Tokyo Dolpa 26
Today we have yet another out of line post I guess.
On Dec 18 there was a Dolpa 26 held in Tokyo, an event Ksusha wanted to attend, so just as if we had not enough flying already we boarded a plane and went to Japan (again).
We have read before that Japanese Dolpas are very unlike USA dolpas, but wanted to see it all with our own eyes anyway.
To get to Japanese dolpa you need to buy a guidebook, special booklet that is used as a ticket and explains the planned activities, has various forms and such.
The guidebook might come in two forms too, just a guidebook or with lunch tickets. They are sold in VOLKS showrooms or on the VOLKS website. Some events are very popular and the guide books are sold out fast, some events are less popular and the guidebooks are available for quite a while.
The guidebook is of course is all in Japanese so even though you can recognize the schedule and the activities start times, but understanding what the activities are is hard, knowing how to read katakana is helpful and would shed at least some light on this.
People start to gather long before the actual dolpa starting time (10am in our case), but we decided that no point to go early as there was no activities early on - wrong. There are random number tickets that are distributed to people in line that is their number to get to the shop for limited dolpa items, what we did not realize was that the cut-off time for this was 9am, we arrived at about 9:05am, just a few minutes late.
Finally we are in, the hall is kind of huge and we are not sure what to do. Big crowds stand near numbered rows, tons of tables with different kind of clothes.
A line to one of the stands turned out to be a way to buy a table for the day, 5000 yen for a red-clothed table (somewhat centrally located), 3000 for yellow-clothed one (a bit to the sides) or free non-reserved cloth-less tables were also available on the first-come first served basis.
First we decided to check one-off gallery, that is, the dolls only existing as a single one, those were to be sold in a lottery later in the day.
There were also two very special one-offs that were to be sold in auction later in the day.
Nearby was a Dollfie World cup 2011 exhibition:
The World Cup exhibition is a place where visitors could vote for their #1 and #2 preference of the dolls shown (some made by visitors, some made by VOLKS staff) and the results would be announced on the next Dolpa.
Next we went to the dealers area that was huge! In fact a lot of people visit Dolpas just to see the dealers, some of which don't even have any online presence.
After seeing about a third of the dealer space we have noticed it's almost noon so it's time to have the lunch we have paid for. There is a special lunch pick-up booth near the entrance. Those who have pre-paid for the lunch can pick it at any time by 1:35pm, all others need to buy it while there are still any left (expected sold-out time is noon - published at the booth).
Then I noticed a yellow string sticking out of a side of lunch, pull the string and the contents magically heat up.
Also near the entrance was a stand where you can pick up your bingo lottery cards, one card per guidebook you happen to have and put a corresponding stamp on it.
Also you can see three stamp places on the guidebook labeled "step 1", "step 2" and "step 3". At the dolpa it was explained to us that it's a special promotion: Collect three stamps in designated spaces. One from Tenshi-no-Sumika in Harajuku one day before Dolpa, one at the Dolpa, on at Tenshi-no-Sumika at Akihabara the day after Dolpa and get a prize of some sort. (this is probably documented in the guidebook somewhere, but we totally missed this part for obvious reasons even though we would have been able to fulfill the requirements otherwise).
Also throughout the floor there were special pins for sale at 320 yen used for the "location lottery" at the very end of the dolpa.
You write a Japanese prefecture name where you are from (or a country name in our case) and before the event conclusion country name/prefecture name is drawn out of a box. Then everybody who has this name written on their pin will use rock-paper-scissors to determine the only person to get the final prize.
Next we went to the user area to see what kind of dolls are shown there.
Then we turned our attention to Tenshi-no-Sumika shop where just outside the familiar models were displaying clothes specially sold at this dolpa (of course no clothes were left by the time we started to look (but no crowds too of course)). Here are some of the models:
And the limited items on display at Tenshi-no-Sumika:
And then we went to check the rest of dealer exposition:
Of course there were many-many more dealers (guidebook lists 410 entries), so we only took pictures of some very few that were convenient to take pictures of and that really caught our attention.
And then a couple of shots featuring Hina-chan at the photo space.
Other things that happened during the dolpa:
One-off auctions - this one is pretty similar to US Dolpas - you just fill a paper and drop it into a box for a doll you want to buy. The form is located in the guidebook. If you want multiple entries, you need to buy multiple guidebooks. Be sure to be present for the drawing as there is pretty small window from when the entry is called to when they move on to another candidate.
Charity auctions (all proceeds go to Japanese Red Cross to help for Tsunami victims). Some pretty desirable items were put for sale - e.g. Suigintou standard dress, also Reisner scarface and Moe (DD head on SDGr body). The procedure is like this: you fill the form (freely available at the location) and write in there the lot number, your highest price and your contact information (make sure to add cell phone country code and write that you wish to be contacted in English). Then at a predetermined time (check the schedule) they will announce the prices picking the highest for each lot. These are so called mid-prices (we thought they were final and missed out on stuff we wanted). After the mid-prices are announced, you can fill another bid form and increase your bid above the mid-price. You can also match the current highest bid. In case there are multiple entries for the highest price from several people - the rock-paper-scissors decides the winner. In the end Moe sold for 310.000 yen ($3.986) and Reisner Scarface sold for whopping 516.000 yen ($6.635).
SD quiz - there was a form in the guidebook that you need to fill. It contained 8 out of 10 questions of the quiz. The last two were apparently announced at the Dolpa itself somehow? You fill the form and drop it into a designated box before a deadline. Then they sort out incorrect entries and choose winners randomly amongst all the right answers.
Stamp de chance or some such - the description had something about buying a stamp card for 10.000 yen so we were not really interested. Also there was something about double-stamp. The double-stamp cards were drawn out from a box and few were granted some prizes. Then just a single stamp card was drawn from another box for a prize. Later on it turned out that the 10.000 referenced is the amount of money you need to spend at the dolpa.
At the stage Shigeita-san changed into Santa-san and pointed somewhere in the meeting space, then started to walk there. It turned out that people were supposed to line up and then receive a gift (some candies in my case) from him.
Bingo - this is like a lotto of sorts, seems to be present at a lot of Dolpas. You come to a special bingo stand with your guidebook and get a bingo card for each guide book you happen to have. People were seen having tons of these bingo cards.
How bingo works. You get a card that is a 5x5 grid of numbers (if any square says "free" - that you can remove right away). The randomly chosen numbers are called and you punch holes in your card if any of the numbers match with what you have. If you have a straight line of holes (sequences of 5, also diagonals), you shout out "rich" and rush to the stage, don't delay!
As people get to the stage they get to pull a string out of a box (named Tenraigin) to see what their prize is. If for a given number there are multiple people with the results, the rock-paper-scissors game decides the order in which the selection happens:
Come the bingo time, before it another charity auction was held. First a "realtime repoto" role is auctioned off, a person winning this will be writing drawn numbers on the board. Then there was a person to rotate the lotto wheel and also read the numbers as they are pulled (not sure what the name for that is). These people get to wear the "Dolpa staff" jackets, but not sure if you get to keep the jacket or need to return it after the event. Anyway they cannot play the bingo so if you are going alone, it's probably not wise to bid for these positions. Then the last item for auction was a "cheater card" (for the lack of better name), it's a special bingo card where of the 5x5 grid of numbers the 4x4 square is all punched out already, so all it takes to win is for any one of numbers still on the card to be called. In our case that was the first one to be called.
There are many prizes in bingo including the tenshies, dresses, wigs, and also postcard sets. So you need to be double-lucky - first to score the win, then to actually pull a good prize.
Additionally it turned out if you have a VS card (and you pay the 1050 annual fee), you get to receive free VOLKS news magazine issues to your registered address if it is in Japan (must be your address, if you tell it's your friend's address, they won't accept it). The pre-dolpa issue usually has something. In our case there was some sort of questionnaire that people were filling and getting free picture calendars in return. VOLKS USA carries these magazines with big delays, so if you want to have a piece of this action, and you don't receive these magazines by other means, you can buy them at VOLKS showrooms say a day before dolpa (originally we were told you can have a free one when you show your VS card, but then that was retracted).
In general I must say we saw just might be 4 or 6 non-Asian looking people at the dolpa and going there without knowing Japanese was pretty hard even though when you asked, an English translator was summoned (of which there were exactly two). While definitely interesting, I guess the only reason to go there is to see the dealers space, unless you just happen to be in a dolpa vicinity anyway and have nothing better to do on that day.