
Be prepared to sustain some minor injuries: one of my friends suffered some light bruises after he was elbowed on the chest.
But don’t be afraid to return the favour: you have every right to fight the momentum and defend yourself (but don’t actually start punching people please — just some firm, opposing momentum on your part to fight the wave). Keep your arms raised near your chest, with your elbows pointing to the side. If you need to make way, start rotating your hips from from side to side — this will naturally cause your arms and elbows to sweep sideways in an arcing motion. This is actually a legitimate self-defence technique, which my sister used to fend off the crowd — much to the amusement of my friends.
– Secure your belongings, especially any gloves, scarves, or headgear. Do not leave any items dangling from your body or backpack. Store them securely inside your jacket pockets or bags, and ensure all zippers on your pockets and bags are closed tightly. It’s very easy for things to get displaced inside the crowded convention hall, so make sure to keep your belongings safe. My friend learned this the hard way when he lost his favourite Mongolian hat inside the halls.
Other random tips:
– Regardless of whether you are queuing overnight or not, you need to dress as warmly as possible. It is better to feel hot by being overdressed, instead of freezing yourself off and falling sick because you didn’t wear an extra layer. What you choose to wear is entirely up to you, but Heattech, fleece shirts/pants, and windbreakers are all helpful. Also remember to wear gloves, and bring a hoodie to cover your head and ears just in case. A scarf is also pretty much mandatory for keeping your neck and upper chest warm — the most susceptible parts of your body to the cold (the freezing cold wind can constrict your lungs from breathing properly).
– Know EXACTLY what items you want, and which booths to head for. Once inside the halls, you have no time to dilly-dally or go window shopping. The longer you delay, the bigger the crowds will get, and there is a higher chance that more items will become sold out.
Check the official websites of the merchandise booths that you are interested in, most of them will list their items for sale a couple of weeks before Comiket starts. They are usually in Japanese, but it should still be fairly easy to navigate and understand even for non-Japanese speakers.
– If you are going with friends, assign each person to specific booths to help purchase items for the group. This is much faster and more efficient than queuing for every booth on your own.
Do take note however, that some booths will limit the amount of items that can be purchased by one person. You can usually get around this by re-queuing for the same booth to purchase more of the same item… provided the queue isn’t super long. Otherwise, you will need to assign multiple friends to queue for the same booth.
– Most booths will give out merchandise tote bags with nice artwork. If you don’t want to damage the bags, you will need to bring your own plastic bags to carry your merchandise separately in one hand, while holding your tote bags in the other hand. If you have a big enough backpack or luggage case to fit all of your merchandise, that’s even better (but it might be more cumbersome and heavy).
– Aim to get all of your shopping done by 1.00pm+, no later than 2pm. This is the optimal timing where the majority of goods tend to start getting sold out for the day. It is also the perfect timing to grab some lunch and much needed rest at the nearby Saizeriya and coffee shop.
Again, I hope that this guide was useful. Stay warm and stay safe!