My mad weekend at HYPER JAPAN


HYPER JAPAN returned for July 2015 at the O2 Arena on 10-12 July, and what a weekend! This annual summer event is a celebration of all things Japan – from food to gaming to martial arts to music – and both the venue and line-up were bigger and better than ever. I attended HYPER JAPAN on Saturday and Sunday and, despite my best efforts, wasn’t able to see everything there. I did spend a good proportion of my weekend at the two stages, so here’s a round-up of what was on offer for Japan fans…

Sing, sing, sing! HYPER JAPAN really pushed the boat out this summer with an impressive line-up of Japanese artists. The headliner was of course classic J-rock group X-Japan, one of the first Japanese bands I ever encountered and so have fond memories of! I won’t embarrass myself by telling you that I unfortunately missed them because the queue was so huge by the time I joined and my press pass didn’t work for once (turns out all the other bloggers got in through another door I didn’t know about – oops). BUT if, like me, you would like to see X-Japan in future, there’s good news – they’re playing at Wembley next March! So, on to the acts I did see. I was very excited to see NHK World producer and singer May J. perform and was also lucky enough to interview her (to follow on the blog, of course). May J. appeared on stage with NHK’s cutesy mascot, Domo-kun, and sang two Disney songs to the audience’s delight – including Frozen’s ‘Let it Go’, which May J. covered in the Japanese version. Anime fans, armed with glow sticks, swamped Building 6 for Eir Aoi, who is particularly famous for a number of awesome songs from popular anime like Kill la Kill and Sword Art Online. Those looking for something a bit more chilled out and spiritual got their fix with TOMOCA, who performed both her own songs and restyled some Japanese classics (including the theme tune from Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke). The  fun didn’t stop there – Less than Love performed some cute J-pop numbers and Die Milch impressed with a stunning violin performance and costumes to match! Those lolita outfits were looking very tempting by the end of the weekend…

Dance, dance, dance! My Japanese girl band knowledge is basically non-existent but I threw myself in at the deep end by going to as many sugar-coated, brightly coloured performances as possible. Idol pop group Dempagumi.inc was one name on everyone’s lips and the crowds went absolutely MENTAL for their spinning, whirling, smiley performance. It was so good I saw it twice! I personally loved Heisei Kotohime, who played modern versions of the koto in colourful kimono – the perfect blend of traditional and modern Japan. This was another act I had to see twice! I also caught Honey Spice, who definitely put the final bit of ‘hyper’ in HYPER JAPAN. This ‘trance’ idol group have been around since 2012 and get synchronised dancing down to a ‘T’. And, with songs such as ‘Jump!!!’ and ‘Happy!’ how can you not love them?

Rock the night away… I discovered that weekend that I love taking photos of guitarists… I discovered late on Saturday that the main stage had a special area for press, which meant I got fairly up close and personal with visual kei rockers LOST ASH. HYPER JAPAN was their first performance outside of Asia and the crowd (and me) loved them (for obvious reasons). J-rockers ONE NOT’E were also on hand, and are slowly conquering the world with their music (translation: they’re playing lots of gigs abroad, which is totally cool). I am listening to their soundtrack as I type, and suggest you do the same. And, of course, there was the enigmatic VANIRU. Where do I begin with this one? VANIRU is essentially gothic rock, cool, crazy and loud all wrapped up in a delicious piece of sushi. This was another internationally successful Japanese act that HYPER JAPAN definitely scored well with. I’m still in awe of Leoneil’s beautiful hair…

Slice n’ dice If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know I love my samurai. So, when swordplay artists Katanaya-ichi were added to the HYPER JAPAN line-up, I circled and underlined it on my timetable several times. Dai Mizuno led his talented crew through a series of martial arts action sequences set to some powerful fighting music, and a few lucky audience members even tried their hand at knocking them down. Some were admittedly more successful than others…

Talented cosplayers It wouldn’t be HYPER JAPAN without them! I took so many photos of cosplayers they got their own folder on the blog’s Facebook page, but I’d like to give a special mention to the awesome Mario and Luigi father-and-son duo and girl who cosplayed as the spooky Jenova from Final Fantasy VII. I don’t know how people keep making these amazing outfits, and am already looking forward to the next cosplay masquerade.

Eat! I got my takoyaki, okonomiyaki and taiyaki fix this weekend, so I was very happy. The onigiri-ya stand also deserves a special mention because their tuna onigiri were so damn delicious. More please…

And the blog’s favourite is… Takarabune, the dynamic Awa Odori Dance Troupe! Over a million tourists flock to Tokushima Prefecture, Japan, in August every year to see the mass dance spectacle that is Awa Odori. Takarabune add a little bit of international ‘zing’ to this traditional dance to great effect – not even a typically straight-faced British audience could resist their charms or stop laughing. I wish I could convey how fantastic and hilarious these guys were but I did at least get a load of photos of their performance, which I’m quite proud of! I might have to start a petition for Takarabune to return to HYPER JAPAN next year…

More HYPER JAPAN to follow… I already name-dropped my interview with May J., which you’ll see on the blog fairly soon, but there are also two more HYPER JAPAN-related interviews and a book review coming your way! I caught up with author Michael Booth, whose book ‘Sushi and Beyond’ was adapted into a cartoon series on NHK World (talk about living the dream), and also talked delicious food philosophy with ‘Dining with the Chef’ star Rika Yukimasa. And, of course, HYPER JAPAN will return for Christmas in November.

What did you think? Were you at HYPER JAPAN? What did you think? What did or didn’t work for you? What do you want to see next year? So many questions! Post those burning comments below.

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