Locating itself in one of the Olympia London exhibition halls – just around the corner from where the BBC’s Good Food Show London was taking place – Hyper Japan Christmas Market 2014 saw the Olympia’s National Hall packed with a variety of food, drink, fashion, games and many other wonderful things for the paying public to enjoy. The event commenced on Friday 14th November 2014 at 2pm and ended 6pm on Sunday 16th November 2014.
Much like Hyper Japan’s earlier event which took place in late July this year at Earls Court exhibition halls, London, the experience was segmented into four sessions; one on Friday afternoon to late evening, a morning and afternoon session on the Saturday, and a whole day session on the Sunday. However, unlike the event earlier in the Summer, weekend tickets were not available for sale for the Christmas Market. The reason? According to Hyper Japan themselves, the main focus for this Christmas Market was more for the shopping experience and for gift opportunities, which was why there were not as many guests and performances in comparison to their Summer event. On top of this, the change in venue from Earls Court One to the Olympia’s National Hall meant that the venue was slightly smaller – even with the fact that stalls were situated on both upper and ground floors – which meant that the capacity for attendees was less for health and safety reasons. With these factors taken into consideration, Hyper Japan still managed to engineer their event so that attendees could take all of the magic of the different stalls, demonstrations and performances in a single session.
Our team from Renegade Revolution attended both the Saturday and the Sunday of the Hyper Japan Christmas Market. This article focuses on the Saturday afternoon/evening session. Do keep a lookout on our website for our writer MayDay’s report on the Sunday session.
The first thing I would like to say about the Saturday late session of the Hyper Japan Christmas Market was that it was incredibly busy. It did not take long at all for aisles to become packed with attendees riveted by what was available at the different stands and stalls. Over one hundred stalls were set up at the Olympia for the Christmas Market, each bringing a different variety of interest to the event. The main stage was situated at one end of the exhibition hall, whilst a smaller stage was located at the complete opposite end of the venue. There was also a small performance area stationed on the upper floor. These three stages were filled with a mixture of demonstrations, talks, cultural performances, martial arts and musical performances. The main stage was also used for Hyper Japan’s cosplay competitions, which saw a colourful variety of anime, manga, game and Lolitas fill the stage. And even if you missed the chance to catch the cosplayers and Japanese fashionistas on stage, there were plenty of them wandering around the event itself, giving people many photo opportunities as well as entertaining other attendees.
With regards to what was available at the three-day event, one could say that there was a bit of something for everybody. For those interested in media and merchandise, there were various stalls set up which had a selection of figurines, art books, DVDs, CDs and other assorted goods themed around popular anime, manga and Japanese celebrities. For the attendees more interested in fashion, there was a variety of stalls selling clothing; from dainty Gothic Lolita dresses and shoes to the more traditional kimonos and colourful tabi socks. Jewellery was also available to purchase – either for the attendees or as gifts for their friends loved ones. There were also stalls which offered a unique range of ceramics, kitchenware and edible delicacies, such as a selection of adorable macaroons from the Supercute Macarons and Patisserie stand. There was also an area set up by gaming giants, Capcom, for those attendees that just wanted to kick back and play some of the latest games with their friends, as well as a separate gaming area on the upper floor for other avid gamers. We at Renegade Revolution were pretty sure that many a Nintendo DS Streetpass was shared over the long weekend!
There was also a food court, with numerous stalls offering freshly-cooked dishes at reasonable prices, with a couple of stalls – such as the Eat Maguro table – giving demonstrations of how their food is specially prepared. Drinks and desserts were also available from this area, with the shaved ice deserts – kakigori – going down quite a treat with attendees. Much like Hyper Japan’s Summer event, there was a dedicated eating area where people could sit and enjoy their purchased food and drink. Due to an increasing popularity in sake shopping over the years, Hyper Japan’s Christmas Market included a sake shopping area, where attendees could sample the sake available from a selection of breweries before making their purchase. As well as this, there were a couple of other stalls scattered around the event which sold other Japanese alcoholic beverages, such as ume fruit liqueur and even Japanese whiskey. Unfortunately, it was around these stalls that our team from Renegade Revolution found some attendees to be both quite pushy and rude in their eagerness to get to the front of the sampling and buying desks. Whilst this wasn’t anything on Hyper Japan’s part, we felt it may have given other attendees less of a pleasant experience. A suggestion for future events would possibly include having a queuing system in place to avoid such experiences if a few full-grown adults are unable to conduct themselves in a civil manner (and if you were one of those aggressive attendees reading this right now, shame on you!).
As mentioned earlier in this article, due to the smaller venue, and the fact that the Hyper Japan Christmas Market is more for a shopping and gift experience, the number of guests attending was less than their Summer event. However, this did not mean that Hyper Japan cut back on the quality of their guests attending for the Christmas Market. Currently performing in London’s West End, SIRO-A made a comeback to Hyper Japan’s main stage in order to get things started with their high-energy digital performance. Musical performances were not scarce over the three-day event, with shows from Japanese fusion band NeM, the Tamashii Taiko Drumming group, Diana Garnet, Joe Inoue and even an appearance from this year’s Japanese idol, Koike Miyu. There were even performances from the more traditional side of Japanese culture with Hibiki Ichikawa, Akari Mochizuki and the Hiroko Tanaka Nihon Buyo dance school.
Initially, we were unsure about Hyper Japan’s decision to not issue weekend tickets to the public for their Christmas Market. However, after attending the Saturday late session, our team agree that this was, in fact, a really good decision from the Hyper Japan team. Attendees had enough time to check out all of the stalls and shops on both floors of the venue, do their shopping, have some food and watch some performances and demonstrations. This also allowed for more people to attend over the four separate sessions than they probably would have been able to accommodate for by issuing weekend passes. Overall, we all thoroughly enjoyed our time spent at the Hyper Japan Christmas Market and would recommend people to check out their events in the future. The atmosphere was overall quite pleasant and we all felt that we had learned new things about Japanese culture. None of our crew that attended that weekend went home empty-handed and we are pretty sure that if we had more money to hand, we would have spent that there as there were just too many wonderful things to purchase at the Christmas Market. Our only tip for the event would be to make sure you take out enough cash before turning up to the event as our writer, Amy, went missing for over an hour when she needed to grab more cash out of one of the cash machines. Yes, the queue for the two machines was really that long!
Hyper Japan’s Christmas Market will return on the 27th to 29th November 2015 at the London Tobacco Dock. If you feel you can’t wait that long, the Hyper Japan HYPER FESTIVAL will be taking place July 2015 – we’re not sure about any more details just yet but will definitely let people know via our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/RevolutionGeeks) as soon as we know more.
Photos © Jojo Yap and Scott Sanderson.
Hyper Japan banner © Hyper Japan.