Pulling up to the Overland Park Convention Center, I felt I was about to embark on a new con experience. The convention staff were quick and helpful. Everything from the loading area to the vendor room was well organized. The Guest Lists, Concerts, Gaming Rooms, and Events were all very well thought out and you could feel the effort that had been put in to bringing this experience to con goers for the 14th year!
Even the key card was pretty sweet! It was designed by manga artists this year!
I got to sit down with two of the masterminds that help bring this event together, Edward Orndoff, head of Marketing and Public Relations and Geoffrey Voss, Sponsorship/Screenings Director. After speaking with this duo and getting to spend four magical days at Naka-Kon, here’s what I learned.
The first thing I wanted to know is what makes Naka-Kon stand out from other conventions. Edward and Geoffrey both agree that it’s the people and the atmosphere that keep them coming back. But let’s take a deeper dive into the Naka-Kon experience.
Naka-Kon Is More Than Just Anime, It’s a Japanese Cultural Experience
I started the interview with this question “If you could be any anime character, who would you be?”
Geoffrey told me he’d want to be Akito Tenkawa from Martian Successor Nadesico, particularly drawn to his multi-tasking of being a pilot and a chef. After he stated his answer, I learned that Geoffrey is a foodie at heart which lead to me to discover that Naka-Kon offers a unique experience as a…
If you are feeling the need for some grub with your drinks, head to over to a Japanese Gastro pub called an “Izakaya”. Here, participants are guided through an atmosphere of comforting food and draft beer, shochu, or sake. Have a sweet tooth? You can sign up for an “Introduction to Wagashi” or Japanese sweets.
Even if you don’t sign up for a food event, there are other Asian food options like ramen, pho, and Korean that are located in the hotel’s café areas. There is even a food cart across from the gaming room that offers Chicken Katori and Beef Bulgogi!
It was awesome to hear that someone else is big foodie. Even Edward confirmed that Geoffrey is a very good chef and I was convinced after also learning he has an Instant Pot (googling this magical kitchen appliance will make you want to buy one!)
In another life, Edward believes he would be Pokemon Trainer, which fits him perfectly. With his entertainment career background, he is committed to bringing the best events to Naka-Kon. He also lends a hand to staff if they need assistance and travels around the convention center making sure everything and everyone is having a great time! And, there is events for everyone! Here’s a quick snapshot of the programs...
I asked Edward what he was most excited for this year and without hesitation he told me the music. He stated that the music content at Naka-Kon shouldn’t be missed! This year’s lineup featured Kabuki, where top musicians Mikio Sakai, Murata Tam, and Vocalist Takayoshi Tanimoto lead a full out jam session to anime music chosen by fans! Everyone continued jamming into the late hours at the dance party that featured resident DJs Scratch and Sniff, Kansas City DJ Chef Nguyen, and a guest from Austin, Kill Screen, spinning their latest tracks.
For the Fashionista or Trend Setter
Whether you are already a veteran on Japanese fashion or a newbie, Naka-Kon was a full Japanese fashion experience! This year’s guest list included the Ceo Yuko Ashizawa of Lolita Fashion, Atelier Pierrot And Mai, a fashion model/manager of The Main Atelier Pierrot Store in Japan’s famous Harajuku District. Attendees dressed in their best Lolita fashion, enjoyed a cup of tea and sweets with these women at The Lolita Tea Party! If the tea was not your thing, you could have attended a panel such as Japanese Street Fashion 101 and Beginner Lolita 101.
For The First Time Con-Goer
There is apprehension about going to your first con because it can be an intimidating experience. You know some anime but not all the fine details. With so much to do in one weekend, where do you start? Edward and Geoffrey gave me some suggestions, and I was sure to take their advice.
Screening Rooms/Pop-up Library
A low-key environment where you can watch your favorite anime shows or read a new series. It offers something for everyone to explore about anime culture.
A quiet place to recharge from the con rush. You can color, play board games, or sit with your head phones on as you have a moment to yourself. A spacious break room to just be you before you head to your next event! O yeah... there are snacks and water to help with the recharge.
Attend a Guest Panel
Not only did you get to meet your favorite voice actor, animator, or manga artist but also most of these guests generally provide a FREE signed autograph! And for anyone that is trying to get their foot in the door in the anime industry, it’s a great way to meet contacts. If you wanted to fine tune your artistic abilities, attending the Voice Character Auditions allowed you to get feedback from a professional voice actor!
Naka-Kon Gives Back
A cool thing about this con is their support to help others in need. It is a way for Naka-Kon to give back to communities that inspire everyone to love Japanese culture! Some ways they give back are...
The Charity ball
Every year, con goers waltz their way to the charity ball... and no this is not a pun...because you can take waltz lessons before attending the ball! All ticket proceeds go to charities.
The Shinto Shrine Donation Box
A simple way to offer a donation. A person can make an offering by placing it inside the donation box. He or She can also say a prayer for those going through a hardship.
Naka-Kon Scholarship Program
Two recipients, who believe in Naka-Kon’s mission to spread Japanese Culture to a wider audience will each receive a $2000 scholarship towards their studies on Japanese culture, history, and language.
Naka-Kon is Family
There is an atmosphere of inclusion and acceptance at Naka-Kon. The energy from the people, friendly staff, and unique panels and shows make you feel right at home. You never feel out of place when you’re at Naka-Kon!
Because of all the Naka-Kon Awesomeness...Edward and Geoffrey offered one last piece of advice:
"Drink Water and Eat!"
The excitement of the con can actually make you forget to drink and eat. Make sure to stay hydrated and nourished during your con adventure weekend! Don’t worry, there is plenty of food and drinks at the Naka-Kon (refer back to “Naka-Kon Is More Than Just Anime” on the Japanese food!)
I know I can speak for our entire RightStufAnime team that made the trip to Naka-Kon when I say a great time was had by all and we can’t wait to go back next year. I want to thank Edward and Geoffrey for sitting down with me and preparing me for everything Naka-Kon had to offer!
We’ll be headed to plenty of other conventions this year so be sure to follow us on social media to find out where we’ll end up next!
- Anime Detour (April 6-8)
- Anime St. Louis (May 4-6)
- Anime Central (May 18-20)
- Wizard World Des Moines (June 1-3)
- Anime Expo (July 5-8)
- Anime Iowa (July 13-15)
- Anime Nebraskon (November 2-4)