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My Sakuracon 2023 Experience

I’m typing this the week after Sakuracon 2023, listening to my newly-acquired Touhou PC-98 soundtrack CD’s. For those that don’t know, Sakuracon is a very-large-scale ACG (anime, comics, and games) convention held in Seattle every year. This year was my first year attending. I don’t quite remember why I didn’t attend last year, but it probably came down to me just finding out too late.

This post serves as a diary of how I spent the three days and my favorite moments of the con.

Day 0

Badge pickup began on the evening of Thursday, April 6. I luckily live within walking distance of the convention center (the whole “walkable cities and transit” thing is going to be TIL post sometime soon), so after work and dinner I headed down to pick up my badge and avoid a long wait during valuable convention time.

Badge pickup on Thursday was quite packed, with multiple parallel lines stretching all the way back to the entrance of the massive ballroom.

Picture of twelve badge pickup booths, all serving

I spent about 45 minutes to get from the back of the line to the front. After that was early bedtime to energize for the weekend!

Day 1


I decided to arrive at the convention earlier than my first planned event to scope out the facilities. PAX West was held at the same convention center last year, but only in the older Arch building and some adjacent hotels. In contrast, Sakuracon had programming in both of the convention center buildings, the older Arch building and the new Summit building. I headed to the Arch building and took a look around the arcade room at the top floor.

There was all manner of games, though rhythm games definitely took up at least 50% of the hall, with MaiMai/Taiko/Mania-style games on the far side of that video, and DDR-style games behind me in the video. To the left were the driving games, and directly in front of me were older types of games such as fighters, tetris, and STG’s.

I was mainly interested in the STG’s. Fortunately, they had some. Unfortunately, they only had three, though they were good choices: Mushihimesama, DoDonPachi Daioujou, and Touhou Perfect Sakura Fantastica (Touhou Fantastic Danmaku Festival Part II’s ex-A Arcadia port).

But for now, the first panel I had planned was about to start, so I headed to Summit.

A.I. Art Primer Panel

This panel was self-described as “A Primer on A.I. Art generation”. I really don’t support AI art in the form that it’s in today (yet another topic for another post), but thought it would be curious to see what was said at this panel. That being said, the panel was fairly non-technical, and I don’t think I learned that much from it.

I also heard later after the fact that this panel was run by someone associated with Midjourney, a prominent image-generation AI company, so that leaves a bit of a bad taste in the mouth after-the-fact.

Rating: 2.5/5

Cultivation 101: Chinese Occult in Pop Culture Panel

Immediately afterward I next attended the Cultivation 101: Chinese Occult in Pop Culture panel, which was essentially an overview of all the cultivation tropes in the Chinese Xianxia genre.

I’m not very familiar with the Xianxia genre, but wanted to attend anyways to support Chinese media, which is usually very poorly underrepresented at these types of events. Regardless, the panelist managed to keep things easy to digest and still funny, and attendance was quite good.

Towards the end, the room cooperatively played a janky visual novel the panelist had created which had multiple routes outlining the usual paths Xianxia protagonists usually take through their stories.

Picture of one of the endings of the visual

I can’t find the panelist’s social media, but the visual novel was made available here.

Rating: 5/5


I stopped by the arcade next, for my first actual trip (of many) to the room. I mostly played a couple credits of Dodonpachi Daioujou before getting hungry, deciding to stop wasting my time, and going to get lunch.


I stopped by Blue Water Taco Grill, a taco chain 5 minutes’ walk from the convention center. I didn’t feel like agonizing too much about where to go, so I just went to the same place I went for one of the days of PAX West.

Willie and a burrito

Artist’s Alley

After lunch, I headed to the Artist’s Alley, one of two massive exhibit halls at Sakuracon. The Artist’s Alley is dedicated to artists selling their works, and I took a long lap around essentially the entire hall. I didn’t purchase anything, but noted down specific booths or aisles I wanted to come back to later.


I needed some sit down time, as wandering around an exhibit hall is actually extremely tiring on your feet, so I returned to the arcade yet again.

This time, I played a full credit of Touhou Perfect Sakura Fantastica on Normal and cleared the game. Since I had contributed translations to this game’s PC version in the past, my username was still in the game’s credits, and I had to clear the game to get a picture of myself with it.

Picture of me pointing to the name williewillus in the credits of Touhou Perfect Sakura Fantastica

Having rested my feet enough, I headed to the Summit building’s basement for the other exhibit hall.

Expo Hall

The Expo Hall is the other massive exhibit hall at the convention, and contains all manner of merchandise from figures to books, toys, CD’s, and art.

My favorite booth there was probably that of Retro Saikou, a merchandiser dedicated to selling merch for niche and old series (exactly the stuff I like). There were artbooks, older games, and CD’s, among other things.

I spotted all five of the PC-98 Touhou soundtrack CD’s, with a couple of them being the last copies in the bin, so I had to buy them, along with a few Touhou keychains.

For some reason, I also bought three Ojamajo Doremi OST CD’s. I’ve been watching and enjoying the first season a lot, and these CD’s weren’t even for that season (they’re for later seasons), but I thought why not. Based on how much I’m enjoying the first season, and bits of what I’ve read online (no spoilers please!), I think I’ll enjoy the rest just as much.

Merchandise bought from Retro Saikou

I went through about 2/3 of the Expo Hall before getting exhausted and needing a break.


One of the best things about living in a walkable area is that I can easily go back to my apartment for some rest and recovery. Walking through two massive exhibit halls left me winded, so I walked home to drop off my merch, picking up a couple slices of pizza from my favorite pizza stand on the way back. I relaxed and ate for about half an hour, then headed back to the Summit building for an evening panel at 7:15 PM.

An Otaku’s Guide to Donghua Panel

As I mentioned above, I tried to support Chinese topics as much as possible, so I had to attend this panel. The panelist essentially ran through a laundry list of donghua (Chinese anime) that she recommended, giving brief summaries and showing clips of them.

I applaud her passion, but I found the presentation somewhat dry. It didn’t help that the panelist was sitting in the audience rows and presenting with her back to us instead of sitting on the dais facing us, for reasons I don’t know. At least I got a good list of donghua recommendations out of it though, and I was glad to see my two favorites (Scissor Seven and Link Click) make the list.

Rating my heart wanted to give: 4/5

Real rating: 2/5


I dropped by the karaoke room in the Summit building for the first time, mainly to just hang around a bit. I didn’t sing any songs, but the atmosphere was really nice and everyone was nice and supportive of every singer.


I finished off the day with another visit to the arcade. I mostly milled around and watched other people play (especially the Touhou cabinet), then headed home around 11 PM after I got tired.

Day 2

Beyond Anime High School Panel

This morning panel was about anime that didn’t fit neatly in the “high school girls” setting. It’s a curious trope in Japanese anime, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve had less of a taste for the stock high school setting, so this panel of more “adult” suggestions was a nice one.

Rating: 4/5

Expo Hall

I walked around the rest of the Expo Hall that I had skipped the previous day, and bought a cute little baby shark plushie, to join the cute sea animal plushie Instagram I run with my sisters, @dumpleandfriends.

Picture of Baby Jaws and Willie

Otaku 25+ Panel (dropped)

I was expecting this panel to be similar to the previous one, but it didn’t seem to have a concrete goal, and was just a discussion-type panel where the panelist just chatted with audience members about series they liked. I like more structured things, so I bailed early.

Rating: 1/5


I walked down to Pike Place Market, which took about 15 minutes from the convention center, to my favorite food place in the market, Mee Sum Bakery, got a BBQ pork bun and lotus seed cake. I took both back to the Summit building and ate them on a set of wooden steps with an overlook of Pine St. towards the market.

Technically, outside food isn’t allowed, but I just put the food into the inner pockets of my coat and nobody stopped me /shrug.

Trains, Ferries, and Buses, Oh My! Panel

A NUMTOT’s dream. This panel talked about the (sad) state of public transit in the US, with comparisons with Asia. There was barely anything relating to anime, but I was glad to see a strong audience of transit-positive people coming together to discuss things.

Rating: 4/5

Convention Merch, Arcade, Artist’s Alley

Next, in quick succession, I visited the Main Hall in the Arch building to grab a convention T-Shirt, then hit the arcade again. This visit, I managed to clear the Extra stage of Touhou Perfect Sakura Fantastica. I then wandered around Artist’s Alley briefly before returning to the Summit building for the next panel.

On the way, I passed by the skylight that opened down into the Expo Hall on the floor below, so here’s a pic.

Note that the area shown is probably 1/20th of the total area of the entire hall. Directly below Willie is the Retro Saikou booth I mentioned earlier.

Willie and the Retro Saikou booth visible in the Expo Hall on the floor below

Hidden Gems of the 2010’s Panel

Another panel run by the same person as the After Anime High School panel, this time talking about underrated shows from the 2010’s. Pretty standard “list of suggestions with clips” panel, but it was well-run.

Rating: 4/5

Evolution of Magical Girl Genre Panel

This panel was really interesting, it traces the evolution of the magical girl genre throughout the ages and how things evolved to the present day. It was co-presented and I only have a link to one of the authors, Kimmy. It was good though.

Rating: 4/5


I wanted to stay up late to clear the last part of Touhou Perfect Sakura Fantastica that I hadn’t yet cleared, so I purposefully chose to have bubble tea around 6 PM so the caffeine would boost me through the night. I headed to Dick’s Drive-In on Capitol Hill for a burger, and picked up bubble tea at Don’t Yell At Me, then brought both back to my apartment to eat. Afterwards, similar to the previous day, I headed back to Summit for an evening panel.

Iyashikei The Power of Healing Panel

Yet another recommendation panel for the “iyashikei” or “healing/uplifting” genre of anime. I don’t really remember what went on, though, since I was distracted by my spot in the karaoke queue (see next).

Rating: 3.5/5


I knew from the previous day and from looking at the public queue that if I wanted to sing I’d have to put my songs in the queue around in hour or so in advance, so while I was at home eating I had already submitted a song I wanted to sing, and submitted another during the previous panel. I headed to the karaoke room after the panel ended and chilled for about half an hour, then got up on stage to sing “Dive Back in Time”, the Link Click Season 1 OP, and “ZZZ”, the Nichijou Season 1 ED. The audience seemed to like the latter more, and I liked my own performance of it more too. I think I’m better at more melodic songs.

While I was there, there were two groups of very energetic audience members, a group of kids at the front, and some rows back a few hyped-up (probably slightly inebriated) adults waving their glowsticks and cheering loudly for every singer. It made the atmosphere a lot more fun and I got a bit hyped up with them as well, and really appreciated their energy.


Finally, after the karaoke room closed at 11 PM, I headed back to the arcade. After some time in the arcade, I was already a lot more accustomed to playing the game with an arcade stick than I was the previous day, so after a couple hours of attempts I managed to clear Phantasm, and headed home late at night, around 1:45 AM. Having done everything I wanted to do in the arcade, this would be my last visit.

Day 3


I got to Summit early and decided to chill in the karaoke room for a while again. In the morning, the time from queue to performance was much shorter than an hour (around 15 minutes), so on a whim I performed Snow Fairy Story, the 2015 Snow Miku song and one of my favorite Vocaloid songs of all time. I left for the next panel, but not before queueing myself for my next song.

How To Panel A Panel Panel

This panel was run by one of the convention staff and talked about how to prepare and give a panel. I generally found it helpful, as I had found out just a couple days prior that my panel application for Touhoufest was accepted, and I’d have to prepare a panel soon to present in a month.

Rating: 4/5


I returned to the karaoke room to perform DREAMER, the very, very good insert song for Episode 12 of Season 1 of Paripi Koumei. I had gotten the idea the previous night that I should try something super ambitious, and had even practiced the full song a few times to make sure I got the tricky transition to the second verse down.

Around this time, the room had filled up a bit more, and in the moment it was really fun to belt out the song’s long melodic phrases.

If you want to see the cursed video of this, ask me next time you see me in person :)

Expo Hall

I took a last round around the Expo Hall, as I didn’t intend to come back to the Summit building after I left. I ended up getting a Miku wall scroll, a large Touhou banner, and an artbook as a gift for family.

There was actually another Touhou banner with Reimu and Sanae, and in retrospect I should have just gotten them both. My Minecraft modding income is more than enough to feed my bad merch habits :P.


I met up briefly with my cousin and his friends in the Arch building, eating some crappy convention-center food in the process, but we separated soon after as they wanted to go check out the Expo Hill (from which I had just come).

Artist’s Alley

I visited the Artist’s Alley for the last time and bought a few final stickers and pins, including from an artist mentioned to me by a friend of a friend.

AMV Theatre

I was intending to mill around Arch, but passed by the AMV Theatre entrance and decided to chill there. The DJ (or whatever you call a DJ for videos) was replaying past winners of Sakuracon’s AMV contests, and the talent and dedication in them was amazing to see. Around ten minutes to 4 PM, I headed downstairs to the Main Stage for closing.

Closing Ceremony

I didn’t attend the opening ceremony due to it overlapping with the AI Art Panel (in retrospect, I should have skipped the panel), but seeing as it was my first time attending I thought it wouldn’t be right for me to skip the closing ceremony.

There were performances from lion dancers, Apex Diabolo (a Chinese yoyo troupe), and the karaoke contest winner, the winning AMV’s from the AMV contest were shown, and finally the event was brought to a close.

Picture of the closing ceremony arena

Closing Thoughts

I had tons of fun at Sakuracon 2023, no doubt. It felt a lot more comfortable and fitting with my interests than PAX West did last fall, and also much less corporate and sterile.

I did hear complaints about the placement of the Artist’s Alley in Arch, far from the panels in Summit. I didn’t think the distance was so bad, understand why people might have had complaints. I think the best thing to do probably would have been to swap the Expo Hall and the Artist’s Alley’s positions. That way, artists and fan panels (“fan” works) are close together, and the Expo Hall (which is slightly more corporate) is near the Guests of Honor rooms and the large performance stages.

The app the convention used for checking the schedule was Cisco Webex Events (formerly known as Socio). As expected for something from Cisco, it was hot garbage. Worse, they didn’t publish a “paper” PDF version of the schedule this year, forcing me to use the hot garbage app, which loved to freeze every other time I opened it. I hope this is improved next year.

Karaoke was a highlight and I’m surprised I somehow got the guts to go up and sing four times. Probably because no one knew who I was in the room :P. It was freeing in a way.

It was nice seeing everyone’s cosplays, and I even saw a handful of Touhou cosplays and one Scissor Seven cosplay, both of which I weren’t expecting. Next con I go to, I’ll probably try to prepare a Scissor Seven cosplay, since it’s a pretty simple outfit (and I can drop Killer Seven’s fancy Cantonese line on people lol).

Here’s my overall merch haul from the convention:

A Touhou banner, Miku wall scroll, assorted stickers and pins, 5 Touhou CD’s and 3
Ojamajo Doremi CD’s, a fashion artbook, and a Sakruacon

Now, it’s time to relax for a few weeks and prepare for my Touhoufest presentation, which is gonna be much smaller scale but also much cozier.

I look forward to going to another big ACG convention in the future!