Hyper Japan 2019 Pt.2 - Sword and Book

A follow-up to last week’s post as Gordon and I received more loot in the post!

‘Found: Kobe-Japan’ by Stefan Jennings and Jane Kelly

First, the book, which contains images from an old photo album that had been salvaged from a load of stuff thrown out as part of a house clearance. It’s called ‘Found’ and is chock-full of images and poetry. Jane kindly posted it to me, wrapped in a promotional newspaper.

‘Found: Kobe-Japan’ promotional newspaper
‘Found: Kobe-Japan’ promotional newspaper, inside
‘Found: Kobe-Japan’ promotional newspaper, back

If you want to know more about the project, you can contact Stefan Jennings at stefan.a.jennings@gmail.com, or Jane Kelly at barkingdogs@btinternet.com

The sword, Frostmourne. I am so glad it was posted to Gordon and he didn’t have to lug it home on public transport! It is big and heavy. But oh, so impressive.

The box containing Frostmourne

The box containing Frostmourne

Beautiful wooden mount for the sword

Beautiful wooden mount for the sword

Frostmourne sword
Frostmourne - detail
Frostmourne - detail
Frostmourne - detail

Hyper Japan 2019 - 10 Year Anniversary

Yesterday, the boys and I headed up to London for our 7th visit to Hyper Japan.

Hyper Japan - Kensington Olympia

We almost missed this one because Gordon initially couldn’t get the day off, but then it turned out he could, so we off we went.

I didn’t post about our visit last year for reasons lost in the mists of time…

Even though Hyper Japan is a 3-day event, we’ve always gone on the Friday only because I can’t face the thought of travelling on a Saturday or Sunday to London, to spend the day around lots of people, and then battle back on the train after a long day.

Another reason to go on the Friday – we then have the whole weekend for the boys to wallow in their loot, and for me to recover.

Despite it being the festival’s 10-year anniversary, there wasn’t anything extra special laid out that I could see. But it was pretty good anyway.

The venue was Kensington Olympia, which, in our opinion, is the best setting ever for the festival. It’s easy to get to, either overground on the train or via the underground. And the building is, literally, next to the station.

The procedure for entering and bag check was a bit farcical last year. But this year was a lot smoother and, before we knew it, we were in the building. For a change, it wasn’t heaving with people from the get-go, making it easier to do the initial browse. We always split up first, have a quick look around then meet up again for lunch.

Hyper Japan - Kensington Olympia
Japanese wall hangings
Gorgeous clothing by    Tainted Prince

Gorgeous clothing by Tainted Prince

Samurai print
View from first floor

What I like about this venue - it’s split over 2 floors, with the food upstairs. Again, the queues for the food stands weren’t that long, another nice surprise. We timed it well as the queues built up quickly after we’d bought our food.

Then we went our separate ways again to do some serious shopping, the boys more than me.

Bought a couple of presents for upcoming birthdays, and had an interesting chat with a writer, Stefan Jennings. Together with his friend, Jane Kelly, a photographer, they’d set up a modest little stand filled with black and white images of people in Japan. There were large prints and a book, filled with the images. Annoyingly, I can’t remember the name of the book.

The images are from an old photo album that had been thrown out as part of a house clearance somewhere in London. Many of the photos had suffered water damage. A friend had alerted either Stefan or Jane, I can’t remember, to the photos. They salvaged them and set about restoring them as best they could.

There weren’t any text or notes to explain anything about where the photos had been taken or who the people in the photos were. But it was obvious they’d been taken in Japan, most likely in the 1930s and 1940s. They believe the white woman in the photo must have been from the UK, and she’d made a life for herself in Japan.

Sadly, on returning to the UK, either before or after the war, she may well have found it difficult to talk about her time in Japan or to show any of the pictures because of the negative, bitter feelings towards Japan.

I wanted to buy the book but didn’t have enough cash on me, and they hadn’t set up the equipment for card payments. But Jane kindly made a note of my email address and said she’d get in touch so we can work out payment and posting of the book to me.

UPDATE: Here’s the link to the post about the book.

When I mentioned that I’m from Malaysia, and my parents had lived through the Japanese occupation during the war, Stefan mentioned a book written by a Malaysian and set during that occupation, called ‘The Gift of Rain’ by Tan Twan Eng. I admit to being embarrassed that I hadn’t read it, but plan to remedy that soon.

Even more interesting, I learned that Jane had grown up in Malaysia and had even gone to the same kindergarten school as me! What a small world.

The boys and I watched one of the acts, a cyber punk band called ‘Ijen Kai’. Interestingly, they all wear masks, which mean no one has any idea what they really look like. The one who held my attention and most people’s attention, I’m sure, is the dancer. Talk about fluid and so flexible.

Ijen Kai on stage

Ijen Kai on stage

Ijen Kai
Ijen Kai, getting ready for the ‘meet and greet’ after their performance

Ijen Kai, getting ready for the ‘meet and greet’ after their performance

The boys were beyond pleased as they’d found items that had been impossible to find, fairly well priced, from a franchise they’ve grown to love called ‘Kamen Rider’.

Gordon’s loot - Kamen Rider, Yu-Gi-Oh cards, Evangelion figure

Gordon’s loot - Kamen Rider, Yu-Gi-Oh cards, Evangelion figure

Gordon also treated himself to a sword (from ‘World of Warcraft’, which he doesn’t play) called Frostmourne, which he’d always wanted ever since watching a replica being made on the ‘Man at Arms Reforged channel on Youtube. He didn’t have to lug it back on the train, which was good because – and I take it these are new rules – weaponry is no longer allowed to be taken out of the building. So, it’ll be posted to him instead. And here’s the link to the post with pictures of the sword.

Liam’s loot - Gundam (requires assembly), Kamen Rider (one of which includes a DVD), Yu-Gi-Oh cards

Liam’s loot - Gundam (requires assembly), Kamen Rider (one of which includes a DVD), Yu-Gi-Oh cards

I bought myself an art book for a franchise/show/game that Liam discovered first called ‘Fate’, which has a huge amount of stuff and information attached to it. ‘Fate/Apocrypha’ is just one of many tv shows, which we’ve watched together, and I just love the designs. As Liam had already spent enough of his money, I decided to buy it. It doesn’t bother me that all the text is in Japanese as it’s chock-full of lovely illustrations on very good quality paper.

‘Fate/Apocrypha’ art book
A page from ‘Fate/Apocrypha’
A page from ‘Fate/Apocrypha’
Character page from ‘Fate/Apocrypha’
Character page from ‘Fate/Apocrypha’
‘Fate/Apocrypha’ character
‘Fate/Apocrypha’ characters

And I also treated myself to a gorgeous coat because… why not?

Coat from ‘Tainted Prince’
Sleeve/cuff detail

Hyper Japan 2017

Another year, another Hyper Japan, our 5th time at the Japanese festival, which was on this weekend just gone. We went on the Friday, as we always do.

Hyper Japan banner

The venue was different, though they have used it for their Christmas Market before, but it was our first time at Tobacco Dock in the Docklands area of London’s East End. It was easy to get to, on the underground from Waterloo station then about a 10minute walk from Wapping Station.

Barrels and boar head decorations over gateway
Tobacco Docks

I’d never been to this part of London before; it seemed to be a mix of affordable housing alongside obviously expensive buildings. We weren’t that far from Whitechapel; if we’d had the time, I wouldn’t have minded having a bit of a nosy there.

I have to admit, I enjoyed the building more than the festival itself. Tobacco Dock was built around about 1811 as a store for, you guessed it, imported tobacco. The original complex was huge; it’s walls surrounded 70 acres of buildings, quays and jetties! What remains is less than half the original.

Tobacco Dock plaque

In the 1980s, it was modernised with the aim to turn it into a shopping arcade. The brick building’s original Victorian shell was retained with its brick vaults and ironwork, while shops were built over two floors. Two ships were built specially as children’s play areas and to teach them about piracy. Interestingly, the ships were designed and named after real ships. Unfortunately, after about six years later, the shopping arcade and surrounding area had turned into a ghost town.

Didn't get a good view of the other ship, but I think this one was based on ‘The Three Sisters’, which was a trade ship built in 1788 at the nearby Blackwall Yard. It imported spices and tobacco from the East and West Indies.

Model of 'The Three Sisters' outside the venue

For me, the layout of the place didn’t serve the festival well. What I’ve always enjoyed about Hyper Japan was the openness. Apart from feeling inclusive and welcoming, it was easy to see where things were, making your shopping/browsing experience straightforward and easy.

The layout at Tobacco Dock was a little confusing, and I spent a lot of time walking back and forth, trying to remember where certain shops were. Most of them were tucked away in what would have been the different shops when the place was a shopping arcade. To add to the confusion, each ‘shop’ had numerous stalls in them, which you could only see when you entered the shop.

Interior of ground floor
Inside Tobacco Dock
The upper level

The upper level

Also, the entertainment acts were tucked away, some in a room on the ground floor and most of the live acts in a room on the second floor. Unless you actually went in, you couldn’t see or hear them. Some acts were out amongst the people, but the small stages and poor acoustics didn’t help. At other venues, the acts were part of the whole experience because they weren’t tucked away; the stages were out in the open amongst the other stalls, and you could hear/see them whether you were interested or not.

At the end of the day, I was left feeling like I’d visited a shopping mall, and I’m not a big fan of shopping malls. I didn’t take that many pictures, even though there were some fantastic cosplayers.

The boys had a good time, although they weren’t too keen on the venue either. But they were pleasantly surprised with what they bought, none of which had even featured on their to-buy list.

For all that whinging, I’m glad we went. We got to see, albeit briefly, a part of London we’ve never been to, and we got to spend the day together. We’re still planning on going next year… finger’s crossed, they decide to change the venue. Again.

Looking down from the upper level at the stalls below

Looking down from the upper level at the stalls below

Stalls on the ground level
I think this was the saké shop

I think this was the saké shop

Inside one of the shops; you can see how low the ceilings are, all part of the original building

Inside one of the shops; you can see how low the ceilings are, all part of the original building

The boys eyeing up potential loot

The boys eyeing up potential loot

A rickshaw
Kimono with sword
Shop exterior

These statues are by the north entrance. The world’s largest exotic pet store in the late 1800s, Jamrach’s Animal Emporium, was located nearby. It’s owner, Charles Jamrach, was born in Germany. He moved to London and became a leading importer, exporter and breeder of animals. I spent a long time wondering why the name, Jamrach, seemed familiar. I had to look it up; it was he who provided the London Zoological Gardens with the grey wolf that subsequently escaped in Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’.

Bear statue by north entrance

The plaque under this bear statue reads:
Over a hundred years ago on what was then called Ratcliffe Highway near to this spot stood Jamrach’s Emporium. This unique shop sold not only the most varied collection of curiosities but also traded in wild animals such as alligators, tigers, elephants, monkeys and birds. Jamrach’s was known to seafarers throughout the world who, when their ship docked in London, would bring artefacts from distant lands in the knowledge that Mr Jamrach would be a willing purchaser. The animals were housed in iron cages and were well looked after until they were bought by zoological institutes and naturalist collectors.

Statue of tiger and boy

The one for this statue of a tiger and boy:
In the early years of the nineteenth century a full grown Bengal tiger, having just arrived at Jamrach’s Emporium, burst open his wooden transit box and quietly trotted down the road. Everybody scattered except an eight year old boy, who, having never seen such a large cat, went up to it with the intent of stroking his nose. A tap of the great soft paw stunned the boy and, picking him up by his jacket, the tiger walked down a side alley. Mr Jamrach, having discovered the empty box, came running up, and thrusting his bare hands down the tiger’s throat, forced the beast to let his captive go. The little boy was unscathed and the subdued tiger was led back to his cage.
Apparently the boy sued Mr Jamrach and was awarded £300 in damages.

Different view of tiger and boy statue

Back home, and the loot on display. First, my stuff - a pendant and 2 art prints:

'Blue Fighter'

'Blue Fighter'



Gordon's loot...

Loot from Hyper Japan

The colourful box in the middle is to do with something they’ve recently discovered, and which Gordon is really into. It’s a very popular programme in Japan called Kamen Rider; it’s been going on for years and has so many different forms. The toys are made for children but are so detailed with so much electronics packed in, I’m not surprised that adults collect them. Gordon was not expecting to find any Kamen Rider stuff at all. When he saw this, I thought he was about to pass out!

Gordon's very first anime, Sailor Moon; he still enjoys it.

Gordon's very first anime, Sailor Moon; he still enjoys it.

Treated him to this t-shirt - Spidey is his all-time favourite superhero

Treated him to this t-shirt - Spidey is his all-time favourite superhero

Liam’s loot; not as much, but he was being sensible with his money and he really wanted the Saber statue from his favourite anime, ‘Fate’.

Liam's stuff
Bought this for Liam

Bought this for Liam

This figure, Scáthach, features in another part of the ‘Fate’ universe. Like most of the characters, she’s based on a real person, a legendary Scottish warrior and martial arts teacher who trained Cú Chulainn, the hero of Ulster.
I find the attention to detail on these statues stunning.

Scáthach figurine

I confess to going a teeny bit overboard taking pictures of his Saber statue - the way the movement has been captured is just stunning.
The sword on the ground is Excalibur, and she’s holding the form of Excalibur known in the ‘Fate’ story as Invisible Air - it hides Excalibur's form and conceals her true identity, Arthur. Yes, a female Arthur. And it works! So cleverly done, I think, and she’s my favourite character.

Saber statue
Her boot in the steel pin is all that's holding her aloft

Her boot in the steel pin is all that's holding her aloft

Top view of Saber
Saber wielding Excalibur

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 ‘Charisma.com’ – 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!!