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Kawaii Kon returns after 2-year hiatus to celebrate anime, gaming and Japanese culture

kawaii kon convention center
Liberty Peralta
/
HPR
kawaii kon cosplay
Conor Medeiros
/
HPR
HPR's Zoe Dym, right, poses with a cosplayer.

The Hawaiʻi Convention Center hosted its first full-capacity event since the pandemic this past weekend.

After a two-year hiatus, Kawaii Kon 2022 opened their doors for a three-day celebration of anime, gaming and Japanese culture.

"The Kawaii Kon community is mostly based off of otaku fans and even also like comic books or Star Wars. Kind of like that geeky nerd culture that everyone kind of associates with fandoms," said Kawaii Kon crew member Kerrie Wong. She has been attending the convention since 2006.

Walking through Kawaii Kon almost feels like a fantasy. Attendees cosplay — short for costume play — as their favorite fictional characters. They shop for fanart, go to a workshop to improve their karaoke skills, and walk around and pose for pictures.

Vivid Vision is a professional cosplayer from Canada. Born in Hong Kong, Vivid Vision began cosplaying when her family immigrated to Canada and she learned about Halloween. She has been a professional cosplayer for 10 years.

kawaii kon vivid vision
Conor Medeiros
/
HPR
Vivid Vision stands in front of her booth.

This is her second time at Kawaii Kon. She’s here to meet her fans and help her family’s company, Noms, sell food-inspired apparel.

Vivid Vision was dressed up as a character named 2B from the video game "Nier: Automata." She wore a black cheongsam-inspired outfit and a short silver wig.

"It felt like my life went on hiatus for two years because I do rely a lot on traveling to a lot of the shows to do my business so I had to really transform my model to be more online-based," Vivid Vision told HPR.

Prior to the pandemic, Vivid Vision traveled to one or two conventions every month.

kawaii kon cosplay itasha
Conor Medeiros
/
HPR
Cosplayers pose in front of their itasha — a car decorated with fictional characters.

Kawaii Kon has been a safe haven for anime and manga lovers, or otakus, since 2005.

Faisal Ahmed has been the Kawaii Kon CEO since 2013. He began watching children's anime like "Doraemon" and "Dragon Ball" under the influence of his older sister.

Ahmed said the priority of this year's event was safety, stressing, "We want people to come and have fun, and we want them to be able to come for future years."

"All of us have gone the extra mile to make sure that we don’t end up in a situation where we’re the cause of people getting sick, and we’re the cause of any type of mass outbreak," Ahmed explained.

Organizers said there were more than 17,000 attendees.

Masks and vaccination checks were required for entry. Plexiglass divided attendees taking photos with voice actors and music guests from Japan.

kawaii kon covid test
Liberty Peralta
/
HPR

Japan's three-day quarantine laws for returning travelers made bringing Japanese guests difficult. No anime voice actors from Japan attended this year's convention.

Despite the measures, people were excited to be back at Kawaii Kon — a community created by anime fans, for fans.

"Luckily being a nerd is kind of cool now. But back in the day if you liked anime and video games, you definitely weren’t the popular kid. Being able to make that kind of environment for future generations is super important to me," Ahmed told HPR.

kawaii kon fashion show
Evelyn Hill
/
HPR
A fashion show featuring Harajuku street brand "Hypercore."

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