I've no idea how it's taken me this long to attend a Hyper Japan festival but boy am I glad I finally went last (still feels so strange saying that) year. I adore Japanese culture, food, and fashion, in fact I studied the language all throughout my high school life and even travelled to Japan on an exchange program in my final year. My friends literally wouldn't stop going on about how good 2014's festival was and at first I was unsure about whether I wanted to go. I'm not the the biggest anime buff (the only one I watch is Attack on Titan) and although I was familiar with pop culture conventions, I'd never been to anything like Hyper Japan before. I'm all for new experiences though so I joined a group of girl friends on the Saturday of the weekend long affair.
The festival was held at Tobacco Dock which is a huge warehouse in East London and though it took about an hour in the freezing cold and gusty winds for the queue outside to make its way inside, it was well worth it as the set up was warm and welcoming. None of us cosplayed but my friend and I did decide to wear our Attack on Titan jackets just over regular dresses. The dress I wore is by Bonne Chance Collections and I thought the cutesy print and oversized collar would go nicely with the whole Japanese theme. Instead of a huge open space with rows of stalls like at usual conventions, the warehouse is split into little rooms with glass walls, so visiting each vendor is kind of like going into a shop. Although some voiced their discomfort at this layout, I actually quite liked it, it made areas seem quieter and more secluded. One of the first shops we wandered into was full of plushies and candy. I don't know why llamas are so popular in plushie form but I can't object, they certainly look adorable. The candy section worked like a buffet bar, you pay a certain amount to get a tray which you can then fill up with the sweets of your choosing. We tried everything from bubblegum sherbets to pumpkin Kit Kats, yuuuuum. On the way out I spotted a whole rack of Gudetama merch but I only ended up purchasing a pack of tissues (which in my defence are probably the handiest thing to have and these ones have Gudetama print on them, so there).
After taking a look at all the different stores we started feeling a little peckish. It just so happened that we walked past a Maid Cafe and my friend explained that it's a fun, Japanese style cafe that is run by women in maid outfits. Food is served as well as activities such as games, music, decorating etc. each for a certain price. I was definitely intrigued so we took a table. The maid designated to our table was named Lisa and she was the bubbliest and loveliest girl ever. She took our orders of ramen and doriyaki (Japanese pancakes with custard filling) before showing us the 'activities menu'. My friends and I settled on Jenga and a game between Lisa and I turned out so intense (like 'only single blocks left' intense) that it seemed the entire room had their eyes trained on us. Unfortunately I was the one who caused the tower to tumble at the end and consequently lost but it was such an amazing game and I think everyone was glad that they could release their breath haha. Before we left we got a little polaroid taken with Lisa to commemorate out visit, on which she also wrote each of our names in Japanese. I actually used to be quite a fluent writer in Japanese (my speaking skills not quite on par though) and looking at this really makes me want to pick up a calligraphy pen and refresh my memory.
Closing time approached much to soon but not before we managed to squeeze in some more Japanese delicacies including takoyaki (octopus balls), chicken karage (fried chicken), bubble tea, and matcha soft serve. With full bellies it was time to make our way out and home, which was easy peasy since Tobacco Docklands is right next to a tube station. The last thing I wanna do after a long day is have to navigate a complicated travel journey, complete with itinerary, home, so I always appreciate this. I had a totally amazing and memorable first experience at Hyper Japan festival and the event has definitely rekindled my love for all things Japanese. Don't be surprised if my blog name changes soon hehe.
PS. Just kidding, forever an anglophile first and foremost.
Have you been to Hyper Japan or a similar Japanese & anime convention?