Thursday, 22 August 2013


My second day at London's biggest J-Culture expo began with the Tokyo Fashion Story on the mainstage. Not performing this year, I did run into the lovely Beckii Cruel en route, a sure fire sign that when all was said and done, I was definitely in my favourite Japanese Wonderland. Back to the stage, where a runway show made up of entrants modelling their own styles of expression was underway; J-Pop star Yun*chi was invited to select her favourite from the bunch, before also crowning a 'Best Dressed' young audience member.

Her performance set followed, during which the pretty young starlet entertained a captive audience with a big dose of high energy Pop, tailor-made to crossover to (and chart well in), the UK market (I didn't understand a word, but I just can't get her catchy tunes out of my head). Whilst her Tokyo Fashion Story fans danced excitedly alongside the stage throughout, my personal favourite moment came in the shape of International track 'Waon' - a true Benetton meets World Peace, meets a 'We Are The World' moment for teen girls all over the globe.

J-pop star, Yun*chi
Yun*chi sang against a video backdrop of young girls who had submitted their favourite words for the project, the most popular of which were used to create a special fan collaboration with the idol. The moment in itself, was as empowering as the message of strength and beauty in every shape, race, and nationality that it promoted. So touching and genuine; the effort made by the singer and her backing singers from 27+ Countries wasn't even dimmed by the out of sync video playback throughout the song's duration. Disserviced, yes, but not dimmed.

Leg-stretching time, and my fave photog friend, Allie Suwanrumpha and I, decided refreshments were most definitely in order. Agreeing that it was only 'before noon' outside of the exhibition centre - thus making the Japanese Bar and Tea Station a completely acceptable breakpoint - off we set to whet our whistles. Adult thirst quenched, we headed to interview Yun*chi in the press room. No warning could have prepared us for what we both christened the funniest moment of the entire weekend - the outer door opening to reveal a sequin-covered rear-end, clad in a white catsuit, backing out of the room on all fours...Y'know; the usual sort of thing any unsuspecting visitor should expect to see! It turned out that the rear in question belonged to a member of visual arts group, SIRO-A, who had just finished their first of two daily press calls, in a headpiece too tall to be navigated from a standing position! The sight can't be described in words; I did capture the tail-end of the moment for you, but you'll have to head on over to the event's photo album at the end to see it!

Yun*chi's interview was a joint affair, with representatives from tabloid newspapers, Northern radio stations, and more in attendance. Friendly, open, and even cuter offstage than on, the J-Pop princess gave us all an endearing interview...

On a high from the encounter, but with no time to dwell; we headed back to the mainstage for a quick masterclass on cooking Japanese Curry with Chef Yuya Kickuchi. Not quite as entertaining as Chef Ikeda at the previous event; it would have been lovely to hear some engaging, anecdotal chatter, as we did from William Curley last year. This time around however, it was all business, which was unfortunate, as it gave the masterclass a distinctive rushed feel, seemingly through no fault of the chef's.

Not remotely comfortable, but in a perfect shooting position, it would have been crazy to let our spots go before the weekend highlight that almost all had been waiting for. The Cosplay Parade was up first; immediately followed by the European Cosplay Gathering and World Cosplay Summit. The sheer variety of styles and creativity was amazing. Mainly based on computer games, Anime and sci-fi/horror characters; the authenticity of the former two lost on the least interested gamer in all the wide world. I do know what I like though, and I know what catches my eye. Some of the costumes were absolutely awe-inspiring, and put a few lackadaisical, uninspiring repeaters to shame. Special kudos has to go to one aspiring entrant in a costume so elaborate, that he had to be helped onstage by staff. Unfortunately for him, as soon as they let go, the poor thing toppled over, and his Humpty-Dumptied costume went in too many directions to mention. Thankfully, the very kind HJ staff not only helped him back onto his feet and put his missing pieces back together again, but allowed him a second, winning go at the end of the lineup.

Alien-Looking Lobster Dude deserved his win!
Sayuki Geisha returned for her next Q&A session and performance next. The opportunity to catch up on the first half did not go to waste, although I was quite irritated by a silly woman (in age, girl in behaviour), who used the opportunity to try to embarrass Sayuki with a vastly inappropriate question. Our press appointment with visual artists SIRO-A meant we did not get to see how the incident played out, but I was quite disgusted on Sayuki's behalf.

Back in the press room, SIRO-A were a charming and hilarious 'Jack The Lad' bunch; these guys were definitely my favourite interview of the weekend, with many a joke off camera! Find a snippet here:

Cosplay Winner announcements at the mainstage were next, where we learned that most of the award recipients had gone home, much to my chagrin. Maybe it's just me; but unless you have a young entrant who needs to get home for bedtime - awards segments are usually the last mainstage event of the day - then I fail to understand why anyone would even bother to enter the competitions, if they don't intend to stay for the judge's decisions? For one thing, I find it highly unfair to those who obviously took the event more seriously by waiting, only to lose out to people who do not. By small consolation, a few of my favourites fared well, and are now busy preparing to go and represent our little Isle at both the European and Global show equivalents.

With only a matter of minutes before closing; I had just enough time to go and fawn over the Japanese Auto Extravaganza cars. A new addition to this year's floorshow; the three vehicles were supplied as tasters of what visitors to next month's auto carshow in Kettering can expect. Completely in love with this little orange number from the moment I laid eyes on it, I found it quite the beautiful distraction. A dribble away from being physically removed by a surly security guard, I took his subtle hint, and surrendered to the overnight separation, as the doors closed on Day Two...

Don't forget to check out the Day Two photo album on the ESP Facebook Page for visuals from performances and all of the Cosplay events.

The third and final instalment is on the way, so Stay Tuned!

ES ;)