Hyper Japan Festival 2022
After a three-year wait due to the pandemic, Hyper Japan Festival returned to London for a live event.
Fans missing their fix of Japanese culture flocked to the new venue at Evolution London, located inside London's Battersea Park.
One main difference this year was the inclusion of separate Live concert events named Hyper Live which took place after the doors had closed on the main show floor events on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Both these evening shows played host to different acts for the most part and provided more of a nightclub event for those into Japanese musicians.
Friday night played host to a more dance and Jpop flavour, while the Saturday night event was from a more Rock and alternative perspective.
Also for the first time, the layout allowed for an outside stage as well as the main stage in the convention center.
One thing Hyper Japan had on their side this year was the weather which was well above average and at prime times was hotter than most of the hot spots people venture on holiday too.
Attending on Friday the first thing we noticed was how the overall setting of the show was quite well put together.
With a decent outside stage and food sellers situated outside with areas for visitors to sit and eat in a dedicated area or just chill out on the grass by some trees for shade.
Our main goal for attending on Friday was the appearance of Samurai Swordmasters, Kamui, who first appeared at Hyper Japan back in 2012 at Olympia.
Here they were doing a one-day visit and doing two shows on the same day, one on the Outside stage and one on the Main stage later in the day.
This was also the reason that Friday was unusually busier than it usually is I suspect.
Upon entering the show floor at Evolution London, the first thing that struck me was how much smaller the show was for their return this year compared to some of their previous shows.
Vendors were quite tightly packed and of course, the number of sellers on hand was much less than expected. Having never been to Evolution London before I just assumed the event would be of the same scale as past events. The main stage was smaller and vendors were set up quite close to the stage, making for a very intermate affair.
Perusing the vendors and stalls I found the usual suspects attending from Tofu Cute, Doki Doki Pottery, and various sellers of plushies and figures that also attend other events we visit.
The Sake experience was located on the upper balcony of the centre which also housed an area for workshops on Caligraphy, Tea ceremonies, etc as well as an area to sit and chill.
A small room situated at the rear of the centre housed a fringe area of sellers who are breaking out into various areas with sellers of handmade jewellery, keyrings, Comic book writers, and more as well as a maid's cafe set up at the far end.
But our main goal was to cover the stage events and this is where we will start.
Stalls selling Japanese sweets, crockery , plushies and more.
Cosplayers at Hyper Japan
Our first stage experience was with Traditional singer Nozomi Itagaki, her precise voice lends itself to the operatic style for which she is known.
Dressed in a traditional style Kimono Nozomi serenaded the crowd outside and brought a sense of relaxation to those grabbing a bite to eat and drink.
It was a short set but an interesting one which gave a sense of how these types of shows would have been done years ago in Japan, people chilling out eating and drinking whilst they watched a much-admired performer, though I suspect back in the day they would have all turned out in their best kimonos and that this type of performance would have been only accessible to those of the upper class of society...
We did venture inside after this to peruse more of the vendors where we tied up with some other members of the Press we know.
This led to us catching a glimpse of the Gamepad panel discussion on stage.
Nozomi Itagaki brought a classic sound of Japan to the venue
But one of our main reasons for attending on Friday was Samuari Masters Kamui and their two sets.
Their first was in collaboration with Popular singer Mika Kobayashi who is famous for her work on the Attack on Titan series and Kill La Kill, two blistering and hugely popular Anime not just in Japan but also in the West.
Taking place on the outside stage in the bright sunshine Mika Kobayashi performed a series of songs whilst Kamui led by Tetsuro Shimaguchi displayed their art to an encompassing amount of detail...
Famous for their work on the first Kill Bill film as choreographers for the sword art and for Tetsuro Shimaguchi playing the role of Miki in the film.
Since then and their original appearance at Hyper Japan back in 2012, Kamui has become a household name, traveling the world showcasing the art of the Samurai by performing various stage shows and workshops.
The three members started by performing a traditional kata of the sword in tandem to a rousing musical background by Mika Kobayashi.
This led to a more frantic action-packed set of a battle between multiple foes, sitting on the ground just a couple of feet away gave a good concept of how combat in close quarters can be performed to precision. Every move and slash of the sword gave a sense of intensity not often seen in such demonstrations.
One scene played out saw a battle of two warriors who face each other in a battle of wits and calculation.
This dramatic scene played out in a power struggle of who would become victorious, highlighting the severity of how a single blow can be the end of one's life. As well as showcasing how miscalculation in combat can be ones undoing.
The crowd was encapsulated by the performance and it was like watching a dramatic scene in a lavish movie or stage play, but here it was like being sat right in the middle of the action. The accompanying music made the sensation even more so intense.
If you have ever watched a classic Samurai film where two fighters face off each other your know what to expect, another example is the 90s Playstation game, Bushido Blade which is probably the most accurate Sword combat game ever.
Add in the mesmerising songs and music by Mika Kobayashi and it was an emotional ride to watch.
I can not remember the last time a scene at a stage event made me forget where I was, I was just in the moment.
Tetsuro Shimaguchi ( Kill Bill) on stage at Hyper Japan 2022
Mika Kobayashi gets ready to serenade us with her musical prowess while Kamui offer the visual feast
The legendary Kamui mesmerise the crowd
Being this close the action gave a a sense of being in it
Next up was a Karaoke event on the outside stage, where anyone willing to stretch their vocal cords could entertain the crowd.
Back inside there was a series of graphic picture walls where visitors could take a photo of themselves with friends against various backgrounds as well as a display of original Posters from Japanese Monster films of the 60s and 70s.
Fans of the movies of Toho and Toei would be in awe at these terrific posters from classics like Godzilla and others.
These were a nice but small collection of cinema nostalgia.
Also on hand were a selection of gaming consoles set up running various video games from over the years. Where anybody could play on older consoles from the Megadrive and Dreamcast by Sega, the Nintendo Gamecube and 3DS by Nintendo, and even an NEC PC Engine which was running a port of Yu Suzuki's OutRun.
Some classic Japanese Movie Posters on display, Many collectores would pay good money for these
With the final performances approaching it was time to grab some food and a drink and come back to the main stage for Kamui's Main stage event and the final of Japanese DJ and Music mixer NILFRUITS.
With the stage area filling up and everyone getting in place, it was time for Kamui's final appearance.
Though a lot of the set was similar to the earlier outside performance, being inside and highlighted by the lights and the added smoke effects the performance was more akin to a west-end stage show.
Some elements were alternative and thy even enticed a young member of the audience to come up on stage at the end to perform his own display with the Team.
Tetsuro also spoke about how the use of Facebook and Twitter had helped boost the contact with the fans and how they can converse much easier on such platforms.
I managed to grab a chat with them at the end and was telling them how I trained with them back in 2012 at the Hyper Japan show where they did a series of workshops.
With the day coming to a close there was one final act and that was NILFRUITS and a chance for the crowd to get in the groove with a DJ set, popular for mixes of various Anime themed tunes, the set went down well and the organisers were encouraging the crowd to get up and dance.
NILFRUITS knows how to put together a good mix of tunes and demonstrated his prowess at his art.
People danced and enjoyed the upbeat session whilst the big base speakers shook the area around you while you watched animation on the big screen set behind NILFRUITS.
It was actually a really good end to the first day of Hyper Japan Festival 2022.
Unfortunately, we were unable to stay for the Hyper Live event happening later that evening.
But would be returning on a Saturday night for the Alternative Hyper LIVE event.
In motion it's all very frantic
Kamui's Main stage event was another stunning performance
Sword in Hand, Tetsuro Shimaguchi at the ready
Live action on stage with Kamui
Etiquete plays a big part in Japanese Swordmanship
Hyper Live Alternative – Saturday 23rd July 2022
Unable to attend the day event on Saturday we made sure we got to the Hyper Live Alternative event on Saturday night.
Showcasing four acts featuring a mix of a dance of the animation style, industrial Gothic rock, and anime style tunes.
Taking place at the main stage at Evolution London attendees were limited to a set amount of tickets sold.
Upon arriving at the festival visitors were still leaving the main area of the day's event, whilst those attending had to queue outside before being let into the main stage area which had been sealed off from the rest of the show.
It did mean those who attended the festival had to leave and join the new queue for the event.
To say that the event was popular is an understatement as upon entering space was limited, hooking up with some fellow Press colleagues I took my spot and waited for the impending show.
First up was Garuda aka Yuffie Sakamura brandishing her trademark mask, and angel wings and performing her own style of Industrial Gothic rock. It was a good start as the performance was mystic with a bizarre style of theatrical performance as she emerged from the shadows and within the smoke-filled stage. At times just caught glimpses of her huge wings and demonic facial Mask amidst the smoke and strobing lights.
Lighting was intense in use and incorporated with hyperkinetic energetic sounds, it definitely had the crowd on their toes as she mesmerised the audience.
Our next act was BANG a creative dancer who has shot to fame in his work in movies, theater, and animation.
A modern version of the robot dance craze from the 80s, BANG brings it bang up to date ( yes I know I couldn't resist it ) to a background of darker dance music he can contort his body in quite amazing ways. As he dances, his use of his hands in demonstrating routines is unique, at times giving the audience tasks to perform which were shown in close up on the big screen behind his stage performance.
But it was his agility in his dances that had the crowd cheering, as he defied bodily physics in his depiction of his style, most of us would need some sort of medical treatment after performing some of these maneuvers.
His standout moment was his huge backflip which seemed to defy gravity. Yep, that brought the house down.
BANG brought a very diverse alternative act to the stage on Saturday night.
BANG got the crowds participating and then wowed us with his amazing flexibility
As well as being a singer, Miura Ayme is a voice actor and director of the games Dangonronpa, Obey Me, and Shall We Date.
These are IOS / Android dating sim games that have a huge following. He is also the official cosplayer for Obey Me.
Of course, Miura Ayme is popular with the females and this was evident in his performance.
Which had the girls at the event quite excited. He literally had them eating from his hands as he performed various songs from his repertoire which they all knew.
Coming up to our final act before we all had to head out to our beds, we had a Japanese Girl group NECRONOMIDAL who have been around since 2014. Having become household names not just in their home of Japan but all over the world, having performed at various festivals in more than twelve countries.
This was the act that the crowd was waiting for, the reason many attended. The minute they came on stage to showcase their own style of Dark metal music which is inspired by many forms of music from Jpop to opera.
Their intricate and off-the-wall choreography shone through in their performance, here! were a big player in the Japanese alternative music industry and their professionalism was very much evident.
Of all the performers NECRONOMIDAL stole the show I thought, though all offered a distinct take on their own style.
But of the four acts, it will be NECRONOMIDAL that makes me remember the night of 23rd July 2022 the most.
It was a good night out and I managed to get some cool shots of all the performances.
Muira Ayme takes to the stage (above and below)
Sunday 24th July 2022 – Final day of the Festival
After Friday and Saturday night among other things I was pretty tired come Sunday and maybe didn't get to the last day of the show as early as I wanted, but one of the main reasons to attend on Sunday was the Cosplay show and catch some of the more traditional Japanese music on the show.
It was another hot day and the crowds were out in force. First, up for us when arriving was to catch The Japanese Folk Duo Tsugaru Shamisen and Folk Music show with Akari Mochizuki on vocals and the legendary Hibiki Ichikawa and his students providing the musical prowess we have all become accustomed to from them.
This was a really nice varied set with audience participation segments and a chance for Hibiki's students to show how far they have come under Hibiki's tuition.
From more upbeat tunes inspired by modern music to traditional numbers, this was a segment that attracted large numbers.
You could close your eyes and be transformed back to ancient Japan through the sounds of the iconic stringed instruments.
Hibiki Ichikawa and his students gave a stellar performance
Back inside we caught some of the Fashion shows where various contestants displayed their styles based on Japanese culture and talked about how they became to be inspired to do so.
After this was a demonstration of cooking Japanese style, and particular cooking Japanese Curry with a celebrity chef and two audience volunteers. The process was a quick lesson in Japanese curry to show how quickly it can be cooked and served to those wanting to try the finished dishes. Of which there were many. Why queue for food outside when you can watch a show and get a free meal to boot?
You could definitely smell the aromas of the ingredients simmering away on stage.
And all sponsored by S&B Foods.
It also highlights how Curry may have originated in India but has become a food of Southeast Asia and that the Japanese variants are less blow your head off hot, good for those who are not into burning the roof of their mouth when eating.
Though in the UK Curry is often thought of as Indian cuisine, people forget that all Southeast Asian cultures have their own variations of the Curry.
After some more venturing around the stalls, we headed back to the stage to catch the round-up of Katura Shineshine, a Rakugo storyteller, and the only fully Japanese-trained Rakugo storyteller outside of Japan.
We saw him perform before at Hyper Japan a few years back and he is funny. He captivates the audience from the off and he went down well here with many smiles and laughter from the crowds.
But it was time for the big one, yes the mighty Cosplay Parade was nearing, and as everyone got ready the crowds flocked to the stage with space becoming a premium.
One thing of note, there were a lot of Cosplayers at this year's Hyper Japan event, more so than compared to the past few shows we have attended before the Pandemic.
Maybe it was the lack of events for cosplayers that have seen the surge in them attending in large numbers whenever an event is on.
With hosting passed over to expert Rowan, think I got his name right! We were underway, and it was a varied display of costumes, of course, certain genres and Ips were prevalent more so than others as the hype for certain anime series or games gain exposure.
Some bright coloured cosplays were on show with a case of each one bringing a roar from the crowd as each contestant walked on stage.
Dagonronpa, Sailor Moon, Demon Slayer, and Naruto are prevalent popular themes.
But there were also some surprises, KAMEN RIDER was a really unsuspected cosplay, and my camera batteries died just as he came on stage, but I managed to get a few shots of him in the group photos.
Damn, I just love Kamen Rider, have the games, watched the series, and more.
All in all, it was a good show of cosplayers and a good size event.
With a final photo opportunity for all with all cosplayers at the end on stage, it brought this year's Hyper Japan to an end.
Cosplay at Hyper Japan Festival on Sunday July 24th 2022
Kamui - Samurai Swordmasters take to the main stage and awe the crowd
There was a vast range of cosplayers at the show
Miura Ayme had the girls in the crowd in his hand
Pros and Con of Hyper Japan Festival 2022
So how was Hyper Japan Festival 2022?
After the three-year break due to restrictions, no one knew what to expect.
The big surprise for us from the off was the change of venue, being set in Battersea Park from one point was a good idea, and once you know where Evolution is placed journey times are not too bad if you're in the London area.
Though I must admit the first day I did have a nightmare finding the place.
Yes being a North Londoner I rarely venture South of the River.
So Pros –(1) Setting up of the event, having an outside stage was a good idea, and placement of the food vendors outside was a good idea.
Areas to sit and eat and chill inside and out were adequate, with the inside gallery providing a place to chill.
Varied stage events catering to different tastes.
Hyper Live, having separate evening musicals only inspired showcases that offered a nightclub-style experience for those who wanted to see certain performers.
Toilets were reasonably clean and seemed to stay that way over the weekend.
Con's than- (1) Venue size, compared to other events from the past this was a smaller venue which made inside the venue quite crowded at times. Even though many vendors did not attend this year.
– Food vendors were in short supply outside for the attendance with queues for food stretching around the outside area, even impeding the outside stage at times.
This related more to Sunday, being another hot day in London, and people needing to keep hydrated, it seemed water-based drink sources were depleted and did notice one seller who had put his prices up compared to the previous day to capitalise on the need for drinks. There really should have been water fountains on hand or bottled water dispensers brought in.
So overall Hyper Japan's return this year was a good start, I understand the Pandemic and the past three years have created a problem for these types of shows and it was obvious without money coming in from past shows that the first one back would be a challenge. It was for the first MCM Comic Con at Excel last year.
But I think they made the right choice by leaving till 2022 to come back and as mentioned at the end they would return bigger next year.
I do believe Evolution London is too small a venue for the event, as the lack of certain elements showcased.
Where have to wait and see where the show goes next.
In the end, what made Hyper Japan Festival 2022 a winner for us were the performers they managed to arrange for the event. There was some good talent on show and varied too.
This must have been a challenge, not just because of the pandemic but also Brexit which has caused a nightmare for performing artists doing gigs in the UK.
We thank Crossmedia, Natasha Senno, and the Hyper Japan Press department and look forward to covering the next event.
JB for Kickeminthghoulies
Article date: August 2022