Hyper Japan – the largest Japanese festival in the UK returned to London after a three-year break on the 22nd to 24th July. While the last couple of Hyper Japan events were held in Olympia, Evolution in Battersea Park was picked as the new venue site for the summer edition of 2022. And despite the venue moving to a new location that took a bit of a walk from the nearest Tube station, Hyper Japan was just as busy as ever with several sessions completely selling out. We’re not actually sure if there will be another winter edition like in previous years but we certainly can dream that there will be!
For those who don’t know Hyper Japan, its goal has always been to introduce and celebrate the diversity of contemporary Japanese culture. This includes Japanese anime and manga, music, gaming and all the latest trends in food and drink. Hyper Japan also has plenty of booths that showcase traditional crafts, Japanese technology and what you can expect when travelling in Japan. On top of the extensive line-up of exhibitors, attendees could enjoy live performances and shows on two main stages, as well as getting the chance to participate in workshops. In this article, we’ll be going through what we experienced on the days we joined Hyper Japan 2022.
Venue for Hyper Japan 2022
Since the venue was in the middle of Battersea Park, you may have got the sense you were in the wrong place seeing all the joggers and dog walkers as you entered the park. Having said that you started noticing a stream of people that looked like they were going to Hyper Japan, and as you got closer to the venue this stream grew in size until you turned a corner and saw a massive line of attendees all waiting to get in. It was great to see so many people were dressed up and in cosplay, and the excitement grew when you saw all the food stalls by the outdoor stage.
The venue building itself was huge, and once you got inside, you could see all the main exhibitors right after the entrance hall. Then there must have been a hundred market stalls towards the back of the main arena and a fringe market area in a separate room at the back. Hyper Japan also had two stages – as mentioned there was one outdoor stage by all the food and drinks stalls and then one tucked away to the right side of the main arena. You also could walk up to the first floor which had a large central space for the sake shop, a roped off area for the sake experience and the workshop area on the opposite area.
One focal point of Hyper Japan 2022 was definitely the 3 cherry blossom trees in the middle of the main hall which became a popular background for taking photos in cosplay. You could also spot Hello Kitty hanging out in this area during Day 2 and 3.
Another focal area was undoubtedly the Karaoke area set up to the right of the main entrance. On all 3 days visitors got to sing their favourite song for free on machines set up by Karaoke Epoc. As all attendees could see you and hear you, this was perhaps one for the more brave souls. If Karaoke is something you’d like to try but you prefer less people watching you, we recommend Epoc in Soho as their store has plenty of private karaoke booths.
Hyper Japan 2022 Performances
With two stages and performances throughout each day and concerts on Friday and Saturday night, this was the most collective and diverse performer schedule we’ve ever seen in the UK! There was live music from popular Japanese singers, exhibits of traditional Japanese instruments and folk songs, martial arts performances, as well as cooking demonstrations and fashion shows. While there was much to see (often happening simultaneously), here were 4 highlights for us:
Samurai Artist Kamui
Kamui are a troupe of Samurai artists who merge the beauty of form and martial arts while story telling. Their leader Shimaguchi is perhaps most well-known for choreographing the sword-fighting scenes in Quentin Taratino’s movie Kill Bill Vol.1, however by saying this perhaps would set the wrong expectations. Yes the movements and sword-handling is precise, but when you watch Kamui you are appreciating the way of the Samurai. It’s about spirit and Japanese culture as much as technique and swordplay.
Sōsuishi-ryū is a classical Japanese martial art from present-day Fukuoka & Oita prefectures, and includes both Kumiuchi (unarmed combat), Koshi no mawari and Kodachi kumiuchi (swordsmanship). At the main stage, we were treated to a full performance with commentary by Stephen Delaney explaining the moves and techniques we were witnessing. Possibly the most intriguing was when Stephen demonstrated that you can master your peripheral vision and even while looking forward can identify things at 90 degree angles.
Hibiki Ichikawa, Akari Mochizuki & the Shamisen Players
If you follow our Instagram account, you’ll already know Akari Mochizuki and the Shamisen players as they are often playing at Japanese events and festivals across London. At Hyper Japan, they were performing with the master Hibiki Ichikawa who together with Akari Mochizuki form “The Japanese Folk Duo”. Personally, it’s always a pleasure to hear them play. Akari does a great job of introducing the pieces and singing at least one traditional folk song. It’s nice to see some fusion too with some pieces with a guitar accompanying the Shaminsen.
Cosplay Show for Hyper Japan 2022
A big draw for Hyper Japan is without hesitation the Cosplay show and the Cosplay contest. Here you have all the Contest finalists on stage. Can you guess who the winners were for Hyper Japan 2022? We’ll be sure to add photos soon.
If you are looking to relive or see some of scenes from the festival, check out our round up of Day 2 & Day 3 here:
Another video worth checking out is from Travelase Ch who created a short 2 min video covering the Hyper Japan venue and several Cosplay contestants. It’s already picked up over 9K views and it’s interesting to get a pulse on how Hyper Japan 2022 is seen from a Japanese point of view:
Fashion & Kawaii
Hyper Japan has always been a festival where you can find super cute character goods and plushies and this year was no exception. Here we’ll give a quick rundown of the main stores – Artbox and Tofu Cute, and go through the other booths and market stalls that made an impact on us like Grumpy Bunny, Kimono Pret a Porter and Cute Fuzzballs.
This is where you can find all the cute authentic characters goods from Japan! Rilakkuma, Pusheen or Cinnamoroll are just a few of the plushies on display, but they had stationary and homeware items at the stand too. Artbox’s regular store is a few minutes walk from Convent Garden and they also have their character themed Artbox cafe in Brighton.
Do you need a more Kawaii Lifestyle? Tofu Cute’s range of Plushies at their stand included super cute characters from Amuse Japan like Alpacasso, Poteusa Loppy, and Namakemono Sloth. Their main store is in Portsmouth, but they also have a concession at Artbox in Convent Garden. Aside from plushies they sell a massive selection of Japanese candies and snacks!
Fuzzballs is the super kawaii brand that you’ve probably come across in some form on social media or perhaps through their LINE stickers! Whisky is the adorable cat Fuzzball while Ollie is the mischevious bunny. You may spot Timmy the tiger too. At Hyper Japan there were some memorable Fuzzball T-shirts on display alongside Tote bags, mugs and badges.
Something really draws your eye to the artwork and designs at Darling Aslan’s stand. We spotted a lot of pastel pieces with colourful insect and cute character designs. Darling Aslan are inspired by Japanese street fashion and had anime and fan art on display too. Their pride and pronouns pins definitely stood out as well – have a look at their Instagram to check these out!
Pink was the predominant colour of the Grumpy Bunny stall in striking contrast to everything around it! Grumpy Bunny is an import shop aiming to bring the Harajuku fashion scene to the west. They specialise in authentic Japanese brands like Sanrio, Studio Ghibli and ACDC Rag. Unlike some of what you find online, here you know what you are buying is genuine and they have special collabs with Harajuku brands too.
Wearing a Kimono is not easy and it takes a certain amount of knowledge to put it on correctly. At Hyper Japan, we found one store that introduced “Chiaki Wandafuku” kimonos which allows anyone to wear one without being a Kimono expert. They come in 3 or 4 parts and while they are not 100% traditional (you’ll use some velcro to attach some pieces), the end result is beautiful and achievable in five minutes. Along with selling the Chiaki Wandafuku Kimonos, you could also rent them for 2 hours or the whole day.
One unexpected stall to come across at HyperJapan was Fuyu with their large collection of cosmetic and skincare items. If you’ve lived in Japan you’ll recognise many of these popular brand and items. Along with Biore face wash, they had face care masks and eye care. On the cosmetic side there was eye makeup and lipstick – some of which was getting sold at 50% off! As they’re still building out their website, check out their Instagram if you’re looking to see what they have in stock online.
Food and Drink
There was a lot of fantastic food and drink to sample and buy at Hyper Japan. While we did get to try Kanazawa Curry bread and the S&B Curry samples, we unfortunately missed out on Peko Peko’s Takoyaki. Perhap something to head for first next time round! Here we go through what we did try – Sake samples from MIO Sparkling, Ozeki and Sasanokawa.
Probably one of the most visited stands was the MIO Sparkling Sake station in the centre of the venue by the cherry blossom trees. They were offering free sake samples to passers by who were happy to try out the refreshing, sweet, and easy to drink sake. It was noticeable that MIO became the go stand for people wanting to try sake for the first time and we only heard positive things from those who did. We also discovered that they don’t use any sugar or sweetener to make the sake and this sweetness comes from their fermentation process.
Sake Shop – Kayashima
One of the big draws of Hyper Japan was the Sake Experience where you got to try out several sakes from 8 well-know breweries. There was also a Sake Shop on the Mezzanine Floor that allowed you to buy sake from all of the breweries. These included the Nishinoseki Classic pictured here produced by Kayashima as well as Nigorizake from Gekkeikan and Shirakabegura’s Junmai Daiginjo. Incidentally Nishinoseki means “champion of the west” and is Kayashima’s signature sake.
In Japan, Ozeki is possibly synoymous with it’s “One Cup” Sake botle which you can buy from almost all conveninence stores and supermarkets. Ozeki also established its presence in California in the US in 1979, and while they produce Junmai, Honjozo and Daijingo sakes, perhaps the most remarkable are their Nigori Cloudy Sakes. These are sweet and often served as a “desert wine” or instead of cocktails. We tried out both of their free samples and the Strawberry was our favourite. It was refreshingly sweet but has no artifical flavouring and the strawberries they use to make it are picked locally in California.
In Japan, the curry bread you can eat at places like Coco Ichiban become such a trend, that some customers starting visiting restaurants only for the curry bread. You can find Japanese style curry bread at several Japanese bakeries in London, however Kanazawa Curry Bread is potentially the only place that uses the typical deep-frying method as a pose to baking their dough. The result? You get a crispy breadcrumb and sesame seasoned coating before getting to the rich curry filling inside!
Hopefully if you live in London you know Japan Centre by now? They’ve been providing authentic Japanese groceries for over 40 years and have a flagship store just off Leicester Square along with stores in both Westfields. The Leicester Square store has had a revamp in the last year, and there are more lifestyle goods along with an extensive selection of Japanese food and drinks. At Hyper Japan, it looked like their Japanese snacks and drinks were in demand. We had to take advantage of their fire sale of Ramune too! How can you not when it was only 50p a bottle?
Probably one of the most serendipitous events ever was bumping into a friend working at the S&B Golden Curry stand! Apart from this, I feel little introduction is needed – it’s unlikely that you haven’t eaten S&B’s products. Not only do the make Golden Curry but they manufacture the Torokeru curry line too (green packaging for the medium hot version). At the S&B stall, you could pick up exclusive pin badges and for those who joined the cooking demonstration, you were able to sample some of their curry! There were also some additional tips for cooking Japanese curry which we’ll be adding here soon!
The Chulo Drinks stand was probably one of the only stands that continously had a steady crowd waiting around it looking to try samples all weekend! If you’ve seen Chuhai’s before you may think there is a similarity and you wouldn’t be wrong. Chulo was inspired by Chuhai, however they are non-alcoholic versions that have kept the sour soda taste. We didn’t actually get a chance to try these but curious and looking forward to getting a chance to drink these low-sugar fizzy sensations next time!
Sake Experience – Sasanokawa
Having spent 3 years living in Fukushima and with family still living there, it comes as no surprise that I’m always draw to any Fukushima products straight off the bat. Out of the 8 sake breweries present, there were two from Tohoku – Urakasumi from Miyagi and Sasanokawa from Fukushima. Both were founded over 300 years ago and honestly Urakasumi may be more well known. Having said that my focus here is with Sasanokawa. They use locally grown rice to create high quality sake that can be drank alone or that pairs well with seasonal foods. Our favourite was Ichi (pictured on the left side). This is a summer sake with a super dry taste best enjoyed on the rocks. As the ice melts, the 19% alcohol content drops and releases further aroma and sweetess. We took a video of a more detailed explanation which we will be uploading soon.
Game, Anime & Manga at Hyper Japan 2022
There were many stores and stalls dedicated to Manga, Anime and Games at Hyper Japan. Some like Otaku.co.uk had a grand selection of Japanese Anime artbooks and game soundtracks, while others like Killer Bunny and Edward Welch were selling their own Japanese culture inspired artwork.
The artwork of Edward Welch definitely stood out for us in the fringe exhibition area. This was no easy feat with the whole fringe area full of beautiful artwork and handmade crafts. What caught our attention were his A5 prints of Japanese Yokai and small booklets explaining a variety Yokai in English. The illustrations of the Japanese spirits and supernatural creatures include the most well known ones such as Kuchisake Onna, Yuki-Onna and Kappa. Aside from Yokai prints, Edward also creates a manga series on his website and has completed several manga books such as Binding Bride made for MCM Comic Con.
Back inside the main exhibitor market area, the Otaku.co.uk stand were busy selling Anime artbooks and Game artbooks. Collectors and connoiseurs were clearly enjoying searching through their wide collection of Anime, Ghibli Music, and Game Soundtrack CDs. Aside from the media on display, Otaku.co.uk had several huge Totoro plushies and Ghibli collectables at their store. Check out their website too if you are looking for books on Japanese arts and culture like Washi, Tea Ceremony and Netsuke.
Jeff Michalik’s pop culture inspired artwork and lifestyle goods were a hit with many. Personally loved these vivid watercolour splatter art prints with a Ghibli focus. Jeff was kind enough to explain his techniques which include traditional watercolours, acrylics, inks and digital work. Aside from the prints, there were tote bags and pillow cases. If like the look of what you see, head over to his site as you can also buy mugs, drink mats and t-shirts.
Traditional & Culture
Hyper Japan probably has a strong image of cosplay and anime lovers and that wouldn’t be wrong. Having said that there were plenty of exhibitors and marketplace stands with traditional lifestyle goods and literature on display.
Haruki Murakami fans must have been pleased to get the chance to see and purchase these new designs ahead of the official release! Takeshi Miyasaka took on the design for Norweigan Wood and was careful to create a scene of a 1960s Japanese alleyway. Meanwhile Kyoko Nakamura created the dreamy and colourful image for the new Kafka on the Shore design. Then Heisuke Kitazawa took on the brief for The Wind-up Bird Chronicle illustration and came through with floating feathers above a landscape of houses and playful cats. All three have new introductions from Murakami himself and would make a perfect gift for those into the Murakami book series. You can now find them on sale on the Vintage site.
One article that we’ve been planning to write is about Doki and their fantastic range of Japanese tableware. Their store is located in Harrow and while they take online orders, it’s super convenient that they had a stall at Hyper Japan. In our eyes, Doki have the largest range of authentic Japanese pottery and ceramics imported directly from Japan. You have everything from cute ricebowl designs and chopsticks to beautiful seasonally inspired dishes. Possibly the best thing about it is the prices – as they sell directly to restaurants and retail shops across the UK, you’re able to get many of these items at wholesale prices!
Lacquerware is perhaps one of Japan’s most well-loved crafts. The immediate shine and glossy surface of the bowls, trays and utensils are simply a joy to behold. Eating with these lacquerware items elevates any meal, especially when you know that each piece has been specially created by artisans using techniques passed down over mutiple generations. Kawatsura Laquerware is crafted in a small village in Akita prefecture in the north of Japan. A special characteristic of their lacquerware is they use a Hananuri style which allows the glossy luster to gain in beauty over time. At Hyper Japan, not only could you buy their lacquerware but Kawatsura artisans demonstrated how to apply gold leaf to pieces and created personalized tableware for customers.
Tenugui are typically Japanese woven cotton clothes that are dyed by hand and were traditionally used to wipe your hands such as the Western stlye handkerchief. Nowadays, they’re often used for a multitude of functions such as wrapping bento lunchboxes or gifts, table covers, stylish wall hangings or handkerchiefs. Nijiyura tengui are slightly different – the main factory is in Osaka and their technique is to pour dye directly over large sheets of cloth to make the dyeing process more efficient. It’s great to see the variety of designs they had available and couldn’t help thinking they would make a perfect present for a friend or even a Mother’s Day gift.
Although travel to Japan is difficult right now, it doesn’t hurt to start planning out your next trip. At Hyper Japan, Tokyo Tokyo, JLGC Clair London, JR East and the National Parks of Japan all had booths to help you decide where to spend your time and how to travel around when you arrive in Japan!
Japan Rail is split into 7 colour coded groups including JR East (Green) which services Kanto and Tohoku. If you’re flying into Narita airport, you’ll be taking the Hitachi Express which is run by JR East as are all the Shinkansen bullet trains operated north of Tokyo on Honshu island. Their booth made a point highlighting the 150 years of railway cooperation between the UK and Japan (the first passenger railway in Japan opened in 1872 with steam locomotives imported from Great Britain). While their team in the booth were giving advice on how to travel in Japan, their digital vending machine was also a big hit at Hyper Japan.
Here you can see the food and drinks available. Not only did you have bottled water, Coca Cola and Fanta, but you could also get Costa Coffee, Red Bull and Ribena. On the food side, there were Walkers, McCoy’s and Reggae Reggae crips plus chocolate bars like Twix and Snickers. We can disclose that when the queues were getting long at the food stalls outside, quite a few Hyper Japan staff and media team took advantage of the snacks and drinks available at this machine.
JR East also have several vending machines currently operating in 4 locations in London and in the north of the UK. We’re looking to gain some more information on these locations and will be updating here when we know more.
How many of those who travel to Japan head for Tokyo and Osaka on their first trip along with shrine and temple hopping in Kyoto? There are some who head to climb Fuji in the summer and visit Nikko for the autumn leaves for sure but Japan has much more to offer in terms of beautiful natural environments. The National Parks of Japan booth this year not only demonstrated this through photos and videos but had an immersive VR headset tour for Hyper Japan attendees!
The tour started in northern Hokkaido where you got 360 views of the magnificent mountain landscapes before moving south through Honshu and Kyushu before ending up in Okinawa. We liked the idea of part of the tour having you situated on a kayak and a later section taken from high above Keramashoto National Park. While it did take a 5 to 10 minute wait before you could get access to a headset, we felt it was totally worth it.
The Japan Local Government Centre aims to support the international efforts of local governments in Japan in various ways including the JET Programme and multiculturalism. At Hyper Japan, their booth promoted the best of Japan’s regional treasures. Possibly it might have been the most inclusive Japanese tourist information office we’ve ever seen with QR codes links to every single local tourism board. They also had lovely brochures from each region including favourites like Kyoto but also Aichi Prefecture and Nagoya! Again quite biased having lived 15 years in Nagoya City. In any case JLGC did a great job helping potential tourists on what to include on their itineraries and which season was best to visit Japan.
Meanwhile the booth of Tokyo Tokyo was of course focused on Tokyo and what you can discover when you visit. Tokyo Tokyo believe you’ll never be able to experience the same Tokyo twice as the city is always changing, and want to show all travellers both the traditional and modern side of the city. Apart from this Tokyo Tokyo also have the official Tourism account for Tokyo on Instagram and is a good place to look for inspiration for your next trip! At Hyper Japan, you had the chance to enter their prize draw giveaway where the winner could walk away with the Tokyo Architecture Lego set, and runners up could get free Lonely Planet guidebooks of Tokyo!
We hope that this has been helpful! Finally if you are looking for information on this year’s event, please check out our Hyper Japan 2023 page, or the official Hyper Japan homepage.