Edited 8/3/21: I have made the difficult decision not to attend Otakon 2021 or give my panel there. I apologize for breaking this commitment after being fortunate enough to have my panel accepted. But as cases continue to rise, I can no longer put my own enjoyment over the health of my unvaccinated child.
Personally speaking, I believe the Otakon convention center, which earned sanitation accreditation in 2020 after it was set up as an (unused) Covid-19 field hospital, is one of the safer large indoor spaces for vaccinated people. But my risk assessment isn’t just about me anymore. I hope I can present this panel in the future after Eva gets vaccinated, too.
The thing about the internet is it encourages us to brand ourselves, the more specific the better. There are a lot of parts of my life that I don’t share here. For example: I bake a lot, I’m a prolific sock knitter, I’m currently involved in some incredibly dull drama with the homeowner’s association. The longer I’ve been online, the more I’ve associated myself with increasingly specific topics. Much of my most prominent work isn’t about fandom in general, but cosplay. And at anime conventions, I usually present panels about mecha anime in particular.
But coming out of a long, horrible pandemic lockdown, I was thinking about what to present at Otakon, my first convention in nearly two years. Being stuck at home with a baby and then a toddler, I was completely burnt out. I hadn’t been building much Gunpla or even watching as much anime as usual except for review purposes. I thought, “I just want to talk about something intrinsically relaxing and fun,” and the hot springs panel started to form in my brain.
At the same time that I submitted my panel to Otakon, I was planning an onsen trip for July—and since the panel was approved, that vacation doubled as research! I stayed at Pembroke Springs, which used to be a ryokan-style bed-and-breakfast on the Virginia border before the pandemic. But the owners pivoted to a vacation rental during the lockdown. When I visited in 2017, John and I stayed in one of the five bedrooms along with four other couples we didn’t know. This time, we rented the entire property with 7 of our closest friends (and daughter). I ended up taking two baths a day each day we were there! Like I said, research.
Here is the description of the panel I’ll be giving with John at Otakon. If you’ll be there, it’s on Saturday, August 7 from 4-5 PM in Panel Room 6:
Hot Springs Episode: An Introduction To Japanese Onsen
Ever been curious about those inviting outdoor baths seen in anime and manga? They’re part of a centuries-old tradition. We’ll introduce you to the history of onsen, bathing etiquette, and what it’s like to stay at a hot springs inn. We’ll also be looking back at some of the most iconic anime hot springs scenes. You’ll leave feeling ready to create your own hot springs episode!
This is going to be a low-key panel, and I hope everyone finds it as chill to listen to as I did to research it. I can’t say I’ll be too relaxed while I’m giving it though, since I am way more concerned about being indoors in a big group now than I was a month ago. Even though I’m vaccinated, I have an unvaccinated child at home. For that reason, I’ll be wearing an N95 mask and I won’t be at Otakon for more than a couple of hours. This isn’t how I envisioned my return to cons, but here we are.
I can’t exactly fault you for not coming to my panel because if I weren’t giving this panel, I wouldn’t be going at all. So come to my panel or stay home, whatever feels right to you!