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Nippon 2007 - Worldcon 65 in Yokohama, Japan by SFRevu Staff
Review by Barry Newton & Judy Newton
WSFS Convention  
Date: 01 September 2007

Links: Convention Site / SFRevu Nippon 07 Photo Gallery /

Nippon 2007 took place on schedule, from August 30th to September 3rd, in Yokohama, Japan. Yokohama is a 45-60 minute train ride South from Tokyo, and could qualify as a very extended suburb—though the mayor would not appreciate the suggestion. There's plenty of local pride in the city, and it definitely has first-class convention and hotel facilities.

Two of our regular contributors, Barry and Judy Newton, were there (and on the con committee) and we thank them for filing this report on Japan's first Worldcon. Thanks also go to Photog Jack Krolak who was our eyes on the scene. "Domo arigato" to Barry, Judy and Jack.

SFRevu's Nippon 2007 Photo Coverage - Photographer: Jack Krolak

Notes on Nippon 2007 by Barry Newton:

Other Nippon Information: Winners of the Hugo Award for 2006
Video Blogs from Kathy Overton of Fast Forward: Contemporary Science Fiction
Podcasts from Tor by Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Many other filmed segments are available on YouTube. Such as Opening Ceremonies, Closing Ceremonies, and several panels.

My impressions of the convention are colored by my status as a committee member, and I spent a good deal of my time working. This did make me very much aware of the constraints the Japanese committee members were working under. Some of these included the facility rental arrangements. The convention used space in two separate buildings, a conference center with meeting rooms, and an exhibit hall a couple of hundred yards away. These were available at different dates and times, which resulted in a certain amount of shuffling of activity. Registration took place in the conference center Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday night there was a massive shift of equipment and supplies; Registration moved to space outside the exhibit hall, and Logistics moved to a hallway around the corner from its original location near registration. This shuffling freed up two rooms for program items, but left the one hallway full of a tremendous amount of stuff—office supplies, t-shirts, publications, etc. that people had to get by to reach the green room, con office, or operations.

Opening ceremonies featured an extended re-enactment of Ultra-man, a Japanese television program that was hugely popular in the 1960s. Several Ultra-man characters engaged in hand-to-hand combat with several of the show's monsters for at least 20 minutes. This was followed by the con chair, Hiroaki Inoue introducing the convention's guests, with particular attention to the author Sakyo Komatsu, considered the father of science fiction in Japan. Mr. Inoue clearly worshipped and honored Mr. Komatsu, who in turn stated that the occasion was the high point of his life.

The exhibit hall was, unsurprisingly, largely given over to Japanese fan organizations and dealers. Foreign book dealers found that between shipping costs and customs duties, it just wasn't economical for them to come over. A couple of brave souls brought over some high-value items, hoping for sales to wealthy fans, but I don't know how that worked out for them. The usual Worldcon-related items were in place: the banner, hung in a rather inconspicuous location; bid tables for future cons, site selection for 2010, and the memorabilia exhibit. The art show was as usual up to a high standard, but a good deal smaller than usual--again, shipping issues.

The Hugo Ceremony was held in the same large hall used for the opening and closing ceremonies, and was notable for the lack of winners actually present—only two. Everyone else was represented by friends or publishers. It was kind of sad, but not unusual for overseas Worldcons. The Hugo Award itself features Ultra-man standing next to the rocket, making for a very impressive trophy.

Closing ceremonies seemed more than usually poignant, with all of the guests expressing their gratitude, and their particular satisfaction at being present for the first Worldcon in Japan. It was clear that nobody expected it to be the last one. The 2008 Denver committee received an extra bonus in addition to the customary gavel to bring home: 1000 origami cranes, made by Japanese fans to wish good fortune to an American who was taken to a hospital early in the convention with a serious systemic infection. A collection taken up to help with her expenses netted several thousand dollars—the collection box was stuffed and emptied numerous times.

Notes on Nippon 2007 by Judy Newton:

My con was considerably different from Barry's. I was on staff at the Green Room, so I was concerned with making sure the assembled program participants were fed and had a quiet place to meet. Some food was provided by the convention; every day we got a fresh supply of rice balls wrapped in seaweed stuffed with various fillings: fish roe, tuna, salmon, preserved plum, seasoned seaweed, octopus. I understand these were also supplied to the Con Suite and Volunteer Room. This was supplemented by some generous donations by tea and coffee suppliers, candy makers, and others. We rounded out the offerings by trips to a large-quantity store for drinks and miscellaneous snacks. All in all, some strange and wonderful food was sampled.

The venue for the Green Room was an expansive space at the end of a hallway with windows on both sides. We had a great view of the harbor on one side and the plaza outside the Conference Center on the other. We shared the space with the Japanese Science Fiction Writers Association. It was a nice, quiet gathering spot which we tried to make inviting.

The pocket program had language notations for each item. I tried to attend program items that provided translation between English and Japanese. I enjoyed one panel that featured Ellen Kushner, Delia Sherman, and three Japanese singing folk songs and ballads, and discussing the influence of Child ballads on fantasy writing. I learned that Japanese writers are using these songs as inspiration just like Western authors. One Japanese novelist present was taking the Arthurian cycle as her inspiration.

The Hugo Ceremony was notable for the formal Japanese robes some of the Westerners wore. John Pomeranz, as Hugo Honcho, was resplendent. Naomi Novik, nominated for both Campbell and Best Novel, (she won the Campbell), looked wonderful in a turquoise brocade kimono.

The open parties were mostly on one floor of the Intercontinental Hotel. The entire floor was given over to the parties, which all had open doors onto a circular hallway. This must have sounded like a good idea to the planners, but in reality the number of bodies overwhelmed the air conditioning. The temperature outside was in the 90's. Inside? You don't want to know. We didn't last very long on any one night.

The dead dog party was another matter. Held in the Green Room, it began with a touching toast to the Con Chair, and progressed to much drinking, eating, and an endless round of bingo to give away leftover fannish stuff. Did you know that in addition to sushi, pizza is a staple at Japanese parties? Neither did I.

My favorite thing about Yokohama (other than the con) was the giant Ferris wheel across the canal from the con venue. We not only rode on it, but it accompanied us on our walk back to our hotel every night. It had the best light show ever! And a digital clock. We always knew what time it was.

Our Readers Respond

From: William Shunn
    Maybe a lot of the Hugo winners weren't there, but plenty of the other nominees were!

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