Honestly, it’s been my dream to attend an official Hidamari event. When I found out I’d be going to Japan it was at the top of my list of things I wanted to do before I left. Sadly, it appears that there won’t be a Hidamatsuri or other official events happening during my stay. If there were, they would have been announced already. With the manga’s serialization stagnating and no new anime announcements, I guess chances were slim.

Fortunately, you can count on the thousands of Hidamari fans in Japan (who call themselves “Hidamarers”) to make up for it with dozens of unofficial events and meetups each year. Most of them are organized with Twitter-integrated tools like TwiPla, which makes it easy to search for users’ events in a given region and confirm your participation with the event’s organizer. When it comes to Hidamari meetups, fans of all kinds are welcome. I’m not the first foreigner to participate in one!

In any case, February 2014 marks a very special anniversary for Hidamari Sketch: 10 years since the manga’s launch in the April 2004 issue of Kirara Carat. There were two big fan celebrations held this weekend: one on Saturday 2/22 in Osaka and another on Sunday 2/23 in Tokyo. I attended the Osaka event because it’s much closer to where I’m living now.

We arranged to meet in front of an Animate store in the afternoon. A total of 15 people showed up (the one in Tokyo attracted about 40). We started exchanging business cards, which really are just business cards decorated with Hidamari images and including information like Twitter username + QR code, favorite character, and other hobbies/interests. Some had really incredible designs, and one person even had theirs printed on transparent plastic! Mine, well, had a rough time with my paper cutter at home and came out a little uneven.

Our first destination was a karaoke place, where we had a party room reserved. The organizer brought a cake just like the one in the xSP opening, although not quite the same size for obvious reasons. Everyone started piling their goods on the table for a picture. It’s customary to bring stuff you can show off, after all. That Sae and Hiro thing on the right is actually a custom canvas print!

cake

Then he realized he forgot to bring a knife. That moment truly felt like a 4koma punchline in real life. (We just tried our best with forks instead.)

Prior to the event a survey was sent out asking questions like “What is your favorite character?”, “What is your favorite song from Hidamari?” etc. The results were announced at this time, although I don’t remember them well. The most popular character was Yuno by a landslide, which doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has experience with the Japanese fanbase. I was the only one who voted for Natsume, but Arisawa also got a sole vote from someone else. The most popular songs were Hatena de Wasshoi and Ryuusei Record, I think.

Next came the screenings for the most-requested episodes from the survey. The organizer forgot to bring his DVDs but luckily, someone brought their own DVD binder full with what I think were rips of rental discs. The picture quality was awful (saturated reds and flickering rainbows everywhere), but it was at least something. We watched S1EP09 (Maiko Kishi’s introduction), S3EP10 (Yuno flushes her keys), S1EP05 (Yuno’s fever), S4EP07 (Pamphlet contest/Date with Arisawa), SPEP02 (Curtain washing/Landlady’s all-you-can-eat), and finally, S4EP06 (Yuno and Miyako’s self-portraits/Hiro and her future). The guy with the rips didn’t have that last episode (he thought he did, but when he loaded the DVD it started playing Spice and Wolf), so someone else put their tablet on the table for everyone to see.

tablet

The last order of business in the karaoke place was the quiz competition. Everyone was handed a sheet of paper with 17 Hidamari trivia questions (not multiple-choice). You could earn partial credit on the questions with multiple parts, and the organizer was thankfully very lenient with answer format. The questions were as follows:

1. Who is the author of Hidamari Sketch?
2. What is the name of the magazine in which Hidamari Sketch is serialized?
3. The Hidamari Sketch anime is how many episodes in all?
4. Write the name of each Hidamari resident and their respective room number.
5. Name seven teachers at Yamabuki High School.
6. What is the name of Yuno’s pet cat?
7. What prefecture is Miyako from?
8. What is Sae’s pen name and the name of the magazine her works are published in?
9. What career does Hiro want in the future?
10. What is the name of Nori’s folder that will supposedly make her go half-crazy if you open it?
11. What food did Nazuna ask Yuno and Hiro to help her make for her parents?
12. What two things does Natsume ride in order to commute to school?
13. What school club does Chika participate in?
14. What was the career aspiration that the Landlady wrote in her yearbook when she was a student?
15. What nickname does Sae call Yoshinoya?
16. When Yuno’s class had to answer what the Principal’s name was on a test, what did everyone write?
17. What is/are Ume-sensei’s: height, three sizes, birthday, birthplace, main ingredient?

Reactions:

1. “I’d be a little worried if anyone in the room doesn’t know this.”

3. A/B parts didn’t count as separate episodes. A lot of people missed this one because they forgot to count the graduation OVA!

4. A few people mixed up Sae and Hiro’s rooms.

5. It’s definitely difficult to name more than four if you don’t pay that much attention. The Principal counted as a named character. Even more confusing was that the organizer’s answer key said that the 7th teacher was someone named Uguisudani who supposedly appeared in Honeycomb. Huh? Someone checked and it turns out that’s a character from the TV programs playing in the background of some episodes (their roles still appear in the credits). The truth is there are actually eight teachers at Yamabuki: I pointed out Abe the absent math teacher from volume 1 and someone else pointed out Mochizuki from volume 7. So, the organizer accepted Abe and Mochizuki as valid answers.

10. The organizer was kind enough to accept my English translation answer because I only knew how to write half the name in Japanese…!

12. I couldn’t stop thinking that if this were a Hidamari King question it would have surely also asked how many minutes each took.

17. This question was very misleading, it’s not about Ume Aoki herself but the Ume-sensei profiles on the dust jackets of each volume. As a result I could only correctly answer her birthday and main ingredient. The matter of her birthplace was especially confusing. Ume Aoki was born in Hyogo and raised in Fukuoka, but since the question was asking about her green caricature, the answer was Fukuoka.

Overall, it wasn’t nearly as hard as I was expecting, and not even close to Hidamari King-level. The low difficulty level was probably to accommodate the several people who were relatively new fans. Everyone tallied up their points out of 40 and the organizer started calling off scores.

“Did anyone get a perfect score?”

“How about 39?”

“38?”

“37?”

And, well, that’s where this story takes an unusual turn. My score was 37 so I raised my hand. Meaning, somehow, the foreigner who came to crash the party scored higher on Hidamari knowledge than anyone else in the room. “とんでもない!”, indeed. I mean, I’m happy about it, but I didn’t see that coming at all! The next highest score was 34 or 35.

I could pick one item from the prize table full of great stuff. Hidamari Sketch Days, Sae figma, set of Kirara Carat’s bonus plastic bookmarks, Precious Memories booster packs, custom glow sticks, keychains… Funnily enough, the more valuable prizes took longer to be claimed because most people already owned them.

I chose something I hadn’t ever seen before: a set of 6 clear files featuring Yoshiaki Ito’s season 1 BD box artwork. I can’t find much information on them but it seems like the set was an Animate-exclusive bonus.

clear files

Now that I think of it, this might be the only piece of official merchandise with Natsume on it. How fitting!

(By the way, does anyone know how to remove small nicks in a clear file? You know, the crescent-shaped creases created when the plastic gets pinched? Would leaving it under heavy weights like hardcover books for a few days cure it, or is there nothing that can be done?)

If time permitted, the organizer had planned for a Hidamari song-only karaoke session. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time left before we had to move onto the next destination: an all-you-can-eat izakaya. It was really nice and I got to sample a lot of Japanese food that I would otherwise never order for myself because I wouldn’t know what it was. I had some trouble deciphering the menu though, which was just a list with no descriptions or pictures. I don’t have internet access on my phone here so Googling was out of the question, but luckily the Hidamarers were willing to explain things to me.

We enjoyed some nice casual conversation until it was time for everyone to go home. My spoken Japanese is awful so I’m very thankful they were so patient with me. I’m glad my listening skills have improved to the point where I understood most of what they were saying.

Oh yeah, they told me a fan in Australia wrote into Hidamari Radio one time? I wonder who that was. I really should listen to the radio shows more.

Anyway, I had a great time! Next month I’ll be going to a flower-viewing meetup, and there are several other events being planned right now. So many opportunities await!

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