Saturday, 10 March 2012

Hyper Japan 2012

I’ve been to various comic & collector “Cons” over the years so thought I knew what to expect when we booked our tickets for this year’s Hyper Japan ( -“The U.K’s biggest Japanese culture event” held at Earls Court on the last weekend of February; but within minutes of exiting the tube station it was clear that this was not going to be like any other convention I’d been to.

Quicker than you can say “Geek-Heaven”, I was identifying the different video games & anime characters to my friends as they headed towards the entrance. Cloud Strife alongside Pikachu, with Altair & a Red Mage from Final Fantasy making up one of the strangest queues I’ve been part of. Sure I’d seen Cos-players before & I’m no stranger to spending a bit too long on a Halloween costume but the time & detail these people put into these costumes is awesome! But more on that later.

Cos-play:  Its a cut throat business

As we headed through the ridiculously long entrance tunnel my mind reeled at what could possibly be waiting to great us when we reached the main hall. Was it going to be the assault on the senses I was hoping for? Or was it going to be like the Ideal Home show with cool outfits (and noodles)?

As we came out onto the show floor proper my fears gave way to childish glee as everything I could see needed to be gawped at & photographed, preferably with me stood in front of it grinning like a simpleton.
See: Exhibit A

                                        Exhibit A: This place certainly touched 
                                                        my awesome button!

After I managed to calm down long enough to form coherent sentences we set off to have a good look around. We all fought the urge to empty our wallets on the first few stands we came to & found that there was plenty to see, do, eat & drink. Those last two where top of everyone’s list so we set off towards the food court to see what smelt so damn good.

Turns out it was everything.

There were no music festival style food stands here, selling burgers, chips and the like, but instead something that did almost resemble the Ideal Home Show. Large stalls with fresh food being prepared and cooked right in front of you. One stall had a woman skilfully slicing wafer thin strips of Salmon whilst another covered them with rice before rolling them into the freshest Sushi I’ve ever seen (or tasted) while at another stand directly opposite there was a man cutting & cooking a MASSIVE block of Noodles!

                                                   Mmmmmm.... Noodelicious....

Right at the centre of the food court, the Sushi Awards 2012 was taking place. A Masterchef style event that saw 5 top Sushi chefs battle it out over 3 days for the title of “Best Sushi Roll 2012”. Visitors to the event could pay to sample each of the five chefs’ signature dishes, after which, they would their vote for whose they thought was best in terms of taste, presentation, etc...

The Sushi awards competition table

We didn’t bother as it was quite expensive but after a quick search on the Hyper Japan website, it turns out that Tsunami Sous Chef, Kok Haw Lee took away the SUSHI AWARDS 2012 first prize with his “Dragon Volcano”. According to the results page over at “ was an explosive combination of tobiko, tempura flakes, spring onion and shredded chilli, with king prawn tempura, avocado and cucumber. It was finished with a distinctive carrot, onion and mayonnaise sauce. The stunning presentation, complete with dry ice, made Dragon Volcano the stand-out sushi in this year's amazing line-up.”

Now I gave no idea what any of that is but it sounds pretty awesome, that’s it in the photo above, and here’s a closer look.
           2012 Sushi Awards winner “Dragon Volcano” by Kok Haw Lee of Tsunami restaurantPhoto courtesy of

Then you had various trade stalls including Namco/Bandai & Nintendo; giving visitors the chance to play their newest games before anyone else as well as some games that would be released exclusively in Japan. Predictably, chances of getting any time on any of these games proved difficult as the controllers were firmly locked in the vice like grip of the early birds. Various companies selling Japanese sweets & treats, & delicacies including Moshi, Pocky, Bananas dipped in chocolate, and my favourite of the day: Wasabi Tempura Spinach (Good call Stevo!) were plentiful & on our way through the sea of stalls we stumbled across one offering free samples of Sake. We’d all wanted to try Sake and being people who love anything free (who doesn’t!?), we filled our boots on samples; I bought a bottle for later and then we stumbled off to get some food.

Stomachs full & beers in hand, it was time to spend some money. A worryingly easy thing to do at these sorts of things; especially if you collect over priced toys like me. As we wandered round the trade area a stall called Cakes with Faces caught my eye (as you can see from the picture below, it was hard to miss!). The brain child of an awesome chick by the name of Amy Crabtree, she designs T-Shirts & prints with, well, cakes with faces on them. Her designs are bright, colourful & fun just like the event itself was turning out to be, so I couldn’t resist picking up some of her stuff. I went for the shirt with a plate of smiling Sushi on it (expertly modelled by Amy’s friend) & I’m also a sucker for filling my walls with original artwork so bought a few of her prints too (she was even nice enough to sign each one). You can find a link to her site below, go check out her wares!

                            Seriously awesome stuff! Check it out!

Wallets lightened & weighed down with our purchases we headed off to check out the 2 stages to see what kind of entertainment Hyper Japan had to offer; and going by our experience so far, we were sure whatever we found was going to be awesome!  There were Kendo demonstrations, fashion shows, film show cases & much more including a performance by Natsuko Aso, a Japanese actress & JPop star .
The crowd for her was huge, & getting to see the stage wasn’t going to happen so we decided to check out a Kendo demonstration.

Then it was time to head back to the main stage for the meat of the day, the Cos-play competition. I’m guessing that if you’re reading this you have at least some idea of what Cos-play is, but in case you don’t, here’s a link to the wiki page for it:, go grab a quick lesson then I’ll meet you back here in 5? Ok?

                            A few of my favourite costumes of the day

Everyone all caught up? Ok.

The Cos-play competition was one of the main reasons I wanted to come to Hyper Japan.
Like any geek I’ve always wanted to go to Comic-Con in San Diego. A Mecca for comic book & movie geeks the world over as well as being home to some truly impressive Cos-play;  but the pilgrimage is long (And expensive!), so getting the chance to see these types costumes in the flesh (if you’ll pardon the expression)& in the UK was perfect.  Being too scared to participate (this time at least) I was looking forward to seeing how UK Cos-players stacked up to the Comic-Con crowd. I wasn’t disappointed. As you can see from the photos above, the amount of time & detail people put into their costumes is incredible. Makes my attempts at Halloween costumes look like a bed sheet ghost...

    And I always thought my costumes were awesome...

There were two prizes up for grabs on the Saturday. The first was a chance to represent the UK at the World Cos-play Summit final in Nagoya, Japan UK and Group Selections where one group could win the opportunity to represent the UK at the European Cos-play Gathering final in Paris, France this year. Both of these prizes were highly coveted & the competition had brought their A game so it was down to the three expert judges to decide which of them would go through to the respective finals.

Amongst the judges was Nov Takahashi. Takahashi (President of Japanese animation studio “Studio Hard”) apparently coined the term "Cos-play" while he was attending the Los Angeles Science Fiction Worldcon in 1984. The story goes that he was so impressed by the costuming there that he reported about it frequently in Japanese magazines, this in turn, is rumoured to have triggered the practice now known in Japan as Cos-play. 
                                  Nov Takahashi on stage with the shows hosts.

Wikipedia states that Cos-play in the United States and Europe differs from Japanese Cos-play culture in that costumes concerning characters other than those from Anime/Manga/Video Games especially at science fiction conventions are far more popular in the West than they are in Japan.
Regardless of the cultural differences, everyone in the parade looked amazing & if you ask me, they all deserved to win but as is always the way, there could only be one winner; so with the judges ready & the crowd gathered it was time to start the show.

And what better way to start the show than with some dancing Japanese school girls in masks?

DotDot3 ( a London based dance troupe perform at conventions and events across the country, doing dance covers of J-pop and K-pop songs gave an awesome performance which really got the crowd going before welcoming violinist Masa-Kun to the stage for an impromptu collaboration. Unfortunately, by this point I was enjoying the show way too much to take anymore video, but rest assured, it was awesome! Check out their Facebook page for more information & where you can catch them next. As you can see from the video below, they were certainly at home at Hyper Japan.

Crowd suitably pumped it was time to get on with the show. The contest took on a parade format, giving each contestant a chance to show off their costumes but the judges were also to looking to see if they could match the attitude of the character they were portraying; it’s one thing to wear the kit, but you need to channel your inner Vampire Hunter or Shinigami to impress these judges! There were far too many entrants to share here but visit my flickr album for all the awesome costumes from the day

 The winners of the WCG UK round were Alexandra Rutter and Laura Sindall who appeared as D and Doris from Vampire Hunter D. Alexandra and Laura will be flying to Nagoya, Japan, later this year to take part in the World Cos-play Summit as representatives for the UK.

                                                 Photo: Alan Davies Photography

And for the ECG Group selections, Erin Bower and Ria Bedford who dressed as Vanille and Hope from Final Fantasy XIII took the prize. Erin and Ria will be heading to Paris to represent the United Kingdom at the 2012 ECG Final later this year.

                                                         Photo: Matthew Chan

Congratulations to all of you & I hope you show the rest of the world what the UK is made of come summer!

 With the main excitement of the day over, we had a quick walk around the show one last time before heading to the train station to make our way home; & I’m glad we did.
What we found was Violinist Masa Futagami (whom we’d seen jamming with DotDot3 early) & a group of musicians playing a mix of contemporary & traditional Japanese music on the smaller second stage in the corner of the hall. They were delighting the crowd with impromptu covers of the Tetris & Mario theme songs between beautifully played classical Japanese pieces which sounded as if they came straight out of a Samurai movie.

 This was a perfect way to end a hectic day in the capitol; we sat sipping beers & Sake as Masa-Kun ( & his friends; the fantastic “With Either” ( played out what for me was the greatest convention experience I have had to date.

I will defiantly be going back next year and who knows, I might even have the balls to dress up next time...

I’ll leave you with a short video of the amazing Masa-Kun & Friends, enjoy!

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