If you are a BL fan and lucky enough to be in Japan during Spring or Autumn, J.GARDEN, also known as “J Niwa” (J庭), is one event that you will not want to miss. Twice a year, BL manga artists gather from all over Japan in Tokyo to sell their independently created comics, or doujinshi, to excited fans.
This year’s Spring J.GARDEN (J.GARDEN48) was slated for the 5th of April; however, the event was cancelled to curb the further spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
— J.GARDEN_staff (@JGARDEN_staff) March 24, 2020
What is J.GARDEN?
What makes J.GARDEN unique is the fact it’s entirely dedicated to the genre of BL (boys’ love/yaoi). If you go to other large comic festival events, you may find a handful of artists offering BL comics, but J.GARDEN will make you feel like you’re in BL heaven. Interestingly, the crowds of fans at J.GARDEN also seem to have better manners than those you’ll find at other major events. This may be because they all know that they’re there for the same reason, which creates an unspoken sense of camaraderie mixed with a hint of mutually shared awkwardness and embarrassment.
来年のJ.GARDEN48は、有明で開催します。【2020年4月5日（日）東京ビッグサイト西２ホール／1500sp募集】 抽選なし／素直な導線が引ける大きな会場でお待ちしています。…企画やりたい★ https://t.co/YM9fyfSCij サークル申込〆切：郵送1/15必着、オンライン1/21･18時 https://t.co/P9JtX7EKtU pic.twitter.com/5BsFQOMIGO
— J.GARDEN_staff (@JGARDEN_staff) October 31, 2019
There’s nothing to be shy about, though! J.GARDEN booths are arranged by content type, so you’ll be able to peruse aisles filled with comics of high school boys, buff and beefy uke, bondage, or whatever trope you happen to fancy.
The best part about J.GARDEN is that many major artists come in person to sell comics of their most beloved characters from “industry-published manga”. They aren’t allowed to self-publish manga that has been printed by the big publishers already, but no one can stop them from drawing new “extra” stories or chapters of your favorite characters working on their intimacy levels post-canon. And who would dare?
If you want to make the most out of your trip and make sure you find your favorite artists’ comics before they sell out, a plan of action is highly recommended. Thankfully, the “ticket” to get into J.GARDEN is the guidebook GARDEN GUIDE itself, which you can buy in advance from select stores like Animate and Toranoana for about 1,300 Japanese yen. You can also buy the guide at the door on the day of the event itself, but then you’d lose the opportunity to plan your attack strategy in advance.
The printed, physical guide comes with a map of the event hall that shows where each artist will be sitting. J.GARDEN’s guide, in particular, is very user-friendly as they include the artists’ actual names alongside their self-publishing group’s name for the event, known in Japanese as a “circle”. Most fans are more familiar with the name of the artist than they are of that artist’s circle name, so this comes in very handy as you scan the list for your top mangaka.
Once you’ve circled all your favorite manga artists on your map, you’ll be ready to wait in line for the event itself, which usually starts at 11:00 am. In recent years, the event staff has tried to discourage people from arriving too early by implementing a raffle-style process for lining up at the doors to anyone who arrives before 8:00 am. Some hardcore fans are willing to arrive as early as the first train, which can be before 6:00 am! While some people might consider this fun, if you’re a more casual fan or have a very short list of artists you plan to visit, you’d get away with arriving just before or after 11:00 am. If you have planned your route in advance, you probably won’t run into the danger of arriving too late to buy certain comics or products. However, if you’re worried that supplies may run out, planning your route in order of priority is probably more effective than simply arriving on the scene first.
Officially speaking, most events don’t allow you to ask for signatures or drawings from the artists. However, if the artist doesn’t have a long line, it never hurts to ask! Please remember to be polite, and don’t forget to bring any published manga from home that you want your favorite artist to sign. Also, make sure your bag is comfortable yet big enough to hold all the wonderful things you plan on buying while you’re there.
You don’t necessarily have to be fluent in Japanese to attend this event, but being able to read Japanese characters helps a lot. The guide is published entirely in Japanese, as are the signs throughout the hall that identify where the artists will be sitting. If you aren’t too confident in your Japanese ability, brushing up on your hiragana will be a big help. When in doubt, bring a friend along to help you!
Some artists will end up selling out of their comics and products within a few hours and head home as early as 1:00 pm, so walk fast and make sure you get to say hello to everyone! Even the most passionate of fans can turn shy in front of the mangaka they adore, but they appreciate kind words of support, so don’t hesitate to shower them with praise if you find the courage to do so! It will help make J.GARDEN an event you’ll remember for a lifetime.
About J.GARDEN48 (Cancelled)
|Date||April 5, 2020 (Sunday) 11:00 – 15:00|
|Venue||Tokyo Big Sight|
|Entrance fee||Purchase GARDEN GUIDE48 (in bookstores for ¥1,300 or on-site for ¥1,000)|
|Official Website||https://www.jgarden.jp/html/overview.html (Japanese)|
About futekiya: BL manga subscription
In 2018, futekiya began as a Boys’ Love manga news and culture website operated by FANTASISTA, INC., a CG/VR production studio based in Tokyo, Japan. futekiya transformed into a budding global distributor of officially licensed BL manga in 2019.
futekiya launched as an online subscription service for officially licensed BL manga on July 8, 2019. Determined to connect fans around the world with English-translated BL legally and conveniently, futekiya empowers readers to support creators and the manga industry.
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