Ticktank’s English Guide to Comiket (コミケット) Part 3: Navigation
This is a continuation of an amateur’s guide to the Comic Market convention (Comiket). Part 1 can be found [here]. I decided to skip part II (Catalog & Planning) first as its a little more tedious to write about, and instead talk about how to navigate around the event, and about queuing.
I’ve never taken a Bus or Ferry to the event, so I can’t comment on those options. A Taxi can get you there really quick (depending on where your hotel is), but is extremely costly. IMO the most convenient and affordable means of getting there would be by train, with the two nearest stations being Kokusai-Tenjijo Station (国際展示場) and Kokusai-Tenjijo Seimon Station (国際展示場正門). I usually arrive at the former.
Map graciously stolen from the official Tokyo Big Sight webpage (English version)
Note from the map that these are two completely different train stations, despite the similar names. Kokusai-Tenjijo Station is part of the Rinkai Line, which links up to the JR Circle Line via Osaki, in the Western part of the city. Kokusai-Tenjijo Seimon Station on the other hand is part of the Yurikamome Line, which links to Shimbashi Station at the Eastern part of the city. This line can actually give you quite a nice, scenic view of the Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo Bay, but has more stops.
Its really up to you to decide which station to get off from. What I am certain of however is that there’s no quick ‘shortcut’ to skip the queues – a Taxi or Kokusai-Tenjijo-Senjo train may drop you off much nearer to the Big Sight when you arrive, but ushers will always be deployed at all arrival points to direct arriving crowds into the main queue lines. So no cheating sorry 😛
Should I buy my return (train) tickets when I arrive?
OMG yes! Imagine being greeted by the sight of hundreds of people lining up to buy train tickets, and the realization that you’re in for another 20 minutes of queuing, after spending most of the entire day doing just that. Resist the urge to head straight for the queue when you arrive, and instead spend a few minutes buying your return tickets first. You’ll be glad you did at the end of the day.
The Floor Map – Key Locations
The inside of the Tokyo Big Sight can be quite complicated for first timers, and downright dangerous in some areas.
1. East (東) Halls 1 ~ 6
The East Hall cluster is probably the area where you will be spending most of your time in for all 3 days. Most of the popular works, genres, circles and yes, hentai too, are located here. Crossing between 123 and 456 is easy.
2. West (西) Halls 1 ~ 4
The West Hall clusters typically host the Corporate Booths (halls 3 and 4 usually) and circles showcasing miscellaneous and/or original works (halls 1 and 2). Do not underestimate the crowds in the corporate booth halls – they can get just as packed as the East hall clusters. Fortunately, the corporate booths are open for all 3 days, and up to 5PM for Day 1 and 2. They usually close early on Day 3 though (3PM). The TYPE-MOON booth tends to be swamped for all 3 days.
3. The Tunnel of Horrors
This sheltered pathway connects the East Hall clusters to the main entrance area. You must be asking why I gave this L-shaped bridge such an insulting and unoriginal name. Well, its because its seriously the worst fucking part of the complex to be in on a hot, sweaty Summer day – The ceiling is particularly low, so the stench gets trapped inside. There’s no air-conditioning (either that or it downright sucks), the side walls are made of thick glass, with hardly any openings, and the poor lighting inside makes you feel claustrophobic. Now, picture the tunnel being jam-packed with hot, sweaty and smelly people, and you might understand why I absolutely dread this deathtrap. If a gunshot ever went off here while its packed, the casualties from the stampede would be immense. Avoid this tunnel as far as possible IMO, for your own safety.
4. Narrow walkway
There doesn’t seem to be an actual name for this elevated footpath. But you would do well to remember this pathway, as it is not only a quick means for you to exit and enter the East Halls easily (after around 12PM only), its also the best route you can use to avoid the tunnel of horrors. I always take this path when I want to cross from the East Halls to the West Halls or vice versa. You can also get a nice elevated view of some of the cosplayers showing themselves off on the floor below. Don’t take pictures though!
5. Open-Air carpark
More on this later below.
Queuing and Waiting
The thousand nations of the Persian empire descend upon you
The first thing to mentally prepare yourself for when heading to the convention is the acceptance that there will be tons of people. TONS. Literally a metric shit-load of human beings. Unless you’ve been to similarly crowded events before (I can’t think of any such other, not counting those involving riots), you may get overwhelmed by the sight of thousands of people outside AND inside the event. People used to living in farms may be particularly traumatized.
Fortunately however, the organizers of the event have been (and hopefully will always be) prepared for such turnouts, and have on hand several thousand ushers and crowd controllers to keep queues organized and smooth. This is made more amazing by the fact (or so I was told) that the Comiket staff, ushers and helpers are all volunteers. Japanese people also tend to be much more cooperative and polite in such circumstances, which helps overall. You won’t have to worry about ugly mad rushes, stampedes or loud verbal exchanges, barring some unexpected event.
East or West Queues?
First timers to the Comiket would often be unaware of the fact that there are actually two separate queue lines you can join to get into the TBS, till up to about 12PM.
1. The Main Line
The main line usually forms a few hundred meters from the entrance of Kokusai-Tenjijo Station, and is the line you most often see in numerous Comiket photographs – a nice view of the ‘grand staircase’ leading up to the Big Sight’s main structure. What you don’t see however is the time taken by the photographer to get to that spot, which may have been at least an hour, if he started queuing at 9AM.
Nonetheless, this is the queue you should join if you’re planning to head into the West Halls first, if you’re a first timer, or if you’re cosplaying (why?!). Though it is still possible to head into the East Halls via this line, it takes more time (and energy): about another 10-15 mins. Plus you’ll be forced to navigate through the tunnel of horrors.
2. The East Hall Line (No. 5 on the map)
As the name suggests, this line is meant to give visitors an easier means of accessing the East Halls, without having to walk through the main entrance and hallways. The waiting times however are no different from the main line – you’re just saving 10-15 mins and a good portion of your sanity by avoid the tunnel of horrors. To get to this line, you will have to head left upon exiting Kokusai Tenjijo Station (while facing the direction of TBS), and follow the signs/directions of the ushers (don’t worry, there will some around to guide you). You’ll be walking along the main road, and perhaps a footpath along a chain fence, before settling inside a massive open-air carpark, which serves as a waiting area. A word of caution – this carpark has NO shelter whatsoever, and though its right next to the sea, don’t count on getting soothing sea winds (they’re rare). Heat/Cold tolerance is tested to the fullest here.
The East Hall queue line doesn’t seem to be permanent however. After 12PM, this queue line would be closed, and it would not be possible to enter or leave the East Hall clusters via this entrance. To get to the East Halls without having to go through the tunnel of horrors, you can simply stroll up the narrow walkway and into the side entrance. The queues should have mostly evaporated by then.
**People who arrive later than you will NEVER get in earlier than you.**
At the very most, they will get in the same time you do. In other words, its always fair. Chant this in your head over and over if you feel frustrated or if it seems like your line has been left behind. Its not. Trust the organizers to handle crowd control (they are experts at it).
What are the queue times to get in?
An often neglected question in other FAQs and Comiket guides, perhaps due to the large number of variables – weather, how the queues are organized, popularity etc. I shall make a brave attempt at answering this question below. Note that the numbers presented are not completely accurate and based on my experiences only, but they should be close. Remember that the event is held from 10.00AM to 4.00PM
Time you start queuing → Estimated time you will get inside → (Total queue time)
6AM/7AM* → 10AM → (3/4 Hours)
8AM → 10.30AM → (2.5 hours)
9AM → 10.45AM → (1.75 hours)
10AM → 11.30AM → (1.5 Hours)
11AM → 12.00PM+ → (1+ Hours)
12PM → 12.30PM → (0.5+ Hours)
12.30PM onwards → Walk-in → (No queue)
* The first trains to Odaiba don’t usually run anywhere earlier than 5.30AM. I’m not 100% sure of this as I’ve never taken a train this early before. If you insist on heading there before sunrise, consider taking a Taxi.
Note: Queue times will be considerably higher on Day 2 & Day 3 (Hentai day), because of a surge in attendance figures.
I once heard someone say this to a gullible friend: “If you wait there at 9AM, you’ll get inside the halls within 30 minutes”. Well yeah, but did you count the one hour spent waiting *before* the convention opened? Basically, no matter how you look at it, if you are planning to get in before 12.30PM, you will have to spend at least an hour+ queuing. Best to be mentally prepared.
If it takes only 1.5 hours to get in after 10AM, why are there thousands of people queueing up in the wee hours of dawn?
For a guaranteed chance to obtain rare and/or popular works. These are stuff sold by reputed circles/artists that are of limited print and which will not be sold again at stores the following week. Most of the coveted goods and ‘packages’ (doujinshi + trinkets and other limited edition items packed inside a large printed plastic bag) would usually be sold out by 12.00PM, 12.30PM if you’re lucky, and you must remember that queuing to buy these works can take you up to an hour, sometimes more. So realistically, to stand a decent chance of getting something from these heavyweight circles, you must be in the queue to the circle’s table no later than 11AM. And to get there by 11AM…estimate using the queue time chart provided above. 😛
Obviously, if you’re not hardcore about getting these heavily sought goods, I’d strongly suggest you forgo trying to queue for them, just like 90% of the other attendees. The popular booths are like madhouses in the first few hours.
And that concludes part III. Link to the final part (4) can be found at the top of this post.