Origami Tanteidan Convention - The Gaijin Guide:
What is an Origami Tanteidan Convention?

Tanteidan Convention
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The bottom line: THIS IS NOT A TOUR!

Although there will be other foreign visitors to the convention, and we'll have lots of help from our local friends, this is not a tour. You are responsible for your own activities, meals, transport, dealings with hotel staff, etc. All minors must be accompanied by an adult. There are no professional tour guides, no fixed meals, etc.

Plan as if you're going on your own, do the proper advance research, and you'll be a much happier visitor. Fail to do so, and you'll be hot, end up doing things you aren't interested in, and generally will be a burden on fellow visitors, and that is Not Fun.

So, what is an Origami Tanteidan Convention?

The Origami Tanteidan Convention is the yearly gathering of members of the Japan Origami Academic Society (JOAS). It is held over a weekend in August each year, on a university campus in Tokyo, Japan. In duration and flavor it's much like the yearly OrigamiUSA convention held in New York.

There's an organized tour for foreign (non-Japanese) attendees, right?

No, I'm afraid there is not. A trip to a Tanteidan Convention is not a professionally organized "tour" in any way, shape or form. Any and all activities (including the convention itself) are organized and run by volunteers. There's no central agency setting up lunches, dinners, sightseeing, paper shopping, etc. in Tokyo for the foreign attendees. (If you find such an agency, would you sign me up for the tour, too?)

But I've heard there are all these planned activities and stuff...

The Convention itself, of course, is organized and structured - from mid-day on Friday through around 5 pm on Sunday, there will be things to do, meals will be arranged (or at least easy to do) and so on, though you will be responsible for your own travel (via subway) from your lodging to the convention location; some years there is a small trip after Convention organized for visitors as well, where all travel, meals and lodging will be pre-arranged; this cannot necessarily happen every year, nor is there always space for all visitors, so you should plan on your own touring around.

As for the rest of the time: you're on our own.

But I don't speak Japanese! And Tokyo is huge and confusing! What will I do?

Do not panic. You should definitely consider attending a Tanteidan Convention even if you've never been to Japan, and don't speak the language, as long as you are an adult capable of:

  • traveling to Asia on your own
  • dealing with hot summer weather
  • coping with a certain amount of lack of control over what's going on around you (remember, unless you've been studying Japanese, you can't communicate, and will be quite illiterate)
  • eating some unusual - to Western tastes, anyway - food

If you plan on attending, you should expect to do all the research and planning you'd do before traveling to any foreign (and unfamiliar) country on your own. This means you must be willing to do the research and figure out things like:

  • how to get from the airport into the city (a 1-2 hour trip) by train or bus on your own
  • navigating the Tokyo subway and train system on your own
  • understanding the food - which in many ways is completely unlike Western food, with many unfamiliar tastes, textures and contents
  • what interests you most in a new city - tourist things, or shopping, or museums, etc. Asking "what's interesting to do in Tokyo" is like saying "what's interesting to do in New York?" (or any large city.) It depends on your interests.

You will, however, have some company in all this: there happen to be a collection of like-minded non-Japanese-native origami friends and acquaintances who go to the Origami Tanteidan Convention as often as they can. Many are repeat visitors, some speak Japanese, and we're lucky enough to have really good Tokyo-local friends at Gallery Origami House (which I abbreviate GOH) who will help us out as much as they can with the logistics of a couple of tricky things, namely Tokyo housing, getting to/from the airport, recommending good local restaurants, and the like.

A core group of us on the US side of the Pacific will help to pull stuff together for any foreign attendees who want our help, and we are doing so as volunteers, too, so be kind! And the staff of GOH have normal business to do, and are ramping up for their convention, so contact with and questions to them need to be kept to a reasonable minimum (or routed through one of us) if possible. (They have no native-English speakers on staff, so it's quite inconvenient for them to deal with English email/phone/fax. If you cannot communicate in Japanese, I strongly suggest going through June Sakamoto, who acts as their English-speaking agent, for any general GOH/JOAS questions. Contact us for details.)

This group of America-based quasi-organizers will use email to try and coordinate schedules and stuff before everyone goes; and, if the group wishes, can try and coordinate Things To Do in Tokyo, too; with our obvious common interests, there are lots of fun shopping things and sights to see that we would all probably enjoy together in the free time pre-convention. (Post-convention, people are generally really on their own.)

The better prepared you are before you go, the better off you'll be, and the more fun you'll have on the trip. To this end, you must spend time with maps, guidebooks (see some recommendations), and consider doing all the language cramming you can handle in the time before you leave. (Ok, you don't have to panic about the language, but any bit you can learn before you go will be helpful. Remember, you're about to become completely illiterate, and incapable of communicating with the locals!) Before you go, you should research and think about the kinds of things you'd like to see and do while there so you can make informed decisions each day as to what you'd like to do (rather than just tagging along with a group and then not being happy about the choices, which has happened to the gang in the past, and is, I can say from direct experience, Not Fun.)

We want this to be fun, you want this to be fun, so be a responsible traveler and plan ahead.

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