By Jonah Morgan
When I first came to Japan’s largest convention center, Tokyo Kokusai Tenjijo (Tokyo International Exhibition Center) or colloquially known as Tokyo Big Sight in 2000 for Winter Comiket 59 I was utterly awe-struck at the immense spaces the venue had on offer for exhibitors and the visiting public. Although the event 7 years ago still eclipses this year’s Tokyo International Anime Fair many times over in terms of attendance and space used, organizers were still able to cram 107,713 people and over 270 company booths into East Halls 1-3 of the facilities over 4 days. Each hall has a floor area of 90m x 90m (295 feet x 295 feet), the ceiling is 31 meters (100 feet) from the ground.The roof can supposedly move about to allow control of the amount of natural light that flows in although apparently climate control is impossible within the halls themselves. That said, by adding more human bodies, the temperature soared on the 2 public days, culminating on Saturday, where the attendance would see it’s 45,764 person / day peak. The climate yielded sweaty results for an active person in a business suit. By the end of each day I could wring out my undershirt like I just pulled it out of the wash (joking). Thankfully, Japanese beverager Suntory, sponsored TAF by supplying drinks, allowing everyone to retain vital liquids. Out of curiosity, I probably logged the strangest question asked during the event when, towards the middle of Sunday I stuck my head in staff control and asked if they knew the ambient temperature in the combined halls 1-3 at that point in time. A girl behind the counter took my question to the backroom of 10+ staffers who I was in clear view of. After she asked, I got this blown away look of perplexity from all of them that made me wonder if maybe I had asked the wrong question. She said they didn’t know although I was certain a facility of this prominence would have the ability to gauge its own in-house temps. Later on I dug around online and found some fans had taken thermometers to recent Comic Market events at Big Sight and recorded upwards of 90 degrees F within the halls around mid-day.
Getting back to the 3 story high ceiling, I like high places and spotted a few rafters and catwalks up there that would be ideal vista locations for some birdseye view photos of the fair floor. I put in a request on Saturday to go up and 5 minutes later one of the Big Sight staff came around with 2 hardhats in hand to guide me there. Apparently, I was the first foreigner in the 11 years since Big Sight was built to make the climb to the roof’s underside. The journey began on the floor level toward the back of Exhibition Hall 2, the staffer used some special keys to gain access to a small room with a tight metal stairwell. A healthy climb and several flights later, the staffer ducked down and to the left and opened a barely 1 meter square hatch which he climbed through. I followed suit, and we emerged dead center over the convention space on the other side on a metal platform with rails and more stairs. After some more climbing we were as high as you could go and still be inside the structure.
The view was amazing and all-encompassing. You could make out every balloon, booth and person from Avex’s cubicle down near the main exit to NTV’s which was right in front of the main entrance and everything in between. We’re happy to share this exclusive look from “the top of the world” as it were below in a series of high resolution shots. Click on each one for full size (3264 x 2488 1.6MB):