Going to Hakurei Shrine Reitaisai 18: The Charm of a Half Empty Hall or How I Missed the Best Time Slots
Reitaisai 18 Report
On March 21st, the 18th Hakurei Shrine Reitaisai was held not at Tokyo Big Sight, where Reitaisai has been held since 2008, but at Twin Messe in Shizuoka City, about 180 km west from Tokyo.
Actually, it had been planned since 2017 that Reitaisai 17 would be held in Shizuoka, mostly because of schedule shifts due to the Tokyo Olympics, but it was cancelled eventually, and we all know why. At least this time the event took place, but things were definitely more complicated for many denizens of Tokyo, including me. I love Touhou, but I still had to scratch my head over matters such as transportation (trains are expensive, buses are inconvenient, rental cars are good if you have a group of trustworthy friends, and, more importantly, a license), lodging, and,of course, money. My purse is definitely not going to forgive me for this trip…
That’s why I decided to go too late, and things did not go as expected. At least I can write a guide about what to do at a Touhou convention if it goes wrong for you. Here we go!
So, what does Reitaisai during COVID look like? Well, the main difference is the number of participants. According to Pixiv, this time there were 1013 spaces taken by circles, which was three times less than in 2019. For reference, this is about the level of Reitaisai 5, which took place in 2008 – just before Subterranean Animism and Scarlet Weather Rhapsody.
The second difference is that there were tickets for different time slots in order to prevent crowds (spoiler: it didn’t really work that well). The system was also a bit different from the 7th Autumn Reitaisai that took place 5 months ago. In October people could choose between two entering times, and every guest had more or less the same amount of time to visit, while circles divided their goods into two portions. This time, however, there were four entry times (12 AM, 1 PM, 2 PM, and 2:30 PM), and each time slot was further divided into different groups by gathering time.
That’s where things went ugly for me. Of course, everyone wanted to get the trial version of the new Touhou game from ZUN himself, so good tickets had been sold very quickly, and I only managed to get tickets for 2 PM.
That meant I could not hope to get a copy of Unconnected Marketeers, but honestly, I’m not a big fan of fighting in the battlefield known as “a line at a convention”, so I decided to embrace my failure, and find some alternatives.
Of course, getting a copy of a new game from ZUN himself is always nice. It requires quite the perseverance, however, so going to a convention late usually saves you some stress since you don’t have to come really early, fight for a place and wait in long lines… but not in coronavirus times. Thanks to the time slot system, huge crowds were avoided at the start of the event, but there were still crowds just before each entrance time.
The line to get wristbands looked like this:
And at some point people had to stand in the heavy rain
Soaking wet, we waited for another 10 minutes to enter. Needless to say, division into different gathering groups didn’t work very well, and it only helped to send people into either of two halls to avoid swarming at the entrance.
So, what can you do if you’re here and you only have two hours?
First of all, buy things. Obviously. It may be a great idea to rush to the spaces of some popular circles to obtain some hot new releases before it’s too late. However, aside from Unconnected Marketeers by Team Shanghai Alice, which I was getting information about in real time while in line, there were few releases by veteran circles this time. Some didn’t participate at all (like Alstroemeria, Sound Holic or EastNewSound), some put their works on Booth but didn’t come to Shizuoka (like Akatsuki Records), some participated but didn’t make new releases (like IOSYS).
Thankfully, Shinra Bansho and COOL&CREATE saved the situation with their cool collaboration album, as well as other veteran circles like Iron Attack! and Yuuhei Satellite, to name a few.
After that, you may want to check out releases by minor circles. They often make very cool works that few know about. After you buy some hot new releases, you can quietly wander and look around for random interesting things. Checking Twitter before going to the event may save you some time.
Those who have never been to a Touhou convention in Japan might not know that a large portion of circles make merchandise: badges, calendars (I got myself a lovely one with Merry and Renko), acrylic stands and resin keyholders, even jewelry and many other things.
For example, I found myself a cool and cute notebook with the Hifuu club, and the same circle was also selling Touhou themed wooden coasters. It’s difficult to search for such goods online, so coming to a convention is the best way to obtain such things.
Our next stop is literature, which is the soul of the Touhou community. This time, doujinshi manga, art books, and novels were on display in the other building. Checking them out, especially if you know Japanese, is a great idea. Wandering around,reading samples and being amazed by the creativity of some authors will take up almost all your time before the end.
The authors are usually very friendly and always ready to answer some questions and talk about their works. Sometimes they give you amazed looks and doubt if you can read Japanese, but that’s not an unusual experience for a foreigner in Japan, so you shouldn’t be sensitive about it. Reitaisai is a great place to make bonds, because everyone really wants to share their passion. I tried to speak with some people this time and ask them some simple questions in order to learn about the people making doujin content.
Travel-Planning of Takuhisa, who made the aforementioned Hifuu notebooks and Touhou coasters, told me that he had started making merchandise two years ago. He was upset that there were no large calligraphy boards, so he made some for himself and decided to sell them. A year ago, he decided to try his hand at making wooden coasters, and this year he came up with the idea of travel diary notebooks. We talked about our favourite characters, and he told me his preferences changed all the time, but that right now he was a fan of Kutaka Niwatari. At the end of our conversation, he also showed me that he had Hifuu themed car carpets, which were not on display.
Another meeting was truly fateful. I decided to speak with Dango Doro, a writer, whose new work about my beloved Youmu I had bought just 30 minutes before.
He has been writing short stories since June of 2015, and it was something that his friends wanted him to do. A friend of his—one of his greatest fans—was there too, helping to sell stories. At first, he told me, it was difficult to decide to take part in his first ever convention, but it turned out to actually be very easy. I asked him the most important question: “who is your favourite character?”. Dango reflected for a second, and told a story many of us can relate to: his first love was Suika, but then he learned about Hifuu, and now his soul belongs to that iconic duo. As a Hifuu cultist, I could not miss this opportunity to express my love for the lovely couple.
Then I learned that Dango is not only a Hifuu fan, but also a big fan of my home country, where he went almost every year until the coronavirus outbreak. I praised his pronunciation, he praised mine, we shared our contacts, and I went back to Tokyo hoping that I’d not only made some nice impressions and got a lot of stuff (half of which was about Hifuu), but also found a new friend.
This was supposed to be an informational report, but in the end it turned into a “X was the friends we made along the way” kind of cliché, which was inevitable, I guess. One of the main treasures I got was a song by Shinra Bansho and COOL&CREATE called アイヲカタッテドウジンアイ, which roughly translates into Speaking of Love, Doujin Love. Yes, this is about love for the doujin culture. That’s what Reitaisai is all about.
I hope it will always be this way.