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Anime Key Player Interview #3
Thomas Sirdey, Co-founder of Japan Expo Part.2


In Japan Expo you have anime, games and other cultural events. What part do you like to organize the most?

-That’s a difficult question but honestly everything we put inside Japan Expo isn’t strategized. We just go to Japan and meet people and we think “Wow this is really good let's bring it to Japan Expo.”

So you like to bring new things over to Japan Expo right?

-Yes of course. Now we are very lucky because we have many music artists, manga artists, animators and we also brought over geishas. Real geishas from Japan. It was a crazy adventure but it was wonderful because they taught for three to four days. They taught young girls how to do the geisha dance with the fan. You never see that in Japan. We had to take them from their restaurant, it was very difficult because we needed the momma to accept. It was a big adventure but it was wonderful that they were able to mix in and teach. What’s really interesting about Japan Expo is that we overlap every type of culture. In Japan, everything is separated and very difficult to mix. We had a collaboration with Yoshiki and Funasshi the “Yuru Chara” we organized it because Yoshiki is from Chiba and Funasshi is also. We organized a meet up on stage. You will never see that in Japan. But Yoshiki was so happy and of course Funasshi was also.


Is that where you put most of your effort into? 

-Yes, in trying to mix things together.

We had Naoki Urasawa, the manga artist, he also played music so we organized a concert in Japan Expo. It was a magical moment. 

It’s amazing how you can make that happen.

-Yes, because it’s in France.

So what do you do to make Japan Expo bigger every year?

-We work a lot (laugh). We always try to meet new people and try to introduce new things. Our mission is to introduce Japanese culture to people and we want them to learn things as well as having fun. If it's boring they will stop being interested and if they don't learn, they will switch to something else if they don't have new things. So we try to go everywhere in Japan to find new things to introduce to people. For instance, we have geisha’s, last year we even brought jinrikisha’s.

You did!? It must be really hard to tell them to bring everything to France. 

-We brought them from Asakusa. They even had a show on stage because they have the jinrikisha songs. They sing the songs to introduce their culture to people and for four days they would bring people around in their jinrikisha’s.

Did everyone like it?

-Yes. It’s great because now when they come to Japan, they know it’s in Asakusa.

So it’s a way to introduce Asakusa.


Wow, you are a magical businessman.

-No, no not magical. There’s really no magic in what we did. We put a lot of effort in it but also had a great time because we proposed the idea and some said “okay let's meet”, then everybody said “yes”. 

Nor are we really businessmen. It was not like we wanted to create a business we just decided to gather people and we said “Okay we're going to do this. We're going to bring people from Japan.”  That’s how it’s started and one day when some industry in France decided to join Japan Expo, they asked if we wanted manga artists and we said of course.  Like this we got bigger and bigger. It was a slow process and it wasn’t magic. Just hard work and a bit of luck and a lot of meetings. We do things because people are willing to.

So when artists come to Japan Expo, I think it's very difficult for them to make the time to come to Paris. Of course, I think it’s very good for the career and promotion but still they need to reschedule their own work in Japan. Japan Expo is successful thanks to the help of everyone.

All the guests from Japan must be able to enjoy the atmosphere there. 

-It’s very easy atmosphere. People are very nice, there are no fights, we have very little security and there is no tension between people. Everybody's there to have fun so it's very nice. Even when you have artists that go through the hall people will be very courteous to them. One time Yoshiki went through the whole hall to greet someone. Of course it was crowded but it was not dangerous. There’s never a feeling of danger because people just want to have fun and they just want to connect. Everyone knows that they are lucky to have Japanese artist make so much effort to come and they would respect that a lot. So that creates a very special atmosphere that is not really French but also not really Japanese. It’s kind of mixed.

That’s amazing. I would love to go.

-You should try to come.

I believe you have more than one event every year.

-Yes, one in Paris and one during winter in southern France, Marseille.

Is there a difference between the two events?

-Yes. Paris is the big show. It's very big and very organized because we have a lot of people maybe like 400 guests come to this show and you have 800 exhibitors, 240 thousand people coming, so we have to be very careful about everything. The other event is a bit more relaxed and everyone is like a family. In Paris, it’s more general and public but fans still come with friends. There have young kids to teenagers.

Are the events on different days?

-They’re on the weekends but one is held in summer and the other in winter. The one in Paris is four days and Marseille is a three-day event. 

In Marseille we try to work locally and in the southern region of France, there are a lot of local Japanese artists. Provence has beautiful landscapes and a lot of artists go there because they feel inspired and there are a lot of Japanese artists there as well. It gives off a different atmosphere.

I heard you had an event in L.A. too?

-In San Francisco.

How did that go?

-It was an adventure. We have two regular events in Paris and Marseille and we were trying to do something outside. So we went to Belgium which is just north of France. We met some Americans and we decided to try to do it in the U.S. So we went to San Francisco because it was our favorite city. We set it up and did it for 2 years. The first year was difficult, the second year was good but then it became very difficult for us because we had to be in France and the U.S. at the same time. Through some changes and decided to concentrate on the French market.

Do you have any plans to do it in other countries again?

-We are thinking strongly to do it in other countries but we will stay in Europe. Maybe one day we will go back to the U.S. because we had a lot of fun. But there are other great conventions in the U.S. like anime expo. Even in San Francisco they have J-POP Summit and it’s quite good. So U.S people don’t really need us.

Maybe you can have a collaboration.

-That would be a gathering of some of the strongest conventions in the world. It will be a big celebration.

Next: Thomas Sirdey Interview vol.3 will be published on 23May!


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