Earls Court Two plays host to the fifth Hyper Japan event this weekend, spanning from Friday the 26th through to Sunday 28th. During this time you can easily find an eclectic array of things to do, see and experience; all firmly rooted in that popular common denominator that is Japanese culture.
Purported to be the “one stop destination for all things Japanese”, I wandered the walkways, soaking in the atmosphere in order to bring you anime boys and manga girls the details straight from the floor and, importantly, to see whether they truly live up to their words.
As soon as you walk through the doors, you’re greeted by a wondrous cacophony of noise. Chatter, music, laughing; the kind of atmosphere that really brings a convention to life. People were ambling about happily, checking out what each stall had on offer, before moving off and moseying to some other area of the event. Myself? The first thing I needed was food. Goddamn I was hungry by the time I got in! Thankfully, Hyper Japan had me well covered. So much so, that another issue quickly surpassed my previous one: where should I eat?
There were lines practically everywhere, obviously unavoidable at Conventions (look at me, giving Sherlock a run for his money!), so it came down to a simple task of looking at what was on offer, what caught my eye and which stall had the queue I deemed most reasonable to join. In other words: where would I wait the shortest amount of time?
It took me a few minutes to realize the the initial queue I had joined was serving nothing but beer. Awesome for some, but not what I was looking for. I hopped over and proceeded to enjoy some really taste Gyoza/rice combo, coming back later for a Karaage dog drizzled with their recommended ‘Japanese Sauce’. Delicious. Vague; but delicious.
I can honestly say the food they had on offer across the board was fantastic; I just wish that I had enough cash, as well as a big enough belly to, literally, stomach it all! Not only did they have an amazing selection on hand, but they had a wonderful set up laid out specifically for Food and Drink demonstrations. Great stuff.
Moving off of food, and my obvious (unhealthy?) love for it; there was plenty to see, packed into the arena. From clothing to trinkets and everything in between, you can guarantee that if you, or someone you know, is into Japanese culture then they would be able to easily find something to throw their money at. Highlights that I saw included Japanese dishes as well as some amazing looking masks, that’s the kind of spectrum we’re talking about here!
Naturally there were Asian-centric Convention staples involved here; anime, manga and video games in abundance, as well as some pretty cool figures and collectables throughout. It's nice to see Nintendo represented so well at this event, with a great area laid out for their recent Animal Crossing, giving an opportunity for people to relax, play and make new Animal Crossing-type friends.
One area especially grabbed my attention, and that was the original Cel’s from popular anime. Some really cool stuff to see, and it’s awesome to think that that Cel is what provided so many people so much joy. Well, that and many, many, many more, all seamlessly interwoven together, of course.
The main stage is where the majority of the big events went down, of course. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be the main stage now really, would it? It was a jam packed day which saw, amongst other things; a Robotics Innovation demonstration, Yun*Chi perform, a presentation by Chef Kikuchi, attempted Record Breakers, a performance by the awe-inspiring, performance art group, Siro-A and even a captivating talk from Sayuki; the only Western Geisha in 400+ years of Geisha’s...Geisha’ing. An undeniably jam packed stage with plenty of diverse choices that ensures that, at least one point during the day, you’ll find yourself gravitating towards that main stage. Siro-A, especially, were something special. It’s easy to see the comparison to the Blue Man group, it’s one that you can make within seconds. Hell, even the way they warm up the crowd is the same as the Blue Man group show I caught back in America whilst I was over for Wrestlemania 28. But, influences aside, Siro-A managed to put on a show that drew a huge crowd and got them hyped and involved in no time at all. Mixing music, dance, humor and incorporating clever integration of projection and image into their act, they have crafted a show that will easily capture your imagination.
All of this and they even had a Martial Arts stage, which definitely appealed to the MMA fan and, part time warrior/BJJ practitioner, in me! Unfortunately, I was so wrapped up in experiencing different areas of the Convention, I missed the majority of the actual Martial Arts demonstrations; instead I happened to catch some beautiful Japanese Traditional dancing. Graceful, but in a totally different way.
If you are in any way a Japanophile, then take the time to come and experience what Hyper Japan has to offer; which is a lot, incidentally. Not sure if you got that.
So, does the event live up to their bold proclamation of being the “One stop destination for all things Japanese”. Whereas other events have attempted to utilize this sort of hyperbole and failed, I'm happy to say that Hyper Japan truly succeeds in all areas. Highly recommended.