*You can skip to June 3 if you just want to read about the con itself
How we ended up in Dokomi
Time passes by so fast when we’re having fun. There’s no doubt about that. 8 days in Europe went by in a blink of an eye. Not only was Dokomi bachoochi’s first convention, it was also our first time in Europe. Now what would possess us to go all the way here for our first ever convention? Specially when the pandemic is still very much present?
Well, in 2018 I met two very important people. One was Voxune from the Netherlands and one was Heijkl from Germany. We met in Japan before the pandemic and we had this really great connection. We went to manga fairs in Japan together and we shared similar aspirations of living off our art. They are both talented artists and they both talked about Dokomi. Voxune is a veteran at conventions specializing in dog art, while Heijkl hasn’t tried doing conventions before, but then again, she’s 10 years younger than us so she’s just at the beginning of her journey. How exciting. How exciting for all of this to spark a fire 4 years later.
At that time, we couldn’t have known about the pandemic but we kind of made a light promise to participate in a convention together one day. So a few years later, when both of them have returned their countries in a hurry when the pandemic was brewing, I started building my online store. According to bachoochi’s history, I started my instagram account in 2018. I started with dog art and stickers. My first enamel pins were produced in 2019 after meeting with an artist from the UK, PinPassion, who introduced me to the enamel pin world.
I started doing fanart of Granblue Fantasy which wasn’t that popular at that time but I loved the designs. By the end of 2020, Genshin Impact was released and I naturally started doing fanart for that since I got addicted to the game myself. The first Genshin pins were born. Aether and Chongyun. They were part of a pin artist collaboration circle in the beginning. Soon after, I started adding more characters and more series as bachoochi began to grow. Two years later, my online shop was starting to stabilize and I was able to quit my part time job as a waitress.
In 2021, I went through some medical difficulties but despite all that, I kept my store running. To be honest it was one of the things that kept me sane and grounded. It began as a passion project that just grew into something that not only supported me emotionally but also something that I can now depend on to keep the food on the table. Another factor that really pushed me to do Dokomi was that in 2021, I was really sick, and going through chemotherapy really made me realize that if there was something else I wanted to do in this world, there’s no better time than the present. So when I had recovered enough, I knew I had to go to a con. Also, I really wanted to go to Europe. The doors were opening up to travel again so this was the best time to go.
I have to be honest, I didn’t expect Dokomi to be so big! I knew it said online it had 50k attendees normally but in my head I was still expecting that Covid would shrink the amount of people going. What I was really surprised about was that when we reached Germany on June 1 2022, it was as if the pandemic wasn’t even happening! Unlike in Japan, nobody was wearing masks anymore. We didn’t have to sanitize our hands every time we enter the shops. It was really strange in the beginning how I can look at people’s faces again.
This was my husband’s first time in Europe. This was also the first time we were doing an anime convention together. Technically, I would also like to consider this my first time in Europe because last time I went 10 years ago, I was just following a tour group with family for 7 days where we spent most of the time in the tour bus and behind the guide. This time, it was all up to us. All the mistakes and culture shock are waiting to happen. And it did happen.
When we landed in Germany the moment that really made me feel like “we’re not in Kansas anymore” was when we took off our masks in public. I had forgotten what fresh air smelled like. Our airbnb was 10 minutes by walking from the airport but it was raining pretty hard so we decided to take a taxi since we had 3 huge suitcases. 2 was just for the convention. To our surprise the taxi driver couldn’t speak a lick of English. I had thought that everyone in Germany could speak English but that was definitely an assumption that was proven wrong on the first day. Even the guy driving a HopOn HopOff tour bus couldn’t speak English. He said only German and Italian. Some waiters in the touristy areas also couldn’t speak English.
We mostly relied on google translate and showing them photos of what we wanted. Even the sales ladies at Kaufhof Department store was laughing at us because I guess the google translation of what we were trying to say came out funny. We also couldn’t pronounce German words properly. I could barely hear the difference of the street names when riding the tram. It’s been such a long time since I had been in a country where I couldn’t speak the language. It was pretty inconvenient but also pretty exciting. You get the best stories out of the most challenging moments after all.
I should also mention that I am the type of person who thinks too much about rules and “how things are done”. Having moved to 4 different countries in my life, I now have anxiety whether what I’m doing what is “normal”. Whether it be what side of the escalators I should be standing on, to how I should receive my change at the cashier, and even if I should have eye contact with anybody.
I constantly posted on my instagram stories questions to the Europeans about what I should do? How much should I tip? Did I just offend this random local with what I did? etc. Needless to say, most of the replies I had was “Yo, dude. Relax.” At some point I had to just calm myself and shrug off my mistakes since it really wasn’t that of a big deal to most of the people I encountered. They probably just thought that I was a foreigner and that whatever I did different wasn’t a huge problem.
Maybe it was also because I’ve lived in Japan for 7 years and I know how easily offended people here are if you don’t do as they do. Best thing I learned in Germany, “There are no big rules about the little things.” I really wasn’t used to that. And that was truly refreshing for me who lived bowing and apologizing for every second I breathe. Haha, thanks Japan. (Just kidding there are good and bad points to living here but we won’t talk about that now.)
So finally after all the build up and set up let me start talking about the con!!
[June 3; Set up night]
We were allowed to set up the night before the con. I thought it would only take me 20 minutes to set up from my trial set ups in my bedroom, but after looking at how amazing everyone else’s booths were, I ended up polishing up my display for an hour and a half. I was originally only going to have booth E-29, between two booths. But my friend voxune who had E-30, a corner table, decided to give me her space too. So I had two 6 feet tables to fill.
Along with bachoochi pins and prints, I also brought my hobby shop; “beadelier” which specialized in bead works. I had charms, earrings and bracelets to fill half of one table and bachoochi pins spread across the corner table. The rest of the space I decided to give to Heijkl since she hasn’t experienced doing a con before I thought this would be good for her exposure. She only had 3 prints and a few stickers but I think she needs a taste of the con. She was volunteering at the con so she wasn’t able to stand behind her part of the booth but I hope next time our little group can have our own 3 table train someday.
After set up, I had realized that I was a little underprepared. Despite all the thought and effort I had put into this, I saw that the other tables had huge banners and curtain backers. I can only bring so much display items but in hindsight I could have done so much more. But anyway, this was my first time so lesson learned for next time; bring more attractive banners. One thing that I also wish I did was add more signs that could be seen from far away. In my head, I knew where things were, and what things were, but I had to keep explaining to the customers how I arranged things. Could have been solved easily with more signs.
*Swipe to see what I ended up doing >>
[CON DAY 1]
This was it. The day I have been preparing for for months and months since I learned that I managed to get a table. A part of me was thinking this was impossible but here we are in a foreign country with suitcases filled with merch and set up materials. We double checked the requirements and tickets so many times and have invested so much time and money to get here. I prayed that it will be fun. Even if I don’t make money, I just wanted to experience this so badly.
And you know what? It blew my mind.
First day of the con, Saturday. We got to the convention center two hours before opening at 8am. We didn’t have breakfast since there was no place that was open near our airbnb. We got there by taxi which was a good decision since the buses and trams were already full of early con goers and cosplayers. The entrance that was open yesterday had been blocked off by lines of people so we had to go through the long way. When we got in we set up the merch and finished setting up 5 minutes before opening at 10am. Even before we opened some people were already coming over and checking out our pins. Good thing I didn’t have breakfast, I was feeling sick to my stomach in excitement and nervousness.
When the people started pouring in, it was then I realized that I didn’t prepare small change. I had assumed people would get our goods and we’d eventually get small change, but the first wave of customers started with 50 and 100 euro bills. We had to borrow some change from Heijkl or ask for exact change a couple of times. We also opened up Paypal payments which we weren’t originally planning to do. But we saw a lot of the other tables offered it so might as well. It was a good idea since a lot of people did want to pay by paypal. One thing that was inconvenient was that the connection in the convention area was bad. Also my paypal account was in Canadian Dollars, so we couldn’t use the QR code. We had to ask people to manually type in the paypal address so they could select the currency to be EURO or USD. A lot of the people were very patient but some couldn’t connect at all and ended up paying cash in the end. Another lesson learned, we have to be able to take paypal or cards faster. I guess cash isn’t king anymore.
Lunch time came but we couldn’t take a break. The wave of customers didn’t stop for a second. Which I am very grateful for, but we should have conserved some energy for the next day. We stood at our booth and talked to anyone who passed by continuously for 10 hours. I think I only sat down once to eat lunch provided by the catering. If we didn’t buy the food from the caterers in advance, we would have starved that day since we couldn’t leave the table. The food was about 20 euros for one plate. It was a good amount of food for me but my husband was still really hungry. He did a lot of the work though. He loves talking to people and without him I think I wouldn’t have engaged in conversation as much. If I was by myself I think I would have just sat down and waited for people to come up to me to order my pins. But since Jside was there, I copied him and said at least a hi or hello to anyone who was looking. That was really fun. I’m glad I did that. I had really good conversations with a lot of people. I also took the initiative to explain what the beadelier side had to offer. Jside knew most of my pins and prints so he had no problems helping people with that. I stood mostly behind beadelier since each accessory was handmade by me so I was the only one who knew the stones and character inspirations by heart.
Another lesson I learned here was that I should have brought more inventory and I should have already put the pins on the backer cards. I had really underestimated Dokomi. I sold out on the most popular pins on day 1. Also with every order, we had to put the pins on the backer cards one by one so that took a lot of time for bigger orders. We also ran out of business cards very quickly. The con was 2 days, I brought 300 cards. I really didn’t expect it to run out. For the pins, I brought at least 5 of each pin. I had 70 designs. I believe I could have brought more and a handful would have still sold out. The most popular pin was the chibi Howl.
*My most memorable moment. A sea of Genshin cosplayers came to my table all at the same time. I believe they didn't know each other too. Made me so happy!
(Sorry Zhongli's handsome face got cut off)
[Day 2 and closing]
After the hectic first day, Jside and I were completely exhausted but still running on adrenaline. We decided on closing early on Day 2 since we were pretty much sold out and we wanted some time to walk around the con ourselves. I posted on instagram that we can now sell the pins that are on display on the board. We also offered discounts to cosplayers who were doing the characters. Next time I should just offer that promo from the get go. Sounds fun. I didn’t get the idea until day 2.
So the con ended at 6pm but we closed at 3pm. Our display boards were looking empty and I was just ready to collapse at that point. My lower back was aching I could barely walk. We still had to pack and set down. We spent the last hour roaming around the artist alley and visited other artists who dropped by our table on Day 1. All I can say is, everyone is so sweet and welcoming. I really love the artist community. Even the table next to us at E-28, roundbirbart, a couple from the Netherlands, offered to get us Taiyaki in the middle of the day. We also met artists from Denmark and Norway. That’s another thing that I didn’t think of before, but is pretty obvious, people from other nearby countries can just drive to Germany or fly a couple of hours to get to any European con. All the countries are neighbors and it’s pretty easy to cross the border.
From Japan, because of the covid and postal situation, it’s been hard for me to reach out to America, Canada and most especially Europe because of the taxes. But yeah, I guess if you are based there, it would be easier to serve these places.
Day 2 ended. The con ended. We still had 2 days in Germany before flying back to Japan. We were pretty much at our limits physically. I’ve never been fit so this was like climbing Mordor to me. We spent almost the whole day sleeping and resting. The day after that I was thinking of exploring Cologne but not only was it a national holiday so everything was closed, we still haven’t recovered. So we just stayed in Dusseldorf. One thing I fell in love with during this trip was pommes frites. Just something about how it’s cut and how it matches perfectly with Mayo. I love the Mayo there btw. Japanese mayo is good with sushi but everything else needs to be with western(?) mayonnaise.
I have to award my favorite meals of the trip!
Wilma Wunder Dusseldorf for their Truffle Pommes Frites
and Schweine Janes Altstadt for their Schnitzel and Pork knuckles.
For sweets and coffee,
Pure Pastry at Carlsplatz
I wasn’t able to check off all the places I marked on google maps but I’m very satisfied with what I’ve gotten to do. Next time we’ll definitely stay longer.
I didn’t even know about Japan Expo in Paris! Maybe next time we’ll make it into a bigger European cons trip. :)
Thank you everybody for reading about my experience in our first anime con as bachoochi! I hope you had some lols and learned some stuff from our experiences. Dokomi is such a great con! We’ll definitely try to come back next year and to other cons in other countries.
As some of you might already know, Jside and I are trying to move back to Canada at the end of this year. So maybe we’ll see you in Canadian and USA cons soon too.