Sunday, 18 August 2013


Bang, Whoosh, BLUR.

That, effectively sums up my most recent Hyper Japan experience. London's biggest J-Culture event returned to Earls Court two weekends ago, with promises of being bigger and better than ever before.

Pigtails were required for Day One's 'Preppy' ensemble theme...
The extremely hardworking team made good on the first, moving the expo from it's home to date - Earls Court One to its larger sibling next door. Unfortunately, the basic lay of the land is exactly what prevented the second from coming to pass

Keeping a keen eye on the event's Facebook Page whilst en route; I was surprised and concerned to see some negative comments from visitors, complaining of disorganised queue management. On arrival at Earls Court Two, I got a glimpse of exactly what those complaints referred to, as upset (and understandably angry) attendees began leaving the extremely long lines they had no hope of reaching the front of before closing. Thankfully, a press pass does a girl good, sparing me the same fate.

My third visit to Hyper Japan, I've been looking forward to immersing myself in a culture that has completely captivated me, since my first encounter over the eighteen plus months ago. One of the rare times I run the risk of forgetting my vocation, part of the allure was stepping through doors to another world, that plays Wonderland to my Alice. The previous productions were instantly electric; they had an all-encompassing vivacity that you couldn't help but be swept away by. When the 'magic' didn't happen on that first day, I put it down to my disorientation in the new surroundings. Dismissing the feeling immediately, I rallied for my usual favourite part of the 3-day event - the live shows. Seeing Australian-born Sayuki and her Geishas perform on the main stage, meant cutting across the huge misuse of space, separating the exhibition stands by partition - only to find myself in a second, identical expanse on the other side.

Instead of excitement for what I was there to see, I was distracted by the more immediate confusion of why the audience surrounding the tight stage were so tightly roped in that they were overflowing? That thought was followed by why so little seating, or even standing room, was provided, when the room was obviously available to accommodate the extra bodies? I would soon learn that these were common complaints throughout the long weekend, which would be the cause of much animosity between visitors and external press, even causing a borderline altercation at one point. Almost fighting through the throng myself; I learned too late that no press area had been designated this time around, and scooching beneath the barrier to sit on the floor at the front of the stage, was no longer accepted - the space was now reserved for the event's official press only, to utilise. After being moved twice, I managed to find a temporary home for long enough to take in what remained of the Geishas' performances.

Even more fascinating, was the story of how someone from 'Down Under', managed to gain access into a 400-year-old culture that is still a mystery to the Western world, even to this very day. Deciding to continue the lifestyle after studying with the Asakusa Geisha Association for a year; Sayuki - who graduated in Anthropology from Oxford - was conducting research for a documentary, when she asked the Association for permission to remain within their trusted fold, and explore the esoteric way of life. Extending her studies and training for an additional four years; she decided to set up shop on her own, opening her own Geisha school to train others, and prevent the skilful and talented artform from dying out completely.

The fruits of her labours were evident in the ladies she travelled and performed with. Dressed in beautiful kimonos, each performed traditional songs and dances to Sayuki's yokobue (Japanese flute) accompaniment. Wonderfully engaging, I made an immediate decision to catch at least one more of their daily performances, so I could give their full story the respectful attention it deserved.

Sayuki (far right) accompanied the Geisha dancers throughout

Once finished, getting my bearings and learning where all the zones were located before closing seemed like a good idea, so off I set in discovery. Chancing across the Japan Centre filled with goodies had that 'kid in a sweet shop' effect on me; and there I stayed, sampling *ahem* snapping...away, until the speakers announced the doors would shortly close, marking the end of Day One...

For more photos from Day One, including the performance by Sayuki and the Geishas, visit the event photo album on the ESP Facebook Page.

The second instalment is coming up - Stay Tuned!
ES ;)