Hyper Japan Christmas Market 2015
The end of November saw Hyper Japan return for it's Christmas market, taking place at a new venue of Tobacco Dock we where interested to see how this years show would compare to the previous years held at Kensington's Olympia and the 2015 Festival show at O2 .
We actually attended on the Friday as many of the acts where showcasing on the day and we always know that that the Friday is always less busy.
Unfortunately one of the acts ( Kuli Kala ) we wanted to see we could not due to other commitments in the morning and not getting to the venue until the act was finishing, Plus this was there only performance at the show.
Upon arriving we where surprised that much of the venue is actually quite open to the elements.
Tobacco Dock is a basically a old barn like building with covered areas and other areas more akin to a open air shopping centre.
With many of the stallholders actually having their own little enclosed shop like structure and other stalls in grouped together in small groups in various areas it was definitely a different look for the show.
Basically with the Christmas show there was a undercover live stage for the main acts and a tatami matted area for Martial arts and more cultural style acts.
First up we took a look at some classic Japanese animation in a history of animation from Japan happening on the live stage. This was quite interesting for those interested in animation , with various shorts shown with a explanation by a dedicated group of enthusiasts ..
Next up was one of the main acts we where interested in seeing , Visual Kei is a very popular style of music in Japan and the next act ''Wing Works'' , Ryo:Suke is a solo artist who is a bassist and vocal talent .
Ryo;Suke has also collaborated with other groups as well in the past as a support artist.
Now considering it was a Friday afternoon there where still a decent crowd to see him perform and from the outset you could see why, one thing I have found about many of these acts from the visual Kei style is they really know how to perform and it was not long before the crowd where well into the music and giving it large.
With little under a hour Ryo;Suke bashed out song after song with a adrenalin fuelled hold over the audience . I must admit I got quite into it forgetting what I was doing their , but not to worry I got some nice shots for this article
Ryo:Suke definitely had some groupies in the front of the audience to who gave the whole performance even more atmosphere .
Now after such a frantic performance you may think it was time for a breather.
But up on stage next where Ninja group Try1 Shinobi , a acrobatic martial arts performance group who took to the stage in a breathtaking manner.
Mixing traditional martial arts and acrobats with performing arts these guys where the equivalent of watching the Shaolin Monks but in Ninja form.
From some very close well choreographed fight action to awe inspiring leaps and jumps through the air akin to watching some crazy martial arts flick , these guys had the crowd cheering with each move they performed.
I would say there one of the most entertaining martial art groups I have seen , there take on different media and martial arts play was fresh and just mind blowing entertaining .
What's more they kept this up for around forty five minutes , how fit must these guys be?
If you ever have a chance to see these guys perform , make sure you do.
Now our next piece of entertainment was a another musical piece , again taking it's theme from visual Kei but this time with a vintage take on the theme , Lacroix Despheres is a symphonic orchestral Visual Kei group which mixes a orchestral sound with rock and a story to boot.
As they came on you could see it was going to be a very dramatic and theatrical performance.
Again the crowds had packed in and there where definitely fans of the style in the front rows. With two main vocalists , two on rock guitar and a pair of girls on flute and Oboe , this visual Kei performance with a very Gothic feel was about to get under way.
With a very rock based start by guitarists Pegoet and one other whose name I unfortunately don't know I new this would interesting .
As vocalists Sho ( also the composer) and Saya ( a Soprano vocalist) came on it became there was more to this then meets the eye or ear.
Everything seems to play out like a story as literally listening to a opera .
With Mizuki and Satomi on flute and oboe adding another dimension to the whole performance as well as the copious amounts of smoke from the smoke machines , which at some points made it hard to see everything. .
LaCroix Despheres have a huge following and in the UK to but I must admit it's definitely not for everyone and a very acquired taste , I suppose as a comparison I could compare it to styles of Jazz .
I myself am a keen listener of Jazz music of a more modern style but have a problem getting into contemporary Jazz where it often sounds like you have different artists performing on stage together but there all playing there own style.
To a point Lacroix Despheres performance is very much like this and is something you have to make your own mind up to see .
By now it was getting on and cold as Tobacco Dock is not the warmest of place in November and I really did not come dressed for the outside.
We decided to call it a day after a peruse of the stalls .
Now many of the acts where doing a multiple performances over the weekend so we decided to attend again on the Sunday to cover other elements of the show .
Sunday 29th November
Meeting a colleague on Sunday early I wanted to get to see the
opening performance of digital star IA .
If your into the Vocaloid style of synthesised JPOP then IA is for
you , in fact you have to see IA as she is a digital star who is
voiced by singer Lia which is sampled by Yamaha's Vocaloid 3 synthesised.
IA has performed world wide live on stage by projection and hologram.
For Hyper Japan a projection screen was used , which did mean to get full effect the more head on you where was the better.
It's a shame they never had the tech for the hologram performance as it offers a more 3D effect to the show.
Now the queue to see IA was huge , especially considering it was 9.30 on a Sunday morning.
The place was rammed. , with a main projection screen in the centre and two side screens for audience members to the side of the main the show was on and the crowd was pumped.
I must admit I was quite excited as fans cheered at her appearance on screen and the music started . Add to this live dancers who perform in sync with IA 's routines on screen and you have a very happy crowd.
Music style is of course very upbeat and anime inspired , with each track the crowd just got more into it , by the end at around 10.50 the crowd looked like they had been at some night club all night.
The buzz in the auditorium was quite cool. Hey it wasn't even lunch time yet.
We decided to stay for the next performance by Katsura Sunshine , a Rakugo performance.
Rakugo is a form of verbal storytelling which originates from Japan from the late 1700's and the Edo period .
Ragkugo is a art form as well as a form of entertainment, it's as much about etiquette while performing as the actual story telling .
The story teller sits normally dressed in a traditional kimono seated on a cushion centre stage , he may use small props like fans or handkerchiefs to add extra comical relief to the story.
Often the stories are inspired by the story tellers own real life experiences interwoven with more traditional stories.
Now the hardest thing to do is to make a audience laugh , comedy is a funny thing , one persons sense of humour can be different to another. Even more so when you take into consideration different cultures and languages.
What was special about this performance is Katsura Sunshine is a Rakugo performer trained in Japan , he is Slovenian and resides in Canada.
All I can say is from the moment he came on stage to the moment he left he had the audiences undivided attention, something hard to do when your just talking.
Did I laugh , yes I did and on more then one occasion , it was a constant experience of Japanese culture thrust into your minds in some of the most elaborate described ways. , you could visually see what was being quoted and Katsura Sunshine done this while staying in a kneeling position for forty five minutes.
If I was unsure about any performance at this years Hyper Japan Christmas show , it was this , but upon viewing I can say I could have listened to Katsura Sunshine for a while longer as his performance took hold and held me their like a strangle hold. Brilliant.
Afterwards we decided to stretch our legs and browse the stalls , the food stalls where busy with people filling up on noodles and Japanese delicacies.
We tried some Sake saw what trinkets where for sale at the show.
Though it's quite easy at these events to end up buying just for the sake of buying , often coming home with items and going , why , why did I buy that.
But I have learnt my lesson from past events and the fact I hate carrying stuff about. Especially when you have a bag full of camera equipment anyway.
Back to the auditorium and the live stage it was time for the Arabiki Hot Dog eating championship, held over three rounds and they had to coax a couple of extra entries from the audience as they where short.
Now here you had five minute rounds and eight contestants per round taking part to see who could eat the most in the allotted time .
Now these where Arabiki Hot Dogs in a bread bun , with as much water and ketchup you could muster.
I must admit it would take me more then five minutes to eat one let alone five or even fourteen as our top contestant managed.
I did get some close up shots at first but it's not the most elegant thing to be seen trying to shove as much food in your mouth as quick as you can.
There was one contestant who managed five in the time most had done two but you could see he was not swallowing ( yes they where all in his mouth ) , I turned to my colleague and said I think it's time for casualty for that one. H e was alright in the end and by the time he had swallowed the ones in his mouth he had been overtaken.
It was quite something to see and I guess the people taking part did not need to get lunch for the next three days.
Next up was the cosparade , now this was a cosparade for anybody who cared to enter , I don't know the details but Hyper Japan no longer host the ECG preliminaries competition or the WCS preliminaries due to them now being hosted by EGX and the WCS by MCM from 2016 , starting with their May 2016 show.
So this was just a parade of cosplayers who wanted to show of their costumes on stage , but still cosplay is popular whether it's a big flight competition or not and once again the auditorium was packed.
There where some good costumes from various anime and video game franchises.
We had entrants as characters from the likes of One Piece ,Final Fantasy 14 , Pokemon and Soul Eater.
The Xmas Vocaloid Girls also proved popular to .
Not a big cosplay selection but it provided another aspect for Hyper Japan which I hope they continue to highlight even though they no longer host the other competitions .
Back outside I visited the culture stage where a Shotokan Karate demonstration was going on.
I must admit I am a bit biased against some Shotokan , as I have seen it done properly in a very traditional style of hardcore training so I do find myself looking intensely at such performances.
Of course it's true that what you could get away in clubs in the 70's and 80's you can not quite do today , people just wont train till there black and blue , but I share the philosophy that if your going to do it , do it right.
Though of course each clubs repertoire within a style can vary also , so it's really down to the content of the syllabus as to what each student will learn. You can not learn something if your not being taught it.
The display was OK showing various blocks and strikes and forms . I found the forms maybe not as dynamic as they could be , I felt they needed that extra oomph , especially as your actually showcasing your art in front of a crowd.
The defence work by the higher grades was impressive and the crowd watching seem to be enjoying it.
The club was the Shotokan Karate London club.
Now was time for the big event of the day , JPOP act Lady Baby was about to come on the live stage so back into the auditorium and this was proving popular as it was so packed that people where on each other.
Lady Baby has taken Japan by storm and have become a global hit. This three piece act consisting of front man Ladybeard ( a former Australian Wrestler ) , Rei Kuromiya and Rie Kaneko , this fusion of JPOP and Metal Rock is quite the energetic force, , due to personal matters Rie Kaneko was unable to attend but Lady Beard and Rei Kuromiya performed their hearts out on stage.
Security was high on this one as the fans where in force and the kinetic energy from the performance just increased the fans excitement for the performance.
The glow sticks where out and reminiscent of the closing performance of Hyper Japan Festival at the O2 with Dempagumi Inc the press pit was full and keeping our heads out of the way of any glow sticks hands and other things.
The energy in the act was quite entertaining as the duo danced around the stage and half the audience seemed to know all the songs , it was like pure madness when they jumped of stage into the press pit to greet the fans as they sang,
What made it more of a event was the Birthday of Rei Kaneko on the Sunday where the fan club came on stage with a cake and presents and was met with a very emotional Rei .
Lady Baby was a energetic act which had Tobacco Dock rocking , and even though their style is quite a mix , it works in a very fun way where Kawaii meets the hard rock of metal .
It's a act you should not miss as it's a adrenaline fuelled ride of rock and pop with a cutesy touch.
But I still had one more thing I needed to see and that was back at the culture stage .
Returning to Hyper Japan was the British Shorinji Kenpo Federation, now this is the group headed by Sensei Mizuno who set up the federation after Shorinji Japan instructed all foreign clubs to close .
Thanks to Sensei Mizuno students can still train in the UK in this art which is inspired through it's teachings by Doshin So who founded the art after training at the Shaolin Temple.
Now I have seen the BSKF perform before and they give a good display of their art in a very structured and dynamic manner.
And this time was no exception, from basic technique , break falling, sparring and self defence. I find that each member goes all out to show their art to it's fullest.
And Sensei Rob always gives that bit extra to wow the crowds.
I was lucky to be one of their earlier performances at Hyper Japan where Sensei Mizuno performed a great staff form a couple years back.
I am always happy to see them perform.
For us that was it , it was time for us to leave and our days at Hyper Japan had been quite hectic. I must admit I was starting to feel it in my legs with all the crouching in the press pit and picture taking .
The venue was a nice change and added a cosier feel to the event , though being more or less outside , you need to wrap up warm.
I thank Hyper Japan and Cross Media for the press pass which I managed to get at the desk on the Friday.
If your into Japanese culture Hyper Japan has become a must go to event , it offers so much variation for everyone ..
Next up for Hyper Japan is the 2016 Hyper Japan Festival which is being hosted at the Grand Olympia in South Kensington in July 2016.
Till next year