Review: Hyper Japan Festival @ Olympia ( London, 15th-17th July 2016)

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The tenth edition of the Hyper Japan Festival, “the UK’s biggest J-Culture Event”, organised by Cross Media Ltd., took place from Friday 15th to Sunday 17th July at the Olympia exhibition centre in West Kensington, London.

Alongside gaming stations, craft classes and one of Europe’s largest public sake-tasting events (which required a special ticket) a number of musicians and performers alternated on the main stage and the more intimate Hyper Theatre stage. Each performance lasted 45 minutes and some of them were repeated throughout the weekend, allowing everyone with a ticket to see as much as possible.

Every act was Japanese, apart from Lightning, a Réunion-born visual-kei guitarist, whose debut album came out last year under Kirakira Records, making him the first artist from Reunion to sign with a Japanese record label. He was also one of the few rock musicians at the festival together with Esprit D’Air and the pop-punk band Broken Doll. The majority played pop in all its forms, from sweet ballads to classic J-pop to a mix of rap and electro-pop as in the case of the duo Charisma.com.

Takaaki Konno sung anime covers, Azumi Inoue performed the songs of Studio Ghibli films and straight from the animation world, virtual singers IA and Franco-Japanese ALYS also made an appearance at this season Hyper Japan.

Most of the music, activities and stands certainly catered to an anime-loving audience as well as those interested in manga, videogames, cosplay and other Japanese youth subcultures.

However, a space was reserved for Japanese traditional arts too, and it is worth mentioning what was perhaps the best performance of the festival, the folk music showcase by Akari Mochizuki and Hibiki Ichikawa, the only professional tsugaru shamisen player in the UK. On Sunday, the SOAS Min’yo group also played more enchanting traditional folk songs.

Hyper Japan presents itself as the biggest Japanese culture festival in the UK but it only display one side of it. It would be interesting to see a more diverse music offering in future editions though of course, this may not be the goal.




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