Editor’s Note: This is Part I of a three-part series on Tokyo, OK.
Tokyo, OK was an all-inclusive experience for all ages. The three-day event, spanning from July 14 through July 16, provided an entire weekend for fans to indulge their personal interests in Japanese culture, anime, cosplay, and art. The conference included three different venues across Tulsa’s downtown. The Hyatt Regency Tulsa Downtown acted as the main hub for the event. The 17 West Hotel housed several panels over the weekend, and the Cox Business Center contained the vendor’s hall for guests to shop for conference and other promotional items. Tokyo, OK ran like a well-oiled machine with multiple parts that kept it right on track. Between the staff and the volunteers, there was always somebody present to help.
The Oklahoma Society for Culture Appreciation (OS4CA) is the sponsor for the annual convention. Zac Murphy, director of communications and technology for OS4CA, was able to spare a few minutes during the busy weekend to speak about Tokyo, OK. “This year is the 15th annual Tokyo, OK (formerly called Tokyo in Tulsa). We transitioned from Tokyo in Tulsa to Tokyo, OK in 2021.”
The time leading up to the anime convention takes plenty of time to plan. “About 11 months,” Murphy explained.
“We pretty much pick up from when we’re finishing this event…actually, I take that back, probably 13 months. We are probably getting contracts for the locations the month before, then going through and beginning to book guests, going through the process near the end of the year. Then, at the beginning of the new year, we start our announcements, finalizing all our F&B (food and beverages) budgets. All those things.”
From the time spent planning, there are plenty of staff to help carry a project this size to fruition.
“Working year-round, we have about 40 people that are either the directors of the organizations, the Oklahoma Society for Culture Appreciation, or other department heads. At the event, we usually have between 150 to 250 of staff and volunteers.” The number grows larger with the addition of extra volunteers during the week leading up to Tokyo, OK.
Murphy shared the main mission and goal of Tokyo, OK and OS4CA: “Promoting education and community through entertainment.”
He shared the reason behind this mission statement: “As the Oklahoma Society for Culture Appreciation, that’s our main mission. Ensuring that we are providing an equality space about education in the worlds in which we cover as in Japanese, (it is) culture, anime, and pop culture.”
Beyond just Tokyo, OK, Murphy revealed OS4CA’s goal of having more events in the coming years.
“Our next event, which is hopefully coming in late 2024, will focus on movies, television, the world of entertainment, video gaming, and comic books. The third event we are looking to bring is about art, culture, and film. With everything we are doing, we are looking to explore the world of education. Learn about the world behind the scenes, how to get into those worlds, and also community through entertainment.”
“We want everyone here to feel as though they are in a safe space for themselves as they talk about what they love to do and their love for cosplay. To have a place to come to and be with each other,” Murphy said.
Murphy made it perfectly clear that Tokyo, OK is focused on being inclusive for all, keeping those who attend feeling accepted and safe.
The future for Tokyo, OK is bright. With it growing every year, Murphy spoke of the ways that help keep this special event getting bigger and better.
“One of our main goals is obviously to continue to grow, but not just by people but by what we bring. We want to continue to grow in the types of programming we are offering, we want to really make sure we are reaching different parts of our community, because they all have different interests. So really make sure we are listening, taking in the feedback they provide us with our feedback forms.”
Feedback for Tokyo, OK is crucial when helping to improve for next year. Hearing from the fans that attend about specific changes that could be made or improved goes a long way.
“Everybody gets a feedback form. One of the main things we do is post an event, go through it, we sit down and tally the numbers, and take stock of what everyone has to say. So being able to have that, to bring that into the event, take the feedback,” Murphy stated.
“One of the main feedbacks we got from Tokyo, OK 2022 was that there was not enough space for the artist gallery. That was the first thing we solved for this year.” The vendors and artist gallery were placed at the spacious Cox Business Center.
“We want to make sure we are improving the event and ensuring we continue to use that space, as well as grow in all types of things we offer,” said Murphy.
One of the big draws for Tokyo, OK is the many special guests and judges that are booked to attend. These special guests range from anime voice actors, professional cosplayers, artists, fashion designers, and even drag queens. Many of these special guests are booked months in advance from all over the country and even some from Japan.
But one of the aspects, if not the most important, is the energetic fans who attend. Hundreds of fans dress in costume, cosplaying as their favorite fictional characters. Attendees stop to take pictures of their favorite characters and costumes and to commemorate the hard work each has put into their looks and appearances.
The weekend is more than just a convention for some, it is a time when fans and admirers of anime can find a way to escape from their daily lives and reality. They transform into someone else for a little while and let their imaginations run wild.
It was a long three days, with events going on until midnight or later Friday and Saturday. Coffee went hand in hand for many of the guests over the weekend. Topeca Coffee, located in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency, supplied its brews to long lines of costumed customers.
The unsung heroes of the convention, in my opinion, had to be the hotel staff. From assisting guests, constant cleaning of the convention spaces, and as well as housing many of the attendees, they really provided excellent hospitality to all.
For more information about OS4CA or Tokyo, OK, visit https://www.oklahomaculture.org/tok