Tomofair is the largest indoor Japanese market in the Netherlands. It took place in the Jan Massinkhal, in Nijmegen, on October 1st and 2nd, from 09:00 until 17:00. Originally, the Jan Massinkhal is used for sports events, however, for the past few years it has been more actively used to host other types of events, such as Tomofair.
It was very easy to reach, as there was a train station near the location, as well as a large parking lot where people could park their cars for free. When you get to Tomofair, the staff will take your ticket and mark your hand with a stamp as proof of your ticket. If you have tickets to both days, you will instead get a wristband that allows you to enter Tomofair on both Saturday and Sunday.
Tomofair is a small convention, but despite its size, there is still plenty to see and do. Outside the building, there were a lot of food stands. They were part of TomoTaste, an event where restaurants and cooks of Japanese dishes come together to prepare live food for TomoGuests.
I was expecting there to be more dishes than they actually served, but there was enough different food to try out. One of the dishes they served was Yakitori, a Japanese type of skewered chicken.
Tako Yaki was another dish, which is also known as Japanese Poffertjes. They’re very similar to Dutch Poffertjes, except they’re made with tiny pink pieces of Octopus and Bosui pickled ginger. Vietnamese spring rolls, friend shrimp and different kinds of noodles were also served. And what is a Japanese Food Market without Sushi, right? Even Stroopwafels, Hot Dogs and Fries were offered as choices.
While Tomofair is promoted as a market, there were so many more things to do than buy items or food. Music was played outside by Deshima Sounds, and on the other side of the square they had a Karaoke machine, where people could sing their hearts out to their favorite songs. One of the most popular songs played on the Karaoke machine was the English theme song to the first season of the Pokémon anime. A Bingo or Japanese lottery was held at the end of the day, with wonderful Japan related prices.
On Sunday, children could get their faces painted by a professional, and they held Sumo wrestling games outside the building as well.
Dance Dance Revolution, a very popular dancing game on anime related conventions, was also part of the fun. They had a special corner for the game outside the venue, where fans could choose a song they like and step on the right panels in order to win the game.
Inside the building were many stands selling their own products. A lot of anime related merchandise was sold, but also Japanese kitchenware and other items related to Japanese lifestyle and houses were sold. Some Dutch artists offered cheap commissions, as well as beautiful fanart and other works. Tons of manga was sold, as well as adorable plushies. I was very impressed with the amount of merchandise available at Tomofair, as nearly the whole building was filled with stands. They even sold Bonsai trees!
One thing that I looked forward to a lot, but disappointed me in the end was the Maid café. The location was a little amateurish, and while I understand there was probably no room inside for a proper maid café, I think they could’ve done a better job with its position and presentation. On top of this, the food and drinks were presented rather poorly as well; When the maids received an order, they left the café to get boxed ramen, then went back into the café and simply added water and boom, there is your food. Drinks were presented in tiny plastic cups, that were hardly worth the money.
I did like their outfits a lot. The ‘maids’ wore green Maid Costumes, with colorful cosplay wigs. It was very nice to see the cute color of their costumes.
Luckily, the many other fun things made up for it. The food from the stands outside was very good, and the atmosphere at Tomofair was very pleasant. Everyone was nice and seemed to have a lot of fun. Many people came to the event wearing their Cosplay, others wore Japanese styled clothes such as Lolita or Harajuku style, and others wore clothing items related to Japan in some other way, like a Pokémon shirt.
I was looking forward to the Cosplay Catwalk, but at the time it was supposed to start, we couldn’t find where it took place. Staff was nowhere to be found inside the building, and since it was raining buckets outside we couldn’t ask Staff members about it either. So, sadly, we missed the cosplay event. However, since so many people inside were dressed in beautiful cosplay as well, I think we didn’t miss anything too amazing. I have seen so many great cosplays during Tomofair, that I don’t feel guilty about missing the show.
Personally, I really enjoyed Tomofair. It was such a great experience, and while it is small, there is so much to do, see and taste, that you forget abouts its size. The staff was very nice and helpful, the stands were great and the live cooking was a very unique experience.
I would recommend Tomofair to anyone if they love Japanese culture, anime, or Japanese food. What I like about Tomofair the most is that it’s exactly what they advertise: A large Japanese market. It’s quite unique from other conventions as the theme here is not necessarily anime, but merchandise and food, like on a real market.
The ticket prices are really cheap, which is great because you get to enjoy so much for so little. Nijmegen is quite far, but I can assure you it is well worth the trip.
And if you missed Tomofair this year, don’t fret! Tomofair will be in Amsterdam on Saturday, January 7th in 2017. Check out their website for more information and tickets here.
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