Hyper. Adjective: Obsessively concerned; fanatical; rabid (about a given item, idea or activity). Prefix: a loanword from Greek, usually implying excess or exaggeration. Noun (American, informal): a person who promotes or publicizes events, especially one who uses flamboyant methods.
Japan: An island nation in East Asia. An archipelago of 6,582 islands of which the four largest are are Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku. The characters that make up Japan’s name mean “sun-origin”, hence Japan is sometimes referred to as the “Land of the Rising Sun”. A country with a long and rich history, a unique culture and cuisine and one of the world’s strongest economies.
HyperJapan: Self styled as the “UK’s biggest J-culture event“, “dedicated to bringing you cute, cool and contemporary about today’s Japan.” Aimed at those who are hyper about Japan, obviously!
Pete and I went along to this year’s summer event. Our interests are more towards the traditional cultural exhibitors and the food and drink, though we enjoyed sharing the event with eager otaku – cosplay, anime, manga, karaoke and gaming geeks obsessed with various elements of Japanese pop culture. As expected from the event’s publicity materials, much of the event was given over to these pop culture themes with huge areas for karaoke and gaming and large numbers of stalls selling an enormous variety of merchandise – costumes, jewellery, toys, models, artwork, swords, books, specialist food and drink and much more. There were also cookery demonstrations on one stage and singing, dancing and other performance entertainment on others.
There were lots of people in great costumes – entertainers, stall-holders and many of the visitors themselves.
A major highlight for us was the Sake Awards, in which we made our way round stalls manned by 11 Japanese sake breweries, each one of which told us about their business and products and guided us through tastings of 2-3 sakes each. The quality and variety was amazing.
I was also ridiculously thrilled to make my own pair of chopsticks using a small plane and fine sandpaper, at the Kyoto Nantan City stand.
We had planned to taste sushi made by the finalists in the Sushi Awards but queues were slow moving for the all-too-brief first session and we left before the afternoon one started.
The general food stalls were a bit of a let-down; several served food that had been cooked in advance to handle the volumes of customers; the downside to that was that the food was often tepid and a little soggy. Of course, I didn’t try all of the stalls by any stretch (though I did take tasters where offered) and there were no doubt several gems I missed. I had wanted to get some takoyaki (octopus and batter balls) but queues were just too long. I did enjoy my roast oolong bubble tea very much.
As is always the way at Earl’s Court, there was far too little seating for the visitor numbers. Many squatted on the floor right around the walls of the event space.
And speaking of visitor numbers, my lasting impression is that HyperJapan sold far more tickets than the venue could accommodate. When we left in the early afternoon (after nearly 4 hours inside), an enormously long queue snaked away from the entrance and I later spoke to ticket holders who waited two hours without gaining entry, before giving up and going home. When I put this to HyperJapan’s organisers, they responded as follows: “we can assure you that we didn’t oversell the advance tickets and what you heard about overselling should have been a rumour. We have warned on the HYPER JAPAN website that you should plan ahead and allow enough time as it may be necessary to wait to gain entry during busy time even though you have purchased advanced tickets. On the day, as we feel for the people waiting on the queue under the sun, we offered free water to those people then. We are currently investigating the real cause of the queue issue.” But I’m not convinced by their answer. Once the venue reached capacity, a ‘one out one in’ policy was in operation and since those inside showed no inclination to leave, those outside were stuck outside. For some shows, organisers can safely sell far more tickets than the venue’s capacity, secure in the knowledge that most visitors will stay just a couple of hours before making way for others. For pop culture events like this, it’s obvious that a large number of visitors will stay a lot longer, so ticket sales need to be proportionately lower.
With a second trip to Japan in the planning in the offing (and easy access to Japanese groceries from my neighbourhood branch of Atari-ya or from Japan Centre) I didn’t bother buying specialist ingredients or trinkets but I indulged in some dorayaki from Wagashi Bakery and bought a lovely calligraphy T-shirt for Pete, designed by artist Yasunobu Shidami. And I drooled over the latest range from ceramics specialists Doki, but resisted as I already have some of their lovely pieces at home.
Although I’ve always wanted to visit Japan, it’s only since our first visit that I have become more focused on learning more about the country, cuisine and culture. HyperJapan was a fun way to gain an insight into the pop culture side of Japan.
Kavey Eats attended HyperJapan courtesy of organisers, Cross Media.