eliza berkon is a features writer and musician based in washington d.c. 

No, You're Not Hallucinating: Those Are Pokemon Characters Strolling Through Downtown D.C.

There’s Comic-ConBlerdconSantaConAnthrocon. And everyone’s favorite, BronyCon. But just this morning, Otakon—from the Japanese term for pop-culture mega-fan, “otaku”—rolled into town, perhaps on a brightly hued itasha.

In a three-day conference that couldn't be more different from other major events happeningthis weekend, Otakon is bringing music, gaming, cosplay (what's that you say?), a Lolita Garden, autograph opportunities, discussions on the history of sake and the power of healing anime, and a couple of raves to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

This annual celebration of Asian pop culture was founded in 1994 by Penn State students moved to D.C. last year from Baltimore. And it’s likely to draw some 25,000 anime, manga and gaming enthusiasts, event organizers say.

You may be content with merely seeing adults wander through downtown D.C. in purple wigs, exaggerated J-fashion and blinding yellow Pikachu costumes, but if you want to get in on the action, here are answers to your burning questions about Otakon:

Can I still get in?

Yes. Rather than selling tickets, Otakon sells memberships to nonprofit Otakorp (more details here.) Rates are $100 for the whole weekend, $70 for Saturday and Sunday, and $40 for Sunday only.

I barely know what cosplaying is—do I have to do it?

No, cosplaying is not required, but many people do wear costumes.

What are some of the must-attend events?

Lip-syncing somehow never seems to get old, as Otakon organizers are well aware. Get a musical introduction to cosplay at Jez Roth’s Lip Sync for Your Cosplay, a head-to-head lip-syncing challenge where two cosplayers square off to music that includes anime and Disney classics. (Friday, 4 p.m.)

The video game music of Japanese composer Nobuo Uematsu (who will be in attendance) will be performed by a live orchestra alongside video game footage in Distant Worlds: Music From Final Fantasy. (Friday, 7 p.m.)

Skip your Saturday run and ease into the morning with Let’s Get Comfy: Iyashikei Anime and the Joy of Doing Nothing, a panel discussion of “slow-life” selections in Japanese animated film. (Saturday, 9 a.m.)

Totally throw in the towel on having a healthy weekend at the Japanese Confectionery Corner(do some advance work right now), an exploration of how to make Japanese sweets, their history and their role in anime. (Saturday, 4:30 p.m.)

If you haven’t yet been bit by the K-pop bug, there’s still time. Watch the dancers of ECKO (East Coast K-Pop Outlet) duke it out at a high-cardio dance competition. (Sunday, noon)

What security precautions do I need to know about?
In anticipation of the "Unite the Right 2" rally in D.C. on Sunday, plus a handful of counterprotests all over town, Otakon organizers announced that Washington Metropolitan Police will be patrolling inside and outside the Convention Center, and there will be bag checks at the entrances.

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