For those of you that don’t know, Hyper Japan is a J-culture festival held in London annually. It has branched out in recent years and has a (much smaller) Christmas market version that kicks off in the holiday season. The main festival took place on the 14, 15 and 16 of July this year at Tobacco Docks in East London. I went along for the morning session on the 15.
There’s always a great mood at Hyper Japan and this year was no different. There are so many different reasons to go – some love anime, others gaming and some just love the food – but you can’t bring that many people with a love of Japanese culture under one roof without there being a buzz in the air. Lots of smiles and lots of very happy people make an event an instant success.
I’ve got to be honest though, I really didn’t feel like Tobacco Docks was the right venue for Hyper Japan. I went in with an open mind but my worries were quickly confirmed that the venue wasn’t right. It felt quite claustrophobic as most of the festival was split into different rooms with loads packed in them. Two years ago, it was held at the O2 in London and that felt way too big for the festival with open space everywhere so I can see why they’ve made the change but it didn’t work in my opinion. Last year’s venue, The Olympia in Kensington, was much more suitable and felt like the best one in recent years. Luckily it didn’t hugely detract from the fun of it, but I don’t think it was a good fit.
The gaming and anime section was, as it always is, excellent. This year though (mainly because of the games they were offering time with) it felt like the best year yet. I got my hands on Super Mario Odyssey, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, Pokken Tournament Deluxe and Monster Hunter Stories ahead of their UK release date. The games were all really great to play, the stewards at the booths were polite and helpful and the whole thing was well organised. As well as the upcoming releases that they like to showcase there was also the now expected section of retro gaming, with Dreamcasts, N64s and Wiis set up on the optimal screens for them to allow anyone a chance to relive their childhood.
The shopping at the event wasn’t as good as last year in my opinion but still great. Stall holders from budding artists to retro gaming stores set up shop to sell their wares and the quality ranged from good to great. I didn’t bag any games this year but did manage to pick up a really cute Pikachu glasses wipe from Eternal-S and some unbelievable small prints of Marvel superheroes and Nintendo characters from Killer Bunny – big shout out to these guys and hopefully they keep doing what they’re doing.
The less said about the live theatre sections the better I think. The quality was average at best and unfortunately this was clear from the poor attendance at these sessions. Hopefully this improves for next year because they can really be a highlight of the event if done well.
Another thing I just want to mention in passing is the food. As always the selection was unreal (shout out to Don Panko Katsu House for an mind blowing lunch) and the quality was stellar. If you have no interest in J-culture I would recommend buying a ticket to the festival next year if only for the food.