Monday, 3 December 2012

#ESPspotlight Review - Part ONE: HYPER JAPAN 2012 Christmas Friday - Samurai Sword Masters KAMUI, Tomoyasu HOTEI!









First introduced to the phenomenon in their second show of 2011, HYPER JAPAN has been a year-long fascination of mine.

After visiting as an exhibitor for the first time this Februarysoaking up all aspects of Japanese Culture at it's very best, I decided that I absolutely had to get back in touch with the organisers this time around and sample the full experience from a spectator's point of view (with a little behind the scenes action where possible)...




So that's why hot on the heels of Press Officer Yukiko Takahashi's #FindOutFriday interview, I skedaddled across town to Brompton Hall, where the HYPER JAPAN 2012 Christmas doors, had opened with a BANG...

The festive greeting began on entry with a huge, sponsor-emblazoned banner announcing your surroundings. An alternative Winter Wonderland; if you didn't already know it was a 'Kawaii Christmas' by the snow and holly in a sea of pink, then the massively oversized 'Tony Tony Chopper' reindeer from the  game 'One Piece' taking pride of place instead of a pot-bellied Santa, made it clear that shopping locations and start menus were the only things to lap in this land...




Far too many stalls rife with every kind of unique beauty messed with my plan to get my bearings early on. I unintentionally wiled away the first few hours, only managing to tear myself from all things pretty when missing the first performance by Samurai Sword troupe KAMUI became a distinct possibility...



Samurai Sword Masters (Kengishu) KAMUI took you on a rollercoaster journey during their first ever London show.


Their introduction was full of fast-paced action and outright sword wizardry sometimes too quick for the naked eye to see. The foursome halved for the second act, when the dramatic storytelling became much easier to follow and you could really get lost in the visual chemistry.

The 1-on-1 battle between Kill Bill's 'Crazy 88' and his female opponent was emotional and gripping. There was a familiarity with the infamous film scene in the snow garden that played like a visual calling card for Quentin Tarantino's original fight choreographer; but overall it was the 'Student / Master' connection between the two, that kept your eyes glued to the stage and left you choked up at the end...





Perfectly paired, the contrast of comedy in the third act treated the audience to what could arguably be described as 'The Slapstick Set'. Sword shows and laughter are two ideas one would never have imagined could have been brought together beforehand, but boy would 'One' be proved wrong...A wonderful performance by all.

It was the combination of Masters KAMUI and the ultimate Rock Legend that is Tomoyasu Hotei though, that literally blew everyone away. Absolutely breathtaking, there is not a London event this year (yes that includes that 5-ringed event this Summer), that could compare with KAMUI'S display, accompanied by the original genius behind that potent guitar theme now synonymous with 'Kill Bill'.





The only thing that could have bettered a performance like that - and believe me, I didn't think it was possible - was speaking with the great Hotei San himself. Happy to spend time with a little unknown blogger, I was hardpressed to narrow my multitude of questions to the 5-minute window I was graciously given to speak with the Maestro, one-to-one. The personal shock and awe continued when the first question was posed to me!


Speaking of the performance with KAMUI: "They were behind me, I couldn't see, how was it?" After assuring him that the first time collaboration was most definitely a personal highlight that I would recall for quite some time to come; I did my best to find out more about Hotei San's transition from Japan to the UK over the last three months, for the purpose of creating his latest album, finished only the day before...


What's the biggest difference between making music here and in Japan?


"I'm really relaxed here...Tokyo is totally different - busy...everybody recognises me because I'm tall! I feel free here.

I like London...since I was a kid, I'm a big UK Rock'n'Roll fan, so this is one of my dreams, living here. Everybody asks me "Why here?" I love this town. There's no reason; I feel comfortable here!"



You made a huge announcement upstairs - two actually; that you just finished your new album yesterday, ahead of playing this one-off spectacular show at the Roundhouse on December 18th; what's the biggest difference that listeners can expect to hear, between your back catalogue so far and this latest body of work produced here?



"Me is 'Me'; but I'm enjoying my music more now than 20 years ago, because now I know how to play...finally! I just finished my record yesterday and I'm really ready for (the) stage now, as you saw from the show. I really like playing live. It's hard to tell about 'Hotei'; of course you know from some information...'he is big in Japan', but my guitar style is My style; I just want to show to somebody, so Roundhouse is my start."


Returning to the exhibition on a high, there wasn't much left of Day One. So after a little education in the art of visual kei - defined as 'visual music style with make up and elaborate costumes' - by Rock band Micro Head4ns and a tad more stall-browsing, it was time to head home and prepare for the Japanese equivalent of Super Saturday...



#StayTuned for the Next Instalment...

ES ;o)