The Sunday Section: Travel and Culture - Hyper Japan at the Olympia

Off to London we went, boys and I, for our 4th Hyper Japan experience!  Been looking forward to it so very much and, suddenly, it was upon us.

Last year’s venue, at the O2, wasn’t much fun as the event was sharing space with other shops/people who didn’t have anything to do with Hyper Japan.  This year, it was at the Olympia in Kensington – first time we’ve been there.  If ever there was a venue that was made for events like this, it is the Olympia; after all, it is an exhibition centre.  The whole thing was fun, from start to finish.

The Olympia is easy to get to with the overground train station just across the road from the venue.  Our journey was so easy – train to Waterloo; we got off at the penultimate stop, Clapham Junction, for a direct train to Kensington Olympia station.  Even better, the train company that serves southern England is running a ‘promo’ until September – adult return to London for only £16!  Compared to the usual price of £56.40.

I did wonder at the number of ‘older’ folk on the service from Clapham … When we got off, we followed the crowd; turned out we were following the wrong crowd – they were heading for a ‘50+’ event, also at the Olympia, but a different part of it!!  I did say to the boys that I would have qualified for that event ;)

Anyway, we queued outside the entrance for Hyper Japan, the closest to the front we’ve ever been, and got ready for a long wait till 12:00.  Imagine our surprise when the doors opened for us to enter before 11:30!  Once inside, we were split into separate queuing sections, depending on the type of ticket purchased.

The Olympia, seen from the train station

The Olympia was built between 1884-1886, opening on 2h December 1886 as the National Agricultural Hall before the name was changed to Olympia.  It now comprises 4 event centres and a conference centre.

The building was designed by Henry Edward Coe, who based its barrel-roof form on the Islington Agricultural Hall, which he’d designed 25 years previous.  The reason for the high roof – 115ft at the apex – is to allow its great weight to be carried down as close to vertically as possible.  Ten cast iron columns, each with a ball-and-socket bearing at the top and bottom to absorb stress, support the 1200ton iron frame, 85tons of glass and 75tons of zinc which make up the roof.  That it hardly suffered any damage in the hurricane of 1987 is testimony to the strength of the structure.

When Olympia opened in 1886, management mistakenly believed that the Royal Tournament, the world’s largest military tattoo, would move there.  That failure put the Olympia in financial difficulty.  Luckily, the Paris venue of the Hippodrome Circus was closed for repair, so ‘The Great Paris Hippodrome’ came to London instead.

Other exhibitions in 1887 included a Sportsman’s Exhibition, and an Exhibition of Sporting Dogs by Mr Charles Cruft.  The 1888 events included the First Great Horse Show, which is still a fixture today.  In 1889/90, the showman, Phineas T Barnum, brought his ‘Greatest Show on Earth’ from New York to the Olympia.

During World War I, Olympia was requisitioned as a temporary prison camp for German nationals and other potential hostiles.  But from 1915 to the end of the war, it was used as an army clothing store.

Before World War II, on 7 June 1934, Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists held a Blackshirt rally at the Grand Hall.  The War Office requisitioned Olympia on 10 January 1940 as civilian internment camp No.14.  During the Dunkirk evacuation in May/June 1940, the hall was used as General Charles de Gaulle’s assembly point for the future Free French Army.  It was then taken over by the Royal Army Service Corps as a transport depot until October 1944, after which it was turned into a clothing store.  Its final wartime role was as a demobilisation centre until 23 March 1946.

Back to the present … Gordon had bought and put together a cosplay outfit based on one of his favourite anime, ‘Attack on Titan’.  I know he’s my son and I’m biased, but I think he looked pretty good.

The floor space is huge and on 2 levels.  There were so many stalls and so much stuff laid out; I’m sure this is the most I’ve seen in the years we’ve been … The food was all on the upper level – so much more variety than last year, 22 different stalls, to be precise!  We decided to grab a quick bite to fortify ourselves before walking around, and have lunch later, after a couple of hours of browsing/shopping.  There was so much available seating; again so much better compared to last year.  The number of stalls, we were really spoiled for choice!  Not counting the gaming section, there were over 130 stalls/tables!  We split up to do our own thing – the boys knew the kinds of things they were hoping to get; apart from wanting to get a few little gifts, I didn’t have any particular thing I wanted to buy.

Liam discovering a clothing style that really appeals ...

This is food!!! The control I had to exercise to hold myself back!!

As always, I enjoyed seeing all the cosplayers, they’re so adorable, with the little poses they strike when they’re photographed.

We had ‘lunch’ after 15:00, and I was pleasantly surprised to find there was still as much variety on the food front.  We didn’t leave the event till after 18:00, the longest we’ve ever stayed, because there are a few restrictions on the promo train ticket – the earliest return train we could travel on was 19:35.  But that was fine as we settled down to watch the entertainment.

One of the groups – a pair of young ladies, called ‘’ – was amazing.  

It felt like the boys and I were the only ones in the audience who hadn’t heard of them, everyone else was loudly excited when they were announced!  They were such fun – had everyone on their feet, clapping and dancing.  Their style is described as electro/rap, they write their own songs, and the lyrics ‘dismantle modern Japanese society with spiteful glee’, but they have fun with it; they’re quite popular with the younger generation who find their society’s auto-politeness suffocating.  And yet, they’re sweet as anything, and still work their office jobs.

It was such a wonderful day; we’re hoping the event organisers use the Olympia again.  And now, as always, the loot … First, Gordon's stuff ...

Adding to his collection of 'Sailor Moon' figures; he got the first 2 last year

Art book on the boys' long-standing favourite anime/card game, 'Yu-Gi-Oh'

Sneak peek at the art in the book ...

The scissor blade from an anime Gordon discovered - 'Kill la Kill' - which we all thoroughly enjoyed!

Liam's stuff ...

2 art books on a couple of his favourite anime; no sneak-peek as Mr. Particular won't open them till he's ready.  Honestly, he's worse than me!

They've always liked 'gundam' but have only now started playing it on the PS; these were so affordable, Liam decided to get a couple ...

... only to discover the pieces are the most finicky he's ever had to deal with!  But he's enjoying putting it together :)

Treated himself to a gorgeous pendant ... me jealous!

And my stuff ... a 'Batman' t-shirt and a fan

Oh! And treated the boys to these ...

The main character from the 'Kill la Kill' anime with her scissor blade ...

This, and the one below, are from the 'Fate' anime series, of which Liam has become quite the walking encyclopaedia!

I especially like this one - you can see the army in her gauntlets 

Almost forgot – the cutest thing happened when we were at Waterloo station before heading home.  We were in Burger King; boys were getting their food while I guarded the bags.  Gordon came back to me first with his food, and while he was sorting his stuff out, a young boy, must have been in his early teens, came over.  He started with ‘excuse me’, and with a bit of a stutter and a stammer, said that his brother was a real fan of ‘Attack on Titan’ and would Gordon mind awfully if he took a picture of him and his brother!  Gordon was only too happy to oblige.  Liam was a bit sceptical and full of ‘really?? But it’s Gordon!’  I said that we know it’s ‘only’ Gordon but, as far as they’re concerned, it’s someone dressed as a character from their favourite anime!!  Honestly, siblings!  I thought it was so adorable though, and funny – Gordon got through Hyper Japan ‘unscathed’ only to be cornered in Burger King for a photo!!