Cosplay is an amalgamation of the words costume and play. Nobuyuki Takahashi first coined the word in 1984 after a trip to a comic convention in the United States. It is the act of dressing up as a character from comic books, anime, manga, movies, books and sometimes even popular rock bands. The first documented cosplay was in 1939 at the World Science Fiction Convention in New York. Fans had been dressing as their favourite characters at sci-fi conventions for years, long before Takahashi coined the term.
Japan has embraced cosplay into its pop culture in a way that no other country has. Justin Elavathil, a postgraduate researcher for asiapacific.ca describes cosplay as contradiction to typical Japanese behavior. “Most people in America are very confident in their costume. In Japan, cosplay can be more like an everyday thing. But then, when they’re asked to be photographed, they kind of shy away.” In Tokyo, Akibahara, is known as a cosplay district.
Cosplay has grown in popularity and conventions, attended by thousands of people in costume, have popped up around the world. It is being interpreted in so many different ways, it can no longer be attributed to or influenced by any one country. Some of the best cosplayers are hired by conventions, or gaming companies to do promotions.