Japan Expo Belgium, the Belgian subsidiary convention of the near legendary Japan Expo that is held yearly at Parc des Expositions Paris-Nord-Villepinte in July, has already gotten to its third year, and is, we are happy to note, not breaking it’s streak of improving every single year, growing into a bigger and better version of what it was the year before.
Even though this is indeed one of Belgium’s two true J-culture conventions (the other being Made in Asia in March), this is the convention that focuses on not only catering to the J-culture fans, but also on making sure that other visitors find something to entertain and amuse themselves with.
Organisation wise toward visitors Japan Expo is a dream. It’s very clear where you have to enter with what kind of ticket, they have special standees all over the place with maps so people can easily locate where they are, where they want to be and where to find a particular stand or event. If you for some reason didn’t get your hands on an event map, this helps you get by nonetheless. They also have a large info stand and make sure to have staff on hand that speaks English, French or Dutch, so you should be able to find someone to ask questions in a language you understand.
They had split up the event in three main halls, with several side rooms added.
The first and second ones provided store and food stands, and we were pleased to notice that while food was of course still on the more expensive side, it was at least economically priced and there was a good variety ranging from crépes to Japanese food to hotdogs, sandwiches and a fries shop. If you hadn’t brought your own food and drink, you could at least get a meal, drinks included, for under €10 – €15 depending on what you got, often with some change to spare. Still not cheap, but considering what the food prices were last year and at other conventions we visited, this is a definite improvement.
We had the gyoza from Umamido, which were excellent. Can’t not have affordable Japanese food at a J-culture convention after all 🙂
A convention isn’t a convention without the typical things: cosplay + competition,
martial arts demos, workshops and gaming, this much is of course true, but the cool thing about Japan Expo Belgium is that they try to either make their stands bigger (Nintendo for instance had the biggest Belgian section I’ve seen to date, with their own special events for the Year of Luigi)
and their events slightly different to those others provide. There were lectures, panels and tons of competitions. Aside from that, there were of course the bands performing on the main stage: Neko Light Orchestra, BLUE CLOUD and LOKA, introducing new artists to the Belgian audiences with excellent music.
To avoid the actual J-culture area getting horribly clogged up, they had moved it to the basement section, along with the signing rooms. Where this may seem a bit strange, it did mean that only the people that were genuinely interested in the Japanese displays and workshops, ranging from Ikebana to calligraphy were downstairs, and the area offered a bit of an oasis of peace. My sole regret for it is the horrible overly yellow light in the area.
Even though there were a lot of people on the Saturday, which is the busiest of the three days, it never felt overly crowded. It does get quite hot inside that day so it’s advisable to dress with that in mind.
And while this is a J-culture convention, there were quite a few stands that were catering to steampunk. Two of them even were proper steampunk stands. Aside from that, a fair amount of steampunks were visiting the convention, dressed to the nines. Which was a lovely surprise and the convention was not only welcoming to them, other visitors were very open minded to them as well. So if you want to dress steamy (or diesel) to a con, this one is most excellent and suits the purpose very well.
Japan Expo Belgium once again had a bit of everything, catering to a very wide variety of interests of the public that visited the convention. As well as a great and friendly atmosphere. Of course it can’t be compared to the main Japan Expo, but it definitely offers a fabulous alternative to those unable to visit that one. Plus it’s the kind of con where even people with only limited interest in Japanese culture will still be able to have an excellent time. In short: the third edition was a fabulous one, and we look forward to seeing what new and improved things they’ll have to offer to us next year.
Of course we took far more photographs, all which can be seen here.
Photos by Hilde Heyvaert, Bert Van den Wyngaert and Annso Vermeylen.
No photo may be used without express permission of the photographer.