Hyper Japan is billed as the UK’s biggest J-culture event and I’m certainly not going to disagree with that. It’s on for three days (today, Sunday 28th July is the final day) at Earl’s Court 2. I went along on Friday to see what all the fuss is about.
Hyper Japan covers a massive range – food, cosplay, gaming, cars, geisha, theatre (including the mesmerising Siro-A who I saw back in the spring), ceramics, soft toys – the list is endless. It’s impossible for me to tell you about everything I saw there, so I’ve decided to go to the opposite extreme, and just concentrate on a few things that really took my attention.
I find cosplay fascinating, but I covered it when I went to the last Hyper Japan back in November, so I’m going to limit myself to one picture here. This heavily-armed girl is dressed as Sanada Yukimura (Scorpio) from the anime/video game Sengoku Basara (Devil Kings).
There were plenty of stalls selling food to go and tables full of people tucking into it, but for my food picture I chose this one – a sushi start pack from Yutaka, which appealed to me for its practicality and its popularity – they were selling like hot cakes. (What an inappropriate metaphor that is!)
And I felt these models on the Daisuki stand really summed up what kawaii (sweet, cute loveable) is all about. This is Madoka Kaname, the main character from Puella Magi Madoka Magica with the magical creature Kyubey.
But the stand where I spent most of my time, and what the rest of this post is going to be about, was the geisha house.
I’m a bit ambivalent about geisha. On the one hand I find it irritating when British people assume that geisha are what Japan is all about, when they’re about as relevant to modern Japan as Beefeaters are to England. On the other – okay, I admit it, there is something fascinating about their beauty and charm, their talents as gei-sha (literally meaning art-people, entertainers who can sing, dance, play games and make conversation) and above all their elegant kimono’s and unique style.
This geisha house was set up by Sayuki (real name Fiona Graham), an Australian who grew up in Japan and studied at Keio University before doing an MBA at Oxford and becoming a social anthropologist. She became a geisha in 2007 and now seems bent on single-handedly rescuing the profession from extinction, lecturing, writing and producing documentaries while running a geisha house.
The geisha house at Hyper Japan gave us a taste of their lives, from dressing and making up:
To music (Sayuki is an expert on the Japanese flute):
To dancing (there were daily stage shows at the event):
To entertaining the lucky winners of a lottery to take part in a geisha banquet:
Hyper Japan is a regular London event, so, if you’re interested, look out for the next one.