HYPER JAPAN: A celebration of Japanese food, arts, anime, business, comedy and gadgets
With news coverage from Japan still studying the aftermath of disaster, it seems fitting that something be done to move the focus away from earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown and back to the nation’s reputation of dynamism and efficiency.
Enter stage left the 2011 HYPER JAPAN festival, an event that highlights the many positive aspects Japanese culture has produced: a celebration of Japanese food, arts, anime, business, comedy and featuring more cool gadgets than you can shake a virtual stick at.
This year’s event is a balanced look at what Japan has to offer the rest of the world. With last year drawing in 13,000 people and focusing mainly on anime, this one will look like a very different animal. Speaking to Mary Moreton, head of PR for the upcoming event, it is possible to get an idea of the focus for this event. “Whilst still keeping the original sub-cultural aspects – manga, anime, costumes – we’ve expanded it to reflect more about contemporary Japan.” Expect a heady mixture of lace skirts, award winning food and the latest in Japanese robotics.
A major feature of HYPER JAPAN 2011 is the UK Sushi Roll Championships, bringing together some of the finest sushi chefs from around the UK. Mary picks up the baton; “this isn’t the stereotypical type of sushi… everything is made on the day and the brief is to come up with something interesting.”
Judged by ex-Savoy head chef Anton Eldermann, the contestants have been given free rein to produce their most revolutionary ideas. Visitors will have the opportunity to sample the results.
The flip side of this is an effort to bring sushi from the high street to kitchen. “Chains like Yo! Sushi did a good job in making sushi accessible… there’s a ‘health aspect’ to this rise as well. Sushi nowadays is low-calorie, lower price and better quality.”
“Whilst Japanese food is much more popular lately, there are still not that many people making it at home. We are aiming to show them how to do it.” To this end HYPER JAPAN is running workshops to show the British public how it’s done, with a DIY section “to give them the opportunity to familiarise themselves with preparing Japanese food.”
In addition to the culinary side to Japanese culture stands the behemoth of anime, manga and ‘cosplay’. Popular in Tokyo, the idea of dressing up as your favourite anime character is a growing form of performance art in London and will be heavily featured in this year’s event.
“What we’ve done is take the idea of showcasing contemporary Japan – which to a lot of people means ‘manga’ – and including with it other elements to expand the attraction and make it more accessible. It’s a more holistic approach.” An example of this is the addition of the ‘Maid Café’, a hugely popular style of café phenomenon Japan, particularly the Akihabara district, where the waitresses are dressed as anime-style maids. “The idea stems from the stereotype in Japan that everyone in Europe has butlers or maids, you’re the lord or lady coming back to your mansion.”
Dressing up is encouraged here; the UK ‘Cosplay’ Awards will reward which visitor is dressed in the most extravagant manner, providing another element of the interactive to this year’s event.
Using Manzai – a traditional style of Japanese comedy featuring a fool and his long-suffering companion – the up and coming Japanese duo Jaru Jaru looks like a promising introduction for the British public to an important part of Japanese culture.
The pair has already performed at London’s ‘Lost Theatre’ and seems to have broken down the linguistic barriers between the comedian and the audience. Mary Moreton attributes this to the fact that “it’s about interacting with your comedy partner. The relationship between the two is where the comedy comes from. In that sense it’s less important to be fluent in Japanese to understand what’s going on.” The duo is a household name in Japan; think a more tasteful version of Ant and Dec.
Last year the emphasis was undeniably on culture and leisure, but of arguably equal importance is the business side of things. The Japanese External Trade Organisation (JETRO) will hold a seminar on Friday led by delegates from the Japanese gaming, film and digital industries. “They’ll be talking about Japanese multimedia successes and difficulties in distributing cultural content such as films, games and manga anime.”
JETRO be holding a reception afterward and there will be a trade and business area at the venue running throughout. Another highlight will be the ITK Robot show, intended to showcase some of the newest ideas to come from Japan’s culture of innovation, including “a prosthetic hand that can be controlled by brain waves” and other “innovative gadgets”.
When talking about Japan however, it is impossible not to mention its ongoing attempts at recovery, helped in no small part by the work of international aid. The General Manager of HYPER JAPAN, Yukiko Takahashi, has pledged that “a third of the money raised by sponsorship [for the event] will go to charity. If we’re looking at Japanese culture and food, this is really something we can’t afford to avoid.”
Once inside, there will also be stalls dedicated to raising funds for the re-construction. “These are mainly smaller, community based groups that are each helping in their own way… It’s free to take part but it’s possible to make further donations.” Many stalls will have work-shop based activities that will allow visitors to engage.
If you’re looking for a day out that’ll interest and educate, this might just be your ticket. Alongside the other acts, HYPER JAPAN sheds light on a side of Japanese culture that is often overlooked or written off as mere role-play. The fact that you’ll be helping those whose lives were brutally destroyed gives the event a philanthropic side. Every ticket you buy provides funds for the clean-up effort. In the words of Lord Kitchener; “We Need You… in the Sushi Aisle.”
Sushi Awards Ticket Details
Date: Friday 22nd, Saturday 23rd, Sunday 24th July 2011
Sushi Serving Time: 14:00-17:00 approx. (HYPER JAPAN opens 10:00 – 19:00, Sunday ends 18:00)
Place: SUSHI AWARDS 2011: UK Sushi Championship Booth, HYPER JAPAN, at Olympia Two, London W14 8UX
Ticket availability: Only a few left each day for 3 days.
Combine One Day Ticket cost: £20 each
Ticket includes: Chance to taste each nominated restaurant’s sushi (£8) & vote for your favourite. Admission to HYPER JAPAN 2011
HYPER JAPAN Ticket Details
Date: Friday 22nd, Saturday 23rd, Sunday 24th July 2011
Opening Time: 10:00-19:00 (Sunday ends 18:00)
Place: Olympia Two, London W14 8UX
One Day Ticket cost: £12 each (£15 at door)
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter