1. Introduction: What is Comiket?

Tokyo’s biannual comic market, known as Comiket or Comike for short, is a large market for fan-made, self-published works, including games and other artwork, but mostly comics. The events is held in Tokyo Big Sight, a convention center in the neighborhood of Odaiba, in December and August of each year and typically spans over a 3 day period.  The market was founded in 1975 with an estimated 600 visitors at the first market, and has since swelled to an attendance of over half a million.

Overhead view of the East wing of the market

Doujinshi? Circles?

Doujinshi is the Japanese term for self-published comics. It is part of a larger category of self-published works known as doujin. Comiket’s focus is to provide a marketplace for these works. At the Comic Market, groups or individual artists (known as “circles”) set up booths to sell their latest creations. Many doujinshi are based off of other creators’ works, such as popular anime series. (For example, creating an original story using the characters from an already established series.) As a result, they are typically published in small numbers to avoid litigation. This also increases the rarity of the doujinshi; during the 3 days of Comiket attendees will be hurrying to buy their favorite artists’ work before it is sold out. After the market ends, copies of doujinshi can be found in stores in Akihabara for up to 10 times the original price.

Left: Doujinshi featuring characters from Umineko no Naku Koro ni
Right: Doujinshi featuring characters from Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika

Inside of doujinshi featuring characters from Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magika

Comiket: Not Your Average Anime Convention

If you’ve been to anime conventions before and you’re expecting Comiket to be similar to American or other western countries’ cons, you’re in for a big shock. Although Comiket does have some similarities, such as the appearance of cosplayers, the overall layout and vibe of the event is very different. It’s important to remember that, unlike conventions, which are primarily a social event, Comiket is first and foremost a comic market. Therefore, the panels, dance, and other interactive events available at western conventions are missing from Comiket. Imagine if the entire convention was the Artist’s Alley/ Dealer’s Room, with the size enlarged to compensate for an estimated half million visitors. That’s basically Comiket. 

Comiket’s large size makes it practically impossible to visit every single available booth. (According to data from the Comic Market's official website, in 2007 over 35,000 circles participated.) As a result, the convention is buzzing with the energy of everyone scrambling to purchase all of their must-have items. However, you won’t hear anyone yelling out internet memes or see anyone dancing in the hallways. When moving between areas, it is easy to get swept up with the crowd and be pushed along. Just be patient; the Comiket staff does their best to make traffic flow as orderly as possible, and if you keep moving towards where you want to go you’ll eventually get to the right place.

An average Comiket circle. Each circle is allotted half a table of space.


Besides shopping, the second aspect of Comiket is cosplay, or the act of dressing up as a character from an anime series. Although you may spot a few people in costume in the market area, there is a separate area set aside for cosplayers for the specific purpose of interaction and photography. This also helps maintain a better flow of traffic by limiting the area where photos can be taken.

The cosplay area at Comiket 81