The first thing I’ll say about Hyper Japan is that I may have spent a little too much money. The second thing I’ll say about Hyper Japan is that EternityLivesForever and I had an absolutely amazing time and would do it again in a heartbeat.
In this review, I’ll be giving a runthrough of our day, some information about the things we could have done but didn’t and a final word on my overall opinions of what was good and what could be improved.
So we started the day – plainclothed *sob* – trying to get to Tobacco Dock, where the event is held, which, as it turned out, wasn’t the easiest of tasks when your train into London gets delayed and you’re not entirely sure where you’re meant to be going. However, as with every other event we’ve been to, as we got closer more and more people who were obvious also going to Hyper Japan began to appear – whether in
cosplay, fashion like Lolita, or just general geekery (like a Yuri On Ice Shirt, who? Me?).
Helpfully Hyper Japan had also put up some direction signs from the nearest London Overground Stations, and Tobacco Dock itself has it’s name emblazoned in huge letters on the side of the building, as well as having Hyper Japan poster boards outside the entryway.
These entrance and directional posters did seem to be the largest extent of signage to do with the event, however, as when we got inside the signs became suddenly very vague, very small, or non-existent.
EternityLivesForever and I had standard tickets and arrived at 8:50am, so we queued for about 9 minutes before the line stared to move, but when it did move, boy did it move! There was none of this move a little (three steps or so) then pause, move a little (maybe five steps this time) then pause, move a little (back to three) and you see where I’m going with this, the kind of queuing you find at MCM (not matter your ticket or when you get there). There was no screaming shouting stewards telling everyone to squish together (with strangers you’ve never met, because who needs personal space, right?) – while we were still asked to move into all the available space it was by a steward who walked through the line from the entrance to its end and politely asked people to move into spaces that he specifically pointed out “there’s a little more space there” and when you moved into it, and allowed yourself space enough that you weren’t in full body contact with another human being he was satisfied, he was also in a high vis jacket with Hyper Japan written on the back.
Upon entry to the wonderfully historic building with statues and plaques telling the history of the dock, there were two directions to walk in or a door you could enter but no signs telling you which way was what or what was in the room. So we entered the room, up two small steps (this is a historic London building after all, accessibility isn’t really a thing in those – although at the other door there was a Hyper Japan steward whose job was to put a ramp down for anyone who needed so Hyper Japan were obviously trying to make up for the building’s downfalls, I might have liked it more had the ramp been put down as a standard feature rather than having to get everyone out of the doorway each time the ramp needed to go down). The room itself, other than the accessibility of the doorways had wonderfully wide aisles and was filled with Lolita and cute stuff, as well as Genki Gear and Fuzzballs, which seemed a little out of place amongst all the Lolita stuff.
We followed the path into the next room (NB: these rooms are built into the building, not set up by Hyper Japan, in case that wasn’t clear), in which we found various geekery and the Korean Section, various tables with Korean beauty, geeky, food, and other products (including the Inspire me box, my unboxing video should be up by Saturday ß link here when it arrives).
Upon exiting that we found our first internal signs, a big map and a running order for the two big stages. However, even 30 minutes into the convention (we take our sweet time) we had yet to find any kind of conbook or map to carry around. We looked at the panels/shows but, unfortunately there were none that grabbed our attention – the panels we had wanted to attend were on the Friday but EternityLivesForever had to work. That is something I would like to see at Hyper Japan in the future, a few of the panels repeated over the weekend for people who cannot get time off work (for some people it’s not as simple as using up holiday days – if you work in a school you cannot get time off work because the only time you get is during school holidays, which Hyper Japan does not fall into). Next to the big maps were some Charge For Withdrawal cash machines. That only dispensed money in £20 notes, which were broken for most of the day, but there was an engineer working on them at various points (and there were more of them tucked away upstairs).
On the far side of the building from the entrance were more rooms with stalls – mostly bigger vendors but some smaller artists/merchandise makers. Themes did somewhat seem to have gone out the window at this point, beyond general merchandise. There was a matted stage (floor mats in a roped off area), which would later have martial artists and a Lolita transformation (which E.L.F. and I didn’t watch) along with some other demonstrations we didn’t catch any of. We couldn’t find any kind of running order for the stage, maybe it was just us but we couldn’t find it so we couldn’t come back for the things we wanted to see, we were lucky that we happened by for the Jujitsu and later Aikido demonstrations that EternityLivesForever was interested in.
We did, however, find a conbook next to the Zoom Magazine stand. Nearby was the maid café that opened “later” – which we estimated to be around 12:00 – it was definitely open at 1:00 but we didn’t go in because it was incredibly busy by 1, when we finally made it back downstairs (did I mention we like to take our time?)
Speaking of upstairs, we headed up one of the many many sets of stairs (there were lifts too) to see what was going on up there. We walked through a gaming room that didn’t get quiet the whole day, there were always people watching and playing Japanese arcade games and trialling consoles. We walked past the VR room – the tickets for which were sold at a table tucked into the corner of the Gaming Room, although no signs in the VR room told you that, they all just said that you needed a ticket to play, and that anyone with motion sickness issues should not play (I decided not to risk it, not to mention that I still don’t know whether you take your glasses off or leave them on).
In the other upstairs rooms were all the other vendors I would expect to find at an event like this – Tofu Cute, dreamy bows, Japan centre, Cakes with Faces – although no Tokyo Toys (which didn’t bother me and my vendetta one bit). There was also a whole room full of ‘Travel to Japan’ vendors, whether for a holiday or a working visa. There was a room hosting the ‘Sake experience’ and selling other alcoholic beverages; a room with various Japanese foodstuffs, like deserts, ice cream, bakery-goods, and tea; Tofu cute had a whole room to itself, with an ‘in’ door and an ‘out’ door, Dreamy Bows shared a room with ArtBox – who host Tofu Cute’s London store (They had ArtBox mystery bags but I couldn’t afford one this time around, there’s always next time); There was a miso soup station next to a Japan import company who shared space with NHK; and Japan Centre was tucked away in a corner that was easily missed and quickly lost. The stage took up the entire central section, but the sound was very well contained. There was also a raffle board, where you could see if your ticket number matched with a prize (ours didn’t L )
By the time we had seen everything we had been there for two and a half hours and had no worries about wanting to leave particularly early (like we did recently at a very small convention that I won’t name), or not getting our value for money (like a different medium-large convention that I also won’t name). I’m completely sure if we had wanted to go to any panels (or had known the running order of the mini-stages) we would have spent even more time there – although in actuality we left around 1:30-2:00 (which is only an hour before we would have been kicked anyway).
There, sadly, weren’t that many cosplayers – usually I find at conventions that the majority of people are in cosplay, but in this case there were more people that fell into fashion styles (like Lolita) and geeky clothes. However, the cosplayers there were, were of a very high quality, and, as usual, I didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked (click here to go to my album on my facebook page). It was difficult to find space to take pictures of cosplayers. I thought the use of space was really great with that exception, each room had a very general theme (at least according to the map) either culture or ___
I thought the accessibility was pretty good, especially considering the building they were working in, although I’m not sure how anyone unable to manage stairs would have fared entering via the Press/VIP entrance, or getting out down the single step. There were plenty of freebies (including ‘like us on facebook = freebie’), although no official goodybag (which is something that always makes conventions stand out in my mind, and something I always hope for).
There were plenty of helpful stewards around in high vis jackets with their organisation written on the back (Hyper Japan, Tobacco Dock) each of which was a different colour – Hyper Japan’s stewards were in blue. Overall, for me and EternityLivesForever, this is one of the best conventions we’ve ever been to. The only things that would have made it better for us would have been a more descriptive map, ease of access to conbooks, rerun panels, and more signs around.
We’re very much looking forward to trying to get to the Christmas one 24-26th November. Cosplay In November!
Check out my facebook album (This is a link)