Hiraku took his first steps in Detroit since becoming JCMU’s mascot.
For the second year in a row, JCMU hosted a booth at Youmacon, the largest anime convention in Michigan. The convention attracts over 20,000 attendees to the area annually from around the state, country – even the world! There, it was Hiraku’s goal to highlight our study abroad opportunities in Japan for convention participants.
The cute little borb (bird-orb) was a tad nervous, but mostly just ecstatic at the chance to talk to people in the big city! He discovered that while most of the attendees were in love with Japanese culture, few were aware of the study abroad opportunities available that would allow them to actually go to Japan.
So our plan to engage them? Hiraku buttons!
I mean, who could resist this cute little guy?
After grabbing their own button, attendees of all ages were surprised to learn about our study abroad programs in Hikone. High school or college student? We have programs for you! Don’t know Japanese? Most of our programs are taught in English! Don’t want to be gone for too long (or too short)? We have programs as short as 2 weeks over the summer and as long as the entire academic year! From yearlong college programs to high school exchanges, there are all sorts of ways for attendees to turn their love of Japan into academic pursuits abroad.
Be they high school or college students, most con goers that visit us have never heard of our programs before. But what about those that have actually been on our programs before?
JCMU alumni showed up in full force to meet Hiraku!
Over 10 alumni from different years & programs came by to pick up their own Hiraku buttons and greet the fluffy borb! Many just returned from participating on the JET Program, while others have continued their life with Japan by working for a Japanese company in Michigan. It was amazing seeing so many alumni at one place, and hearing about where their paths in life have taken them after JCMU.
At the end of every day, Hiraku snuck around to see all of the fun activities that Youmacon had to offer!
The convention hosted a large collection of artists and anime-related vendors, giving us a chance to meet with others interested in Japanese culture. We even spoke with plush toy artists there about how to make Hiraku plushies for all that want one – stay tuned!
In addition, there was a huge game room complete with various Japanese arcade games, including Pop’n Music, Dance Dance Revolution, Sound Voltex, and more. On top of this, there were virtual reality devices where attendees could transport themselves to a new world for a few minutes – how cool is that?!?
Games not your thing? With Youmacon being the biggest Japanese pop culture convention in Michigan and one of the 10 biggest in the entire U.S., you’re never far from all sorts of other unique activities. There were concerts, panels, and photo shoots at all times of the day, meaning that there was never a chance for Hiraku to be bored after the booth closed for the night.
Thank you, Youmacon!
The Youmacon staff was extraordinarily kind to us, and was working with us every step of the way to make sure that as many attendees knew about the study abroad opportunities available to them as possible. Without them, Hiraku’s first trip to Detroit surely would not have been so successful.