It’s been three long years since we last attended Hyper Japan. Thanks to the covid pandemic, the event was cancelled in 2020, and was online only in 2021. This year sees it moving from its former home at London Olympia to new digs out at Exhibition London, which is in Battersea Park. This year saw what felt like a smaller convention than when we last attended it, but there was still plenty on offer for those obsessed by anime and manga, or those simply curious about the country and its culture.
Hyper Japan is broken up into multiple areas. There are the main exhibition areas where you see the bigger and more corporate entities such as the East Japan Railway Company, various Japanese tourism entities, and all the saké, pocky and mochi you could ever want. Then there’s the main indoor stage and the outdoor stage which play host to dancers, musicians, conversations on VTubing, panels on saké tasting and more. Tucked away at the back is the continuing of the artists’ alley into a section known as ‘The Fringe’. It’s always worth taking the time to check these stalls out, as this is where you can meet the smaller creators and chat face to face with them about their creations.
Cosplay is always a big aspect of the festival, though on the Friday session folks in costume were a little thin on the ground. But there were still a few making the effort to brave the heat and crowds to show off what they had created and hopefully the other two days saw the bulk of the cosplayers show up to wow folks with their creativity and ingenuity.
It wouldn’t be Hyper Japan without gaming, and the retro-gaming section was back with a selection of consoles including the NES Classic, original XBox, GameCube, Nintendo 3DS and more, with racing, fighting and rhythm games for people to try out. There was also an emphasis on virtual reality, with more than one booth providing virtual tours of locations for people to enjoy, though there was nothing as big and flashy as the virtual dodgeball “Hado” from back in 2019 (which is apparently still a thing! Good for them). Speaking of games, one of the highlights of the weekend was the Janken Taikai – A Rock/Paper/Scissors tournament that took place on the main stage. Japan takes this game very seriously, with everyone playing it from school kids right through to adults who use it to settle arguments, or make tough decisions. Beats a Magic 8-Ball, I guess!
READ MORE: Backyard Village – Film Review
Music of all stripes remains a large focus of Hyper Japan, with artists performing during the day and an event called HYPER Live – a two-day mini Japanese music festival – running in the evenings. This year featured everything from the traditional through to JPop, chiptunes and more, with a whole range of artists hitting the stage including Femm, Blank Paper, Seka Yama, Nozomi Itagaki, Necronomidol and more.
All the good things aside, it is a little frustrating to see that my complaints from 2019 broadly remain the same this year. The festival really needs to do something about the provision of food and drink, especially in this new location which is seemingly miles from anywhere else that people can go to get food. There were only about 8 stalls selling food and drinks, and only four of them were selling what you could consider to be actual food, while the other three were selling sweets/desserts. The queues for these stalls were massive, and one of them even ran out of food by mid-afternoon. While they gated off a lot of the food stalls off from visitors in 2019, this year they simply didn’t seem to have enough to cater for everyone.
READ MORE: Star Trek: The Mirror War #7 – Comic Review
My second complaint might just be because I am officially old. He is arguably one of Japan’s most well-known exports, and there’s recently been a series of popular Western movies featuring him. Once again, though, the elder statesman of the Kaiju was almost nowhere to be seen save for a series of posters in one corner. Where was Godzilla in this celebration of Japanese culture and media? Heck, where were all the Tokusatsu shows?
There was nary a trace of Ultraman (currently on his second series on Netflix), Kamen Rider, or any of the Super Sentai series (Power Rangers is still a thing, right?). In terms of merchandise we were seemingly restricted to Pokémon, One Piece, My Hero Academia and a smattering of other popular modern series. There was very little outside of these properties and it’s a shame to see it so focused on this small handful when Japanese film and TV has so much more to offer.
READ MORE: The Witch – 4K UHD Blu-ray Review
All in all, this year’s festival felt reduced compared to 2019. There were fewer stalls and less variety of merch, which was a shame, but in this new post-covid world it’s going to take time for things to get back to anything approaching normality. The new venue was a step up in terms of things like air-conditioning, definitely very welcome in the current hot weather here in the UK, but issues with access to food and drink still persist.
Complaints aside, Hyper Japan is still a great place to visit and one we entirely recommend. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about the country, culture or media, this is a great place to get some hands-on experience. Try the food, sample some saké, try on a kimono and maybe see just what all the fuss is about these so-called Pocket Monsters!