This weekend I'm at Shibaricon for the first time. I'm living in Chicago right now, so this may be my only chance to attend without paying for travel. I'm writing this on Sunday evening, while things are fresh on my mind. The event goes until Monday afternoon, so there's still one more night of play and a half day of classes ahead of me, but I don't expect those to significantly change what I'm going to write here.
I'm surrounded by people who enjoy rope, play with rope, present with rope, and teach rope skills.
There are some top notch educators here, teaching topics ranging from basics to advanced original work in classes I might have to travel thousands of miles to take individually otherwise.
There are many vendors here, about half rope and half other-kinky-things, with a great selection and reasonable to moderate prices.
The night time play space is remarkably spacious, including smaller side rooms for quiet play, and the highest suspension point to attendee ratio I've seen at any event, including other rope-specific events.
These things combine to make an event that is exactly what it says on the tin. Shibaricon probably is "The world's premier international pansexual annual rope bondage educational conference".
The event staff and volunteers are friendly and accommodating and mostly seem to have their shit together to at least an average degree.
Additionally, I've met a dozen or so new people, from Chicago and Boston and further afield, which could lead to conversation or event recommendations or re-meeting at future events.
Registration opened ~12 hours late.
The printed program book arrived a day(?) late, and not in enough quantity even then.
The hotel contract doesn't allow us to plug things in in the convention space (no violet wand, no vacuum, no hitachi wand, etc). etc.
There is no space or programming scheduled outside of the classes, during the classes. There's one performance each night, and a couple of specific events like a DVD screening, but there's nowhere for attendees to spend any productive time if they aren't in a class during the day. I somewhat expected this event to have a skill share space (the "ropen space" at some events), maybe a library and/or video room, maybe an art gallery, or maybe something new to me. What I didn't expect was to leave a class and have only napping or shopping to decide between.
The hotel is shared with half a dozen other events this weekend. A darts tournament, a national sorority gathering, a youth retreat, a professional conference, and some others that I haven't caught on to yet. The atmosphere of a kink convention hotel is so very different when we have 90%+ of the building to ourselves; scantily clad people don't have to worry about being harassed in the elevators, etc.
Some of the class rooms were reset by hotel staff or event volunteers to the wrong configuration between classes, so I've spent more than a few minutes this weekend stacking chairs to make room on the floor, or unstacking chairs to have a place to sit.
While none of these things ruined the event, they do stack up. I've been to other events with problems and oversights like this and managed to ignore them, but I gave them some slack because they cost tens of dollars and were young events. Shibaricon is $300 ($175-330, depending on pre-registration, I think) and I think this is year 12. These problems could have been solved by now if they were prioritized.
Also, and this isn't really a mistake, just a feature of the kind of convention it is and the kind of hotel it's in... Everyone fends for themselves for food. A classy hotel means no free breakfast, and a non-fandom/community convention means no consuite. This might sound petty, but it's not just about the cost of food. It's also about an opportunity to mingle with people at the same event, a place to decompress other than our own hotel rooms or the bar, etc.
This section is mostly specific to me and doesn't reflect badly on the event as a whole, but should serve as a warning to anyone in my position who considers attending in the future.
Shibaricon is not an event for people flying solo. Especially cis male tops, who made up a plurality of the singletons that I saw this weekend, but it wasn't great even for the folks in more in-demand demographics, either.
Strangers and acquaintances on the internet assured me that there would be numerous people here with whom to pair up to practice and learn. They were wrong. At more "fun" kink events I've been to, as many as half of the attendees were unpaired a majority of the time. Bound in Boston is my closest model for an event like Shibaricon, and I think it was closer to a quarter there, in an average class. In classes of 30-60 people, so far the most hands I've seen go up at a Shibaricon class when the presenter asked "who needs a partner?" has been three. Some presenters don't even ask, and if you aren't camping the door then by the time you spot another singleton leaving the room it's too late to politely chase them down and ask if they want to come back in with you. There have been 11 class slots so far. I pre-planned to partner with a friend of a friend for one of them, found a partner in class for three (two switches, one bottom), and struck out on the rest. Two of those were classes where I could do most/all of the work solo, which was moderately fulfilling, but that still leaves way too much time wasted at an event where I can count my time spent in dollars per hour.
Additionally, there seemed to be little to no attention paid to solo-friendliness in the class scheduling. There are whole timeslots, with 7-8 classes, where every class requires not only a partner, but a close intimate partner. This morning one of the slots was "Establishing and Maintaining Dominance ...", "Creative Bondage for Torture ... Below the Belt", "... Tying up boy parts", the second half of a two-slot class, "Making Suspension Sexy", "Sadistic Connective Bondage", and a very woo class that I thought might be informative solo but the presenter explicitly said would only be good with a partner, 5+ minutes into the class.
Very slightly mitigating all of this, there was a "Speed Dating" event on Friday evening, which could have had about 60 attendees if there was more time, and gave me a few minutes to chat with 15 bottoms. I got a few "maybes" and a couple of enthusiastic "yes" to various mutual play interests, but in the end little came of it (mostly because I couldn't commit to vacuum cube play time or rope play time because I didn't know if I'd manage to get the cube working without mains power or not). A more sociable person in my position probably came out of that event with a class partner and a few play dates.
It took me a while to realize this, but this problem has compounded to make my weekend much less enjoyable in another way. Finding it very awkward to walk up to people and ask to play or pair up for practice at kink events, I often lean on demonstrating my capabilities. Based on my experiences at other events in the past, I strongly suspect that having a partner for some classes, even just early ones, would have had a chain reaction effect in terms of starting conversations, which would lead to opportunities to practice and play. Like figuring out how not to move to a new city, this has given me some personal insight on how not to attend a kink education event in the future. Except by way of social misinformation, Shibaricon didn't do anything wrong here, but this has been a huge factor in my not enjoying most of the event.