Where the Weebs Come out at Night - Kyodo Night Market
While ‘Otaku Month’ is wrapping up as we close out the month of May, there is no need to lament over things coming to an end: we still got time for one or two more moments of weeb-fullness and cars.
Taking the spotlight this week happens to be an event Asher himself, attended last November. It is probably one of the newest entrants to the scene: the Kyodo Night Market. This event is an original creation thought of by Garden Grove-based ‘Vinyl Labz’. When they’re not busy selling stickers to designing and applying commercial or itasha vehicle wraps, the same people you might be reaching out to to discuss ideas for your own wrap design are hard at work at this new outlet to bring weebs together.
The idea for the Night Market is a concept business owners Frank and his wife Kristen created, in order to inject much-needed support to independent artists and fellow small businesses; much of whom have been unprecedented disruption to their revenue streams due to the pandemic. As the schedule of conventions & events was heavily disrupted by 2020, with many postponed or pulled from their anticipated dates, the usual venues artists and vendors relied upon to promote their work/products were drying up. As a result, it left many in a tough situation and worried if they could survive through the year with little to no profit.
And while online/’at home’ virtual events were being brought in as substitutes, nothing can replace the amount of traffic and exposure that comes with a physical booth over a link on a webpage. Both Frank and Kristen spied an opportunity to provide something that could serve as a substitute; a low-cost, socially distant environment, sustainable solution to help artists/vendors struggling to find business during the new normal. So in October last year, they brought that idea to life: launching the ‘Kyodo Night Market’.
Along with serving as a remedy for those struggling to find ways to keep afloat, the event also aims to uplift spirits still worn down from surviving the year that was 2020; or even trying to push through 2021. “The past year, and still to this day, many people have been experiencing a lot of sadness.”
"We wanted to offer a place that allowed you to take your mind off it all; a source of positive energy where everyone is welcomed and everyone supports each other, no matter where you are."
But the story behind this event goes beyond just simply being an opportunity for enthusiasts and weebs alike, to take their mind off things and destress from trying to survive through the year. The story extends to something as simple as the logo Kristen devised to promote the Night Market ( by Kino Kreations, also known as @Kinokashi). It’s more than just one of the many elements drawn from Japanese community festivals this event has been inspired by.
“The logo for the Kyodo Night Market is first off - not a Naruto reference as some might initially assume. The inclusion of the red festival lantern is a reference to the decorations you commonly see at ‘Matsuris’ [traditional summer festivals] in Japan.” As for the crescent moon in the background, its subtle, but in it lies a very significant message the organizers aim to instil within the mood of the event and encourage with each one.
“The clouds and moon represent the night - since the event takes place in the evening, but the moon also symbolises ‘light within dark’. “ In other words: a symbol of hope and optimism that the future will be bright, and better days are to come. Kristen even remarks that out of all the designs she’s done, it is one of her favorites.
“The moon represents the idea that there is always ‘light within dark’.
It's worth mentioning as well, that Frank and Kristen didn’t focus on turning a profit or any financial incentives by putting this all together. In fact, the event is mainly run by passionate volunteers wanting to provide this warm atmosphere. They have chosen to take time out of their own schedules to ensure Kyodo Night Market can run at its best each and every time, ensuring everyone can enjoy themselves and feel welcomed.
As both have said, the event was purely drawn up out of love to help out the car and otaku communities. “We are one and all together in this, and we want to enable everyone to support each other, no matter their position.”
With both of their shop Toyotas donning itasha liveries themselves (a Samurai Champloo A90 Supra and a Cowboy Bebop Tacoma), including itasha vehicles in some manner was always going to have a place in the festivities. After all, you can’t be one of the itasha scene’s biggest vendors (and livery specialists) without leaving an opportunity for fellow weebs to showcase their cars in all their glory.
In fact, some of the itasha enthusiasts that have participated in previous Night Markets have been just a few of the cars that have passed through Frank, Kristen, and the VinylLabz team. Most notably Angel's 'All Might' Subaru WRX, sporting one of the their first reflective wrap jobs.
The same can be said for cosplayer culture. A few members from Vinyl Labz’s team are regular cosplayers - Kristen even participating part-time, but as part of maintaining positive energy throughout, every edition of the Night Market is an invitation for cosplayers to join in. “Along with the car and itasha communities we want to support as much as possible, we wanted to have a place for cosplayers during the night. We love how they can bring life to the market, among everything else going on.”
In fact, it isn't uncommon to see even the vendors getting in on the fun and team spirit.
“A time and place where everyone can see how much work, time, and effort people put into their passion(s).”
Looking towards how they want to continue improving this new venture of theirs, both Frank and Kristen have expressed interest in expanding the Night Market into more than just a one-night affair. Discussions are floating to extend it into a two-day consecutive event, and if there is enough support for it: make the market a weekend-long festival. They would also like to see Kyodo Night Markets happening in more states other than their home state of California, along with more collaborations with fellow events within their area and around the nation.
"I loved the variety of vendors that were available at the event: there was something for everyone!"
As a matter of fact, Kyodo Night Market’s next big moves are coming up fast. It has been recently announced that they, along with a few partners and fellow events (some of which we have covered earlier during Otaku Month), will be all coming together in one giant collab in Anaheim with ‘Tomadachi Social’ to close out the last weekend of their month-long festival and celebration of Asian culture in respect of Asian American Heritage Month (May) : 'Okaeri' (Welcome Home in Japanese). They, along with Otaku Thursdays and Texans Xpress Skins/SenpaiSquad will be present among the vendors, cosplayers, and to top it off: an itasha showcase/competition hosted by Itasha Alliance.
But beyond future collaborations with various brands and individuals from the itasha, car, and otaku communities, both have expressed interest in seeing this event grow beyond Garden Grove. They would like to see Kyodo Night Markets happening in more states other than their home state of California, along with more collaborations with fellow events within their area and around the nation. “We plan to take the Night Market on a nationwide wide tour one day, and even around the world so we can continue allowing everyone to feel safe and included.”
As I watch from a distance through my screens, I hope eventually, I can find myself in California again and come by one of these Night Markets. After all, Frank and Kristen, as well as their entire team at VinylLabz are always eyeing new ways to fulfill the event’s end goal: “No weeb left behind.”
I couldn't think of a good way to close out things, but I'll let Asher's thoughts on his first impressions towards his experience wrap it up nicely.
"Seeing so many different brands and their products along with cars that represents them was cohesively executed. I would love to go to one again!"
Bonus: The Extra Keepsakes