Anime Enthusiasts Flock to D.C. for Otakon 2022 (photos)

Otakon, the giant anime convention, again took over the entire Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. from Friday, July 26, to Sunday, July 29-31.

Staffed almost entirely by volunteers, Otakon bills itself as the largest Asian pop culture convention on the East Coast “for fans, by fans.” In the second year back since the beginning of the pandemic and as a sure sign that things are returning back to normal, the attendance for Otakon 2022 reached a record-breaking number of more than 40,000 memberships — attendees officially become “members” –ranking it among the largest events to be held at the Convention Center to date. 

This year marked the 28th anniversary of Otakon, which began with a collection of 350 anime fans at the Days Inn Penn State in State College, Pennsylvania, in 1994. After 18 years in Baltimore, having outgrown the facilities there, the annual three-day convention celebrating Japanese and East Asian pop culture arrived in the District just five years ago.

Anime, the Japanese term for animation, is a distinct art form that has gained international popularity. Thanks to the rise of English-dubbed programming, Japanese anime has spawned a multibillion-dollar market in the U.S. that encompasses film, art, music, literature and video games.

The name ‘Otakon’ is a derivative of the Japanese word ‘Oktatu’ that describes people with consuming interests, particularly in anime, manga, video games, or computers. In modern Japanese slang, the term otaku is mostly equivalent to “geek,” a label most of those in attendance at Otakon would embrace. ‘Manga’ is the term used in Japan for comics or graphic novels. Otacon’s scope has expanded beyond Japan to cover all of Asian pop-culture. Friday’s headliner concert lineup was devoted entirely  to Korean popular music, colloquially known as Kpop.

Focused on its mission of bringing cultures together for learning, communication and fun, Otakon included a packed schedule of workshops, guest panels, autograph sessions and videos, plus an expansive Dealers Room offering goods for sale and an Artists Alley featuring original anime art. Attendees could chose from a variety of panels and discussion groups, such as “The History of Zoids,” “Design Your Own Magical Girl,” “Latin Dancing for Geeks,” and “Costume Design.”

For many, the main reason to attend is the opportunity to dress up as a favorite anime character, a hobby known as “cosplay” (for costume-play). Cosplayers chose to be identified on-line and in person by their unique cosplay name.

A popular feature at Otakon is the Maid Café. “Maid cafés” are a subcategory of cosplay restaurants found predominantly in Japan. In these cafés, waitresses, dressed in maid costumes, act as servants, and treat customers as masters.

Start planning now for Otakon 2023, to be held from July 28 to 30, again at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.  “I’d like to say thank you to Washington, D.C.” said Alyce Wilson of Otakorp, the parent company. “I think this city has really welcomed us and embraced Otakon and they really understand the international cultural mission that we’re on.”

Some of the wild costumes are included in a sideshow of Jeff Malet’s photos from Otekon 2022 in Washington D.C. which can be viewed by clicking on any of the photo icons below.


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