Otakon (oh-tah-kon, English pronunciation: /'oʊ.tə.kɒn/) is a fan convention in the United States focusing on East Asian popular culture (primarily anime, manga, music, and cinema) and its fandom. The name is a portmanteau derived from convention and the Japanese word otaku. Otakon is traditionally held on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in late summer at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland's Inner Harbor district. Otakon is one of the longest-running Anime conventions in the United States, and the second largest, averaging over 22,000 paid attendees since 2005.[2] Even so, the convention has expanded since then, with attendance above 26,000 in both 2008 and 2009[1] and attendance unofficially surpassing 29,000 in 2010.[3]


As one of the longest running and largest conventions of its type, Otakon offers a very broad range of programming, exhibits, and other events. Typical Otakon programming includes:[4][5]

Video programming

  • Multiple video rooms in which anime and live action East Asian films are shown on big screens throughout the convention. Fan-produced content including fan-parodies and anime music videos (AMVs) are also shown. For several years, Otakon had a dedicated 35 mm film theater, but replaced it in 2008 with an HD theater[6] to take advantage of the wider array of offerings in that format.

Panels and workshops

Costume events

  • Cosplay and a skit-based Masquerade show, which in recent years has taken place inside the 1st Mariner Arena.[8] Many attendees spend most of the convention in costume as their favorite anime, manga, or video game character. Many enter daily contests, and some participate in skits in the Masquerade show, one of the largest convention events. There is also a cosplay contest and a photo suite where attendees can have their photos professionally taken in costume.[9]

Art events

  • "The Alley", an artists alley with writers, musicians, and craftspeople as well, and a separate art show for amateur artists to display, advertise, sell, and auction their artwork. Furthermore, there is a contest in building models.


  • Musical performances throughout the weekend. Since 2003, there has been at least one concert at each convention featuring a Japanese musical guest.
  • Otakon also features what is known as the "Otakafé" and hosts karaoke[10] as well.



  • A "Dealers' Room" in which commercial vendors such as publishers and retailers set up booths and sell anime- and manga-related merchandise.

Friday and Saturday night dance

  • The "Otakurave", a late-night dance party hosted by Baltimore-Washington area (and sometimes national) DJ's.

Other Events


  • Opportunities to meet guests and collect autographs at no additional charge.

Live-action role-playing (LARP)

Events for younger children

  • A special children's track called Ota-chan.

Otakon 2010

At one point in the early afternoon during Saturday, July 31 of Otakon 2010, the entire Baltimore Convention Center had to be evacuated due to a fire alarm,[11] although there was in fact no fire. Hours of certain events and rooms were adjusted accordingly to accommodate for lost time.


Event history

Dates Location Atten. Guests
July 29–31, 1994 Days Inn Penn State
State College, Pennsylvania
379[1] Robert DeJesus, Neil Nadelman, Lorraine Savage, Sue Shambaugh, and Jeff Thompson.[12]
September 1–4, 1995 Penn State Scanticon
State College, Pennsylvania
506[1] Teruo Kakuta, Toshio Okada, Toren Smith, and Adam Warren.[13]
August 9–11, 1996 Marriott's Hunt Valley Inn
Hunt Valley, Maryland
1,065[1] Steve Bennett, Robert DeJesus, Masaomi Kanzaki, Matt Lunsford, Neil Nadelman, Steve Pearl, Sue Shambaugh, Jeff Thompson, and Adam Warren.[14]
August 8–10, 1997 Marriott's Hunt Valley Inn
Hunt Valley, Maryland
1,835[1] Ippongi Bang, Kuni Kimura, and Matt Lunsford.[15]
August 7–9, 1998 Hyatt Regency-Crystal City
Arlington, Virginia
2,609[1] Hiroshi Aro, Tiffany Grant, Shoji Kawamori, Kuni Kimura, Tristan MacAvery, Lisa Ortiz, and Jan Scott-Frazier.[16]
July 2–4, 1999 Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, Maryland
4,637[1] Chris Beveridge, Tiffany Grant, Amy Howard-Wilson, Mari Iijima, Yoko Kanno, Kuni Kimura, Hiroyuki Kitakubo, Shin Kurokawa, Rachael Lillis, Kazuto Nakazawa, Fred Schodt, and Shinichiro Watanabe.[17]
August 4–6, 2000 Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, Maryland
7,692[1] Yoshitoshi ABe, Mandy Bonhomme, Amy Howard-Wilson, Kunihiko Ikuhara, Ian Kim, Steve Pearl, Gilles Poitras, Yasuyuki Ueda, and Simon Yam.[18]
August 10–12, 2001 Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, Maryland
10,538[1] Steve Bennett, Rodney "Largo" Caston, Jo Chen, Colleen Doran, Fred Gallagher, Tiffany Grant, Scott Houle, Toshihiro Kawamoto, Ian Kim, Shin Kurokawa, Masao Maruyama, Hikaru Midorikawa, Fred Perry, Gilles Poitras, Kazuya Tsurumaki, Adam Warren, and Pamela Weidner.[19]
July 26–28, 2002 Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, Maryland
13,313[1] Steve Bennett, Chris Beveridge, Rodney "Largo" Caston, Fred Gallagher, Yoko Ishida, Wendee Lee, Masao Maruyama, Yutaka Minowa, Kiroyuki Morioka, Neil Nadelman, Yasuhiro Nightow, Fred Perry, Gilles Poitras, Tatsuo Sato, and Lianne Sentar.[20]
August 8–10, 2003 Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, Maryland
17,685[1] Steve Bennett, Mandy Bonhomme, Johnny Yong Bosch, Justin Cook, Julie Davis, Robert DeJesus, Brian Drummond, Fred Gallagher, Scott Houle, Yoshiaki Iwasaki, Toshihiro Kawamoto, Itsuro Kawasaki, Tsukasa Kotobuki, Pontus Madsen, Masao Maruyama, Rica Matsumoto, Dr. Susan Napier, Satoshi Nishimura, Kristine Sa, Fred Schodt, Jan Scott-Frazier, T.M.Revolution, and Pamela Weidner.[21]
July 30 – August 1, 2004 Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, Maryland
21,274[1] angela, Matt Boyd, Siu-Tung "Tony" Ching, Luci Christian, Koge Donbo, Richard Epcar, Christian Fundin, Mohammad "Hawk" Haque, Chuck Huber, L'Arc-en-Ciel, Pontus Madsen, Ian McConville, Yutaka Minowa, Ichiro Okouch, Ananth Panagariya, Chris Patton, Monica Rial, Chris Sabat, Tatsuo Sato, Yuzo Sato, Lianne Sentar, and Matt Thorn.[22]
August 19–21, 2005 Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, Maryland
22,000[1][23] Greg Ayres, Katie Bair, Matt Boyd, Brian Carroll, Luci Christian, Justin Cook, Richard Ian Cox, Huw "Lem" Davies, Ben Dunn, Christian Fundin, Fred Gallagher, Mohammad "Hawk" Haque, the Indigo, Yoshinori Kanemori, Toshihiro Kawamoto, Dave Lister, Pontus Madsen, Masao Maruyama, Ian McConville, Mike McFarland, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Scott McNeil, Vic Mignogna, Mitsukazu Mihara, Seiji Mizushima, Ananth Panagariya, Fred Perry, Piano Squall, Puffy AmiYumi, Scott Ramsoomair, Xero Reynolds, Monica Rial, Michelle Ruff, Michael "Mookie" Terracciano, and Toshifumi Yoshida.[24][25]
August 4–6, 2006 Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, Maryland
23,902[1] Christine Auten, Troy Baker, Colleen Clinkenbeard, Christian Fundin, Fred Gallagher, Caitlin Glass, Kate Higgins, Kouta Hirano, Hirotsugu Kawasaki, Ayako Kawasumi, Nana Kitade, Yuri Lowenthal, Pontus Madsen, Masao Maruyama, Mike McFarland, Mucc, Kazuto Nakazawa, Monica Rial, Antimere Robinson, Patrick Seitz, Makoto Tateno, Nobuteru Yuuki, and Yoshiki Hayashi.[26]
July 20–22, 2007 Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, Maryland
22,852[1] AAA, Morio Asaka, Steve Blum, Colleen Clinkenbeard, Aaron Dismuke, Eminence, Christian Fundin, Fred Gallagher, Caitlin Glass, Ryuhei Kitamura, Kenji Kodama, Pontus Madsen, Vic Mignogna, Maki Murakami, Mamiko Noto, Hitoshi Sakimoto, Tomokazu Seki, Stephanie Sheh, Mike Sinterniklaas, Michihiko Suwa, and Steve Yun.[27]
August 8–10, 2008 Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, Maryland
26,262[1] Laura Bailey, Peter Beagle, DaizyStripper, Richard Epcar, Peter Fernandez, Taliesin Jaffe, JAM Project, Willow Johnson, Kyoko Kano, Mika Kano, Mela Lee, Yuri Lowenthal, MarBell, Masao Maruyama, Hiromi Matsushita, Tony Oliver, Tara Platt, Derek Stephen Prince, Mike Sinterniklaas, Ellyn Stern, Kazuko Tadano, the Underneath, and Kappei Yamaguchi.[28]
July 17–19, 2009 Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, Maryland[29]
26,586[1] Becca, Crispin Freeman, Kikuko Inoue, Noboru Ishiguro, Yukio Kikukawa, Hidenori Matsubara, Masao Maruyama, Mike McFarland, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Misako Rocks!, Tony Oliver, Fred Schodt, Sonny Strait, Naomi Tamura, VAMPS, Kanon Wakeshima, Travis Willingham, MELL, and Yutaka Yamamoto.[30]
July 30-August 1, 2010 Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, Maryland
29,274 Maile Flanagan, Vic Mignogna, h. Naoto, Yoshida Brothers, Home Made Kazoku[31], Todd Haberkorn, Clarine Harp, Jerry Jewell, Patrick Seitz, J. Michael Tatum, Amy Howard Wilson, Christopher Bevins, Takamasa Sakurai, Yoshiki (musician), Sugizo, X JAPAN's YOSHIKI and SUGIZO, Antic Cafe's Kanon, Hiroshi Koujina[32], Masao Maruyama[33], Yuji Mitsuya, Michael Sinterniklaas, Masashi Ishihama, Koji Masunari, Tomonori Ochikoshi, Peter S. Beagle, and Felipe Smith.
July 29-31, 2011[34] Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, Maryland
TBA 2012[35] Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, Maryland


Otakon has been located in the Baltimore Convention Center at least in part for every year beginning in 1999, though it soon expanded to require the entire convention center and more recently, other buildings as well. Events such as the masquerade now place in the 1st Mariner Arena, located one block away, and at least some programming takes place in the Hilton Baltimore Convention Center Hotel,[36] connected to the Convention Center by its skybridge[37], as was the case in both 2009 and 2010.[38]

Hilton Baltimore Convention Center Hotel and Otakon

The Hilton Baltimore Convention Center Hotel opened on Friday, August 22, 2008.[39][40][41] Otakon has been promised a minimum of Script error: No such module "convert". out of a total Script error: No such module "convert". by the Hilton Baltimore Convention Center Hotel.[42] Otakon is utilizing the Hilton for hotel rooms in 2009[43][44] and has confirmed that they will use the Hilton for the convention itself, however as of August 23, 2008, it's too early to determine what will be at the Hilton and what will remain at the Baltimore Convention Center.[45] As of February 7, 2009, Otakon posted information on its panels for Otakon 2009 and it confirms that panel space will be in the Baltimore Convention Center and will be expanded into the Hilton Baltimore Convention Center hotel.[46] Otakon 2009 utilized in the Hilton, the Poe meeting room for its Manga Library and the Key Ballroom for two additional panel rooms and 1 additional autographs room.


Otakon is run by the Pennsylvania-based non-profit organization Otakorp, Inc.[47] whose focus is on using East Asian popular culture as a gateway to increase understanding of East Asian culture.

Otakon is the annual meeting of Otakorp, Inc. Otakon attendees do not purchase "tickets" to Otakon; they actually become a member of the non-profit organization that runs Otakon with their paid attendance to the convention. Everyone who pays the annual membership fee to attend Otakon is also a supporting member for Otakorp and is able to participate in sanctioned events, contests, or giveaways that might occur during the year.

All staff are unpaid volunteers, although registration tasks are supplemented by temporary workers provided by the Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Association, and certain services such as legal and accounting work are by contract. Otakon also enlists the help of non-staff assistants, whom are referred to as gofers. Otakon 2006 listed over 500 staff on its roster, though not all work the convention directly, though in a similar count, Otakon 2010 listed 685 staff on its roster.[48]

Otakorp, Inc. also sponsors film screenings as part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC, and assists with programming at other film festivals.

Economic impact on Baltimore

As of July 17, 2009, Otakon has had a great economic impact with its host, the City of Baltimore. Otakon has had the highest economic impact in Baltimore for 2008 and 2007 and has been a top convention for Baltimore since 2003. Otakon 2008 had an economic impact of $27.2 million and booked over 4,500 hotel rooms.[49]

Future expansion

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File:Rabbid cosplay (edit).jpg

Rabbid cosplay at a 2007 Otakon.

In light of Otakon's consistent growth and the continuing popularity of anime in North America, Otakon expects to continue for many years. The Baltimore Convention Center is likely to remain the primary venue for Otakon, mainly due to a lack of other venues of sufficient size in the area.

Four-day convention

While the idea of a four-day convention has some support among the general membership (especially among younger members), the idea has been summarily dismissed as unworkable by Otakon staff. It was attempted in 1995, over a holiday weekend, back when Otakon fit comfortably in a small hotel, and even then it was an exhausting prospect that didn't pay off. In those days, the entire convention could be set up in a matter of hours, while it currently takes two full days to prepare the site. At its current size and functional requirements, Otakon would face a significant additional expense in running an extra day, and both industry and dealers have said that it would not be worth their time and money to attend a fourth day. Finally, it is clear that few staffers would be able to afford the extra day (most staffers already use as much as a week of vacation time to help run the con). With almost zero support from staff, industry, or dealers, there is virtually no chance that Otakon will ever attempt a four-day convention again.[50]

Facility Expansion Options

From various comments by the organization's senior staff, it seems clear that there are only two serious contenders for possible expansion of the convention: expanding within Baltimore to the new Hilton hotel, which is attached to the BCC, or moving to the much larger D.C. Convention Center. It also seems clear that while DC remains the most viable option if the convention moves, the new convention hotel would be a more logical expansion choice. (Other nearby locations such as Philadelphia are simply not large enough to accommodate Otakon, or have been ruled out as unsuitable.)

Otakon 2006 convention chair, Jim Vowles, has stated that there is no firm decision to move Otakon to the D.C. Convention Center due to cost and logistics. Vowles stated that "the move to DC would be a bigger challenge than some people think -- and the true cost is as yet unknown" and that it would take "at least a year to plan any such move", and that if Otakon does indeed decide to move from Baltimore "it should be considered a more or less permanent move if at all possible."

Mr. Vowles continues, "Realistically, unless the BCC is leveled and rebuilt, it will not be a serious competitor with DC, but it may continue to suit our needs for quite a while. Eventually, we're either going to reach the plateau of our growth, or we're going to need to move, and at that point it's pretty much got to be DC. But Baltimore and the BCC have been our home base since 1999, and we put in two years in Hunt Valley before our big growth in the mid/late nineties. I don't see us casually tossing that history aside. So in the meanwhile, we continue to investigate the options in ever greater detail. Real hard numbers are the next stage of the game." Later comments indicated that the differences in how the convention would use the space were likely to mean a significant increase in cost.

In a 2006 interview with Geeknights, a talk radio show (self-described as being for hobbyists, tinkerers, and, for lack of a better word, geeks. The hosts "Rym and Scott delve into topics ranging from computer science to Eurogaming, anime to fantasy fiction, indie comics to gadgetry"),[51] in which Vowles again denied a possible move, and noted how determined Baltimore City was to keep the convention around. "Baltimore at this point is motivated to keep us, and they're putting their money where their mouth is, so to speak. This year we've seen a noted increase in city support for the event. And frankly, we know pretty much exactly how to use Baltimore's space, and we know all the local players, from hotels to venues to vendors."[52]

As Otakon has increasingly made use of the 1st Mariner Arena for large events, there is concern[who?] about proposals to shut down or relocate that facility in the future.[citation needed]


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 "Otakon History: Stats Page". Otakon. Retrieved 2009-05-20. 
  2. http://www.animecons.com/news/article.shtml/221
  3. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/press-release/2010-08-01/otakon-2010-attendance-breaks-29k Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  4. http://www.animecons.com/events/info.shtml/738 Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  5. http://www.otakon.com/events_schedule.asp Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  6. http://otakon.com/pdf/bcc_map.pdf Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Shepherd, Jeremy. "Otakon 2009: Manga, Literacy, and Children." http://anime.advancedmn.com/article.php?artid=5565
  8. http://www.otakon.com/events_schedule.asp Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  9. http://www.animecons.com/events/info.shtml/738 Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  10. http://www.animecons.com/events/info.shtml/738 Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  11. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2010-07-31/otakon-convention-center-evacuated-due-to-fire-alarm Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  12. "Otakon 1994 Information". AnimeCons.com. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  13. "Otakon 1995 Information". AnimeCons.com. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  14. "Otakon 1996 Information". AnimeCons.com. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  15. "Otakon 1997 Information". AnimeCons.com. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  16. "Otakon 1998 Information". AnimeCons.com. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  17. "Otakon 1999 Information". AnimeCons.com. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  18. "Otakon 2000 Information". AnimeCons.com. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  19. "Otakon 2001 Information". AnimeCons.com. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  20. "Otakon 2002 Information". AnimeCons.com. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  21. "Otakon 2003 Information". AnimeCons.com. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  22. "Otakon 2004 Information". AnimeCons.com. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  23. http://www.animecons.com/news/article.shtml/221
  24. Shapiro, Stephanie (August 22, 2005). "Power Puffy Girls". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2007-07-17. 
  25. "Otakon 2005 Information". AnimeCons.com. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  26. "Otakon 2006 Information". AnimeCons.com. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  27. "Otakon 2007 Information". AnimeCons.com. Retrieved 2008-04-08. 
  28. "Otakon 2008 Information". AnimeCons.com. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  29. "Otakon 2009 Information". AnimeCons.com. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  30. "Otakon 2009 Guests". Otakon.com. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  31. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2010-03-26/otakon-to-host-hip-hop-group-home-made-kazoku Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  32. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/press-release/2010-06-29/otakon-2010-announces-masao-maruyama-hiroshi-koujina Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  33. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/press-release/2010-06-29/otakon-2010-announces-masao-maruyama-hiroshi-koujina Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  34. http://otakon.com/news_article.asp?id=560 Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  35. Otakon 2012 also mentioned.
  36. http://otakon.com/pdf/bcc_map.pdf Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  37. http://www1.hilton.com/en_US/hi/hotel/BWICCHH-Hilton-Baltimore-Maryland/index.do Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  38. http://www.otakon.com/events_schedule.asp Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  39. "New downtown Hilton opens its doors to guests". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  40. "Hotel meets convention". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  41. "Baltimore's $300 million convention hotel opens to the public". Baltimore Business Journal. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  42. "Fans Flock to Baltimore's Otakon". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  43. "Lodging Reservations Otakon 2009 Baltimore, Maryland July 17–19, 2009". BACVA. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  44. "reserving hotel room blocks". Otakon BBS. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  45. "New Convention Center space". Otakon BBS. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  46. "Otakon 2009 Panels Page". Otakon. Retrieved 2009-02-15. 
  47. Register of Corporations, Pennsylvania Dept of State. "Business Entity: OTAKORP, Inc.". Retrieved 2007-10-24. 
  48. https://www.otakon.com/otastaff/staff_depts.asp?section=97 Retrieved 2010-08-09.
  49. "Otakon convention brings thousands of Japanese anime fans to Baltimore". Baltimore Business Journal. Retrieved 2009-07-21. 
  50. "Otakon FAQ - General info: Why don't you run a four-day convention?". Otakon.com. Retrieved 2007-11-02. 
  51. http://frontrowcrew.com/about/ Retrieved 2010-08-09
  52. "Interview with Jim Vowles: Con Chair of Otakon 2006". GeekNights. June 22, 2006. Retrieved 2007-06-15. 

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