A bisexually lit version of the classic OHAYOCON logo with vertical CRTV lines.


Ohayocon was founded in 2001 and has gone on to become the largest and most beloved Japanese culture and anime convention in the state of Ohio. What is unique and wholly special about Ohayocon is its makeup of passionate fans who come together to create not only a magical weekend with memories that are cherished for a lifetime but a community that is a welcoming safe space for all. Even just saying the name “Ohayocon” to anyone who has ever attended, elicits immediate mental images of stunning costumes, engaging panels, competitive gaming tournaments, vibrant screenings, hallways overflowing with smiles and laughter, and chosen family.

Ohayocon returned in person to Columbus, Ohio in 2022 and while it was a successful event in many regards, it was not without a myriad of challenges. As fandom saw conventions throughout North America cease operations, Ohayocon president Melissa Phelps sought a way to ensure that the beloved annual gathering could grow and thrive for decades to come even after she passed the baton. To do so, Ohayocon has made the transition from being a for-profit single weekend convention to a year-round non-profit entity known as the Cultural Exchange Society, Inc (CESI). Very little will change for the attendees of Ohayocon, but for the organization and convention as a whole the changes will be overwhelmingly positive! It will allow for the organization to receive grants to strengthen offerings, have sponsors and donors to support the mission, and to engage our community to keep that Ohayocon feeling going all year long.

Since the beginning, the backbone of Ohayocon has always been our volunteers, an ever-evolving group of experts and enthusiasts who come together to provide an exceptional experience for all of Ohayocon. We simply could not and would not be Ohayocon without them. Yet for too long, Ohayocon has overworked and underappreciated some of our most loyal volunteers simply due to the sheer volume of tasks and responsibilities. With the shift to a nonprofit status, CESI is elated that we will be able to bring on full time and seasonal staff that are paid and valued, independent contractors, provide stipends to key Senior Leadership Team volunteers, in addition to offering all of our phenomenal volunteers the perks and accommodations that they know and love to ensure that all of their time, talent, and treasure is valued.

In this exciting transition, CESI has planned to retire three unpaid positions and bring on an Executive Director, Convention Director, Attendee Experience Manager, and Volunteer Coordinator to ensure the convention’s continued success and CESI’s growth to a year-round institution. Any and all Ohayocon volunteers are encouraged to apply for these positions when they are posted to our website later this month. To aid in the transition and allow better board oversight, Melissa Phelps will be stepping down from the board and stepping into CESI’s first ever Executive Director role, allowing her to better pass the baton to the next generation of Ohayocon staff. While this position will provide direct support to CESI’s premiere program Ohayocon, the Executive Director will be primarily tasked with the year-round success of CESI beyond the annual convention.

Contrary to misinformation swirling online, NO volunteers or members of the Senior Leadership Team have been fired from Ohayocon and only three positions have been dissolved in the organizational chart shift. All past volunteers are invited to return for 2024, as Ohayocon would simply cease to exist without them. While CESI would love its Ohayocon volunteers to have the ability to unionize, National and Ohio State Labor Laws prevent unpaid volunteers of any kind from forming a union. As such, no Ohayocon union has ever or could ever exist, and no “union busting” has or even could take place. CESI encourages its volunteers to communicate to them all of their needs, wants, hopes, dreams, fears, and aspirations through individual correspondance or collective bargaining. Additional rumors of a “hostile takeover” from Phelps are not only untrue, but impossible as Phelps was and has been in charge of the event and cannot take it over from herself. As planned, Phelps has stepped down from the CESI Board of Directors to allow for greater oversight and organizational stewardship. To fill the board seat vacated by Phelps, CESI will be holding an election wherein volunteers will be able to elect representation to join the professionals on the Board of Directors to allow greater integration and transparency. CESI encourages all interested volunteers to stay tuned to our website for more details this month.

While those fabrications are simply not based in any reality, there is a rumor online that contains some truths, and that is regarding the Ohayocon logo. A well meaning volunteer, concerned with the similarities with Ohayocon’s longtime cross artwork and its similarities to that of the Red Cross, submitted our logo to them for review. The Red Cross determined that the logo was in fact too close to their trademarked Red Cross Emblem. As such, an agreement was made with the Red Cross in April of 2023 to shift Ohayocon’s logo’s color to shade of blue to avoid any further issues. Since then, a cyberpunk theme was proposed for Ohayocon 2024, and our longtime artists and designers at Studio Capsule set out to craft new annual art and a refreshed logo. A different well meaning volunteer crafted their own logo in the meantime and despite being instructed not to be the CESI Board of Directors, asked for approval from their peers and began posting it online. Unfortunately their wonderful design bares too close a resemblance to the logo of Sakura Color Products and its use would open CESI up to a potential second logo lawsuit in less than a year. Out of respect for Sakura of America and their 100+ year history, we must kindly ask that the interim sakura blossom logo be not used moving forward.

Ohayocon 2024 will take place January 19-21, 2024 at the Hyatt Regency Columbus & Greater Columbus Convention Center. This will be the second Ohayocon presented by parent organization CESI and our first with paid and valued staff in addition to our phenomenal volunteers who will continue to receive the perks and accommodations that they know and love and then some to ensure that all of their time, talent, and treasure is valued. We invite back tens of thousands of attendees and hundreds of volunteers to continue to form this remarkable convention and join us in not only spreading the joy of japanese culture and anime to Columbus, Ohio and beyond, but being a part of a decades old community of artists and enthusiasts, gamers and geeks, fans and funseekers, masqueraders and music lovers, and above all else passionate persons. Ohayocon is for everyone and CESI will continue to work with all of our dedicated volunteers to ensure that it is around for decades to come.