From October 7 to October 9 the Mehrzweckanlage Teuchelweiher in Winterthur (Switzerland) was transformed into a Japanese theme especially for Aki no Matsuri. With a market, Japanese food, bubble tea, anime, manga and cosplay the first impression of the event is like any other. The basic elements for a convention are there, along with a mini-cinema, lectures about different Japanese themed topics, video game and karaoke you’re guaranteed to find something to keep you entertained during the event. And then we haven’t even gotten to the workshops and musical guests yet.
Japanese goods, handcrafted items, art and snacks
Upon entering the location the first destination is the market, where you can find all kinds of goods ranging from stuffed animals, figurines and video games to handcrafted decorations, cosplay items and of course a lot of different kinds of artwork from artists showcasing their skills at their booths. The center area of the market, behind the center ring of tables, is reserved for a martial arts demonstration. An art form that we’ll see multiple times throughout the weekend in different places of the event as well.
Next to goods and handcrafted items the market is also the location to satisfy both your sweet tooth through the candy shop and the bubble tea shop before moving on to the area reserved for Alpha999 and Zeke Deux to display their merchandise to not just the people visiting their live shows on the first two days, but also the general audience who are more interested in the market and cosplay events. Effectively bringing the world of J-Rock and ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) to the main area of the event rather than being contained in the live stage area like artists sometimes are during other events.
The Japanese experience in Europe
You’ve probably heard the words “maid café” at least once during one of these Japanese-themed events, havent you? By now a Maid Café is pretty much an essential part of any Japanese event here in Europe. While the experience is a little different than the Japanese equivalent, the European staff tries to give you a similar experience as you would in Japan by dressing up in maid costumes and peparing your food and drinks in a similar style.
During Aki no Matsuri the Maid Café was located directly next to the market, meaning that the exit you’d take to the center square made you go through the Maid Café, which was located in a large tent with a little outside seating area to the outside at the entrance between the market and the café. A café needs a bigger space to operate properly and we understand this very well, but we personally would have loved to see an indoor version of a Maid Café rather than the outdoors version. The outdoors decision initially made us miss the café entirely until we saw one of the maids handling orders, since there hardly was any theme indicating the presence of the Maid Café itself.
In our personal opinion this wasn’t a proper visual representation of a Maid Café, but the service was excellent and on point with the theme of the café regardless.
Just outside of the maid cafe you could try your hand at some Japanese street food through some themed pop-up stands from Wakara Karaage selling a fried chicken dish that’s normally very popular in Japanese convenience stores, Mama Song selling the Korean dishes with a low amount of fat but a high amount of vegetables and various choices of meat, but also fish and other seafoods, MAIIAM selling takoyaki and gyoza in both original and vegetarian options, as well as various other food stands with matcha, ramen and udon.
Video games, lectures, workshops and karaoke
But Aki no Matsuri is so much more than just a market for goods and food. Japanese culture is also big on anime, manga and video games. And this means you can meet some new friends in these sections as well. Who doesn’t like a round of Mario Kart or Smash Bros with either your own friends or friends you’ve made at the convention?
But it’s not just the newer or party games that get a chance to shine at this event, there’s also retro gaming for the ones who’d rather play some classics in all their original glory.
What surprised us most in this section was the lack of typical Japanese games like 太鼓の達人 (Taiko no Tatsujin / Master of the Drums) or パチンコ (Pachinko), which are both very typical Japanese games that you’ll find in any arcade in Japan. Not to mention that you can play 太鼓の達人 (Taiko no Tatsujin) with together with a friend, meaning it’s a great opportunity for some classic Japanese-style entertainment during a Japanese themed event.
Need a break from video games? Or would you rather learn something new? Then another option are the lectures and workshops.
With topics like Anime, Japanese Magic, Lolita Fashion and Bonsai (just to name a few) there was more than enough to learn about different aspects of the Japanese culture. For us the fact that there was a hands on lecture and a display about Bonsai trees was nothing short of amazing, because not only is this often a forgotten art form, we have a weakness for this type of art as well.
If you’re more of a performer-type of personality, or just want to embarrass yourself through karaoke, there’s a spot for you at Aki no Matsuri as well! Karaoke is very popular in Japanese culture, so of course this cannot be skipped at a Japanese-Culture-Appreciation event now can it? Throughout the entire event there was a contest in which they were looking for the best singer, so who knows, perhaps you are the person they’re looking for during the next edition of the event!
We’ve ignored this topic up until now, but conventions and Japanese-themed events are THE place for cosplay. No matter if you’re a cosplayer looking to show off and model your newest costume or simply a fan of cosplay as a whole, during conventions you’ll see cosplayers and fans of cosplay no matter where you look.
Combined with the cosplay contest and various workshops that benefit the creation of cosplay costumes with ideas and even special effects makeup, there’s more than enough cosplay options for every cosplayer. Regardless of your level of skill, there’s always something to learn or help another cosplayer learn through a workshop or even through the cosplay repair area where you can of course repair your cosplay, but also get tips from other creators on how to improve your costume for future uses.
Musical guests: Alpha999, Zeke Deux and KOHEI
A Japanese-themed event isn’t complete without Japanese music, is it? For the 2022 edition of Aki no Matsuri there wasn’t one, there weren’t two, but as much as three different artists at the event to entertain the visitors with their music.
The first night of the event was opened with the live show of Alpha999 (Alpha-three-nine), which is actually the solo project of vocalist TAKA, supported by the 999’z members -existing out of masato and 有哉 (Yuya) as guitarists, seiya as a bassist and Syu as a drummer.
Alpha999 wasted no time to show the audience what they’re made of, creating a powerful opening for the three-days-spanning event with their energetic rock-themed performance.
During the second day solo artist KOHEI, who is actually based in Switzerland, took the stage to entertain visitors with his acoustic performance. But make no mistake, while KOHEI’s style makes use of an acoustic guitar, his unique choice of using distortion to manipulate the sound of his acoustic instrument allows him to reach a much wider range of sounds than even an electric guitar can produce.
And as a closure to the second day of the event the stage was cleared for Zeke Deux, a ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) group from Japan, who were listed as the main act for the event. Combining their aristocratic influence with modern pop culture like anime and manga allows them to create a diverse live show with a mixture of their own original songs and cover songs from famous anime openings like Saint Seiya and Dragon Ball, just to name an example.
Long story short, the musical acts had something up their collective sleeves for every type of music lover. No matter if they came to the event especially for the live shows of the artists or decided to join in because they were at the event anyway, with no prior knowledge about any artists.
Combined with the other activities at the event they helped cover every popular aspect of modern Japanese pop culture, making them a perfect addition to any Japan-themed event.
During the second day there was an opportunity to join a Q&A session with Alpha999, and during the third day this same option was made possible for Zeke Deux, allowing attending fans to ask questions about the group, their interests, and of course Japan itself. Obviously ending both Q&A sessions with a photo opportunity together with the band, and the option to get the merchandise signed by the members.
Interviews & Live Photos: Alpha999 & Zeke Deux
Do you want to learn more about Alpha999 and Zeke Deux? Or are you curious to the photos we took during their live performances?
You can find the photos from their live shows on our portfolio, Arlequin Photography, by clicking the images below:
We’ve also done interviews with both Alpha999 and Zeke Deux, in which we talk about their projects, their experiences and impressions at Aki no Matsuri (since for both groups it was their very first time visiting and performing in Europe) as well as the next steps in their careers.
You can find Alpha999’s interview by clicking on the left image, and Zeke Deux’ interview by clicking on the right image:
Aki no Matsuri is a small convention which aims to appeal to a wide audience through the inclusion of different parts of modern Japanese popculture, be it a market where you can potentially find that one stuffed animal or figurine you’ve been looking for, the cosplay-related events and workshops, the social events like karaoke or video games, the food or even the musical acts, pretty much any Japan-fan will manage to entertain themselves during this event.
With multiple activities spread out over the three days the event is held it might be a little difficult to decide if you would want to attend all three days of the event or just one or two days, but the overall atmosphere is very friendly and no matter if you’re alone or with friends, you’re among people with similar interests, so the threshold to just “join in” on the activities is much lower.
If you’re in the area of Winterthur during early October or don’t mind traveling for an event, definitely give Aki no Matsuri a chance.
And if you need a break from all the Japan-themed impressions there’s always the direct area around the Mehrzweckanlage Teuchelweiher. You’re in the shopping district in a matter of minutes, and there are some great places to admire the architecture if you fancy a little walk to clear your head.
If you’d like to see all of our photos from the event, you can also find these on our portfolio, Arlequin Photography, by clicking the image below:
雪 (Yuki) is the owner and driving force behind Arlequin Magazine & Photography.
She started in 2009 as a photographer with Arlequin Photography, but due to a growing interest in journalism, translation and behind-the-scenes work in general the project burst out of it's seams in 2021 and expanded through the addition of Arlequin Magazine.
雪 (Yuki) is a native Dutch speaker and maintains both the English and Dutch sections of both Magazine and Photography with original content, translations and photography as well as all the behind-the-scenes work for both websites.
She speaks Dutch, English, Japanese and German.